Svetlana Bojković, Dramatic Artist:

I’m My Own Harshest Judge

In school I was the best pupil. I was raised to seek the most from myself. I would sometimes say to myself, and within myself – Oh God, will I ever be able to deliver any line like Mira Stupica, like Ljiljana Krstić, like Olivera Marković?! When I thought about this, I implied that I would be as natural in acting as them, or as natural as a fish in water. It took me 16 years of playing to get to that, to play Madam San Zhen on the stage of the National Theatre, and then afterwards to say to myself loudly: Oh, Svetlana, now you’re an actress, now you’ve succeeded in what you wanted!

The television series called ‘Bolji život’ (A Better Life) is repeated very often on TV Belgrade, and its main star, Svetlana Bojković (69), proves again and again that she did such a good job that even today, thirty years after filming, her acting prowess and her specific beauty still hold the attention of viewers.

Born as an only child, she felt enormous happiness when she found herself surrounded by other children in her first year of primary school. That’s because she had everything except the company of other children. And there, in her first class, she immediately fell in love with a certain Miloš Bojanić, who sat in the front row. She looked at him constantly, and after three or four days of school, when the children returned from the main break, Svetlana ran to that beautiful little boy who was sitting on the first bench in the middle row, kissed him and cried:
“You’re so beautiful, I love you!” At that moment, the whole class started yelling, and the teacher, who had just entered the room, asked what had happened. They all shouted in unison that I had kissed a boy, but the teacher calmly passed over that by stating that that was nice and that we should love and socialise with each other. However, from the last bench a tall boy jumped to his feet. He started to explain that I had not kissed that boy in the way the techer had said, but rather in another way! And with that the whole class started to howl with laughter. I covered my face with my hands, and so my first love turned into a major embarrassment and shame.”Responding to the criticism that this was her first public lesson in acting, that this was more of an act than actual, she explains today:
“In acting terms, that was sincere! I ran to him because he was so sweet to me, and to this day I remember how that boy’s hair was cut. I’ve never met him again, never in my life. If he reads this, let him know. Otherwise, I’ve never before spoken about this.”

That which Svetlana Bojkovi? has usually spoken about for the last forty years relates mostly to her rich professional life, which has provided her with the glory of being a great actress. She has performed hundreds of theatrical roles and slightly fewer film and television roles, received all of the major awards presented for film and theatre, and she is equally loved and harshly criticised among the general public. She has acted and carried the repertoires of the most prestigious theatres in Belgrade – the Yugoslav Drama Theatre, the National Theatre, Atelier 212 etc. For her role in Goran Paskaljevi?’s film Pas koji je voleo vozove (The dog that loved trains), she won the Golden Arena award, while she possesses the greatest Žanka Stoki? theatre award, the Dobrica’s Ring Lifetime Achievement Award…

And when it comes to acting, everything started when she was just a little girl:
“I’ve always loved to act, I also even sang. When the primary school teacher asked if anyone knew a little song to sing, I immediately raised my hand and said that I know the song Procvala je trešnjica , and I sang it using a microphone, which was very important to me. After that I recited at school events and that continued at the XIV Belgrade High School, where I led the drama department and directed a recital – Rabindranath Tagore’s Gradinar, with the poetry recited by Predrag Ejdus, Goran Sultanovi? and me. We entered into competition with this programme, won numerous awards and all together, with no auditions, were accepted by the Dadov youth amateur theatre:
“Thus began my acting life, but also my private life because, as I have already told you, that was the first time I saw my second husband, then my first husband, not knowing at all what life would bring me. There I first saw Muci from the sidelines. He didn’t see me, of course, because he had come to see a play of Zoran Ratkovi?, who was his godfather, and was then an actor training to be a director, and he later became a director. I was actually there as assistant director and, since they no longer needed, when the premiere was performed I asked if I could be a prompt. But they didn’t even need that, and it was very difficult for me to step away, so I crouched down behind the curtain, which was quite unnecessary, but necessary to me. I saw Muci through the open curtain. He was scratching his beard, and next to him was his wife Maja. I was then 16-17 years old. I didn’t see him again for the next 7-8 years, until we did some work together for television.

Photo by Vukica Mika?a

In Finland I saw how uncomplicated those people are, how uncomplicated the politicians are who run the country, and the Government in general; how close their relationship is with the public… Great trust exists between the people in power and the nation; a common desire exists to work for the good of their country and that’s why everything progresses in that country

After two or three months at Dadov, actor Miloš Žuti? appeared for rehearsals for a play in which I had the lead role at Dadov. Then I only played Shakespeare and that was the comedy Much Ado About Nothing, and here we are now”.

