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Serbian Grandma and Sarma

Serbian Grandma and Sarma

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One of my dearest friends here in Serbia is a Norwegian from the northern region of Norway. We met up last winter at Horus Nargile Bar and have been great friends ever since. He was born and raised in Norway, but his father’s side of the family are Serbs from Croatia who were forced out of Zagreb during the 90’s. He’s in his 2nd year of English medical school here in Novi Sad.

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Church in Sirig

Last Sunday, he asked me to go with him and his beautiful girlfriend to his grandmother’s house in  Sirig, Serbia for lunch. Sirig is a pretty little village about 20km from Novi Sad. I knew all about his grandmother’s cooking because I was there for a birthday party last summer and she sent over some sarma for me a few times so I was thrilled to go. He tells me that his grandma is going to teach me to make sarma 🙂
We arrived at his granny’s house around 1pm. She lives in a big, beautiful home right in the heart of Sirig. There are tons of fruit and nut trees in her back yard,  a large garage  and two floors of living space. She had the table all laid out and prepared for our arrival.  The older women in Serbia really know how to take care of a dinner guest. We had some of her homemade rakija and beer, and then she brings out this lovely homemade soup.
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Next round of food comes after she clears the soup and bowls from the table. The ladies seem to refuse your offer of assistance 🙂 This round was some appetizers of cold meats, homemade cheese, cvarci (fried pork fat), cabbage salad and pickled red peppers.

DSC_1505_1280x851She also had these lovely homemade breaded things that reminded me of doughnuts. They were super!

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The next round of food was some delicious pork and beef goulash that was poured over pasta noodles, fried pork strips and some delicious fried cauliflower.  That’s the first time in my life I tried fried cauliflower, but it was really good.

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Nikola, grandma and Valerija

By now we have eaten ourselves into oblivion. We have to take a break for my sarma lesson. Sarma is one of my favorite foods here in Serbia. It’s a leaf of soured cabbage with meat and rice rolled up inside it.

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1/2 kg of pork with chopped onion in a bowl

She starts off by putting 1/2 kg of pork into a bowl with a cut up onion.

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1 carrot, one potato, and another onion

She likes to put a carrot and a potato in her sarama. You don’t have to, but it’s her way of making it. She throws one of each into the food processor and grinds them up.

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add it to the meat and break open an egg

Once it’s all ground up, she throws it in the bowl with the meat and adds one egg to it. You need to put in some salt, pepper and a little Vegeta (Serbian salty spice).

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Rice

Next, you want to add a cup of rice that has been sitting in water for a few minutes to the mixture of meat, etc and mash it around with your hands until it’s all mixed together.

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Soured cabbage leaves

Then you get your soured cabbage leaves ready.  You will then roll up your pork filling  into  balls and place a large ball in the middle of the cabbage leaf and then wrap the leaf around the meat filling

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placing filling into leaf

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Wrapping the sarma

Once you finish wrapping the sarama, you place a large poton the stove. She adds some bacon in the bottom to flavor it up.

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Strips of bacon in the pot

Stack the wrapped sarma around the entire pot, one row on top of the next, until you have it full.

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Filling pot with sarma

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Unused leaves on top

Once you have the pan full, place some unused leaves on top of the sarma and add some sausage , if you like , then place the lid on top. You can turn it on high heat until it gets hot, then turn it down to low heat and cook for 1.5 hours.

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Done

Remove the lid and let cool! It’s now ready to eat! Prepare yourself for a taste of heaven. 🙂

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Delicious sarma

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Svargla

By time the sarma is ready, i’m hungry again. I eat 5 of them and then Nikola’s girlfriend asks me if I’ve ever tried something called svargla. I’m a guy who usually likes everything so I accept a slice. The second it hits my mouth it almost triggers my gag reflex. The taste is HORRIBLE. It’s soft and meaty and reminds me of a juicy meatloaf. Blah! My friends tell me not to eat anymore of it and that it’s mainly a food for old folks. 🙂

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Barrel of sarma

After dinner, the grandmother takes me down to her basement to show me how she makes the soured cabbage. She has a large plastic barrel that she fills with full heads of cabbage, cuts a cross in the base and adds salt to it. After a few days, they are ready for sarma. She also has a lot of nuts from her walnut trees that she separates in the basement.

