Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

In Honor of Branko Grgurev

Sometimes, even to this day, in Zadar Croatia where my husband grew up, small but poisonous enmities between Croats and Serbs permeate everywhere, even when you're not expecting them. As a Serb, you must always be at least slightly on your guard.

Except with our friend Branko.

Branko, a son of one of Zadar's most ancient Croatian families, was the only Croatian friend who kept up with my husband after he fled to Serbia as a refugee during the civil war. "He telephoned me when no one else would, he called me in Sombor!" my husband exclaimed.

Later, when Branko found work supervising a factory in Italy, he spent his Euros on driving all the way home nearly every weekend to visit his widowed mother in Zadar ... and to keep calling his friends no matter where in the world they had ended up.

Finally, when my husband met me in America and we decided to get married, Branko was our sole friend from the Balkans who agreed to fly over from the ceremony (even though we offered to pay for several other people's tickets.) Branko not only danced at our wedding, in a gorgeous new Italian suit bought specially for the occasion, he was the best man.

Early this morning in Zadar, Branko died. He was not yet 50.

This evening with candles lit and wine flowing, we paid tribute to him. We each told stories of the Branko we loved. The man who was shy with women, but adored heavy metal music. The man who knew the toughest people in Zadar, but fed dozens of stray cats in the alley outside his flat in Italy. The man who knew to the millimeter how far a few drops of petrol would allow him to drive around town in his red Fiat. The man who could, with a bit of red wine, make the most delicious mussels anyone's ever tasted. And, the man who was infamous in 1981 for making a joint so large it required 16 rolling papers... plus, he flew his Zadar buddies up to Belgrade for one amazing weekend at his own expense so they could partake of it with him.

That's the kind of guy Branko was. A good son, an even better friend. The guy who would help create the good times and then stand steadfastly at your back during the bad ones.

We will miss him.

5 comments:

Mary L said...

So sorry for your loss.

Mario said...

Shocking and sad story on All Saint's Day. I can appreciate Branko's help to your husband in the vitriolic postwar Croatia. Yet another bad example was given recently in Sabor by HDZ Seks attacking medical doctor, SDP member of Serbian origins. Once upon a time YU was just like USA appart from single party politics.

Gordo said...

Our condolences to you and your friends' family.

Real friends are those who can overcome cultural/racial differences. You see each other for your souls.

Anonymous said...

Rosemary, you are lucky in your loss because you got to know how people can be there in the old YU through your husband and his friend, where now small minds full of hostility rule each of the former YU republics.In Serbia still all is almost good, while in the beautiful Adriatic regions it is not so any more. I remember long time ago,like 55, when I have first looked upon the beautiful Ardiatic, as a resident of Serbia.(I now live in Canada for the last 40 years and had a Californian girlfriend whom I used to tell stories about the people there, and the beautiful Dalmatians on the coast) I ran out of money but wished to stay in Dubrovnik.The people who ran the hostel within the walls were so kind that offered me to stay and send them the money when I got home.I accepted but for some strange reason when I got home I forgot all about how I managed to stay there longer than my money allowed me.I remembered this some YEARS later looking at an advertisment and asked myself IF I really PAID those nice Dalmatians? I was not sure and I decided to send three times the sum(I fined myself for not remembering the full sum for each year).I got a thank you note back saying:"we knew all this time that you will pay". There were no Croats or Serbs those days, just people...
Still, a note for Mario! It was nothing like in the USA those days in the old YU...as I was in Kosovo where people were killed just BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT Shiptars...not to say anything about that ONE PARTY SYSTEM...
While you lost a friend, I certainly hope you have a very good husband and wish you all the happiness in the world...Joe B.

Anonymous said...

Really nice article...Despite the big loss, I´m sure Branko is part of the lots of hearts and lives he touched.