Monthly Archives: May 2014

Life must go on…

It’s needless to say, I’m not doing good these days. And it’s not a rant, it’s a simple fact. I’m somebody who’s battling with high anxiety day in day out, even at the best of times, so it’s really hard to keep going when the worst of times bring out the worst of what anxiety has to offer. It was already hard for me to take out the camera again after I can freely say years of “silence” and start shooting some pictures again, and when I finally got there somehow, once again it lost sense after the tragic events in my country. Taking camera out is hard because it is literally painful. It reminds me of where I used to be in life, why and how all the good things stopped, it makes me think of what I endured and where I could have been now if it weren’t for what happened… also, the camera’s shabby, neglected look infallibly reflects the amount of time that passed since I took it in my hands for the first time. It is run over by time, and in a way so am I, because I don’t really belong right here and right now. So many things changed while I kept sitting in my house and I feel as though I entered the state of coma back in 2007 and continued sleeping, while life naturally moved on without me. Now I’m probably sort of semi-awake, by there is this gap in time that is very hard to fill, sometimes I feel like an alien in the world that surrounds me. I started shooting things that my dad grows in his garden trying to reconnect with a place that for me lives only in my memory and with nature itself, it was my need to reach out to something beautiful and colorful that represents the better side of life, something that can represent me in a better way. And what happened? The floods came. Not only that beautiful and colorful pictures became insignificant, pointless and out of place in a tragic and very depressing situation, it also turned out that what could have been memorized with my camera literally vanished to a great extent. My dad’s garden suffered significant losses because of all that rain and the orchard will hardly give anything this year if it doesn’t recover. He replanted some of the things although it’s quite late for doing it, but the bottom line is that he’s been there twice in the last 3 days and hasn’t brought anything home. It’s God knows what time that my patience is at test because of having to stop something that I started or going back to square one, but I decided not to give up this time. There are so many people who lost their lives or everything they had in life, so I have no right to complain. I just wish I could suffer a bit less because of everything that happened here and be instead a bit more useful, but I can’t change myself. I can only try to be the best version of myself of today, do some good, help somehow, and look for a grain of hope for the future of everybody out there, as well as for myself.

Today I’d like to share a small photo story of the previous days from an agoraphobic’s point of view. This person couldn’t grab the camera and shoot in the critical places, I had only my immediate surroundings at my disposal.

1. THIS IS HOW IT STARTED…

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This photo was taken on the first day of the rain from my window… it was so dark and gloomy in the middle of the day, but ISO 1600 helped me to get something more than a blur of what was going on outside. There was quite a lot of wind at some point as well, and it brought along a small, smiling umbrella into our muddy pond. It did seem interesting and cute at the time, but thinking back from here, there was some very bitter irony in that smile as we couldn’t even dream of what was going to happen.

2. THE SECOND DAY OF RAIN, TERRACE

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We have a semi-covered terrace and rain hardly ever touches the flowers planted in boxes, but this time it just unleashed all the anger on smaller plants, ISO 1600 was a must even here and the camera got pretty wet in the process. I liked these little flowers, I picked them and planted myself… now they are gone, drowned in the rain. There is only this photo left.

3. HOPE

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Instead of collecting vegetables from the garden, my father picked up this flower that was floating in water. He has shrubs of these flowers in 3 or 4 different color shades, but there was only this one left, looking bad and half dead. He brought it home anyway, and after more than a whole day of “recovering”, it incredibly regained both beauty and vitality, standing bold and upright. Life must go on, in one way or the other, it’s always been that way and always will be. We have to have faith that strength will rebuild beauty.

