Jelka was born in 1933 on a beautiful hillside in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia - now Bosnia & Herzegovina, into a loving family. She was the second youngest of 7; 4 sisters and 2 brothers.
Though she was only 7 at the start of World War II, Jelka spoke fondly of her childhood with a twinkle in her magical blue eyes; she recalled working on their family farm with her siblings, laughing and singing. She would carry this joyful spirit throughout her life.
As a young woman, Friday town festivals were a favorite for her and her sisters. They would dress in traditional folk attire, she also in her signature pearl necklace, to sing and dance the evening away. Later in life, Jelka would tell her four granddaughters to never settle for one boyfriend, just like her. Of course to her, dating a boy meant you talked to one (or 5) at the festivals.
Jelka was a striking beauty who caught the eye of many, but she only had love for Mirko, whom she admired for his honesty, work ethic and wavy black hair. In the summer of 1957, she’d marry Mirko and later welcome two children, Vladimir and Sladjana.
She found joy in everyday life. Jelka was a woman of devout faith, a proud homemaker and an unmatched hostess, known for her famous pita and perfectly measured cabbage rolls. Her favorite pastime was afternoon coffee with her girlfriends, which became a ritual, even during the 1990’s Yugoslavian Civil War.
Jelka was a beloved grandmother to her grandson (Daniel) and four granddaughters (Andrea, Aleksandra, Nikolina, and Jelena). To her grandkids, she was home - the kind that always had a fresh batch of rice pudding waiting for their arrival. She blessed them with unconditional love and wisdom, even when they’d test her limits with soup fights or cut up rose bushes used as food for their dolls.
As their children immigrated to America following the civil war in their homeland, in 1997, Jelka and Mirko left the home they built in Sarajevo, packed up their 60 years into two suitcases only for the wish to be near their grandchildren. Jelka didn’t put any value into material belongings, and she would teach her grandchildren the same. She fiercely loved her family, friendships, God and the Golden Girls.
Widowed at 70, she remained independent and determined, living on her own and spending her days enjoying the sunshine and smell of pine trees on her daily walks. Jelka was very disciplined, especially in her health, she even hit the neighborhood gym for a few hours a day!
Jelka prayed to live long enough to watch her grandchildren get married. She thought she’d only make it to one, maybe two, but she lived to celebrate all! The running joke at the dinner table was that not only did Jelka live long enough to watch her grandchildren get married, but also have children of their own! She was blessed with seven great-grandchildren (Alexander, Sebastian, Chloe, Ryko, Lazar, Stefan and Charlotte) one of which she even babysat in her early 80’s.
Jelka recently learned that she’s a descendant of King Richard III from her mother’s side and Czar Lazar on her father’s. To this of course she replied with great amusement, “I always felt like I came from Royalty” and to her family she was, her grandkids coined her “Our Queen” while her great-grandkids were more forthcoming with “Slow-Baka” (slow-grandma).
Although Jelka blessed us with her earthly presence for 90 years, her departure will always be too soon. She was the core of the family, near and far, a compass - one that would celebrate even the smallest of your successes and be in your corner through all of life’s hurricanes. She was love, faith, strength, compassion and determination - she was our Queen.
Fly high with Angels, Baka, volimo te do neba.