Djurdjevdan, afar from home


Millions of years later, but only a short distance away from pictures in my previous blog post (in which people are so dwarfed by history that we can’t possibly see them), another image is taken. A bus came to the beach facing North Korea and unloaded a battalion of tourists armed with cameras. To someone coming from the acute greyness of my previous frames, this must look like an alien invasion.

It reminded me on something I feel every May 6, if I happen to be in my beloved Sarajevo. That day is St. George’s Day, a major holiday for Roma people in my country. They call it Ederlezi or Djurdjevdan and it’s basically a fine festival of not-so-fine music and wild dance, heavy food and heavier drinking, plus all the madness the Balkans can offer. Naturally, I won’t miss something as colorful as Djurdjevdan. Early in the morning I go to one of the Roma settlements in Sarajevo’s suburbs and spend the day there.

Usually, I bring a car trunk full of beer and food and install myself into the heart of situation – by the fire, next to a tribal leader. Then, as is the custom, he introduces me to new members of his family: a son just returned from Italy, another one from jail, a few new children, perhaps a new wife. That part I simply adore: to listen to their names. Although the family is nominally a Muslim one, first names are: Elvis, Rambo, Esmeralda, Aaron, Ronaldo and one little cute Rolando (they made a spelling mistake and it stayed like that).

So much for the names. Don’t get me started on their clothes, their lifestyle, their disregard for the usual canons of behavior. In that respect, and despite the restrictions society imposes on them, my Roma friends live close to absolute freedom, and I envy them. We all have our freedoms but within certain boundaries. Roma go wherever they want. We call our children names we want as long as they are within borders someone else drawn. They call theirs Rolando.

It resembles this beach picture, or elsewhere in the South Korea – please look at colors these people wear. Grey or, God forbid, black is only a rare exception from the obvious rule of “as cheerful as possible”. And look at me, or anyone else coming from a warped society in which wearing bright colors is almost a sign of weakness. While standing on the hill and talking this picture, the only non-black piece of clothes on me is a worn out vest that faded into dark grey. Those are my colors. I even changed the straps on my cameras from Canon red to indistinct black.

I know, this people (even men!) wear orange shoes and jackets not only because they can, but because they feel like it. And I’m so happy to see it, this festival of light and life against a very dark backdrop.

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