Unforgettable Lessons
She taught young people to write, think, see, feel, live. She knew how important preserving style, literacy and language is. She admired masters of style, especially Andrić. Many great poets, such as Vasko Popa, were introduced to the refinedness of language and literature by her. She knew Bogdan Popović’s Anthology of Old Poems by heart. In her last class, together with her students, she sang Branko’s poem ”Girl on a Well” in a low voice. Solemnly and seriously

By: Dragan Lakićević

Many, or almost everyone, remember their teachers, professors. We remember more good things than bad – time passes: memory of youth makes things and the past in general nicer. Still, some among them are special. Here is one such teacher from my or our youth – many remember her. Some have already mentioned her.
Anđelija Popov, professor at the Department of Yugoslav Literature at the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade.
We called her Grandma Anđa or shorter Banđa. She wasn’t an old woman, but we were kids.
She looked like an older girl, in colorful clothes. Something ancient, not aged, was blowing from her face – voice and words.
Anđelija Popov held Practical Stylistics classes, (Stylistics is, we could say, ”a science on poetic means of expression, figures and word pictures”; tropes are word pictures – ”transferring words from their real into their incorrect meaning”.) The practical classes were part of the Theory of Literature class. Professor Ivo Tartalja was professor of Theory of Literature at the first year of studies, excellent interpreter of poetics, son of Gvido Tartalja, famous children’s poet.


At the very beginning, we were surprised by her attitude toward us as her own children. We thought we were grownups: mature, just enrolled in the university, other professors addressed us as colleagues, while she called us children or my child. Then we realized that she, then, at the first year of studies, was transferring us from younger to older age, from gymnasium to university.
She would first open a page in her notebook for each of us: first and last name, school we graduated at, name of our literature professor and title of our graduation paper. She wanted to know where we studied before, who instructed us to study literature and linguistics (perhaps some of her former students), what we have been working on before, which subject we have chosen.
Then, something specific: ”Tell me your first and last name as it is originally pronounced in your place of birth!” She insisted on calling us by our names people in our birthplace called us. And she never made a mistake in pronunciation.
If we told her we were sick, she never forgot to, already tomorrow, or when we show up in the classroom, ask us how we were and if we recuperated. ”These are autumn days, children, you have to take care of yourselves!” Grandma Anđa would say.
She knew who of us was living in the dorm, asked whether we had moved in, how it is, if we are accustomed to it, how the conditions for studying are… ”By the way, you have libraries. Our department has its reading room as well!”
She carefully read our papers – in fact, she taught us to express ourselves clearly, gradually, literately. Her colleague Ivo Tartalja remembers it too. He notes that there were several elements she found especially important for a written assignment: correctly understood subject, substantive and well-chosen material, good composition, transparent paragraphs, clearly stylized sentences and appropriate choice of words, conquered mother tongue grammar, correct orthography, organized technical side.
Those who learned some of her rules or instructions early never forgot them. Those who conquered and practiced all that were able to write and teach others how to write.
Her teaching included most stylistics, as well as general literacy-grammar, analyses and reading ethics, as the basic home-school upbringing.


Anđelija Popov was born on September 11, 1909 in Zrenjanin. In the farewell speech, held on her funeral on November 28, 1998 at the New Cemetery in Belgrade, professor Jovan Deretić mentioned the main streams of life of the beloved deceased: ”From her birthplace of Zrenjanin, after passing the higher vocational examination, she came to Belgrade and enrolled in the famous XIII group, where she studied national literature, local history, foreign languages. She always remembered her professors with gratitude and respect: Pavle Popović, Aleksandar Belić, Miodrag Ibrovac and others. From her graduation in 1932 to the arrival to our faculty in 1954, she changed several jobs: first substitute, then professor at the gymnasium in Vršac, where she was fired during the war by the German occupation forces, then she became professor in the gymnasium in Zrenjanin, then Petrograd, proof-reader in the ‘Free Vojvodina’ printing house after the war, then again professor of the gymnasium in Zrenjanin… professor in the school for teachers in Novi Sad…”
In his memoirs Remembrances, academician Vasilije Krestić remembers that his gymnasium professor in Zrenjanin, Anđelija Popov, initiated his love for reading. Vasko Popa was also her gymnasium student.
She has also done many valuable things during the twenty years of teaching at the Faculty of Philology. She held many professional lectures for professors and teachers of Serbian linguistics in the Association for Serbian Language. She was associate of the Literature and Language magazine, where she published works such as: ”About the Need of Systematic Work in Teaching Literacy” (1955), ”Forms of Essays” (1956), ”About Cultivating the Intellectual Style of High School Students” (1964). She is author of the book: Cultivating Literary Expression in Vocation Schools: The Process of Writing, Analysis and Evaluating Essays… Furthermore, she was editor of the contemporary edition of Cervantes’ Don Quixote translated by Đorđe Popović. She translated from Slovenian. Famous is her extraordinary analysis of Andrić’s story ”Aska and the Wolf”.
In terms of literacy, she was a trustworthy authority. She taught the writer of these memoirs what congruence is.


