“The next day, I woke up early, all diligent and happy. It was Thursday! The time for registration at the Faculty of Medicine! I prepared my documents and my bag and had a Serbian cheese sandwich with some milk. I said goodbye to my mother and rushed to the bus station. I got on the bus and sat next to the window just like last time. The surprise today was that the movie and scenes I watched previously had changed. I instead watched new scenarios.”
“The first scenario: I was in a lab coat, a doctor treating people and viewing blood day and night. My schedule was tight, and I was always ready for any emergency! Despite all that, I was happy. I loved this profession and enjoyed helping others and making them feel better!”
“The second scenario: It portrayed my social life like the snow in Siberia, cold and lifeless, with no spouse, no family, no children, and no friends! Besides, maybe if there was a spouse, he would be accompanied by family problems, and issues with controlling the children! Problems would mainly be due to the schedule of such a profession, which requires one to be free of any responsibilities rather than having a family!”
“The third scenario: It was the darkest of all. I saw that all my dreams and ambitions were vanishing and that mountains of sand were impeding my movement. Things were not going well, and the more I tried to get there, the further and further I found myself away! It was like running after a mirage!”
“The scenarios were clashing. Some were intimidating and sad simultaneously. I woke up to find myself still sitting by the same window but fearful and anxious. I even decided to go back home, but suddenly, I remembered my father with all his love and trust. I saw his face and my mother’s and recalled hearing him talk about losers who went to the city and came back with nothing! My return would mean I was joining their list! I had a strange feeling that motivated me and pushed me forward! I stood up all of a sudden as if I was avoiding something!”
“The same driver as last time looked at me and said, ‘Today, you are ready. Last time I had to remind you! I hope this means well and is an indication that you have become more robust and can tolerate more in this monster city!’
“I thanked him for his words and rushed off the bus. I only had two objectives: to finish the registration process and to find the location of the dormitory where I would be staying. Therefore, I went to the registration office but unfortunately could not find that lady. It was that rude fellow instead, so I handed him my papers. He did all needed without uttering a word.”
“How about my dormitory?’
‘The lists will be announced within the next few days.’
“I thanked him and went back quickly as if fleeing something. I got on the bus back home. However, I was feeling uncomfortable. When I arrived home, I headed to my room right away. I threw myself on the bed to begin imagining the different images, scenes and events that were to happen in the coming weeks. My mother entered the room and asked me to have dinner, so I joined the family right away and went to the dining table, and my father suddenly said,
‘Do you still intend to study medicine?’
‘Yes, father,’ I answered confidently. ‘I have finalized all registration matters, and everything went well. In the next few days, I will move to the Student Dormitory.’
‘I wish you all the best, my daughter.’
“My sister said, ‘Dad, you love her the most. She is the closest to your heart.’ My brother nodded in agreement, with a kind of smile.”
“My father said, ‘but I love you all equally. She is the youngest, and parents usually have an affection for the youngest, yet I swear I love you all. I feel each one of you is a gift.’
“We started preparing for the next day, which marked the beginning of the new semester. It was preferable to have things preset, so we went early, each went to her college. It was my first lecture at the university, and I was eager to attend it. Sometimes, I told myself, I wish those years and terms would have ended quickly so that I could be a real doctor. I entered the classroom and was surprised that the lecturer was a young man who introduced himself briefly and started explaining the lesson. He was gazing peculiarly at me, and whenever I caught him staring, he would attempt to sound reasonable and look at everybody. The lecture came to an end, and one of my colleagues approached me and introduced himself.
‘My name is Dragan Đorđević, I am studying this course.’
‘Nice to meet you. I am Vera Petrović.’
“I felt he was bold and had broken all the rules of etiquette and manners. It was our first day, and it was not proper to introduce ourselves. Anyway, he was not my type at all.
“I went to attend my next lecture, and the professor was stressed out and exhausted. He was not young at all. Years had left their mark on his face and body. He delivered the lecture without looking at the students. He was just trying to shed the burden of the lecture as if he was in a hurry. The classes of the day came to an end, so I went back to the dormitory. My colleagues had arrived before I did. We started chatting about our day, and I was more of a listener than a speaker. Words were futile, and such chats did not suit my personality. Sonia Boković then told us about a concert for a musical band in the city center, and then she said, ‘How about we all go!’
