Jelena Milosavljević, Japanologist – Only Here am I Really I
- Written by Aleksandra Gavrilovic
NIŠ- Jelena Milosavljević, who hails from the western Serbian town of Bajina Bašta, is among a galaxy of young, educated, versatile and capable people, on whom, if there only were the necessary fortune, the future of this country should be founded. She is a graduate of Japanese language and literature at the Faculty of Philology at Belgrade University, and has taken a Master’s degree in sociology in South Korea.
Most importantly, she ties her future to Serbia, at a time when for many young people going abroad is the only meaningful way to continue their lives.
Jelena did most things in her life from pure love and enthusiasm, so that she sees no difference between work and hobby. She is an avid reader, depending on the circumstances, of scholarly literature, monographs, novels and poetry, and the press. She loves documentary films and in general interesting stories from society, life and history, in written or multi-media form. She is an associate of the Tesla Global Forum and is waiting for a job which would not only provide her with gainful employment, but also an expression of all of her qualities and the practical application of the knowledge gained in Serbia and South Korea.
-I am very much tied to my family and Bajina Bašta, Jelena told us. – It is my foundation and the place where I can always return, remind myself of who I am and what is important in life for me. I played volleyball for many years, first in Bajina Bašta, and then in Užice, Pančevo, Belgrade, Ljig, and even abroad, and volleyball shaped my life in many ways. Despite not opting for the life of a professional athlete, in a period of my life I was seriously involved in volleyball and realized the meaning of self-sacrifice and the struggle for something which really moves the meaningful world of a person.
The Mystique of the Oriental Culture
How did you manage to find yourself in Korea, studying sociology, after graduating in Japanese studies?
I graduated in Japanese language and literature in Belgrade, and I hold fond memories of my student days. A large part of my love for Japan was in fact love for the idea of Asiatic society in which people identify themselves more as a part of a society, group or team than as individuals. Also, the mystique that surrounded the Oriental cultures, histories, philosophies and languages was always attractive. Those were the basic ideas that led me to choose my studies. I have no regrets, but in the meantime many other horizons have opened up for me, changed certain perspectives, and I look at things very differently than in the previous years. The idea about Korea and the Korean language existed throughout my studies in Belgrade, but I acquired most of my knowledge about them during my stay in Korea. On a scholarship granted by the Korean government, I went there to continue my studies and spent three-and-a-half years there, first learning the language and then working on my master’s degree in sociology.
Can you compare the South Korean and Serbian cultures, lifestyles, manner of thinking, perception of good and bad, success and failure, truth and lies?
South Korea is a very specific country, and completely different from ours at this moment in time, although people and their characters are closer to ours than for example Japanese. Viewed historically, the Korean peninsula is similar to the Balkans, a hot-spot of various conflicts, and people have learnt to fight and demand justice when they think it should be satisfied. Furthermore, like us in a way, they are a divided country and harbor a pain on a racial or national foundation and to a degree an ideal of reunification and a united people and state. Like many times in our country, when we hear nostalgic stories about the former Yugoslavia, they have similar ones about how once Korea was a great state and how outside influences led to it not being so any longer.
However, the major difference is that they are under a great influence of America and its culture, there is a major focus on the material world, and in general they are proud of “extricating themselves from poverty”. The younger generations almost have no recollection of the period when the two Koreas were one, and are not interested in reunification of something similar. Success is measured in studying at a prestigious university, having a lot of money and similar, failure is going against the opinion of the majority, rebelliousness and disrespect of the system. I think that here a human relationship still exists to a degree, while the material side is important, but not the most important. I believe that today’s Korea is plagued by a major crisis of human values and an excessive encumbrance with the material side, and everyday stress and tension in society.
I Returned from Korea Far Stronger
What did you teach the Koreans you met and which of your own experiences were the most important?
Except for a little of the English language, which all Koreans want to learn, and a bit of volleyball, I could not teach them very much, although perhaps I wanted to. Given that for the majority Serbia is an almost unknown country, interest in Serbia was not nearly as large as for example America, France, Italy or some other countries. My primary aim was to learn from them and about them, and I think that those I met heard enough about what I and Serbia are like and how people live here. Korea is a very different country from Serbia, so that the most valuable and most difficult experiences were mentally and spiritually existentialist in nature. Both I and other foreign students were at a very interesting period of our lives. All of us, whether we knew it or not, broke the shackles of our cemented “I”, our labels, our ingrained habits, we all tried to define ourselves and to see who we were, without everything we had had until then and different from how we had previously been. I returned from Korea not just with a degree and an ability to speak another language, but, more importantly, with a bunch of experiences and both mentally and spiritually as a much stronger human being.
What is your status now – what are your desires and aspirations, in what are you involved now?
