Wednesday, 31 December 2008

My Favourite Celebrities - Balkanian Celebs!!!


This blog post is full of fascinating details and personal opinions of famous people from all over the Former Yugoslavia and the wider Balkan peninsula, who have impressed me with their talents and/or are an inspiration to me.

Here is a list of celebrities, with various levels of fame, whom I admire and/or adore from various parts of South-Eastern Europe, including singers, artists, presidents - hang on, ain't I an Anarchist? - activists, and so on.

  • Balkanian Celebs:


Svetozar Marković

  • Svetozar Marković, political activist and advocate of social change in 19th century Serbia
  • Svetozar was an extensive writer and journalist, whose writings influenced democratic and socialist trends in Serbia. He courted controversy with the Serbian establishment for his radical socialist ideas, and was even imprisioned for a time. And during that century of national liberation from the Ottoman Turks, he feared that Serbia's expansion could lead to a strengthening of bureaucracy in the country. Therefore, in order to avoid such a scenario, he recommended “democratic federalism”, i.e. a decentralised state made up of municipalities functioning in a similar way to the traditional Balkanian zadruga with the state merely as an arbiter, as an alternative.

    Dimitrije Tucović

  • Dimitrije Tucović, socialist leader in 19th and early 20th century Serbia
  • Dimitrije was an advocate for workers' and human rights, gender equality, universal suffrage, social justice and civil liberties in the Kingdom of Serbia. He was also a vocal critic of the nationalistic policies of the “Serbian Bourgeoisie” and denounced the brutality meted out against Albanian civilians in Kosovo and Macedonia, when these two regions were liberated from centuries of Ottoman Turkish rule and incorporated into the Kingdom of Serbia.

    Josip Broz Tito, a.k.a. Marshall Tito

  • Josip Broz Tito, a.k.a. Marshall Tito, President of Yugoslavia and Revolutionary
  • Regardless of any faults or errors on on his part, Tito was a great leader. None of his sucessors from the smaller modern-day republics that were part of his Yugoslavia have so far been able to match his greatness, or ever will match it. I neither say in vain nor pretentiously that, for the former Yugoslavia, he is its Alexander the Great (in both good ways and not so good ways, just to be fair)! He is still an icon and a legend, and in my opinion at least, he was the greatest Croat, the greatest Slovene, and the greatest Yugoslav who ever lived all in one!

    Zoran Đinđić

  • Zoran Đinđić, Democratic Serbian prime minister and one of the leaders of the opposition that toppled Milošević's régime
  • Zoran was a true visionary; he was a man who wanted Serbia to be a better country for everyone to live in. He criticised those who found it easier to just blame everyone else, but not do anything to actually make things better for themselves and those around them. And his speeches were inspirational, encouraging positive thinking and promoting social responsibility among a population otherwise disillusioned with politics and demoralised by years of war, sanctions and isolation.

    Boris Tadić

  • Boris Tadić, Democratic president of Serbia
  • Born in Sarajevo to a Montenegrin father and a mother partly from Bosnia and partly from Lika (like me), I admire Boris as a man of integrity and sound reason. He is the leader of the Democratic Party and follows in the footsteps of the late Zoran Đinđić (above). And compared to the disgraceful politicians of the '90s and those who continue to follow in their footsteps, I think he is a brilliant politician and shows it off for the rest of the Balkans and the wider world to see!

    Ivo Josipović

  • Ivo Josipović, Social-Democratic president of Croatia
  • Born in Zagreb to Dalmatian parents, Ivo is an advocate of equality, human rights and social justice, who has already contributed greatly towards reconciliation in the region. He is a very popular politician in Croatia, and in my opinion, he's an all-round nice guy. His politics is one that promotes tolerance and empathy in Croatian society, and I admire Ivo for his noble efforts towards that goal.

    Čedomir 'Čeda' Jovanović,

  • Čedomir 'Čeda' Jovanović, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Serbia
  • A former vocal member of Democratic Party, Čeda is the founder and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party in Serbia, which also follows in the footsteps of the late Zoran Đinđić (above). I admire his liberal thinking and realistic opinions. But I haven't always agreed with the things he's said; I used to find some of his remarks and opinions in the past a little too extreme for my liking, perhaps too nihilistic. Nevertheless, not only have I come to understand the logic of his uncompromising liberal views, but I have actually come to admire them! He's a very good leader for his party, and I definitely like what his party strives for.