“I immediately apologized and said that I was not feeling well and that I needed to get some sleep. I was shattered after my first long day.
The next day, I attended my classes at the faculty. One of the lecturers was a young lady who was extremely smart and pretty, and the other was a middle-aged person. At the end of the day, I found that all lecturers were quite acceptable for me, and I couldn’t complain about listening to them. Nevertheless, two weeks after the start of the term, the lecturer with the weird looks asked me to see him in his office.
‘Alright’, I said, ‘When do you wish me to come?’
‘After you finish your second class. I will be free then.’
‘Ok, see you then.’
“I knocked on the door on time, and there he was, waiting for me.
‘Please have a seat. How are your studies? Is everything going well in the rest of the subjects?’
‘Yes, everything is fine!’
‘Do you have friends in town?’
‘No, I am still new. As for my colleagues, it is still too soon to start relationships, and I never intend to.’
‘I have liked you since the first time I saw you, and I am really interested in taking this further. I am quite aware of all the academic conventions and laws that prevent a lecturer from having an affair with any of the students! However, I really like you!’
“He talked and tried to seem sophisticated. Still, I was in a totally different world. Is this the university I was eager to join? Is this the place where a lecturer would seek an affair with one of his students? Is this the academic institution to which I have come to become a doctor?
“Questions invaded my mind and rolled like a snowball, becoming bigger and bigger. I really wanted to respond aggressively to shut him up. Yet, I decided to act smartly and avoid trouble. The last thing I needed, at that time, was him giving me a hard time and putting obstacles in my way! After a while, he spoke about the same issue again, but after some quick-thinking I said,
‘I will get back to you on this. Can I be excused?’
‘Yes, you are free to go.’
“I directly left for the dormitory, but deep inside, I was raging like an erupting volcano. I wished I had two wings so I could fly away from these animals. This was an awkward moment, and I barely had the experience to handle it. When I got into my room, I took a cold shower and threw myself on the bed. I rolled over again and again and saw myself chased by beasts. They were trying to get me! I could not sleep nor get rid of the negative thoughts. Even though I was quite inexperienced when it came to love affairs, I had read dozens of stories and watched lots of movies. Suddenly, Yagoda Trajkovski came in quite thrilled and said,
‘Today, I met a very handsome someone. He was very kind to me and sat next to me all day.’
“I said to myself, this young man is at least her age! She can love him and even get married to him, but me! What sort of future would be waiting for me? He only wants to go to bed with me, then with another and another, and so on.
Yagoda Trajkovski noticed that I was absent-minded and that I was not listening to her at al1, so she asked, ‘Is everything alright? Is anything wrong?’
‘Yagoda,’ I replied, ‘We have become roommates, and I see you more than I see my family! I need to ask you something, and I want you to be completely frank, please. Your opinion will be the foundation for many things for me. You need to be very straightforward, please! Do you think I am beautiful? Is there anything different about me?’
’I will honestly answer you,” Yagoda replied.
“Sonia Boković came in at the same time and was happy. She had had a lovely day, and things were going well for her also. She could feel the stress inside the room, though, so Yagoda asked her to have a seat until she could answer my fundamental question. Sonia Boković sat silently and listened carefully.
“Yagoda looked at me and said, ‘I will answer your questions frankly, and Sonia will answer you, too. Listen, sweetheart, when I first saw you, I wished I had even half of your beauty. You are perfectly tall, with beautiful hair. No one can overlook your simple, elegant hairstyle, which suits you perfectly. Your big brown eyes are captivating, with your blonde and hazelnut hair, let alone your perfect teeth and your fit figure. Are you still asking whether you are beautiful or not? Aren’t you aware of your beauty?’
“Sonia interrupted and said, ‘Can I say something?’
“I answered, ‘Of course you can.’”
“Sonia said, ‘Your way of speaking is charming, and you barely have any experience in life. You have just come from school, like all of us but you have seen things differently. You are more educated, more confident, have goals in life, and you are highly independent. If you have all of this and you are only a junior student, what will things be like when you graduate?’ Sonia continued, ‘But why do you ask? Has anything happened today to disturb you?’
