The Mother Tongue

There’s nothing than children from the former Yugoslavia love doing more than imitating their parents English grammar mistakes. I suppose it’s a form of passive aggressive revenge for all the times they would call us those lovely names like: cretin, mare, donkey, goose, delinquent and so on. Needless to say, they could never bear the site of us lounging on the furniture, relaxing, and would immediately admonish us to get up and do yard work or something useful. I mean, if you were going to lie around, you had better have had a copy of War and Peace or a math text book in front of you.

In any case most of our parents came to this country with either German or Russian as a second language and sometimes Italian if they were from the coast or French, if they were from an elegant family. English is tough to learn when you are already grown and few master it. My aunt Lillian and my father were pretty good linguists due to the fact, I think, that both were musical and read voraciously.

My mother, on the other hand, is the person who is always dancing in the opposite direction that everyone else is going in. When we first came to the States, our landlady Mrs. Cizak stopped her in the middle of the street to complain how she had slipped on the ice and fallen. My mother listened sympathetically until a response was called for, except she couldn’t think of anything at at moment except the phrase, ‘that’s nice’.

‘Dat’s nisss!’ she said, knowing for certain she had made a mistake when she saw Mrs. Cizak’s jaw drop.

When my sister was a baby and before my mother went to work, she decided to make some extra money by painting genre pictures for Granny’s sixth husband, who owned an art gallery. I really liked the Dutch still lives but hoped the clowns she kept would never end up in my room.

Now, when she was painting, she couldn’t be interrupted, and I had to run all her errands for her. There was a general store at the end of the block where I would be humiliated regularly by asking for such items as Charming toilet paper and Giant detergent. It took some sleuthing to discover my mother had been asking for Charmin and Gain.

After she went back to the office, her English improved, though she did manage to call her friend Myrtle, Turtle, occasionally, and her saleslady Regina, Vergina, often. My friends loved when they would call asking for me, she’d say, ‘ Leel is in the toilette.’ Since she was a lightning designer and the word toilet appears regularly on all architectural plans in the States, she didn’t see anything wrong with what she was saying. I was always in the toilette since it was my refuge away from the family drama, and I would take my books in there and close the door. Fortunately unlike many of my peers, I never had to step in and handle official business for her, she spoke English well enough to do that on her own.

My favorite story of all was when Ebola appeared on the global scene.

‘Where would such a terrible disease have come from?’ my germ-phobic sister asks.

‘Oh, I know,’ my mother replies, ‘dat poor country, Macintosh.’

‘Macintosh?’ my sister says, ‘well, that might be a place in Scotland, but I don’t know of any country by that name.’

My father who has been listening from the other room, is laughing now. He knows exactly what his wife is talking about, ‘Mommy means Bangladesh, but that’s not where it comes from.’ He’s had a lot of experience deciphering her English, the last time being, when, as they are driving to the train station, she hears an advertisement for curing obesity.

‘You have dat, Daddy,’ she says to him.

‘I don’t think so,’ he replies, ‘I would say, you tend in that direction more than I do.’

‘I’m always in a good mood,’ she replies.

‘I see,’ he says, ‘and what do you think obesity means?’

‘Obest. That’s you,’ she replies. The Serbo-Croatian dictionary gives translations such as nasty, mischievous or prankish for this word. However it is derived from the word bes or rabid, and I think that is what she intended to say all along.


When I was about five years old and living in Belgrade, a friend of my father’s who had gone on a business trip to Japan presented me with a gift. Within a Lucite box, a tiny world unfolded. A Japanese lady in full kimono, carrying a parasol, crossed a bridge over a lake made of glass, making her way to shore where a cherry blossom tree was flowering. I was enchanted and couldn’t stop gazing at this magical world, trying to imagine what it was like. But how to find out more about it? I must have read the picture book version of Hans Christian Andersen’s Nightingale numerous times hoping to learn something, never mind that the story was set in China.

A few years later in the US, when I was about eleven or twelve and had long forgotten about dolls, my fantasy unfolded in the person of my mother’s colleague Sumiko. Sumiko and my mother worked for a large international engineering firm where you could meet people of all nationalities; Europeans, Latin Americans, and Asians from many countries. Now as you know, my parents always liked to party and had an active social life. Sumiko, though she was under the protection of her brother-in-law, was often invited. Young and attractive, she looked lovely in western clothes, but when she put on traditional Japanese dress, she was sensational.

