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Marina Rajević Savić, TV journalist & author

To be a Christian That’s the Goal and Mission

She inscribed the history of Yugoslav and Serbian television with her show Dok anđeli spavaju [While Angels Sleep]. With her personal style and prowess, she presented the most important people from all fields of creativity, the greatest minds and greats of the arts, to the viewing public. Bearing witness in front of the cameras for her were the likes of Serbian Orthodox patriarchs Pavle, Irinej and Porfirije. She married legendary footballer Dušan “Dule” Savić at a tender age and together they have two sons, who have in turn brought them five grandchildren

She was born in the Kosovo city of Peć and spent the first six years of her life there. The colours and scents of the city of her birth live on inside her to this day, as if she can still hear the voice of the hodja from the mosque that she could see from the balcony of her house; as if she can see her friend Mahija-Shqiptar in front of her; as if she can hear the cooing of doves from the garden. Leaving Kosovo was the first time she experienced suffering, while the other two times were when she left Belgrade to go abroad with her parents and husband. After a marriage that’s lasted more than four decades so far, Marina Rajević Savić (63) feels the same as she always has: love and devotion, joy and commitment, a close attachment to her husband, the only man with whom she wanted to have children, the one with whom she will remain until the end of her life.

Marina is in many ways unique on the small screen. When she first appeared on our TVs, she was a very young and refined beauty with subtle mannerisms. She captivated audiences with her charm, serenity and intelligence, while she avoided overemphasising her modest appearance with either excessive make-up or loud outfits. Television Belgrade utilised her skills as a journalist and presenter to the extent that Marina accepted.

Golden Garden of the Rajevićs, Peć

She took hiatuses from her work – when heading abroad with her husband, giving birth and raising her sons, Uroš and Vujadin – only returning when she felt the desire to do so.

Her remarkable career endures with the success that she first established with While Angels Sleep, which can rightly be said to be an iconic show. Initially broadcast on the Third Channel of Television Belgrade, then subsequently on BK Television and later also on Studio B, where she’d first launched her career (on the radio) as a secondary school pupil, and on Television Hram. Over recent years, we’ve been watching this cult show on Sputnik.

Marina is a descendant of the Rajevićs, one of the most respected Serbian families from Kosovo. Her ancestors hailed from Peć and she was herself born close to the famous Patriarchate of Peć. She is a child of the Golden Garden of the Rajevićs. That was the name of one of the most beautiful parks in the Balkans, which was under state protection and had been created as a work of her great-grandfather, Živko. He had brought plants and trees from around the world and planted and cultivated them. A Television Belgrade documentary was even made about the Rajević garden and its famous black rose. In an effort to ensure it resembled Versailles or Schönbrunn, the garden was later cared for by Marina’s grandparents, and then by other members of the Rajević family. Her grandmother Vera was a famous French language professor who is still discussed throughout the former Yugoslavia as a unique lady, while her grandfather Milorad was a banker.

Privately, Patriarch Pavle was a jolly, sparkling and incredibly witty man

“My great-grandfather Živko was a wealthy merchant who fell in love with botany, travelled the world and brought back the most varied plant life. Over the course of his lifetime, that garden was maintained by 14 gardeners. I still remember that, while playing as a child, I had to be careful around the flowers and boxwood shrubs, and to avoid spilling gravel on the paths.

Marina and Dušan at their wedding

The water in the pool was spotlessly clean, lanterns shone and illuminated the entire garden. I was six when we moved to Belgrade, but I perfectly recall everything I experienced until that time. I also took it very hard when my parents informed me that we would be moving to Belgrade. I would return to Peć each year to stay with my grandparents during the summer and winter holidays, and later – following the death of my grandfather in 1984 – to visit my grandmother, who lived until 1994. I had a wonderful social circle and a very good Shqiptar friend. I would feel excited when I heard the voice of the hodja from the mosque. Everything seemed somehow idyllic.”

All that remains of that idyll today is the fact that Peć, or Peja as it is known to the Kosovo Albanians, is no longer home to a single Serb (with the exception of the nuns of the Patriarchate of Peć), while in the Golden Garden of the Rajevićs – prior to its complete destruction – some 37 Kosovo Albanians were known to have been felling trees and carrying them home for firewood.

“My most beautiful childhood memories are linked to Peć. I would feel a special sense of excitement when approaching my city. Just the thought of it gives me palpitations today. I remember Mount Čakor, the river Bistrica, the Patriarchate of Peć, all those magical colours and aromas, tastes and sounds, and it’s as if those times come to life within me – those people, those magical places that are unique to me, exalted, mine. I felt a similar sense of excitement in Herzegovina. Bishop Atanasije Jevtić told me that this is because both Kosovo and Herzegovina are holy lands, saturated in the blood of martyrs and the tears of prayer.”