“I will be frank. Today I had a very embarrassing situation. I need to know what you think about it. My professor asked me to go to his office after class, and then asked me out on a date! This was a shock to me, and I never saw it coming. Why me?!’
“Sonia advised, ‘Listen, Vera, you cannot make a hasty judgment. I know why you are upset. Maybe he actually wants a proper relationship, or maybe he even wishes to marry you. He is a mature person, well aware of the rules and regulations of the university. Moreover, he knows what he could face in case you decide to complain against him. I believe you should not prejudge his intentions!’
“Yagoda interrupted and said furiously, ’You are like a sister to me! I need to be frank and speak plainly. This person is a womanizer. He will take advantage of you, then get rid of you! These are far from the expected manners of a university professor. He is a person without morals. He sees himself strong enough to exercise pressure on you and take your innocence away. I have to say, if you do not draw the line, he will surely cross it!
“I continued with my questions. ‘The question is, why me? I do not want to hear anything about my beauty, hair, eyes, or even how tall I am. I need another reason! Can you answer me?’
“Sonia answered, wandering, ‘Maybe you caught his attention with your gazes. Did you give him any signals? He could have misunderstood them as admiration!’
“I assured her, ‘No, not at all. I even avoided his looks at me! Is every look a sign of admiration? I also spoke to my colleague Dragan to make him understand he is only a close friend of mine, although this Dragan is nobody for me. He is not my type at all! I do not think I did anything to make him feel this way for me!’
“We wrapped it up late at night. The next day, I went to university as usual. As I was entering the classroom, Dragan stopped me and said, ’I am your colleague, and we are only friends. We will remain friends, so I must advise you to stay away from this lecturer, for he is a pervert and a sadistic person. He is also well known for bad manners and has undergone several investigations at the university. Juniors know this from seniors, and each year, seniors warn juniors to stay away from him.
“This was a surprise for me! How did Dragan know! I decided to test him, so I asked, ‘Why? Is there a reason that makes you think something is going on between him and me?’
‘No, but I have noticed his looks toward you during lectures and how he stares at you! And when you started to talk to me, I felt that you were sending him a message!’
“I am really sorry! You are a true gentleman, and I have wronged you. I apologize for that. I swear, from now on, you are like a brother to me, I will ask your help and seek your advice at all times if that is alright.’
‘Sure. You are like a little sister to me as well, and I will not allow anyone to annoy you, and I promise you, no one will dare to! Let us go to the lecture!’
“We went in and sat in the classroom. The professor came in and asked a significant number of questions about previous lectures. He was testing us! The students were striving to answer his questions, but he was severely critical of all their answers. He was clearly offensive, and all of a sudden, he addressed the students saying, ‘I will follow a new approach from now on, by doing pop quizzes all the time. And I will use the grades of such quizzes for the final assessment.’
“It was clear that he was punishing us! Or avenging us! However, the lecture ended in peace.
“He looked at me and said, ‘I need to see you in my office!’
“Why do you need to see me in your office?’ I raised my voice intentionally for everyone to hear.
“I need you to do some work, and you will have extra marks for this.’
“I do not need any extra marks, you can pick someone else.’
“He left in a hurry. The students started to laugh, and Dragan whispered in my ear, ’You were amazing! The faculty will be busy gossiping about this for months, if not years! It takes a lot of courage to do what you just did! I did not see that coming! You sounded so calm! Your actions today have exceeded all expectations! I will now go to my room. Do you need me to walk with you?
“Thank you, Dragan! I will not go to the next lecture. I feel tired and dizzy.’
“But I need you to attend the next lecture so that I can copy it tomorrow, please.’
“All right, then.’
“I went back to my room and was very proud of myself. I felt strong. In the past, I pretended to be healthy, but today, I actually felt strong. This was the spark that started me. I sat on the bed, staring in the room. I discovered that I had not seen the room this way since I started school. I had just seen the details. It was a rectangular room painted in a greyish color, neither black nor white, like hanging in the sky. The furniture was humble, just three silver metal beds, which make one, and three striking full windows. Each window overlooked a particular area, and three regions were the lungs of the room. As for the windows, they wore green curtains, which indicate a modest taste; they did not match the shades of the place nor the furniture. Add to these, three wooden desks, which lack every bit of aesthetics, with dull original wood color. They were simply not painted and looked raw. Behind those desks were solid metal chairs, which look like torture chairs in some kind of prison, in a shiny silver color. The ceiling of the room was extremely high, surrounded by a gypsum frame. The color of the ceiling was closer to natural yellow than artificial.
