“In the past several years, people here have started sharing life, a neighbourhood spirit has emerged, a creative spirit we like, comprised of life values that make up the culture here.”
Nevena Tudor Perković is an experienced culture worker, extremely active in different areas of creation and management in culture. She graduate art history and French language and literature at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb and continued her education in the US and France. During her career she has participated in the work of various associations and institutions: from 1988 to 1992 she worked as a curator at Klovićevi Dvori Gallery; and after that she worked at the French Institute in Zagreb and as the director of the Croatian Association of Artists. Following her engagement at the British Council, since 2009 she has worked at the Ministry of Culture as the head of the Service for International Cultural Relations, which has produced and organized several comprehensive projects in recent years (e.g. Croatie, la voici! and Rendez-vous festivals, among others).
She is one of the longtime residents of Martićeva neighbourhood, and she has been closely observing the changes in the neighbourhood since she returned here a few years ago. She is certainly one of the best people to talk to about the different sides of the neighbourhood in the past and today.
Nevena Tudor Perković: As soon as we moved to the neighbourhood (my family and I), a beautiful story transpired. Maja Sever lives across the street with her family, and less than a month after we arrived, we met on the street when she approached us and said: “Aha! Your child is attending the S. S. Kranjčević elementary school, just like my girls, so let’s agree to take turns driving them all to school every week.” Once we started sharing in the neighbourhood, the practice continued. Things just started to happen, one thing led to another. In time we started sharing and preparing weekend lunches together, somebody else cooks every Sunday (but most often Maja), so we take our pots to each other’s houses all the time. We don’t just drive our kids to school, we share rides to work as well…
We meet for coffee at Blok bar in the morning, and afterwards we share a car or two to our offices. If we can do it together, we will — starting from humanitarian aid: we discuss how and where to do it so it would be as direct and efficient as possible, then we ask the girl from the cyclists’ association in Tomašićeva if we can use their space, she says yes and gives the key to Maja’s daughter, Vlasta… Brane traditionally cooks cod and fritters for the whole neighbourhood at Remy café every Christmas Eve, and we enjoy food and red wine in the street… We have already organized an open street day twice, without any traffic… In the past several years, people here have really started sharing life as good neighbours, a neighbourhood spirit has emerged, a creative spirit we like, comprised of life values that make up the culture here.
It is the charm that makes the neighbourhood unique, because the creativity of the neighbourhood developed very gradually. Nobody decided or planned that something would happen here, it all happened slowly, over time, things gradually connected and sparked one another. Now we have a critical mass of interesting people connected through our shared lives, businesses, circles, friendships, old loves, and all kinds of stories, who have gathered here again.
When I moved to the neighbourhood with my mom and dad in the seventies, after living in Voltino neighbourhood, which was considered to be at the outskirts at the time, I was delighted because everything was so close here, from ice skating at Šalata, to cinemas and clubs… Suddenly everything was readily available. On the other hand, at first I missed the freedom I enjoyed in my old neighbourhood — a bunch of kids playing in the street, where bicycles, rollerblades, football and dodge-ball on the asphalt were a part of everyday life. The city situation was different in that sense, but the neighbourhood was already unusual back then. I saw it as a space with all of the characteristics of the city, but away from the noise and commotion, like it has always been somewhat displaced. There have always been some unusual things here, that were unexpected in this part of the city. For example, on the ground floor of the building at Tomašićeva 5, where my parents still live today, there was a warehouse of the 29 November company, where huge trucks would arrive frequently, with tired drivers who spent the nights in their truck cabs.
It seems to me that back then there was no sense of togetherness I talked about earlier, but there was a special quality of a displaced part of the city. However, I didn’t think about it consciously as a teenager, it was important that everything I needed was close and easily accessible. The sense of togetherness among us neighbours is a relatively new occurrence. The neighbourhood has started living an inner life and now is a good time to consolidate and strengthen it, and to show how culture has the ability to stimulate the development small urban communities of this kind.