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Belgrade Train Station - 1964

Belgrade train station
Belgrade Train Station

Anne Kindersley lived in Belgrade, the wife of a British diplomat, between 1964 and 1967. She travelled extensively and ten years later wrote a book about her experiences in Serbia and Kosovo. It is part history and part reportage about life in Serbia at the time. In the introduction she describes all the different peoples she saw in the Belgrade station when she arrived in 1964. These included Slovaks from Vojvodina bringing "poultry, eggs, cream and vegetables from their muddy, rich lands to market in Belgrade," and Serbian peasants carrying "yokes from which hung pails of soft cheese, and swing[ing] through the station as if it were a farmyard. I thought their wives drab-looking in their factory-made cardigans and pleated skirts." She continued, "there were tall, ruddy-faced men in white skull-caps and dark jackets with a wide square flap of collar like an English seaman's."

They turned out to be Albanians, Moslems, from Pec or Pristina, who made for Belgrade, a long way north of home, because it was a market for labour as well as for produce – where they could heave coal or chop wood and send back money for their families or to purchase a wife. The married men came alone, for their wives stayed at home in strict Islamic seclusion; if by chance one came to Belgrade, she might be locked up in her husband's room all day while he was out working. There were young gipsy women from the same region, in town on their own; and I could recognize them at first glance, for they looked like gypsies anywhere, with brown faces and black plaits of hair.

They seemed confident and exotic in their draped trousers and bead-decked scarves. They laughed a lot, though they were so poor and thin, as they dandled their babies and offered wooden spoons for sale. I had never seen such a crowd, complete with drunkards whose journey had been sustained by too many swigs of homemade plum brandy; schoolboy faced soldiers loaded down with knapsack and rifle, very orderly in their red-starred caps and long blue greatcoats; and dark suited townsmen holding briefcases who looked insignificant there. The station was more fair than a terminus: milling with figures, it seemed a Balkan Derby Day.

The Mountains of Serbia: Travels through Inland Yugoslavia. Anne Kindersley. 1977.
[pp. 1-2 / Readers Union]

January 2007
Anne Kindersley

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