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Tanya Webster

When I grew up in Yugoslavia, celebrating Christmas was forbidden, as it was in most Communist countries. In our home, out of the sight of others, on Christmas Eve we waited for Papa, who would sneak in the Yule log he had bought in the open market. It was called Badnjak and was made of oak branches together with a small bundle of wheat. Papa would place our Badnjakin the corner of our living room on a box covered with red cloth. On the floor around the box, and on top under the Badnjak,was a layer of straw, like the stable where Jesus was born. The dry golden brown star-shaped leaves gave off a fragrance of forest and peace at the same time. To me, the leaves looked like birds coming in from the harshness of the cold winter day. Every year, our celebration gave us a feeling of togetherness as a family. Before dinner, the children would take small pieces of neatly folded paper on which we had written our wishes, and lay them on the straw under the Badnjak tree. Mine read, “I wish for peace everywhere. I wish that my parents will live forever.”

Then, it was time for our Badnje vece dinner. A white cloth covered the table and in the center was an evergreen wreath representing eternal life. Four red candles were set in a circle, a symbol of the four advents. Papa would light these candles as we sat down to dinner. A white candle in the center was lit on Christmas Day.

At Christmas time the smells of baking, cooking, and evergreen filled our home. Then it was time for Badnje vece dinner. We had grilled fish and smoked seafood; calamari and shrimp; a stuffed goose; potatoes and vegetables. First we had a moment of silent prayer, and then we sat together to eat, surrounded by family and the warm glow of candles. After dinner, dessert and fruit were served: a baked cake with several layers of chocolate and dry plums, figs and apricots. As I write, the smell and taste of Badnje vece comes back to me even now. Afterward, we waited excitedly for česnica, a round sweet bread that Mama and Noné baked with a coin inside. Each of us would break off a piece hoping to find the coin. Whoever got the coin would have good fortune for the coming year. I never got the coin.

After Badnje vece dinner, Papa would place the Badnjak outside on our balcony instead of burning it, as was tradition, because we didn’t have a fireplace. Our wishes written on small pieces of paper were still on the straw beneath. After a few days, our papers with wishes disappeared along with the straw.

On Christmas Day, Bozic, our neighbors and my family would greet each other with: “Christ is born” Hristos se rodi. On that morning we would light the white candle in the center of the evergreen wreath and wait for the dinner that Mama and Noné had prepared. The table filled with pork roast, potatoes, sarma (stuffed cabbage leaves with ground meat and rice), vegetable pies, homemade ajvar, sauerkraut, pickles and noodles with minced walnuts and brown sugar. I fondly think about those days so full of happiness and togetherness.

Tanya Webster Dec 24 '20
Tanya Webster

It arrived from China with exponentially spreading global fear, powerlessness, and people fighting for life. It was called a Corona virus pandemic, threatening humanity world wide. During this imperfect time I am aware of its influence, directing my life during periods of tension, constant stress and fear of an unknown invisible enemy--my life changed. It changed maybe forever? I felt like a robot, mechanically doing my routines, household chores, usually in the morning, inwardly trying to direct my distressed thoughts toward an imaginary positive outcome. This new impermanence of an unknown duration is eased by listening to music, soothing my vulnerable soul. In contrast, to my normal previous world, I busy myself, hoping to “stabilize” my inner fear and anxiety. These attempts are rather trivial like cleaning diligently, putting things in place, washing my hands longer than usual; organizing old papers, books, my linen closet, exercising on the docks beside the water from time to time…. These tasks become enormously important, keeping me in control against the invisible enemy in our deteriorating world and the unknown finality of dying. My attempts at defeating this uncertainty seem futile against a fatal viral illness but I felt somehow that the human machinery will win in the end.


Ordinary events continue like a kaleidoscope of life pictures in different colors. This time is an imitation of living and enjoyment of life as it was before; before this invisible, fatal enemy arrived from the East. The power of an unrelenting enemy daily elevated our growing dread. We asked ourselves how to conquer anxiety and fear, and how to find a way to escape this dangerous enemy. Our reality is fear, filling us with vulnerability and feelings of loss of control in our lives; loss of health, life, close relationships with people who mean so much and especially family who live on another continent. We were thinking that maybe the only control we have is not to react with fear of this invisible, deadly enemy but to gain knowledge to fight against its invisible power. This was the grain of hope that we wished will grow.


Confined at home--we played chess, listened to music, connected with our bodies and souls in the hope of finding a world with sunrise and sunsets with multicolored displays of beauty. One day we went for a boat adventure on a beautiful sunny day. We let ourselves fully enjoy nature surrounding us. We listened to waves crashing against our boat, looked at flying birds; the seagulls, pelicans, watched herons sitting on mangrove branches we passed. The sky was blue with a few cotton soft clouds and we were happy trying to forget our reality in those moments. We saw dolphins jumping in the bay as the wind was blowing my hair, I felt a complete freedom in my body and soul.


We reminded ourselves that life can be fine and fearless again.