    Nenad Čanak

  • Nenad Čanak, founder and leader of the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina
  • Nenad's Čanak family comes from Lika, specifically from the Zrmanja area at the very south. During the '90s, he was an active opponent to Milošević's régime: he was vocal in his support for Vojvodina's autonomy, which Sloba revoked the decade before. This got him labelled a “separatist” by the régime's proponents and media. I admire him for his firmly principled political stances, his logical and analytical manner of explanation, his clear and unbiased knowledge of the region's history, and his sarcastic yet witty humour he employs to lighten up the mood. His reasoned approach to politics and other issues often gets overlooked by those, who'd rather let their disdain for his part in Serbia's opposition to Sloba paint their view of him.

    Rastko Pocesta

  • Rastko Pocesta, teenage Serbian liberal human rights activist
  • I first heard of Rastko while listening to BBC World Radio on my satellite. It was a report about how a young Serbian boy was receiving numerous messages of hostility — and even death-threats — due to his very liberal views from those who are old enough to know better! Among his views, which have incensed many nationalists in Serbia, is his recognition of Kosovo's self-declared independence, his support for Gay rights and his support for Serbia's EU and NATO membership. Although he is caught up in the midst of nationalistic intolerance, the young Rastko is a relentless advocate for a more liberal and pluralistic society for Serbia. I believe his liberalism is an inspiration for the rest of the Balkans, and I wish him all the best in his efforts! (By the way, he's also one of my Facebook friends!)

    Dositej Obradović

  • Dositej Obradović, Serbian author, philosopher, linguist, polyglot and the first minister of education of Serbia
  • Born in Čakovo, a village now in Romania, Dositej was a leading Serbian linguist before the time of Vuk Karadžić, who later became Serbia's first education minister. He travelled throughout the Balkans to encounter Serbs living in different regions, and all over Europe in order to return to Serbia with knowledge and enlightenment. He spent over a year in London, where he fell in love with the English and English culture. Apart from that, Dositej introduced the potato to Serbia in response to recurrent famines suffered by its people, and provided financial support to the First Serbian Uprising against Ottoman Empire in 1804, during which wrote the beautiful hymn 'Vostani Serbije' (“Arise, Serbia”).

    Igor Mandić

  • Igor Mandić, Croatian writer, literary critic, columnist and essayist
  • Born in Šibenik at the start of World War Two, Igor has been a part of the literary scene in Yugoslavia for decades, and continues to be so now since the break-up of the country. In my opinion, he is one of those public speakers in the former Yugoslavia today, who represent the voice of reason in its post-war era. Through the darkness of nationalist rhetoric and hostility between Croats and Serbs, shines a light of conciliatory wit and humour providing heartening relief to both nations. And that's why I always enjoy listening to him on TV and reading his writing. One of my favourite quotes by him is „Put ka boljoj prošlosti!“ (“The way to a better past!”), which ironically refers to the idealised ways people from the war-torn nations prefer to see their nation's history!

    Dušan 'Duško' Radović, Serbian children's writer, poet, journalist, aphorist and TV editor

  • Dušan 'Duško' Radović, renowned Serbian children's writer, poet, journalist, aphorist and TV editor in Communist Yugoslavia
  • Born in the Serbian city of Niš, Duško was a prolific writer, producing a wealth of literature in the form of children's poems and comics filled with realist aphorisms, which express sarcasm and honesty. He was also a critic of many things, and was even at one point expelled from the Communist Party of Yugoslavia! Here is a few of his aphorism: „Samo deca koja ne slušaju mogu postati bolja od svojih roditelja.“ (“Only children who don't listen can become better than their parents!”) „Svaki novi dan je ili nagrada ili kazna za ono što smo juče uradili.“ (“Everyday is either a reward or a punishment for that which we did last night!”) And, „Kad znamo, svi znamo isto, a kad ne znamo, svako ne zna drugačije.“ (“When we know [something], we know the same [thing]; but when we don't know [anything], [no]body knows any different!”)