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Floods in Serbia – recapitulation

It’s been a bit more than a week since the start of one of the worst natural disasters that hit Serbia and the neighboring regions, especially Bosnia and Croatia. It’s past midnight, so this is the beginning of the third official day of mourning for all those who lost their lives and those left with nothing in these devastating floods. It’s too early for real recapitulations, I’m well aware of that, but as the water goes down in some areas and as the initial dread and adrenalin rush get slowly replaced by anger, revolt, resignation, disbelief, depression and the initial phase of acceptance, I felt a need to close a circle of things that happened so far to understand better where we were, where we are now and where to go from now. This is just a small, new blog and I’m immensely grateful for all the views it got in the previous days and for all the care and help of people from a number of countries who read what I posted. I’m very happy to hear how much help is arriving by official channels to the state from everywhere to help rebuild the country and people’s lives, because the weeks and months, if not years ahead of us will be immensely challenging. There is one good thing though that came out of all this, this tragedy helped reunite even just for a short while the ex Yugoslavia, beautiful and prosperous country I was born in and that I miss so much, even though I’m only 37 and I didn’t have enough time to remember it truly well. Nevertheless, the memories I have, the photos from my childhood and my roots that are from both Bosnia and Croatia even though I was born and raised in Serbia will continue to keep that nostalgia alive. The tragedy didn’t unite only us who used to live peacefully together until some craziness made all hell break loose and changed things forever, it also united us with many people from everywhere in the world who felt and understood the language of human pain and gave their best to help. This is all that matters in the end, that realization that we truly only have this fragile naked life and that we should use it to generate good. There are of course those who try to take advantage of the situation, there are bad situations and bad stories, but this time they are fairly rare. This time I want to focus on goodness, because I truly believe that by shedding light on good, you can only generate even more good everywhere. To all of you who were with me these days, thank you very much indeed for being there and listening and for all the good that you brought into my days and the days of my country!

1. THE BEGINNINGS: water, water, water… and people fighting with bare hands, sandbags and limited mechanization.

Video by Dragan Trifunovic, Helivideo: All interested TV stations can buy broadcasting rights for this video. All money will go to humanitarian funds.

2. EVACUATION: PEOPLE

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Source: http://www.udarno.com

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Source: http://www.telegraf.rs

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Source: http://www.blic.rs

3. EVACUATION: ANIMALS

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Source: http://www.kurir-info.rs

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Source: http://www.kurir-info.rs

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Source: http://www.ezadar.hr

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Source: http://www.kurir-info.rs

4. RESCUE POINTS AND HUMANITARIAN AID

POPLAVE; OBRENOVACANI U BEOGRADSKOJ SPORTSKOJ HALI

Source: http://www.b92.net

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Source: http://www.sombor.rs

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Source: http://www.belami.rs

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Famous chef Rudolph Van Veen (24 Kitchen) cooking for and with flood victims
Source: http://www.sr.rs.facebook.com

5. WHAT TO DO NOW…

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Source: http://www.vijesti.me

6. HOPE – EVERYBODY WILL HELP TO REBUILD LIFE!

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http://www.klix.ba

Novak Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic won titles in Rome and dedicated them to people in Serbia and Bosnia

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Source: http://www.novakdjokovic.com

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Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor won the title in Rome
Source: http://t.co/Q3ugC47ELa

Yesterday evening I wrote a blog about these two great athletes and wonderful guys and how they took the initiative to help the victims of the floods in Serbia, Bosnia and other surrounding areas. As my people is still battling with the consequences of the worst flood ever in this region, these guys made a huge effort to be the best today on the Roman court and succeeded. They didn’t play only for themselves, but also for all those who are suffering back home and who will be helped from their prize money from this tournament.

I’m just a common, insignificant person myself and my life situation is such that I can’t make a true difference and give some important contribution to help people in need, 25.000 have been evacuated so far only in Serbia. My heart is with them and their stories touch me deeply, which makes me even more angry with my condition. When I see them immensely happy and grateful even for one plastic bottle of safe water, I really wish I could be able to be somewhere out there to offer some tangible help, such as filling the sandbags or carrying goods to the evacuation points. I did send several sms donations and apart from that, I have this blog to reach out to the world and share our story, hoping that maybe somewhere out there even just one person might send some little help. That would make me truly happy, because I would know that I contributed somehow to make things better. It would make me feel a bit more meaningful as a person I guess if something that I did brought some good to somebody left with nothing.

If you have time, check out Novak’s foundation’s site which explains the situation and ways to help:
http://novakdjokovicfoundation.org/news/news/2014.734.html

or his official website:
http://www.novakdjokovic.com

Thank you on behalf of those who suffer and to whom it will mean a whole world!
Together we are stronger!