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Cabbage heads in barrel

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Walnuts

Nikola takes me upstairs to check out the living quarters up there. It’s massively big and beautiful just like a second house. They have a bar with many different kinds of alcohol in beautiful bottles.

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Decor

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Norwegian alcohol

Nikola and I throw down a shot of this Norwegian alcohol that he brought from home. It wasn’t too bad at all.

It’s time to head back to Novi Sad. The neighbor girls are driving back in their car so grandma calls to ask if we can ride with them. They have room so we all squeeze into her little car. Grandma sent me off with bottle of rakija, jar of peppers and a container full of sarma! 🙂 What a great way to spend a lazy Sunday!  I learned a little something, filled my belly and had a slight buzz . 🙂

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Posted by on December 14, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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16 Year Old Serb Talking About Uprooting to Indonesia Because of NATO Attacks


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It’s very interesting yet horrible to hear of the struggle so many Serbians went through during the NATO attacks on their country in 1999. I was fortunate enough to discuss the story of one young Serb student whose family was forced to flee the bombing attacks of 1999. Igor Mijovic was kind enough to share some of his experiences in Indonesia.

“I was born in Belgrade in 1999 just 14 days before the start of the NATO bombing. I lived relatively a peaceful and fun childhood, I was never bothered with my family’s money issues, we didn’t have much but I was happy with the way things were, of course I was unaware of the real state of things with my dad’s job and how it was all falling to pieces. When my parents announced we were moving to Indonesia it hit me like a dagger to the heart. I was leaving all of my friends and family behind, going not only to another country, but to another continent I knew nothing or very little about. For me the worst part was that I would be unable to communicate with other people since I thought my English was way below the level of those kids that went to an international school. At first my months at my new school were awful, everything was so different from what I was used to, and everyone whispered about that tall Serbian guy who came from an unknown land, they could not bully me because I was too big for them, I was just ignored and I kept telling myself that this whole nightmare will be over soon, that I don’t need these new people in my life and that I will be back in my beloved country once again. It all changed though when I met a Canadian guy who spent an evening with me and that’s when it all started for the better. I met people from loads of different countries, shared stories and began to change mentally and emotionally. I realized not everything was as I thought, at this time I found Charles Cather’s first video on youtube and it really helped me fight my nostalgia, I’ve watched every one since. After 4 years I made tons of friends from all kinds of backgrounds, but it was not to last, since I was to move to my country once again. It was my choice, since I was old enough to be semi-responsible, but getting something means leaving something else behind. I had to leave all those dear friends I made and return to those I haven’t seen for years. Honestly living in an international community helped to change me for the better and I decided I won’t hate on anyone before I have a good talk with them and get to know their story. I’m planning on studying history and maybe becoming and international teacher to travel around. ”

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Charles:  What were your first impressions of Indonesia?

Igor:  I expected it to be like those Chinese cities you see in movies, lots of tall buildings with flashing signs in unknown letters. I was surprised at what I saw though, the air was humid and hard to breathe, there is a huge difference between lower and high class, with no middle class. There was very little bread and red meat and the way people acted was very strange, I’ve never experienced that much respect and awe of white people in my life.

Charles:  What did you miss the most about Serbia?

Igor: Well for the first year or so it was my friends and my relatives I missed the most until I actually started making international friends. Food was also a pain to get used to. It’s not the usual asian food we eat in the west, lots of rice, many spices we haven’t even heard of, fruits that taste very strange compared to kajsija and shljiva :D. But most of all it was the freedom, I couldn’t walk around and go exploring, I couldn’t hug or kiss my friends in public. It was mostly the staying at home all the time that tortured me the most.

 

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Charles: Where the locals respectful of your faith since it’s a Muslim country?

