The story of a constant state of exile, of cutting and denying the roots that are deeply ruined by the fragile weaving of the “inner landscape” of people who are persistently trying to anchor themselves in this restless and unpredictable land. The story is more than 30 years old and it’c personal for my family because my father is among the first to emigrate and on my mother’s side my grandparents are Macedonians who came to Ugljevik in the early 70’s as bakers and spent their lives in Ugljevik. Eventually evicted in 1897. Thare home has long been somewhere “under the ground”. Many houses are waiting their turn.
The very name – Ugljevik (derived from the Serbian word for coal) bears a clear definition of a town next to a mine. Envisaged as a “perfect place”, where everyone would have the same home, same job, same standard of living, i.e., all would be equally happy and prosperous. The communist idealism and socialist practice. For a while, it seemed to work well; everything seemed possible. But reality always appears suddenly and without announcement, ready to destroy what has been seemingly solidly built.
The Ugljevik power plant, one of the largest producers of electricity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was put into operation in 1985. In order to build it, it was necessary to move out nearly 200 households from surrounding places. Due to the needs of the Power Plant, coal is mined at the open pit. The expansion of the mine has led to the eviction of about 50 households in the last four years. Several other families remained at their hearths in the immediate vicinity of the mine. Former locals still mourn their homeland, the old yard and the land where they grew up. The mine and the power plant gave us everything we had, and took away everything we had … we are practically the first refugees in Yugoslavia – what was taken from us cannot be compared to anything we will have later.
I tray builds the story slowly, often returns to it; interested in details, describes the situation but also the atmosphere, gets into the intimate subtly so as not to disturb anything. Like a chronicler, I records the facts, fragments of this strange reality in front of me, subconsciously realizing that only this photographs will save it from oblivion. But rather than history, this is a story of constant change, a metaphor for turbulent life and the fate of people in this area. Of a constant state of exile, of cutting and denying the roots that are deeply ruined by the fragile weaving of the “inner landscape” of people who are persistently trying to anchor themselves in this restless and unpredictable land.