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He has been part of Serbian literature and culture since the ”Day” in 1958. There are certain poems of his, such as ”Serbia”, which everyone knows and consider their own, so the name of the poet can be easily forgotten. Texts about him are not numerous or tense, but there are reliable ones. He was a lyricist, a flower in the garden between two Brankos. He sang, traveled, had a long life with bards and bohemians. They say that he is the author of the famous graffiti: ”Girls from Valjevo are the most beautiful girls of Belgrade.” He knew that poetry always finds its own cursed boys, who will write and preserve it like a sparkle in the night. And he knew how to be one of them

By: Dragan Lakićević
Photo: ”Adligat”, Momir Alvirović, NR Archive

Three years have passed since the death of Petar Pajić.
He had a relatively long life for a poet – born in Valjevo in 1935, died in Belgrade in 2017.
There was an anecdote: allegedly, someone mentioned him to Desanka and she asked:
– Is that the kid from Valjevo?
– He’s not a kid; he’s forty years old!
– Every snot-nosed kid is forty today – Desanka said.


He lasted long as a poet as well. He appeared in the Matica Srpska ”First Book” edition in 1958, entitled Day, and published about a dozen more collections of poems after it. His most famous title was Pure Age from 1968, renewed in 1990, and his most famous poem was ”Serbia”, disputable and ”under surveillance” at a time… One of those poems everyone knows and accepts, so the name of the poet could be easily forgotten: ”I have been in Serbia / Serbia is imprisoned! // Serbs sitting in kafanas, / Some drunk, some slaughtered…”
There are only a few supreme poems about Serbia. This Pajić’s poem is one of them:

Serbian leader Karađorđe
Was killed by another leader.
The place of the slaughter
Serbs call Radovanje (Rejoicing)

Monuments were raised
Both to the assassin and the assassinated.

Now every Serb fights
With his two histories.

He eagerly and easily wrote stories: ”Deaths of My Grandfather”, ”Imagination of the Entire Gavrilović Family”, ”Pictures from Childhood”, satire, newspaper reports. Poems for children, picture book How to Warm Up Snowflakes (the prototype of the main character, the baker, could have been the poet’s father, a baker from Valjevo).
Nothing in excess! He never competed with anyone, in anything, not even the number of books. He was self-assured, although he never said it. He easily endured being in the shadows of the closest and best ones – Steva, Brana, Ljuba, Matija…


Much is known about his poetry. Texts about him are neither numerous nor forced, but they are reliable. Zoran Mišić noticed him very early. With his foreword to Selected Poems in Serbian Literary Cooperative’s ”Kolo”, Radivoje Mikić gave a recapitulation of a poetic world and procedure, entitled ”From Symbolism to Bitter Patriotism”. In his youth, Pajić was member of the poetic group of Neosymbolists, led by Branko Miljković.
He wrote poems about snow and the north, cherished family and love motives: ”She entered the supermarket. Everything came to life: / Cows started mooing from the milk in cartons…” The titles of his books create a picture of him: Love in the Hills, Mountains are Glowing by the Seas, If We Grow Up to the Stars…
Pajić was a lyricist, like a flower in the garden from Branko to Branko. He wrote poems, traveled, sat in Belgrade kafanas. He had a long life with bohemians, both older and younger… A man from Valjevo: ”This Belgrade is wonderful. You can be without a cent in your pocket for decades, and still be drunk every day… Wherever you enter, you see someone waving and calling: Pero, Pero, come for a drink!”
He worked in a convenient spot, in Radio Belgrade, at the very shore of the strait called: Lipa–Šumatovac–Zora–Grmeč.
People say that he was the author of the famous graffiti: Girls from Valjevo are the most beautiful girls of Belgrade.
During the 1970s, he was editor of the ”Most Beautiful Verses” show broadcasted on Radio Belgrade 2, dedicated to young poets. Young poets from all parts of the country where Radio Belgrade 2 could be heard, were sending their poems. Pera was selecting them with his associates and every week at the same time, in the ”Most Beautiful Verses” show, he read the most beautiful one. After hearing it, listeners call the show and give their comments, praise, criticize, vote… (People say that listeners were running from the blocks of the Students’ City to call the studio from the phone booth near the canteen, to praise a poem they had just heard.) At year-end, a collection entitled Most Beautiful Verses was published. It was a great honor to be part of the Most Beautiful Verses of Radio Belgrade. Young poets were characterized by it: ”He was in the Most Beautiful Verses!” As if he were in Kosovo with Milan Rakić or in Bogdan Popović’s anthology!... Even famous lawyer Kastratović bragged that a long time ago, Pera Pajić ”broadcasted his poem on the radio”. He couldn’t ask for more literary glory.


