DEYAN RANKO BRASHICH was born in Belgrade, former Yugoslavia, and is an Op-Ed columnist for Connecticut's Litchfield County Times.  He writes the monthly Letter From America column for Romania’s Scrisul Romanesc, a literary magazine and is a Contributing Editor for  The Country and Abroad, another literary/art magazine where he authors the Dispatch from Abroad column. He is a frequent contributor to Pecat, the Belgrade, Serbia weekly news magazine and Britić, a magazine published in the United Kingdom. He resides in New York City and Washington, Connecticut.

 

Media
Friday
Sep262014

STAY CALM - OFF WITH THEIR HEADS

 640px-Execution_of_Louis_XVI.jpg (640×383)

“Execution of Louis XVI”, Etching, graveur: Isidore-Stanislas Helman [1743-1806?], graveur [eau-forte] Antoine-Jean Duclos [1742-1795]. Illustrateur: Charles Monnet [1732-180?]  Bibliotheque Nationale de France  - nota bene: the severed head being exhibited to the crowd

 

The world is aghast and revolted by “the savage, barbaric” beheading of two journalists and a tourist by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIS or ISAL] and an Algerian jihadist group. Taking a high moral ground President Obama denounced these dastardly deeds with statements from the White House and the United Nations. 

Yet America’s closest ally England has a proud and colorful tradition of beheadings, beheading being an equal opportunity employer. Between 1076 and 1697 more than 190 notables, ladies-in-waiting, earls, duchesses, barons, a couple of Queens [Ann Boleyn and Mary Queen of Scotts, and lest we forget Lady Jane Grey, the Queen For-9-Days from July 10 to 19, 1553], Secretaries of State and Lords of the Privy Seal [Thomas Cromwell] were executed for various misdeeds real and imagined at the Tower of London and elsewhere. Some were beheaded posthumously [Thomas Cromwell], which seems pointless and a bit much.

With the advent of a unified Great Britain in 1707 beheadings continued apace but the tradition was expanded by the execution of Jeremiah Brandeth in 1817 first hanged and then gratuitously beheaded while others were drawn and quartered after the beheading, overkill if you ask me.  

France is the hands down winner of the Execution Olympics having beheaded by guillotine some 40,000 of its citizens, commoners and aristocrats alike, during its glorious Revolution celebrated every Bastille Day on July 14 with pomp and circumstance. I do not wish to rain on their parade by reminding them that they decapitated, in broad daylight and in public, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Madame du Barry and even Antoine Lavoisier, the Father of Modern Chemistry.

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Monday
Sep222014

THE SERB HOUDINI - THE KING OF PICKPOCKETS

A version of the article was published as the Featured Op Ed Article: “The Serb Houdini – The King of the Pickpockets”, Britić, The British Serb Magazine, Sunday, September 17, 2014

BORRA MIT ZWEI “R”

There was not much that brightened your days in post war Austria in 1949. For hapless Yugoslav refugees, such as my family, the future, if in fact there was to be one was uncertain. Food was rationed, fuel scarce, days damp and cold. Scarce pleasures were to be relished and became indelible memories.

One day billboards and posters went up all over the small town where we refugees had been billeted. The circus was coming to Bregenz, the provincial capital of the Vorarlberg Province some miles away. The featured performer was the magician Borra who spelled his name “mit zwei ‘R’”, with two “R’s”.  

Borra, would you believe was a Serb, a magician, once a rising star whose fancy cabaret performances my Mom and Dad had attended in Belgrade before the war. Even then he was hailed as the next Houdini, the next Blackstone, an act not to be missed. Somehow my parents managed to come up with the money to have us travel and attend a packed performance. I do not recall much about it, after all I was 9 years old; I might well have dozed off midway. But I do remember that my Grandmother, Mom, Dad and my older brother extolled and breathlessly relived the experience for weeks thereafter. Ah, yes I remember that well.   

This week I was searching on eBay for a birthday present for someone who happens to be a collector of vintage posters when I chanced upon some for sale that triggered my memory:

                      borra

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Thursday
Sep042014

THE GREAT SERBIAN-AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION HOAX

A version of the article was published as “The Great Serbian-American Bar Association HoaxPecat, the Belgrade, Serbia weekly news magazine, Thursday, September 4, 2014. 

                                     THE GREAT SERBIAN-AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION HOAX

Nikola Kostich, a friend and fellow attorney with whom I tried cases before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, passed away last week in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I am finally free to confess to the Great Serbian-American Bar Association Hoax. So, ever so belatedly, here is the truth, the nitty-gritty, the real skinny on that caper.    

Brits and Americans have this penchant for associations catering to inane and arcane interests - witness the International Association for Bear Research and Management, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention and the British Llama Society. Cambridge University alone boasts of more than 200 registered clubs and societies while the United States Internal Revenue Service recognizes some 90,908 trade and professional associations and hundreds of thousands of philanthropic and charitable associations, so who is going question yet another?

