From Budapest I took a train (where I met some very nice Brits, Americans, Poles and a Check guy) to Belgrade where I hooked up with my interpreter – Sunitsa and the three friends that she selected for our conversation and recording session. That went swimmingly and despite my limited knowledge of Serbian I feel that I got great material for my project. I also met this man – who immediately knew I was Russian by the way I was speaking Serbian with him, gave an impromptu interview and called me his Brother (it’s a Slavic thing).
After Belgrade I took a bus going backwards up the Danube to Vukovar, Croatia. The border crossing was very tense and one young man was retained at the crossing probably for interrogation. Before coming I contacted an American psychiatrist Charles David Tauber, M.D. who runs a small non-profit Coalition for work with Psychotrauma and Peace in Vukovar working with all comers and dealing with issues of post war narrative. His brilliant post on this subject can be found here.
Charles was extremely generous with his time and gave me a comprehensive tour of the City that was almost completely destroyed in the Battle of Vukovar and is still in recovery as is evidenced by many buildings in ruins. I did several short interviews in Vukovar and obtained a glimpse into the madness of ethnic cleansing that went on in this town.
From Vukovar I took a bus to Belgrade and then Sofia, Bulgaria and finally to Oryahovo, to stay at the Gallery Savchevi International Residency.
This was my second stay at the residency and again I was taken by how familial and informal it is. Artists stay in a modest house on a hill overlooking the Danube and Romania on the far bank, make their work and spend lots of time doing short day trips and long evenings of conversation, with Rakia, great wine and Bulgarian food for fuel. This time the group consisted of Bulgarians, Serbs a Ukranian and me as the lone American.
In Oryahovo I met a group of American artists traveling down the Danube with the Schooner Hippo as part of a very interesting collaborative art project that Clemens, the captain of the schooner initiated and I could not resist going along for the ride. Clemens grew up on this boat built by his father when he was a child. We traveled from Oryahovo to Nicopol the next day and enjoyed conversation and swimming in the river.
Clemens, Shane and Jason on the Schooner Hippo
Upon return to Oryahovo I continued to prepare for our residency show, that fell at the beginning of the festival celebrating Diko Iliev, a famous Bulgarian composer. The festival had everything from singers and dancers from Romania and Bulgaria, art shows, amusements and fireworks. I spent a few exhilarating days in celebration enjoying friends and attractions.
at the festival
I hope to come back to this area next summer to continue working on the Mother Tongue project.