I am Sara Solla, Nenad and Ellen's Belic sister-in-law. My husband Predrag is Nenad's brother, and I met Nenad and Ellen when Predrag and I moved to Chicago four years ago. The first time we met was for dinner at their home. At some point in the evening Ellen said that it was like having instant family. She and Nenad proceeded to treat me as family ever since. I will always be grateful for their hospitality.
I miss Nenad. When I now visit their home on Webster Street, I miss the big smile on Nenad's face as he opened the door for me, I miss the bear hug he would give me, I miss his affable welcome.
I did not know Nenad well. Since I met him only four years ago, I did not share with him the long years that family and old friends had together. Since he left Chicago in May, as I have struggled to understand what drove him into his ill-fated rowing adventure, I have come to realize that I know little of his inner self. These reflections go beyond a comment on the generic impossibility of truly knowing someone else, of truly knowing what lies within somebody else's heart. What I have come to realize is how very difficult it was to get to know Nenad himself, how reserved and private he was behind his friendly and warm demeanor.
I have also thought often in these past few months about the conflict between Nenad's desire to realize his dream and his family's desire, which I shared, to keep him from harm. This has seemed to me to be an almost classic instance of the eternal conflict between the self and the social, between the innate desire to follow our will and the constraints created by our obligations towards others. I have no great wisdom on how this conflict ought to be resolved. Had I been the elder of the tribe, had I been asked to adjudicate this particular case, how would I have found the right answer?
Many of us worried that this enterprise was fraught with great risk, and our worst fear has unfortunately turned into a reality of loss. Was it worth it? I see the sadness in Ellen's eyes, I think of all the special moments in their young women's lives that Dara and Maia will not be able to share with their father, I think of the loss of the easy and loving adult friendship with Nenad that Adrian and Roko had enjoyed in recent years. And I would like to think that if Nenad could see this, if he could see how much his family and friends have grieved and will grieve for his loss, he would come to think that perhaps, after all, it was not worth it.
Sara A Solla