The first time my sister and I saw her in full kimono with make-up and wig, we gawked at her as if she had come from another planet. Fortunately Sumiko was fond of children and entertained us for hours on end, making origami animals. My sister who generally had ants in her pants, adored her and was enraptured.

Sometime later, Sumiko’s family decided to return to Japan. She, however, wanted to stay in the States, since she loved her time as a career girl and dreaded entering a traditional marriage, which was what was expected of her. She obtained permission from her family to stay under one condition, that she would find protection of a sound man. However since she was not dating anyone nor cared to enter into a permanent arrangement, her family deemed a sort of informal concubinage permissible.

Her first choice was my mother’s extremely fastidious and well organized German friend Kathi, who had a very cute husband. ‘No way, Sumiko, I’m not sharing with anybody,’ was Kathi’s immediate reply. Her second choice was my mother.

‘Srata-san, I hep you wis chiwdren too,’ Sumiko said.

‘Okay, I tink about dis,’ my mother replied.

‘Please, oh please,’ my sister and I begged, envisioning lunches packed in lacquered boxes, and the fact that our father wouldn’t dare exhibit his temper in front of such a delicate creature. In the end the answer was no, but delivered in such a way by our own tiger-mommy that one would suspect her of harboring a hidden Asian cultural heritage.

‘Ah, Sumiko-san,’ she said, ‘you rrrr so young and beautiful, purrry soon, I tink you might becoming firrrrst wife.’ And so Sumiko went back to Japan, and sadly we never saw her again.

Wrecking the Bar

Wrecking the Bar

Once in a while my friend B, who was raised in a fine Wasp family in the mid-Atlantic States calls me so that I can explain Balkan culture to her, since she is trying to understand her boyfriend, The Big P. Without embarrassing either of them with specifics, I think it was important for me alert her to the fact that for the parents of the baby boomers and early X-ers in Serbia, war and post -war hunger was the greatest trauma they had experienced. And so when we were babies and opened our mouths to squawk about anything at all our parents assumed,  given that we were warm and dry, we must be hungry and would immediately stuff food into our mouths. This should explain why we are emotional eaters and often struggle with our weight.

I recall once years ago, my cousin Sasha told me, ‘Our parents couldn’t understand that we just wanted to be loved and to spend time with them.’ I replied, ‘Now you’re asking for too much. They gave us three full meals a day plus snacks. To them that was the biggest love that they could conceive of.’

Even when our parents think that their children are fat, they get offended if we don’t eat everything on our plates and ask for seconds. Invariably their children, ranging from their forties to their sixties, are all still sitting at the children’s table and getting their kicks from imitating their parents’ accented pronouncements.

‘Yosh?’ meaning, more, the hostess will ask. ‘ Yosh, yosh,’ we reply, grunting like piglets.

Now my favorite food story of all time, is about my friend N, whose mother is a world-class cook. I hope she will forgive me for appropriating her story but it really is a classic and deserves to be shared. N’s mother would make an elaborate breakfast every morning: toast, pancakes, eggs, bacon, juice, fruit and so on. That particular morning, N wasn’t feeling too hungry and was dawdling over breakfast. Her mother, not wanting to be late for kindergarten, said, ‘If you don’t eat your eggs, they’ll be sad and cry.’ And so N managed to cram the last of her eggs into her mouth.

When her mother picked her up for lunch, the teacher pulled her aside and confided, ‘I’m worried about your daughter, she hasn’t said a world all morning.’

‘What is it Sine?’ –the Serbian sonny—used for children of both sexes—’tell me what’s happened, ‘ her mother exhorted. N opened her mouth to start crying, and at that moment the last of the eggs spilled out.

Growing up, my sister and N were best friends and spent a lot of time making fun of our parents and their friends—though dear reader, since our parents are bound to read this, I’ll keep it to myself except for this one story.

Our parents’ gang consisted of about twenty or so couples who have been partying and vacationing together on a regular basis since the sixties. In the late seventies, my parents built a house in Lagrange, a leafy suburb of Chicago and decided to turn the basement into a discotheque. This took place over one weekend with the whole gang pitching in. I myself was in charge of popcorning the ceiling with a natural sponge and plaster, a job that I never want to repeat—I couldn’t lift my arms for a week afterward.