Igor: Indonesians are a very religious people, no matter what religion they are, they dismiss facts and other pleasures of life in order to be that much closer to their god. I myself am an atheist, I did enjoy celebrating my country’s many traditions and festivities, but that stuff was hard to come by. I did get looks of curiosity but sometimes even disgust and hate for not being a religious person, mostly from radical muslims and christians. My first year at school had mandatory religion and they had Protestant, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim, and I couldn’t find a place there, so I went with the protestants (one of my worst decisions since all we learnt about is how only they are right and true and everyone else is false).

Charles: Any similarities between the cultures?

Igor: The cultures are very different. The only things I found similar is the fact that they were under colonial rule for most of the time we were under Ottoman occupation.

 

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Charles: What were the biggest differences in culture that you had a hard time adjusting to?

Igor: Indonesians have everything the opposite of Serbia, they are very radical religious, have more than 300 ethnic groups within the country, some even warring with each other. They don’t like to show emotions, believe in ghosts and spirits too much and due to the lack of education (with every school having to be paid for, and millions in poverty having no money for it) lack basic knowledge and intelligence. It also takes much longer to reach to them and get close to them as friends, than it would with a western person. In the end they proved to be just as good and fun as my Serbian friends.

Charles: Had most people heard of Serbia? If so, what were their impressions?

Igor: Most Indonesians didn’t know what I was talking about when I said Serbia, but when I said Yugoslavia they usually nodded their heads and said things like “Long live Tito, Indonesia’s friend!”, I didn’t really feel like explaining to them that he’s dead and that everything changed. People in my school never showed much interest in my country, most thought its a warzone still, laughed at my opanci and asked me to say random things in Serbian. I tried my best to show Serbia in a good light, and how civilised it is compared to Indonesia, for me that was a must when it came to discussing my country.

This is one story of thousands of Serbs who were displaced throughout the 90’s. 5366_10200496493149514_460826202_n

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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Searching for a Meal in Zemun


I had the craving for some home-cooked food today. The workers at the three little fast food stands think that I’m nuts because I am there every single night 🙂 I decided to hit up one of the boat restaurants along the quay here in Zemun.

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Today was a cruddy day here in Serbia. The city of Zemun was quiet with very few folks walking around besides a few old men fishing from the docks. This whole summer has been rainy and chilly. There are some major flooding issues down around Negotin. 😦 The people have had such a terrible year dealing with water over here. I walked down along the endless amount of boat restaurants and saw that no one was in “Sidro”.

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That was the selling feature for me. 🙂 I had been there a few times before for some beers and a quick bite to eat. Nothing freaks me out more than going into a packed place and ordering food. People tend to stare at you the minute you start in attempting to speak Serbian  . 🙂

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Nothing is better than  some alone time with my music blaring in my IPod,  some good food, and a cold beer. The song that started playing the minute that I sat down in a little corner table on the edge of the boat was “Thunder Rolls” . How ironic on a dreary, cloudy day.

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The waiter slowly sauntered over after seeing me sit there for 5 minutes. I avoided speaking English and told him that I wanted a big beer and a menu.

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There were so many  items on the menu that I had never seen before.  I didn’t know if they were some kind of fish or monkey brains. 🙂 I recognized my favorite salad, Sopska.

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Sopska salads  have some of the freshest veggies and this AMAZING cheese on top of them. What was I going to eat for the main course? I hated to ask questions to this waiter with an unsmiling face. Ummmmmmm.. I just selected the middle priced one “Bečka šnicla” in this one section because I recognized the word “snicla” but had no clue what “Bečka” meant. It reminded me of how the Serbians call the city of Vienna, Austria. It is called “Beč” over here. My selection had been made , but the waiter was no where in sight. I made some huffing noises, dropped the menu loudly, coughed a few times, and finally he sauntered over to see if I was ready to order. I ordered in Serbian and even asked him if the snicla was chicken or pork. He told  me that it was pork. That makes no difference to me as I’m a huge pork lover (sorry to my Muslim pals) 😛

