Marko’s Place, Croatia

27 May

Let me tell you a thing or two about 75 year old, pot bellied Marko. He lives in a trailer surrounded by worktools and benches and music festival style frescos and quirkiness, like old typewriters and bikes and odd instruments painted blue hanging from his trees or pinned to his yellow walls. He’s a Yugoslav, not a Croatian. And when he crosses the border from Croatia to Montenegro and the border control asks him if he has anything to declare, he says ‘this is still Yugoslavia’, or something like that, and they hug, or shed a tear, or dance the Yugoslavian Tango, I’m not sure.

At the age of 5, he told us, he was a guerilla fighter in WWII. His Aunt or someone else gave him a lettuce to carry past Nazi checkpoints to deliver to whoever. But this lettuce was no ordinary lettuce. This lettuce surrepticiously hoarded 5 grenades.

At the age of 17 he and his comrades escaped from Yugoslavia by stealing a rowing boat and rowed for 3 nights and 3 days to Italy, where they were arrested and taken to a refugee camp. At this camp Marko became a coffee sediment mystic’s agent. They read the future from the coffee sediments for the benefit of richer refugees and earnt bread crusts and salami.

After a year, when he heard he was being sent back to Yugoslavia, he jumped a train to Paris, was arrested in Paris for being covered in coal and soot and given 3 days in Paris in the care of the Red Cross before they would take him back to the Italian camp. He got jiggy with the Red Cross girl who looked after him and then Marko was handcuffed to some trains and taken back. Once back at the camp, the Italians thought that anybody who would run to Paris rather than go back to Yugoslavia is a serious refugee, and gave him political asylum and sent him to paint in Canada.

In Canada, Marko raised and sent money to Che Guevara, met Fidel Castro and, sooner or later, started his own painting business, eventually he was hiring up to 140 people and so he bought himself a yacht. But unfortunately that was sunk by 3 missiles.

At some point he returned to the Balkans to become a political aide, was taken on a submarine to see Albania’s military bases and recommended that Albania’s bunkers be dropped outside ports to make wavebreaks.

But now he lives in his trailer, swims 1km a day or so to try to shed his pot belly, and takes in cyclists and travellers with whom to eat soup and regale with incredible stories.

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