When the job was finished, we ended up with a wall of mirrored closets next to a tiled dance floor, a separate seating area and a lovely long bar with a copper counter. Sometime afterward N and my sister were goofing around down there and out of boredom decided to melt a wax candle. Needless to say the wax spilled and dripped all over the bar. Terrified of my father’s wrath, they tried to scrape it off with their fingernails. When that failed they tried a knife. Though they succeeded, they ended up scratching the counter top. They ran off from the scene, hoping that my father would never notice or perhaps think it was something that had happened during a party.

They were hanging out in my sisters room when they heard his heavy footfall on the stairs. Both jumped to attention even before he kicked in the door.

‘Who did it?’ he snarled.

‘She did,’ they said in unison, pointing at each other.

My father really did have a hungry childhood, since there were a lot of mouths to feed in the household. One day, he and his older brother Zhika, lit upon an idea. In the neighbors’ garden there stood a group of flowering pear trees, bursting with juicy pears. However, they couldn’t steal the pears outright– a thing like that was not done. So they trained the neighbor’s terrier, Afie, to bring them the freshly fallen pears. After a while, clever dog Afie, learned to shake the tree so that the pears would fall. The neighbors couldn’t understand where their pears were disappearing to and never suspected their sweet little dog of conspiring to rob them.

Not long afterward, the boys were gone from the city for a few days on a visit to relatives in the countryside. Upon their return, they realized that the game was up; a mountain of pears was heaped up against their side of fence, Afie was chained, and the neighbors were glaring at them.

Later, when times improved, they moved to a new apartment. On their street there lived a bulldog who was trained to do the marketing everyday. Every afternoon the bulldog appeared with a basket and ran into the greengrocer, the baker and the butcher. He would triumphantly return to his apartment and sit on the balcony with his treat, a meerschaum pipe, which he would smoke at his leisure.

‘He looked just like Churchill,’ my father said.

My father was a great story teller and that is how he would induce me to get through meals, because like N, I too was so overfed that I didn’t have an appetite. Popeye was referenced quite a bit, as I recall, when it came to choking down spinach. My mother was more prosiac. ‘This one is for Daddy, and this one is for Teddy-bear,’ she would say, spoon feeding me the then version of cereal, which consisted of day old bread chopped into bits with warm scummy milk poured over it. Reader, be happy you grew up in America, because it’s even more disgusting than it sounds. Her other favorite foods for building me up were liver and runny eggs, neither of which I can even look at much less taste to this day.

Now at that time in former Yugoslavia, you could pretty much knock on any neighbor’s door at any time of the day you knew that they were at home and be invited in to socialize over for coffee and cake. In our apartment building in Zelengai, I loved the downstairs neighbors best, Milka and Vlada Popovich and their teenaged daughter Mira. Vlada was the director of a huge industrial firm. His wife also worked but got home early in the afternoon. Their maid would always have something delicious going in the oven to tide her over until dinner time. In any case, dear reader, as you know, I was already an entertaining clown, and she always invited me to share her meal. Sometimes I would stay over and Mira and her girlfriends would dress and make me up and then I’d vamp to Beatles records which was the big thing then. Needless to say, the whole family would end up falling out of their chairs with laughter.

But sometimes I got lonely in the morning– this was prior to school, in my early years, and would have to go to the second tier choices. This was usually the Hungarians upstairs who would always insist that I join them for goulash or paprikash, which they were invariably cooking at any given time of day, as the reek in the hall attested to. But there were even more colorful neighbors down half a landing from the Popovichs, whose company I enjoyed even though they never had any food going on. Years later I learned that they were professional car thieves. This was socialism, you understand, and you got to mix with all sorts of interesting people.

In my grandparents building in the center of town, I also had some friends. One was Nikolitsa, an adorable little blond boy whose hair I managed to pull out in a clump one day when I lost my temper. When he moved, Zhikitsa, who was less refined but more lively, replaced him. Now reader you have to picture these Austro-Hungarian constructions. Though my grandparents apartment was small, the hall was huge, grandiose and entirely clad in white Carrera marble. I’m not sure who decided it would be a good idea to play kickball in that hall, but anyway, all the kids in the building got together and proceeded to make a ruckus, disturbing the professional writers, a man and wife, who lived upstairs and worked at home. After repeated warnings from the woman exhorting us to be quiet, I had enough and blowing my stack, told her off, using the words, ‘cow’ and ‘shut-up’. Needless to say, I was forced to eat crow, carrying a bouquet of flowers and apologizing profusely to her the whole time. Reader, I didn’t mean a word of that apology, but God punished me since I grew up to be the most noise sensitive person in the world and am driven mad on regular basis by any and all sound.

