During the harsh and bitter conflict in former Yugoslavia in the late 1990s, a lot of Serbians found refuge in Malta and settled here. Nowadays, the Serbian community in Malta numbers almost 3,000.
“My husband first came to Malta as he had found a job in the IT industry,” says Vanja Miljkovic, 40. “I had a very good job in Serbia and the plan was that my husband would work in Malta while I would work and stay in Serbia, together with our children.
“Then, when I came to visit him, I just fell in love with Malta – I found the country to be pleasant, the people friendly and the weather fantastic. Moreover, Malta was very safe for my two young children and so we decided to settle here.”
Vanja has now been living in Malta for more than a decade and all the members of the Miljkovic family have settled well. “My first year in Malta was difficult as I couldn’t speak Maltese or English,” says Stephanie, Vanja’s daughter.
Stephanie’s parents decided that, because of the language barrier, it would be better if she repeated her third year in primary school.
“Then, on my ninth birthday, I wanted to ask my classmates over for a party. The only problem was that I couldn’t tell them myself, as I couldn’t communicate with them. My father had to come to school and invite them himself.”
From that day onwards, Stephanie started communicating with her classmates and learning the language. Nowadays, she speaks Maltese, is studying at Junior College and dreams of becoming a speech therapist.
Stephanie’s younger brother, Nikola, was only four when the family settled down in Malta. “I started attending kindergarten at St Paul’s Bay, where a lot of children were also foreign. I also knew a little bit of English so I could communicate with my classmates and made lots of friends.”
Proja – A starter of Serbian corn flour bread.
Ingredients: 3 eggs; 3 cups plain flour; 500gr proja flour; 1 sachet baking powder; 3.5 cups sparkling water; 2 cups sunflower oil; A pinch of salt; Hard cheese.
Method: Whisk the water and oil with the eggs. Add the flours and whisk. Add a pinch of salt together with the baking powder and whisk. Crumble the cheese and mix in. Bake on 220°C for 40 minutes.
Beans with smoked ribs – More than four hours of cooking makes for a delicious main course.
Ingredients: 500gr white beans; 250gr smoked ribs; 1 onion; Red peppers, dried; Water; Bay leaves; Onion, finely chopped; 2 tbsp flour; Paprika.
Method: Boil the beans. When the water starts boiling, change the water, add the bay leaves and salt, and cook for two hours. Add the smoked ribs and then cook for a further two hours. Add the peppers. In a separate pan, heat some oil and brown the onion. Add two spoons of flour and paprika to make a roux. Mix with the beans and ribs and bake in an oven for 30 minutes.
Serbian salad – A colourful accompaniment.
Ingredients: Red, green and yellow peppers; Tomatoes; Onion; Cucumber.
Method: Chop all the vegetables, add some salt and, if you want, a drizzle of oil. Mix everything together and serve.
This interview was included in the publication Interact - a portrait of third-country nationals in Malta, published as part of the media interact project (If 2010 02) and distributed with The Times. They are based on the tv programme Minn Lenti Interkulturali, produced/presented by Maria Muscat (PBS), and directed/edited by Godfrey Smith (PBS) and broadcast on Education22/Tvm2 and Tvm between January and March, 2012 and on Tvm between april and june, 2012. The project is co-financed through the European fund for the integration of third-country nationals. The project is led by SOS malta, in partnership with the Public Broadcasting Services and the Institute of Maltese Journalists.
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