Elizabeth Sings It in Serbian, a Language She Does Not Speak in Real Life
Last night I had a dream. Elizabeth and I were attending some kind of a large convention. Normally a quiet and retiring person, suddenly Elizabeth sprung to life, surprising me, too, not just the audience. She walked up to the microphone and started singing.
But the song she sang was downright stunning. It was a Serbian World War I tune “Tamo Daleko” (There, Far Away). What made her performance amazing was that Elizabeth sang it in Serbian, a language she does not speak in real life. After a few opening verses, I decided to join her playing the piano.
I had tears in my eyes when I woke up. “Tamo Daleko” is a song I have not sung or heard in decades. Yet I knew it as a youth, as did probably most of the Serbian children. It is probably the most patriotic, yet mournful, song I have ever heard. The song was so popular that it was even played at the funeral of Nikola Tesla in New York in 1943.
In fact, it was so patriotic that in Tito’s communist Yugoslavia, where I grew up, the “Tamo Daleko” song was banned. So it was a form of daring and challenging the regime when we, college students, we used to sing it in the streets on Orthodox New Year’s Eve (Jan 13).
Why in the streets?
Because all Belgrade bars and restaurants were ordered closed by 11 PM that evening. Even Wikipedia writes about that… “those who sang it were prosecuted by the authorities.”
What was so inflammatory about the song that it scared the communist government officials?
Frankly, I have no idea. Take a look at the lyrics below. Composed in 1916, the song commemorates the retreat of the Serbian Army across Albania to Corfu, Greece. It revolves around the theme of loss and longing for a distant homeland.
Back then, most Americans empathized with the plight of the tiny Serbian army and the civilians who shared their fate, rather than live under the Austrian-German occupation. The three posters you see in the heading were printed in 1915 in Chicago and used for war fundraising purposes across the U.S. In fact, my maternal great uncle Dusan Bogdanovic traveled to the U.S. to help raise the funds for the army.
Meanwhile, my maternal Bogdanovic grandfather, a teacher by profession, stayed home and took part of in that both heroic and tragic march across Albania with his military unit. His wife and six children had also left their home in Belgrade and retreated with the Serbian army.
How heroic and tragic was that march?
In his official report to Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pasic, General Bozidar Terzic, Minister of Defense, wrote that on their way through Albania, 243,877 persons were killed or taken prisoners or died from hunger and cold weather. Which was about 5% of Serbia’s entire population of 4.5 million in 1914 (for more on that, read SERBS ON CORFU 1916-1918).
There was no conscription because everybody signed up
And as you can see from the story and pictures above, it was an all out war for national survival. There was no conscription because everybody signed up. Even a 10-year old boy, Momčilo Gavrić, whose family were all massacred by the Austro-Hungarian soldiers. He became the youngest soldier of World War I, and possibly of all world conflicts.
After recuperating on Corfu, thanks to wonderful hospitality of the Greek people, and the generous medical and other supplies provided by the
French and British allies, the reequipped Serbian army march back north and opened up a new front against the German and Bulgarian armies at the Thessaloniki front. By the time the armistice was signed on Nov 11, 1918, ending WW I, the Serbian army had recaptured not only all of its original territories, but all of the lands that eventually comprised the new Kingdom of Yugoslavia created by the Versailles Treaty.
But the victory came at a heavy price. Total Serbian WW I casualties are estimated at least at 750,000 (300,000 military and 450,000 civilians). Which would be about 16.7% of the country’s total population – the highest of any nation engulfed by WW I. Here are the top 10 countries’ casualties…
- Serbia: 16.67%-27.78% (750,000-1,250,000 people)
- Ottoman Empire (Turkey): 13.26%-15.36% (2,825,000-3,271,844 people)
- Romania: 7.73%-8.88% (580,000-665,706 people)
- France: 4.29%-4.39% (1,697,000-1,737,800 people)
- German Empire: 3.39%-4.32% (2,198,420-2,800,720 people)
- Austro-Hungarian Empire : 3.48%-4.05% (1,787,000-2,081,200 people)
- Greece: 3.23%-3.67% (155,000-176,000 people)
- Bulgaria: 3.41% (187,500 people)
- Italy: 2.96%-3.49% (1,052,400-1,243,400 people)
- UK: 1.79%-2.2% (826,746-1,012,075 people)
WHY DID “TAMO DALEKO” SHOW UP NOW?
So back to the song, “Tamo Daleko” (There, Far Away) and my last night’s dream… why would music suddenly show up today in a dream featuring Elizabeth as a singer of it in Serbian, a language she does not speak? Were we also there, with the Serbian army, or possibly in Corfu as some other incarnations? Both our souls are known to have multiple incarnations at about the same time, the so-called “soul splits.”
And I know for a fact that my guides and teachers have tended to take me to places of my past incarnations. So in 1977 my elder daughter and her mother and my Yugoslav family spent our summer vacations in Corfu. And we visited the magnificent Serbian war memorial on the Island of Vido, right across from Kerkyra, the capital of Corfu.
Most of all, the reason I my Spirit guides gave me this song in last night’s dream is that, 100 years ago right now – in November 1915 – that devastating march across Albania toward Corfu that took 243,877 lives was taking place. Perhaps as a reminder of the horrors and sacrifices of modern wars which take lives of civilians and soldiers alike.
Well, whatever the case, I started playing the “Tamo Daleko” music this morning after breakfast, and it flowed as smoothly silk. So I decided to record it, and, for the first time ever, publish it with this story.
Here are now four different variations of “Tamo Daleko,” using the voices of Serbian Tamburica (actually the Mandolin in my case), Accordion, Trumpet and Pipe Organ as lead instruments. They are accompanied by the symphony orchestra horns and rhythm sections. The entire audio was recorded today on my Clavinova at the Rainbow Shower in Maui.
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And now, here is a wonderful rendition of TAMO DALEKO song performed by the Belgrade symphony orchestra and choir of Belgrade Radio and Television. This performance was part of the traditional Serbia New Year’s concert held on Jan 14, 2014.
TAMO DALEKO by Belgrade Radio and TV orchestra and choir – https://youtu.be/_ckO9MBWJQA
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There are multiple versions of There, Far Away in existence. A common version goes as follows:
|in Serbian:||in English:|
Tamo daleko, daleko od mora,
Tamo daleko, gde cveta limun žut,
Tamo daleko, gde cveta beli krin,
Tamo gde tiha putuje Morava,
Tamo gde Timok pozdravlja Veljkov grad,
Bez otadžbine, na Krfu živeh ja,
There, far away, far from the sea,
There, far away, where the yellow lemon tree blooms,
There, far away, where white lilies bloom,
There, where silent Morava travels,
There, where greets Veljko’s city,
Without my homeland, I lived on,