A Bit of Everything

Collection of Big Trifles
He is one of the last sprouts of the old school Belgrade journalism, the best one, and it’s not easy for him in this epoque of text loaders. Curios and a vagabond, a kafana narrator who knows how to keep your attention, writer of magical books printed in one copy and given away to his small grandson on Vidin-kapija, always brought us incredible, simple stories. Those that light up. This time, especially for the hundredth issue, we made him turn his bag inside out and search through his notes. And arrange the most wondrous pieces he finds into one text. Of course, not everything could fit in

By: Miloš Lazić

In the first lesson on journalism, news is explained as a short text, which must contain answers to the following questions: who, where, when, what, how (or why). The last one, how or why, can easily turn news into a commentary. The second lesson was taken from Roman Law: audiatur et altera pars (hear the other side). I learned the third lesson later, when, fifty years ago, I stepped before the chief editor of the magazine I spent my career in. There, on the wall reserved for the Picture, I saw verses of our great poetess, which still echoes in my pulse:

Don’t just report about earthquakes,
Stolen thoughts, stolen amounts.
Report when joy happens somewhere,
When a volcano of goodness opens up.

A pure legend was born from the signature, saying that Desanka Maksimović dedicated those verses to our editorial desk. She didn’t. Much later, the truth was discovered and undermined the myth: it is the first strophe of a poem she wrote who knows when, and it was hanging in the place of the icon because she sang about the way we wrote at the time. It was our motto, both in work and in life.
During a moving, the motto got lost (even if it would be good to have it today). Although we were dangerously downsized in the meantime, many continued living and writing according to that testament. I see it while going through dusty notebooks, which I take good care of, with hidden hope I will turn them into stories one day. Finally, I was now given the opportunity to publish a small part of that treasury, as well as to write an introduction to a newspaper text for the first time – in first person singular!


Miloš Teodorović, later Knjaz Miloš Obrenović, was as poor as a church mouse. When word spread that he was getting married, his brother from his mother’s side, duke Milan, commented the news with these words: ”God be with you, why would a homeless man need a wife!? He doesn’t even own the cap on his head.” In the meantime, Miloš became so rich that he spent 1.259 gems, totally weighing 168 carats, for decorating just one side of his sword. He had a reputation of allegedly being illiterate. Even if he was, he was outplayed by Rajko of Raška, our greatest medieval philosopher, who never left a single written trace because he never learned to write.
In a partnership with captain Miša Anastasijević, who traded salt in Walachia, knjaz Miloš gained endless wealth. He invested a significant amount of money into endowments and raised two churches in Belgrade only: Church of St. Archangel Michael or the Cathedral Church, built to be a crypt of the Obrenović family (although only remains of Miloš and his son Mihailo are resting in it), and the Church of Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Topčider. Besides, he left two residences and a palace. The residences are still here, but the palace was destroyed by the bombs in the April plowing of Belgrade in 1941.
Endowment philanthropy has always been existing in Serbian lands, even in parts under foreign dominion, evidenced by numerous monasteries across the Sava and the Danube, in Slavonia and Dalmatia. Philanthropists also helped Serbia, later Kingdom of SCS, turn into a modern European state from a former small oriental area in the second half of the XIX and first half of the XX century.
It is not widely known that the Serbian Red Cross building in Belgrade was raised on a piece of land gifted by Queen Natalija in 1879. Later, due to the construction of the railway station, she allowed soil to be dug from her estate, used for filling Bara Venecija, so that part of the city is today called Prokop (Trench). Unfortunately, her generosity sailed into oblivion when she left King Mihailo and became a nun. The building of present ”Nikola Telsa” School of Electrical Engineering in the Queen Natalija’s Street in Belgrade, originally built for the needs of the Second Female Gymnasium, was partly a legacy of queen Marija Karađorđević.
There is a case of ”philanthropy” which remained out of sight of even the most curious ones. The ”Moskva” (Moscow) hotel in Belgrade wasn’t named after the city, but after Vasily Moskva, important but not so famous Russian banker and benefactor from Sevastopol.
The city Zoo also has its philanthropists. Besides its founder Vlada Ilić, president of the Belgrade municipality, and Aleksandar Kostić, its first director, the greatest were Josip Broz and mister Nik. Whenever Tito would sail out with his ship to cruise the world, ”Galeb” was setting off like a luxurious yacht and returning like a floating menagerie. It was piled up with animals gifted to one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement by his hosts. Tito would disembark the finest specimen on Vanga and the rest to the Garden of Good Hope. Mister Nik was actually Nićifor Aničić, our man from Jadovnik, resident of South Africa. He purchased and then granted the zoo and children of Belgrade everything white: white lions, tigers, elephants, lemurs, kangaroos, camels, antelopes…
In the capital of Serbia, travelers can drink water from 198 public fountains. Interestingly, there used to be twice as many, and most of them were legacies of generous people!