He was alongside young poets his entire life. In the recent quarter of a century, we were, together, the permanent jury of the youth poetic competition ”Desanka Maksimović”, organized by the Valjevo Gymnasium and Serbian Literary Cooperative. In the eve of Desanka’s birthday, on May 16, a number of collections of young poets’ poems used to arrive every year – high school students from Serbia, Montenegro and Republic of Srpska. (Montenegro was sometimes absent, due to political wrongdoings of local authorities, who tortured schools and students, teachers and adults!)
Then, a three-member jury meets in the old Cooperative to read poems, out loud, from early morning to late at night. We select better, then even better and then the best. Pera listens carefully, listens to the language and meaning with his most sensitive sense. Even after a few drinks, he was still curious, fresh, modern…
Then we go to Valjevo. There, in the ceremonial hall of the old gymnasium, we listen to ten finalists, who arrive with their mentors – Serbian language professors. We praise and award the best students. Some come with a friend, one boy came with his father, mother and brother – it was so important to them to hear their son’s poem in Desanka’s gymnasium…
Petar always gives his comments: what is obsessing and featuring young poets this year? What are their subjects and dilemmas? How do they express them?
The celebration of poetry continues the following day, on the square next to Desanka’s monument, and then in Brankovina. There, in Brankovina, we visit the graves of rebels and poets from the Nenadović family: Priest Matija, Jakov, Aleksa, Ljuba. One monument writes: ”The Nenadović family moved from Morača to the Valjevo Nahi”. Pera knows I’m from Morača. He smiles and asks every year: ”Shall we first go to Desanka or to your folks?” I reply that Desanka is mine as much as the Nenadović family is his. And then all our local patriotisms embrace.
Pera is sensitive to us Serbs from Montenegro – his mother’s family was from somewhere in Durmitor. Strict and suspicious: he knew the Montenegrin fickleness and faithlessness well…


Everyone knew and greeted him in Valjevo – there was some goodness streaming among people and towards the poet… Former school friends, neighbors, professors, coffee-shop owners… Legends of Valjevo, they knew that Pera was one of the heroes of those legends.
Shortly after Desanka’s death, Petar’s mother died, so we dropped by to Pera’s house in Valjevo. May roses grown by Petar’s mother were still blossoming in the narrow garden next to the yard. I asked him: can I pick a rose and give it to the young poetess we will award tonight in the Valjevo Gymnasium … Since then, every year, for a quarter of a century, the awarded poet receives, besides other awards, a ”Rose from the garden of Petar Pajić”. When there were no more left in the poet’s mother’s garden, we found them in other gardens of our city of Valjevo.
All that was accompanied with many drinks, because young poets leave with their hosts from Valjevo, and we, older ones, sit in some of the famous kafanas in Valjevo – we greeted so many dawns in so many places and returned to Belgrade the third day…
Thanks to Petar, I got to know the Valjevo area and many people, its famous surroundings, churches and monasteries. They once asked him: is that Lakićević of yours also from Valjevo? And he replied: Yes, in a way…
He was witty. Never conceited. He didn’t hate anyone. He didn’t envy those more famous than him. He only used to be ”uncomfortable” in drinking, as so many poets we know. You had to know your way with him: change kafanas…
He didn’t win the ”Desanka Maksimović” award for a long time (for so-called adult poets), but he congratulated every winner. When he received it, in 2014, he was already weak, at the age of 80, but he spoke without a prepared speech, lightly and fluently: how Desanka, even when she was older than him, wrote love poems, but didn’t print them separately; she inserted verses from love poems into other poems…


