Nenad Belic, May 24 2000
Ancestors cannot be chosen. No practical purpose, therefore, is served by telling stories about them and people long dead who were associated with them. And yet, these folks (and I don't mean friends of our ancestors, although who knows...) gave us genes which are responsible for everything from acne to the quality of Betz cells, from the shape of toe nails to the nasty (or otherwise) temper we have; it may be comforting to blame this or that relative for some trouble one finds oneself in (it is also harmless, any temptation of revenge on somebody long dead cannot be easily realized). Now that I have reached the unenviable position of being the oldest Belic (as far as we know, as Juxe would say), with the luxury of leisurely reflection afforded by "retirement", and before significant senility has set in (see memories of Ivan Belic in his later years to see what happens if one waits too long...), I'll try to retell different stories collected from various sources to the best of my recollection. Some years ago I tried to debrief Teta Beba of her recollections (when she was the oldest...) getting the scoop on Petravics and Jerkovics; the other entries are from all kinds of sources, but insofar as similar stories were told by different people, there is probably a fair amount of truth in most of them. They pertain to the Belic side; "juniors" will have to complement them with the stories from other families that intersected with us.
I am not sure how to organize all this, but will try to be roughly chronological, and will see what happens...
MISTS OF DISTANT PAST
There is a vague mention of an ancestor of ours who lived in Bosnia in the Turkish times, probably a few hundred years ago. He is remembered by a useful skill of being able with a single stroke of a saber to cut a person in the middle (i.e. in the sagital plane) from head to the waist. This disturbing talent was apparently not transmitted through the generations, and he appears to be the only (1iterally) bloodthirsty ancestor we have... This line probably leads to the senior Ivan Belic, but nothing is known of the intervening generations. On the other side of the family the first characters are one Jerkovic and a lady Antunovic (first names unknown), who were born in the early 18th century. It was with their son, Juraj, when more details emerge.
JURAJ JERKOVIC and BETINA PETRAVIC
Juraj was a son of Jerkovic and Antunovic families. He was a captain in merchant marine. When he died in 1917, he was in his mid eighties. His wife was Betina (known as "sjora Beta, lingua sceta" which roughly translates as "Mrs. Betty, the foul mouth"); other than this proclivity for questionable language, and the fact that she died soon after her husband did, nothing else is known about her. This branch of the family lived on the island of Hvar, probably in Stari Grad. Juraj and Betina had six children: Nikola (Niko), who was a career civil servant and a harbormaster (Stari Grad?); Korezina (no data on this lady exist); Fabijan, who was a merchant and ended up in Santiago, Chile; Vinko, captain in the merchant marine; Viadi, an alleged black sheep of the family and alcoholic; and Katica, my great grandmother.
KATICA JERKOVIC (Nona) and STJEPAN ILIJIC (Stipo)
Stjepan was son of Tadija (who was a merchant marine captain; his ship caught fire in the Bay of Biscay, and sunk; be was tried for possibly ditching the ship for insurance purposes, and found not guilty. However the shame of suspicion apparently was too much for him to bear, and some years later he committed suicide, probably by a gun. To my knowledge, that is the only suicide in the family), and an English lady whose last name may have been Talbot. He was born in 1864, I do not know where. Stipo was a high school professor (history, geography, other?), was apparently very well read, wrote essays and short stories (none known to survive), and considered an "intellectual". He was quite nationalistic and made sure that his last name stayed awkward Ilijic, rather than simplified (Russian sounding) Ilic, or Italianated Ilich. After marrying Katica, the family first lived in Bosnia/Herzegovina, mainly in Sarajevo and Mostar (this was Austro-Hungarian Empire then), where I think all of their six children were born between 1892 and 1905. Later they moved to Zagreb where Stipo died in 1933, from lung disease of some kind (he chain smoked...). From all accounts, he seemed to have been a thoughtful soul, quiet, and got along with everybody well, loved and respected by his kids, and had a solid marriage.
Katica was born in 1866, probably on Hvar. She was a quiet, but strong lady, revered by her kids. My memories of her include snow-white hair, braided and looped around her head, snow white complexion and penetrating pale blue eyes. I was most impressed by the fact that she washed every morning in cold water to the waist. (To get hot water one needed to heat it in a wood burning boiler in the bathroom: a cumbersome procedure, but still preferred by almost everybody else I knew; this difficulty of comfortable bathing may be a partial excuse for detectable body odor in most public places in Yugoslavia of my childhood...). Nona also had notable religious positions: she was about the most pious member of our family, who prayed daily, had Crucifixes around, but maintained that all clergy, from the Pope on down, were crooks and hypocrites. Nevertheless, because of her I had to be baptized. This was a joke, because my Godfather was, at least theoretically, of Serbian Orthodox faith; the Catholic priest who was to baptize me asked him -Slobodan Vojinovic (to us "Suja", which was a Yugoslav name for Disney's Goofi)- repeatedly if he was indeed a Roman Catholic (Vojinovic is decidedly Serbian, non-Catholic name) and he repeatedly, for the love of my father his best friend), renounced the faith of his ancestors. At any rate, Nona was satisfied... During WW II she lived at Vinogradska Street 1, a three-story walk-up, with her daughter Verka and granddaughter Ljiljana. She died in her early 80's after being injured by a streetcar... Nona and Stipo had six children:
VERONIKA (TETA VERKA), JELISAVETA (TETA IZA), DARINKA (DARA), TADIJA (BARBA TADIJA), BISERKA, LUDMILA (TETA BEBA)
Teta Verka was a romantic, artistic soul. She was madly in love with Stipe, a medical student who she was convinced was not only intellectually brilliant, but a wonderful kindred spirit; unfortunately, Stipe died very young, (probably soon after graduating) from tuberculosis. Teta Verka was devastated, and more than fifty years later remembered him vividly. Probably not long after Stipe's death Teta Verka contracted epidemic encephalitis followed by Parkinson's. She never married, and became a (published) writer. Some of her books survive (children's stories and a WW II novel "Tekla Sava mutna i krvava" - "River Sava flowed muddy and bloody"). Teta Verka lived with her mother in Vinogradska 1, in Zagreb. She could not stand the Nazis, Ustashe, and alike, and in her anger and frustration among other things, taught me to salute with a clenched fist (a salute of the Partisans). One day my grandmother and I were taking a walk and came by a German sentry in front of a building; the young guy was bored; and smiled and waved to me. My grandmother suggested that I greet the soldier, which I promptly did with a Partisan salute; the soldier stiffened, and we rushed away... This led to a heated argument with Teta Verka, and my instruction as to who were good and bad guys and how I was supposed to behave. These types of gaffes were particularly dangerous, considering that the police knew (or suspected) that Braco and Teta Seka were with the Partisans, and Juxe was repeatedly interrogated and briefly arrested; but apparently I behaved appropriately after that, which included following instructions as to what to tell my buddies about our family (some of them came from prototypical Quisling families with German surnames...). Teta Verka was not particularly discreet herself; she loved to listen to Radio London, which was potentially punishable by death. On the hot summer days it was customary to keep all the windows wide open; Teta Verka would tune her old Phillips radio (a centerpiece in the living room) to Radio London, and turn it on; the old vacuum tubes would take some time to heat up and for the radio to come to life; during this waiting Teta Verka would shuffle off to the kitchen, or bathroom when the radio would suddenly come to life thundering signature first few notes of Beethoven's Fifth followed by "Ovdje be be ce, Radio London" echoing up and down Vinogradska street. By the time Teta Verka would shuffle back (with her Parkinson's) the news and anti-Nazi propaganda would be well along... In spite of her Parkinson's she was arrested a few times, but survived without major problems. The only other memory I have of Teta Verka during the war concerns St. Nicholas and Christmas holidays. On St Nicholas (Sveti Nikola) Day, which fell somewhere in November, the "devil" would appear with a bunch of twigs wrapped so as to serve as a whipping contraption, to scare kids who misbehaved during the year, and threaten to take them with him. His counterpart, I think was "little Jesus" who I don't recall appearing, but who was instrumental in gift delivery for Christmas... At any rate, Teta Verka always insisted of being the devil (in spite of available more suitable family members); as a result I quickly saw through the ruse since even at age three or four I realized that the devil would be most unlikely to suffer from obvious Parkinson's disease and in general resembled Teta Verka so closely.
After her mother's death Teta Verka continued to live alone in the apartment. When the war ended, Teta Verka would invite a bunch of her friends every Sunday evening for coffee, cakes and conversation. As the only available representative of the younger generation, I would delight Teta Verka by coming, at least briefly, to these soirees; and so I did (sometimes invoking grumbling, or worse, from my friends and girlfriends for disappearing for awhile every Sunday). Teta Verka had snow-white thinning hair, round snow-white face with ruddy cheeks, and incredibly bright sky-blue eyes that radiated such delight that I would do anything for her. When Vidica came to visit, at age of four or so, and Teta Verka opened the door, Vidica said softly “Do you have some other Teta Verka” , but it was the first impression...
It was painful seeing her lurching across a room; she had a cane, but avoided it; as a result she would hold onto something, gauge the distance to where she wants to go, release the hold and started shuffling with increasing speed towards the destination, crushing into it; it is amazing that she never sustained a serious injury, although she understandably sustained many falls. She died in 1972.
