Patriarch Pavle – My Deda

In an article which appeared a few days ago in the Serbian newspaper Politika (here) Snezana Milkovic, a retired psychologist was also the granddaughter of Patriarch Pavle. Her grandmother was Patriarch’s cousin.  The word cousin is not used in Serbian. Instead, I refer to my cousin, for instance, as my brother-from-my-aunt, so that Snezana would refer to her great-unlce, the Patriarch, as her Deda, or grandfather.

“He was always our deda and remained our deda,” she says. “He never spoke to us about church affairs, nor about his awards, his good deeds, the problems in Kosovo and Metohija…It would happen at times that we would hear something or other, that he had some unfortunate case, but we weren’t allowed to even ask him about it because we knew he didn’t like talking about such things.”

“I was friends with him my entire life and this was my privilege and not something I earned. While he was bishop of Ras-Prizren (Kosovo), he visited us whenever he came to Belgrade. When he became patriarch, Baba Agica was very sad since she thought now with all of his new obligations he wouldn’t visit as much. However, the opposite happened – he visited us regularly and stopped by whenever he could. Sometimes he would only stay for a short while, just to ask how we’re doing. But him becoming patriarch, at least from what I noticed, didn’t change him at all, except the many obligations which took up more of his time giving him less time for the things he loved, for instance, to work with tools, to fix things.”

She says that Christmas for her was always a double holiday because it meant that the visit with the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church was always longer. He would come after the service and stay till late afternoon and not have to look at his watch.

“It was then that we had enough time to ask him everything that interested us, especially the children, he had so much patience with little ones. He answered our questions through anecdotes, stories, Chinese proverbs, lives of the Saints, interpretations. His favorite novel was Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and spoke frequently about Jean Valjean and Cosette. All of those discussions, in fact, were messages through stories, he never criticized anyone nor taught them directly, it was always through some anecdote, joke, good humor,” she says.

He visited the family almost always using public transportation and his granddaughter says she only drove him a few times and it was only to make her happy.

“When I or someone else would volunteer to drive him he would always reply: ‘Save your good will for next time,’ or ‘It’s easier for me to enter the public transportation – I don’t have to stoop down.’ It was always something clever, defending himself.”

She visited here Deda regularly during his stay at the Military Medical Academy. That is, until last Friday when, because of the epidemic flu, visits were forbidden.

“He would always welcome me with “God bless you,” and he always blessed me before I left. He liked me coming and it meant so much to me as well. He said that a sick man cannot be happy, but he can be humble. That’s what must be achieved, which is terribly difficult, but, of course, he succeeded. And when he couldn’t stand on his feet anymore, he would say ‘I used up my legs’, which was true because he walked so much – he was completely humble…. She never felt like he was ever impatient. He bore this (his illness) as the will of God, just as he endured everything else.”

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3 thoughts on “Patriarch Pavle – My Deda

  1. Thank you for letting me know of this warm story. I had read your other articles on Patriarch Pavle as well. A living saint on earth he was, and yet, there are those always quick to condemn. I just answered something on a Reuters’ blog:

    “Pavle headed the Serbian Orthodox Church during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s as Serbs warred with neighbours of other faiths.”

    “…where self-professed Christians — Catholics and Orthodox — did not heed the commandment to love their neighbours as themselves. We cannot overlook the political views of a prelate who could take over the top post in the Church.”

    I’m shaking my head in disbelief at the reading of these two sentences from the article above.

    I know of no Serbian Orthodox priest or prelate who speaks/does evil to others. Defending his own country yes. Doing or speaking evil, no. Are YOU the one trying to influence who gets to be Patriarch? “Hardline Nationalism.” You’d make me laugh if it weren’t so sad a situation.

    When one of the readers above mentioned that you should know more history about the region when you write, perhaps he was referring to something few know about.

    It’s mighty hard to love your neighbor when your neighbor massacred your whole family in front of you, or they die in a most heinous way.

