Mileva Djordjevic from Gornja Slatina outside Foca lived for nearly one century, gave birth to 15 children, twice twins and once triplets, and never went to see a doctor, recounts one of her sons Slavko, aged 74, a retired medical technician.
Slavko Djordjevic says his mother Mileva and her husband Djoko Djordjevic had eight sons and seven daughters between 1934 and 1952. Mileva died in 2005 at the age of 99, while her husband died in 1992.
The beginning of their life together before and during WWII, at the time of scarcity and typhus, was tragic. Their first five children, two sons and three daughters, died or were killed in early childhood.
Nevertheless, the Djordjevices never lost the will to live so they brought ten more children into the world and managed to raise them themselves. The latter gave them 24 grandchildren and 34 great-grandchildren.
Slavko says no other woman in the area of Foca had ever had so many children as his mother and recalls that Djoko and Mileva had always been healthy and had never gone to see a doctor.
“My mother delivered babies on her own, which I as a medical technician now find very odd. In the hospital where I worked, the doctors and nurses take care about every new mother, cut the umbilical cord, give the new-born a bath and dress it, while my mother did it all on her own at home. She gave birth on her own, took care of the baby and cut the umbilical cord herself. She was extremely diligent and a very good mother and a very good wife,” says Slavko.
Djoko and Mileva had moved from Gornja Slatina, before Slavko was born, to Gornja Josanica in the village of Bare, close to the church of Sts Constantine and Jelena, to an aunt’s farm.
They had lived in a two-room house. One room was the kitchen which had a hearth and chains, where they could sit at a round table called ‘sinija’ and the other one was a sleeping room, where the parents and ten children slept on straw spread out on the floor.
“My father and mother had slept on a wooden bed and we the ten children slept on the floor. And you know how you slept on the floor? You make a mat out of rye straw, spread in on the floor and put the rough-knit bedsheet over it. We would all lay down on it, take the pillows filled with wool, since we had many sheep, and then cover ourselves with the bedsheet again. We would all lay in the same room,” son Slavko describes the life of the 12-member family.
According to him, they had a big farm and could satisfy their food needs from farming the land and growing cattle. They grew rye, barley, wheat and corn and milled the crops in their own mill. They had a couple of oxen which did the ploughing and a couple of horses to transport the firewood and take the goods to the market, as well as sheep, pigs, hens, etc.
“We ate healthy food and lived a healthy life. No one from my house had ever bought anything but salt and sugar, we produced everything on our own,” Slavko recounts.
He adds that his mother managed to do everything on her own. Providing clothes for 12 members was an issue so she weaved and sew all kinds of garments.
“She weaved sweaters, skirts and shirts, and knitted socks. She knew hot to weave elegant shirts too, she was so skilful,” says son Slavko.
Slavko recounts they worked every day very hard and rested during religious holidays. The three most joyous days of the year for the Djordjevic family was the patron saint’s day St George’s Day, Easter and Christmas.
“We would look forward to Christmas because on Christmas Day straw would be brought into the veranda, laid down on the floor and the children would play there for many hours in expectation of midnight when we would wish each other a Merry Christmas. My mother would prepare gourabiyeh, cookies, pies, roast meat. We observed both the Lent and work and Christmas and saint’s days,” says Slavko.
The Djordjevices have always leaned on each other for support and helped each other all their lives.
“Not many children are born today. It is a great miracle when a mother has three or four babies and my own mother had 15. I think she wanted to have more but was too old to have them,” says Slavko.
Today there are seven living children of Djoko and Mileva – Slavko and his twin sister Slavojka, twin brothers Josip and Jovan /65/, Radivoje /71/, Rada /69/ and Fima /78/.