This ‘now’ refers to the fact that Svetlana is currently rehearsing Shakespeare’s Richard III, on the stage of the National Theatre, where she plays the Duchess of York, who is the mother of Richard III. Svetlana never yearned to play Ophelia or Juliet, somehow that all seemed like a cliché to her, while Desdemona really didn’t attract her:
“Still, it is strange that this writer has evaded me completely until today. Regardless, I’m a little sorry that I never came across those beautiful verses of his.”

Asked whether she had a desire as a young actress to perform alongside some great actor as a partner, she answers:
“I grew up in a time of great respect for authority, and my upbringing was especially like that, as was my character, so that kind of thing did not even cross my mind. I just wanted to act, I don’t even know what, just to act, but I was completely unarticulated. It was only important to me to stand in the light of the stage, like a bug on a lamp.”

Throughout her entire career, and even today, she has been very hard on herself and to her it was less important what other people would say and more important how she felt and what she would say:
“Of course, what they would say about me was important to me, but that was really of secondary importance. I grew up pampered and I was perhaps spoiled. At school I was the best pupil. That was expected of me, but I had no desire whatsoever to compete with anyone, rather I was raised to seek the best from myself. I would sometimes say to myself, and within myself – Oh God, will I ever be able to deliver any line like Mira Stupica, like Ljiljana Krsti?, like Olivera Markovic?! When I thought about this, I implied that I would be as natural in acting as them, or as natural as a fish in water. It took me 16 years of playing to get to that, to play Madam San Zhen on the stage of the National Theatre, and then afterwards to say to myself loudly: Oh, Svetlana, now you’re an actress, now you’ve succeeded in what you wanted!

From her first marriage, with actor Miloš Žuti?, Svetlana has a daughter, Katarina Žuti?, an actress at Atelier 212, while her second marriage, to director Ljubomir Muci Draški?, lasted from 1985 until his death in 2004. What did they mean to her; how important were both of these artists and husbands to her?

“I had great help from both of them, and they are two very important figures. I don’t know what my development would have looked like without them. Miša was kind of my Pygmalion, though not a strict Pygmalion, and he heavily influenced my formation of self. When I met Muci and when my life with him started, I was already an established actress. Muci had no need to lead me, nor did I have a need for anyone to lead me like Miša had done. Thus, Muci and I collaborated in this sense more or less like equals, even though he was older than me. I never interfered in his direction, and he left his actors, of course myself inclded, to create their own roles. That was his great tramadol overnight cash on delivery advantage.”

Svetlana is among those actresses that partners are very happy to choose, if they can, because she is very adaptable and extremely valuable on the stage or in front of cameras. And throughout her career she often performed two partners who are no longer among the living and who she particularly loved:
“I got a lot from my partners in the mature period of my life, from Petar Kralj and ?uza Stojiljkovi?. They are the people who I felt best performing alongside on the stage. I was somehow closer to Pera, because he also choreographed me on stage. ?uza was not a man who would ever correct me; he was again one who would follow you and would always follow you. Pera and I also socialised privately; that was more than 40 years of joint work and friendship.”

With daughter KATARINA ŽUTI? in the play Selected Stories (Sabrane pri?e)
With daughter KATARINA ŽUTI? in the play Selected Stories (Sabrane pri?e)

My husband Slavko has taste, a simple aesthetic sense for those things, which is very important to me. Because of that, and due to many other reasons, because of the many things we share together, I can rightfully say that he is my calm and happy port

During her successful career, Svetlana has constantly learned, constantly engaged in her craft, because she believes that it is her task as an actress to become aware of her craft. This resulted in slowing down her her intimate internal development. She never regretted becoming an actress, nor has she considered that she could have done something else. She went from job to job, with no time to think about something else:
“Perhaps now, when you ask me if I could have done something else, I think that something else would also have to be related to an audience. I could either have been a professor and someone who lectures in front of an audience. I also think I’m a good organiser and I have the characteristics to be a leader of something. Of course, only in no way in politics.”