    I visited one of the “pits” near Prebilovci (near Medjugore) where 500 women, children and a priest were thrown in, buried alive just because they were Serbian Orthodox. The villagers couldn’t believe anything would ever happen to them when they saw the electric pole insulators being painted black a few days or weeks before. That was a signal and on the chosen day, they all died, covered alive with lime and cement. All of these evils were kept quiet, all in the name of “Brotherhood and Unity” when Churchill abandoned Draza Mihailovic and chose communist Tito as the leader.

    Throughout the former Yugoslavia this happened. Village after village, in Glina, etc. As a child, I always heard adults whispering about such things, but I never quite understood the pain they all felt. You can go to any Serbian Orthodox church in America and there will be so many families who lost members in the same such way. Some were burned alive in churches because they wouldn’t convert. Others were butchered in their own churches because of the same reason. Over 150 people with my last name were killed in their village of Prkos….. age made no difference, from 3 months to 84 years of age, mothers carrying their babies shot in the back while fleeing their fields.

    However, those WWII refugees who DID escape did make the best of their lives here…..they became great U.S. citizens. No hatred. Just thanks to God for their safe deliverance.

    But the pain was always there. I remember seeing grown men break down and cry in remembrance of what happened to their families. One man (7 at the time) saw his mother, father, grandparents and sisters and brothers killed in front of him and when someone was going to kill him too, a commander laughed and said, “No, let him live to tell the others what happened!”

    To this day, there is no hatred, no “nationalism” that you speak of in the same paragraphs naming Serbian Orthodox prelates. Only the desire that it not happen again, but it did. Do some research and find out how the graves of Nikola Tesla’s parents were desecrated along with other atrocities in 1991. There was no outcry from any AP, UPI. Reuters, or CNN agencies to mark 1941-1991 atrocities in Croatia’s Krajina regions. It happened again in Kosovo too, before 1991, but few were there to write about it, following instead, info just handed them.

    Patriarch Pavle of blessed memory, lived through those horrors, but still had no hatred towards anybody. He was responsible for letting the thug who beat him and left him for dead in an alleyway get out of jail.

    I remember sleeping in the new dormitory wing of the Nun’s home in the Patriarchate of Pec soon after the old one was set afire by Albanian hoodlums. Even though everyone knew what happened, the good nuns just shrugged their heads and said “It was a mysterious fire.”

    Let me end with this quote from Matija Beckovic, one of Serbia’s best-known poets. He spoke about the irony of making Serbia the pariah in the world press, in a speech he made in Chicago, November, 1991:

    “Perhaps there was never a time when more was being said about Serbs, and at the same time less was known about them; never a time when more was known, yet with a more shallowly knowledge and less understanding than before; nor were the Serbs more consciously lied about, more prejudicially judged and more narrowly viewed—all in the name of international law—than is the custom today. Where a lie spreads easily, the truth penetrates with difficulty. And who could refute all the lies, who could gather all the scattered feathers? I come from Serbia that is disheartened, shattered, dazed and isolated—practically her every home houses a refugee, where there is no one who has been made a refugee from Serbia, regardless of faith or nationality. We take pride in this fact more than we grieve over our own misfortune.”

  2. I have been reading all of your articles posted regarding +Patriarch Pavle. We, all of us Serbian Orthodox people, have truly been blessed. His philosphy was simple and of the truest kind but one that most of us find very difficult to live by. This story touched me the most because of learning of his personal family relationships. From my own experience, I know how my children and my nieces and nephews love their ” Djedo” and the time they get to spend with him. When I read how his cousin (sestra) was sad when he became the Patriarch because she thought she wouldn’t see him as much, reminded me so much of how I felt when my dad became the Metropolitan of the Midwest. For me (and my little children at that time) it was such a bittersweet time because we loved having him close by and knew that we would not see him as often but also understood his life and obligations.

    Thank you Father for your articles.

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