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This waiter is on the typical “Serbian speed” which can be so frustrating for me. I guess it has caused me to be more of a laid back and patient guy than I ever was before. Serbia has even eliminated my need for ADHD medications that I used to take prior to living here. 🙂 The slowness and tardiness can still be very annoying for me. I’ve always been a guy that was on time or 10 minutes early for everything. That is useless over here in Serbia. The vast majority of my friends will tell me to be somewhere at 2PM so I get there at 1:50PM and they saunter in around 2:30PM without even a simple excuse or apology. 🙂 Time just doesn’t seem to have the same meaning as it does to us in the West. Well….. There is a time when Serbs seem to be extremely impatient. Behind the wheel of an automobile. I have never seen people that use their horn as much as they do over here in Serbia. It is a constant blaring of horns. Thank God that Serbia isn’t a “conceal and carry” country or there would be lots of shooting. My friend , Ivan, is a good example. He seems to always have his hand on the horn and uses it in the most ridiculous situations. You will get a ticket in the USA for “disturbing the peace” or “unlawful use of your horn” . I like that law because the sound of a car horn instantly pisses me off. 🙂

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My food finally arrived! It looked AMAZING! The veggies were glistening and the aroma of the snicla was overpowering my nostrils. I immediately recognized the  snicla . It is something like a breaded tenderloin in the USA, but this is high quality pork and 300 grams of it. 🙂 It came with some tarter sauce, a some fries and a few veggies that decorate the meal.

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It took me a good 15 minutes to shove every last bite of the salad and snicla down my throat. I even dabbed up every last drop of juice with my bread. You can’t eat a meal in Serbia without a big piece of bread. Serbs are always seeing me eat something and they say ” How can you eat it without bread?” Bread has slowly turned into a must have for me too!

I piled all my plates together and straightened up my table. A new waiter came over to collect the dishes and he remembered me from my previous visit. He was very friendly and spoke  pretty good English for a 42 year old man. He greeted me and told me that he is going to stop speaking to me in English and force me to speak Serbian. -_-  I had no time to object before he started spewing out something about how he had learned English by being forced to speak with English speaking customers in a Thai restaurant in Belgrade. 🙂 I understood a good 50% of the conversation. It is good to run into people that will force me to speak their language.  Polako, polako, polako……………………….

“Sidro” gets a big thumbs up for me. My total bill was 800 dinars which is very close to what you would spend at KFC or some other fast food joint, but here you get everything fresh!  Another day and another interesting and tasty meal here in the heart of Serbia:)

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2014 in Through my eyes

 

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Thousands of Serbs Slaughtered at Bubanj


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I mention this a lot, but it seems that every single town and village I visit in Serbia has a massive monument with thousands of dead Serbs on it! It is horrible!!! This is something you won’t hear much about outside the borders of Serbia!  The monument in Nis is something that must be seen to believe.

The Germans occupied this area during WWII. They brought truck loads of Serbians, Gypsies, and Jews to Bubanj for mass executions. They killed between 10,000- 12,000 people during 1942-1944. The entire area is intersected with trenches that the bodies where thrown into after they had been shot. Before the withdrawal of the Germans as the Red Army advanced into Yugoslavia in 1944, captured Italians were ordered to dig up the trenches and burn the corpses of the victims in order to destroy all traces of the atrocities committed there.

I first heard about this monument in 2011. My buddies were going to take me up there one day, but it rained. I woke up early one morning in my $50 a month apartment. The  family that owned it were an elderly couple in their late 70’s. They spoke ZERO English, but had hearts of gold! They were always coming over knocking on my door to offer coffee, pita, cherries, etc. The room was great for $50! The bathroom always cracked me up!!! It was tiny!! You had to sit on the toilet to take a shower! The water would just run down the drain pipe that was in the center of the floor! I had never seen anything like it! You can see it here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obqwjY9JBPo