Teta Iza was born in 1894, I do not know where. She was by far the most laid back of her siblings. As a young woman Teta Iza was deeply in love with a leftist writer Cesarac. This was potentially dangerous, since old Yugoslav police as a matter of policy harassed and jailed leftists, as well as sympathizers; nevertheless, Teta Iza carried secret messages and political pamphlets. How that love ended I do not know. Later Teta Iza married Hrvoje Nardini (Barba Hrvoje). He was somewhere from Dalmatia (the name is Italian). Barba Hrvoje was a lawyer, loved to drink - primarily red wine), and smoked like a chimney. He was quick, sociable, and hot tempered. The story is that while being a lawyer in Split, he and a partner of his together bought a car, so they could tour around on weekends. They would alternate driving. One Sunday they were coming at a “T” intersection in a small town near Split; Barba Hrvoje wanted to turn one way, and his partner the other; they got into argument, and both grabbed the steering wheel pulling in opposite direction and yelling at each other. In the heat of the argument the car continued moving and ended up in a store; fortunately nobody got hurt, but it was the end of the car... Later, while serving as a judge on island of Krk, he had a motorcycle made by an English firm, Radman Co. The bike was affectionately called Ratko (not uncommon Yugoslav male name). On Krk, Barba Hrvoje and Teta Iza had a nice house outside of town. Every summer family and friends would come and go visiting there. Barba Hrvoje would preside in the evenings in his pajamas, drinking, playing cards and bullshitting. When in the wee hours they ran out of wine or cigarettes, Barba Hrvoje would mount Ratko in his pajamas and thunder down deserted streets to the only open tavern in town for supplies. Some years later Barba Hrvoje rode Ratko to Zagreb; somewhere on the Velebit mountain poor Ratko spluttered and stopped; Barba Hrvoje tried to revive it, unsuccessfully; so he got really mad, kicked Ratko in the ditch and walked to the nearest village and the train station; that was the end of Ratko...
During the WW II Barba Hrvoje and Teta Iza lived in Split; probably because of his name and fluent Italian, the occupation administration appointed him a judge. So that when he would meander around the city at night, after the curfew, and be stopped by the Italian patrol, he could announce: "Judice del Re!" ("King's Justice!") producing some type of ornate document. The soldiers would salute pompously, and let him proceed. The early years of the war were, under Italian occupation, not too terrible in Dalmatia. Most of the occupying troops were conscripts (truly ideological "Black Shirts" were another story...), who tried to avoid fighting and were more interested in local girls than in Partisans. When a squad of soldiers marched down the street ogling girls, whistling, etc., the officer in charge would have to yell from time to time "Face ferroce!" ("Ferocious fa-CES!") in order to maintain the dignity of the Italian army. Barba Hrvoje and Teta Iza on the side supplied Partisans with intelligence and medical supplies...
After the war they settled in Zagreb. They had no children, and lived a rather bohemian lifestyle. The apex of Teta Iza's culinary achievement was fried egg; as a result, as far as I know, they always ate in restaurants. They were both well known to, and liked by, waiters in many Zagreb restaurants. I was always duly impressed by the fact that when Barba Hrvoje and I went somewhere to have lunch or dinner, he would always order "as usual", and every waiter knew exactly what to bring him, including which wine. He was clearly restaurant wise: when Teta Beba and Barba Vladi would visit, they would always take the whole family for veritable feasts in hotels and restaurants with, to us, astronomical prices. Barba Hrvoje was not known in these establishments and obviously did not trust them: when a waiter would bring a fresh fish for approval before cooking it, Barba Hrvoje would whip small scissors from his pocket and cut a part of the tail fin in a zigzag fashion; the cut off part would then remain on the table to be used for positive identification when a cooked fish would be served. To bait and switch for Barba Hrvoje...). Total bohemian at heart, Barba Hrvoje was nevertheless in charge (lawyer!) of handling money Teta Beba send to Ljiljana to build a house; I am not sure how much of this money was wasted on Barba Hrvoje's cavalier management and magnanimity toward workers... the house finally did get built, late and way above budget.
'When I was in high school, Barba Hrvoje decided that he and I should go on a vacation together (my recollection of him working at all are very fuzzy...). So two of us took a train to Rijeka, and boarded a ship to Makarska. Most of the trip we sat in a snack bar at the stern: I would have a glass of "himbersaft" (a kind of fruit juice), and Barba Hrvoje "tri deci crnoga" (three deciliters -little less then a pint- of red wine). After countless "rounds" I felt vaguely queasy and bloated; after every two or three rounds Barba Hrvoje would excuse himself, go urinate, come back, and keep ordering... We arrived to Makarska around 11pm. Barba Hrvoje wanted to see Makarska where he spent some happy years of his youth, and hasn't been back to in years. The night was wonderfully warm, sky starry, but behind Biokovo ( a fairly tall mountain not far from the coast) every few seconds there was a flash of lightning. True to style, we did not bother to book a hotel, and it quickly became obvious that there was no hotel or a private room to be had in all of Makarska. While I was considering the public shelters where we may spend the rainy night, Barba Hrvoje suddenly said:
"Olimpija! let's go!" And we started on a starlit road out of town with lightning becoming more frequent and coming closer. It turned out that Olimpija was Barba Hrvoje's girlfriend sometime before the war (maybe 20 years ago!) and he hasn't seen her since, but apparently kept sporadically in touch with. After walking some 45 minutes, we arrived in front of a large stone house, silhouetted in total darkness against the sky and lightning flashes. Barba Hrvoje shouted "Olimpija!" several times before finally a small window opened high up, just below the rafters, and a female voice enquired worriedly: "'Who is this?" "Hrvoje" yelled Barba Hrvoje back. There was a pause, then the voice squealed with obvious joy: "Hrvoje! Is it really you? Oh, I am so glad... wait, wait..." etc.. In a few minutes the door was unlocked and a silhouette of a woman lounged through the door with a flashlight and started greeting us. Turned out that Olimpija and her husband (who would not be bothered to appear and possibly slept through the shouting) slept in the attic, all the rooms in the house were rented out to tourists, and her son (who was out chasing foreign girls at a dance somewhere) slept on a cot in the kitchen. We were promptly given son's cot, and he was to sleep with his parents. We locked the door and collapsed on the cot. Soon thereafter I heard somebody rattling the kitchen door trying to get in. I woke up Barba Hrvoje to see what he wants to do about it; he just said "Kuco!" (roughly "Shush!"), turned over and started snoring. Soon there was yelling from the attic, and then everything quieted down, as the rumble of thunder became more audible. The only other thing of that trip that I remember was staying with some relatives in Split and sightseeing.
Barba Hrvoje supposedly had a mistress in Zagreb for a while, but the marriage with Teta Iza endured without significant commotion. Barba Hrvoje's views on sexuality are unknown, with the exception of one comment he made regarding planned marriage of a friend of theirs to a woman who was apparently not "pretty enough"; "Buza ze buza" declared Barba Hrvoje (in dialect roughly "hole is a hole").
Around the time I entered medical school it was found that Barba Hrvoje has diabetes and tuberculosis; he was hospitalized for a while, and counseled strongly regarding drinking and smoking, advice that he indignantly ignored. Because of diabetes (in spite, or because, of irregular insulin injections that he would give himself) he had to urinate often; this was a problem when he walked home late at night and all the public toilets were close; so he would usually urinate at the outside wall of a public toilet. Once a policeman caught him and wanted to take him to the station on a disorderly charge; Barba Hrvoje explained to him the situation, diabetes and all, they started talking, and ended up in a nearby tavern as best of friends...
He delighted in me coming daily to give him Streptomycin injections. Teta Iza would always make Turkish coffee, they would smoke, and we all had a good time. Barba Hrvoje, however sank steadily, and when I showed up one day he was dead, with a scarf around his head to hold the jaw in place, grotesquely looking like someone with a toothache. He was in his mid 60's.
Nobody thought in advance of where to bury Barba Hrvoje should he die; so, when he did, no gravesite was available. But, as is usually the case, solution presented itself: my great grandfather Ivan and grandfather Radovan were buried together in a grave on Mirogoj (main cemetery in Zagreb); both of them were originally from Rab, where our family had a crypt, so it was decided to exhume them and transport their remains to Rab, and provide Barba Hrvoje with a resting place. It was early summer and I was either on a summer vacation, or between exams, at any rate with time on my hands. So I spent a day in different offices getting necessary documents, permits and stamps. Amazingly, for Yugoslavia, all papers were ready in a day, and next morning, bright sunny and warm, I met with the gravediggers and an official at the gravesite. The remains were dug up (skulls and big bones, mainly), placed in a steel box, some 3xlxl' in size, and closed with a lid which was soldered in place. I signed some papers, put the box in a burlap bag, and placed it on a tiny rear seat of my Fiat 500. After completing some chores that morning (accompanied by our ancestors), I picked up my girlfriend Vesna, and in late afternoon took off to Rijeka. We drove quite fast to catch the evening ship to Rab, which frequently resulted in rattling in the box behind, but fortunately Vesna was not easy to spook. I arranged with, at that time my friend, Marijan Sekrst, to park the Fiat in his garage (they were supposed to get a new car in a few weeks, but at the time the garage was available), which I did after leaving Vesna with luggage and the burlap sac at the dock to wait for me. The boat trip took ca. 4 1/2 hours, and we arrived quite late; a porter carried the sac to our house on Gornja Ulica, where Teta Nevenka (my grandfather's sister), Teta Pavica (an immensely fat childish and innocently sweet woman who lived with her husband in our house year round, and took care of it when nobody from our family was around), Pavica's husband Bepo, and probably some other people I no longer remember, were, as usual, sitting in the dinning room drinking coffee, smoking and discussing God knows what. They were rather surprised and pleased to see us (there was no telephone in the house, and I did not bother to send a telegram), but when I explained the reason for our trip and what was in the sac by the door, everybody became very quiet and Teta Pavica crossed herself several times; but then conversation resumed, and Vesna and I retreated to the third floor. Most of the third floor was occupied by a large room which had several windows looking south and west, (from the latter you could watch the movies in the garden theater across the street), contained a couple of large mattresses on the floor, and a small bookcase still containing some books that belonged to my grandfather Radoje (I remember being fascinated by a dictionary of "Expressions used by thieves", and "Gipsy/Croatian Dictionary"...) This was a room always preferred by Juxe and me... Next morning we transported the box (in some type of cart) through the beautiful "forest" (actually a carefully planed and planted with choice domestic and exotic trees and other plants - agaves were abundant - large park behind the town) to the cemetery. With an obligatory official in attendance, and signing of papers, the crypt was partially opened and I managed to see a casket (there must have been several) with partially caved-in lid, but nothing more exciting- the box was lowered into the crypt, top slab replaced, and that was that... After few days of vacation, Vesna and I returned to Rijeka a day or two earlier than planned, and found out that Sekrst had hot-wired my Fiat and was enjoying himself somewhere; we waited a few hours in front of the garage with his embarrassed father trying unsuccessfully to talk us into waiting in their apartment, until he finally showed up. Not much was said, we got into the car, and Marijan Sekrst was banished from my life forever...
