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  • Writer's pictureKristina Lang

How I met Don Branko Sbutega/Kako sam upoznala Don Branka Sbutegu

Updated: Mar 7, 2022


In the fall of 1991, at the beginning of the war in Croatia, I had the opportunity to meet the Kotor’s priest, humanist and art historian Don Branko Sbutega. Although a scientist and an atheist, I was impressed by this radiant man, and even now, after 30 years, I think he was one of the most charismatic people I have ever met. Here's how it went.

One evening in summer 1991 I came to visit a friend who lived in Zagreb in the same neighbourhood as me. She opened the door for me and immediately said:

"I will now listen to an interview with a priest."

"You’re going to listen to some pope now?"

"Yes, the interview is being re-shown because it caused great popularity. The man became famous overnight, and a lot of people asked for the interview to be shown on TV once again. You take this and read.” She gave me Vouge to leaf through. I was flipping through Vouge and when the interview started, I immediately realized that it was interesting and to my surprise until the end of the show I absorbed every word carefully. I was so thrilled that at the end of the show I said:

"I want to meet this man."


There was also a young journalist living in my friend's apartment who told me:

"Don Branko is a friend of my editor."

"Great, Djurdjica, you find out when Don Branko is in Zagreb and where he stayed, so let me know."

And really some 2-3 months later Djurdjica called me at work and said only briefly:

"He's in Zagreb today, he's staying at the Intercontinental Hotel, he's traveling to Slavonia tomorrow, you have to call him right away."

I called the hotel and looked for Don Branko. He responded with that wonderful deep voice with which he won people over. I said:

"Don Branko, I'm Kristina Lang, we don't know each other, but I really want to meet you."

"I'm not sure if I can, I'm traveling to Slavonia tomorrow."

"Don't go there, Don Branko, it's dangerous." I said that because Slavonia was the Croatian region where the war started to flare up at that time.

"I have my people on the field who will monitor the situation and I will not go if it is too risky. Call me tonight, then I'll know if I'm going or not. "

I called him in the evening and there he told me:

"The trip to Slavonia is being postponed, come here tomorrow morning for breakfast. I will have 15 minutes for you.”

In the morning I dressed carefully and was at the entrance to the Intercontinental Hotel early. We met in the lobby next to the newsstand. He just bought a newspaper in which a great interview with him was published and he immediately showed it to me. When we sat down, he asked:

"Surely there's a big problem?"

I answered without much thought:

"I have no problem."

"There is no man who has no problem" he smiled at me.

"That is not why came here," I said, adding, "I'm not even religious."

"Faith is not a continuous line, everyone sometimes doubts, and I have moments when I doubt." It was very nice of him to say that.

"What do you do?" he asked and so the conversation began, from faith to quantum physics. I think we talked for two hours, even though he initially promised me only 15 minutes and who knows how much more we would have talked if we hadn't been interrupted by the arrival of an elderly lady, Don Branko's cousin.

He wrote articles for some newspapers that I think were called "Free Croatia." He later told me that he agreed to write for those newspapers without seeing them. When he first got his hands on them, he realized that they were some awful newspapers and withdrew, but he continued to write for many other newspapers, daily and weekly magazines. I collected his articles and stories, retyped them and imported them into a book. I sent the book to him in Padua, where he lived during those turbulent war years. Don Branko was from the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro, which went to war with Croatia and occupied one part of it, during the break-up of Yugoslavia. He publicly condemned Montenegro's aggression against Croatia and that is why most of his family emigrated from Boka to Italy.

He didn’t call me to thank me for the book, but his mom did. She wrote to me from Rome where Don Branko's brother lived:

"I am the mother of Don Branko Sbutega. I was in Padua when your book arrived. I would like to meet you.”

Mrs. Olga and I exchanged a few letters, but unfortunately, we never met because of the war, even though we both wanted to. It’s one in a series of things I’ll forever regret.

