The True Story, Christmas '66

Published on 15:31, 09/08,2009

The True Story

Christmas '66

For My Grandma Katarina

December 11th, 2002. 1:17am France Inter.

The music has a freezing touch and the chill is spreading all over my body. That magical wind is exactly like the voice that is far away, the voice that promised me prosperous life years ago.
I am dialing the number. I am looking for the info about a CD. A gentle voice, named Romana, answers my phone call. Just like that, to my surprise, Romana asks me if I would like to talk about Christmas, on France Inter. Perplexed, at first I want to refuse... but she insists. "I don't know why, but I am pretty sure you would do it very well", she mentions. I accept. I am not able to say no. Although, in essence, I have been waiting for that since... since when, indeed?
One sign from God or one answer to the question was launched in despondent tranquility where I have been kept captive. Everything I am going to tell you now is one sincere story.

One Christmas in my village, there in Yugoslavia… Now I should say - in Serbia. I shouldn’t say it too loud because it is not the most desirable acronym yet. Shush! The village is south of Belgrade and twenty kilometers from Macedonian border. All of you who have been passing through Yugoslavia heading to Greece, had to pass through my village too. Its name? Levosoje.

Every Sunday before Christmas, two traveling merchants were getting down to the village over muddy roads; they were slowly galloping on a donkey. They wanted to start a new life there with local people. All local people had to take turns to be hosts. My grandma was humbly accepting that mission. Essentially, it was not so difficult to do so. The task was approached with all of the spontaneity that Mediterranean women possess. Hospitality with Mediterranean people lacks of judgment towards different religions, languages, and traditional dances. We’re all viewed as one.

Judge by yourself: bracelet, necklace, broche, pens, notebook... What else? It was their only way to pay for the accommodation and food and to show their appreciation to my grandma. They called her Baba.

Her generosity and delicious cooking were very famous. She was also well known for her brilliant stories that she enjoyed to narrate in the evenings, before sleeping. That's why they would always choose her. They were talking around that she was the most eminent story-teller in the radius of 500 kilometers. Those were some great unpublished stories!

On the Christmas Eve, January 6th, my grandpa was looking for hay in the barn. He would empty the kitchen, that usually was the dinning room, and rearrange the table and chairs in the basement. He would never touch the old stove. Thereafter, with pure pleasure, he would make a hay bed in the shape of the circle. He would lay it down in the middle of the kitchen floor. He was so proud of his rug, so he constantly repeated, "You see how comfy and beautiful this hay is!" After repeating that same sentence as many times as he wanted, and louder so grandma could hear him, he would playfully wink and smile at her. At that time I did not understand his reaction very well. Now I think I know why they loved hay so much and why they emphasized the hay as a very comfy place. My grandma didn't have blue eyes, but I often have been hearing my grandpa as he was telling her, "You know you have beautiful eyes." My grandma was saying, "I know, I know. But nobody will ever really know how beautiful they really are." And my grandpa was cunningly laughing.

Upon that, grandpa would dig a hole about 15cm wide in one corner of the kitchen. The floor wasn't tiled. It was actually a dirt-floor. The hole was made for walnut game that was supposed to be played after the meal. Grandma was preparing the meal from early morning.

Beans, pie, dough, eggs, cheese and green onion, fish, brownies and lastly - the illustrious bread with coin inside. What a bread that was! The head of house would take the first piece of the blessed bread. Then he would share the other pieces with the rest of the family, who might have been present or absent. Then, my grandma would make the sign of the cross and pray for all present, absent and less fortunate individuals. She or anybody else, who would find the coin, had to buy salt, which guaranteed happiness for the whole year. I don't remember I ever found that coin. But my grandma reassured me, "Little Jesus has many magical ways to make you happy throughout the entire year. The most important happiness is your health, your smile, and he has already given it to you. Everything else is within easy reach. You just need to visualize your dreams."

That's how my friend Amizeni was born, my little imaginary friend. Then came the heroine called Vremia, and many others. If I want to be completely sincere, this has all been a tale which I was telling to myself. It is actually a result of long days that were spent in front of the computer. It was just one of the ways to fulfill those days. What a modern indispensable world!