Teta Iza stayed in their apartment, which was a dark, slightly moldy place, on the first floor. It was on Ilica street and periodically shaken by the streetcars rumbling in front of the window, separated from the building only by a narrow sidewalk. I would visit when I could. It was an oasis of "no hurry". We would have a cup of coffee, and chat for a while.
After Barba Hrvoje died, Teta Beba wanted Teta Iza to visit her, and I was to escort her. All was arranged and planned. When I came to pick up Teta Iza to go to the airport, she was not quiet ready, and anyway we HAD to have a cup of coffee first. Now, I have traveled lately much more than she did, and I was quite nervous about this, at that time unusual and awesome, trip; but she was totally unfazed. So we had coffee, she smoked her cigarette, we got the luggage, and we made it just fine... Never panic...
In San Francisco Teta Iza was as easy going as in Zagreb (though probably bored and annoyed at having to go to the patio to smoke). She dutifully watched TV with Teta Beba, but, not knowing English, was initially quite puzzled by unexpected and bizarre shifts in action, that is until she grasped the concept of commercials.
Many years ago, just after WW II, Teta Iza and I used to go for summer vacations to Rab (Juxe was busy, and Dada stayed in Beograd to watch over Vidica and Relja). We would usually stay in our old house. One summer, it was during the Korean War, Teta Mila (my grandfather's sister) and her retired husband Barba Francelj, were also there. Barba Francelj was in his day a customs inspector. The family generally considered him as "nobody", and the fact that he was from Slovenia did not seem to help his reputation. However, I liked him, and considered him my peer; we generally had the same interests and sense of humor...
One night around 10 PM, Teta Mila, Teta Iza, Barba Francelj and I were sitting in the only, at that time open cafe on the promenade by the quay. (This was before all the hotels and nightlife later made Rab just another tourist town). The town was asleep, very few lights were on, and no sound other than our voices could be heard. The cafe was closing, and we strolled toward Gornja Ulica (Upper Street), Barba Francelj and I in front, Teta Iza and Teta Mila behind. This being the time of Korean War, Barba Francelj and I were competing in dreaming up names of fictitious Korean generals, at times yelping "Gin Jung Pot", or "Bang Din Yok" and similar, to hushing from behind. It was one of those ineffable summer nights, and Gornja Ulica was bathed by a full moon reflected on white and gray masonry of the dark houses. That was when Barba Francelj and I simultaneously realized that a certain widow living on this street had a "Korean" sounding name: Tilde Cok (pronounced "chock"); so, we started yelling "Til De Chok, Til De Chok". While we were laughing like crazy, Teta Iza and Teta Mila grabbed the appropriate clown hissing scolding and outrage; and that was that. Later, Teta Mila would not talk to Barba Francelj for a while; Teta Iza later admitted that the whole thing was kind of funny, but Barba Francelj's ranking in the family dropped a notch lower.
The trips with Teta Iza were always fun, because she generally treated me as a grown up, and I think that she also looked at me as a surrogate son, whom she never had.
Teta Iza died in 1975 (high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, details unknown).
Barba Tadija was born in 1900, probably somewhere in Bosnia. During WW I he apparently tried hard to volunteer for the Austro-Hungarian Army, (driving his father, who was a pacifist and in all likelihood not notably inclined toward the Empire, to distraction). Fortunately he was repeatedly rejected. He became a high school professor of classical languages, history, and geography. Barba Tadija was relatively short and not massively built, but energetic, very strong for his size, and in spite of generally sweet nature, would turn into a pit bull when provoked. After graduating, he was posted as a professor in Uzice, Serbia. Like most smallish towns in Yugoslavia, there was not much entertainment, and most men, especially bachelors, would every evening congregate in local taverns. Drinking was heavy, and fistfights were a popular sport. Tadija looked like an easy pick for local bullies who were on the average much heavier and taller than him. But after Tadija whipped some of these guys (I imagine by sheer fierceness and speed), nobody bothered him. Part of his strength was probably a result of his restlessness, and proneness to exercise of all kinds: he loved to hike in the mountains around Uzice, stripped to the waist. The story goes that the women meeting him on the mountain paths around villages (and themselves bundled in black dresses and black head scarves even in summer) would cross themselves and quickly get out of the way... One summer he hiked to Mount Olympus in Greece, a distance of probably two or three hundred miles. After a while Tadija moved to Belgrade, where my father Juxe and his family lived. Tadija loved to be taken for a ride on Juxe's motorcycle (“Indian”, with a four cylinder engine, which was considered huge at that time, and quite fast). No matter how fast Juxe went, Tadija would from time to time yell at him to go faster... Most improbably Tadija got involved with some lady from Beograd's “high society” who reputedly never went out of the house during the day and spent time in darkened rooms on thick cushions smoking imported cigarettes through a long cigarette holder; he may have actually been married to her briefly, but not unexpectedly this liaison did not last long. Sometime just before or during the war Tadija met and married Ruza; she was either widowed or divorced and had two children, Dragan and Ljiljana. I do not know much about Dragan, but Ljiljana was a physician and lived in Beograd; Teta Beba took to liking Ljiljana a lot (although the fact that she did not respond to many letters and gifts that Teta Beba persisted in sending her for years, but corresponded instantly with Teta Beba's lawyer after Teta Beba's death about a significant chunk of Teta Beba's money she was to receive, makes me wonder...), in part because she had some undefined kidney problem, never got married (both made her a "victim" in Teta Beba's eyes, and aroused Teta Beba's natural Samaritan instinct), and had a calm and sweet demeanor; what became of her, I don't know. Ruza was diametrically opposite of Tadija's first serious involvement: fat, simple, good in the best housewife tradition (a superb cook, especially of cookies and cakes which she fed Tadija in huge quantities to his delight), strikingly pale with always slightly moist skin (from effort of moving herself around), with a big beauty mole on her face, big blue eyes and brown hair; I think that she considered herself a beauty... When she would go to visit her son, who lived in Krusevac, some 50-60 miles South of Beograd, for a few days, she would bake a huge bowl of cookies, to last Tadija until her return; after she would leave, Tadija would make himself comfortable on the couch surrounded by books and the cookies nearby: within hours the cookies would be gone... In spite of this Tadija remained thin and fit. Since I remember him, much later, he looked exactly like Popeye, especially since he had only two front teeth (that usually held a cigarette). He was a fidgety guy, moved fast, and got excited easily. (I suppose that was the explanation for his thinness, in spite of all the cookies). Every morning he would go to the corner to get newspapers and chat with a guy who ran the kiosk. Then one day he started going to a different kiosk, and would not talk to and pretended not even to see his erstwhile newspaper vendor and interlocutor; turned out that they got into a heated argument about China and Chinese politics, and that was that… forever. Teta Beba gave him some money to buy an apartment, and they lived reasonably contentedly.
During one of Teta Beba's visits to Yugoslavia, she rented a house near Opatija, and all the family, including Tadija (Ruza may have died by then), congregated there. Rising straight up from the coast there is mountain Ucka, some 3500 ft. tall, with reasonable hiking trails and fabulous views of the Bay of Kvarner from the top, where a modest stone observation tower stood. Tadija and I would frequently hike up, in part to avoid hubbub in the house, and the crowds of tourists everywhere. On one such outings as we approached the observation tower we noticed a man standing at the parapet on the top of it. It was one of those marvelous summer days with milky blue sky, fine mist over the sea and distant islands, gentle fresh breeze on the mountain, and the sun starting to descend giving the whole scenery a faintly golden tint. As we approached, we heard the man reciting some poetry in Latin and at one point said something to the effect that "as Virgil said..." "Wrong!" yelled Tadija, "that was not Virgil" but such and such. "YOU are wrong!" shouted the man back, and started reciting something in Latin. This led to a continuing shouting match with Barba Tadija in Latin (!!!) as we climbed to the top of the tower, which impressed me immensely. Turned out that the man was a professor of classical languages at the high school in Karlovac. At the end we all admired the view and parted as friends with bilateral recitation of appropriate verses in Latin...
