BELGRADE – After reading this text there will probably be no people who pass by Belgrade’s Metropol Palace Hotel who will ask themselves whether it was possible that a thirty-year old – Igor Vladikin - was behind the project.
Our conversation with this wonderful young man, offspring of a mixed Russo-Bulgarian marriage through whose hands passed 95 percent of all contracts connected with this pearl of Sheraton’s Luxury Collection hotels, as well as pages written about his life, patient “work, order and discipline”, which is his motto, will testify and provide the answer - “yes, it is possible”.
Asked by the Serbian House of Good News how we could present him to our readers as regards his position in Metropol Palace, Igor, who speaks excellent Serbian, said it was quite complicated to answer, but that he was currently the controller of operative construction works on the hotel, controller of expenditure, as well as of all finances.
Results can only be Achieved by Hard Work, Order and Discipline
Every segment of this demanding work calls for a “man who has slept very little over the past few years”, he told us, thereby confirming the fact that great results can only be achieved by a lot of work, and how many successful people like to say that “'overnight success’ comes after many years, even decades, of toilsome labour”.
From every-day engagement – from the privatisation of the hotel with which he was charged, through demanding bureaucratic procedures connected to the protection of a cultural monument such as this cult hotel with a rich historical tradition, are only some of the tasks Vladikin performed and continues to perform for the hotel’s owner, “The Sheraton Sofia Hotel-Balcan”.
Igor was engaged by the foreign owner of Metropol Palace in 2006 to conduct all preparatory work for the privatisation of this cult Belgrade hotel, to register the company in Serbia, prepare all necessary documentation, follow through the entire procedure. He worked as the project manager, and later, when the hotel was purchased, took over all the activities on its reconstruction and refurbishing. In this period he got acquainted with all our laws, the weaknesses and the virtues of the commercial milieu, passed through complicated bureaucratic procedures, employed domestic construction firms. All contracts the hotel concluded passed through his hands.
Here he is, standing before us, never more ambitious and certain about the success of the project.
He announces that another 106 rooms are finished, the opening of an exclusive restaurant on the roof, as well as another at ground level, he is satisfied with the number of customers, the growing number of conferences and other gatherings being held in this representative and modernised five-star hotel. Early this April the hotel opened Belgrade’s biggest spa centre covering 1,400 sq. metres, of which he is also very proud.
A Story with which we want to Awaken Many Dormant Lights
Nothing of the above would be amazing if Igor was not just thirty. That is what motivated us to talk to him and present his story to the readers of the Serbian House of Good News, so that, we earnestly hope, his example would stimulate other young people to roll up their sleeves and arm themselves early on with knowledge and working habits, which is the only way to bring them long-term progress in life, happiness and satisfaction, to create with their own ten fingers a better present and future for themselves and their nearest and dearest.
“I started working when I was sixteen. At first I wanted to be a surgeon, but my parents directed me towards this job. They did not even know that in Sofia, where I grew up, in the seventh grade I took natural sciences examinations with a desire to study medicine. I have never told them that, but I am grateful to them now that they directed me correctly, because I found my true calling in this work. I now realise more than ever before that it is sometimes good to listen to one’s parents”, Igor Vladikin told the Serbian House of Good News.
Igor completed studies at a college of business and finance, and is now studying finances at university level, with only a few exams left until graduation. He says his parents are very proud of him and what he has achieved in life.
Everything comes from Family, Upbringing and Love
Igor comes from a successful and in many ways special family. His mother is a Bulgarian nuclear chemist, and his father was a soloist dancer of Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet. A mixture of the artistic and the practical, exacting, is what is written in his genetic code, which can be seen in his conduct, and also visibly had a considerable influence on his work, including the reconstruction of the hotel.
Thanks to the efforts of this young businessman, the hotel’s older guests can recognise traces of the old Metropol, where many mosaics and stained-glass windows have been returned to their original places after thorough cleaning and repair.
Igor managed to preserve much of the so-called ‘Tito’s furniture’, as well as many other artworks – paintings and photographs. He is planning to make from the inventory items whose sale he stopped and which he selected a special ‘museum-hotel corner’.
This would probably be a joy for our older generation, visitors of the famous dance evenings once held in the Bohemian Metropol, with unforgettable New Year’s Eve celebrations in the 1960s and 1970s.
Due to the specific professions of his parents, Igor moved quite often. As a boy he lived in Moscow, and later on in Sofia. Then the family moved to Thessaloniki, and then returned to Sofia. His sister Lora, a successful businesswoman, is the deputy director of the Lukoil oil company for the entire Balkan region.
The Road from a Restaurant to a Five-star Hotel
Igor’s first job was in a Russian restaurant in Sofia. Soon he became the night-time accountant in a hotel which is part of the Sheraton chain in Sofia. He told us that the operation of a hotel differs somewhat from that of other businesses: all software systems are adapted for night-time work, when the previous day’s business is processed and the following day’s prepared. The franchise also sent regular reports to Sheraton - AEME for Europe.
His career advanced quickly. After six months he became the night auditor-manager, after which things progressed along their own course, as his enterprising spirit was recognised by others and offered him an opportunity which, he says, he could not let pass.
