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world war ii
former yugoslavia
favourite place
The Day When Everyone Was Happy
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After the end of the World War II, Bijelo Polje, like many other areas of former Yugoslavia was a poor place, without electricity, water supply, public bathhouses. It was the area which resembled dark vilayet from the novelettes of author Risto Ratkovic . There were two districts, known in public as Donja and Gornja Mahala. Visit of a friend from one to the other town district was a holiday, and for children it was a special adventure, for them it was the trip to the unknown region.

Regardless of the very difficult living conditions, the inhabitants of that time's Bijelo Polje were finding the reasons for associating with each others, for fun and joy.Both old and young people were finding pleasure in St. Elias' Day. It was the day when people of Bijelo Polje were going to a picnic, to Prstavac, presently Malo Polje, their favourite place of that time. It was a day of general straightening up, children were taking baths, girls were washing their hairs in ash lye, to have their hairs bright and waiving, and then they were braiding them in two braids coiled around the head, fixed with hairpins; they wore kerchiefs - what differed them from married women.

The girls adorned themselves with earrings or, as they called them, "mendjuse”, they wore necklaces made of trinkets, pearls, corals and coins, and the poorer ones were making strings with beech leaves' berries. The men had their hairs cut short, they shaved beard, but they had mustaches, and at that time the young men wearing ready made pieces of suits stood out. Household heads baked lambs for St. Elias' Day, and homemakers cooked stuffed sauerkraut leaves, "pirjan", made pastries stuffed with meat or cheese, or three floors pastries, as they called them. "Djul-baklava" baked of homemade thin layers of dough dried on a white clothe was a specialty.

Noon was the time to go to Prstavac. Gathered families were moving out of sight in Gornja Mahala, and only women distinguished themselves, carrying on their heads large covered with tin casseroles "dimirlija". Having reached to Prstavac, families sit on variegated carpets, spread the food, and eat with pleasure. The children were sitting separately women taking care of them, while the elderly people were sitting with household heads. As the children were looking foreword to having dates and other pastries, the elders were enjoying in homemade plum, pear or mulberry brandies.

Eating habits are common for both Moslem and Orthodox population. Household head used to cut bread and meat, and the housewife brought other dishes prepared for the meal. Household head started eating first, and after meal the hands were washed, at least symbolically. Special attention was paid to collecting the crumbs to prevent stepping on food, as it was considered a great shame.

Water was served in the same glass, they all drank from it, taking care that the water is first given to the one who asked for it first - not to drink somebody else's thirst. This is not the end of the story. The real celebration started as Zijto Rahic appeared with his accordion and Idriz Semovic with the tambourine.

Young men and girls are starting up a kolo, and singing:

Whose are the fences,

Whose are the gates,

whose is the girl,

standing at the gate.

And so, with song and dance, until ten o'clock in the evening.


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