NIŠTARIJINI ZAPISI: An American from Mandino Selo

A write-up about my father, by Blago Vukadin, one of the kids from his hometown, posted today on the Mandino Selo website… Apparently my dad was the television whisperer and gadget wiz in his village, and the first to run his own radio station back when this was still communist Yugoslavia, and freedom of speech didn't exist 

Translation (badly done, but the best I could do, I apologize Blago if I messed any of it up):
From our small village people have spread out on all sides of the world for work, and there is probably not a single country in the world, where you cannot find families with roots in Mandino Selo. Most of our villagers that are out in the world are in various parts of Europe, but there are those who have journeyed across the Atlantic, and now their children and grandchildren live in Canada or in the United States.

Among the children of the late Paško and his wife Lučuša were two sons – Ivan and Vinko – who made it to the other side of the Atlantic for new lives. Ivan, the elder of the two, was the first of his family to make it to the New World, and shortly after him followed his younger brother Vinko, who passed away January 3, 2010 in America.

I sadly do not know his brother Ivan well enough, and it’s better explained by the older generation, but when I hear the name Vinko, I recall a skilled craftsmen that could fix and make all sorts of household appliances. Recently a saying came into my mind, I’m not sure if I read it or heard it somewhere, or if I might have dreamed of it , but it speaks much more eloquently about the kind of person Vinko was, rather than simple descriptions of his height, weight and age…

„God has given each of us something special, but we have to discover what that gift is, because he does not have time to do everything for us and explain to us what he given us.“

Vinko discovered early that he was more gifted than most of his contemporaries , and even as a young man became known as the master chief in the village who could fix anything and everything, especially televisions . To be clear about the significance of this, it should be noted that electricity first arrived in our village only in the early seventies, and back then, for most of us, we were amazed and awed by the outlets leaking invisible energy, which seemed like magic to us . As for having an understanding of how a light bulb works, what was responsible for running the images on the TV screen, or the spinning centrifuges in the washing machines, well, it was a miracle that anyone could wrap their heads around it. 

Paško’s Vinko did not go to any technical school, but he had curiosity and a logical mind. His father – in addition to Šćeta at the other end of the village – was the first Mandoselo-ian to get a television. His younger son was one of the few who dared to dismantle it all into parts and then re-assemble it – to make it work better than it did brand new.

Thus, with the increasing number of home appliances in the countryside, Vinko become indispensable because there was always something broken that needed to be fixed. Our own television – Blaupunkt brand, black and white, which we got from our uncle Miko after he was in Germany – it often stopped working, and as a rule always when the cartoons came on , at precisely 7:15 in the evening . Just when Kalimero started bitching about the great injustice, or when Professor Balthazar was struck with an idea for the formula for a new technical marvel while walking from one end of the laboratory to the other and scratching his beard, whoosh, the screen would go dark. 

We would be saddened, Dad would get mad because he wanted to watch the news, while Mother only yawned and remarked:

„It's good that the TV is broken. We do not have to rush with dinner now, and we can pray to God in peace.“

While we appreciated Mother’s good intentions, the next day would find one of us immediately rushing to Paško’s house and breathlessly imploring his son Vinko to help with the emergency. He would stop by in the afternoon with his box of surgical tools, enter the sick-room of the afflicted, and I assisted him by handing him tools and screws as he called out for them, while Marinko was more interested in the internal organs of the device and the little green tiles in the command panel.

Vinko would usually diagnose that something had burnt out, he would already have the spare parts in his bag, everything would somehow stick or whatever it’s called in technical language, he would wipe his hands, and so after a successful operation once again Kalimero would denounce loudly about corruption for a few more months, while we listened intently.

In these circumstances Vinko would tell stories about his visits to his brother Ivan who was already in America. He was enraptured with the way of life over there, and for us his stories sounded unreal. He spoke about how his brother never locked his car, because in America nobody steals anything. Since he was a smoker, he would then start talking about how in the US the cigarette packs warned that smoking harms health, but our father was not particularly interested in that, and quickly changed the subject.

What was the most marvelous thing to us about this strange world on the other side of the ocean, was how everyone had televisions and radios, and that there were an infinite number of stations, over sixty!

Enraptured with America and the concept of freedom of speech that it was famous for, Vinko, as a young man, started the first private radio station in Tomislavgrad area (Duvno as it was formerly called back then), which was probably one of the few in the former Yugoslavia at that time, since the airing of radio programs was subject to the reigning monopoly, the violation of which was considered a criminal offense.

The name of Vinko’s radio station was „Radio Station – Paško’s Abode“ and the studio was located, as its name implies, in his father Paško’s barn. Where the equipment came from, how it got hold of frequencies and how it all worked, „National Militia „ to reveal the „national enemies ,“ I do not know – I remember only that the program lasted for several days or even weeks, we heard heartfelt music, girls and boys fooled around telling jokes they heard on the radio, and for the adults, it was regularly visited by the music of Slavko Majic – the singing and gusle-playing was so loud that it was heard across the great fields of Tomislavgrad.

The militia were furious, they searched through all the stables in the entire Tomislavgrad area, until they found Vinko and shut down Tomsilavgrad’s first private radio station. Whether Vinko had to pay a fine or was punished in some other way, I do not know, but in any case, he was the predecessor of the liberalized markets radio that came fifteen years later- frequency and information .

But it wasn’t only Vinko who traveled to America with his brother Ivan – their parents Paško and Lučuša flew over several times to visit their son and his bride, and when they returned to the village, they would talk about what they saw. Even if they hadn’t spoken at all about their travels to America, it was obvious to anyone how different American customs were from Mandino Selo. I remember on one occasion when the late Lučuša came back wearing fashionable clothes that her daughter in law had bought for her in America, of all kinds of beautiful colors and patterns, while all the other women of her generation then wore dark or completely black clothes and veils over their hair .

Lučuša was clearly proud that her children were successful and that her daughter-in-law was so generous, and she proudly walked from the Grgin’s store to her house dressed in the height of American fashion for senior ladies. In some ways the late Lučuša was similar to her son Vinko, the precursor of a new era, since today's grandmothers in Mandino Selo no longer wear only black as they did back then. She was, one might say, one of the first women to introduce a new fashion in the village .

Once it became clear to Vinko that he could not stay content with the political corruption that hindered talent and innovation over here, that he needed the free market to live his life as he envisioned it, Vinko packed his family’s bags and followed his older brother to live in America, forever. There he became an entrepreneur, he worked successfully at what he started as in Mandino Selo – an independent technician – he raised his beloved family and made a new life. So far from Mandino Selo, he came from humble beginnings and left everything he knew to make a better life for his family.

A few years ago, Vinko sadly became gravely ill and died young, leaving behind his wife, four children and a lot of plans and optimism .
I ask the members of our generation, and older, to remember those that came before us from our town Mandino Selo, especially the diligent and enterprising Vinko Sarac, our very own American – remember those days . And all sorts of occasions with broken and repaired appliances.


  Tekst: Blago Vukadin
Prijevod i foto: Monika Šarac