My apartment, come to find out, was only 1km down the hill from Bubanj! I thought I would just check it out alone! I prefer doing a lot of my sightseeing on my own. You can go our own speed, stop when you like, and only check out what interests you. I started on a very hot morning. The monument is up on  top of a hill that is surrounded by forests.It only took me about 15 minutes to get up to the top of the hill.
Entrance to Bubanj

Entrance to Bubanj

There is a large sign and a wooden gate at the entrance of the park. You walk about 10 minutes up a rocky path that is surrounded by beautiful pine trees.

path with beautiful pine trees

path with beautiful pine trees

Once you get close to the clearing you can see the three massive monuments rising from the Earth!

the "killing machine" 23.5 X 2.5

the “killing machine” 23.5 X 2.5

The Bubanj monument is made in 4 parts. The first one being the 23.5 X 2.5 meter white marble monument. It symoblizes the five parts of “the killing machine”:  execution and firing squads, civil revolts, surrender of the German invaders and final victory over the oppressors. I show the monument in this short video, but at the time wasn’t sure what it stood for http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkZZ88QI-m8&feature=youtu.be

Three Fists

Three Fists

The most amazing part of the park is the “Three Fists”that tower over the entire area. They are three concrete monuments that symbolize raised hands with clenched fists. Each of the three fists are different sizes, depicting men’s, women’s and children’s hands that defy the enemy, symbolic of the fact entire families were killed at Bubanj. I am not sure of the size , but you can see from the video that they are massive!

This is one of the many beautiful monuments and historic places you can see on your trip to Nis, Serbia.

Join us at our new Serbian website , Say Serbia! http://sayserbia.com/

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2013 in Through my eyes

 

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Another One Cashing in on Kosovo


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What gives??? A few days ago I was reading up on Madeline Albright and her huge investments in the telecom company in Kosovo. That really bummed me out. How could I have been so blind? A few moments after posting my blog article on it, a friend messaged me this little tidbit of info.

General Wesley Kanne was born in Chicago , Il in 1944. His father died four years later and the family moved to Arkansas because  his mother didn’t share the Jewish faith of the Kanne family. She remarried a gentleman by the  name of Viktor Clark. She had her son’s name officially changed on the birth certificate to Wesley Clark. She failed to tell Wesley of his Jewish roots to protect him from the Ku Klux Klan that had a strong following in Arkansas.

 

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Wesley Clark excelled in high school and eventually attended West Point. He served in Vietnam and was awarded many medals for his bravery. He ended up as a 4 star general and was chosen to head “Operation Allied Forces”. He had previous been military advisor in the Bosnian conflict and had a few close calls like this:

“While the team was driving along a mountain road during the first week, the road gave way, and one of the vehicles fell over a cliff carrying passengers including Holbrooke’s deputy, Robert Frasure, a deputy assistant Secretary of Defense, Joseph Kruzel, and Air Force Colonel Nelson Drew. Clark and Holbrooke attempted to crawl down the mountain, but were driven back by sniper fire. Once the fire ceased, Clark scaled down the mountain to collect the bodies of two dead Americans left by Bosnian forces that had taken the remaining wounded to a nearby hospital.”

General Clark on the left with General Mladic's hat on.... General Mladic on the right with General Clark's hat.

General Clark on the left with General Mladic’s hat on…. General Mladic on the right with General Clark’s hat.

He was also thrashed in the western media outlets for his meeting with Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic. General Clark and General Mladic were shown exchanging hats which led to outrage from both the Liberal and Conservative pundits. Some Clinton administration members privately said the incident was “like cavorting with Hermann Goring.”

General Clark led “Operation Allied Force” , the military intervention into Serbian lands. President Clinton came on tv explaining to the American people how Democracy was threatened and we must help those that are seeking freedom from oppression. -_- That is what we were told anyway!! Was it true???