I could tell you a million more Serbian stories about food, but I’ll end where I started with the Big P.

‘Why do you leave the spoon in the ice cream container?’ B asks him.

‘Well, I don’t want to dirty a new spoon each time I get up to snack,’ he replies with impeccable Balkan logic.

Singing for the Nazis

Zlata, my mother, was a naughty child, always up to all sorts of antics, which got her in trouble with Granny. As you all know dear readers, that was back in the day when sparing the rod and spoiling the child was unheard of.

When Granny would catch wind of whatever she was up, her redhead’s temper would flare, and she’d work herself into a frenzy. My mother’s favorite hiding place was behind the Murphy bed where Granny couldn’t get a hold of her, but sometimes she wasn’t so lucky. In hindsight, I would say that most of her badness could have been attributed to her need for attention, no matter how negative.

I’ve already told you the story about how she walked across Bulgaria pretending to be a war orphan and now I’ll tell you a few more. Since I started writing these stories down, my aunt and mother’s memories have been jarred and they recall that Granny didn’t really spare them much.

During the German Occupation of WWII, Granny worked as a courier for the underground resistance. One day, when the Germans came to interrogate her, she gave my mother a briefcase full of documents. ‘Throw this in the hedge,’ she said, ‘and keep playing in the garden, like you normally would.’ Any other woman would have sent her children away while the S.S ransacked the apartment but not Granny. Another time she had to deliver documents across town, so she drove my mother and my aunt in the carriage with her, assuming no one would stop a woman with children. Remembering this, my mother and aunt are appalled at the risk she took with their lives.

‘It was no big deal,’ Granny says, ‘I was so beautiful, no one ever gave me any trouble.’

It is said that in Ireland each man is a king, and so it was with the Easternmost Irish, the Serbs, for there were five competing factions for government during those years, some more blood thirsty than others. To get food, you would occasional have to venture into areas held by each and negotiate with them. So when Granny sold her diamond brooch to the Royalists, she thought she would have enough food to last some time. However when she came home from the bank that day, she found the pantry was bare. While she was at work, my mother had lined up the neighborhood children and distributed all the goods to them. Granny, realizing she was looking at my mother’s handiwork, went berserk. My mother barely eluded her grasp and ran out into the street,with Granny in hot pursuit. As they ran down the street, the entire neighborhood, alerted that something was going on, came out of their houses and shops and ran after them. My mother headed into the woods, as did the rest, only stopping when Granny fell in a dead faint. And so my mother says, ‘I was saved, that time.’

‘Mom,’ I say, ‘You know that I’m against beating children but that time you deserved it.’

Now I don’t know if I’ve got the time line quite right, but I’m pretty sure the next incident happened a bit later, when my mother and her friend Mara burned the house a few doors away down. Ganny was entertaining one of her admirers when she heard the sound of fire-engines on the street. With an intuition shared only by mystics and mothers, she stood, crying out, ‘Zlata!’

As the story came out, it seemed that Zlata had come up with a wonderful idea. In the publishing plant a couple of doors down, the basement was filled with old newspapers which she thought might be recycled for the worth of the paper. After she and Mara sneaked in there, my mother had the brilliant idea of lighting a torch so they could better see. Needless to say, she promptly dropped it and the whole place was ablaze in no time. I’m not sure how Granny talked the authorities out of putting her into a home for juvenile delinquents, but one would think the lesson would have stayed with her. Not so, dear readers, because not a month later, she and Mara were caught smearing tar on the beautiful doorbell of a newly constructed terracotta building. As the afternoon sun heated up, the tar began to melt all over the gorgeous tile. Naturally they were spotted leaving the scene of the crime, and mother had to find refuge in the Murphy bed once again.

‘Why did you do it?’ I ask appalled, since I was raised to have an overly developed sense of ethics.

‘I dunno, ‘ she says nonchalantly, ‘I guess it was there.’

The story that I’ll leave you with is when she sang for the Nazis. One of Granny’s friends owned a pastry shop. Now those of you who know Viennese pastry know that the style extended itself to all the countries that fell under Austro-Hungarian influence and that not only the pastries but the shops themselves were absolutely divine. I don’t know what that particularly one looked like but I’m picturing lots of brass and marble and rich wood. Whatever the truth of it, the Germans liked to hang out there and so did my mother, with her sweet tooth and love of pastry.