Djokovic per la Bosnia 5 _mediagallery-page
Source: http://www.gazzetta.it

Floods in Serbia – update

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Novak Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic supporting flood victims in Serbia and Bosnia
http://www.tennisworldusa.org/Novak-Djokovic-and-Nenad-Zimonjic-support-the-flood-victims-in-Serbia-articolo18025.html

Novak Djokovic foundation’s call for help:
http://blog.novakdjokovicfoundation.org/good-news/inspirational-stories/call-for-help-help-the-people-and-children-suffering-in-floods-together-we-are-stronger/

The rain has more or less stopped since this morning, thank God, that is indeed very good news. The bad news is that only now we’re becoming aware of how cataclysmic the situation is, mainly in the town of Obrenovac, swallowed up by water. Nobody still knows how many victims will be found and what is that water hiding down there. Many people were separated in rapid evacuations as boats and helicopters couldn’t accept whole families at once, and there are many of those that are still desperately searching for their loved ones. Belgrade people are carrying everything they can to the evacuation points to ease the lives of the victims of the flood at least a little bit. And the Sava is badly threatening both Bosnia and Serbia, thousands sand bags are constantly being filled to try to defend what is still left to save. The next 3-4 days if not even weeks are still critical, but we have to hope for the best and help each other. It is so wonderful to see that many people are doing all they can the way they can in order to help. Famous people are starting campaigns for the help of Serbian people and we are really thankful for their efforts and proud of them.
We’re especially proud of Novak Djokovic, who is not only a great tennis player but also such a wonderful person and a big humanitarian. He’s currently playing at the tournament in Rome and together with his Davis cup colleague Nenad Zimonjic is doing his best to help his country. Nole was born and raised in Belgrade, less than 2-3 miles from where I live and I will always admire his hard and rocky road of determination and dedication to his dream that brought him to the place where he is now. What I will surely admire even more is the fact that he always had time and energy to be there for common people, always underlying that he is just one of us. It’s been years that we are cheering for him as he’s playing all over the world, and he is cheering for us right now. He truly deserves all the best in life.

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Novak Djokovic signing camera after today’s win against Milos Raonic in Rome and writing words of support to Serbia – #Support Serbia – I love you!

Floods in Serbia

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source: http://www.balkaneu.com

My relationship with water has changed a lot over the years. It started with that cozy, warm, happy feeling instilled by childhood baths with lots of foam and those nice colorful toys that keep you company in the tub that seems big like a whole lake to a little child. Then it was transformed into an immense joy brought on by some special spark only summer at the seaside can start, especially for those born relatively far away from the seas, lakes and oceans like myself. This harmony lasted for quite a long time, until I had my first panic attack in water, somewhat far from the coast which made all that agonizing swimming back in panic one of the hardest things I’ve ever done as I was convinced I would drown. It’s needless to say that since that moment I never ever swam further away from the last place where I could still touch the bottom with my feet, even though I used to swim really well. As the time passed, I learnt that there was another much darker face to my teenage summer seaside joy, the one embodied in pain, frustration, sadness and even shame when you get totally deprived of it by the willpower of your own nerves, just like in one famous curse which goes more or less like this – “May you first have everything, and then nothing.” We can agree that going to the seaside can be a too long trip for only partially recovered agoraphobic, but I live in the capital of Serbia that lies on two large rivers, the Danube and the Sava, yet for quite a long time I haven’t set my eyes on them at all. As my condition grew worse, I developed a fear of bridges. More precisely I think, of being trapped on a bridge. Or even more precisely, of not being able to get back to the other side of the bridge fast enough to reach the comfort zone. It’s not about heights, surprisingly I don’t have that fear. It’s not about water either because I never really think that I could end up down there falling of the bridge. It’s about the delay of “teletransportation” to my “safe place”, no matter how ridiculous that may sound to someone who never experienced it. I just need to get back home in no time, and bridges can mess badly with this. Agoraphobia brought also some undefined fear of staying for too long in the bathroom, which turned the joy of a long bath into pure hell, so as of now I think I could say that I’m on not very good terms with water in general. Nevertheless, I never had any particular problem with rain. Rain means umbrellas, bad weather, traffic delays, mud, wet feet, bad mood for most of the people. For an anxiety sufferer, that long, boring, slow and never ending autumn rain can ironically have an element of pure relief, because it calms your nerves, makes you slower and sleepy, almost sedated. It sorts of evens out the storm within you, taking you more towards the state where you should normally be.