In the years that followed, I saw Don Branko occasionally, though not often. Our communication stopped when I moved to England in 2002. He passed away in the spring of 2006 at the age of 53. I still miss him, and I will write more about him, but for now here are a couple of his quotes:


“The world is you and me, all our totality that constitutes us and all our constitution that makes us different. And if something already makes us diverse, it is the desire in you to be and the desire in me to be. And all that makes us harmonious in any relation is one modest request: "Let me be," which necessarily includes another sentence of complete consent: "I let you be."

Don Branko Sbutega


“I am perfectly aware of how small, tiny and insignificant my individual destiny is for history, but I primarily have not history but myself. And so, while the bloody and tragic drama of this space and time is being written on the plane of great history, on the plane of my personal biography I am trying to inscribe something that will still make my life beautiful and significant. That is the only thing an individual can and should do, regardless of the historical context and given the historical context.”

Don Brank Sbutega


With love,

Kristina


Thursday, September 23rd, 2021


Kako sam upoznala Don Branka Sbutegu


U jesen 1991, na početku rata u Hrvatskoj, dobila sam priliku upoznati bokokotorskog svećenika, humanistu i povjesničara umjetnosti Don Branka Sbutegu. Iako znanstvenica I ateista, bila sam impresionirana tim zračećim čovjekom, pa i sad nakon 30 godina, mislim da je bio jedan od najkarizmatičnijih ljudi koje sam ikada upoznala. Evo kako je krenulo.

Jedno predvečer, u ljeto 1991, došla sam u posjet prijateljici koja je u Zagrebu stanovala u istom kvartu kao ja i često smo se posjećivale. Otvorila mi je vrati I odmah rekla:

“Ja ću sad slusati interviju sa jednim svećenikom.”

“Ti ćes sad slušati nekakvog popa?”

“Da, interviju se ponovo objavljuje jer je izazvao veliku populrnost. Čovjek je preko noći postao poznat i puno je ljudi tražilo da se interviju još jednom prikaže na TVu. Ti uzmi ovo i čitaj.” Dala mi je Vouge da listam. Listala sam Vouge i kad je interviju počeo odmah sam shvatila da je interesantan i na svoje iznenađenje do kraja emisije upijala sam pozorno svaku riječ. Bila sam do te mjere oduševljena da sam na kraju emisije rekla:

“Ja zelim upoznati ovog čovjeka.”

“Mnogi ljudi to žele.” Komentirala je moja prijateljica.

U stanu moje prijateljice živjela je i jedna mlada novinarka koja mi je rekla:

“Don Branko je prijatelj mog urednika.”

“Super, Ðurđica, ti mi saznaj kad je Don Branko u Zagrebu i gdje je odsjeo pa mi javi.”

I zaista nekih 2-3 mjeseca kasnije Ðurđica me nazvala na posao i samo kratko rekla:

“Danas je u Zagrebu, odsjeo je u hotelu Interkontinental, već sutra putuje u Slavoniju, moraš ga odmah nazvati.”

Nazvala sam hotel i tražila Don Branka. Javio se tim divnim, dubokim glasom kojim je osvajao ljude. Rekla sam:

“Don Branko ja sam Kristina Lang, mi se ne poznajemo, ali ja vas jako želim upoznati.”

“Nisam siguran hoću li moći, vec sutra putujem u Slavoniju.”

“Nemojte ići Don Branko, opasno je.” To sam rekla jer je upravo Slavonija, hrvatska regija u kojoj se tada počeo rasplamsavati rat.

“Imam ja svoje ljude na terenu koji ce pratiti situaciju i neću ići ako je preriskantno. Nazovite me navečer, tad ću već znati dali idem ili ne.”

Nazvala sam ga navečer i tu mi je rekao:

“Put u Slavoniju se odgađa, dođite sutra ujutro ovdje na doručak. Imat ću 15 minuta za vas.”