It is known that the first settlement on Belgrade soil was founded by the Celtic tribe of Singi, on the mouth of the Mirijevo Creek, and called Singi Dun, the City of the Singi. The Romans moved the city closer to the mouth of the Sava and Romanized its name into Signidunum. Thus, there is a Celtic Street today in Zvezdara, parallel with the Singidunum Street. Also close is Tribal Street, named after the tribe that inhabited our lands before the Singi.
Turkish censuses from mid-XV century were done mostly for collecting taxes. However, since 1807 and he first real census, we know that one third of the population of Belgrade consisted of ”natives”, one third of people from around Serbia, and one third from everlasting Serbian lands: from Vojvodina, Slavonia, Dalmatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Lika, Banija, Dubrovnik, Gora, Brdo, Old Serbia… Thanks to Turkish censuses, we know that the city had 600 watermills and mills in 1660, moved by horses, and ground only wheat.
When Belgrade, for the first time in recent history, was liberated from foreign dominion in 1807, Black Đorđe Petrović, leader of the uprisers, placed his palace into a small building on Kalemegdan, which guarded the approach to the fortress from the direction of Stambol kapija (gate). The edifice was later turned into a masonic temple, and only later it hosted the Natural Sciences Museum Gallery.
A year later, when Dositej sailed across the Danube near Smederevo and set foot on Serbian soil, he brought a few potatoes ”to feed the hungry people”. Petar Nikolajević Moler, duke of the Sokol nahi, brought him as a gift, without mocking – a colorful cow and two calves. Not long after, as an erudite and literate man, Dositej became manager of all fourteen elementary schools in Serbia.
There is an elementary school ”Dr Dragan Hercog” in Belgrade, one of the rare of its kind in the world. It is dedicated to educating children confined to hospital beds. Teachers visit hospitals in the capital city, and reach remote villages on the city edges, even if there is only one student waiting for them there. They travel by public transportation or on foot.
The basic rule of our orthography ”write as you speak” does not originate from Vuk. He took it over from German philologist Johan Kristoff Adelung, while in the world, that mostly unaccepted innovation was called Adelung’s Principle.
It is known that there were about thirteen thousand Turkisms in Serbian language at the time, but it is much less known that even today there are about three thousand Serbisms in Turkish language today! Turkish linguists explain it with the fact that there were four languages officially used in the Ottoman Empire: Turkish for using ”at home”, Arabic, the language the Kuran was written in, Farsi due to wonderful Persian poetry, and Serbian, the language of the palace, diplomacy and army.
Academician Milutin Milanković is today mostly related with astronomy and cycles of ice ages. It is less known that he was a civil engineer and expert in armored concrete constructions. He came to Serbia from Vienna in the first decade of the XX century to contract the construction and make a design for the Belgrade sewerage.


In the 1880s, phylloxera arrived from America was raging the Old World, threatening to destroy all vineyards. French winemakers were therefore rushing to the Negotin Krajina, which was spared from this terrible epidemic, paying one ducat for one akov (54,4 liters) of young wine, and later transporting the barrels by ships up the Danube to local wine lovers.
Later, in the place of the destroyed vineyards, plum orchards were raised. It was discovered, they say, that the first plum was brought to Europe by a soldier of Alexander the Great. He planted it in the area of present village of Darosava near Aranđelovac in IV century B. C. Much later, Serbia became a plum superpower, with the highest number of plum trees per capita. The country is the biggest world exporter of prunes, and the plum rakia was presented to the world only in the 1930s at an agricultural fair in Italy. Thus, it is no wonder that French cognac and our plum rakia were the only alcoholic drinks permitted in Vermont during the prohibition in the US, and Serbian pork rinds became the only food allowed to be sold in Denmark without strict sanitary control.
In the village of Donja Vrbava under Rudnik, the festival of mulled brandy is held the second day after Serbian New Year, one of a kind in the world.
The production of cheese made of donkey milk has recently commenced in the ”Zasavica” Natural Reserve! Pule, as they named it, is the most expensive cheese in the world, due to its production process and small amounts produced.
Ilija Andrejić, alpinist from Prijepolje, climbed up the frozen waterfall of Sopotnica in the winter of 2005, the river coming under the peaks of Jadovnik and rushing down into the Lim near Prijepolje.
During the first decade of this century, there was a club-restaurant named ”Vuk Karadžić” in the Vuk’s Endowment building yard in Belgrade. It was managed since 2001 by our famous restaurateur named – Vuk Karadžić.
Aleksandar Belić, prominent Serbian philologist, was the only president for life of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (from 1937 to 1960), for 23 years.
Branko Pešić was mayor from 1965 to 1973. He revitalized Belgrade, and also provided a small apartment for Milunka Savić (1872–1973), heroine of the Balkan wars and the Great War. She was sergeant in the ”Knjaz Mihailo” Second Regiment, a woman with the most decorations in the history of warfare. She was wounded nine times in battles. Due to her immense courage, the French called her ”Serbian Joan of Arc”.
Muammar al-Gaddafi spoke Serbian because he studied in Yugoslavia, in the Academy of Military Aviation in Mostar.