All of a sudden, rain got a whole new meaning. It’s been 3 days that it unleashes all its devastating anger on my small, already badly devastated country. It’s not a simple rain, it’s something like a constant 24 hour downpour and there is no way to switch it off or anything to tame it with. They say that we haven’t had such rains in 120 years, or to be more precise, ever since we started measuring the quantity of rain per square meter this has never been recorded. What should have fallen in entire 4 months landed in only 3 days, turning some nice Serbian towns in horrific looking fields of mud covered with many meters of rain. It’s not normal anywhere in Europe, let alone on Balkans and in Serbia.

Rain started meaning trap. There is some primordial fear of that moist that sneaks into your clothes, shoes, skin, into houses, cellars, yards, into everything people have ever had or know, moist that can ultimately in the worst case scenarios even end somebody’s life. Here in Belgrade it entered our big apartment building cellars and formed quite large ponds in the suburbs, but I don’t think that we have even remotely become aware of how heavy the situation was and how much tragic it turned out to be for some people elsewhere in Serbia until we saw the news. Even when the water was 1 meter high, some people still hoped they could stay in their villages and protect their homes. When it went up to 3 meters, cries for help were incessant. Right now, there are places where water is more than 7 meters high. The center of some smaller towns resembles Venetian canals, you need boats to move along what once used to be streets. There is no safe water or electricity there, people are getting evacuated, and some of those areas are turning into ghost towns. There are wonderful people who gather humanitarian aid and give everything to help others in trouble, but there are also those who make money on the misery of others and sell bread, water and milk at prices five times higher than normal. There are both an angel and a devil in human soul, it’s always been like that and always will be. I’m personally not in any danger right now, but I don’t like how I feel. I feel immense uncertainty and fear. When you have PD, it’s as if all your emotions have been turned to the loudest of the volumes and it seems that someone has broken the volume knob, because there is no way to turn that horrible noise down. Empathy is heightened to the point when you almost literally feel other people’s pain, as if you had no steady emotional life of your own, as if you had simply turned into a mirror of emotions you’re bombarded with from the world around you. I wonder where those poor people will go. There are shelters for the night, two, three and that’s fine. What about later, when adrenalin goes down and when it’s not going to be enough to have only that dear life saved? Maybe you can start from the beginning with only your naked skin at your disposal when you’re young, but how about those who physically and mentally can’t do that any more? We’ve been in bad economic crisis even before, what’s going to happen now? They also say that if water goes up only let’s say 30 cm more near some important electric plants, there will be power outages for the whole country for sure. That resonates 1999’s bombing power outages. Once we were without electricity for 4 days and nights without break. There is a lot that you can survive, there is no question about it, but for how long and how many times? Where is that cracking point, the ultimate limit? Rain dissolves mud, all sorts of waste and sewage and it threatens to contaminate all our water sources, and even though they say Belgrade’s water is still safe, will it stay safe? “Normal” people started panicking. I’ve been out today for 3-4 times in my neighborhood and I watched people passing by, carrying tons of water in bottles in their hands. I could almost start laughing out loud. Presumably they are the ones who are not afraid of anything, they live normal lives, and now some remote threat of water going bad makes them make supplies for the months to come, depriving that way of bottled water those who really need it, people in completely flooded towns. It’s selfish self-preservation at work, nothing to do about it. You can tell them that boiled water is still great water, but they will buy whatever they can find, as though some really limited quantity of water can save their lives. The problem is, if the rain makes it up to 7 meters high even here, nothing will be saved. And that can be and still is life, just fully deprived of all material possessions.

It’s still raining outside. And the level of the Sava is rising, 10 cm every hour in the town of Sabac. People from everywhere are trying to save Sabac with thousands of bags of sand. It’s night and they are working without a pause. I do hope they will make it. I’m no longer indifferent to rain, it started rhyming with pain. Dear God, please stop this rain. Stop the pain. May all those efforts to save lives and property not be in vain.