    Nikola Tesla

  • Nikola Tesla, great Serbian scientist and inventor, and the greatest Serb who ever existed
  • He came from humble beginnings and achieved so much for human kind. He was the son of an Orthodox priest, and although his mother was illiterate, she was very wise and intelligent. He came from the mountainous region of Lika, just like myself; although born in the village of Smiljan near Gospić, his father came from Raduč on the road between Gospić and Gračac, and his mother came from Tomingaj just north of Gračac! He discovered so much regarding electricity and invented so many things using it, and yet he died penniless and broke. Unfortunately, he is still not so well known to many people in the West, but that is slowly changing already. Vječna mu Slava!

    Vlade Divac

  • Vlade Divac, Serbian basketball player and humanitarian

  • Serbia's tennis players, Ana Ivanović, Jelena Janković and Novak Đoković
  • For being such positive people and making Serbia look good in the world! And let's not forget Janko Tipsarević and Nenad Zimonjić! Though whatever happened to Jelena Dokić?

    The Beautiful Esma Redžepova
  • Esma Redžepova, Macedonian Romani singer and humanitarian
  • A fantastic singer of traditional Gypsy music, Esma has for decades blessed the Balkans with the beauty of her voice and soul. Some of her hits include 'Chaje Shukarije', 'Romano Oro' and my favourite 'Ciganka je malena'. Apart from music, she has also been heavily involved in charity work, and has even fostered dozens of children with her late husband and manager Stevo Teodosievski! Esma is a truely wonderful woman and an inspiration to us all.

    Jašar Ahmedovski

  • Jašar Ahmedovski, Macedonian Turbo-folk singer
  • I love the strength and elegance of his voice and the oriental melody of his songs. He also betrays such handsome vulnerability in his singing too, and he betrays a certian innocence in his manner! He sings with heart and soul, and I feel I can actually identify/connect with his voice and his songs!

    Sinan Sakić

  • Sinan Sakić, Serbian Romani singer
  • I love Sinan's music: I love melodies of his songs, be it traditional Balkanian or a mix of traditional and modern styles; I love the lyrics of his songs expressing love, loss and misfortune in life; and of course, I love his way of singing in the traditional Gypsy style.

    Mile Kitić

  • Mile Kitić, Bosnian Serb Turbo-folk singer
  • This man from Derventa in Bosnia is, I tell you, the Robbie Williams of Turbo-folk music! The lyrics of his songs actually tell the listener great stories. And when you listen to his voice, it sounds like the voice of a wise man.

    DJ Krmak, aka. Goran Žižak

  • DJ Krmak, aka. Goran Žižak, Bosnian Serb Tecno-folk singer
  • He is a great entertainer, I love his wacky style! I love the beat and melody of his songs, and he sings in that true folk-music way.

  • Saša & Dejan Matić, Bosnian Serb singers and musicians
  • From the ethnic-Serb town of Drvar in Western Bosnia, these twin brothers, both born blind, have made great careers for themselves with their music and songs, particularly Saša. Their songs are great for relaxing to or for dancing to, and are bound to put you in a good mood.


  • Azis, aka. Vasil Troyanov Boyanov, Bulgarian Romani Chalga (pop-folk) singer
  • I love his songs (I can sing a few!), and I love his flamboyant personality. He is beautiful, and he's the Gay icon for the whole of the Balkans (no pun intended!).

    Sofi Marinova

  • Sofi Marinova, Bulgarian Romani Chalga (pop-folk) singer

  • Ivan Plavšić

  • Ivan Plavšić, disabled Serbian singer and humanitarian

  • Nick Vujičić
  • Nick Vujičić, disabled Austalian public speaker of Serbian descent
  • What an inspirational man! I first heard of Nick by watching this deeply humbling YouTube video a cousin sent me by e-mail. He's a man who defies his severe physical disabilities to promote a positive outlook on life through motivational speeches he's been giving all around the world. These are two of his quotes: “Motivation gets you through the day, but inspiration lasts a lifetime” (very true, indeed); and “If God can use a man without arms and legs to be His hands and feet, then He will certainly use any willing heart!”. See his websites: Life without Limbs - From no limbs, to no limits and Attitude is Altitude.

    (Wasn't sure whether to place Nick on this list or the list dedicated to Celebs from the rest of the world!!! (Not yet set up) But I decided since he is of Serb descent to place him here.)