With Ruza gone, Barba Tadija visited me in Seattle and Teta Beba on couple occasions. He would watch TV, try to figure out the newspapers, and took long walks. In spite of his linguistic background, however, English pronunciation mystified him totally; I remember one argument about the word "you": no matter how many times I repeated it, he would respond with "yoh-oo" (as would be correct pronunciation in Serbian or Croatian...). With Teta Beba he would occasionally get into political arguments, and no matter how trivial the disagreement was, it would end up with shouting; once Barba Tadija hit the table with his fist real hard to which infuriated Teta Beba responded by stabbing the table with a kitchen knife so hard that she had to pull hard, Excalibur fashion, to get it out... but in reality, they loved each other very much, and Teta Beba was devastated when Tadija died in 1978 (cause to me unknown).
Biserka was born in I 902, probably in Sarajevo. She was married to Ilija Obradovic, who was originally from Dubrovnik. Her daughter Ljiljana was born in 1929, but Biserka contracted some type of peripartal complication possibly infection leading to sepsis, possibly endocarditis) and died few months later. Ilija later remarried, and worked in a bank. Teta Beba was very close to Biserka, and solemnly promised her, as she was dying, that she will take care of her daughter, and did... Ljiljana was a skinny nervous kid who lived with her grandmother (father Ilija somehow was never in the picture, continued to live in Dubrovnik, remarried, had other kids, and died sometime after WW II) and Teta Verka. At the end of the war, she met and dated Oto Hruska, a blond (almost albino) guy. The story goes that when he first came to call on Ljiljana at Vinogradska 1, and rang the bell (the entrances to apartment buildings were always locked; the visitors would ring the bell, the visitee would pop the head through the window to enquire who it is and throw the gate key, usually wrapped in a ball of crumpled newspaper - although Teta Verka would usually pitch the bare key which would bounce on the pavement and be hard to find, especially on a rainy night- or, if the visitor was of special importance descend the stairs to open the gate), Nona looked from the window and saw a mass of nearly white hair which prompted her to exclaim: "What is this monstrosity?!", hardly reassuring to poor Ljiljana, nervous as she was. In spite of put downs of Oto, Ljiljana married him and had a daughter Biserka. Pretty soon Ono departed, leaving Ljiljana to take care of Biserka (and Teta Beba, indirectly of Ljiljana). After a while Ljiljana remarried to Gabrek, a nice benign guy with a slight limp and crossed eyes whose claim to fame was that at the beginning of WW II he sabotaged fuel supplies at Pancevo airport before Germans arrived. They lived happily for a while. Biserka grew to be totally obnoxious to both him and Ljiljana (who adored her daughter in spite of her overtly and virulently insulting behavior); Biserka married an oaf of a guy who managed to milk everything Ljiljana got from Teta Beba for himself and Biserka, build a luxurious apartment on top of Ljiljana's house, rented the apartment to USA Consulate for usurious rent, and generally accumulated money. But after a while Biserka divorced him, lived happily for years, and days before dying of ovarian cancer in her early 40's gave everything she had (which was substantial by any measure) to her boyfriend (she married him days before her death), leaving Ljiljana to depend on Teta Beba (who was herself sliding physically and financially). Ljiljana, one of the nicest, most naive and good hearted people I ever knew, was devastated and never stopped grieving for Biserka... One day Ljiljana and Gabrek were waiting for a bus near their house. A car driven by a drunken guy swerved around the corner, skidded, hit the lamp post next to which Gabrek stood, and the post crushed poor Gabrek to death next to Ljiljana, who was unhurt. How she recovered I do not know, but after a few years she married Miso Pokusevski, a mellow guy who at least appeared much younger than Ljiljana, with whom she lived until her death from ovarian cancer in 1999. After Gabrek's death, I hoped that Ljiljana would come and live with Teta Beba (for mutual benefit), but she was always slightly terrified of Teta Beba and her constant insistence to be totally in charge, and managed to finagle out of it. At any rate, Ljiljana's life should make anybody question the existence of a benevolent God...
Darinka (Dara), my grandmother, was born in 1897, somewhere in Bosnia. She went to school to become a teacher and was a fairly talented painter. She was also "a free spirit", (to be charitable in epithets), and in her late teens started dating Radovan Belic (Radoje, Nono, Je Sais Tous) who was some 15 years older than she, well read and traveled (He had a law degree from Vienna University, loved to play cello, and had such broad interests and knowledge that his friends called him only half jokingly "Je sais tous" - "I know everything"), and in Dara's father's eyes totally unsuitable suitor. This, of course, didn't change anything, and there are stories of her getting out of window at night for trysts with Radovan. And, against her parents' wishes, she was soon married to him. As was the custom, bride's family got together dowry, with which Radovan went to Vienna to buy respectable furniture for the new household. Days, and some weeks passed without a word from him, stirring darkest possible thoughts in family members, when he reappeared triumphantly carrying an old and expensive Italian violoncello, but no furniture. Not a penny was left... And so the marriage started shakily, but survived until his death some 30 years later...
The newlyweds moved to Beograd. Life with “Je sais tout” was not easy. For one thing, he would much rather play cello (he was always a part of one or other amateur string quartet) or read, than work. When he worked, he did well (I guess even in old Yugoslavia the lawyers were well paid) and would nonchalantly throw on the table a respectable wad of banknotes; Dara would then pay the debts, and try to run the household best she could, and as long as she could, since bringing the money home was always the beginning of the next “forget work” period, and before return to work the debts would mount, unnecessary items from the household were sold, and the eviction from the apartment was either imminent or in progress. At that point Radovan would indignantly return to work, and the cycle would repeat over and over. For a while they lived in Subotica, medium size town in the north, near the Hungarian border. Life was not bad there, except for one annoying problem: the area was always a home to Gypsies, and my grandfather took great liking to them because of the unquestionable musical talents that many of them showed. As a result, the house was always full of Gypsies, who thoroughly enjoyed my grandfather's hospitality, driving Dara crazy (for she had to cook, clean, and watch that nothing disappeared from the house, while Radovan had a good time). After a while they returned back to Belgrade. The other problem was that Radoje was very much interested in other women; it is not clear to me how much of this (perhaps due to circumstances and Dara's alertness) was Platonic, but one inglorious story survived: in Beograd they had Sofija, a Polish lady, as a housekeeper. One day Dara came into a room and found Sofija on Je Sais Tous's lap; it appears that both Dara and Sofija blamed my grandfather for the incident, since Sofija stayed in their employ and he was reminded of the incident for years afterward. What else he did, I do not know. When a student in Vienna, Radoje was very handsome, (with curly jet black hair, chiseled face, dark eyes, and pale complexion), so much so that an academic painter asked him to sit for a portrait (this watercolor still exists, but I am not sure who has it). It was devastating to him that in his late twenties he started rapidly losing hair (supposedly he tried everything, including cow dung poultices, and soaking his scalp with naphtha, to no avail). When he was again in Vienna, perhaps on the occasion of “buying furniture”, he ran in the street into the painter who did the earlier portrait; “Are you the handsome young man that I painted?” asked the puzzled painter looking at his bald pate; some confidence builder, that... Hair gone, Radoje decided that he should live to be a 100. To that end he followed whatever were fashionable diets then, fasted at times, and generally must have driven Dara nuts. They had three children: Zivan (Juxe - this is a nickname I gave him when he was in his 40's), Grozdana (Teta Seka, Zina), and Radovan (Braco). When Juxe made my mother pregnant, and there was a big debate re what to do (and my family from the other side came up with the idea of abortion or getting me into an orphanage ASAP), Nono said not to worry, he (but really Dara) will take care of me (there is some merit in irresponsibility, I think...), and so they did. Nono was always kind to me and tried hard to interest me in cello playing (there are photographs of this), but at my age of a year and a half this did not get very far. He also tried hard to cultivate his own children: he would take them to classical music concerts and promised a dinar (a significant amount of money for a kid) to whoever comes up with an intelligent explanation as to what the musical piece was about; since none of them could come with anything better than "thunder", these efforts were fruitless. They would also go to movie matinee's; what effect it had on Teta Seka and Juxe is unknown, but Braco being the youngest, always remembered only "the lion" (i.e. the logo of Metro Goldwin Meyer company); after that, he would fall asleep...
When WW II started, Teta Seka disappeared "into the forest" (euphemism for joining the Partisans), and after the bombing of Belgrade by the Germans, we moved to Zagreb, in an apartment at Hercegovacka 1.
Braco, who according to Teta Beba was a wunderkind who at 3 or 4 amused guests with recitations of heroic national poems, was a talented passionate teenager who quickly got involved in underground resistance against the Germans and the Quisling government, participated in a sabotage resulting in a massive amunition depot explosion at the Zagreb railroad station in 1941. He was 18, he got caught together with 5-6 others, and was tortured and executed by the Secret police (years later, in Vienna, Juxe carried a 9mm FN automatic in the glove compartment of his DKW car, just in case we ran into Jozo Rukavina, a secret policeman who personally tortured and possibly killed Braco, so he could shoot him on the spot; pacifist and nonviolent as Juxe was, I am convinced that he would do it without a second thought).