“The look told of the lack of maintenance and cleaning for decades. The room gave one, the impression of death, with the dim lighting, if I may say. It lacked coherence, it was pale and sounded like a hypnosis room. The trashcan had a confusing color for years had erased it. I thought it seemed like the leftovers of the Ottoman occupation era of Belgrade!
“The most beautiful thing in the room was the door. It takes you swiftly to a lovely period of the Serbian Kingdom! The tradition and door decoration made you think deeply about it. It had experienced a lot and had a pale, sick color. It urgently needed treatment, a paint job at least!
“The door had aged and was fed up with waiting! A ragged carpet sat there, although it barely resembled any sort of carpet. It had decayed and lacked color. I doubt the university-owned such carpet; it could have belonged to a student who had sought to warm the room and tone down the chill in it. This was the room I was staying in, and it sounded as much in pain and trouble as I was. I will not allow anyone to take away my freedom or rights, nor place me in a vulnerable position.
“Today, I pledged to myself to be that female who would draw a line in the sand and never allow anyone to go too far. I am the decision-maker when it comes to my issues; no one else is allowed to play that role.
“After having a rest, I decided to go to the café across the street. It is situated in Revolution Street, which is also called King Alexander Street. This street is by far the longest in Belgrade, and it is an exclusive street of history in the hearts and minds of people of Belgrade. I entered the café, and when the waitress came, I ordered a Pljeskavica (a famous sandwich, which is similar to hamburgers), in addition to a Coke. I sat down and waited, and a young man entered the café and sat alone at the opposite table. He was reading something. The waitress came back with my order, and I started enjoying it. It was as if I was having such a sandwich for the first time ever. The taste was strange, or maybe it was the same taste, but this time, seasoned with freedom, courage and self-confidence. This is what was different about the sandwich. The music in the background was lovely, and the atmosphere was tranquil and peaceful. The odour of smoking came sneaking in from the tables in the back amidst some crazy laughs. Suddenly a young man came from the end and said, ‘Would you like to join us? I can see you are alone.’
“I answered with self-confidence, ‘It is kind of you to invite me, but I would rather sit alone because I enjoy it.’
“As you wish, I did not mean any harm.’
“I am sure you did not. Thank you.’
“I sat for a while, having a self-dialogue, an inner conflict, trying to come up with something. I was trying to take the next step for what had happened, and I decided to challenge everything. I decided I would challenge this coward, who thought he could get whatever he wanted. He saw us as prostitutes, and he totally forgot that one day we will be mothers, medical doctors, and diligent members of society.
“I went back to my room and laid in bed. However, I fell asleep within seconds, and woke up to Sonia and Yagoda saying, ‘You slept enough, wake up.’
“I smiled and woke up with a lot of energy. Sonia noticed I was feeling better and asked, ‘What happened? What changed you?’
“I told them what happened and they were surprised. Yagoda asked me, ‘How did you have the nerve all of a sudden?’
“I told her I have always had it, but something was holding me back. It suddenly launched without notice! I had decided that it would never stop and would resume until my death.
“They said, ‘we will test you then…’
“Since you feel like you were born again, we will all go to the university Night Club (Discotheque).’
“Sure, I will join you!’
“In the evening, we prepared ourselves and wore our best outfits. We wore makeup beautifully and went. The light was stunning, the music was terrific, and the three of us formed a circle and started dancing to the lovely songs. Everything was great until eleven o’clock when some young men got drunk and started bothering us. The security men took them out, and things went back to normal. Nothing was wrong. I felt happier and loved life better than before. I had always been afraid of such moments and feared that I might be too attracted to them!
“We decided to leave and get back to the room. We laughed hysterically on the road, and it was a perfect time. We arrived in the room and threw ourselves on the beds, for the next day was a day off. We intended to wake up quite late!
