Every day new faces and new places appeared. After a whole day walking tour around Buenos Aires and a sort of sightseeing excursion which for me but for almost nobody else (in fact for nobody else at all) was pretty boring. Instead of looking at the splendours and sights of the exceptionally beautiful city I spent the whole time impatiently waiting to make contact with anything that would satisfy my thirst to discover the traces left behind our émigré community. In the end we met up again at the Jokanovic's house, the lovely Laura opened a bottle of red wine from Mendoza which Milos Deretic, a great lover and connoisseur of Latin-American wines had brought to a wine-tasting a couple of evenings before. We sat with our glasses of Vino tinto di Mendoza waiting for the Cetkovic's so that we could go together to visit one of the leading Montenegro families in Buenos Aires, the Lakovic's.
The Lovcen Restaurant. After the customary long drive through the streets of this city of twelve million people we arrived at the exclusive area of Palermo and entered the flat of Judge Marta Lakovic where we were met by the larger part of this successful and numerous family. When you walk around Palermo you immediately get a clear picture of all the contrasts of South America about which I had heard so much. Tall, luxuriously appointed buildings which almost all begin at the second floor with massive entrances and the obligatory porters. The first floor, which we would call the third floor always has grills at the windows. At every step you meet security guards. You feel an unbelievable peace and calm without any of the chaos and car sirens of a multimillion inhabitant city like you do in other parts of Buenos Aires. We went up the elevator which takes you directly to the flat. At the entrance we were met by the friendly faces of Aolga, Marta and Emilia Lakovic, Marta's daughter. We sat down in the living room where Emilija Lakovic (nee Zvicer) addressed us first in perfect Montenegrin. Emilija is the mother of Marta, Olga and Juan Carlos. She was born in Argentina in a Montenegrin family (her mother is from the Perovic family of Cuce). Many years later, again in Argentina where she was born, she met the man of her life Radomir Lakovic who came to the country of her birth from the country of her parents, the country she had heard so much about, and knew so much about and loved so much. The story of the Lakovic family is another amazing story like the Memoirs of Timotije Jokanovic, by Nikola Jovanovic which will be in the latest publication, a work which I have been busy with for years. A work which I am carrying out together with my friends from Argentina, and which will once and for all snatch back from oblivion an inseparable part of our people, namely their ancestors who arrived in this country in the last century. This story will of course appear on www.montenegro.com with a large number of photos which you can access along with this unique report.
Visit to the Lakovic's. Dr.Olga Lakovic and Gordan Stojovic Just like in every other Montenegrin house in Argentina, tales about the home country, people, events, contacts, gatherings, visits to the home country. A few days later we visited the Lakovic's again in their weekend house near Buenos Aires. There I met the youngest child of Radomir and Emilija, Juan Carlos Lakovic a man of exceptional manners and style and a very successful industrialist and hotelier, the owner of a hotel in Mar del Plata, the most well-known Argentinean holiday resort. We entered a house decorated with superb taste situated in one of the "Countries" near Buenos Aires. The Countries are housing estates which no one who is not invited and announced can enter and which offer every means of security and amenity to the limited number of people who live in them. A swimming pool, open fireplace and a combination of wood and stone which really appealed to me as a great lover of traditional Mediterranean forms of architecture, in this case transferred to a Latin American context. On the wall of the house was a metal plaque with the words Radomir Lakovic Montenegro, a reminder of their father and the country he came from. Juan offered me his house with great pleasure and sincerity if I should want to get away from everything, if I didn't want anyone to know where I was, or if I should finally decide to finish off all the things I am writing and which I am planning to write about his forebears and those of all the other Montenegrins who live in that country. My house is your house, Gordan, whenever you want to write, just come and stay as long as you like. I have to admit I could hardly keep back the tears. In that moment I realised how important this all is for them. I realised I am not just a crank from Montenegro who has been trying for years to break down barriers without succeeding. Then I realised that all had not been in vain and that someone really sincerely valued what I wanted and what I was doing and that someone really cared for me for that reason. Fame is absolutely nothing if it is artificially inflated, fame is nothing if people don't respond to you from the heart. Then I remembered all those nights spent on my chair at the computer in Herceg Novi writing and reflecting on long journeys, aspects of émigré life, encounters with the mouth of the River Plate or the Ellis Islands. I tried to put my hand on that moment, to feel in my imagination what it must have been like. How these people felt, what they imagined, dreamed. desired, the bitterness they felt, but also the relief after leaving their native soil. After a day spent in the company of Juan Carlos and Mrs Emilija we returned again to the Jokanovic's house where together with the whole management of Zeta, the first organisation in Latin America which gathers together all the descendants of Montenegrin emigrants in a modern way. All descendants no matter what memories of their roots they have and how they interpret their origins. Unfortunately insidious divisions have found their way in here too. But there will be another place and time to talk about that.
