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WHAT IS YUGOSLAVIA TO YOU? Panel Discussion, Speakers: Vesna Goldsworthy (writer and academic, University of Exeter), Svetlana Rakocevic (moderator, University of Westminster), Marija Ratkovic Vidakovic (documentary filmmaker, Croatia), Olivia Sudjic (fiction writer, UK) and

Vladimir Unkovski-Korica (Lecturer, University of Glasgow)

Saturday, 14 September 2019, Rich Mix

The question 'What is Yugoslavia to You' was posed not in the sense of grand historical narratives, but rather in a personal sense, asking what Yugoslavia meant for one family. We asked this while bearing in mind that for so many of us, knowledge of this country came from our parents rather than through personal experience, since so many of us who took part in the festival were too young to remember the country we were born in, or where our parents come from.


Olivia Suđić, who is writing a novel about a Balkan refugee woman living in London, said that she got insights from her grandparents who mythologize Yugoslavia. However, this UK fiction writer lives in a time that reminds her of the dissolution of Yugoslavia, especially in the emotional sense, with Brexit and the separation of the UK from the EU.


Throughout the panel discussion, die-hard Yugoslav communist grandparents were a recurrent theme. Some participants, like historian Vladimir Unkovski-Korica from Glasgow University, recounted interesting personal stories. For him, Yugoslavia became a tiresome topic. To escape it, he moved all the way to Zanzibar. But there, he began to obsessively reflect on the topic, to the point that it was a significant part of why he became a historian. 


A different question that the panel explored was the different layers of identity. Vesna Goldsworthy, professor at Exeter University, explained that she considers herself simultaneously Serbian and Yugoslav, as well as British. During family dinners, there were always different family characters with conflicting political understandings, so she always simultaneously has at least two different opinions in her head. 

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