Meet the People of Zagreb

Meet the People: Jelena, School Librarian, Yoga Teacher, Jewellery Crafter, SFeraKon Organiser

Jelena and I studied English together here in Zagreb and she’s always been one of the most positive people I know, the kind that always brings a smile to your face. I haven’t seen her in ages and then when I bumped into her a few weeks ago, I thought she should bring smiles to your faces too, so here she is.

1) Hi, Jelena, tell us a little something about who you are and what you do
Hi! I’m Jelena, a school librarian, book and nature lover, yoga teacher, occasional traveller and casual jewellery crafter. I enjoy a morning cup of tea, sunny days in my weekend house and spending time with my mister.

2) SFeraKon ended a few days ago and you’re one of the organisers – how long does it take to get everything ready for such an important event?
SFeraKon is organized by SFera, a Science Fiction Society from Zagreb. Our sci-fi convention is one of the biggest in the region. This year we had visitors from Slovenia, Serbia, Hungary, Montenegro… Every year SFeraKon is getting bigger and even though it’s exciting and lively, it demands even more time to plan and organize everything. Since all of us are volunteers, with their own jobs, families and hobbies, we need to manage our time well and be ready to help each other. It’s like one big family – you get your own role and responsibility but most of all – we have awesome time together. We meet up for book discussions or movie nights, travel together to other conventions in Croatia and abroad or go ice-skating. Feel free to visit us, we meet up every Tuesday evening in Kajzerica. If you’re feeling hesitant, I’ll just mention that we have a kick-ass sci-fi library with over 2500 books and magazines from the genre.

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Photo by Zvonimir Ferina

3) What do you think about the cultural offer in Zagreb in general, is there something important you think is missing?
I’m positively surprised how every year there are more events, festivals and social happenings than ever! Especially now the days are warmer and longer, you can choose whether you’d like to learn how to tend for your terrace vegetable garden or the principles of ayurvedic cuisine, maybe try those craft beers your friend was crazy about or dress up as a medieval knight and win a tournament at Ribnjak.

4) Do you like living in Zagreb? What are some of the good and some of the bad sides about living here?
I live in Velika Gorica, but it takes me 20 mins driving (car, not bus) to get to the centre of Zagreb, or when I use the train, even less. The only downside I can think of is poor public transport – either you’ll wait half an hour for the bus (because notorious 268 ZET line :D) or you’ll just take a car.
I love the fact that I am actually not living in the city – it’s close enough but I get to keep my green street and waking up to a bird orchestra.

5) What’s it like working as a librarian, are children really so addicted to technology and no one reads anymore or are things not as bleak as they seem?
I don’t know what people are talking about – my kids read like crazy. Well, they are not super excited about the obligatory readings for their Croatian class, but they love borrowing books that cover their interests – science, Star Wars, programming, horror stories, fairy tales, adventure novels, Disney picture books, dinosaur encyclopaedia, etc.
There’s not a class break in the library without at least 5-6 children, and that’s a minimum. It’s also important for librarians to be open, communicative, understanding of children’s needs and problems and to always be prepared for jokes and games. Kids are so honest and warm, a lot of them just come to say hi, hug you or tell you about their new pet or toy. They often come and tell me that library is their favourite place in the school which is enough for me to have a smile for the rest of the day ?

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Photo by Miroslav Šilović

6) What about literature-related events in the city, what’s your favourite book-related event and place?
I’ve been to some poetry readings and literary meetings in Café u dvorištu and Booksa. I like to follow such events on Facebook and drop by when I have time, especially during the summer, when it’s happening outside. This week is Zagreb Book Festival and hopefully I’ll be there!
For some time, I’ve been thinking of joining or starting a book club with my friends from Zagreb and something like that might just happen this autumn. Of course, Interliber is something I never miss, both for business and pleasure.

7) Any other places you’d recommend visiting in Zagreb?
Last year I’ve visited Dvorišta / The Courtyards (Upper Town). It was enchanting and you should go experience the magic yourself!
I guess everyone already knows about them, but definitely go and grab a fudge ice cream at Cookie Factory, that’s my favourite sweet place to go.

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8) Do you think the city is changing and how?
Zagreb is becoming a multicultural city, with people from all over the world bringing their customs, food and culture to our neighbourhood. And I like it! (especially the food part ? ) I like seeing backpackers but also foreigners who decided to stay here, it’s interesting to learn different life perspectives and philosophies.

9) You also teach yoga – are people in Zagreb interested in yoga in meditation?
Increasingly so. There have never been so many yoga studios, meditation retreats, lectures and courses. People are becoming more open, eager for knowledge and spiritual and mental growth. This is such a wonderful time to be here!

10) Tell us something about your jewellery line.
I have been creating things ever since I was in elementary school. In high-school and throughout college jewellery making was the perfect way to relax, create something beautiful and earn some pocket money. I used various techniques but epoxy resin and polymer clay resonated with me the most. During the final years of college, after many different student jobs, this was the one I came back to every time – this was me. It was making me happy, it was playful, colourful, bookish. I continued even when I started working as a librarian but now it’s at a slower pace – I’m not taking orders anymore and I’m doing it for my friends and family – of course, when I catch a whiff of inspiration.

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11) And last, but not the least, what’s your favourite place to go out and have a good time in Zagreb?
Oh, I like food festivals a lot! Especially the international ones. And winter fairs with their mulled wine and Christmas lights. When it comes to going out, I like to grab a beer in Tkalčićeva, Krivi put or some pub, but afternoon tea or coffee are happiness as well. My favourites are movie/theatre nights at Kino Europa, KIC or Upper Town during the summer, as well as unexpected musical concerts or performances.