Dušan never hampered my career and actually, on the contrary, supported and helped me in everything

Marina was 12 years old when she moved to Paris with her parents, where her father was a representative of Yugoslav company Centrotextil.

“That departure was also difficult for me. As was the case ten years later, when I again went to France for a longer period, that time with Dušan. I actually always find it hard to leave and grieve for my country whenever I go somewhere. When I was 12, I lamented the loss of my classmates, so I refused to skip a year, which I could have done as an excellent pupil, because I wanted to be in the same grade as them when I returned. After a year residing in Paris, I had the best grades. I also attended ballet classes at the famous Salle Pleyel ballet school, under Mrs Vera Krylova, who was very strict, but who liked me and did extra work with me after regular classes. She begged my parents to allow me to stay at the ballet school in Paris after they returned to Belgrade.” One of Marina’s good friends in high school was Maja Sabljić, who would go on to become a famous actress. They shared the same fate in that Branislav Rajević and Steva Sabljić were fathers who only allowed their daughters to go out only until 9pm.

Marina and Dušan with their son Uroš and granddaughter Lena (left)

“There was no point in begging; all we could do was cry because they didn’t back down. My parents were both gentle and strict. I was more rambunctious than my brother and sometimes a cane was deployed, which my mother was prone to use when I didn’t work hard at school. I don’t think that was a bad thing, nor did I receive any serious beatings. It was just a little reminder to get my act together. Dad kept a watchful eye on what I was doing, worrying about me in the way patriarchal families show concern for female children, and on top of all that, I started working at an early age on the radio at Studio B. He would drive me to and from work at the Beograđanka building.”

When she later raised her own sons, she attempted to act strict and failed. It was a good thing that Dušan was always there.

“Dušan was the real authority for our children. And it’s good that he didn’t change at all with the later arrival of our grandchildren – Andrej, Lena, Adrijana, Mihajlo and Anika. He treated them with the same authoritative approach. I wasn’t capable of being strict with my children like my parents had been with me, but I’m satisfied with the kind of people they’ve grown up to become.”

Because of the ballet that she continued to devoted herself to for quite a long time after returning to Belgrade, her friends called her ‘Marina the Ballerina’. When she once appeared as a guest of a Studio B show intended for high school pupils and spoke about ballet, editor Aleksandar Kostić really liked her voice and offered her the job of presenting the show Prekobrojni čas [Extra Lesson].

Grandchildren Adrijana, Lena, Anika, Andrej i Mihajlo, and son Vujadin (right)

She was soon invited to work at Television Belgrade, just prior to turning 18, and that’s how her successful television career began.

“Everything happened somehow spontaneously, and in spite of my wish to become a ballerina or a doctor. My curiosity prevailed; the need to explore and study people and phenomena, to immortalise events with a photo or film camera, to convey my experiences to others.”

When she took the first hiatus of her career, she was 22 years old and working very successfully on the Television Belgrade Weekend Programme, a show that was broadcast live and that she took to like a duck to water.

“It was tough for me to drop everything and head to France with Dušan. I was sorry to be parted from my parents, my friends, I simply never felt a need to leave Belgrade. That world was beautiful and like a fairytale for me, but I constantly felt a need to return home.”

Life is much better if there’s no inflated ego implying that everything starts from oneself and only “I” is the priority

When she gave birth to Uroš, peace and contentment reigned supreme in her life. And Vujadin came into the world three years later. She had wanted more, but she lost a third child when she was five months pregnant. She dreamt that there were five of them. She was increasingly a mothlever and the wife of red & whites football legend Dule Savić.

“It would bother me slightly back then when someone would present me as the wife of Dušan Savić, instead of saying what I do for a living. If I could turn back the clock today, I wouldn’t object in the slightest to being presented as only Dule Savić’s wife.”

She says that her husband is so authentic and true to himself that he is capable of defending his position in such a way that she finds it cute even when she thinks the complete opposite.

“Dušan’s life views are fixed and immovable. On the other hand, he never hampered my career and actually, on the contrary, supported and helped me in everything. Of course, circumstances proved decisive in us heading abroad, but it was natural for me to support Dušan’s career at that juncture.”

For many television viewers, Marina was the first presenter to interview church dignitaries on the small screen, firstly discussing life, and then faith. It was thanks to her that Patriarch Pavle became more beloved by many believers and closer to atheists. Dušan was initially helpful to her when she wanted to address some religious topics or interview some officials of the Serbian Orthodox Church. He was on personal terms with Patriarch German and many bishops. Her interest in this area also implied studying spiritual literature, socialising with people from the Church and constant learning.