Jelena Popović, born Dimić, dedicated the front side of her tombstone at the old Orthodox Christian cemetery in Vršac to her first husband Joakim Manojlović, and the back side to her second husband – Jovan Sterija Popović.
On St. Vid’s Day in 2012, the so-called ”Kosovo police” confronted an unusual case. In Gazimestan, they knocked down a man to the ground and tore off the t-shirt he was wearing, with a Cyrillic inscription Serbia. They searched him, found his passport and realized that he was Norwegian. Besides, they also discovered that he used to be an officer of the Norwegian KFOR battalion. Thus, good Christian Kash entered the public life of Serbia, with reference to Kosovo and Metohija. When asked why he did it, he replied that it was his way to apologize to Serbs, at least in his own name.
Karlo Bielitzki (1813-1878), the man who founded the City Library in Sombor in 1859, worked as librarian and secretary in it for free until his death (1878). That library is today named after him.
In an earthquake that hit Mionica in 1998, the family house belonging to seventy-eight years old Nadežda Petrović from Liso Polje near Ub, was destroyed. The commission in charge made a firm promise to Nadežda that her house will be renewed by 2044. It will certainly be a nice gift for her 124th birthday.
At the beginning of the April war in 1941, Academician Aleksandar Deroko rolled the completed designs of the Church of St. Sava, pushed them into water pipes and buried them deep in the garden of his house in Varoš kapija to preserve them from bombing.
Author of the unforgettable Serbian Trilogy, Stevan Jakovljević, was professor of phytobiology at the Pharmaceutical Faculty, rector of the Belgrade University and academician. His younger sister Milica wrote heartbreaking weekend-novels in sequels and signed them as Mir-Jam. Who of the two do you think is more famous today?
The Congolese tribe Tiv, today settled in Nigeria, proclaimed the famous neuropsychiatrist and ethnopsychologist from Belgrade, dr Časlav Hadži Nikolić, for their chieftain. The official ceremony was not held, because the doctor didn’t have the money to buy three cows, six goats and rice for the feast observing the enthronement.
Famous Serbian actor Radomir Raša Plaović (1899–1977) graduated first architecture and then chemistry at the Belgrade University. He never attended any art school, including acting school.
Whenever he wishes to make a phone call to his children in Switzerland, Željko Stamenković from the village of Nesvrt in mount Besna Kobila has to climb a tree one kilometers away from his house. It is the nearest place with mobile signal range. That is why he placed a ladder next to the tree and made a nice phone booth for himself.
The full expression Crazy Nasta (Ludi Nasta) is actually Crazy Nasta from Dorćol. He was the only Serb who stayed in Belgrade in 1813, when Turks took over the city from the rebels and ”expelled all infidels”. He refused to leave.


Čajna sausage (Serbian ”čajna” can have a double meaning – ”tea” or ”China”) has nothing to do with tea. It originates from China and arrived to Serbia under the English name China sausage – ”translated” by someone as ”čajna” (tea).


Story goes that the relations between Greece and Yugoslavia became very cold in 1931. According to apocrypha, Yugoslav king Aleksandar Karađorđević, while attending an official meeting, ordered Turkish coffee. The Greeks considered it a provocation.


In Western Serbia, above Soko-grad and the Monastery of St. Nikolai of Serbia, a slim gold plated cross rises from the wavy sea of greenery. Thirteen and a half meters tall, it shines under the rays of sun. The cross is a gift to Serbs from the Vrobel family in Germany, as apology for the horrors done to Serbia in 1999 during the eleven weeks of bombing by nineteen countries of the Northern Atlantic Pact. The cross was raised on March 24, 2000.


The first actor who played Winnetou in Hollywood westerns was Pierre Brise, even more popular than legendary Gary Cooper at the time. In the version of the same movie filmed in Germany, based on the book of Karl May, the role of the Apachi chieftain was very successfully played by Gojko Mitić from Leskovac.

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