Ujutro sam se pomno dotjerala i već rano bila na ulazu u Hotelu Intercontinental. Sreli smo se u predvoriju, pored kioska za novine. Upravo je kupio novine u kojima je to jutro bio objavljen veliki interviju sa njim i odmah mi je to pokazao. Kad smo sjeli pitao je:

“Sigurno je neki veliki problem u pitanju?”

Odgovorila sam bez puno razmišljanja:

“Ja nemam problema.”

“Nema čovjeka koji nema problema” rekao je uz blagi osmjeh.

“Nisam zato došla”, rekla sam i još dodala “Nisam čak ni vjernik.”

“Vjera nije kontinuirana linija, svatko nekada posumnja, i ja imam trenutke kad sumnjam.” Bas je bilo lijepo od njega što je to rekao.

“Čime se bavite?” pitao je i tako je razgovor krenuo, od vjere do kvantne fizike. Mislim da smo pričali dva sata, iako mi je inicijalno obećao samo 15 minuta i tko zna koliko bi još pričali da nas nije prekinuo dolazak postarije gospođe, Don Brankove rođakinje.

Pisao je članke za neke novine koje su se mislim zvale “Slobodna Hrvatska.” Poslije mi je rekao da je pristao pisati za te novine bez da ih je vidio. Kad ih je prvi puta dobio u ruke shvatio je da su to bile neke grozne novine i povukao se, ali nastavio je pisati za mnoge druge novine, dnevne i tjedne magazine. Skupljala sam njegove članke i priče, pretipkala ih i uvezla ih u knjigu. Knjigu sam mu poslala u Padovu, gdje je zivio tokom tih turbulentnih ratnih godina. Don Branko je bio iz Boke Kotorske u Crnoj Gori koja se zaratila sa Hrvatskom i okupirala jedan njezin dio, tokom raspada Jugoslavije. Javno je osudio agresiju Crne Gore na Hrvatsku i zato je dio njegove obitelj emigrirao iz Boke u Italiju.

Nije mi se javio da zahvali za knjigu, ali to je zato učinila njegova mama. Pisala mi je iz Rima gdje je živio Don Brankov brat:

“Ja sam majka Don Branka Sbutege. Bila sam u Padovi kad je stigla Vaša knjiga. Voljela bi Vas upoznati.”

Gospođa Olga i ja smo izmijenile nekoliko pisama, ali se zbog rata nažalost nikada nismo upoznale, iako smo to obije željele. To je jedna u nizu stvari koje nikada neću prežaliti.

U godinama koje su slijedile viđala sam se povremeno sa Don Brankom, iako ne često. Naša komunikacija je prestala već i prije nego sam se preselila u Englesku i to nije pomoglo. Preminuo je u proljeće 2006. u dobi od 53 godine. Još mi nedostaje i još ću o njemu pisati, a za sada evo dva njegova citata:


“Svijet smo ti i ja, sva naša ukupnost koja nas konstituira i sva naša konstitucija koja nas čini različitima. I ako nas već nešto čini raznovrsnima, to je želja u tebi da budeš i želja u meni da budem. I sve što nas čini harmoničnim u bilo kojem suodnosu jeste jedan skromni zahtjev: »Pusti me da budem», koji nužno uključuje jednu drugu rečenicu cjelovitog pristanka: »Puštam te da budeš».”

Don Branko Sbutega


“Savršeno sam svjestan koliko je moja pojedinačna sudbina mala, sićušna i beznačajna za povijest, ali ja prvenstveno imam ne povijest nego sebe. I zato, dok se na planu velike povijesti ispisuje krvava i tragična drama ovoga prostora i vremena, na planu moje osobne biografije ja pokušavam upisati nešto što će mi život i dalje činiti lijepim i znakovitim. To je jedino što pojedinac može i treba, bez obzira na povijesni kontekst i s obzirom na povijesni kontekst.”

Don Branko Sbutega


S ljubavlju,

Kristina

Četvrtak, 23. rujna 2021.



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