“Diaspora Day has become the place to meet people, communicate and exchange new ideas, but also to create solutions for issues regarding the motherland and the diaspora”, said the rector of Singidunum University, professor Mladen Veinović at the opening ceremony of the event. “Statistical indicators show that there are 11.5 million Serbs in the world today. In Serbia there are 6.2 million Serbs and in Republic of Srpska 1.2, whereas in Montenegro the Serbs comprise a third of population with 182.000, and almost 4 million Serbs live in the diaspora. The Serbs can be found at all five continents. Most of us live in the USA, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Significant number lives in Canada, Great Britain, Sweden and Italy. The origins of Serbian diaspora can be traced back to 1690 when the First Great Migration under Arsenije Čarnojević happened. The Great Migrations of the Serbs in 17th and 18th centuries were caused by the then political situation in Europe. Current statistics show the following: according to data from the World economic forum, when it comes to brain drain, Serbia holds an infamous high position and below it only come countries such as Burundi, Algeria, and Haiti”, Veinović said and also noted that migrations in Serbia in most cases today are in the form of one-way tickets. “The problem is not that people are leaving because mobility is one of the foundations of Europe, but the fact that people do not return for they do not have many contacts with the motherland once they leave the country”, added professor Veinović.
After the rector, the floor was given to Miroslav Michael Djordjevich, the president of “Studenica” Foundation from San Francisco and one of the most prominent Serbs in the USA. Miroslav Djordjevich is founder and president of the American foundation “Studenica” that has been giving scholarships for the couple of decades to students and young talented people from Serbia, and under whose patronage over two thousand young leaders and professionals have been awarded scholarships. He is the founder and the first president of the well-known and probably the most influential organization that Serbia, i.e. its diaspora has ever started named “Serbian Unity Congress”. Djordjevich is one of the best-known businessmen in the USA and also the executive president of the company Monad Financials. During his productive career he shared his knowledge and experience by publishing numerous creative works, among which is his latest book “Decade of Illusions 1990-2000” published in 2016.
On the third Diaspora Day, Michael Djordjevich discussed the current problems between the motherland and diaspora and possible solutions. “As most diasporas around the globe, ours could and should be non-alienated part of our country and Serbian people. Nevertheless, when communism rose to power in 1944, the non-alienated part and nature of relation disappeared, and the diaspora was seen as the enemy. All this was and still is to the detriment of the Serbian state and people”, said Djordjevich.
After the guest from the USA, the floor was given to Zoran Radović, academician from Serbian Academy of Science and Arts, who talked about scientific and art diaspora, and also about the policy of return.
The state was presented by Nenad Nerić, a state secretary from the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affair, as well as by Marko Milenković, a state secretary from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development.
At the end of the opening ceremony and plenary session, Nikola Lončar, president of Tesla Science Foundation, took the floor and presented the awards and recognitions for contributions made in cooperation of the motherland and diaspora.
The first award, Teslas People, i.e. the medal for his long-term work in Hungary, his work on connecting the Serbs in the region and the motherland, as well as the work he has done for the Serbian community in Hungary and creating connections with the work and life of Nikola Tesla, was awarded to professor Vlastimir Vujić from Budapest. “I am pleasantly surprised to receive this award that, trust me, I did not expect, particularly for I was a bit worried whether people would expect some results from me in the future, after having received the life’s work award in Budapest on May 16th in the field of journalism and another award prior to that. However, when asked if those awards committed me in any way, I surprised everyone with the answer: I am still working!”, said professor Vujić on the occasion.
The second award was presented to Tamara Ćirić, a returnee from Chicago, who started web portal “online registry office” in Niš, as well as the system for learning the Serbian language over the internet. The third award was presented to writer Marina Bulatović Barny from Canada. On her behalf, the award was accepted by Serbian actress and writer Iva Štrljić. The fourth award was presented to Ana Karpanova, a young artist from the Ukraine whose works are inspired by Nikola Tesla.
After a break and exhibition of the artists from diaspora, the programme was continued in two parallel sessions, namely “Relations between the motherland and the diaspora” and “Diaspora and policy of return”. The Agenda for Diaspora Day can be seen here.
Speakers at the first session were: professor Petar Lastić, president of the Serbian Institute in Budapest, professor Jovan Filipović from Faculty of Organizational Sciences in Belgrade, Dragica Schröder from writers’ association “Seven” from Frankfurt, professor Svetlana Matić, vice-president of “Prosvjeta” from Austria, Tamara Ćirić, vice-president of the Academic Serbian association from Niš, professor Vladimir Grečić, a representative of the Board for the Study of Populations of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, as well as Nikola Lončar, president of Tesla Science Foundation who gave the closing speech at the session.
Speakers at the second session were: Mirjana Samardžija, executive vice-president of “Studenica” Foundation from San Francisco, professor Vesna Vučinić-Nešković from Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, Slavica Mastikosa, a returnee from Frankfurt, writers’ association “Seven”, Željko Šljivančanin, PhD, a returnee from Lausanne (Switzerland), Vinča Institute, Marina Švabić from Los Angeles, professor Dimitrije Vasiljević, a jazz pianist and composer from Xavier University of Louisiana, USA, assistant professor Marina Marjanović-Jakovljević, a returnee from Madrid, Singidunum University and academician Zoran Radović from Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
Many Serbian publishing companies took part in art programme of Diaspora Day. Some of them were: CLIO, Akademska Misao, Odbrana, Miroslav, Hera Edu, as well as writers’ association “Seven” from Frankfurt that presented their releases from Germany. Works that attracted most attention were the book Decade of Illusions by Miroslav Michael Djordjevic from the USA and the novel Nina of Arabia by Marina Bulatović Barny.
Art programme was complemented with sculpture works of our sculptor Luka Radojević, art works inspired by Nikola Tesla by Ana Parfonova, an artist from the Ukraine, as well as T-shirts “Zmajice”, hand painted with organic colours made by our artist and a returnee Tanja Pljakić Blagojević.
Plenary session also featured our young solo singer Tamara Kovačević who sang folk song “Svu noć mi bilbil prepeva”, whereas the first parallel session was opened by the choir made of alumni of Studenica Foundation Filip Milivojević, Radivoje Spasojević, Marko Janković, and Nemanja Perkučin performing the songs “Tamo daleko” and “Uletela dva sokola”.
A cocktail party was organized at the end of Diaspora Day where the guests could network, exchange their contacts, sum up the impressions, and planned the topic for the next year’s Diaspora Day. Diaspora Day has become a focal point of gathering, and a generator of both ideas and solutions of improving relations between the motherland and the diaspora. Nevertheless, as several speakers pointed out, changes that could affect the diaspora the most must come from the inside, from the strong government that would direct, help and advise, but not control the diaspora. Photographs (Zoran Bulović) can be seen here.