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The flooded town of Obrenovac, near Belgrade. Source: http://www.novosti.rs

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More from Obrenovac. Source: http://www.rts.rs

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Road from Sabac to Valjevo. Source: http://www.svet.rs

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Water destroyed the bridge in Koceljeva. Source: http://www.rts.rs

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Water threatening an electrical plant. Source: http://www.vesti-online.com

The art of dill

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As I was resizing the photo of the dill from one of the previous posts, I realized that its tiny, elegant branches had a nice potential for some sort of artistic representation. It’s been ages since I found true joy in manipulating my photos in Photoshop, so I decided to give it a try once again. It’s like riding a bicycle, no matter how much time passes since the last ride, after those first, insecure, staggering motions you get back to it without problems and move away.

There is a reason why this artistic vein remained buried under layers of oblivion and that reason is not PD, quite surprisingly. 🙂 I had a fairly unsuccessful life episode at an art college where I was infallibly reminded time after time that I had no real artistic talent. My works were never appreciated or accepted, they always somehow didn’t seem enough – enough good, enough interesting, enough finished, enough special. With time I learnt to keep quiet and secure myself a place in some corner, letting my creativity stagnate and wither away in some sort of painful resignation. I shut up and shut myself up, convinced that I am a total artistic disaster. People sometimes don’t realize how much their words and attitudes can harm other people, even to the point of stopping them from living up to their potential. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to truly recover from this period and I think I’ll always be doubtful of my creative values, because every time I touch anything that has to do with visual art I have some sort of PTSD response. Tonight was no different, so bear with me as I try to come to some terms with his majesty Photoshop. 🙂

I mentioned that different people view the same thing with different eyes, so these were some of the possible interpretations of that same seemingly simple, green, aromatic herb. 🙂

More news from our organic garden 1 – dill

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Dill’s natural beauty

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Flowers can always come in handy to take things to a new level 🙂

This is the end of an extremely stressful day and I’m trying to let go of it with the help of my camera and my blog. I was really happy to see that my previous post “Raddish” was very much liked, so I thought that I might continue to keep a “diary” of the fruits from my dad’s garden, our little sanctuary of fresh and healthy vegetables and fruits that seem to be so rare in today’s polluted world. It’s located not more than 40 km from my home, yet it’s been 8 years since I was there the last time. 8 years. I still haven’t mastered this distance in my agoraphobic battles and it hurts very much. The place itself has changed a lot over the past decade as I hear from my family, so in the silence of the evenings I try to imagine how it looks like now and build an image to fill this painful gap in my visual memory with my imagination. I could have never dreamt years ago that I might end up in such a situation, but I realize that it can be interesting and challenging from the artistic point of view – it’s a quest to live distant places through indoor photography of objects that I can approach only when eventually they find some way to approach me. It’s also learning about the world through other people’s eyes and my visual interpretation of the images that reach me in form of stories of others. It will never be an ultimately true version of distant locations, because there is no such thing in the first place as we all see something different in the same situations we’re observing, but it will also never be only my direct interpretation of anything as I always need help to materialize the unseen in some way. I will be really happy to share this journey with all of you who can find here something for yourself!

Cactus

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Today I saw some really amazing blog entries by people whose blogs I discovered thanks to their visits to my relatively new blog. I am very grateful to everybody who stopped by and liked what I posted or decided to follow me and I sincerely admire how talented, interesting and special you guys are. Yet it makes me even more doubtful of my own qualities and what I have to offer to the world, doubtful of how well I can express myself in English or if I am creative at all. Anxiety’s first impulse is to back off, give up and mostly flight rather than fight I’d say as I already did on numerous occasions. I must be changing though because I decided to stick around a bit longer and keep this diary alive, as opposed to all those I started on paper and never persevered with. Something must be changing too because today I wiped all the dust away from my camera bag I once used to carry around a lot and which hasn’t been used literally for years till this spring. It’s hard to be only an indoor photographer because 65 m2 surely don’t offer infinite sources of inspiration, but my cactus decided to help me. Flowers helped me in the darkest moments in these last years, so maybe they can still give me hand. 🙂

Remembering Timothy John Byford (1941-2014)

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Photo from http://www.timothybyford.com/about_me

