My Summer Vacation

August 22, 2013

Gracious Living Day by DayDear readers,
I am sorry for being out of touch for so long. I did not forget you. I thought of you many times. I felt guilty for not writing.
Here is what happened:

At the end of May, a week after moving into our new house (the same house that we had spent the entire spring renovating), I flew to Europe. My first stop was Holland where my oldest son, Mike, had spent the semester interning at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. My niece Nicole and younger son Sam were traveling in France and Spain and were meeting me in Holland at my uncle’s house.

I spent a few days with Mike and then he flew back home to study for his bar exam. Then I met up with Sam and Nikki and we traveled around Holland, Belgium and Germany. We visited family and explored tourist destinations. In mid June we flew to Serbia.

Nikki had spent the winter semester in Ireland and was now coming to Serbia with a purpose. During her junior year at Knox College she had been awarded the Ford Fellowship to do a documentary movie project on the changing roles of women in traditional and modern Serbian societies. She was going to record interviews with different generations of women in our family. I was her interpreter and guide.

But the trip was about much more than Nikki’s project. I have a large extended family in Serbia and I am very close to most of them. I hadn’t seen them in five years. I missed them. They missed me. We spent hours talking. Sometimes Nikki and I recorded these conversations on camera, which we bought with a camera studio stand for sale. Most of the time we didn’t.

I spent many evenings talking to my uncles and aunts and cousins on a balcony of someone’s house until four in the morning. We talked about the past and family and friends who are no longer with us. We talked about the present and how difficult people are and how easy it is to hurt each other in myriad small ways. And always, we talked about the wars. The wars of the past century, the recent wars, and  how impoverished and hard life is now. And we worried about what will happen to the children in the future.

And then, through the branches of the old plum trees we would see the first rays of the rising sun. Looking at each other in surprise someone would ask – where did the night go?

While I was there I needed to give my family my undivided attention. I needed to do nothing except talk with and listen to what various members of my family had to tell me. Everyone had something to say. Everyone had a story to tell. I cannot tell you how wonderful it feels to let go of everything else, to let go of the entire world, and give people one’s undivided attention.

And now, here I am back home, and I am overflowing with stories. And for a while, the last thing I wanted to do was write. I needed to quietly think and process what I had heard and transition to a different kind of life.

But now I am ready. I send you hugs and greetings and hope that you are having a good summer. I will soon be sharing my stories with you.

Nikki and Sam exploring Belgrade                                                  Nikki and Sam exploring Belgrade Family members sharing a meal in my uncle's vineyard                   Family members sharing a meal in my uncle’s vineyard in Vizic
Sam and uncle Jova spent many hot afternoons playing chess on the balcony       Sam and uncle Jova spent many hot afternoons playing chess on the balcony The old church in Vizic, my father's village                                                                 The old church in Vizic, my father’s village Marija - my five year old niece                                                    Marija – my five year old niece My uncle's plum orchards                                                           Plums in my uncle’s orchard Stork family on top of the church steeple                          A family of storks on top of the church steeple The morning we say goodbye       The morning we say goodbye
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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosanna August 26, 2013 at 12:06 am

*Welcome* back, Liliana!! I can genuinely feel the warmth coming from all of your lovely family photographs, (Above); and I totally understand………… how you needed to “quietly think and process” what you had heard from your uncles and aunts and cousins in Serbia………… and then “transition to a different kind of life,” i.e., once you were back home in Michigan.

Whenever I visit my very large family for a week, (i.e., traveling yearly, or so, from Central Pennsylvania—>West Texas), I’m always figuratively “knocked flat-out,” afterwards………… simply from the very enjoyable TSUNAMI (haha!!) of family social events………… from the many, MANY wonderful conversations ~ (either fleeting, casual, or very intense!!) ~ with family members………… from *super-fun* (and very VIGOROUS!!) game-playing with the little ones………… and also, during each-and-every trip, from knowing that “this time” will very likely be “The Last Time,” too, i.e., in which I’ll see (at least some of) my elderly relatives alive, you know.

Flying back to Pennsylvania, my head is always *joyfully full*………… with #1,0001 Treasured Little Scenarios and Memories!!

By the way, in your last photo, Liliana, is that “A Little Marija”………… whose very cute/smiling head is *peeking* out………… from the (R) side of your back??!! (Haha!!)


Liliana August 26, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Dear Rosanna,
I see that your family in Texas closely resembles my family in Serbia – you understand my situation as though you were there with me.

Yes, that is little Marija peeking behind me in the last picture. She and I were inseparable while I was there.

So good to hear from you and wishing you all the best.


John August 22, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Welcome back Liliana!

I’d thought of reaching out a couple of times when your blog went quiet. I knew you were in Europe. So, I trusted that when you were ready to write again, all would be well.

I am reading essays from a Bosnian writer, Aleksandar Hemon. The writing helps me to understand how people cope when war forces them to leave their homeland.


PS: Marija and her flower make a stunning photo.


Liliana August 23, 2013 at 6:56 am

Dear John,
Thank you for your kind words. I hope you are well and happily settled in your beautiful house. I hope you are enjoying retirement.

I love Alexandar Hemon. He came to Ann Arbor a few years ago and I had the pleasure of meeting him. His writing is beautiful and honest and it moves me deeply. Did you read the article in the New Yorker about the illness and death of his baby daughter? It was incredibly powerful.

I hope your family is doing well. I send you lots of hugs and good wishes. Please keep in touch. L.


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