My Father Isak Samokovlija Mirjana Samokovlija Vujosevic

All the people who knew him - and there were many of them - emphasized that our father was a real humanist, a man honestly loved and really respected by his patients.

By Mirjana Samokovlija-Vujošević

The hundred-and-fourth anniversary of birth of my father, physician and writer, Isak Samokovlija fell in September last. Remembering the days of his childhood, in his story “The Sun Over the Drina” among the other things, my father says: “I was born in Goražde, the small town in eastern Bosnia, through which the wonderfull and temperamental river Drina flows. I spent almost all my childhood on that river which made one of the deepest impressions on me. The river captivated me as a living divine creature. Its clear, magic green colour, full of the sunshine, poured into my soul every summer during these years, and filled me with some cheerfulness, purity and magic strenght for the rest of my lifel”.

In 1910 my father Isak Samokovlija entered the Medical School of the University in Vienna, from which he graduated as a fellowship holder of “Benevolencia”.

…And, in these days, sitting in our house, at father’s desk, the same one at which he used to sit and write for years creating his literary works, the memories of him, his life and work are irresistibly evoked… Even today that desk is at the same place as it was during his life. In the middle of the desk there was a black leather blotting-pad and a metal box on a small lace milieu with father’s fountain pens and sharpened pencils prepared for work. An old blotter was also there, at arm’s lenght. A statue of a miner with lantern in his hand stood on the left side of the desk. On the right - a vase with always fresh flowers which were special care of our mother. Every morning she brought a fresh fragrant flower picked in our back garden… A ceramic ashtray waited to be filled up with butts. In fact, when he worked our father often lit a cigarette…

Father's working room - neither big, nor small. Even today, as it was once, there is a china closet with books standing in the corner behind the desk. It was full of medical manuals and literary works of many our and foreign authors, and albums with reproductions of paintings. The typewriter “”Adler” with wooden cover was on a small table near the window. There was also a couch near the window and two armchairs and a round table in the middle of the room. The floor was covered with an old Bosnian carpet, the walls with few paintings. A white old fashioned enamel stove stood near the door, with its upper part and stove-pipe painted in silver.

It is how the working room of my father looked like. Here, at this desk he wrote his stories about Samuel- the porter, Jusa, Rafael, Simha, Hanka and many other heroes of his prose narratives. It is the place where mysterious visitor Davoka was “coming” and, sitting for a long time, was patiently telling about his unusual and exciting adventures.

I remember: even when he was writing the father was sitting in his white coat in which he was receiving his friends and visitors appearing suddenly when he was writing. I am mentioning this coat because I always thought that, in some way, a physician had never been separated from the author in him and the author had never been separated from the physician… And, as regards the writing he spent a long, long time on his literary work. He created his stories slowly and patiently. Rarely he was satisfied with the written text. On the contrary! He wrote, rewrote, made additions or shortened his texts several times, he canceled and wrote again working hardly and patiently. Finally, having a satisfactory text he would say: “Now I think this is finally done”… Sometimes when he was in a special mood he read to us loudly some of his stories, expecting our opinion and impressions.

For many years our father was a district physician. Visiting his patients he walked through many villages around Sarajevo, in summer and winter, day and night, carrying always his brown leather bag. Sometimes he was driven by peasant cart, sometimes he rode small Bosnian horse, but mostly he went on foot. As a physician my father was able to watch and perceive the people and their lives frorrl the most different viewpoints. His long medical practice was full of birth and death, and pain and sorrow, and joy. The proofs for that are in many of his stories. All the people who knew him - and there were many of them - emphasized that our father was a real humanist, a man honestly loved and really respected by his patients. It is true, father was always ready to help his patient generously with salutary medical treatment and warm encouraging word…

I remember my father always had and felt deep love for nature which he expressed in different ways. In free time he worked in our back garden where he grew flowers. Sometimes we helped him in the garden which, when we were children, was like a beautiful colorful carpet made of various flowers. In the middle of that beauty there was an old apple tree and father was often sitting in its shade creating his literary works. I also remember how we went on picnics and how he often stopped looking for roots in unusual forms. Later, with a great pleasure and skill he shaped interesting figures of various animals.

This love for nature and flowers was transmitted to us, his children… In our garden in back of our family house in Sarajevo a shrub of rambler rose and a beautiful small dark red rose planted by our father long time ago still grow and bloom every year. Even now, many years after his too early death, father's roses are the first to bloom in our garden every spring. Then I feel as suddenly some magic red butterflies have fallen over our garden. And, even today, the small dark red rose, father's favorite, has the same velvety glow and wonderful intoxicating aroma as it had then…


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