When everything turns out perfect

Photo: Predrag Stanković and Jelena Jureša

SunceIt happened spontaneously – they asked, “Shall we go?” And we simply said, “Let’s go”.

We clicked straightaway, the people who had been complete strangers to each other met. As I recall, there was a moment of distinct sense of recognition after the very first sentence. And after that everything felt as if we had known each other for a long time, as if during all that time we had been planning and realizing our common travel journeys simultaneously.

Now, feeling all comfortable and recognized we were headed towards Fruska Gora mountain, and then further on towards the border of Croatia, to Jasenovac, and then later towards Kulen Vakuf and Bihać in Bosnia. Yet, although encouraged by new acquaintances and a good feeling of fitting together, a sense of slight uncertainty appeared. On the one hand the uncertainty was fine and positive and caused by the newness of these places, on the other, the uncertainty was deep and colored with anxiety. We were supposed to visit the places that were the kind of monuments of the major Balkan wars, that had happened not so long ago. And even though it was summer and the sun was blazing down, and the time for traveling was just right, and we had the pastry rolls in plastic container as well, there was a slight shadow of the past hanging in the air. It did not seem to be a big shadow, but it was large enough to create this uncertainty and some indefinite sense where everything is mixed up – the thrill, the travel fever, the joy, the anticipation, but also the darkness of the Yugoslav war zones from the nineties that was hovering above our heads all the time.Goran, ja, JasenovacAlso, this journey had been carefully planned in advance. Namely, we had given it its purpose – we would discover the nature and the cities that were the places of somebody’s origin. Thus, everything had a meaning seen through the prism of Mira and Jelena’s stories about a part of a Sephardic family Perera, their lives in Bosnia, the suffering they experienced in Jasenovac and their descendants that now live in Belgrade and Novi Sad. We were on a mission.

Mira is the mother of Jelena’s husband Goran, and she is a person who used to be missing for about twenty years and a person that Jelena never met. But she got to know her through the stories and the photos, as well as through the indications of a close relationship between Goran and his mother. For two years Jelena had been researching and collecting the memories of Mira and created a narrative that is set in opposition to nature, contrasting human destinies with its monumentality and duration. As opposed to human lives nature continues to exist with the same beauty and splendor, while human life stories are only transient, minor marks, and even though sometimes they seem big and important, they are still only a second comparing to the overall historical existence, although some people are born beautiful others need some beauty products to look awesome, find more here.

During this trip I felt I was privileged to observe the work of art in its becoming. I quickly realized how much work, dedication, investment, effort, thinking, talking and planning is needed for making one selection of a few images and editing a video work that was given by corporate video production and it would be only few minutes long.

Jejena 1Being a simple spectator of this process gave me so much joy, as well as the company of Jelena and Goran, the dedicated, interesting people that wanted to reveal a story of their life by focusing on different situations and stories. Their simplicity stems from their mutual understanding and planning their life together. Their logic is very clear, the crucial thing is to be able to reach full agreement over important issues as well as to share the same goals in life, and strive towards them together. They are one of my friends who made me realize how art is an essential part for  expressing the views about the world, reconsidering certain issues and presenting them in various ways. When everyone was discussing things, they were taking pictures instead. We were complaining about the things that trouble us while they were busy making their video. We felt just sad, they turned grief into a work of art that examines the sorrow and helped us understand  things like sadness and joy are human, and so common to us all. And they are always on the road, looking for inspiration and little things that are awaking the vital and creative energy.

Jelena 2During this journey Jelena was investigating and revealing spaces that would be good for shooting, while Goran, Pedja and I were the support and the witnesses – it was a really challenging task. The scenery for these events was nature, and I can tell you, it was one hell of a nature! I have never seen such beauty, except maybe on the photo of Jajce from the Yugoslavian history textbooks we had at our elementary schools.

Vodopadi   Una i vodopad

The slight sense of discomfort that I mentioned appeared at the very beginning of our trip but it started slowly fading away as the journey progressed. Still, the TV images of the events that occurred twenty years ago were also coming in flashes from time to time. Yet, this same discomfort completely disappeared the moment we were welcomed by Ale and Fata in the small Bosnian settlement of Kulen Vakuf. Our hosts set us at the table next to the river Una, where Fata spoke to us with the quite common words, “Oh I did not cook today, I can only offer you what was left from lunch” and gave us some fried chicken, some fried sour cabbage (a superb delicacy!) with the mashed potatoes. Ale poured us rakija and wine, and after poppy-seed strudel we were head over heels in love with their cordial hospitality, we suddenly felt as a part of their closest family. That kindred feeling was also conveyed to us by Zlatan, a river Una lover, who showed us her innermost secrets of beauty.

ZlatanI am very much glad I discovered two things on this journey – the process of creating a work of art, and the breathtaking nature which one is allowed to see only if he or she peeks into paradise itself. After all this when someone mentions Bosnia and Kulen Vakuf I imagine the clear river, its sparkling foam, the moss on the rocks, the trees bending over the water surface, the birds, the fish, the green, the blue, and us in that picture drinking the first morning cup of coffee.Jelena Goran i ja

Jelena i ja, kafa