Horrible situation in Zagreb got worse after that and we were constantly harassed by the police who would periodically set traps in our apartment trying to catch Teta Seka or whoever of that ilk may come by. I could usually come and go even with police there, and at least once I remember waiting for Juxe in the street to warn him of police presence, so he could alert whomever he had to alert before coming home. The fact that only once a friend of Teta Seka's rang the bell from the street with police waiting and in the ensuing shouting and running managed to escape, made police furious; apparently a policewoman almost threw me from the balcony (third floor) a la "let's kill these bastards" once, but as far as I am concerned the whole business was more interesting then frightening. Nono was dying to do something, but could not leave. Juxe, at that time an ungraduated civil engineer, worked in "Ventilator", a factory producing ventilation equipment and alike, which enabled us to survive, and gave us some legitimacy. Finally, in 1943, Nono could not stand it any longer, and he also disappeared "into the forest". Now, this was a treasonable move, since if the police positively found out where he was, we were all likely to be imprisoned and probably killed. So I was carefully fed the scenario in which he was sick and went to a village Pisarovina to recuperate. There must have been something special about Pisarovina (but I know not what) that made it difficult for the police to check this story out. Be it as it may, the tension slowly passed, I did not say anything stupid to my friends (especially Emil Haberle, who lived in our building and whose parents were likely Nazi sympathizers; Emil himself was OK, and the fact that whenever we played "war" he was German and I was Anglo-American didn't bother him a bit - he was bigger and usually won), and Juxe found added protection in the person of a high official in the Quisling government, a man by name of Kvatemik (do not remember his first name). Now, Kvaterniks are a famous old Croatian family (there is a Kvaternik Square in Zagreb, named after one of his ancestors), but unfortunately several of them got involved with the Nazis to a larger or lesser degree. "Our" Kvaternik had some very fancy military title, wore an impressive all black uniform with a large silver skull and bones insignia on his military cap, and a huge pistol in a wooden holster on his side; he for some reason seemed to like me (maybe because I was obviously so impressed by his appearance), and showed me how the pistol attaches to the tip of the wooden holster which then serves as a stock for a rifle-like weapon; now THAT was impressive and unforgettable for a 5 year old! This strange person fancied himself an inventor. He was designing an ultra secret revolutionary airplane for the German air force. His grand idea was based on this principle: if you spin a top, it stays in the vertical position, as long as it spins; it resists being tilted, and as soon as tilting force stops, it resumes upright position. Now, if you have two large rotors (tops) at the sides of a fuselage of an airplane mounted horizontally, and then spin them, they would immediately try to right themselves, balancing each other and pushing up; since their axles were fixed, the upward force would have to lift the plane higher and higher: voila, short takeoff Luftwaffe airplane! (When I was six, and the war ended, this idea sounded fishy to me and I did some simple experiments showing that it does not work; Juxe just laughed). He must have gotten to Juxe through somebody at "Ventilator" who knew that Juxe had a knack at building things (he built a working miniature steam engine in high school, which was powered by alcohol soaked cotton, an armoire, both of which I remember), and had a small workshop at home capable of producing precision metal models. So, Juxe became an important part of the German war effort, the fact that he would always invoke when threatened and harassed by police, and which Kvaternik would solemnly and officially confirm. Whether Kvaternik was clever as a fox, or indeed a loony, I do not know. He disappeared after the war, but I have a hunch that he was a hell of a lot smarter than a six-year-old kid.
When the war ended, Nono reappeared having some function in the emerging government. But he did
not look well, what from the war deprivations, what from chronically infected bronchiectasiae. In
1946, at age 59, he died of a brain abscess (the post mortem documents are at the Zagreb Medical
School, Pathology Department; I saw them).
Teta Seka returned to Belgrade, married to Slobodan Penezic (Krcun). They were both very busy, involved in the new government, rebuilding the country, caught in a general enthusiasm and exhilaration with the end of war. They both also held responsible positions.
For me, Teta Seka and Dada collectively substituted for a mother. I had a healthy respect for Teta Seka who did not have interest in small talk, and suffered fools poorly. Perhaps because of her war experiences and/or her genes, she would never get flustered or raise her voice, but she used language very effectively, and there was little argument with her. Yet, she had a good sense of humor and could be very funny. I remember her comment that Belic kids are like "bube Svabe" (literally: "bug Germans", a kind of cockroach black in color; the other common variety of cockroaches were brownish-yellow, the kind we are familiar with, which were called "Russians" - need I elaborate?): dark, and scurrying around... Years later, she and Juxe settled with the rest of the family to relinquish their claims on the old house in Rab in exchange for a portion of the yard on which a small house was built, (mainly from salvaged materials from condemned old houses so that it looked very old itself); Teta Seka would spend a lot of time sitting, reading, smoking and sipping Turkish coffee in the main room on the ground floor, which was entered directly from the outside through a heavy wooden door equipped with an antique and intricate lock. A lot of people would come to visit, and she would have a pretty good idea about their brains by observing how long it took for a person to decipher the lock and get out (coming in was easy, just a lever, but getting out required releasing certain latches, in a given order). Any girlfriend I brought around would be carefully scrutinized and an opinion rendered, usually sarcastic but without malice, frequently funny, and always on the mark; it was my great relief and pleasure to see that she and Ellen got along very well, and obviously liked and respected each other; as always, she was correct...
Krcun. was from Uzice, town in southern Serbia from which some of my maternal ancestors come, and where Taiga served as a high school professor. His father was dead by the end of the war, but Krcun's mother, whose nick name was also Dada (I don't know her real name), lived in Uzice and my grandmother and I would occasionally go to visit her (probably with Krcun and Teta Seka sometimes). She was a wonderful person, gentle, kind, and always spoke softly. She had certain class and dignity that I felt, but did not understand. The fact that she also served slatko (a kind of very sweet jam) and kajmak (soft cheese like spread), both of which were incredibly tasty, probably contributed to my unreserved liking of her. One time when my grandmother and I were traveling by car to Uzice we came to an eroded portion of the road traversed by two planks; the driver thought that the crossing was risky, and asked us to go on foot around the erosion, while he would cross in the car alone. The detour involved climbing up the grassy embankment above the road. There was a drizzle, the grass was slippery and muddy; after we climbed part way, the driver helping my grandmother, Dada decided that she could not go on, afraid that she would slip and fall down the slope. The driver, obviously a war-hardened Partisan, replied: “Forward comrade, only forward! Never turn back, never!” And with that, he grabbed her by the arm, and we made it without a problem. It is funny how this episode sticks in my mind (maybe it is because I heard Dada recount the story to her laughing friends many times, I do not know).
When Radoje (Nono) died, and Juxe went to Austria as a technical "expert" for return of plundered Yugoslav machinery and equipment by the Nazis, Dada and I went to visit Teta Seka in Beograd. I remember a large dark apartment near the center of the city, where I spent a lot of time because I was sickened with scarlet fever and had to stay home in quarantine. The only other event I remember was Krcun asking me which of Yugoslav war allies I liked the best, and me again siding with "Anglo-Americans" (somehow English and Americans were always lumped together at that time), which was politically very, very, incorrect (but Krcun must not have really disagreed - though at the time he seemed taken aback - since when Kominform came, and a lot of people were rounded-up for siding with "our brothers, the Russians" and believing that Tito has gone mad, and jailed for prolonged times in awful conditions or worse, Krcun not only survived, but kept being promoted).
We then returned to Zagreb, and at age 7, I contracted diphtheria. One dark morning in the early winter, cold apartment, sleet outside, our family friend Dr. Weiss diagnosed my nasty sore throat as diphtheria, and in an ambulance I went to the Infectious Disease Hospital located ominously on the road to Mirogoj (city cemetery). My grandmother and I waited in a dimly lit cold exam room for throat culture and exam, followed by a (in my eyes) huge shot of antitoxin in my butt (hurt as hell), after which I was admitted to the diphtheria ward, a room with probably six or eight other kids. Dada had to leave, and I felt awful, sick and sore. First night I must have been delirious, since in the morning I found out that I wet my bed; although the nurse did not seem to find that bad or unusual, this event remains one of my big life embarrassments... The shots of antitoxin continued, and I received caffeine powder (incredibly bitter, but chased with ice cream: a rare pleasure in that place) for "weak heart". Juxe was in Vienna, but every weekend he would appear in his DKW car under my window to wave (no one was allowed in the infectious ward) and get the news from the doctors. Since everybody was pretty sick, I did not communicate much with other kids in the room; but there was a cute little girl few beds from me, whom I liked; one morning when I woke up she was not there - she died during the night... After approximately 4 weeks I got well enough to go home, but had to stay home for another month or so because my heart was affected (toxic myocarditis is not a rare complication, and occasionally fatal); apparently I had a heart murmur which was audible without a stetoscope, and my heart rate was constantly "130/min.". But, things slowly got better. One spring day Juxe took me to a private cardiologist for a check up; I remember his office, with a glass instrument cabinet, white coat, and his pleasant demeanor. As the doctor finished his exam, there was some commotion in the street; we got out on a balcony, and realized that a bicycle race was passing by. The doctor's comment was that this type of exercise was terrible for your heart. He also privately told my father that I may not be able ever to engage in strenuous physical activity - how times and knowledge change!
