The idea of coming home is one that never goes out of style. Norman Rockwell best portrays it in his classics such as Homecoming Marine, and Christmas Homecoming. Baba Rada’s style of hospitality is best portrayed by Rockwell’s “Freedom from Want” which depicts a family surrounding the table on Thanksgiving, engaging in conversation contentedly while the matriarch of the household sets a bountiful turkey front and center. The faces are ones of joy and satisfaction. They are not hungry, but there is the comfort of a homecooked meal awaiting them nonetheless. This idea that nobody’s hungry is one our grandmother takes great pride in as a WWII refugee living the American dream.
We used to visit Baba’s sister, our great aunt (“tetka” in Serbian) every summer as kids. She and her husband had emigrated to Canada via England while Baba and our late grandfather had come to Chicago via Germany. Both told stories of their lives (4 years) in the refugee camps after their exodus from war torn Yugo and Nazi and communist aggression. They went from former Yugoslavia (Slovenia), to Italy, and then Germany. In the displaced persons or (DP) camps, set up by allies’ forces to assist people who had to leave their homes, and where they had spent the longest time, food was scarce and less than desirable when available. One small round bread would have to feed four families. Tetka spoke of how even when they had arrived in England prior to Canada, the food being bad. I remember her taking me down to the basement and showing me her secret jewelry stash..but the true treasure occupied the gigantic freezer they kept down there. There was enough meat to feed all of the greater Toronto area for at least a decade should any type of disaster arise. When I asked why all this food, and why we had just bought five various types of meat when she had all this surplus, she responded that we would never understand what it is like to starve..to want..to go to bed hungry night after night after being forced from your home and walking across Europe. She would never, and she stressed, NEVER save or skimp on food. No matter what else she had to do without….even if she had to eventually sell her precious stones.