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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Some things don't change (a short walk through Lazarevac)

The main street (a pedestrian zone in theory, although not always in practice) of my hometown on a hot Saturday afternoon in May. It's interesting that it looks almost completely deserted on this picture that Ruslan took, because that's exactly how I think of it--a place where nothing ever happens. Small town life for me is the equivalent of a v-e-r-y slow death.

This might not be Santa Maria della Salute*, but it's the best we've got. This is the Church of St. Dimitrius which, in its crypt, preserves the remains of thousands of Serbian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers who died in the Battle of Kolubara, during the WWI. It was a major victory for Serbia and the Austrians were kicked out, but Serbian army suffered terrible losses and was later decimated by typhus so it was no match for the Austrians later on.

My old neighborhood still looks surprisingly good. I never thought of it as beautiful until I've seen how small towns in Bulgaria look like. It made me realize that where I grew up was actually clean, tidy and with lots of green, which is not bad at all for a provincial town in Serbia.

Ever since I was eleven, there have always been cats in the life of my family. They were just ordinary street cats that we would adopt, or, perhaps it is more accurate to say that we were adopted by them. Over the years dozens of cats passed through our home, some of them quite extraordinary chaps (like Beka, who had been left in a village about 20km away and managed to find his way home after three weeks of roaming). At the moment, there is only one cat who has the privilege of being in the house but my parents probably feed another dozen in the neighborhood. Pictured is one of those.

My grandfather's roses still blossom in the backyard of my father's childhood home, even though my grandfather is not around any more to tend to them. There is something reassuring in that constancy.

(My bloggy friend Delwyn from A Hazy Moon had a very thoughtful post about constancy and change after visiting her hometown in New Zealand. It was on my mind when I visited Lazarevac, and I found it curious that for Delwyin the primary impression was change, whereas for me it was sameness).

*a famous church in Venice.


julochka said...

it's so much fun to see your town. i've not been to lazarevac, but have been many other places in the balkans. i love the shapes and outlines of the orthodox churches down there...they have some tug on my soul. thank you for showing us around!

and the rose your father left behind is a lovely reminder, isn't it?

Jelica said...

Julochka, as we say in Serbia, my father is totally incapable of tending to even a painted rose--and I inherited this incredible lack of talent with flowers from him--but it was my grandfather who planted those roses many years ago, and they are still as beautiful as ever.

The church in picture is actually one of the more beautiful modern ones in Serbia--it is an exact replica of the church on Oplenac (close to the place where the first uprising against the Ottomans began), which was built by the royal family. It is the one thing of architectural value in our small town :)

Delwyn said...

Hi Jelica

I think your Serbian home town looks very quaint - slow is ok for me now I am older but I know the feeling when you are time is stopping and leaving you behind...

The rose is a lovely remnant of a past generation and that was a surprise ending - strange how we saw our hometowns so differently. How long have you been away?

I liked to see my grandparents geraniums at my parent's house too.

Happy days

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Thanks for the tour. It is always interesting to visit people's hometown. I think most of us prefer the sameness rather than the change when it comes to hometowns.

I_am_Tulsa said...

What a beautiful town... I like how the cat looks so content too! Oh, and the rose...perfect!
Hope you had a great time!

NicoleB said...

That looks like a beautiful dreamy place.
I often like quiet. I like big cities, but only for a visit. I couldn't live in one.

And I love that there's still something of your family left behind :)

B said...

Whenever I go back home, sameness strikes me first. It's only a bit later that I start seeing what's different from last time.

Jelica said...

Delwyn- I've been away for 12 years now, from hometown and homeland.

Squirrel- I know what you mean, but there were times when I had a feeling that time has literally stopped there and that, no matter how long I was absent, even the conversations would be the same when I returned. That was too much sameness!

Seaside Girl said...

I come from a small town too and I find it really suffocating. Yours looks quite enchanting though but thats often the case when fresh eyes see something I guess.

Your grandfather's rose is lovely. My father grew roses so they have a sentimental association for me.

Polly said...

I know what you mean about small town's Sunday afternoon deadness (if that's a word). My Grandma lived in a small town and we used to visit her on Sunday afternoons and if we went for a walk it would have been like the Day of the Triffids, completely empty, quite spooky, really. I don't know why but there is a certain painful longing in the empty Sunday afternoon streets.

And I also think a lot about time and change when I visit home. And the older I get the stranger those emotions become.

Jelica said...

Yup, weekend afternoon deadness--the boredom weighs on you really hard.

NicoleB- I am exactly the opposite. I like to visit cute, small towns but could never live there (again).