Probably in 1947, Dada and I visited Juxe in Vienna. Juxe seemed to enjoy his stay there very much. It was a wild time. The Russian troops would march down the street and sing : "Austria, Austria, kak tebja zvat? Kak tvoja familija, jeb tvoju mat!" ("Austria, Austria, how to call you? What is your name, fuck your mother!"). One night Juxe came upon an Austrian guy, fretting next to his car which was flipped on its side by a few drunken Russian soldiers; Juxe offered to help, so they righted the car (it was a two door, 3 cylinder/two cycle, convertible, with body made in part of reinforced cardboard which did not weigh much...), and the Austrian, seeing that Juxe was in uniform and a decent guy, asked him if he wanted to buy the car: this was not the first trouble he had with it. Juxe had no money, but had plenty of cigarettes since he received regular rations, but did not smoke. Cigarettes were very valuable, and the Austrian was happy to get 1000 cigarettes for the car. And so Juxe became a proud owner of the car; he fashioned his own license plates with a small Yugoslav flag on it. As a Yugoslav representative, Juxe had to deal a lot with Russians, who were our great friends at the time; there was no way to avoid drinking a lot of vodka ("Long live Stalin! Long live Tito! Loong live Molotov!", etc. etc.), but Juxe had to watch not to drink some other stuff Russians would drink, like industrial spirits they would "requisition" here and there. Juxe also was great friend of Captain Carver, an Australian, serving in some armored unit of the British Army in Vienna. Carver participated in the invasion of Italy, and during slow push North met and fell madly in love with an Italian girl. So, every weekend he would commandeer one of the personnel carriers and drove few hundred kilometers to a town in Northern Italy to see her. Insofar as he would be back by Sunday night, nobody noticed or cared. The fact that he drove a rough terrain vehicle helped crossing the Alps in winter. The roads were poorly plowed, frequently with just one lane passable, so that one car would have to back-up to a clearing to let the other car pass; now, at night it was hard to see what the oncoming car looked like, and since Captain Carvers personnel carrier had tiny black out lights, it appeared as some puny Fiat or similar small car; an occasional driver in a fancy big car would therefore attempt to intimidate him by honking, flashing lights and refusing to let Carver pass, even when he had clear priority. When the other guy was clearly obnoxious, Carver would simply turn on a huge searchlight on top, pointed it to the hapless guy and slowly advance pushing the other car gently into the snowdrifts at the side of the road, and then pass. This went on until one day he had a flat tire; the tire weighed over 200 lbs. and he could only take the wheel off and let it drop by the side of the road. Although he could not replace it, the carrier had 6 wheels, and remained drivable. He got home uneventfully. But the wheel was found, traced by its markings, and that was the end of Captain Carver's trysts, but apparently caused him no major troubles. (Juxe traced Carver in Vancouver, B.C., on one of his visits to Chicago, and talked to him on the phone, but I do not know his first name or address).
Juxe was seriously involved with an Austrian woman, Hilda Dahm, either a widow or divorcee; she was a "classy lady", her husband being some type of industrialist (of course, money disappeared during the war), and had a daughter Etta, my age. He managed not to marry her, but kept in touch with her for many years, and once in the 1950's Hilda and Etta came with us on the boat, and we had a vacation on Rab together. The only other person I know of during Juxe's stay in Vienna was some older Yugoslav guy who impressed Juxe by having very active sex life with assortment of girlfriends; Juxe thought that was the reason why he was so vital, and believed that this activity is conducive to a long and happy life. However, the man died suddenly at age 52; Juxe never mentioned him afterwards...
My most exciting memory of Vienna has to do with riding on the back of DKW, holding for dear life to the spare tire, through the center of the city: I developed a routine of waiting for Juxe to come home from work in front of our apartment building. Occasionally he would have to make a U-turn in the street to park; I would frequently hang onto the spare tire which was bolted to the back of the car standing on the flimsy bumper for this turn. One day as I climbed on the back of the car and Juxe made the turn, he realized that he forgot something at the office; not realizing that I am in the back, he turned and took off. DKW was pretty noisy, and the rear window was rather small, not reachable from my crunched position on the tire. And so we went through Vienna.... Traffic cops who directed traffic at some intersection would not see me until we were well passed them: their whistling and arm waving were not noticed by Juxe. It was no fun... I was as happy to be in one piece, as Juxe was surprised.
After Austria, Juxe went on a similar mission to Rome. Dada and I visited him there, probably next summer. We traveled through Italy sightseeing in the trusty DKW at speeds of 50-60 KM; the latter speed (ca. 40 MPH) was considered very fast... The best part was that I could stand up when the roof was down, and have a great view. We would usually stay in small pensions or private houses in rooms to let; once we overheard the owners talking in the kitchen saying: "Isn't she a little old for him?" Dada liked that. In Rome Juxe's girlfriend was Laura, fondly remembered by me for her masterful drawings of Bambi and other Disney characters. Juxe always maintained that the best way to learn a language was to have a native girlfriend.
In 1948, Dada, Juxe and I settled in Beograd with Teta Seka and Krcun. Juxe basically did not get out of the house, and crammed for final exams day and night, finally after several months getting his diploma as a civil engineer. Soon thereafter Juxe got a job in "Treci Maj" shipyard in Rijeka, and moved there. I went to school on Dedinje, and met my lifelong ally Vejac. I got a BB gun with which I shot a sparrow through the head; I have been a pacifist ever since. We had a dog, Vucica ("she wolf"), and I realized I liked animals very much. Teta Seka and Krcun now lived in a large house with a yard. Because of Informbiro crisis, Krcun had a bodyguard around the house at all times; these were generally nice young guys who thought me a lot of tricks (e.g. how to make and use a slingshot). For a while Krcun was also given a gorgeous German shepherd who was supposed to be with him at all times, at home and at the office; I liked the dog, but Krcun decided that it was kind of stupid and unnecessary, and the dog was returned. Krcun also got a Jaguar sports car I am not sure from whom, how or why; he marveled at it, and promptly gave it to a local Auto Moto Club. Then the crisis passed and bodyguards were gone.
In 1949 or 1950, after Juxe has settled down in Rijeka, Dada and I joined him. The middle school ("osmoljetka" or "8 year school") had a principal, Mr. Zic, who was about as tall as most of us 11 year olds, but had an impressive gut and always a pipe in his teeth; whether the pipe was lit or not, I do not remember him without it. Since he taught history, and as a principal had constantly to communicate with us, with a pipe in his teeth he always seemed to growl; while intimidated at first, pretty soon the pipe became the source of mirth to us and a great subject for imitation and clowning. This mockery, together with a large assortment of pranks and mischief we were constantly engaging in, kept him busy disciplining us; being of the old school, disciplining mostly consisted of a whack or two on each palm with a ruler or a thin stick - it smarted briefly, but had absolutely no effect on our behavior. I remember getting quite a few whacks, but have no idea why. The other favorite recipient was at that time my sworn adversary Marijan Sekrst (for the favors of Viviana Karlovac, class beauty), and later (when both of us got over Viviana) a good friend for a while; the class was actually divided into two camps: Sekrstovci and Nenadovci, depending on alliance with him or me; ah, innocent days, hostilities were mainly verbal, I do not remember even a fistfight (which is lucky, since Marijan was at that time much bigger than me). Main passion was making and riding "terezine" down steep hills in Rijeka. Terezina was a small wooden platform to which three or four ball bearings were attached as wheels, usually one or two larger ones in front, and two in the back. There was a short lever that functioned as a brake, when pulled pressing either on one or both rear wheels, or directly scraping the ground. The platform was just big enough to allow one person to sit on it with legs crossed or in front. On the pavement the steel ball bearings made tremendous racket, the contraption would exhilaratingly skid on cornering, and thanks in part to almost nonexistent traffic, nobody got hurt. We were as fond of these contraptions as American teenagers were of their hotrods. Few years later both Sekrst and I advanced to good enough bicycles to make frequent 5-10 mile trips. I had a neighbor, Dalibor, (whose mother was somehow a beautician in New York, which gave him a worldly status and we considered him "rich") who was big, fat, nearsighted, always had little spit in the corners of his mouth, and a passion (emphasized by subtle spray of his mouth-corner spit when he spoke) for swords and knighthood; thanks to his infectious passion, my other friends and I collected swords (since the Italian army was given to pomp and circumstance, there were a lot of ceremonial swords, daggers and alike left in Rijeka after the war) and staged wild sword fights in the yard of the house where we lived; again, amazingly nobody ever got seriously hurt... We lived in a beautifully old house on a hill with a view of the Rijeka harbor from a large balcony. I have no idea who the house originally belonged to, but the owners must have escaped with the retreating Italian forces. Houses like that were distributed by the local government by some "need" criteria; so we got a portion of the upper floor consisting of a huge kitchen, one bedroom, living room, pantry, and two bathrooms (one of which I fashioned as a room for myself). An officer, his wife and a 4 or 5-year-old son occupied the other half of the floor. (The first memory I have of them: one day the kid, Boris, was sliding on a banister; his mother saw this and started yelling: "Get off that immediately or I'll tell Dad that you flicked the banister!"). I was passionate about ships; every day after school I would scan the port of Rijeka with binoculars, and meticulously record all the ships in port, and those on anchor, and sketched any new company insignia noted on ships' funnels in my log book; by the time I was 13, I decided to become a merchant marine captain. Since I had to apply to maritime high school around that time, it is only because of Juxe's skillful handling of the matter (for which I am eternally gratefully), mainly by saying "not a good decision, but it is yours to make; do what you want to do, but I would not" etc. etc. So it was entirely my decision not to do it. Overall, although the times were rough (for a while basic foods were rationed, and we had little stickers to exchange for bread, etc.), I had a good childhood in Rijeka.
Around 1951, Dada had to leave for Beograd since Teta Seka was going to have more kids and needed help. Since I was going to be basically on my own, Juxe and I had a little conference to organize things. Salaries were paid in cash, and each month Juxe would place a new envelope with money in the drawer of his desk; I was free to get money as needed, and basically take care of myself. The only request Juxe had for me was to "do well in school, and do not mess with the police". I did, and all was dandy. Than Juxe married Greta, who was beautiful, very young, and with whom I never could establish a rapport. Her parents were a different story: father Victor was laid back, good sense of humor, loved to fish and tinker in his shop; his wife Valeria was shrewd, sharp tongued, organized, constantly cooking and cleaning, frequently ordering Victor around or yelling at him for something (which would result in his whistling softly and withdrawing to his shop until the storm passed). They lived in a romantic house on a rocky promontory at the edge of the sea, with a lush small garden in front of the house surrounded by several tall cypresses, so dark green that they looked black in any light other than bright sunshine. The house originally belonged to an Italian general who had two spinster daughters; when they died, they were cremated, and the ashes strewn in the house garden. Victor and Valeria shared the house with one other family. I loved to stay overnight there and sleep in a tiny room under the roof, and listen to the waves breaking loudly on the rocks below.