In that part of the world, gypsy musicians are highly prized, both the Hungarian and Russian variant. There was one particular diva who accompanied herself on the tambourine and was popular at the time. One day my mother got it into her head she was going to perform in the same style and grabbing a metal pan and a spoon jumped up on the table and started singing Lili Marlene for the Germans. Lili Marlene was was a tender WWI love song about a soldier separated from his sweetheart, hugely popular with the Axis forces. However, my mother did not sing the German lyrics but the substitute Serbian ones, which were all about the Krauts being beaten back to Berlin by the Red Army. This was in 1944, and the Germans knew they were losing the war. Fortunately they didn’t understand a word she said and gave her a standing ovation.

‘They could have shot you,’ I say.

‘I know,’ she shrugs, and then upon refection adds, ‘They had wonderful uniforms. You should have seen the boots.’

Even at age nine, she was a fashionista.

Balkan Fairytales

The great thing about grandparents is that they are so ashamed of the terrible job they did as parents, when they were young and didn’t know any better, that they can hardly wait for the chance to do it all over again and redeem themselves. Grandchildren seem to know this instinctively and learn pretty quickly that they can get away with just about anything.

When I was a little girl growing up in Belgrade, my parents used to have an active social life and traveled quite frequently and so I spent a lot of time at the home of my paternal grandparents, Nicolas and Darinka.

Many years before, my grandparents had had a scandalous romance due to the fact that my grandmother was already married and sixteen years older than my grandfather. But when I knew them, all that was over, and they had settled into a premature and extended old age. They were both amazing story tellers and there was nothing better than cozying up to them for a long weekend of overeating and entertainment. This pattern was regularly interrupted by my grandfather’s monthly chess games, which were played in tournaments that lasted from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. The players remained in their chairs and their only break was when my grandfather would declare, ‘Let’s snore our way through one match.’ I was very unhappy with this arrangement and refused to learn the rules of the game since I considered chess as my greatest rival and nemesis.

My grandfather would have to compensate for his inattention with lots of story telling the following weekend. But once when the poor man fell asleep in the middle of a story, I decided to take action by hitting him over the head with an ivory hairbrush, which pretty much stunned him for the rest of the evening.

‘You’ve managed to produce blood thirsty spawn,’ he told my father at pick-up time.

Now my grandfather was a large man, both in height and girth, owing to the fact that after the war, he began to compensate for the hungry years with huge meals. He had a massive sweet tooth, and the only way he could justify it was by claiming he was treating me. His favorite combination was halva and boza, a sort of wheat soda, which could be found at the many pastry shops in the city. This was our secret, so that neither of us would get in trouble at the hands of our true masters. And so after we would stuff ourselves, we’d take a stroll and then he would insist that we needed something healthy to eat to make up for it—a little bean stew to top the afternoon off. My mother never could understand why I was getting fatter and fatter.

Between meals, I was imbibing at the fount of his wisdom, and he would often put me up to things which caused extreme embarrassment to my parents, such as the time I announced in front of my father’s colleagues that all communists were thieves and liars. Though most sane people believed this to be true by that time, it certainly was never articulated, since such sentiments carried heavy punishment. Fortunately I got off with a pat on the head and the acknowledgement that they too had crazy grandparents at home who poisoned the minds of their children.

My grandfather was fairly candid with me about the political situation and also about the terrible years during the German Occupation during WWII. Those were sad stories, though true. However I liked stories about life in the country which I suppose would be considered to belong to the genre of magical realism today.

One of the best was passed on to him by his father, Dimitri. Our family, the Simic clan, had come up from Montenegro to Shumadiya and settled in the Topola and Arandjelovatz area. My grandfather claimed that his ancestor Sima Simic was one of the twelve Voyvode who put Karadjordje on the Serbian throne after they rose up against the Turks. A voyvoda is a Slavic military leader but it might be translated as duke into English.

‘I have blue blood,’ he would insist. My grandmother, who had a much more interesting family history, could never tolerate his airs and would rejoinder,

‘Nikola, the only thing your ancestor ever saw of Karadjordje was the back end of his horse.’

Now when Dimitri was a little boy of about seven, he got up during the night and saw something fantastical transpiring in the garden. He hurriedly woke his elder brother so they could both witness it. They both described a circular greenish glow descending to earth. They were mesmerized by it and stayed up watching, hidden out of sight. Afterward, it was said that grass never grew on that spot again.