    Srđan 'Srđo' Aleksić

  • Srđan 'Srđo' Aleksić, Bosnian Serb soldier
  • Born in the Herzegovinian town of Trebinje, Srđo found his hometown plunged into a bloody inter-ethnic conflict, that turned his fellow Serbs against their Muslim neighbours. However, in the midst of this chaos, he saw a Muslim man called Alen Glavović being physically attacked by a mob of Serb soldiers. Srđo confronted those harrassers ordering them to leave Alen alone. By doing so, he saved Alen's life, but unfortunately lost his own to his fellow Serbs. His story is one of many during that cursed war in Bosnia, in which brutality prevailed over decency, and everything that was beautiful and cherished was crushed and destroyed by hate and violence.



    See also:

  • Who am I?
  • Thursday, 25 December 2008

    Britić, The British Serb Quarterly

    I received a lovely pre-Chirstmas present today! It's only the first ever edition of a new British Serb quarterly magazine called Britić! A magazine, catering for the Serbian diaspora in Britain, hence the quaint and yet so appropriate name! And as one of its editors writes on page 3, "Britić aims to provide connections between and a forum for all Serbs in the UK". Just what the doctor ordered!

    The first letter of its name is actually written like a Cyrillic Б, but with a round loop as that of the small Roman letter b, thus demonstrating a blend of both Cyrillic and Roman alphabets, which is an appropriate depiction of the integration of Serbs in Britain into British life. (See the website)

    Again on page 3 of this Božić (i.e. Christmas) 2008 edition, where on the top of the page you see the Serbian coat of arms with the Serbian crown atop, but supported by the British heraldic lion on the lefthand-side and the royal unicorn on the righthand-side above blank mottos, this magazine claims to be an "extraordinary social experiment", as the reader is informed that they will only receive future publications of this fledgling magazine if they subscribe to it, constituting a real test to see how much of a community we British Serbs really are.

    The two main editors of this magazine, Stan Smiljanić and Aleks Simić, are also the owners of Britic Media Limited in Bedford, an English town with a significant Serbian population, while the printing of this magazine is done 18 miles south in Luton of all places! (That's where I live, by the way!) And they also state that they have "no political affiliations that are relevant to Serb issues and will tolerate a variety of views being expressed in these pages", which is excellent, so long as they're not "gratuitously offensive, libellous or just boring".

    Britić is "produced by Serbs for Serbs", and is aimed at British born Serbs, descendants of Serbian immigrants from the 1940s and later, whom it claims are the "largest demographic Serb group" in Britain. Because of which - unless you haven't already guessed it - the magazine is written primarily in English. Nevertheless, it is hoped that this edition "will be the start of a long and interesting relationship with British Serbs", which will also "lead to a stronger and better defined community".

    As for the contents of the magazine, Britić explores a number of Serb-related issues, be they concerning the Serbian diaspora here in Britain or concerning our people back home in the Balkans. It looks at Culture, Media, Politics, Sport, Property and other current events. It informs the reader with up-coming events such as Church Services in different towns round Britain along with a compact Church Calendar to help remind us of fasting rules, and also includes announcements from friends and family from all over the place wishing their kith and kin wherever they are a Sretna Slava, a Happy Birthday, or congratulating them on some enterprise (such as the very launch of Britić for its editors Aleks and Stan!). There are numerous advertisements advertising services such as lawyers, food products like kobasice & ćevape, and a professional icongrapher with contact details. And towards the end, it has a Kitchen Corner with "Recipes from home", along with a few puzzles such as one wordsearch to find towns and cities in Serbia and a matching puzzle, in which you match Serbian towns to their population size. Precisely what every diaspora magazine should have!

    Britić has also made an exclusive interview with Serbian tennis player Nenad Zimonjić by editor Stan Smiljanić, who is now a champion at Wimbledon and an expectant father. It examines Novi Sad's famous EXIT festival, which receives 160,000 visitors and 600 artists performing on 25 stages! Believe it or not, Bob Marley now has a statue of himself in Serbia's Banat region fashioned by a Croatian sculptor! And there is even a review of the video game Grand Theft Auto IV, with its hero/anti-hero the fictional Serbian war veteran Niko Bellic!

    Subscription is free of charge as is delivery, and if you fill out and send the subscription form on page 30, you might also win a free iPod!

    Just to finish this post. When asked what message he would like to give Britić readers in its exclusive interview with him, Nenad Zimonjić answered with the following:

    "It is really nice to see our people all around the world when I travel. They stay connected in societies, through Church and like you're doing now with the magazine trying to keep our people together. I think that is important, even if some of them do not live in Serbia. For us athletes like tennis players or other artists it is always nice when we hear support from our own people so please keep it up and try not to forget your backgorund, where you come from."