At a wedding reception Victor told Juxe something to the effect that "one doesn't see the light of day, until the darkness falls on somebody else", which Juxe for a while told as a joke, but then stopped...
Teta Beba got Juxe a motor scooter, Vespa, which was an equivalent of having a Lamborghini today; he was a technical director of the large "3rd of May" shipyard, and life must have been OK. The only scary moment was when he slipped with Vespa on an oil slick and was knocked unconscious for a while (no helmet!), but he recovered uneventfully. Around that time Teta Beba and Barba Vladi made their first trip to Yugoslavia, took me under their wing, and certainly changed my life forever. In 1952, I think, there was a crisis with Italy over Trst (Trieste); in school we got quick military training, the school was stocked with vintage rifles, and there was general anticipation that in short order victorious Yugoslav Army was going to march into Rome. I remember a warm summer evening standing on the balcony, when air raid sirens went off - it was a drill, but a real scare... Meco was born.
Juxe was quite different from Teta Seka and his brother Radovan (Braco). Much more shy, introverted, cautious. He was very handsome (women say, and old photos show), but apparently did not show any unusual interest in women until he met Zivan was student in Belgrade in 1940. Zivan, who was shy, found Nenad's mother Katarina Kaja (Katerina), my mother. He was into all things technical, read, and painted quite well (I have a watercolor of Rab that he did in his teens). She and her friends were very much into some utopian, end of XIX century Russian philosophy that extolled universal love, peace, etc.. This, according to Juxe, had something to do with my being on this earth, but the connection is not clear to me. Kaja had mysteriously "upset stomach" for months, until some wise lady doctor figured out that she was pregnant. After efforts by her family to have me aborted failed, quick marriage followed, and Kaja moved in with Juxe, Dada, Nono ("Je sais tous"), Seka, and Braco. When I was born, second effort by her family to give me up for adoption also failed, and Seka mostly took care of me. Apparently pressure on Kaja by her family was such that after a while she Kaja moved back with them. Dada got me a wet nurse, Seka occasionally took me with her to the University (kidding her colleagues that she was my mother), Nono looked at the whole affair benevolently, and Dada helped. When the war started (I was two), we moved (first to Split, to visit Barba Hrvoje and Iza, then to Zagreb), my mother stayed in Beograd. Later she remarried to a guy named Neskovic, and had two children, a girl and a boy, after the war. I saw Kaja last in 1952, before my trip to USA; saw the kids, had dinner at a restaurant, and that was that.
Juxe (Ziks) - that is to say Zivan, I always called him Juxe - was a teenager - he could never grow up. The main problem were women and he managed to get away with it.
Juxe's talent and appetite for womenfolk blossomed after the war. With Djurdjica (Djukica, Jackie) Predrag (Dado) was born. Then came Hilda in Vienna. In Rome was Laura (Juxe explained that the best way to learn foreign languages is to date native girls, which is undoubtedly true.). Then he married Greta, and Meco was born. In 1953 we moved to Zagreb, and Juxe's doctrine of the need to have at all times three girlfriends ( +/- a wife) was fully developed. As any doctrine, his also had some deviations, and he got infatuated with some young lady (whose name escapes me) who for some reason moved to Chile; Juxe managed to see her again during one of his business trips to South America, but that was that (He also told me that the most beautiful women are to be found in Paraguay). By that time he was a quite successful "director" (equivalent to a CEO) of "Ventilator", a moderately large factory of ventilation, heating, drying, and similar industrial equipment, which enabled him to travel to the West a lot, and live reasonably well, especially by Yugoslav standards of the time. He divorced Greta, and we moved to a small apartment in Ogrizoviceva Street in 1958. I was already in medical school. The place had two bedrooms with a short hall in the middle. We hung a bulletin board in the hall (since we didn't see each other daily), I still had access to the money envelope in the desk, he got with Teta Beba's help a second hand VW, and I inherited the Vespa; soon I started making some pocket money by being an teaching assistent at the Medical School, and later getting a stipend from Gospic, a town in Lika. For the money, I was obliged to take a job there after graduation for the same number of years that they were paying me the stipend. I was determined to fulfill my obligation, but by the time I graduated, the job market tightened, and when I reported for work, they basically told me to forget it - some other guy, probably through cronyism and connections got my job, which suited me perfectly.
The life was sweet. Juxe dated a procession of women, from little secretaries to famous opera stars and ballerinas. But after few years of this, he came upon Azra. The first time I saw her, I remember making breakfast for the three of us with Juxe: cocoa from powdered milk (no refrigirator) and fried bread, served on a kitchen stool in his bedroom (no furniture, but by that time two cars: Teta Beba got me a used Fiat 500 - a most bizarre life style in Zagreb of the early 60's). In spite of this Azra remained with him, and for the next few years life was reasonably stable. Azra was a medical student also, ahead of me by couple of years; through her we met Brankec and Mikec; neither of them graduated medical school, but were great guys. Brankec was a wheeler dealer par excellence, selling hair from the village girls (who at that time cut their long braids en masse to look modern, and were delighted to get a few pennies for discarded hair) to Swedish hairpiece makers, primitive paintings to Germans and Swiss, and western stuff to Yugoslavs. As a result he was flush with money, drove nice cars (crashed fair number of those since he drank constantly, although never before noon). Vejac, my old friend from Beograd was studying architecture in Zagreb, and we had a small circle of friends, heavily into jazz and movie-making (8 and super8 formats, and occasionally through the Film Club 16 mm; Vejac may still have some of those films). To counteract Juxe I dated conservatively, and managed most of the times to get completely obsessed with a current girlfriend (to Juxe's amusement; however, he proved very helpful when I had a traumatic parting with one of my first and important girlfriends, Mia. I was totally distraught and unhappy, crabby and irritable; so, Juxe just said: Well, what do you want to do? Do you want to MARRY her? And that was that - the crisis was over). Then I graduated from Medical School, went to Rijeka and Veli Losinj for internship, followed by the conscription into the Yugoslav Army. With help from Teta Seka and her friend Olika I ended up in the Military Medical Unit in Beograd which was very nice, compared with possible stationing in some military unit on the Albanian border or like. On weekends I could change in civilian clothes at Teta Seka's, and frequently would go on long rides with Vidica and her friends in Teta Seka's Peugeot 404. In the Army I got into habit of showering in cold water (there was one shower with hot water, and seven with only cold water for some 55 of us...). Otherwise the army was mainly boring, but gave me the opportunity to read from cover to cover Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine and other American textbooks. To kill the boredom, with my boss, a career colonel M.D., we dreamt a protocol with which to test physical fitness of the Officer Corps in Beograd; so, at appointed time a groups of some 10 officers would report to be tortured on an old step test, see how long they can hold breath against mild pressure, how hard they can squeeze an ergometer, etc., etc.. This went for a few weeks and resulted in a detailed report that showed a rather dismal level of fitness (not surprisingly, since all of those tested spent days at the desk, or at restaurant table, most smoked, never exercised, and were generally overweight). I remember one guy pleading with me to get him off the step test (they had to march up and down following a metronome and yelled commands) because he was old. When I got out of the Army, Juxe and Azra were already in Prague (Juxe resigned from "Ventilator" and took up some type of import-export or economist consulting job in Czechoslovakia). He got mixed-up, inter alia, with Danica. Somehow Danica appeared in Beograd around the time I was to get out of the Army, I met her, and within a year married her. Brankec married a little earlier, and Vejac soon after me; Vejac's explanation for marrying a totally incompatible woman was that he "had to do it because two of us did it". All of these marriages failed in reverse order...
Juxe continued to follow three girlfriends rule, and produced another kid with a striking looking Czech lady. Azra by that time had enough of it, divorced him and married a guy called Winter (a Yugoslav, also working in Prague; he died a few years later). Danica and I moved to Seattle in 1967; Juxe returned to Zagreb. With saved money from his sojourn in Prague, he bought an Alfa Romeo and a small motorboat, and continued to live quite nicely, working in managerial positions in significant Zagreb firms. When he was approaching 60, I had the idea that he will settle down on Rab or similar nice island, in a cozy house, surrounded with classical music and books and spending summers on his boat and entertaining guests. But no, he married Toncica, and had two more children: Ana and Ivan. He died in September 1992 on his boat in Bay of Rijeka, rather quickly, from intracerebral bleed.
In 1952, 1 went to visit Teta Beba and Barba Viadi. Took a freighter "Slovenija" to Philadelphia. I don't remember why, but I shared the cabin with a young cadet (there, but for the grace of God went I ...). It was November, and the North Atlantic was quite rough; on top of that, a hurricane was coming north, and with the deck stacked with bales of cork (I do not remember where we loaded that up), the ship changed course to avoid the brunt of the storm. But even the periphery of the storm was impressive with the ship plowing into the waves with water washing over the deck and slamming into the bridge. The sailors had to string additional steel cables over the cork to prevent it from being washed away; they would scurry around as the ship mounted a wave, and then hold for dear life between the bales when the ship plowed into the water flooding the deck. Amazingly nobody got lost or hurt. I remember sitting at the back of the bridge, on the floor, looking through an open door at mountains of water climbing above the stern in the trough, and then the stem slowly rising until only the sky (with pale-yellow sunshine penetrating through the thin clouds) was visible; the ship seemed to pause for a moment, and then the stern would sink and sink until I was looking at the wall of green water. The wind was strong and steady, and the ship creaked and groaned as it teeter-tottered on the waves. Everybody was sea sick, and I found that Dramamine ("wonder drug" for sea sickness at the time) was totally useless. My roommate was pale as a ghost, and did not sleep well listening to creaking of the ship at night. I later realized that he was much more scarred then I, because he knew that some of these "Victory" class ships - built each in a few days during WW II to carry troops and cargo - have been known to crack in half and rapidly sink in bad storms. After three days of this, the sea calmed, and the rest of the voyage was rather uneventful.