”She passed quietly through life – wrote Jovan Deretić – almost without a sound, she was humble, spoke little about herself, asked little for herself and, unfortunately, received even less, only after retirement she received an apartment, her own place, and was happy about it as if she were beginning, not ending her career.”
She retired in 1973. We didn’t even know we were her last generation.
About ten years after graduating, I published several books, I was half way between student and writer, and she was in deep retirement. I met her in Lole Ribara Street – now it’s Svetogorska Street again. She recognized me, stopped, gazed at me with her caring-strict blue eyes of a dear old woman: ”I’ve been following you, colleague Lakićević, you’ve become a serious writer… I wish you continue like that. I’m happy when my students are advancing...”
On her last class, at the end of the scholar year, without even anticipating that those were her last days in the classroom, our fellow students from our two groups – we attended stylistics classes together – collected money from all of us and bought a book for professor Anđelija – a gift and memory. They wrote an inscription and we all signed it.
Mrs. Anđelija received the book solemnly and ceremonially, as if she were receiving the highest medal. Then, at the very end of the class, she said: ”Children, this is a ceremonial day and class. Let’s end it that way – let’s sing together, quietly, not to disturb other classes, Branko’s song A Girl on the Well.”

When I was here last night,
To get some water,
A young black-eyed boy came,
On a lightly paced horse,
He said hello, and then asked:
Girl, give me some water!”

I have always known this poem by heart, but, while I’m writing this, I’m checking every single word in the original edition: one mustn’t make mistakes when quoting poetry – that’s what Anđelija Popov taught us.
We were singing. Serbian poetry was singing in us.


She loved masterpieces, mostly poetry.
In his memoire-essay about Anđelija Popov, entitled ”Dedicated to Cultivating Style”, Professor Ivo Tartalja started with what I will put at the end of this reminiscence. He wrote: ”In her older age, Professor Anđelija Popov had a serious surgery. When she spoke about it, she mentioned by the way that the hospital staff heard that she knows wonderful old poems from Bogdan Popović’s anthology. When the surgeon was supposed to take the threads out, he asked her to tell him the poems she knows by heart. But which one – she asked – I know every poem from Bogdan Popović’s anthology.” And then, in her hospital bed, she told poems of Serbian poets to the surgeon.
That was her school: learning poetry by heart!


She loved Serbian writers, masters of style, most of all Andrić. The girls immediately, in places where they could smoke, started talking that she used to be, perhaps even now still is in love with the writer of ”Jelena, the Woman of My Dream”. (Andrić was still alive back then – those who saw him taking a walk in Tašmajdan were very happy.) However, professor Popov was in love with Andrić’s refined style and language – the refined expression, as a climax of speaking, writing and artistic narration.


In a break between two of her classes, poet and bohemian Ambro Marošević, just a bit older than us (who died in a traffic accident several years later in a busy Belgrade street) entered the famous hall no. 11. He introduced himself and asked us to listen to a few of his poems, so that we could get to know him and come to his literary evenings. His main poem was entitled ”Everyone Has an Aunt”. (In speech and rhetoric forms, he was a follower of Brana Petrović – in those years, poetry was widely popular: telling poetry was present everywhere, there was even an expression ”show-biz poets”). In the middle of his second or third poem, Grandma Anđa entered the classroom. She saw the poet reciting, stopped and moved between the door and the coat rack, quietly, so as not to disturb the act. She waited for Ambro to finish. When he did, the poet bowed to her, thanked her and left.


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