I don’t think about the past often, but every now and then something brings it back against my will and turns me inside out. This time it was an article, written by a friend of mine and once-time colleague, about the magazine I used to work for. You can see me on the photo below, sharing the chair with my friend Filip.
Her article was an overview of the magazine’s 30-year history through the five addresses it resided at. I was there when it was at its first, which corresponds with the time of war (1992-1996).
That war was an unimaginable horror and, like every other challenging times, brought out the best and the worst in people. In a way, however, it simplified things — life became black and white. You knew your friends from your enemies, you knew the right from the wrong, you knew who to trust. It didn’t let you compromise with your moral principles and conscience.
Our offices back then were situated in a 1930s building, on the top, seventh floor, which originally served who knows what purposes. It had low ceilings, small windows and squeaky parquet. In the hallway stood a row of seats salvaged from the old movie theater, “Odeon”. To paraphrase my friend, in those tiny, overcrowded rooms, connected with a long, curved corridor, on those “Odeon” seats, the ethical concepts and professional standards of our magazine took shape. Between the sixth and seventh floors was a locked gate, a pitiful attempt to stop the anonymous telephone callers who threatened to come to kills us, or throw the bomb, or worse. Much better protection was Maria, the building manager then in her sixties, who would warn us if some suspicious characters were on their way up. More than anything else, that gate and that no-nonsense woman symbolized the pressures we worked under.
These were the worst years of my life: I lost my home, my friends, all my material possessions, part of my identity. My family was scattered all around the world and I became a refugee in my own country. Yet at the same time, they were among the best. I’d had some crucial things I never found here: the sense of belonging, the job that I was proud of, and (save for very few) true friends.
The times were dangerous, but I resided at the right address.