Good-bye, Belgrade!


Moving houses one more time. This time, it is Serbia that I’m leaving. I’ve spent here not that much time –three months only – but that was enough to make me feel sad at saying good-bye to it.

I’m holding a book of Serbian fairy-tales under my arm – a gift from a dear friend – as my backpack is about to disappear into the belly of an aircraft. Soon we’ll be thousands of kilometers away from Belgrade: from its houses that look at you with their half-shut eyes; from its forests that stretch towards you with their ancient branches; and from its rivers that whisper you a new story every day.

In an almost empty waiting hall, I am leafing through the book. The language differs from Ukrainian and Russian, but I can still make out the meaning of this or that phrase. The book reads as a manuscript in a familiar but long-forgotten language, and me, for a second I am an explorer in a far-away jungle, trying to decipher it.

That is precisely what I was trying to do during those three months in Belgrade – decipher it: its houses, its streets, its people, its essence.

Some creatures in the book intrigue me with their weirdness. Some are strange to the point of intimidation. Every time I stumbled upon an unexpected reaction or a strange new custom, I felt butterflies rising up in my stomach – a sign of curiosity being aroused, and a sense of timidity before stepping into unknown, an adventure of sorts.

I had plenty of butterflies fluttering inside and around me this summer, in Belgrade. Sometimes they beat frantically with their tiny wings at my face, sometimes they covered me, as if with a blanket, to wish me a magic good night. In my dreams I discovered worlds, understood something, and when I woke up, hastily jotting down sequences and conclusions, and looked sleepily around, I saw in front of me a field of dead butterflies, revived every time, though, when I, in my turn, filled them with my own dreams.

Luckily, there are no farewells in the world of constant movement and good-byes are just a promise of new start.

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