There was also one empty plate, just in case an unexpected guest pays us a visit. We called it “Poverty plate”. All the meals were set up in the middle of the hay rug. The plate intended for the Merciful God was coming after the bread ceremony. Grandma would take the empty plate and fill it up with a little bit of everything: pie, several walnuts, fish, beans, and piece of cake. Salty and sweet food all mixed up, pretty much not edible! She would take the plate to the porch. “This is for the Merciful God”, she would say. Subsequently, I understood that sometimes Lovely God might turn into cats, because tomorrow morning the plate would be empty.

After the meal, everyone would collect a little pile of walnuts. The battle could start!
Whoever threw the walnut in the hole, could take the rest of walnuts in his pocket. It can also be called the game with marbles. Grandma was telling her stories all evening long, while grandpa was taking care of the old stove.

You could always learn a memorable lesson from my grandma’s stories. They always had a point to take into consideration. The story from 1966 has forever been embedded in the memory of a little Serbian immigrant, undoubtedly because it was the last time I celebrated my Christmas Eve on January 6th, and also the last time with my grandma. Since then, I have been celebrating Christmas Eve equally on December 24th and January 6th. Unfortunately, I did not receive the presents twice. I had arrived to France when I was thirteen years old. I didn’t know one single word of French.

At the end of story, my grandma said,
“You know Zorica, my gift to you is not the one you would consider as the best one. The shoes will soon be too small for your feet, the skirt will be just like a handkerchief when you grow up, you could lose a bracelet, the necklace will be stolen one day, and the broche will become less pleasurable to look at. But the stories that I have told you will always be locked in your heart and head. One day, it will be your turn to retell my stories to your children and grandchildren.

And if you make a wish tonight, you could talk about your Christmas to the whole world. Some day, one lovely voice will ask you to tell it about this Christmas.

Tell me, Romana, have you ever met my grandma?

Where did you meet her?

Zorica Sentić

Written on the night of Dec.11th 2002
For Christmas on France Inter, Dec.24th 2002

Zorica Sentić - Ljubav, snovi, mir

Published on 11:12, 05/19,2009

ljubav, snovi, mir
ljudi imaju samo jedan govor
ali govore više jezika
Zorica Sentić
amour, rêves, paix
les hommes n'ont qu'un langage
mais ils en parlent plusieurs
amor, sueños, paz
los hombres tienen sólo un lenguaje
pero hablan varios

Zorica Sentić
Cristina Castello

love, dreams, peace
people have only one language 
but they speak a lot of different ones 


Zorica Sentić
Claude Cognard
лугето имаат само еден говор
сепак зборуваат повеке јазици

Zorica Sentić
  Парашка Димитриевска Пејчић
jubav, sni, mir 
judi imaju samo jedan govor
ma govore više jeziki

čakavština otok Krk - Ida

mennesker har kun én tale 
men taler flere sprog
Translated in Danish: Predrag Crnković
lolon, dronkuku, n'tifafa
agbetowo do nya gbon blon neka
voa o donagbe sugbo 
Ghislaine Quashie - Togo
Traduction en MINA -TOGO

miłość, marzenia, pokój
ludzie mają tylko jedną mowę
ale mówią wieloma językami

Polonais / poljski : ZgaS ciszE...
Olga Lalić

Amore Sogni Pace
Gli uomini hanno un solo linguaggio
ma ne parlano tanti.
Zorica Sentić
Denise Bernhardt

Déléguée de la Sté des Poètes Français pour HAITI
lanmou, rèv, lapè
lèzom gen yon sèl langaj
men yo pale plizyè lang
Zorica Sentić
Traduction en Créole Haïtien de Juste JONEL
(Port-au -Prince HAITI )
 kjærligheten, drømmene, freden
mennesker har bare én tale 
men snakker flere språk 
Translated in norveske verzije Predrag Crnković
Amo, songxoj, paco
La homoj havas nur unu lingvon
sed ili parolas plurajn...
amor, sonhos, paz
os homens têm somente uma linguagem
mas falam várias
Portugais / Portugalski / Apaga o silencio
Pedro Viana
traduction en arabe Abdelmajid Benjelloun