My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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SARAJEVO, Yugoslavia , Saturday—At 5:15 on Tuesday Mr. Desmond the New York Times correspondent took us out to his home. After Mrs. Desmond had given us a very excellent tea, Mr. Desmond and two other correspondents gave us some of the results of their observations in Yugoslavia.

Everyone seems to agree that during the last year great changes have taken place in the government of Yugoslavia. There seems to be a general agreement that decentralization of government power has been encouraged. This is quite remarkable, I think, for it is rare when people have absolute power that they are willing to divest themselves of any of it. While there is supervision and a measure of ultimate control by the central government, I think many more decisions are being left to the people's Committees even down to the smaller village groups.

We dined in the evening with Mr. Kardelj and again discussed the economic plan, the new election law, and even the secret police.

In leaving there we went over to a reception given by the head of the Serbian Republic in commemoration of the day of their uprising for freedom. It was a very delightful reception but as I had to be ready to leave the hotel early on Wednesday morning, we did not stay very long but returned to our hotel.

On Wednesday morning I went off alone to Banja to see a wine cooperative. This cooperative was started 50 years ago and is one of the oldest in Yugoslavia. The men own their own land and there are 120 members. They all bring in their grapes to the cooperative and the making of wine is done centrally. They used to make champagne but now they only make brandy and white and red wine. They hope, however, to begin making champagne again.

There were about ten men present, some members of the People's Council and some leaders in the cooperative.

The drive out had been through beautiful rolling country and they seemed pleased that I admired their countryside.

After showing me through their cellars, we sat around a table to taste the wine and they provided also excellent home made bread, two kinds of goat's cheese and hard boiled eggs. As soon as we were seated they began to ask questions and the first question was about Senator McCarthy and his activities. They wanted to know if the people of the U.S. were losing their freedom. Here in a little village quite a distance out of Belgrade a local peasant was asking me about domestic politics in the U.S . I could hardly believe it! The next question was "Had I found the people of Yugoslavia as barbarous and uncivilized as I had expected?"—the question of a rather sophisticated but sensitive person, I fear. Then I began to ask questions about how they ran their community, how they ran their cooperative, why were there no women on the Council?

At the end of about an hour and a half we went over to see the home of one of the members of the cooperative and I found again that the home made blankets for which wool is spun and dyed in the home, have many of the same designs and colors as have the blankets woven by our Navajo Indians. This was the same thing I found in Delphi, Greece, and one wonders how the similarity comes about.

Finally I said goodbye to these kind and hospitable people.

The name of their cooperative which is named after a mountain in the region, is "Vencacka ."


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Sarajevo (Yugoslavia) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, July 19, 1953

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.