Friendly gathering at the Lovcen restaurant, lunch together. I couldn't imagine the surprise in store for me. Rodolfo, Milos and Juan together with the rest of their friends from among the members of Zeta had agreed with Mrs Vjera Filipovic to have a large meeting at the Lovcen restaurant. We drove through Buenos Aires talking mainly about Argentinean politics and the political careers of many Montenegrins who had held or still do hold high office in Argentinean politics. The Garivoto family whose name used to be Gazivoda, the Radonjic's, the Capitanich family from which the current senator Jorge comes, and of course the legendary Eduardo Vuletic and many others, well known at local regional or national level in Argentina.
Group photo in the Lovcen restaurant Just then in the middle of a story about the famous Montenegrins to whom these southern regions of the new continent owe a large debt, the big surprise came. We parked in front of the Lovcen restaurant! A piece of Montenegro in the middle of Buenos Aires. On the wall a large sign with the name of our revered mountain and the insignia of the Republic of Montenegro. We were welcomed inside in truly brotherly fashion like true Montenegrins by the lady owner Vjera Filipovic and her children. "They told me to choose the name, that was their wish" said Vjera. As usually I let my feelings and imagination run free. I felt bitterness again because of the injustice shown for decades to these wonderful people who just wanted a small crumb of their ancestors land. Then they began to pat me on the shoulder as they each came up to me. Year after year of correspondence, exchange of information, working together, building, cutting a way through... On the one hand people looking for their roots, on the other searching for ancestors lost in the ocean of emigrants who stepped on to the soil of the fair land of Argentina. I would hazard to say a magic land, sad and happy at the same time. So many emotions in one place at one time. Before me stood Ricardo Jokanovic, the man who started it all off back in 1999. A man whom my sister made contact with. The man who is the largely responsible for all that happened later. We finally met, shook hands, embraced. If only Montenegro could see this, if only one ounce of the energy from here could wash over everyone in our country. Hatred would cease in a moment, I thought. But that’s too idealistic. The Deretic family came - Melvin, Pablo and Milos. They asked me about Bijela the birth place of their grandfather. They talked with pride about their homeland, and recited the words that their grandfather taught them. Then come the Lakovic's, the Cetkovic's, the Vuletic's, the Filipovic's .... Our ambassador was there too. We finally have someone who is building relations with the diaspora in the right way in this country which means so much to our own country, someone who we can talk with, work with, and what is most important, build together with. Someone who has a sufficiently constructive spirit to leave a firm foundation behind him. Unfortunately neither he nor I nor any other individual, or even institution can summon up enough strength on their own to create the decisive momentum. It is essential that the government do more to get cultural exchanges started in order to bring to life relationships between Montenegro and the Argentineans who originated from Montenegro. We will see. Soon all will be revealed. Olga Lakovic handed over to me written material about her family. Sebastian Vuletich came up to me - he is the grandson of Eduard Vuletic one of the most influential people in Argentina of his time. A man who was a minister in the government, and a very close colleague of Juan Peron. A group photo. The souvenir above all others as I call it even though for many reasons many people who I have been working with for years weren't able to come, mainly due to the large distance. After Lovcen, I promised I would come back, very soon. Not only will I come back but I promised that I would make changes and that my next visit would be a sign that things are changing. I sign that the winds of change are beginning to blow. A sign that Montenegro itself is mature enough for all that awaits us. Gordan Stojovic www.montenegro.com In the last instalment - A visit to our House in Buenos Aires "Dock Sud".(Old Yugoslavia at heart)