Today I met Montenegro’s Peter Mansbridge, Dragoljub Ilic! For thirty years, like some Slavic Ron Burgundy he read the news. What a class act. He told me to meet him on the terrace of the Hotel Yugoslavia in Niksic, and strolls in at a half past seven with a tidy button down and a sly grin saying “Adam Bailey, you have travelled so far!” The he stares straight at my camera and delivers a tight 45 second monologue to my family – in a foreign language, no stammering, no searching for words. Almost finished with a cut to camera 2. The guy knows how to work a lens. What a professional.
Also, what a generous host. He’s a distant relative, but was more than happy to take time out of his day to tell me about his life and his country. He worked his whole life to see Montenegro become independent. He’s concerned about the tradeoffs of the foreign investment that is clearly happening all over the place here. The land is his church. If he lived in B.C. I’d call him a cascadian.
We talked about the land a bit, as it relates to relations. My grandfather was born here, not far from the terrace at the Hotel Yugoslavia. I explained that I’m now a part of a multi-generational journey to earn a right relationship with the land and the people who’ve lived here from time immemorial. He got it, instantly. Of course you have blood from Crna Gora, Adam – and you are welcome here any time and I hope you visit again soon. But of course the place your family went wasn’t theirs to begin with, and there is much work still to be done.
I suppose now is as good a time as any to mention that my vacation read has been The Fourth World by George Manuel, on a recommendation from a new friend I met on Cortez Island. It’s an expansive work on Indigenous land defense from the 1970s, written by one of the leaders of the NIB (pre-AFN) and UBCIC, and a Secwecpmc elder. In it, Manuel writes: “If Europeans can come to terms with their own origins, they may no longer need to insist upon their purity, i.e. whiteness”
As I’ve said before, that’s what I’m here to do. And now I have found someone who can teach me about my origins, here in Crna Gora. A man whose life has been explaining the truth to his people, night after night. A man who reads the news.