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Montenegrins in Alaska

Montenegro.com visits Judy Ferguson, the well-known American writer from Fairbanks, Alaska. Image Judy Ferguson and Gordan Stojovic in Belgrade 10th April 2005.

At the beginning of the last century in the stream of people who headed to Alaska during the gold rush in search of dreams of prosperity and riches there was a large number of Montenegrins. They came from all parts of Montenegro. They were mainly people who had already been living for some while in other parts of USA and who, enticed by stories of the chances to make big earnings in the wilds of Alaska, set off northwards. Many of the pioneers from Montenegro left their bones in the wilderness of what was once “Russian America” or disappeared for ever without trace. Some of them managed to find what they had come in search of, became rich and returned more often than not to warmer parts of USA, while others became renowned successful citizens of Alaska and remained there where their sons, grandsons and great-grandsons now live...

From the large number of families we must single out the Hajdukovic, Stijepovic, Dapcevic families and of course all the other families whose members have distinguished themselves amongst the most prominent and worthy people in this part of the world. The famous pioneer John Hajdukovic, governor Mike Stijepovic etc.

Like many other pages in the history of our people we have forgotten this one as well for some strange reason. Carelessness, lack of adequate institutions and many other factors. Fortunately their hard work success and pain, although almost completely forgotten by us, have fascinated other good and intelligent people who have carried out what should be the duty of each one of us who sets any store by preserving his roots and traditions.

The American writer Judy Ferguson from Fairbanks, Alaska in her work „Parallel Destinies“ has saved from oblivion all of the legacy, and everything left behind by these brave Montenegrin pioneers in this part of the world, and not only them but their descendants, those generations of Montenegrins who still today live in this part of this great country. Image „Parallel Destinies“ title page of the book.

We have admired Judy’s work for many years and communicated with her. We have learnt a lot from this fantastic woman who on every occasion has unselfishly obliged us even though she is very very busy. She recently informed me that she was coming to Belgrade and Montenegro. I was thrilled that I would soon have the chance to meet her and talk to her in person. Although we had planned to meet when she came down to Montenegro it so happened that I was in Belgrade and so on the 10th April we finally met and began our conversation on the balcony of a superb villa in Dedinje.

For hour after hour I listened to amazing stories, about her life, her work, about the Montenegrins, their families and her inspiration. I listened to stories of the successes and failures of many famous people from our country. About her experiences, her desires and expectations. We certainly laid the foundation of something that will surely enlighten our understanding and enable two distant countries, Alaska and Montenegro, which are joined by two very important things, the heritage of our emigrants and similarities in natural beauty, to come closer together across an already existing indestructible bridge of human endeavor. Both I personally and Montenegro.com will do all that we can to see that Judy’s work is translated and published in Montenegro as soon as possible. In the meantime we will continue to keep in contact and to work together, to ensure that these hardworking brave men are never forgotten again.

Gordan Stojovic Montenegro.com