Shortly after my previous entry, Aleksander announced the news: quarantine for travelers within the EU has been canceled. So I cycled to the Mitte to test my architectural expertise ‘in the shadow of widely spread wings’. I was defeated before I got to the ‘real thing’ from 1936, the building of the former Ministry of Aviation. The phantom has appeared in shopping malls, in housing complexes, in offices and official buildings, in old palaces. While retreating to my residency, I saw it in a miniature next to the entrance gate. The style topped with the Roman imperial eagle seemed to be neo-classical already before Christ.
Today I stay inside
Among the appearances in the peripheries of the sliced family photo are two histories:
1. In Yugoslavia, at the time of the 1976 snapshot, Christmas was treated as obsolete and backward, if not reactionary, tradition. The official ideology of “brotherhood and unity” has pushed Christmas into the clandestine margins. At the same time, the Christmas tree was diverted to the much older, pre-Christian and pre-communist New Year tradition. It was unintentionally reset to its pagan magic at the darkest time of the year. The trees were sacred across the northern borders of the Roman Empire: the Rhine and Danube rivers.
2. Saint Nicolaus has travelled from Asia Minor through the Catholic South and the Protestant North to the colonies across the Atlantic. A hybridized Saint – under the guise of Santa Claus – was reintroduced through Coca Cola campaigns back to Europe. Annually reenacted ritual is still an exciting addition to the family-friendly version of Christmas. In the 1970’s Yugoslavia, Coca Cola was imported together with the repackaged legend of Saint Nicholaus. The suitable time for him to appear with the presents was New Year’s Eve.
In addition, parallels have been noted between the two missing family men named Nikola. They are the negative image of each other, the thesis and its antithesis:
1. Nikola is a migrant worker, selected preferably for unskilled and hazardous labour. He has his reasons to expose himself to humiliating procedures of underpaid work abroad. As a construction worker on the limits of legality he is an outsider per default. At home, he is a trouble – a runaway from the parental house, a former sailor and a resistance fighter, twice imprisoned for rebellion against the authorities.
2. Nikola is adored religious and holly man, highly respected for his miracles at sea and for saving girls from prostitution. The patron saint of the harbours is especially appreciated for providing marvellous gifts for the good children or otherwise punishing the bad ones. He is a righteous caretaker, fatherly authority coming from afar and operating beyond rules of local everyday life. In short, he is a foreigner as well.