Svetlana Rašević Sarić – Bijeljina: “If the Swiss had a country like ours, they would be swimming in money”
Svetlana Rašević Sarić describes herself as Mom of three first, and only then as a creative spirit. She is into decoupage, furniture restoration, and in addition, she also pursues some kind of hothouse farming and processing of hothouse produce. She is not a person who is attached to a single spot, instead she is always looking for a new challenge and that is why she is everywhere.
Decoupage, creativity, is this something like your first love, or…? How did you even get into that?
First, I took my elder daughter to decoupage classes, to those workshops, and she started doing it. I watched from the side and thought, „No chance I could do that.“ In effect, I started by making jewellery, but in the end I found myself in doing decoupage just right. While my daughter found jewellery a great pursuit. It shows that one never knows what talents they have. You always think, „This is something I do well,“ but if someone told me that, at 45, I would find that I can do decoupage, I would have told him that we was crazy.
I can be tired, I can be nervous, but the moment I start working, then absolutely everything around me disappears.
As regards the hothouse, that particular story began thanks to the „Lara Foundation“, which implemented economic empowerent of women two years ago. She normally grows green onions, peppers, lettuce and tomatoes, and uses tomatoes to make szataras, djuvech, boiled tomatoes and sells it.
We strive to avoid putting a lot of preservatives, to look to apply pasterization as naturally as possible. Now we have a small fruit orchard and we process our fruit, make jams and marmalade. I make it for my children, and then I sell the surplus. I make cherry jam which is rare in these parts, so it is of interest to my friends.
About the Women’s Collective, Svetlana said that it resulted directly from economic empowerment project implemented by the „Lara Foundation“. The foundation has existed since 1998 and their mission is to help women, particularly marginalized women – victims of violence, women who find it difficult to find jobs due to their age etc.
Currently, its main activity is cleaning buildings, and we have seven collaborators, whom we invite as needed, when we get a call. When something needs cleaning, we call them in, they do it, they have a works contract, and that is how we pay them, and pay taxes. We did not limit ourselves only to this activity, there are a few other ideas, which needed to be developed with donor assistance.
What even motivated you to get into all that?
Mainly, I have never been a static type, neither before or after I got married. Even before the marriage I could have been doing three jobs at a time.
I always state that I was lucky that I started earning when I was five. My grandfather’s brother, since we spent our summers in the country, at his farm, would always give us a small basket to pick blackberries and then we sold them to the country collective. And he would never take the money, but instead let us keep it. In that way, he showed us in very practical terms, that you can only earn a living by honest work. And ever since, I was always doing something, only there was more work then, youth associations etc.
And then, when I got married, the circumstances were such that, not that anyone forbid me to wrok, but in six years I had three pregnancies, three births and I used to joke – I was either pregnant, or I was a new mother, or I had a little baby. And then you simply must choose, whether you can do good work either as a parent, or at work, you must choose one option. Whoever says that they can do it all – they can’t. Something’s gotta give. I chose my family and that was always my priority.
The moment when my youngest daughter, so to speak, grew up a bit, I was already getting bored. I mean bored – there were always chores, but somehow, at that time I finished what I had planned and I needed to step outside that framework. It bothered me, particularly when, just when I gave birth to my third daughter, my husband lost his job. And I am generally the kind of person who hates to be dependent than anyone, or anything. Meaning I hated waiting for some of my friends or family to visit and bring money to help, while I could work. It was a kind of humiliation for me.
So I needed to find a place for myself in all that, but to find something that would be relaxing, something that would not cause me to twitch at home and to pass it to my family. My late father-in-law had been a carpenter, so there was a lot of his tool around the house. And my husband’s, too. And when I told him for the first time that I wanted to do decoupage, my husband responded, „Ay, another female idea“. However, once I came back from the first fair organized by my friend Maja Mršić, otherwise one of the originators of creative fairs in Bijeljina, and when I brought in a respectable amount of money, then my husband realized that this could be a solid income for our family.
Then he started helping me, making boxes for me, I would embelish them, while my eldest daughter would make jewellry. Two younger ones packed lavender, so that the entire family took part. Reasonable, nothing big, but we were satisfied, and also, through making friends at fairs, then you make decent money and we have been fulfilled.
And what I asked many people, what do you think about the emigration of young people from the country?
Well, I would gladly trade places with the young.
Would you go if you were younger?
Without a moment’s thought. I keep saying that, if not every day, then at least every few days I tell my husband, „Let’s go somewhere.“
I am sorry, we just discussed how beautiful this country is, how good, how rich. We are not even aware of it. When I say that I used to live in Switzerland, and that I came back during the war, people usually tell me that I was insane. I came back exactly on the account of my family, because somehow I always put my family before money. And I keep saying, „If the Swiss had a country like ours, they would be swimming in money.“
I am sad that our politicians do not understand our youth, do not guide them properly. Bijeljina alone had six major factories. Back then, in Bijeljina, a town of not quite 40,000 inhabitants, one in five or six people had jobs.
Before, people used to be content, they had a sort of security. My father told me, „Were I the same age as you, I would not dare make any plans, neither build a house, nor do anything,“ because, put simply, there is no order, no rule of law. Here, the main game is that our politicians line their pockets, and others have to fend through themselves.
And just take a look, from Bijeljina, all the way to Banja Luka, the Lijevče Plain, it is a breadbasket. There you have a such a breadbasket that you can literally feed a half of Europe. We have clean coil for organic production. Clean water.
I do not even take into account, when I travelled through the area around Mostar, filled with all those beautiful vineyards. The BiH could potentially feed entire Europe, even dictate food prices. We have this segment of agriculture where we can, regardless of how small we are, we could dictate some terms. You could employ young experts, give them better terms, so small collectives, even small factories can be created, a few of them can partner up to create a collective, but that the state provides backing and protection of these products.
In other words, there are many ideas that could keep young people here, but in this country, it seems that the main objective is, not to chase away just the young, but all of us.