Year of return: 2018
LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW
MOVED TO AUSTRALIA
DESIRE TO COME BACK
Vladimir points out that the need to return home existed inside of
him since he was a child. He knew that he was going to come back,
it was just a matter of creating optimal conditions for making such a
big step in his life. When Vladimir bought his first real estate at the
age of 18, he thought of it as an investment in creating financial
security for his future return.
His return started as a vacation. He was traveling
Europe with his friends and stayed in Serbia for a while.
He had a feeling that the time might be right. He looked
for a job and the stars aligned the day he got a teaching
job in Belgrade and sold the property he was having
back in Australia. He felt like it was a victory. He quit his
permanent job in education where he built a reputation
and published handbooks in Australia but he kept a
remote work relationship.
Vladimir was four when he and his family moved to Australia in the early nineties. From the early age Vladimir felt that he was going to return. He felt a strong sense of belonging in Serbia and was waiting for the right time to come back.
He was romanticizing the idea of Yugoslavia, and the nostalgia connected to that idea. He believes that everyone who goes abroad has this feeling that the place they moved to is not really theirs, as opposed to the feeling of a person’s hometown. Vladimir believes that, no matter how great and beautiful a foreign country might be, it is difficult to accept it as your own.
There is a sense of longing. He had a desire to come back to Serbia, at that time the country’s name was Serbia and Montenegro. It wasn’t a decision one made lightly, it was a matter of good timing and when it would be practical to do so. I wasn’t an easy decision to make, since he was leaving friends and family behind, as well as a better salary.
Education and career in Australia
Vladimir says that he graduated from two colleges, and after that he started working for a small company as an accountant, only to switch to BMW at the position of an analyst. There he worked on analyzing financial and other type of data, but he was not into it. Ideally, he didn’t see himself in that area of work, so he turned to education in high school. It is the most multicultural high school in Victoria, with 2000 students speaking over 60 different languages. Vladimir found it very “cool”, teaching in a school where over a third of pupils were refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, and Vladimir admits that, although some tension was present, he had learned a lot from those children. That first generation of refugees, remembers Vladimir, was one that knew how many advantages a country like Australia had to provide, going to school without fear, without having to join a political party or things like that, says Vladimir. The second one was taking it for granted.
He started writing textbook for high school and soon the biggest publishing house for schoolbooks and textbooks contacted him offering a contract. This collaboration resulted in the seven of his textbooks being published, in addition to participating in writing other textbooks where the need for it occurred.
Making a decision to stay in Serbia
When he came back, in the beginning, Vladimir thought of it as a vacation. However, already fhe first week he thought he was going to live in Serbia, in spite of people not believing him. Thus he didn’t really talk a lot about him returning to Serbia, although he thought that decision couldn’t have been as bad of a decision, even if he ended up disappointed. He was more afraid of not trying and then wondering “what could have been” for the rest of his life.
His biggest concern was financial security. He was applying for jobs in Belgrade while on the vacation. One day the start aligned – he got a confirmation that he was hired. At the same time, the property that he purchased in Australia when was 18 was sold. At the time when he bought it, he intended to keep that property as an investment in his future life in Serbia. Now that was sold, he finally had everything ready to stay in Belgrade.
Naturally, he quit his job in Australia where he had a permanent work contract in education but he kept work ties with the publishing company that he still works for.
Labor and social injustice are a big pain
One of the disappointments after returning to Serbia, says Vladimir, is that he entered the system as a teacher, and soon he realized that wasn’t really for him. He enjoyed teaching but the employer didn’t fulfill everything written in the contract, so Vladimir left. Seeing the injustice and exploitation of the workers in Serbia was really painful to see. Unfortunately, Serbia is a cheap labor for the Western countries. Considering the amount of talented and intelligent people here, it’s a huge loss for the country.
As a professor, Vladimir says that joining the ruling party in Serbia just to be able to get a job, in hopes of working anywhere, and to save up money to go to their political rallies is not only something he doesn’t believe in, but also something he knows would corrupt him. The situation regarding employment in Serbia is difficult.
Ideas for starting a private business
Vladimir now solely works as a freelance consultant. Although he is quite available now, he isn’t used to having so much free time. Having free time was nice for the first couple of weeks. Now, Vladimir says, he is looking at starting his own business.
Managers in Australia, says Vladimir, have gotten accustomed to nurturing better relationship with their employees. Some of them are very wise, since they are aware of the fact that that approach is good for the business. There is no awareness of that in Serbia, Vladimir thinks. That’s why Vladimir was thinking about starting a business for employer branding and raising awareness of employers.
In western countries, the “slavery” society is much more different, since they know they can and that they have to treat their “slaves” in a proper way because employers know they can get more from the workers that way, believes Vladimir. Here, in Serbia, claims Vladimir, the difference between classes is wider, and they are more precisely defined, people know that anyone driving an X5 is the “enemy”.
Vladimir says that, if he were to open a school, or to start a business that presents a threat to anyone connected to criminals or the government, just to have someone from the Inspection the next day at his door, he couldn’t provide the paperwork for those situations. The fact is, according to Vladimir, when you have corrupt institutions and state, somewhere where you get things done through connections you gained through political parties or being in a political party, where even policemen are open to receiving bribes, it is difficult to start a business.
Vladimir claims that it is quite demoralizing when you realize that a business you thought had a potential, doesn’t have potential at all. In addition to stating he was depressed by that fact.
Vladimir recalls how he thought that people in Serbia lack empathy for each other and often behave rude, but when he got immersed in living here, he realized how hard it is and started to appreciate every act of kindness even more.
His strong sense of justice drives him to engage in the community. With a friend from the USA Vladimir helps educating Roma children from one community in Belgrade. He underlined that it is not an NGO activity, but a real team of people who have been active in this way for years now. Vladimir will also work with them on the issue of air pollution, one of the problems Vladimir deems extremely important.
Vision of the future
Vladimir would like to have a home and family somewhere in nature close to Belgrade. He feels deeply connected to nature in Serbia and finds that being very important for his sense of belonging. He is content with his decision to return. However, he is open to seeing what life will bring next.