I am now in Serbia and intend to remain here. Even if I were to travel or have links with foreign countries, I believe I would always decide to live in my own country. Precisely because I want Serbia to be a better place for living, which young people would not want to leave and remain elsewhere. Judging by my experience, I would advise everyone to go, but also to return. I believe that this country needs educated and broad-minded people, who have an idea of how they can contribute. They should bring together their heads and their experiences with the older generations and encourage others to get something done. We all know what Serbia is like, everything that is being done, and continue to be witnesses to some absurd doings, at various levels. Precisely because we are aware of that, we should not sit by idly and mourn for one another, but always have enough enthusiasm to realize what we should learn from those absurd situations, and to react to them, funny as it may sound, with common sense.
The Magical Story about Nikola Tesla
You are a member of the brilliant Tesla Global Forum team which has already become a traditional venue for glorifying our greatest scientist, but also all capable young people who follow his ideas. How did you find yourself there are what are your tasks? To what do you aspire and how will you achieve it?
My path to the Tesla Forum was very interesting. It was a product of my interests, courage, accident, happiness and the magical story of Nikola Tesla, one of the most intriguing figures of the 20th century. In brief, I had enough luck to, following the path of my interests and my profession, meet a group of people with similar views about the world, who were open enough to invite me to join their team. I should especially mention Aleksander Protić, the scientific director, and Goran Marić, the director of the Tesla Global Forum, who, although they were aware that I had not been in the country for quite a long time and was not from the world of science, recognized me as someone who could contribute to the team by my professionalism and knowledge. My tasks are currently organizational, there are still few of us and we help each other whenever needed, but I can say that mainly I work with people and young participants in the Forum, as well as foreign guests from various countries. The idea is that in the future I can contribute to establishing links with professionals and young people from Korea and Japan who are interested in being a part of the Tesla Global Forum. The Forum aspires to bring together local and foreign scientists and scholars involved in studying Tesla, and those who have made or are capable of making significant contributions in the areas of science, culture, education and art. The Tesla Camp is an important part of the Forum, as it is intended to bring together a significant number of young people who would have an opportunity to hear lectures they would otherwise not be able to hear, to participate in workshops where they have greater interaction with one another and with what interests them and simply to meet others in the camp and associate. We are aspiring to set up a network of young people who will always feel welcome on Mt. Fruška Gora, wherever they come from or are studying, and who would one day give their own contributions to the education of new youngsters. This is achieved by constant labor and faith in the idea, with the assistance of people, institutions and sponsors who recognize the idea as important.
Do you think that young people of your generation can do more for their country and how important is it for that to have a genuine opportunity, and hos important is it to be capable, dedicated and ambitious, persevering in spite of all existing limitations?
As I have already said, I believe young people can contribute a great deal if they assemble around a common idea. Tesla himself believed in that. It is of course important to have a genuine opportunity, but also create by hard work an atmosphere for the opportunity to come to those who know how to use them. I believe that all those who have an idea and fight wholeheartedly for it cannot but realize themselves and contribute to the all-round welfare of society.
"Hustling" is Not a Part of My Work Ethic
Would you activate yourself politically solely for your status - job, function, privileges? If not, why not?
It is interesting that politics in Serbia began to interest me only when I was away from it. I think that in Serbia political activity, just like political inactivity, leaves certain consequences. It’s like the old story of the World of Darkness – if you don’t change anything you’ll be sorry, if you change something you’ll be even more sorry, or the other way round. If political activity means being a member of a political party, I am not active and would not activate myself for status, a job, privileges. The reason is simple: “hustling” was never a part of my work ethic, I love to work, and even more when it’s what I like. To my fortune or misfortune I selected a language and a profession which are not widespread, so that you can get by only if you really know the language and know how to talk to people. There is not a lot of room for improvisation. I would love other people to think similarly about their own work, but I am aware that it is utopian thinking.
Can you imagine yourself in this country in ten years’ time? What would keep you here, and what would force you to seek your fortune elsewhere?
Yes I can. For the moment, it is the only place I want to see myself in ten years’ time. I hope nothing radical will force me to change my mind. What keeps me here is that I believe this area to be extremely interesting and inspiring in all facets of social and historical circumstances. And there still exists some form of freedom which does not exist in other clearly structured and exclusively capitalist societies. Furthermore, I feel best when I am speaking my own language and can clearly express what I want to say. Our temperament and character possesses a certain force not always and everywhere recognized as good and acceptable. Sometimes people cannot understand such a form of interaction and communication and then you have to put a limit on yourself and play a different role or simply isolate yourself from others. It isn’t always easy and that is why I like it when I’m here. Only here am I really I. What would motivate me to leave would only be the loss of all people who have a similar manner of thinking as mine. As long as there’s one other similar person I plan to work and believe in a better tomorrow together with that person. Fortunately there are more of us, and together, in one way or another, we romanticize about a better future for our society, but also all others.
When you talk about the future with your generation, what is your focus? Do you see a way out, or only hoping for it?
When we talk about the future, we focus on practical things. It is always good to have ideals and believe in certain values, because they are very important for realizing any plan, but it is also essential to be practical and translate the ideals and values to the level of everyday life, start from the small. This moment in time is difficult for our generation, but also good. We are at a crossroads between an offline and an online world, between socialism and capitalism, between genuine and false values. We are see-sawing. I hope we find a good balance.
Source: House of Good News