Born in Belgrade in 1923, my Dad's parents died when he was around 10. His older brother, unable to care for him, pinned a note to Dad's shirt for his aunt to take care of him, and gave the 10 year old directions to his aunt's small country farm several hundred kilometers away. He found his way there on his own eventually and spent his early years living the simple life at his aunt's tiny farm.
In his teens, he became a resistance fighter against the Nazis in the early part of the Second World War and was captured during a guerrilla operation. He spent most of the war as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration / forced labor camp.
After the war he worked as a military policeman at the prison housing captured Nazi war criminals in Germany. He had a knack with languages and could speak German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, and Serbian / Croatian fluently which came into good use in post-war Germany. Many of his friends joked that you could parachute him into a strange country and in no time he would be found speaking the local language like a native and having a huge number of local friends.
His commanding officer convinced him to immigrate to Canada “a great country of opportunity” and he arrived in Montreal in the mid 50's where he worked as a gardener for a while until he mastered enough English to get a job at ICAO, a branch of the United Nations. He met my Mom there, where she worked as a secretary, having recently immigrated from South Africa.
He started at the bottom in the mail room at the UN, but his language skills helped him get ahead. He honed his incredible people skills into diplomatic skills, rising through the ranks, eventually working for many years as a senior career staff member of the World Health Organization based at the African Regional Office in Brazzaville. He was later stationed in Nairobi, Kenya. His position involved extensive travel in the African region where he worked in nearly every African country with local medical staff, NGOs, and heads of state.
He retired from the UN in the mid 80's and built a home on the South Coast of Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa, where he lived with my Mom, growing and tending their prize winning seaside garden, and supporting the local South Coast Hospice through private donations and through activities with the Port Edward and Trafalgar Garden Clubs.
Known locally as “Uncle Petar”, my Dad was well loved in his community for his giant vegetables, his generosity, his sense of humor, his loud shirts, and his excellent storytelling ability.
Diagnosed with colon cancer after my mother's death, my Dad battled with the disease courageously for over 4 years before finally succumbing this morning. He passed away peacefully and comfortably at his home here by the sea at the age of 86.
Besides being my Dad, we were very close friends. I will miss him.