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, Britić, a magazine published in the United Kingdom and Passport, a lifestyle quarterly. He resides in New York City and Washington, Connecticut.




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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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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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.



Where everybody knows your name

Broken Down Valise bartender Michelle Suarez (right) talks with customers (from left) Scott Nietupski, Jon Allen and Ed Grohoski on a recent Friday. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Broken Down Valise bartender Michelle Suarez (right) talks with customers (from left) Scott Nietupski, Jon Allen and Ed Grohoski on a recent Friday. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

New York on a hot day in June felt like mid-August, with the heat shimmering off the sidewalk; there was little shade in midtown. Walking by open doors blasting frigid air made it seem even hotter. Close to noon, the thought of a cold beer crossed my mind.

In my mind’s eye: the beer, ice cold, golden amber, in one of those Coca-Cola like glasses, condensation on its side, droplets of water running down to the cork coaster sitting on a glistening polished mahogany bar, the glass topped by a perfect crown of frothy white foam. 

The place itself was cool and dim with the shirt-sleeved bartender eager yet distant, ready to please — in other words, the corner saloon of yesterday.

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A version of the article was published as the Featured Op Ed Article: “ ‘Inat’ The Tie That Binds”, Britić, The British Serb Magazine, Sunday, June 29, 2014

Spite: Petty ill will or hatred with the disposition to irritate, annoy, or thwart; a desire to hurt, annoy, or offend someone. Merriam-Webster & Oxford Dictionaries

Inat” is the Serbo-Croat word that is best translated into as “spite”, but in the lexicon of ex-Yugoslavia it is not just a noun but a mindset that best describes the relationship between the now independent republics. A perfect example of the Yugoslav “inat” phenomenon was recently featured in the pages of The New York Times.

Some years after the United Nations was established the reconstituted Yugoslavia, then a communist regime, purchased a luxurious, definitely not a proletarian apartment at 730 Park Avenue in New York City to house its Ambassador to the United Nations. The 14 room duplex, housed in a luxury apartment building built in 1929, is “considered one of the most prestigious addresses on the Upper East Side, 730 Park [being] at the peak of the avenue below 79th Street”.  The apartment next door that once belonged to Mike Wallace, the trailblazing broadcast journalist [CBS’ 60 Minutes], sold for $20 million while a 12 room duplex penthouse went for $39 million, both in 2012.

In 1992, as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was breaking up, her last Ambassador to the United Nations Darko Silovic, a Croat, walked out of the apartment without bothering to turn out the lights or secure its future maintenance. For reasons unexplained he delivered the apartment’s keys to Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary General. The ultimate “fuck you” gesture to the old SFRY and the other five constituent republics. Since then the apartment has remained unoccupied, unattended, uncared for and deteriorating, falling into disrepair. 

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