His wrote his perhaps best poems in the 1990s. They were, in contrast tones, his recordings of reality, which no one could have predicted: irony, bitterness and humor from the poems created exhibitions of art painting of war and disintegration: ”Carnival Revolution”, ”Picture from the Newspapers”, ”Velvet Revolution”. He dedicated his poem ”Serbian Squad” to Patriarch Pavle. ”It’s Snowing” is a celebration of lyrics:

It’s snowing on the ground, from the heights.
Over lines. Over borders.
Over states, homelands,
It’s snowing on human faces.

It’s snowing on old men and women,
On hospitals and beds,
On lips, on sentences,
It’s snowing on parents.

It’s snowing on the entire world.
It’s snowing without mercy. Cold.
The entire world is a big snowfall.
White grave, miserable.

It’s snowing for years without forests.
On Serbia, on the poor human refuge.
There is no direction, no road.
It’s snowing, snowing, snowing.

”Šumatovac”, ”Lipa”, ”Grmeč”, ”Arilje”, ”Sloboda”, ”Savinac” have all disappeared – all on Pajić’s way from the Radio to Banjica, where he lived… Brana, Steva, Čiča, Dobrica, Maša Gavrilović have also all disappeared – from Valjevo to Bjeluša, from Tisa to Raška…
There, somewhere, in the nineties, in the Serbian Literary Cooperative, Petar and I were sitting together with Milorad Đurić, poet, editor in chief of the good old Cooperative. Names of streets were changing in Belgrade those years – also quickly, also with all kinds of intentions and often upon political orders. There is an anecdote (there are many about Pajić).
Petar Pajić says: ”As things are going with these authorities, we won’t get our streets in Belgrade”, and Miša Đurić replied: ”What do you care – you’ll get a street in Valjevo”… And Lakićević adds: ”Then you publish an add: I’m exchanging a street in the center of Valjevo for a smaller one in Belgrade”…
I don’t know whether he already got a street in Valjevo, or in Belgrade, but people are walking down his street already, as in his poem ”Poets”:

Poetry will always find someone to write it
It has its cursed boys
Who live in distant places
And their miserable rooms
Like when a man lights a match in despair –
They light words and throw them out, through the window
Not noticing that they are lighting the world.


In Adligat”
Already during his lifetime, Petar Pajić began creating his collection-legacy and gifted it to the Association for Art, Culture and International Cooperation ”Adligat” in Banjica, the Belgrade neighborhood he lived in. (He was member and frequent guest of ”Adligat”). After his passing away, according to the poet’s wish, the entire collection was bequeathed to ”Adligat” by Petar’s sisters Lepa Topalović and Mirjana Radivojević. In ”Adligat’s” Museum of Serbian Literature, Petar Pajić’s Legacy includes his entire library and archive, as well as numerous objects from the writer’s life, diplomas, medals… The Legacy is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, for visitors who previously schedule their visit.


Petar Pajić completed elementary school and the Valjevo Gymnasium in his home city. He graduated Yugoslav and General Literature at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade in 1959. He began his professional career as reporter of ”Family and Household” magazine, followed by ”Youth” magazine. Since the beginning of 1960s, he worked in Radio Belgrade, longest as editor of Program 2. Together with Branko Miljković, he was one of the forerunners of Neosymbolism in Serbian literature. He won several awards for poetry and prose, including ”Golden Cross of Prince Lazar” of the St. Vid’s Day Poetic Communion in Gračanica, ”Golden Jug”, ”Radoje Domanović”, ”Desanka Maksimović”, ”Branko Ćopić”, ”Žiča Chrysobull”…

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