One of these opportunities was this wonderful ‘Belgrade story’, when he was authorised by the hotel’s owner to come to Belgrade and launch the privatisation of Metropol. He continues to nourish the confidence he acquired at the time, and asked by us if he boss trusted him, he answers in excellent Serbian: “Yes, he trusts me quite a lot!”
When the hotel was purchased, it was open for some time, and was closed after construction permits were obtained for reconstruction. Things got off to a good start, but the economic crisis threw a spanner into the works. “Once the conditions went back to normal in 2011, the reconstruction began,” Igor told us, adding that he had had to struggle with a lot of different situations in the Serbian regulatory framework.
Igor’s Message to Young People – Persevere and Love your Work
What should a thirty-year old or an even younger person, as Igor was at the time of getting his hitherto biggest endeavour, have for him or her to be sent abroad by someone who has capital to realise a hard currency investment worth millions and trust him or her with all the work, we asked Igor, knowing full well that such a question would come from every young person who wanted to achieve the kind of success he had achieved.
“Completing university education is important, but it is also important to know that it is certainly a pillar that helps you, but that far more important than that are your traits – what you are like, do you like your work, do you enjoy what you are doing. If that is the case, there is nothing that should stand in your way”, Igor said.
His motto is to be determined and persevere in working towards his goal.
“In principle, what I have noticed here is that young people want to achieve something now and immediately. In practice that is not possible. Time has to pass, a certain level of experience must be obtained, one must do something one believes in and will then achieve what one desires. But not overnight. A great deal of work is necessary. While we were working on this hotel, at times we slept in the construction site containers until we finished what you can see around us”, Igor said.
Košutnjak and Zvezdara – Favourite Places
Igor has grown to love Belgrade and Serbia. He has also grown to love a girl here. He enjoys life in the Serbian capital, which he says is a safe place to live in. He says he sees Belgrade as a clean city. Probably cleaner than cities he has been to. He says being apart from his parents is not hard because Bulgaria is so close. One can reach Sofia in just four or five hours. Another advantage is that Serbian mentality is also similar to that of Bulgarians.
“I like Košutnjak. I live in the Zvezdara district, near the Olimp sports centre. He says he loves skiing, but has not yet visited Mt. Kopaonik. He has been to Mt. Zlatibor, but he says it is not a winter sports centre but more like a spa. “I have been skiing since I was six, mainly in Bulgaria – Bansko, Borovec”, Igor said, adding that he intended to get to know Serbia even better.
A Hotel Pearl with a Rich Tradition
From the first days of autumn 2012 one could once again enjoy the Belgrade sunshine from the terrace of the legendary hotel Metropol.
The visitors of the Metropol Palace have at their disposal a lobby, a lobby bar, a restaurant, a banquet hall and so far 130 rooms that have been refurbished in the hotel’s main building. A modern spa centre, one of Belgrade’s biggest, was opened in April. Another 106 rooms are being refurbished.
The hotel is a part of the Starwood hotels and resorts world wide chain and has from October 2012 been one of the Luxury collection hotels and of Starwood hotels and resorts. Bulgaria’s Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balcan owns 100% of the capital in the Metropol Palace.
Despite the crisis, the owners did not skimp on the five-star Metropol’s refurbishment.
All rooms and apartments are luxuriously outfitted to meet all types of needs, including the latest in communication and electronics. The presidential suite offers a wonderful view of one of Belgrade’s most beautiful parks, and the wide range of diverse suites and rooms makes the Metropol Palace a luxurious and modern jewel of Belgrade. The new Metropol has Belgrade’s largest banquet room, intended to house major conferences and fairs, weddings and other festivities. At the end of the school year, hundreds of secondary-school and university students chose to hold their graduation balls here.
From Elizabeth Taylor to Alfred Hitchcock
The Metropol Hotel, always a focal point of urban social life, was designed by the famous Serbian architect Dragiša Brašovan. In its long history it hosted numerous celebrities, including Anthony Quinn, Sofia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor. Another famous guest was the Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, who could, it is said, rub shoulders at the Metropol with controversial theatrical figures like Julian Beco and Judith Malina. In 1969, the Nobel prize laureate Ivo Andrić wrote and enjoyed in the peace of the Metropol.
The famous actors Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Robert De Niro learnt their lines in Metropol’s suites, while the legendary Alfred Hitchcock broke his diet celebrating the success of one of his movies, which is only a small part of the rich history of more than half a century of the hotel Metropol.
From its opening in 1957, the then Hotel Metropol during its 55 years of tradition was a perfect representative of Belgrade – luxurious, elegant and modern.
The hotel was built from 1954 to 1958 and is architect Brašovan’s adaptation of the unfinished building of Central Committee of the Yugoslav Youth. It was opened in August 1957, being granted the status of a cultural monument in 2001.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the hotel was the most famous elite place in the city. Everyone who wanted to be seen knew that the best spot for it was at the Metropol. The finest drinks were served, the best food eaten, the best quality cigarettes smoked and the most interesting guests seen, and the late president Tito’s New Year’s Eve parties set a standard of entertainment in the capital of the former Yugoslavia.
The aim of the new management of the Metropol Palace is among other things to restore the former glory of this hotel institution, an endeavour for which they have the best wishes of the Serbian House of Good News.
Source: Serbian House of Good News