    [My Emphasis in bold]

    So you can be sure that I for one will subscribe to this new British Serb magazine, Britić!

    Visit the website by clicking here, where you can also subscribe online.

    Wednesday, 17 December 2008

    In Memory, STEVO JAKŠIĆ (1938 - 2008)

    Stevo Jakšić, my father


    1.10.1938 - 29.6.2008

    This blog post is dedicated to my father who passed away this year in June. He was 69 years old and had been suffering from heart problems before he left us. He was a seller of antique watches and was exceptionally skillful at repairing them.

    He was born a year before the Second World War began in Europe. He, like his two brothers and two sisters, was born on a hill called Šibulja near the village of Malovan in the Gračac municipality located in southern Lika. During that great war, his father took him and his family many kilometres north to take refuge in a little village in western Bosnia called Mišljenovac in the Cazinska Krajina, and there they managed to avoid the gruesome atrocities committed by the fascist Ustaše that took the lives of many of his fellow Serbs throughout Lika and the wider Independent State of Croatia. Had he and his family not survived that aweful annihilation, I would never have been born! And not just me, but many others!

    After the war was over and the Partisans had won, his family returned to Šibulja, and life was tough living there surrounded by wild untamed nature and far from any sign of civilization! The Winters were ice cold with snow a metre to two metres high, and the Summers were scorching hot. My dad went to school in another nearby village called Vučipolje and later finished 8-year school in Gračac, following which he did his conscription service for the Yugoslav people's Army ('Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija') in his early twenties. And for four to five years after that, he was a postman serving Gračac and the wider municipality. Even now he is known to many from the Gračac area as Stevo Poštar ('Postman Steve')!

    My dad in the sixties
    He left Lika for England in 1965, settling in Bedford, where there were quite a few Serbs who settled there following WW2 and others who came in the 50s and 60s like himself. He lived with his brother Adam and his wife Vida, and worked in the brick factory there.

    In 1968, Adam died aged only 44, while later in the year my father married his first wife Persida, a woman from Niš in Serbia. They moved to London and later settled in Acton, where they had three daughters, my half-sisters. He spent many a Saturday on the world-famous Portobello Road Market in Kensington, London, selling antique watches and mingling with other antique dealers. He met many people there from all over the world and he himself was known to many people. While at home, he would mend, repair and even paint the dials of the many pocket watches he sold through the years, that themselves travelled the length and breadth of the world with their buyers!

    Unfortunately, his marriage to Persida did not last and they divorced in 1985. After the divorce, my father went back to Gračac, where he met my mother Milica from the nearby village of Štikada. They married in November of the same year, and in February 1986 I was born in Zagreb, the capital of the then Socialist Republic of Croatia ('Socijalistička Republika Hrvatska') in the Yugoslav federation.

    When I was five months old, they moved into a flat in Greencroft Gardens, London, and stayed there for two years, eventually buying a house in a town called Luton, 31 miles north of the city of London and 18 miles south of Bedford. My father continued to travel to London every Saturday to sell antique pocket watches to the passers-by of Portobello Market, until 2001 when he switched to ebay, and continued his profession on the internet super-highway! And the pocket watches he sold on ebay were packaged and sent to all the four corners of the world. Some of them are even in museums.

    I grew up living with both my parents in Luton for twenty years. I and my mum also travelled far and wide with my dad across Europe in a number of Volvo estate cars! But he used to have two Vauxhall Senators many years ago before the Volvos.

    Religiously speaking, my dad was an atheist, because he hated the religious conflicts that caused so much suffering to humanity, especially religious division that created deep hostilities between nations that are culturally and linguistically the same, such as the Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks. And politically speaking, he was a left-wing socialist, supportive of workers' rights and dignity and resentful of wealthy, selfish Western capitalists. And just so you know, Marshall Josip Broz Tito was definitely one of his heroes!


    On the 29th of June of this year 2008, my father Stevo Jakšić departed this world following a deterioration of health, which made his daily life very difficult to live. He is sorely missed by many of his closest relatives, and fondly missed by many more who knew him from Portobello market and back home by his fellow countrymen and extended family.

    Počivaj u miru tata - Neka ti je vječna slava i fala od sina svoga!

    Edited 28th December, 2008; 10th May, 2011