Back in the 1990s, my country was going through a difficult period. It was hyperinflation and I was a student. Studying as now requires large financial costs and parents are often unable to afford it for their children. Salaries were insufficient, apartments rented for a student were a hundred times more expensive. Of course, there is student accommodation with a low price, but the capacities are insufficient and a larger number of students have to finance their housing in the city where they study.
Serbia was one of the members of the former Yugoslavia and there were wars in almost every member of that state. People were left jobless, food was scarce as were basic necessities. Studying at that time was real magic, survival. We traveled by train to save as much money as possible because it was the cheapest way of transportation. We entered the train through the window, finding a free seat was impossible. Students carried prepared meals, not only to save money because it was impossible to buy in the grocery store. Cigarettes were bought from street sellers, fuel was sold on the street. People were waiting in line to buy bread or four.
WORK AND STUDY
There was less and less money. The savings were spent and I needed to continue my studies. My parents’ salaries were insufficient for my schooling. My parents found extra jobs to earn more. Dad was selling second-hand goods in the market and Mom was working in a boutique. I would describe that time as the Middle Ages, everything stopped, and people wanted to live and find the best solution for their survival.
In a search of a better life, the road led me to Greece. But not as a tourist but as a student looking for a job, in order to earn for the upcoming expenses of my schooling. I was looking for the hardest and best-paid job, and that meant manual labor. And I found that kind of work, on the field of tomato. I grew up in the city and knew nothing about farm work. I was the only child in the family, protected but taught to manage difficult situations, I was taught to work.
LITTLE PLACE UNDER THE SUN
I worked hard, saved, and collected money. I could afford to myself a couple of hours in the Greek Sun and one drink a day. But I was happy, the desire to create was stronger than anything, the desire to help my parents was the wind in my back. I was a tomato picker with a strong will to become an intellectual with a degree. And I made it and much more. I met a lot of Greek friends, learned the Greek language and culture, found my second home there. I can still smell the tomato field and that is exactly what brings me back to the beautiful memories of my student days.