“It isn’t easy to live a proper Christian life, to be conscious of yourself and your origins, of your faith and tradition; having understanding and respect for those who aren’t Christians, for members of other faiths; to love people, both friends and enemies, and to be ready to make sacrifices for the sake of love, to have humility and to be patient and courageous. To be a Christian – that is the goal and mission.”

With Serbian Patriarch Porfirije

Marina’s speech is ennobled by her faith in God, while her conversations with patriarchs Pavle, Irinej and Porfirije represent the most precious testimonies and legacies of these church dignitaries. She did her first show with the future Patriarch Porfirije back in 1996, when he was the abbot of Kovilj Monastery, and they have since spoken many times on various occasions. She describes him as gentle, caring and sensitive.

“That’s how I experienced him the first time and he remains the same today. I’ve followed his gradual development – from abbot, via metropolitan bishop of Zagreb, to Patriarch. His residency in Zagreb was a serious school and provided a huge contribution to improving relations between the two churches and the two nations. I’m certain that he was our best diplomat in Zagreb, as a man who knows how to deal with people due to having learned that while he was the abbot of a monastery. He transferred all the good things he’d done in his diocese when he went to Zagreb, only doing so at a higher lever el. And he continued from then until today.”

I’m certain that Patriarch Porfirije was our best diplomat in Zagreb

Marina preserves her most beautiful memories from her meeting with Patriarch Pavle, the much-loved head of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Marina’s grandmother, Vera, had sung in the choir of the Patriarchate of Peć. Patriarch Pavle had known her and it was the best recommendation for him to accept to be interviewed by her granddaughter.

“Privately, Patriarch Pavle was a jolly, sparkling and incredibly witty man. I knew that he sang well and had heard that he played the guitar well, so I begged him to play something, but he didn’t accept. The Patriarch was also loved by those who didn’t believe in God, but did believe in the Patriarch. That was demonstrated at his funeral, which is remembered as an outpouring of immense love from the people. Even in the worst among us, a grain of goodness worked within them to be there that day, in that silence. Dobrica Ćosić dubbed that event a triumph of virtue.”

Marina has the rare ability to be able to talk with people on television even during times of strain and woe. And to present them to the viewers quite laid bare, but not hurt. When asked who she would confess to in the way her interlocutors confided in her, she answers categorically.

“Nobody. I know no such person. Maybe, possibly, Dragan Babić, if he had asked me during his lifetime. You know, I always recall my wonderful colleague Svetolik Skale Mitić, a legend of television and one of the first journalists and hosts of Television Belgrade’s Dnevnik [daily news bulletin], who would say that the most attractive interview with me would be done by Marina Rajević Savić. That would present the genuine contrast between the two Marinas that exist within me, with one Marina immediately cancelling out the other. Although I don’t believe in horoscopes, everyone attributes this quality to the sign of Gemini, under which I was born.”

Few people have been able to emulate what Marina managed to do in her shows. One of her anthological interviews was with the poet Mira Alečković (1924-2008), who spoke publicly for the first time about her decades-long love affair with Slovenian novelist and translator Ciril Kosmač (1910-1980), which lasted throughout all the years that she was married to painter Sava Nikolić (1920-1981), with whom she had three children. One of her children, journalist Neda Nikolić, testified to this fact in front of the cameras.

With son Vujadin and daughter-in-law Mirka Vasiljević

“How she spoke fascinated me. It’s as if I’m now listening to her describe her mother as being modest, calm and measured, but when Ciril would appear she would become excited, happy, red-faced… That daughter, who unfortunately died early, was a witness to her mother’s love and the layers of her personality. That really was a story worthy of a novel.”

Marina has been airing While Angels Sleep on Sputnik in recent years. She has equally interesting guests and great viewing figures, and she finds it particularly satisfying to talk with young people who marry early and are big champions of marriage. She says that Serbia is full of such young people and that they serve as evidence of the normal state of a nation that has a future. Marina admires them in the same way that she admires her own daughter-in-law, actress Mirka Vasiljević, who is a mother of four children, because she had more feminine wisdom and life wisdom at the age of 21 than Marina had herself had at her age:

“We all know that no marriage is ideal. None of us are ideal, but life is much better if there’s no inflated ego implying that everything starts from oneself and only “I” is the priority. What would it be like if we turned to the one who is beside us and gave ourselves and bowed down to him? If we view life as a couple in that way, we receive more than we expect. And we can instil as sense of security and confidence in our children.

“Our sons established their own families at a very young age. Dušan and I are today alone in our apartment and enjoying each other’s company. We receive our children and grandchildren, relatives and friends, and look forward to each new day. Does the meaning of life not reside in those little things?”