I talked with Vera in her house in the village Laćarak near Sremska Mitrovica. She was born in 1951 in Sremska Mitrovica. She grew up with her parents, three brothers and a sister. They lived decently mainly because her parents were hard-working people – her mother did not hesitate to work as painter in houses during the season just to make contributions so the family lives decently.
Since elementary school Vera have had great affinity towards painting and fine arts and her arts teacher suggested her to enroll artistic high school in Novi Sad. However, her mother objected because she thought that Vera as an excellent pupil may enroll better high school. Nevertheless, Vera doesn’t think that her mother suppressed her choice of school because artistic high school was in another, bigger, city and Vera didn’t feel ready for a bigger change in her life such is moving to another city. Hence, when her mother objected, Vera was actually relived. For a moment she was sorry because she didn’t pursue artistic career, but that moment was short. After, since she was young adult and later on different occupation and different life-style distracted her from painting. Eventually, when she got retired, Vera returned to her girly dream – fine arts.
She graduated from medical high school but couldn’t find a job in Sremska Mitrovica. She says that at the time, just like nowadays, finding job is not easy. However, she did found job as pediatric nurse in Bjeljina (town in Bosnia) where she worked for two years. Then, she received job offer and moved to live and work in Amsterdam (The Netherlands), but didn’t stayed long there. She decided to return to Sremska Mitrovica where eventually she found a job at Coronary unit of Cardiology Department. Soon after she got employed she enrolled College of Health in Belgrade and after obtaining diploma, she was promoted as chief nurse staying at the position until retirement.
Vera says that while she was working, it was very difficult for her to adjust private and professional responsibilities because her husband was often on business trips and couldn’t help her much. As she says, luckily, difference between their two daughters is 7 years so the elder daughter was helping her a lot with the younger one. Vera thinks that women here work a lot. She was too busy to go out because she was either working or taking care of the kids. However, despite abstinence in social and cultural life Vera sees her life as good one. Every year family went on summer vacations mainly on Adriatic Sea and stayed there for more than two weeks, longer than present days’ vacations last.
Vera thinks that earlier elderly persons were much more respected and their opinion mattered more than today but either end – to completely obey elders or to completely disobey and grow up without guidance – are not good. She argues that balancing and mutual understanding among generations is the best option.
When she was younger she thought that women when they reach 50 years of age are old. Yet, when she turned 50 she wasn’t feeling old. She still does not consider herself as an elderly person. Sometimes she is surprised when someone tells her “baba” (old woman in Serbian) or publically refers to her as an old lady if she doesn’t know that person. In her youth she was associating the age of retirement with the deserved relaxation, time to travel and accomplishing desires of the younger age. Also, she thinks that before elderly person could decently live and pursue own interests with their pension but nowadays when children cannot get a job retired must help, which leaves almost to nothing for own interests.
When retired Vera turned to her girly love of painting, which nowadays occupies her a lot. She even enrolled private painting school, in order to learn more about particular techniques and how materials can be used. She participates local and international amateurs’ fine arts competitions and finds them quite motivating and inspiring. She loves gardening and spends quite some time outdoors in her garden and orchard. Occasionally her grandchildren come to spend time with her and she enjoys it very much.
She does not think that pension is sufficient for decent living. Her husband receives very small disability pension and altogether they barely make a living. They cannot afford to travel anymore or do things they’d like to do if they have enough money.
However, from social perspective, Vera is much more satisfied nowadays. She does not feel lonely at all. She has much more time to spend with friends. She is active in Association of Fine Artists of Sirmium (note: Sirmium is Latin for Sremska Mitrovica as it was one of antic Roman towns on Limes, border of Roman Empire along the Danube in Balkans). Matter of fact, Vera is the secretary of the Association. She often uses Internet mainly to be informed and thinks that Internet is better than TV because it provides much more information. Vera is frequently using social networks to keep in touch with her family and friends as well as to promote her artistic work.
According to Vera’s opinion, main role of the elderly persons is to help their children in up-bringing youngsters / grandchildren, to give them love and appreciations. When asked if she was in a situation to feel discriminated for being elderly person, she shared a situation in which while passing down the street she came by the group of boys and one of them accidently pushed her. The other boy said: “Mind the Baba!” (note: word Baba meaning “old lady” in Serbian also have pejorative connotation, may sounds rude) but the boy who pushed her politely apologized for not being careful. She shared situation in a way to point that youngsters are different as well.
The message that Vera would like to share with the youth is to respect elders because elders have experiences to share. Young people will grow old and in the old age they’ll realize their mistakes but it may be too late. Yet elderly persons can indicate mistakes and by listening them some situations may be easier to skip or overcome.
Vera, whom I met as a grandmother of very dear friend of mine, charmed me as she is active, positive – minded lady who managed to live her dream to be a painter. From her I learned that making your dreams true, at some point in life is truly motivating.