Roma Travel Journal - Day 15

Diane Miller



8 May
I’m rich!  Last night Janko gave me 200 million Serbian dinara.  This morning he gave me a billion dinara bill.  Wait until my grandson AJ sees this money.  AJ and his grampy keep track of money I bring home from other countries.  Makes for interesting sorting, learning, and conversations. 
On January 1, 1966, the first of five revaluations of the dinar took place, at a ratio of 100 to 1 (when Serbia was part of Yugoslavia). This currency was never very stable, suffering from an inflation rate of 15 to 25 percent per year. In the late 1980s the inflation rate accelerated, causing the currency to be revalued at the beginning of 1990.  Two more re-denominations took place in 1990 and 1992.  Yugoslavia re-denominated the dinar for the fourth time on 1 October 1993, at a ratio of 1 million to 1. This did not mitigate the hyperinflation, and the 1993 dinar lasted for only three months.  The 1993 dinar had the largest denomination out of all incarnations of Yugoslavian currency: the banknote, featuring Jovan Jovanović Zmaj had a face value of 500 billion dinara.   Liljana said times were really tough.  When she got paid the equivalent of 10 Euros on Friday, it was only worth 3 Euros on Monday.  I will never again hear of rampant inflation without thinking of Liljana and Janko and how difficult it was for them to make ends meet – and how terrible it must have been for the poorest of the poor. 
We’re making our way home – one vehicle, waiting room, and airport at a time – backtracking now to the Pallottihaus in Vienna.  Janko drove us to the Belgrade airport in the vehicle he borrowed from his son’s church – a Ford Escort wagon that must be 30 years old.  He used this car the past two days to drive us to Novi Sad and north   When he stops at a light the engine races; that might be the only way it can keep running.  It appears to be on its last leg.  We asked some questions about pastor salaries here.  All pastors receive the same amount according to number of years of work – 200 Euros/month for the first 10 years; a raise of 10 Euros/month after that.  There’s a raise of 5 Euro with a child.  He thought the district superintendent would get more because she has extra responsibility for the district (the whole country) and a church.   When I asked Katarina (the Roma pastor we visited yesterday) who paid for the meal she served us and the sweets and fruit she offered to the children and adults who came for the service, she replied that she paid for it out of her salary.  Granted, the cost of living is lower here; people don’t tip, and everyone has a little garden, but it’s still a pretty simple, sparse life.  Janko said he’s happy to be working for the Lord.
The personalities of our team members have blossomed into a safety net for the team.  When I’m getting up to speak in front of a group, or working with the children on a craft, or teaching a song, I often walk away from my camera or purse.  When I turn to go back for it, Joan has always picked it up.  She’s assumed the mother hen role.  She told me she heard me speak once about the joy of having my sister with me in Haiti.  My sister was always one step ahead of me with the water bottle or the song sheets or the bug spray.  While I was working on team details, she was watching over me.  She said once, “Don’t worry Diane, I’ve got your back.”  Now Joan has my back.  What a comforting feeling.  This is the way it should be in the church.  Joan always has a smile and a song.  She bubbles.
Then there’s Judy – an experienced teacher, former director in the Women’s Division, and a seasoned traveler.  We seem to both be obsessed with note taking and asking probing questions.  She’s great for getting the names of places and people.  Most signs give place names written in both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets.  It’s still a challenge for me to get my tongue around words that don’t seem to have enough vowels – Vrbas. 
When Vladimir showed us the old German UMC yesterday, he told us the church was built in 1922, but it was closed for many years after WWII during the Communist times.  The church was badly damaged during those years – broken windows, leaking roof, damaged areas.  When the church was closed, the German Bible on the altar was removed and saved.  Rebuilding began in 1990.  The Old German Bible was returned to the altar.  Five other Bibles joined it, written in other languages of the region – Serbian, Portuguese, English, Slovak, and Hungarian.  Vladimir thought it important to affirm that this United Methodist Church was a church for every nation – everyone was welcome.
We’re back from dinner at a Viennese Restaurant and ready to turn in.  Tomorrow home!  Days after tomorrow will be focused on trying to pull together images and information to help others understand better the Roma of Europe – the justice issues and ministry opportunities…



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