June 6th, 2012…… The company that former General Wesley Clark heads, Envidity, has received the green light from the Kosovo Government to begin work on oil generation from lignite in Kosovo!  They are offering hundreds of millions of Euros in investments!!! Shouldn’t this be considered a conflict of interest??? We can start a war on some small country that has lots of resources and then privately invest in them to make millions of dollars! INSANE!!!!! You can never trust your government!! http://www.eciks.org/english/lajme.php?action=total_news&main_id=1250

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IT IS TIME THAT WE ALL REVOLT!!! OUR LEADERS CARE NOTHING ABOUT US! THEY LOVE TO BLOW SMOKE UP OUR ASSES AND ACT LIKE WE MATTER, BUT WE DON’T!!! REVOLUTION!!!! They would sell us for a $5 bill!

I have friends in the majority of countries around the world. They are all dealing with the same corruption that is dripping from the top down. Check out my video from my  friends all over the planet that are sick and tired of the status quo! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOBBBo71ClA

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2013 in Through my eyes

 

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Greatest Serbian Leader and Hero


Srpski_Vojnik Feb. 1912 by Stefanovic

I have traveled to almost every corner of this great country. It amazes me to find such differing views in such a small place! Serbians are very open to me about their politics and their personal beliefs. I never judge anyone and usually just sit and listen. I am interested to get an idea of where my friends and followers stand.

Please vote on these two polls. I will study and read up on the winners and provide an interesting blog post about them. The “Serbian Hero” question was left with an option to add your own!

Thank you in advance!!! Please join our new Serbian website…… SAY SERBIA….. http://sayserbia.com/. We are trying to create a place to bring together Serbians, foreigners that are interested in Serbia, and create a place to find out about EVERYTHING Serbian! Feel free to click on a category and add your input, pictures, opinions, videos, etc.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2013 in Through my eyes, Uncategorized

 

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Why Did a Serb Hijack Flight 293?


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I get accused of only talking about the positives of Serbia and its people….. Here is an interesting article that I just stumbled onto.

In May of 1979 , Nikola Kavaja, a self-described ati-communist, was one of six Serbians that were arrested and convicted of bombing the Yugoslav council’s home in Chicago three years prior. He was released on bail shortly after the incident. He had boarded American Airlines Flight  293 in New York and a few minutes before landing he threatened the pilots saying he had a homemade bomb on board. He demanded the release of Serbian Orthodox priest, Stojilko Kajevich, who was still serving time in jail for the Chicago bombing. He allowed all 135 passengers and the majority of the crew to depart the plane before forcing the pilots back to New York. He demanded they have a fueled Boeing 707 waiting for them at Laguardia Airport . He had intentions of crashing it into the Yugoslav Community Party building in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. They landed in Ireland after his lawyer, who was also on board, urged him to give up this insane plan. He was arrested and sent back to Chicago where he was convicted and sentenced to 67 years in federal prison. imagesHe returned to Belgrade, Serbia after serving only 20 years of his sentence. The New York Times reported the following about his early years :

“The details of Mr. Kavaja’s life are difficult to verify and often clouded by his boasts. He had said he was born in 1933 in what is now Montenegro and grew up in the town of Pec. His family was separated by the Nazis during World War II and sent to prison camps in Albania. The first of the more than 17 people he killed, he said, was a wounded German soldier whom he flung down a well when he was 14.

He became an air force pilot, he said, while engaging in anti-Communist violence and acts of sabotage. After deserting, he was caught. He escaped from prison after four years and, according to an interview in The Paris Review in 2006, found his way to a United States military base in what was then West Germany.

There, Mr. Kavaja said, he became a mercenary for the C.I.A. He said that his biggest assignment was to assassinate Tito, the Communist leader of Yugoslavia, and that he had tried to do so four times without success, once while perched in a tree outside Camp David in Maryland during Tito’s visit with President Richard M. Nixon in 1971.”
Loved by some Serbians and hated by others, he died of a heart attack in November of 2008. Prior to his death, he also claimed that Osama Bin Laden stole his idea of crashing planes into buildings..

You can no longer say that I am spewing too many positive messages about Serbia. 🙂 We all have a few black marks in our history. 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2013 in Through my eyes

 

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