“Since the day off was a break for all of us, we decided to go to the movies. We agreed to watch a beautiful film called “When my Father was on a Business Trip.” This movie was directed by the infamous Amir Costa Rica. This movie won several awards. The setting of the film was in the early fifties, which was a time of unrest between Tito and Stalin in Moscow. Unlike many communist countries in Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia had managed to set itself free of a permanent connection with the Soviet Union. This was even though Stalin was seen as an ally for Yugoslavia.
“The events of the movie take place in Sarajevo and are narrated in the perception of a six-year-old child called Malik. He had a sleepwalking syndrome and Sena, his mother, told him that Meša, his father, went on a business trip. In fact, he was a victim, who ridiculed a political caricature (on the Tito Stalin Split) in the Party’s newspaper. He was believed to be working with the Uniform (the Communist Information Bureau). The Soviets, then, believed that the leadership of the Communist Yugoslav Party was dominated by the bigot nationalists. Later, Yugoslavia was expelled from the union of communist countries. Besides, his mistress gave information against him in a moment of jealousy to his brother-in-law (Zijo). The latter took the chance and sent him to a hard labor camp. During that time, Communism was called Titoism. The Soviets had extracted every communist with a Tito ideology because they believed that Tito was a deviation from Marxism.
“Similarly, Zijo did such a sleazy thing so that he could have the mistress of Meša for himself. He did all of this in the name of the party. And the fact is that the party had nothing to do with such a snitch! Sena, the mother of the boy, had to work hard to provide for her three children and her mother. She made up with her brother, Zijo, who eventually was diagnosed with diabetes. Malik fell in love with the daughter of a Russian doctor called Maša. However, he never saw her again after she was taken away in an ambulance.
“Nevertheless, he did see his father, at the wedding of his uncle Faro, in a romantic situation with a female pilot. This pilot tried to take her own life with a wire in the bathroom. I believe the affair between Malik and the Russian doctor’s daughter resembles, to an extent, the relationship between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. It was a distant affair, a doomed relationship, especially between Stalin and Tito. The relationship between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia had ended irrevocably.
“When we came back to the room, I asked the girls, ’What was the purpose of the movie we have watched?
“Sonia answered, ‘Well, I thought it was good. The story as a whole was perfect, and you cannot add or delete any of it. It is perfect the way it is. The elements are complete and very convincing! However, I would have expected such a movie to do Tito justice, particularly with regards to creating a stable, independent economy apart from the Soviet Union, and the Warsaw Pact. This led to the deterioration of the relationship between Tito and Stalin. The Soviets’ response came when the Soviet leadership warned Tito’s leadership to amend its policy.
“I asked Yagoda, ‘What is your opinion?’
“Well, I have formed a negative impression of relationships and social connections. How can one family set each other up, because of an affair here and there? Let alone the marriages and affairs! Is that what we want our children to learn? In fact, I agree with Sonia, the movie did earn awards and deserves watching. Still, I would prefer such films to become educational, motivational, and positive, not the opposite!”
“I looked at my friends with admiration and said, ‘You have analyzed it well, and the movie is terrific, particularly in its dramatic processing. It managed to take us back to the fluctuating political era between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, the international relations, the impact of President Tito. It also shed light on how he built Yugoslavia, announced the implementation of a new social communist system, which was different from the Soviet Union. It was an order based on self-autonomy, splitting profit among laborers, granting the owner directly to employees rather than the government. Self-autonomy was the base of the social system in Yugoslavia. That policy led to the prosperity of Yugoslavia in the sixties and seventies. The state is in favor of such movies, which provide a political, cultural, and social perception because they have a great influence and play a significant role in identifying our history, our traditions and conventions, and our culture as a whole. I believe that we were lucky to watch such a movie, which should encourage us in the future to follow. After all, these movies can expand our perception and educate us.’
“Next day, I woke up early and hurried to the university. I sat next to Dragan. The professor came in and distributed our quiz results from the other day. Almost everybody had failed. Dragan and I stared at our papers, and I found out the professor had crossed out my answer even though the answer was correct. I raised my hand to speak, but he simply ignored me.”
“Therefore, I stood up and said, ‘Excuse me, Professor, you have crossed out my answer even though it is correct!’
