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RuzaWednesday, November 23rd,2005 , six years to the day after Suba was buried, found me back in a snowy Novi Sad for the Jazz Festival. This time there was to be a showing of the Suba film after a performance of the ballet REX ILLUSIVII, (based on Suba's music), on the Saturday, November 26th...but the main, overriding, central reason for my visit was to record the memories of Zoran Janjetov, (Suba's closest friend), and Suba's mother Ruza, to form the basis of the soundtrack of my planned documentary.

The Festival took its course, the snow disappeared as swiftly as it had arrived, and on the Friday night it was time for the Interview...! The Janjetov apartment wasn't enormous but it was cosy and warm With hundreds of books and CDs competing for wall space with original Janjetov artwork, and I immediately felt relaxed and at home. What followed was to be unforgettable.

Ruza and SubaThe technology was obedient, Zoran a natural, unaffected raconteur With a bundle of colourful memories, and a bottle of Rakia was never far away. We must have had recorded two or even three hours of material when Ruza arrived. Although she spoke some English, the emotional charge of her story Seemed to call for the unforced clarity of her native tongue, so she spoke in Serbian. She was calm, dignified, and infinitely, profoundly sad.

The snow had inflamed the memories of November 1999... She called it, I remember, "the white sorrow"...and it had brought the pain back up close again. It is difficult to register just how moving her testimony was. All I can say is that as she finished her story...and I'd not understood a single word she had said...the tears were streaming down my face, indeed down all our faces.

She had included me, the alien observer, in the intimacy of the moment With grace and uncomplicated, unemphatic generosity. Remaining calm and controlled, she re-lived the heartbreak yet again for my sake, or for the sake of a film that might never be. I later learnt that in the space of twelve months, Ruza had lost both her parents, then her husband, and finally her son.

Martha's Pub - Novi SadOn the last night of my stay, Sunday, November 27th, I made my way to Martha’s Pub, the tiny backstreet watering-hole that carried the legend “God Bless the Pumpkins”, where I downed a few rakias to while away the empty evening, and got drawn into the sort of encounter that starts with baleful “who-are-you-looking-at” stares, grows into nodding and grunting and clumsy semaphore, and ends with a tearful embrace, that often occurs between drinkers who don’t share the same language.

He was a young man with a bold, blank stare, an impressive overcoat, and an henchman who was wielding a bottle of...quote..."Tito’s private wine". They were both drinking for Eastern Europe, and by this stage...so was I. I was ready to believe anything...that this guy was my brother, that Novi Sad was the city of my birth, that Suba was alive and well, that everything in a torn and terrible world was, in fact, just fine.

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