Regardless of how much she has avoided politics, during her career she accepted many social engagements which contributed to improving her standing and her profession. And she did all of that pro bono, organising the collection of funds for retired actors and various other events at which money was collected for her colleagues who were in need. She did all of this during the 1990s, when nothing went her way – neither the government nor her financial situation:
“We looked like Hollywood, but we didn’t even have anything for a dog to bite. Television broadcast for free, tickets were sold for 100 Deutschmarks for one seat, and for that they received dinner and a programme, and everyone was formally dressed. One man taught me how to do that and I executed it very well. In this way we were also able to encourage the Ministry of Culture to participate in that. There Nada Popovi? Periši?, the then culture minister, showed herselft in the best light. She recognised what we were doing and helped us.”

With her current husband, diplomat Slavko Kruljevi?, Svetlana has spent the last five years in Helsinki, where he served until recently as Serbia’s ambassador to Finland. Here Svetlana also took her obligations seriously and was able in her interviews to talk about that country while selecting words in order to describe as accurately as possible the life and culture of that nation. Today she explains for CorD:
“In that country I saw how uncomplicated those people are, how uncomplicated the politicians are who run the country, and the Government in general; how close their relationship is with the public. These people have an awareness that whoever works well for their own good best contributes to their society and their country. Great trust exists between the people in power and the nation; a common desire exists to work for the good of their country and that’s why everything progresses in that country. That’s why in that country there is no rift, regardless of individual complaints regarding politicians and so on. But there is no rift between those who run the country and the nation, nor between the government and the opposition. Corruption is at the very minimum there.”

When asked what she missed the most in Finland, we were primarily thinking that she would have missed stages and cameras. However, those who know Svetlana know that she is very thorough in everything she does. And that’s also how she behaved in the role of the wife of an ambassador, a role she performed successfully throughout those five years:
“In the beginning I didn’t miss anything, because I got to know that country and became familiar with the people, though it is a major handicap to live in a country whose language you do not know. Although they all speak English, not knowing the Finnish language is still a handicap. That language is very difficult. I tried to learn it through everyday conversation, but that was not enough. I spent a lot of time visiting cultural monuments and theatres, and I read a lot. In short, I interpreted that as some kind of holiday, as distancing myself from my former life. That was fine for three years, then a routine started to emerge that began to bother me. And when something starts bothering you, that’s the time to change. And where are you going to change other than by going back to where you came from. And so it was.”

When you ask me if I could have done something else, I think that something else would also have to be related to an audience. I could either have been a professor and someone who lectures in front of an audience. I also think I’m a good organiser and I have the characteristics to be a leader of something. Of course, only in no way in politics

This actress has never had a problem adapting to the environment in which she has worked. She may have left, but she never wanted to change Belgrade for another city:
“I have that adapatability to be able to live wherever you put me and however you put me there. Of course, I would never stay and I definitely wouldn’t be able to live abroad … But it is travel that just gives you a chance to actally understand how everything is internally, inside a person. It’s nice to go, it’s nice to see and you should see the world, but I always have the thought that travelling is actually a journey inside you.”

It was quite natural when Katarina Žuti?, the daughter of actor Milos Žuti? and actress Svetlana Bojkovi?, enrolled in acting studies, although Svetlana was shocked in all sorts of ways and scared. However, she explains:
“I didn’t want to oppose her decision. It was always incomparably easier for me to overcome all my own fears and trauma than her troubles with acting. That’s twice as hard, more than twice, and you cannot use your own experience to help your child, because your child has to go through all of that on their own and gain their own experience. Fortunately, Katarina overcame all of that, formed herself as an actress who has mastered her craft and received the Sterija Award, and I have no more fears about what she will do. However, I still have the kind of fears like every mother knows what her child is going through in a job that they share.”

Svetlana’s current husband is a lawyer and career diplomat who has just ended his working life. Regardless of how much it appeared that their careers were running on different tracks, this popular actress reveals that during their life together they have found several common interests when it comes to works in the artistic domain:
“It is very interesting that Slavko once passed the entrance exam for the Faculty of Dramatic Arts and was shortlisted for the directing class. However, he then opted to give up and he now says that it is better that he did, because there is a questionmark over whether he would have had the nerves to withstand everything implied by that job. However, he is very susceptive, sensitive, with a delicate and refined taste when it comes to art. He is very good at feeling what is good in acting and directing. If that were not so, a lot would be missing in our relationship. In this way we also understand each other very well in this regard; he has taste, a simple aesthetic sense for those things, which is very important to me. Because of that, and due to many other reasons, because of the many things we share together, I can rightfully say that he is my calm and happy port.”