“I have been here all my life. I am not a city girl, I am not that type, but I like the fact that I know every saleslady, every librarian, the neighbour who roasts chestnuts in the street, as well as his dad… That is pure local patriotism.”
When talking to Maja Sever about life around Martićeva, you get the impression that you are facing a genuine good spirit of the neighborhood. Maja welcomed us in her spacious and sunny apartment in Tomašićeva street, where she lives with her husband Krešimir, their daughters Vlasta, Josipa and Zora, and their dog Milica. We talked at the table in her warm and comfortable kitchen at the end of a long hallway filled with numerous black and white photos of young people on bicycles, presumably some older members of Maja’s family. While Marija and I were drinking Turkish coffee from colourful small cups, and stuffed cabbage leaves were cooking in a big pot on the stove, Maja told us about her childhood on the stretch from King Petar Krešimir IV Square to the Croatian National Theatre, as well as about her daily routine, which is completely imbued with neighborhood life. We also found out why living here is extremely useful for a longtime television journalist like herself.
Maja Sever is a journalist and editor at the Informative Media Service of the Croatian National Television (HRT). After graduating from the Centre for Oriented Education in Culture (currently Križanićeva street gymnasium), she started studying journalism at the Faculty of Political Science in Zagreb. While studying, she worked for HRT’s children’s program, and during the war, from September 1991, she reported from all parts of Croatia, as well as from the battlefield in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the war she graduated from university and continued to work at the News Program editorial office as a journalist and editor of various television programmes, such as the news, Croatia Live, etc., taking part in many big projects at the Croatian Television. Our conversation started with a story about a seemingly ordinary autumn day in Tomašićeva street, when all neighbors and their friends come together to enjoy an outdoor party.
Maja Sever: As a closed street with light traffic, our street functions as a small community, which is very pleasant for living. In the past few years, a manifestation called Closed Street Day has been held here every autumn, at the end of September. It is organized by the Bicikl association, located down the street. On that weekend day, the traffic in the street is closed and all tenants, owners and staff from all the bars and shops, as well as the people from the veterinary clinic and tailor Iva, bring something out in the street, like food and beverages… Brane brings a trailer on which we cook together, and we organize various outdoor games for children. It is always a very nice day for socializing. Cyclists engage in it actively every year because they want to promote life without cars, motor vehicles etc. Then you can clearly see what our co-existence in the neighborhood looks like.
We decided to live here consciously. I grew up here, this is where I spent my childhood and early adolescence. I lived at Krešimirac (King Petar Krešimir IV Square, author’s comment), I went to an elementary school named after Otokar Keršovani, today it is Ivan Mertz elementary school. My high school was the Centre for Oriented Education in Culture… It was at the site of today’s XII and II gymnasium, it’s the same entrance. Great, great school… It was awesome. Parents used to hang out playing Bela all day, while children were left to themselves. It was a great childhood, seriously! When I was a kid, ‘Martićevci’ were always around, it was a neighborhood gang, they really existed, I still know some of them. I never had any problems with them, but every neighborhood had its own gang, so ours had one, too. They did fight, but it wasn’t dangerous, those were different times. At the current location of Tisak bookshop, across the exchange, there was a restaurant where we used to eat french fries. The neighborhood has always brimmed with life that is now spreading.
This is also a great place to live for work. Every morning at eight o’clock, my friends Domagoj Novokmet and Nevena Tudor and I drink coffee in Blok bar and read all the newspapers. We are always arguing, and Nevena always gets mad because Domagoj and I hardly give her a chance to speak. HDZ is located at the Victims of Fascism Square, SDP at Iblerov square, Most in Smičiklasova, and HNS in Kneza Mislava street… It’s silly, but it’s great for us journalists. I almost lost my mind in this post-election period, but living here has helped. One evening, Most stopped the negotiations with SDP, but allegedly hadn’t started negotiating with HDZ yet… I was on my way home with Zora when I saw Karamarko’s car in front of Most headquarters. I couldn’t stop because I was driving a car myself. The two of us get home and then what? So Zora and I went for a little walk. I asked the people in Smičiklasova: “Are Petrov and Karamarko in a meeting?”, and they said: “No, that is silly…”. But I called a friend to google the license plate number for me and it turned out it belonged to Karamarko, of course. I took a photo with my phone and published it on Twitter with the title “Nightly meeting between Božo Petrov and Tomislav Karamarko”. While I was taking the photo, I told Zora to wait there with those nice people, my journalist colleagues… Horrible. Now when I ask her to walk Milica with me, she asks: “What, are we chasing politicians again?”
Anyway, it is a great position for a journalist dealing with current political events. Great! But everything else makes it a real Zagreb neighbourhood where you can live nicely, comfortably and decently. It is not elitist at all, just a normal, ordinary neighbourhood.