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Montenegro > Diaspora> Montenegro.com in Argentina - part three

Montenegro.com in Argentina - part three

At the cemetery in Madariaga ImageWe arrived at the town cemetery in Madariaga, a place where Montenegrins who emigrated to this area have been buried for many decades. In Madariaga there isn't a special part of the town cemetery or a church with its own graveyard as there is in Buenos Aires, Chaco and other places in Argentina. Or like in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, Bear Creak, Montana, or other places where our people emigrated to.

Nevertheless, the number of émigrés in these parts was so large that their influence in all parts of government and society was always pretty significant. The predominant feeling was as if they had always lived in those regions. On top of that, the daily arrival of large numbers of Montenegrins contributed to the development and spread of our culture and traditions, property and wealth. In short, the number and influence of Montenegrins in General Madariaga and the surrounding areas was so great that they always felt they belonged here and felt no need to isolate themselves. ImageI probably will never be able to describe well enough all that I felt as I walked through that far-away place where the bones of those courageous people who carried the name and fame of our little nation through the distant expanses of South America lie eternally at peace. My dear travelling companions and hosts couldn't stop being amazed at me photographing every single grave stone, every single stone which bore any sort of memory or name. But every grave in Madariaga, represents a memorial to the courage and bravery of our forebears, and a symbol of the suffering, homesickness, desire for life, and all that those people brought with them from their home country. "All the good one leave" - those words which I read some time ago in Timotije Jankovic's Memoirs, keep ringing in my mind. He wrote: _You brave ones, good ones, sad ones, you left. What about us? We, the descendants of those who stayed, or returned, today we know almost nothing about you, your children, all you went through, all your struggles. I shudder and feel ashamed as I stand before these graves which though cold and silent, still speak to us.ImageI say to myself as I look for an excuse and at the same time try to apportion guilt: Perhaps I could have done something, more! But it's not too late, no it definitely isn't, I truly believe that! Who is guilty, here, there, and is there a culprit at all? Evil people or mad people, without trace or roots, with no feeling for the present or the future, without the slightest respect for the past and for themselves. There is no one except "them” whoever they are?! This keeps running through my mind... I know that there were always those who wanted to do something, who did do something, all honour to them. I promised myself that I wouldn't be one of those who just wanted to do something, I promised myself that I would succeed. All sorts of pictures and thoughts kept flashing through my mind, almost as though I was dreaming. Our good host Vaso slapped my on the shoulder and I woke from my strange state, and we continued our visit. I carried on taking photos, while Vaso carried on his incredible story about each Montenegrin who was at rest in that place, in the far country of Argentina, in the town cemetery in General Madariaga. Some were buried by friends and fellow Montenegrins, others by their families, others by the Montenegrin society, the Montenegrin-Yugoslav Society, the Yugoslav Society - largely the same organisation - the name of the Society for mutual aid in Madariaga has changed several times through its history... It was first called the Montenegrin society, and then Montenegrin-Yugoslav, and then at the end of the Second World War it became the Yugoslav Society Njegos, the name that it bears to this day, a society for mutual aid. ImageThe societies took care of everyone. Even of those who didn't marry, of whom there were many, as they worked extremely hard and hoped to return to their native country. They could always count on the brotherly help of their countrymen. Not one Montenegrin, no matter how poor, died alone and abandoned by his countrymen, because the society for mutual aid took care of anyone who had no family or financial resources. Night was just beginning to fall. Our visit to Madariaga was coming to an end. I stopped once more at the entrance to the town cemetery, had a good look round, closed my eyes and repeated the promise I had already made. We called on Daniel Markovic again for some ham and a glass of wine, and then at the Jankovic's house to say goodbye to our hosts. Dear friends, we'll meet again in Montenegro sooner than any of us can imagine, I said, more certain of what I was saying than ever before. Return to Buenos Aires Image"Down town" Buenos Aires We got up at the break of dawn, about 4 in the morning, when Madariaga was still in darkness. It was a very cold morning, but I had fortunately "armed myself" with warm clothes before leaving for Argentina; which then I thought just made my luggage, packed with books and other presents intended for my friends, even heavier. We got into Rodolf's Ford and set off back through the pampas. I recognized the Montenegrin flag that I sent him many years before by post, attached to the rear-view mirror. We drove along the completely flat road, with almost no bends, through the morning mist and our memories of the previous days. We set off back for Buenos Aires. As always I continued to daydream with eyes open. I kept on imagining the dozens of groups of Montenegrins in carriages and other horse-drawn carts, exhausted by the journey of several months, with their whole lives packed into a couple of suitcases, arriving in the small Gaucho village in the South. I imagined the markets and the landowners who came there everyday looking for fresh workers, which they had once long ago been themselves. I imagined the newly arrived immigrants, keen to experience the new life in a new continent as soon as possible. And the first night of sleep (or sleeplessness) in their new land, the sky full of stars, hearts full of homesickness, their spirits full of hopes and desires... Image