I’ve been contemplating for a few days how to write a special tribute to this unbelievably special and humble man, Englishman by birth but Serb by choice of his heart and his one of a kind, gentle and fascinating soul. I’m no one special myself, just a common, anonymous person, just another temporarily pulsating dot among millions and billions of others similar to me who are currently living on this planet, so I was truly wondering if I should try to write something about Timothy Byford and the way his amazing life and his death touched my soul. I was doubtful until a simple truth dawned upon me – Timothy came to Serbia to stay for good some 40 years ago to dedicate all his creative energy to making the childhood of Serbian kids more meaningful and beautiful. When he was in the most productive years of his life, I was one of those kids he lived and worked for. I was among those who grew up with the TV shows he wrote and directed at our national television, fascinated by that man with a long and to us unusual name and his happy face, wondering at the same time how come he decided to stay with us, learn Serbian and eventually with time truly become one of us. He influenced not only my childhood memories but also as it turned out my entire life – I started learning English when I was 5 and his contribution to bring the English culture closer to Serbian children was truly priceless. I never met him in person or talked to him, but being aware that some special bit of his incredible creative energy is still alive in me of today, I realized that I can and should write something in his honor, for I’m definitely somebody who grew up as his work grew up to find its eternal place in our cultural history.

Nothing was difficult for Timothy, he won so many important life battles with his signature smile I will always remember, losing only this last one, the battle with cancer.
His smiling, vivid and inquisitive eyes of an eternal child could never give away how hard and painful must have been these last almost 9 years of his brave cohabitation with his enemy, multiple myeloma. It’s unimaginable to me why such a good and modest man had to endure such an intense suffering for quite a long time. Nevertheless, he was happy. Happy to be still alive, happy to be able to write some more TV scenarios, happy to get new books to translate to English. He adored this country the way it is, more than we, native Serbs will ever love it. He loved Serbian children more than we’ll ever truly be able to love each other. He adored Serbian birds in one to him very special Belgrade’s forest, Banjicka suma, forest many of us who were born in Belgrade know almost nothing about, forest to whose preservation he contributed to and where he inhaled life to the fullest. He knew so many things, yet he never learnt to complain. He asked to have a happy funeral as he was convinced that this isn’t the end, because he’ll continue to live in minds and hearts of his loved ones and all those people whose lives he touched with goodness.

After last night’s TV tribute to Timothy, I found his website. I’ve been late for so many things in these last 7 years or simply lived oblivious of them obsessed by my own demons, but there is hardly any of them that I will regret more than not entering the world of blogging sooner, because among other things it could have inspired me to search for his blog. It wouldn’t change the fate, maybe it wouldn’t mean much after all, but I could have still written even just a few friendly words of support to a man whose work embellished my childhood. Instead I’m late once again, and I am terribly sorry, but I suppose it’s never too late to have memories.

If you happen to get stuck with seeing the light at the end of the tunnel or any bright side of your ordeals, try reading how Timothy decided to approach his illness and how he still dreamt dreams in spite of being certain that his days were counted – http://www.timothybyford.com (especially the post called “My diary entry for 4th July 2005 – the day I was diagnosed with cancer” http://www.timothybyford.com/blog.php?iStranica=3&&iIDHTMLElementPodGrupa=-1&IDNaziv=My-Blog&ID=142&&iPoStranici=0&).

To me, his never changing happiness is a true inspiration, especially because I’ve been through one real and many other PD induced imaginary life threatening situations so far. Sadly but true, I never knew how to live life peacefully and with a smile, yet I feared losing it beyond belief on so many occasions. It’s perhaps only now that I’m trying to learn how to accept a bit more calmly the imminent fact that I’ll have to die some day and to release some fear of that moment. I’m trying to find a way to “meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same” as Rudyard Kipling says in his poem “If” that I discovered thanks to Timothy’s website. What I wouldn’t like though is to leave this life too soon, knowing that I didn’t give any particular meaningful contribution to the world around me. I’m desperately looking for that elusive sense, for my own unique purpose in this world, for a way to do some real good somewhere and somehow. I would love to leave some mark, no matter how small it can be. Timothy can rest in peace as his life was definitely a wonderful and meaningful one.

Dear Timothy, thank you for so much good that you brought into our lives, our dear Serb with English origin. All your children by birth, and numerous others by art and heart will never forget you.