Libraries and Balkan immigrant(s)

I’ve been in living in the UK for 15 years now. When I talk about Croatia, I don’t say ‘back home’ any more. I stopped saying ‘back home’ quite a while ago. UK felt like home just a few months after I arrived. I love living here. For so many different reasons. One of the things that stuck with me was that there was a lot of green. Green meadows, green hills, green parks (and Green Park). The grass really looked greener here, on the UK side, than back on the Balkans. No pun intended.

One of the first places I wanted to go to, if not the first place, just a few days after I settled into my new routine was a local library. I had no cassette/ CD player yet and was looking for something to read in the evening. And I was curious to see if ‘their’ libraries were any different than ‘ours’ ‘back home’.

File:Public library interior, Woking England.jpg,_Woking_England.jpg

One day, I just went in, exchanged polite greetings with the librarians and just had a good look around. As far as I remember that particular small town library was only on one floor. Apart from just books and archives, there was also an audio book section, a CD section, a video section, magazine section, section with maps (A-Z) of different places in the country and a career section slimming supplements.

I never heard of any library having tapes/CDs and videos, let alone a careers section. Well, not a Balkan library in my hometown, anyway. Not that I’ve visited that many libraries ‘back home’, da se razumijemo (let’s make that clear). I haven’t even been to 10 different libraries, so it’s not like I’m an expert on libraries and what they should have and how they should look like. I just assumed they were all pretty much the same, in principle.

Without wanting to sound like a grumpy old woman, from what I can remember in my time, CDs and tapes were bought, and there were places where you went to rent a video. Not libraries. This just seemed rather different to me. A very good different.

When I asked if I could join the local library where I had lived at the time, I was told that I don’t need to pay any joining fee!!! I couldn’t believe my ears!!! I needed a letter from my host family (I was an au pair then), and a photo ID; to confirm who I was and where I lived. And the best part was, that I could borrow more than 2-3 books. I can’t remember now whether it was 9 books (15 years ago) maximum or more for not 2, but 3 weeks!!! I was shocked! That was just brilliant!! 😀 😀 😀 And that wasn’t all!

The libraries here (local ones) are government run. That explains the lack of joining and membership fees, because it comes out of our taxes. This has its limitations, as the budget belts are getting tighter and tighter *blows raspberry*. All the libraries in a county (zupanija) are connected, so you can reserve and borrow books from another library in your county if your local doesn’t have the book you need. If you’d like to return your books/items on loan out of working hours, there is a drop box available.

Libraries also have a fantastic little trolley where they were selling less popular or very slightly damaged books, for a superb price! Sheer heaven, I tell you, for a bookworm like me! These days you can now borrow e-books if you have the right (read: up to date) gadgetry / e-readers.

There are mobile libraries, too. I never needed to use them. It’s like a mini library on wheels for the areas without library buildings (small villages or some suburbs). Mobile LibraryMobile Library

The 'Marsh Mobile' library van at Burgh-le-Marsh Roman weekend. Credit: Joe Blissett


This is a pic from an old (2008) article, but I thought it would be funny to put it in here to illustrate the point of mobile libraries and their role in communities

There are many other useful things in our (UK) libraries, like little exhibitions, careers service, council help desk, etc. But more about that next time, if you’re interested. This was intended as little teaser post to see if you (non-UK readers) would like to know more about my immigrant library experience(s). Or if you’re from UK, maybe you’d like to read about impressions of someone who likes your libraries for reasons different to you? I would like to know what our Balkan libraries are like now.

Eggs, Rakija and Gratitude / Jaja, Rakija i Zahvalnost

Ovo nije kokica moje prijateljice, vec nekog covjeka u susjedstvu. Setali Muz i ja neku vecer i spazili kokice u necijem vrtu uz cestu jer jos nije bilo lisca na njihovoj zivici. Ljepota u gradu – kokice i jaja. Husband and I went for a walk the other day and saw some chickens in a neighbourhood garden. Their hedge didn’t have any leaves yet, so I took a photo. Beauty in a city – chickens and eggs.

I thought I’d write this post as a thank you to lovely Sharon who gave me a little pressie on Sunday last week as a thank you (a lot of thanking here). Something like a proverbial thank-you rakija (vodka). She brought me some lovely eggs.

Htjela sam napisati ovaj post u znak zahvalnosti divnoj Sharon koja mi je pklonila 6 domaćih jaja koje su snijele njezine sretne, šetajuće kokice. Dobila sam divna jajca u znak zahvale (nešto se ovdje puno zahvaljuje ovih dana!).

Free range from her happy chickens! I was utterly touched and very pleased. For a Balkan in the UK, that feeling catapulted me straight back to the said Balkans. You know when you were very grateful to a village or small town doctor? So you or your parent or grandparent bought some coffee, or a box of chocolates or a bottle of rakija (read methanol) – Sljiva, Loza or a bottle of wine; or made some cakes or biscuits or whatever other homemade product and took it to your/the doctor as a token of appreciation. Is that still done down there?

Jako su me dirnula ta divna jaja njezinih kokica. Za mene s Balkana, to me odmah katapultiralo u ona vremena dok sam još bila dijete. Znate ono kad idete kod doktora ili slično, pa ste toliko zahvalni da jednostavno ‘Hvala’ nikako nije dovoljno, i osjecate veliku potrebu da u znak zahvalnosti donesete spomenutom doktoru (ili kome vec), bocu rakije ili kave ili da ispecete nesto domacih kolaca, itd. Se to jos uvijek radi?

I had great plans for those six eggs: pancakes, baking, bread making, fried eggs,… Until I heard my Husband going on and on and on about our holiday breakfast at our friends. Our friend’s Dad keeps happy and free range chickens, so regularly has fresh eggs to give his kids. So when a friend of mine came for lunch yesterday, I boiled three eggs and served them together with some improvised salads and snacks. The eggs were really delicious and yummy!! I have to admit that I really don’t want to eat the rest of those divine eggs, I just want to adore and devour them with my eyes; because they’d last longer than if we gobbled them up straight away. But we should probably eat them soon because they won’t stay that fresh for long!

Imala sam planove za tih 6 jaja: palačinke, kolači, kruh, jaja na oko,… Sve dok Muž nije spomenuo kako se još uvijek sjeća jaja na tvrdo za doručak od kokica što ih ima kumov tata. I nikako da on zaboravi taj okus i osjećaj friških jaja. Tako kad nam je došla prijateljica na ručak jučer, ja skuhala tri jaja na tvrdo uz neke salate i improvizacije od svega pomalo. Ajme divote! Sad moram priznati da mi se ne kuhaju ova druga tri jaja, jer mi ih je žao tako divno friških i ukusnih (radije bi ih obožavala i jela očima), pa mi neće puno trajati ako ih sve brže bolje potamanimo. Znam da ćemo ih vjerovatno pojesti uskoro, jer inače neće više biti tako divno friška.


Did you ever get a proverbial thank-you rakija? Jeste li vi tako dobili ‘rakiju zahvalnosti’?