This post comes to us from Relja Cvjetićanin. After growing up in a Serbian family in Australia, Relja moved to Belgrade in 2011 to see what life would be like in Serbia. This post was written after one of Relja’s routine trips to the bank during the year he lived there, and documents a short conversation he had (in Serbian) with the security guard that revealed an unexpected shared history. It first appeared on Relja’s travel blog, Serbia by Numbers.
I walk toward the exit. The security guard opens the door for me. I’m surprised. Pleasantly. I thank him. “Excuse me,” he says, just as I begin to walk through the door. “Can I ask you something, quickly?”
“Yeah, sure.” I stop and turn around. We’re standing outside the bank now.
“Are you from Lika?”
I pause. I take a breath. I’m not sure how to answer, because Lika is in Croatia, but I’m not Croatian. It’s a region where a lot of Serbs used to live, before the Second World War. “Ummm. Huh. Well, my grandparents lived there, but then fled to Sombor after WWII.”
“I recognised your surname, when the woman asked you. It’s a Likanite name.”
“Yes. That’s right, it is. Are you from there, too?”
“What’s your surname?”
“Orlović. My family fled to Bački Brestovac. Do you know where that is?”
“It’s near Sombor, too.”
Balkanites have a real soft spot for people who are from the same part of the region as they are. I love how this security guard felt completely at ease by asking me, a customer at the bank that he is “guarding”, where I was from. I don’t think this kind of thing happens so often in Australia – especially getting asked so directly. He also directly admitted to eavesdropping, which some people might have found slightly creepy. Or even just something that isn’t done. You don’t really admit to eavesdropping in Australia, I guess – particularly not to customers. But something about it felt right during our little exchange, there in that bank in Belgrade, during my year in Serbia.
© Relja Cvjetićanin, 2017