The life of a PK (preacher’s kid) is one comprised of nothing if not compromise and sacrifice. We are always on stage, held to a higher standard than most children, and criticized more than our peers. Unlike celebrities, however, who often complain about the same frustration and scrutiny, this is something we did not volunteer for, and for which the compensation is significantly less. There is an order by which we PK’s live, and with that comes the expected social graces, entertaining of dignitaries and even royalty, but the perks are one of a kind experiences that cannot be purchased online or contractually agreed upon. The photo above is one of Princess Margarita of Baden, wife of Tomislav, Prince of Yugoslavia and our Baba, Popadija (title of priest’s wife) Rada Popovich in the living room of our grandparents’ apartment above the church on Schiller Street in Wicker Park, Chicago. Her Royal Highness Princess Margarita, is a descendent of Queen Victoria of England. (http://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/Princess_Margarita_of_Baden). Baba hosted the Princess seven times on Schiller Street.
One of the casualties of my grandparents’ sense of duty to their compatriots and their country (former Yugoslavia) was the celebration of our mother’s birthday on July 1st, which falls very closely to “Vidovdan”, St. Vitors Day- the commemoration of the epic battle of Kosovo. Therefore, the Annual Vidovdan celebration typically held at the Congress Hotel in Chicago, usually overshadowed mom’s birthday, as Baba Rada was preparing the house for important guests like the Prince and Princess, other royalty, politicians, intelligentsia, and planning a spread for her table. These three-day spectacles consisted of symposiums during the day and ethnic and cultural programs followed by elegant dances/balls in the evening.
On her thirteenth birthday, our mother was left at home, no party, not old enough to attend the ball…Cinderella. One Saturday evening, July 1st, Jovanka “Jeanie” Popovich sat at home in the rectory fantasizing about the gowns and regalia only a few miles away at the Congress Hotel. At around 11PM that night, she heard footsteps on the long rickety staircase leading up to the front door. An unfamiliar accent was coming from the living room. My mother emerged from her room in her robe and slippers, her long hair caught back. Before her stood a regal creature in stylish clothes holding a bouquet fit for a princess (dozens of long stemmed roses) and a small package.
"Someone told me that a young lady was celebrating a birthday today. This is for you, my dear. Happy Birthday," said Princess Margarita. Mom was speechless. It made her day that the Princess made time in her busy itinerary for young Jovanka. Jovanka later found out that the Princess asked our grandfather, Fr. Dusan Popovich, to escort her to Schiller St. for the impromptu visit to which he obliged with sincere gratitude for her kindness.
What may possibly have been the most disappointing birthday at the ripe age of 13, ended with a visit she’d never forget. Jovanka opened the box to find what at the time was a very modern necklace and earrings purchased in the gift shop of the Congress Hotel. My mother would see Princess Margarita again, when she and Prince Tomislav came to visit on another occasion and the Prince barbequed on the porch as Baba and Princess Margarita chatted in the kitchen on Schiller street at Baba’s Table. (Below is a picture of one of the few birthday parties that my mother celebrated on Schiller St.)
Sometime during the 16th century, Pope Gregory XIII, head of the Western Christian Church (now referred to as the Roman Catholic Church), instituted a new calendar, called the Gregorian Calendar, which is followed today. The Eastern Orthodox world continued to follow the calendar of Julius Caesar, the Julian Calendar. To this day, a select few Orthodox groups, including Serbs, continue to follow the Julian Calendar for our religious/church life and cycle of holidays, like “Serbian Christmas”, which falls on January 7th on the Gregorian Calendar. Apparently, this shift of calendars is responsible for what we now know as April Fool’s Day. (For more on this check out www.april-fools.us/history-april-fools.htm)
Deda (grandpa) Dusan photographed above entertaining his guests around Baba’s table, was a notorious April Fool’s prankster. He most likely was unaware of it’s roots, but simply saw this as a whimsical American phenomenon that appealed to him much like the game of baseball. This was one of the beautiful dichotomies of our grandfather. He was serious and resolute, brave and stoic, but was also the life of the party, beloved by all who knew him. There is one particularly amusing story about how far he would go to successfully fool someone. One April Fool’s Day in the late 1950’s, he made one of our Kumas (godmother) get dressed up and race across the street, because a very prominent woman in the community was in failing health and they were going to go visit her at her lakefront home on Miller Beach. Kuma left her Monday morning wash, climbed up the three flights of stairs to her apartment then got dressed in her best Marshall Field’s (beloved department store) tailored suit. It was no small task to dress up in those days, when for an average outing a woman wouldn’t think of leaving her home without dressing to the nines, which included her gloves, hat, high heels, suit and handbag.
Imagine her surprise when Baba Rada emerged from the laundry room in a house dress and slippers and Deda Dusan sat laughing hysterically, cigarette in hand at Baba’s Table. Kuma soon found that she was the target of another one of Deda Dusan’s notorious April fool’s pranks or the “poisson d’avril” as they say in France, and that Gospodja (Mrs.) D was alive and well and not expecting her for so much as a visit. Let’s just say Kuma was not amused considering she had frantically left her wash and had instead herself been put through the ringer.