It has been almost 16 years since I was last at a Saint Sava church function in downtown Phoenix. Yet at the time when the civil wars were breaking out that eventually destroyed my native Yugoslavia (in 1990-1991), I was one of the leaders of this church. And had to continued to act as an unofficial spokesman for the Phoenix Serbian community all the way through the end of NATO’s bombing of Serbia in 1999.
I stopped going because I felt I was not needed anymore. Relative peace had returned to my native country, broken up into little pieces as it were.
In fact, the staff of the Belgrade Intercontinental Hotel, who knew me well from the years I worked as a war correspondent in the Balkans, were quite perturbed when they saw me with Elizabeth in October 2011.
“Mr Djurdjevic, of course, it’s great to see you again,” the chief of reception said as he welcomed us to the hotel, “but does that mean there is going to be another war?”
I laughed and reassured him that I was not aware of anything like that. “We are here just for a private one-day family visit,” I told him.
And so, when I arrived late this afternoon at Saint Sava’s church for their annual SERBFEST (fiesta), I was wondering if I would still recognize anyone anymore. And vice versa. And I was actually quite happy that I did not. Nor did anyone recognize me. Everybody was just out to have fun on a Saturday night. As it should be.
“The peace has indeed returned,” I muttered to myself, as I watched throngs of young people proudly wearing their Serbian national costumes, I suppose, in preparation for dancing in them later on this evening.
ONCE UPON A TIME… THIS CHURCH WAS DESECRATED
Yet looking at the happy scene in front of the church this evening, I could not help but remember the day, over 21 years ago, when the front entrance to the church was desecrated by some Croatian vandals. They painted on it some “Ustashi” symbol (the Ustashi were the Nazi collaborators who killed hundreds of thousands of Serbs in concentration camps during WW II).
Yet the Phoenix police and the FBI did nothing about this “hate crime” at the time (see https://www.truthinmedia.org/Bulletins/tim96-8.html). Because back then, the Serbs were the “black sheep” of the New World Order.
HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN
But I did not dwell on such unhappy past. I brushed aside these thoughts and joined the predominantly young crowds who milled around the spacious property around Saint Sava this evening.
Close the back entrance of the church hall, loud music was playing the songs from Skadarlija, the Old Belgrade entertainment district which Elizabeth and I also visited both in 2011 and just last June during our “Sailing Down the Danube” adventure.
Here’s now a short video clip of the scene around that part of the SERBFEST:
A large Serbian flag hung over the doorway. I asked a young girl in a Serbian national costume if she would take a picture of me under it. She all too happy to oblige.
Later on, I also took a picture of her as she was talking to a friend.
BUYING A “DRESS” FOR ELIZABETH
The funniest moment happened when I tried to buy this T-shirt for Elizabeth.
I asked the nice lady who was minding this stall how much it was. She told me.
“But this is not a T-shirt,” she said.
“It is not?” I said, looking at the shirt and skeptically shaking my head.
“No,” she said. “It is a dress.”
“This is a dress?” I repeated, even more perplexed.
I continued looking but did not see anything else that appealed to me. So I returned to this lady and her “dress.”
“How can this be a dress?” I asked her. “It would have to be a very small woman. And even then it would be probably shorter than most mini-skirts.”
Now it was this lady’s turn to look puzzled.
“What do you mean?”
I explained that I was looking to buy this shirt for my wife, “who is fairly small,” I added, “but not as small as to be able to wear this as a dress.”
Finally, the penny seemed to drop in this lady’s mind. She smiled. “It is a ‘dress,'” she emphasized again, “like what Novak Djokovic or other Serbian athletes wear.”
“You mean a uniform?” I said, as now the penny has finally dropped in my case, too. “Like the national team uniform?”
You see, the word “dress” in Serbian means a uniform which athletic teams wear.
“Yes,” the lady said. “You’re right. It is a uniform. Sorry. My English is not the best.”
“Not to worry,” I said. “I’ll take this ‘DRESS’.”
BEAUTIFUL PHOENIX SUNSET
I did not stay long… maybe 45 minutes at the Serbfest. As I drove back home to North Scottsdale, the sun was just setting over downtown Phoenix to the west. I kept snapping these pictures while driving on the freeways without looking at the sun. So you could say that I took the photos of this sunset “sight unseen.” 🙂
UPDATE NOV 14, 2017
TONIGHT’S SUNSET, FEATURING A “SECOND SUN?”
I went out for a walk around our Scottsdale neighborhood this evening shortly after 5PM, meaning just before sunset. And it was interesting to see the trick a reflection of the sunlight off a high cloud played in one’s mind. It looked as if there was a second, smaller sun setting as well.
I was also able to catch the last sun rays reflecting off the McDowell Mtns which lie in the backdrop of our Scottsdale home.