“What do you mean? Do you think I targeted you personally?’
“I do not know! However, I am trying to notify you of a mistake in correction!’
“He answered furiously, ‘Come to my office!’
“I believe I made it clear before that I will never come to your office!’
“He turned his face away and continued to speak, ‘It is up to you. What is your answer? You can ask about anything in the office, but I have a lecture to give and I will not waste my time answering one student. Is that clear?’
“No, it is not clear!’
“He turned to me and said with rage, ‘Get out of the classroom now!’
“So I said, ‘I will get out, but I will never come back to this classroom or faculty as long as it has professors like yourself!’
“I got out and slammed the door so hard that I felt it would fall off and chase me! The anguish of injustice was unbearable. However, I felt strange energy moving through my body and another force raging inside, waiting to explode against the wrong I had experienced. I promised myself that starting today, I would raise my voice and would not give in to anybody, whoever it is. I would rebel and set myself free, and stand up for myself and not be accessible to oppression or oppressors. I would be against it wherever I go, even if it did not affect me personally, I would not even accept it for others. I would not be enslaved by oppression or the tyranny of others and would rebel to liberate myself.
“Moreover, I would never standstill. I would defend with all my strength using my hands, my words, and my heart with a lot of patience and faith. I would never forgive an oppressor and would not fear a confrontation with them. Oppression is optional, and you can accept or reject it. If you choose to accept it, then it is well deserved, but in case you reject and confront it, then you break it! Human nature rejects oppression and seeks justice and righteousness. It is so ugly to be vulnerable in life!
“I instantly went back to the dormitory, collected my clothes, placed them in a suitcase, and went back home. I wished the bus would turn into a plane and take me home as fast as possible. Events clashed in my brain, and I barely had a sense of time before I found myself home. All the way back, I was busy thinking of what had happened and its consequences. I opened the door of the house and rushed inside like a raging bull. I saw my mother, stunned.
“She asked me, not believing her eyes, ‘What are you doing here? Don’t you have lectures you need to attend?’
“Yes, I do, but I decided to come home because I am not feeling well.’
“I went straight into my room and went out again at dinner time, only to be met by another trial. My father asked, ‘Why did you come home and abandon your classes?’
“My sister responded in a cynical tone, ‘Maybe she does not like university anymore! Therefore, she decided to come home and help mom clean the house and prepare food.’
“My brother covertly criticized me and said, ‘The University requires a particular sort of people, people with steadfastness who can obtain the highest grades and understand that it is not a picnic!’
“My father looked at me in surprise, ‘would you like to answer or not?’
“Dearest Father, I do not wish to study medicine! And I do not want to go to that faculty at all!’
“No specific reason, I just do not feel comfortable in that faculty!’
“But you promised me you would be a doctor!’
“True, but I cannot compromise my honor, dignity, and femininity.’
“What are you trying to say? Please clarify!’
“There is no need to clarify anything. I just do not want to attend the faculty of Medicine, and I will attend the faculty of Economics instead.’
“You have already taken your decision, so why did you come back? You have already made up your mind.’
“Because I love and respect you, Father, that is why. I would never do anything without your consent.’
“He answered cynically, ‘well, thank you for that, but is this love and respect in your perception? You make your decisions without coming back to talk to me, your mother or even your siblings first, who all have very successful experiences at such universities.’
“Father, you are the only one I really love and respect in this world! You know that, but I really need to attend the School of Economics. This is my wish, and I really need to fulfill it.’
“Dinner was at the table, but no one touched the food. The stress was overwhelming, and there was an overt rejection of everything I had done and was about to do. Suddenly, my father got up and went to his room, and mom followed to console him. My brother gave me an angry look and said, ‘What is wrong with you? We were so happy when you decided to study medicine. Dad was so proud of you. Why would you spoil his joy? All I want you to do is explain the reason to Father, to console him.’
“I will not say anything.’
“I went to my room and tried to relax but I couldn’t. All of a sudden, my sister came in. She was frowning and said, ‘Why did you come back to the room? I never thought you would do that.’
“I thought to myself that it was better not to respond. I could barely look at her face for her words were so ugly, and her attitude was so negative. I already made up my mind not to have a discussion with her whatsoever.