Tatjana Webster, April 2020

St Pete Beach

Tanya Webster
...December 2015 and I am back in Sweden with my husband. So much has changed over the many years. People who touched my life are no longer here. We all went in different directions. Memories return as fragments of my old life, as fleeting moments caught in time. Walking the icy streets, snow is covering the park beside the road, with the barren tree branches reaching into the cold gray winter sky. We can hear the chattering of blackbirds as they flap their wings, trying to keep warm. Webster and I have been here many times over the years. We walk along the Linköping streets, reliving our trips from the past, different times and different seasons. The novelty of being in Scandinavia at Christmastime has brought us here. It is a cold, deep winter in Sweden, long hours of darkness. It is the opposite of the summer midnight sun. For a brief time during the day, life is shrouded in a gray-blue light from the northern, winter sky, and soon night engulfs the streets and descends over the city. Then, the magic happens as warm light coming from street lamps and windows pushes back the darkness, filling the world around us with a joyful glow. Somehow, even in the bitter cold, warmth seeps into me. People are moving about, going about their lives, and they seem to be enjoying themselves in the winter wonderland....


Tanya Webster Nov 30 '18
Tanya Webster
...Then my neighbor, Brigitta, approached me and said something about her concern for me. I was standing there on the pavement, obviously distressed. She asked, “What happened?” “I’ve lost everything,” was all I could say through my sobs. Brigitta somehow found my dog, but I never found my husband. When Birdie and I came back home, the apartment was empty. A month later, he came back and started placing labels on furniture that he thought belonged to him. He placed a label on Birdie and took her with him. I didn’t know who I missed more, my dog or him....

Tanya Webster Nov 29 '18
Tanya Webster

We survived the war, living on soil where we were not able to put down roots. We lived without being fully accepted by the people around us. My parents were from different regions of Yugoslavia, different religions and we now had a foreign last name. Rejection was our personal prison; our emotions were
buried deep inside us. At the same time, looking back to that period of our lives, not having roots helped us to move forward faster than others....

Tanya Webster

He was my first love: a tall, thin man with intense eyes and black curly hair. We met when I started Medical University and one day he invited me for ice cream and we started seeing each other. He was just a year ahead of me. With a twinkle in his eyes, he told me that I was his inspiration. He wrote a poem calling me “squirrel.” His love was intense. It was a hot summer night in Belgrade, and the trees of Kalemegdan Park shielded us from view. The scent from the flowers and grass under a dark blue night sky full of stars was mixed with a young girl’s expectations of becoming a woman.

Available on AMAZON: eBook and Paperback CLICK HERE

Tanya Webster Nov 19 '18
Tanya Webster

…I met him at a time when I was ready to live out my fantasies, ready to believe in love, and ready to dream of happiness. Christian was his name, and now I look back and see that love came to me unexpectedly. Maybe it was a love story, or maybe it was because I had time to heal after divorce.


He was an engineer from Copenhagen. I attended a medical conference in New York, and we were both staying in the same small Manhattan hotel. During breakfast, our eyes met across the room, and a spark of unexpected happiness took flight in my soul....


...Being with him was like living for short periods of time surrounded by soft walls of sunlight, happiness, and desire. It was a time of healing and self-discovery; something new in my life. I will always be grateful for our time together. We went for long walks along the shores of the Baltic Sea, made no demands on each other, and were not afraid to express ourselves in a way that I never had before....

Tanya Webster Nov 15 '18
Tanya Webster

I remember Papa carrying me on his shoulders in the park where there were ponies. One day, I wanted to ride, but Papa knew I was afraid of the animal's power. I recall him saying, “Ride only if you can feel a connection with the horse. If you are afraid of the pony, he will be afraid of you.” Our time flew fast that afternoon; the day was beautiful, with the branches of the green, tall trees in the surrounding forest moving slowly in the warm breeze, the grass scattered with yellow flowers. I remember how safe I felt on my Papa's shoulders. It gave me a feeling of flying high in the air. After a while, Papa sat me on the back of the pony and we somehow connected, or maybe both the pony and I were afraid of disturbing the harmony of the moment….

Tanya Webster Nov 11 '18 · Comments: 1
Tanya Webster

I found my path in the roar of the North Sea,
I found my leaps in the mist of English fog,
I found my leaps in the winter of the North,

I found my leaps in the country of new dawn.

Sometimes, I felt abandoned, alone in the New World,
sometimes I was led by my faith,
sometimes I doubted my search for unknowns,
sometimes I would err,
sometimes I walked blindly into the fire,

without spoken words of my desire.

Many times I asked the sky to be able to fly,
to help me enter the world of my desire,
to help me find leaps of unknown,
to open flowers of the home

to open gates of my inner self.

I will honor you with petals of my flower,
I will honor you with remembrance of your soul,
I will honor you with writing, apply your words and trying,

turn page and go forward.

Tatjana Webster, St Petersbug

January 2016

Tanya Webster Nov 9 '18 · Rate: 5 · Comments: 1 · Tags: tatjana, tanya, tales

Tales of the Leap