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Jelena Kovačević, Media Advisor to the Prime Minister Ana Brnabić

Giving Up Is Not My Option

A month from now will mark exactly one year since I became an adviser for media to the Serbian Prime Minister, and that’s not just any Prime Minister, but the first lady Prime Minister in the history of Serbia.

The start of her mandate, and thus my start in this position, was marked by a strike at Fiat. I didn’t have my team formed, I didn’t even know the number of my office, and I expected of myself, and Serbia expected of Ana Brnabić, for the strike to be ended and the workers sent back to work. In just one day, I had more than 96 telephone conversations. There were just too many, which is why I remember the number.

From my current perspective, it’s difficult for me to accurately define where I found the motivation to carry on. I was raised never to give up and to give my all for that which matters to me. At that point, giving up wasn’t an option – of course, in my head. I wanted to help end the strike and ensure we received the support of the public and the media. The strike ended with our visit to Kragujevac, and that was our first joint victory.

At the time, the politically inexperienced Prime Minister Ana Brnabić managed to keep Fiat in Serbia and save 2,500 jobs. The media, albeit timidly, declared this as her first success.

While studying marketing, I dreamt of being at the centre of events, of having information and influence that relies on knowledge, good contacts and professionalism. While on our first official visit to Norway, seeing myself in Oslo, as the Prime Minister talked with students and I sat in the last row because from there I could send press releases, photos and her statements, I realised that I am living the dream from my childhood. As I said, giving up wasn’t an option.

My challenge is to ensure Ana Brnabić isn’t only acknowledged once Serbia gains its next prime minister. That’s the challenge of working with a person who is ahead of their time and who holds modern values in a country where the majority is traditional. By working with her, I have the opportunity to promote my own values: equality, accessibility, acceptance of minority groups, dialogue and communication. These values lead me to try to understand even those for whom the absence of good intentions is obvious.

I am aware that in changing the world I am changing myself. Accepting the chance offered, I also accepted the obligation not to give up and to carry on. And that’s how it is every day, because each new day brings a new challenge

I believe that my education gives me strength and a broader perspective. I think reading gives breadth and the possibility for a person not to “hammer” at a given moment or in some situation. I grew up on rock’n’roll culture, American movies and Russian literature.

Someone has already gone through all of that, while only a few get the chance to do what they desired during childhood. I was offered that chance by Serbia’s first gay prime minister, and I accepted it. At that time, it was a possibility, while now it is an opportunity for us to, together, change the image of us that is in front of us and out in the world. Changing the image in the world begins with changes within ourselves.

The change also starts at a New Year’s media reception when there is a response from the majority of editors who don’t have a habit of attending such gatherings or who have a critical attitude towards the government they were coming in for a cocktail. I believe deeply that changes are visible, and I personally want them to be so deep that we cannot return to the point at which we started. Even if the second year at Nemanjina 11 started with a strike, I’m sure I wouldn’t personally make more than 96 calls, because I have a team and experience. And now I know exactly where is it.

Jelena Kovačević

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