Casa Rosada On the way to the great capital city we once more drove through endless fields full of herds of cattle. We saw men on horseback, isolated farms... The smell of the country was with us all the time, but something that was as yet new to me. Something invisible, inviting and completely exotic, and almost completely imperceptible. But it reminded me that I was not at home, but a long way away, in the other hemisphere "where the water runs down the other side", in the words of one who returned to his native land. Along the way we stopped off at some of the typical Argentinean cafés, for a Cafe y Lece (Coffee with milk), just to wake ourselves up and to recover from the extremely tough, long and monotonous journey. Along with the famous Medialunas, which I must admit I miss, like the rest of Argentina, and most of all the warm open people... Medialunas are sweet little crescent shaped cakes made of very soft pastry, and they are one of the traditional dishes that are served for breakfast, with of course the ubiquitous toast with dulce de lece (milk sweet - a sort of cream made of sugar, milk and vanilla, which is best when it is made at home. The best I tasted was made by Laura Jokanovich). And then, another couple of hours to the entrance to Dock Sud, over a large bridge and there before our eyes was the beautiful city of Buenos Aires! We entered the city from the direction of Dock Sud, the place where during the time of the greatest economic strength of Buenos Aires, the largest colony of our émigrés was located. A place that was once famous for its theatres, powerful multinational companies, is now just a forgotten suburb populated by immigrants from the northern provinces of Paraguay and the other surrounding countries. Immigrants who came to Argentina looking for the same things that our émigrés had come looking for decades before them; but many years later when the famous president Peron opened the borders for them to come in too. ImageA street in the famous suburb of La Boca - what more can I say about Buenos Aires? As an insignificant Montenegrin, just aspiring to something big, I just don't feel important enough to write anything about this city, that hasn't already been said or written many years before by those before whom I am not even a grain of sand. I have travelled a lot in my life and been in many parts of the world, but no other place "took me to its heart" so warmly. It was as though I belonged there. As if I didn't ever need to return to my beloved Bay of Kotor. As soon as I arrived in Buenos Aires, all the dear people who I had been working with for years, in spite of all their everyday commitments and work, set aside time for me and the thing I had come for above all; to discover what today's Argentineans of Montenegrin origin know and cherish, of what their forefathers have passed on to them, which they brought here from their old country. ImageLa Boca It is interesting that just a couple of hours after my arrival I had the opportunity to be overwhelmed by new and old friends. I was received at the Embassy of Serbia and Montenegro, at the invitation of my good friend the ambassador of Serbia and Montenegro Ivan Saveljic, together with the management committee of "Zeta" at a large gathering of many people given in honour of one of the women staff, a farewell reception for one person and a welcome reception for me to this beautiful country. There I met for the first time in the flesh "the leading lights of our émigré community" .There were all sorts of people there, from very successful young businessmen who trade in that country, to members of the old émigré community of all colours and flags. Those who still live out the old beautiful Yugoslavia, where we all loved each other so much and where we all lived so happily, those who still dream of the king and old divisions which have long since been forgotten back home... And also those Argentineans who know that some member of their family came from our far rocky country at some time, a country that they love from the stories and memories which their forefathers left them. ImageThe Ambassador of Serbia and Montenegro in Argentina Ivan Saveljic and Gordan Stojovic Montenegro.com in Palermo _Buenos Aires There I saw people who are still living out history. They are living through what we have only read in books or have just skipped over. At that moment a young priest came up to me and said "You must be Gordan Stojovic". I was very surprised that someone should mention my name, in that crowd of people, where I even lost sight of the people who I came with. I said with a smile "Yes that's me", and asked out of curiosity, "Do we know each other"? "No, we don't know each other, but I know you, a friend from Belgrade sent me your book". We talked openly, of course with many differing opinions, but I was pleased to talk to him. That same evening at the reception I was introduced to one of the oldest Montenegrins in Buenos Aires, Boro Novakovic, from Bijelopavlici. Boro, who is 92 years old, can't help but impress everyone. Its difficult to find so much vitality and energy even in younger men. He is a man who has a certain inherited position, and ideology which he presents in such a way that even those who have the most strongly opposed views, even his opponents, just have to respect what he says. I immediately told him who my people were, and of course he knew my family very well, and he remembered which side nearly all my family fought in the second world war. He embraced me like a close relative, and I embraced him, just as the ambassador came up and I said: Here we are three Bjelopavlici men, no one is like us. And so we stood, three generations of Bijelopavlic's, in the Buenos Aires Embassy, in the building which Nikola Mihanovic that great Croatian-Argentinean ship owner once gave to the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. All three of us, in one place, in the same country, where we had come for completely different reasons, and at different times. I just for a short visit, the ambassador for a longer period, and Boro for his whole life, already nearly 60 years. ImageIn the fourth part of the story - A visit to the Lakovic family, the celebration in the LOVCEN restaurant in Buenos Aires

 

 

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