In Philadelphia Teta Beba arranged for me to meet a travel agent who was supposed to help me through customs and immigration, and put me on a train to Chicago. All went rather smoothly, and the only memorable thing was that we had a Chinese dinner (my first), and that he showed me a stack of pornographic pictures he pulled from his jacket pocket; I have no idea why he did that, since he seemed like a nice guy, and helped me shortly after dinner to the train to Chicago. The train was strange, since it had these little cubicles, like bunk beds, separated from the main corridor by curtains. In spite of cramped quarters, and not much privacy, many people changed into pajamas and paraded in the corridor going to the bathroom to brush their teeth, etc.. The trip was overnight, and we arrived in Chicago Union Station on a gloomy Sunday morning in late November (or maybe early December). I had an 8-hour layover, and had to change trains. So I put my suitcase in the locker, and ventured into the city. Downtown was monochromatic (gray), and deserted. After walking around aimlessly, being hungry, I finally found a small cafe open and went in. After ordering, I looked around and noticed two men a couple tables away looking at me with great interest, and obviously talking about me. I pretended not to notice (although in retrospect I must have looked rather strange: a 13 year old kid in a gray wool suit - made by Juxe's tailor out of an old Juxe's suit - shirt and tie, hair combed straight back, heavy accent, and pretending to be cool...). As I was finishing the breakfast, one of the guys finally came over, apologized for disturbing me etc., and explained that he and his friend were wandering where I was from, and might it be Yugoslavia? He was ecstatic when I told him that this was the case, since both he and his friend were of Yugoslav descent (I forgot whether from Dalmatia or Lika), have never been there, and never met somebody coming directly from there. They both worked for a dry fruit company in California, were in Chicago on a business trip, and it being Sunday, were bored to death. So, after I decided that all of this was true, I agreed for them to show me around. They had a rented car, so we drove all around, had lunch, and in the late afternoon they took me back to Union Station, and after filling my packets with samples of dried fruit, saw me off.
Two and a half days later, on a California Zephyr I arrived in Oakland. When I told Teta Beba of my adventure in Chicago she almost fainted, and gave me the appropriate lecture...
Teta Beba, being the youngest of six kids had to deal with sibling issues, grew up in pretty horrible circumstances of WW I, and on top of that had bad multiorgan tuberculosis (highly lethal at that time); she told me many times with obvious pride and satisfaction how when a doctor drained a cold abscess in her thigh with a large troacar and syringe she yelled at him and "almost kicked him". She was (or at least imagined herself being) somewhat of a Tom-boy and defender of underdogs; she seemed to win running battles with brother Tadija, and chase away bullies who teased smaller kids. And then she grew into a veritable beauty, in the style of 1920's movie stars. Her first cousin, Viadi stayed with the family while studying medicine at Zagreb University. He was a good looking, smart, calm, gentle soul, who could sit at the kitchen for hours studying, totally unperturbed by the constant commotion around him. In spite of many admirers, Beba fell in love with him. When he graduated and specialized in ophthalmology, he disappeared to San Francisco with the understanding that Beba would follow, once he "establishes" himself.
Viadi's father went to USA (from his native Stari Grad on island Hvar) during the Gold Rush and apparently got fairly lucky; went back to Hvar, married Katica's sister Korezina against her family wishes, and went back to the USA. They had 5 children (Jure, Lucija, Viadi, Marin and Marko). When the father died in his 40's from pneumonia, and not much money was left, Korezina returned to Split. Lucija married a proletarian guy Botteri, had a bunch of kids, and moved back to New York, and lived to well over 100. Marko went to nautical school and became merchant marine captain in US Merchant marine. He sailed many times in convoys to Europe during WW II, married, had two daughters, divorced, remarried Mary, retired and settled in Arvin, Ca. as a grape grower, had a son Mark, and died in his early 90's. Jure was a restless spirit, studied engineering in Switzerland, had the first radio in Split, drifted around, and ended on Long Island, NY, as a radio repairman; he had a little shop, slept during the day and worked at night; when I visited him one evening in 1953, we had a meal together: he breakfast and I dinner... Marin went to a seminary; weeks before his ordination he was strolling along the quay in Split and saw some beautiful girl (Teta Beba told me her name, but I forgot it; I think she was a princess something...) which prompted him to pitch his collar in the sea, get out of the seminary and woo her ardently; nothing came of it, and he went to San Francisco; to work in fisheries and later in shipyards. Marin was married to Mary, a talkative fidgety chain-smoking lady; they had no kids. When I visited them in 1963, in San Pedro, Barba Marin and I decided to visit Knottsberry Farm. It was a Saturday morning, and as we were eating breakfast, Mary opened up with a barrage of reasons why we should not go: it is hot, traffic will be bad, we will not be able to get in, crowds will be horrible, there were many other things we could do, why don't we.... etc., etc., etc. Marin and I just kept eating, and when we finished, Barba Marin simply said: "Let's go!", and we went happily to Knottsberry Farm. Their marriage, however seemed to be OK and lasted to his death.
Barba Viadi did well in San Francisco, and in spite of rumors of dalliances with different nurses kept his promise, as did Teta Beba in spite of bevies of suitors. They were married, and in 1937 Teta Beba arrived in San Francisco. This was quite a change for Beba, with Viadi working long hours, her poor or nonexistent English, and nothing to do; so Beba did a little painting, drove around, went to amusement parks, and waited for Vladi. Fortunately they had a fair number of friends, including Dr. Kadesky, Viadi's colleague (an adventurous soul who in WW I volunteered to provide medical services to the Serbian army and spend time in the Balkans with the retreating Serbs; a passionate photographer and generally curious, kind, and well read man), his wife Bertha (a neat WASP from Minnesota, with rigid and impeccable manners which made her brain power uncertain, and who always spoke of her husband as "the doctor"), Frank (who ran a radiator repair shop from his garage) and his wife Mila (both from Yugoslavia), Bajurins, Mato Kovacevic and Krile, and others; while Barba Vladi played poker with Dr. Kadesky and Frank, Mate and others, Teta Beba could have a good time with their wives. Because Beba and Viadi were first cousins (they got dispensation from Vatican to marry!), they did not have kids (although it may have had something to do with Beba's TB), which made life for Teta Beba more difficult, and her emotional state unstable. A psychotherapist suggested that she get a pet, which she did: first a dog, Fifi, later a cat. Now Fifi endured all the love and emotional turmoil that the kids of emotional mothers are exposed to, and as a result became quite human like. I was also a surrogate child when I visited in 1952; Barba Viadi suggested that I go for a few years to a private school in Mexico, while immigration matters are settled, and stay in the USA (which, with Juxe, Dada and my friends in Yugoslavia was obviously out of question).When I appeared one day with a Frankenstein mask on, Fifi did not recognize me, but instead became hysterical, squealing, and hiding under the sofa; Teta Beba ripped the mask into shreds. Barba Viadi worked typical long hours, and Teta Beba respected his need for some rest and quiet when he got home; he would watch the news, she would fix dinner, and we would eat. Conversation at the table would occasionally get animated (from Teta Beba's side), but I have never heard Barba Vladi raise his voice above "piano" level; when he was very annoyed, his upper lip would quiver perceptibly until things quieted down, and that was that. Once Teta Beba was upset about something, and as she got out of the bathroom, still holding the glass ball doorknob, Barba Viadi said something; Teta Beba held onto the knob for a few more seconds, and when she let go, shards of a crushed knob fell to the floor (she claimed years later not to remember the episode, but smiled contentedly as I retold the story for the umpteenth time...). Teta Beba had a frequent need to jab and nag a person until it became almost unbearable and infuriating, and then suddenly change the tack and became sweet, solicitous and understanding; whether this was a way of testing loyalty toward her, or fulfilled some other need I never figured out. Barba Vladi balanced this volatility by being peace and steadiness incarnate; he would not even drive (as a result he took cabs or let Beba drive him around), to avoid excitement and rest his (surgeon's) hands. Once, in Zagreb, a cabbie slammed the car door on his index finger so bad that it was black and blue and swollen for weeks, but it did not change Barba Viadi's habits at all. In 1953, before leaving for home, my mild nearsightedness was getting worse, Barba Viadi checked me, and decided that I needed glasses. I waited for him in the hospital, watching with interest goings on in the hospital corridor; suddenly this guy in a white coat appeared at the distant end of the corridor, approaching with a jaunty step, waving and singing to everybody, winking at nurses... I couldn't believe this other side of Barba Viadi. Whether this "other side" extended further, nobody knows; Teta Beba corresponded with a mysterious man who was in merchant marine for many years, well after Barba Viadi died (at age 64, from an infarct), but the extent of this liaison remains a mystery. Teta Beba remained to the end a "Santa Claus" to many people, leaving some money to a number of them in her will, from descendants of her nanny and childhood friends, to family.
This is jumbled and incomplete; consider it a draft: time for the readers to edit this mess and add their own stories and suggestions...