Years later, reading about the crop circle phenomenon, I was reminded of that story. However, the way it was told to me was that Vile [ you should say Vee-lay] had held their festivities on that spot. Vile and Vilani, are magical beings, beautiful maidens and men respectively, with cloven hoofs and supernatural powers, who are the protectors of natural places: forests, mountains and streams. Needless to say, they are none too fond of humans, whom they enjoy enticing to their bacchanals and enchanting into total forgetfulness. When humans desecrate the Vilas’ sacred places they are either mortally shot through with poisoned arrows or permanently cursed.

Suspicious of fairy tales, I looked to my grandmother, who said, ‘Oh, yes, when my father was coming home from a party once, he stopped his carriage at a cross roads to relieve himself and the Vile cursed him. He died shortly afterward in terrible misery.’ Later I discovered the poor man had had bone cancer.

Another time, they told me they were driving back to Belgrade from the countryside right before the outbreak of the war and saw an orange ball flying low in the sky. Years later, I read that this phenomena was often reported in Eastern European newspapers prior to some impending disaster.

They both had quite a few stories up their sleeves, her favorite was about the Chudo, or Wonder, a small black hairy imp that inhabited chimneys and caused all sorts of domestic mischief, such as curdling milk and tying knots in girls’ long hair. His was about a devil goat which tormented a rider to death on a dark and lonely road. I think he might have gotten it from Gogol.

My father, their son, was the best story teller of all. His stories often focused on Greek Gods and Slavic heroes and magical horses, who could usually out think their riders.

Balkan readers, I know you already know these well, but I tell one for those who may not be familiar with the Serbian epic poetry.

Now readers, as you might know, the Balkans had flourishing kingdoms, which weirdly enough were fairly equitable socially considering the time period. After the fall of Rome when Western Europe descended into the dark ages, the east, under Byzantium continued to prosper, only to fall into its own dark age under the rather backward Ottoman Turks in the 14th century.

Prince Marko was a vassal of the Turks, which might account for his prodigious drinking and general misbehavior, or not. This Marko was an historic figure who ruled over a small area in what is now Western Macedonia. In legend, he grew up into a formidable physical specimen, huge, ferocious, with dark mustaches as large as six-month old lambs. He carried a Damascus saber and a sword, his mace weighed a ton and he carried a enormous skien of wine at his side to balance it out. Now when he wasn’t brawling, he was drinking, and half of his share always went to his wonder horse, the talking piebald Sharatz. ‘Half he drinks, half he gives to Sharatz,’ the bards sang.

Marko would usually choose his horses by throwing them over his shoulder by the tail. At a horse fair, the leprous, mangy Sharatz was the only horse that he couldn’t throw. So Marko bought him, nursed him back to health and was amply rewarded. In any case it was a great relationship.

Marko pretty much treated women like crap, although he loved his mother, a Montenegrin princess, whom his Serbian father wed after a botched attempt to steal her brother’s wife by trickery. In other words, both Marko and his dad were typical Balkan males. Now Marko had a gang of heroes that he often hung around with. One of them was Milosh Kobilich, so called because he was suckled on mare’s milk, kobila being the word for mare. Actually his real last name was Obilich. Milosh was quite the troubadour and so one day as they were riding over Miroch mountain, Marko asked Milosh to sing for him. Milosh explained that the Vila of mountain, Raviyoyla, had forbidden him to sing on her mountain, since she was jealous of his abilities.

‘I’ll handle her,’ Marko said, leaning back on Sharatz and enjoying himself. Milosh was pretty good at singing and when his strains reached the Vila’s ears, though she was beside herself with fury, she had to admit he was a better singer than she was. Nevertheless, she roused herself and flying over head, mortally wounded Milosh with poisoned arrows. Then Marko turned to Sharatz, and there are two versions of this, either told him that he would shoe him with gold and silver and decorate him with jeweled halters and what not if he caught the Vila, or he would break his back and claw out his eyes and wring his neck and he’d be counting his ribs, and all the things that Serbian parents say to their children, if he failed. In any case Sharatz sprang into action, Marko smote the Vila with his mace bringing her down, and then forced her to gather life reviving herbs for Milosh. He, in turn, became stronger than he had ever been, and the Vila and Marko became blood brother and sister, the Vila promising to aid him whenever he was in trouble, which was fairly often, given his penchant for keeping bad company. There are a lot of Marko tales in the cycle and reader, you can find them on-line by googling Prince Marko. He met his end at a battle, and as the legend goes, threw his mace into a lake. One day when the mace rises, so will Marko and the Serbian people. To date, dear reader, we are still waiting.