|Živojin Prerad, somewhere in Hungary, May 2016|
Finishing my breakfast in Vienna, at Tamara’s and Michael’s place, I was getting ready to drink coffee on the terrace and slowly preparing for an afternoon drive to Belgrade. Four passengers had booked a place in the van that day. The phone rings. Bea tours. My Natašica says Mr. Alen Ilić called for his wife and himself. The problem is that nobody wants to drive them as they have 10-odd artworks. Just because nobody wanted to, I wanted to. So that day, around 5 pm, I met the sympathetic couple and we set off to Belgrade, they to Irig. Both intellectuals (that was my first thought): jeans, sneakers, light shirts. She is smiling, calm, quiet. He is very communicative, straightforward. It turns out, through the conversation, that he is from the world of music, painting... He has studied at the Faculty of Music in Belgrade. He composes, performs and teaches around the world. Also joining us in conversation was our magician who lives in Vienna; on a break somewhere in Hungary, he leaves us breathless with a few tricks. I leave Milica and Alen in Irig, and from that moment they remain in my heart. Was this an ordinary drive or I might have made new friends? I've often thought about them.
Dragičica tells me that Mr. Alen Ilic has called, and that he would like with Milica to return with me from Vienna, this time, to Belgrade. My heart was pounding with happiness, joy, elation. They remembered me after a year, and I will see them again. They're waiting for me outside the hotel. They wave to me as they saw me. I'm getting out of the van, I approach them and we hugged and kissed warmly, as if we know each other a lifetime. This is it. Luckily, this time I was right. I think I've made new FRIENDS. We started the drive to Belgrade. After briefly recounting the adventures of the past year, as we hadn’t seen each other, we settle into serious conversation. This time, while driving, I'm totally focused on Alen's story about college, music, life, work that he does, the problems he encounters, and the commendations, awards received from the world's most renowned critics in the field. Slowly putting the pieces together into a mosaic, I start to realize who the man sitting behind me, relaxed, truly is. Is it possible that I overlooked at first sight, so I didn’t immediately realize what kind of human’s giant he is? The man whose music is taught at The University of New Hampshire, Department of Music, and with that same music he proudly and defiantly explains what they actually did to us in 1999. The man who, with his music, explains to Croats what really happened in Jasenovac, where his relatives from the father’s side were brutally murdered. He is completely calm and relaxed while he is telling me all these facts. I'm thinking while I'm driving, Well, I don’t know his surname. We make a short break. I've apologized and asked him whether his surname is Ilic. He laughed and said, many misses. ILIJIĆ. So close but so far. How one letter changes everything. Everything would be clear to me even on May, 2016 when we met. But never is too late. I asked him if he could give me his CD so I could try to understand what kind of music he composes. Of course, he said politely and took out a CD. While kneeling he wrote: ''To Dear Žile, with respect.
In conversation with Alen Ilijić, May 2016
I proudly state, my friend, ALEN ILIJIĆ.
Big obeisance and respect.
Maestro, Genius and Bohemian.
Živojin Prerad, BEA Tours
English translation and photos: Milica Ilijić