Letter from Belgrade

That feeling of freedom

Dear reader, 

#Covid19 has completely reversed our family, business and life routine in recent months. I am writing to you from Zemun, part of Belgrade on the Srem side of the city. Zemun used to be a special city and some people from Zemun still say today – a city near Belgrade. My wife is a dentist and because of her job and the risk it carries, I stopped going to the office in the center of Belgrade on March 15. Since then, I have only crossed the bridge a few times to bring groceries to my parents. 

What was seen with the naked eye was that my Zemun had become deserted. With its beautiful quay and market, Zemun has always been a lively part of the city and a traffic hub. There were no more people now. Bakeries, shops and newsagents were closed because people could not be transported to their jobs. There was no more nervousness because it was too crowded on the quay or on the market. Simply, the measures that were prescribed emptied the streets of this small sweet town. When it comes to measures, Serbia was mentioned throughout Europe as a country with very strict measures. 

The images I will remember for the rest of my life are a column of military trucks from Bergamo, the arrest of journalists for their texts, a spring that was different because nature finally regained its space in our lives and the applause my daughter received practicing the violin from people sitting on terraces of adjacent solitaire. 

What bothered me the most were the long weekend quarantines. Until we realized that we should run away from the city, it was really tense to spend time in the apartment. I don’t know if others like me had that feeling of freedom as soon as they stepped on the street, raised their hands and took a deep breath. Some say that people think about freedom only when it is taken away from them. Fortunately, some of our freedoms were taken away from us a few years ago, so we quickly got used to these measures of sitting in quarantine. We all respected the measures in a disciplined manner. Often, when I told the children to go out for a 30-minute walk to the Zemun quay and take some air, I received warnings from my wife: “Don’t go anywhere, he will shout at all of us again because we were walking.”

By the way, I had a feeling that we were working even harder in quarantine. Our day was divided into blocks depending on when was the TV school. We had to share devices so that the children could complete their obligations at school. My students moved to work from home in a disciplined manner. I tried to animate them with tasks in order to focus on their development. Now I needed a lot more time to teach. Earlier, I prepared classes, went to Novi Sad, held classes and finished for that week. Now I had to first prepare a program for each of them individually, and then give them an example of how it sounds. Then, to listen a few times to what they sent me and write them a comment.

The virus also brought some good things. We had lunch together again every day. We talked more, discussed and hung out with each other. I edited the photos from the phone and transferred them to the computer, wrote a blog about the use of TikTok in the election campaign and gave several lectures on Zoom.

Since the measures were relaxed, life has returned to the streets of Zemun. Admittedly, very abruptly and out of control. Unfortunately, people do not follow the advice, but what can you do. We can only believe that the warm weather will weaken the virus and that regardless of the fact that it is among us, it will no longer be so strong.

 Milos Djajic

About Milos

Milos Djajic is a professor on Academy of Art in Novi Sad, Serbia, activist, blogger, communication expert, advocacy consultant and host of #hešteg series at Al Jazeera Balkans. Loves skiing, nature and photography. Milica’s and Tamara’s father, Ana’s husband.

Blog: milosdjajic.com

Tw: milosdjajic

IN: Milos Djajic

 

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