Belgrade, Our Lesbian Family in Belgrade, Our Communities in Belgrade, The Divas Belgrade,Hope in Belgrade, Lepa's Belgrade
with Adriana, Women's Studies Professor
with Nina, one of our translators, at the Rex event
For once, words are not coming easily to me. Our time in Belgrade, under Lepa's guiding hand and heart, our talks and walks, our listenings, the courage we found, the faces, the voices, the touch of so many, women's bodies doing huge things--in Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Heznegovia, Slovinia, Macedonia, histories gathered in the meeting rooms of the old hotel Majestic at one end of Republic Square, in the viewing room of the left leaning Ritz Theater with its carefully ordered plastic chairs, in the lesbian cafe on the corner of a street in Lepa's neighborhood, the old Jewish quarters of Belgrade, in darkness such light, the feel of bodies I had, we had, already grown into love by that last night when we spilled out of the Rex cinema space, into the soft night, not wanting to let go of each other. La Professoressa and I, speaking, listening, leaning into the voices of our translators, Nina and Tanja, a new kind of intimacy where they became part of us, English whispered into our ears, our words flowering into the Serbian of Tanja, our stories of lesbian histories, of women's struggles in times of war and national divisions, we listened and saw the maps of loss, of these women's journeys in a region struggling to find possibilities of hope--these women who take on fascist forces when they walk in the streets, when they refuse nationalistic demands with their bodies, with their organizing. Ideas and bodies, politics in the largest sense and in the most intimate--I know some of you will read these words and the more to come, I write to you directly, I sing of your gifts of touch, I write still feeling the warmth of your lives on my skin, I sing of the Divas all, of the students intent on wresting their life's desires from the difficulties surrounding them, in their determination to think their way through the challenges of the region, through understanding women's histories and the new thinkings of gender, through the challenges of 19% percent unemployment--the official count, I sing of Queen Latifa soaring through the streets of Belgrade in her taxi, facing all the discriminations that Romany People endure every day and more because she loves women, Lepa's final wave, lasting, lasting forever, as she and Queen rode back into their histories, into their daily actions of change and sometimes, just the hugeness of survival. I sing of the wonders of Lepa's kitchen table where old friends from Women in Black in Belgium and Nela who now lives in Zagreb and whose face will always be with us sit and we eat pasta late in the night--with Lepa's beloved cats jumping on to the window ledges to peer into the garden's wonders and somewhere beyond a curve in the street flows the Sava into the great Danube. For now, these words will have to stand for all the wonders of our time in Belgrade, with the women of Belgrade's lesbian communities--more and more will come. I only want you all to know, every one whose hand or cheek I touched, every hugged body, every embrace, every conversation, every book placed in our hands, or who sat by me, by us, in bar or cafe or gathering rooms, I carry you with me, all you revealed to me.
Now we must prepare for yet another journey. La Professoressa is giving a keynote talk at a university a few hours from London so we are renting a car and setting off. Lepa, dear dear Lepa, thank you and all the others, the women of Labris and the Women's Reconstruction Project and for the Women Studies Department for all you made possible.