Nick and I were licking our legal wounds after suffering ignominious defeat at the hands of the Feds in the Nikola “Lovać na Tita” Kavaja/Boško “The Yugo” Radonjić/SOPO trial and the hijacking of American Airline Flight 293; for those of you for whom the names and events do not ring a bell, Google away for a bit of history. “Drowning” might be a more apt description of the activity since we were drinking I.W. Harper’s bourbon on the terrace of my office, high above Madison Avenue in New York City.

From those bourbon infused fumes was born the idea of founding yet another futile endeavor – the Serbian-American Bar Association. With many a hoot and holler we expanded on the idea. Not satisfied in just expounding on the idea between sips of bourbon we set about in writing a press release announcing its birth and then, besotted, sent it out to the media.

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Monday
Aug112014

PAJA JOVANOVIĆ REVISITED

This article was first published in Pećat, the Belgrade, Serbia weekly on August 6, 2014, and the “as published version” follows. A version of the article was published on August 9, 2014 in Britić, with additional images which can be accessed at the following site: “Paja Jovanović Revisited

Deyan Ranko Brashich

I first became aware of Paja Jovanović, the legendary Serb artist [1859-1957], when I saw the painting Seoba Srba [The Great Serb Migration] on the wall above a fireplace in an apartment on New York’s Central Park West in the 1970’s. Now skeptics will immediately pounce and denounce the painting a forgery. Not so. There is the 1895 original, the one that was to be exhibited at the 1896 Budapest Millennium Exposition but ended up an also ran to the Vršac Triptych which actually won the Gold Medal, the Patriarchate of Belgrade version and the one commissioned in 1945 by Milenko Cavic in gratitude for his protection during World War II that was then owned by Svetozar and Nelly [Kosara] Mandukich.

On the back of that painting is the following legend: “This painting was commissioned by Milenko Cavic and replaces the large original Seoba Srba, [the] endowment of Karlovći Patriarch Branković – and destroyed during the German occupation by Bishop Šarićevom’s Pavelić bandit destroying bands” … I am transferring this painting, Seoba Srba, in trust to my friends, the family Mandukich [signed] M. Cavic”. That tells the story and that is the provenance of the one I saw many times in New York which now hangs in Belgrade’s National Museum.

Now Nelly Mandukich was not Hollywood beautiful but she was a striking captivating woman. There was the daredevil in her – her father was one of the 14 fighter pilots that made up the fledging Royal Serbian Air Force – that appealed to me. She was part of the “stari Beograd” high society before the war, as were my parents. But the Mandukich family ties to Paja Jovanović hark back to the young penurious artist being smitten by Mila Mandukich, a well-to-do local beauty, during a visit to Vršac in 1883, ties that bind.

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Wednesday
Aug062014

MUSEUMS: MAKE MINE SMALL OR MEDIUM, NOT LARGE

 

Last week on the front page of The New York Times was a photograph of a jumble of people jostling and elbowing each other fifteen feet deep behind a purple velvet and brass rope, back packs and packages askew, snapping away with all sorts of digital devices, a number of them self-indulging with “selfies”. Was this the Times Square subway station at rush hour? No, it was a crowd, some of the 9.3 million yearly visitors to Paris’ Louvre Museum supposedly enjoying and being enthralled by the Mona Lisa.

I witness the same lemming madness every morning on the way to work. First at Fifth Avenue’s Guggenheim Museum then, even more chaotic due to the never ending construction of the plaza, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with its gaggle of people slowly inching up the pyramid like steps. Add to the confusion is a jumble of vending carts, meandering double deck tourist buses, a preview of what awaits you inside.

Further down is the Frick Collection’s serene front lawn facing Fifth Avenue with a gated garden on East 70th Street. “The garden … was conceived not to be entered but as a tableau to be viewed from the street and the museum’s reception hall … [complete with] a rectangular pool, with floating lotus and white lilies in the summer, surrounded by pea gravel paths and boxwood.” The philistines on the Frick’s Board of Directors want to pave it over and build a large addition to better compete with the Met. Lend your voice to save the Frick.

I just visited the Clark in Williamstown. Set in a green vale surrounded by green hillsides I had to park away from the new main entrance. A little golf cart pulled up with a cheery “can we give you a lift?” I first strolled through the pristine new addition, all glass and views and reflecting pools, and then into the refurbished main classical museum building. I had room to breathe, room to look, my sightlines unobstructed. Sure there were visitors but not oppressively so. It was a museum and art to be enjoyed, to be savored like a glass of wine in the Clark Café up the hill.

So when it comes to museums make mine small or medium, not large thank you.