Balkan Summer

Balkan Summer

Tales of Yugoslavian Diaspora

I was born in Yugoslavia. Until I was seventeen, I lived in the town of Novi Sad, in Northern Serbia.

The Republic of Yugoslavia irrevocably ceased to exist in 2003, dissolving into it’s remaining states, Serbia and Montenegro, 85 years after it’s formation. Following the economic crisis in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia suffered a decade of painful economic embargo and bloody civil war. During those three decades, a large number of Serbs and other former Yugoslavians emigrated in search of a better life and economic security. It is estimated that out of 11 million Serbs, roughly 5 million live and work outside Serbia.

Like myself, they established their lives abroad, often separating from their families. Those who emigrated in the 60’s and 70’s live and work in Western Europe as Gastarbeiter (German for “guest workers”), with hopes of eventually retiring in their diminished homeland. Others, more recent emigrants and refugees, settled and naturalized in the United States, Canada, and as far away as Australia and New Zealand.  

In the summertime, Gastarbeiters return to Serbia to reunite with the rest of their families. Some vacation, living large on their remittance, and some work on unfinished homes, in hopes of completing them before they retire.

The images in this series oscillate between personal portraits, and more impersonal cityscapes- echoing the split in my connection to the people and disconnect from the land I no longer consider my own.

Summer is a period of fleeting stability for former Yugoslavians, when old stories are re-told, and nostalgia outshines an unclear future. In these photographs of my close friends and relatives I layer the optimism of summer vacation over the trauma of lost generations and recent war.