In many ways Miodrag Djurovich was a quintessential Washingtonian. Born in Peru to Serbian parents, my old man’s first cousin – known to Americans as ‘Chuck’, Hispanics as ‘Carlos’ and Yugoslavs as ‘Dragan’ – spoke three languages perfectly, took great pride in all three cultures and was truly a global citizen.
Having lived in the US capital for forty years, Uncle Chuck knew the city intimately: the stories of its street corners, occupants of its townhouses, the restauranteurs and raconteurs. Had he not had been kept busy with a career in the public service, including the Defence Intelligence Agency, he would have made an expert DC tour guide.
In later years, he left government and embarked on a business career involving patent litigation and Saudi Arabia. We never quite understood exactly what it was he did, but we understood it would likely require great intellect.
His wide network of personal friends was lively and international. Where many others stray from their mates over the years, he kept his close and they gave him great purpose and joy, one of the many life lessons I learnt from him.
At his very sad but tasteful funeral this past weekend, a significant number of the attendees all lived in the same Northwest DC zip code. In an age – and city – often synonymous with globalisation at the expense of kinship, Dragan was still a firm believer in neighbourhood and community.
Given his love for his adoptive home, it is not surprising that he – like America – reflected some contradictions. He was intensely political, loving the sport of it as well as the more serious public policy discourse. But at the same time, he was one of the least ideological people I have known, displaying a sensible centrism and often more interested in the views of others. He was deeply engaged with his own personal ethnocultural history and identity, but at the same time was one of the most humble and least egotistical people I have known (unlike his three Australian nephews, some of you might be thinking).
He lived a life rich with thought, experience and laughter, inspired by the Peruvian sensibility. He loved good food and good company, and implored others to do the same. He had a love of learning and deep intelligence, matched only by that of his lifelong partner, Ann, whom he adored to the end.
When I embarked on this journey, the impetus was largely to document what promised to be a monumental presidential election and to indulge my dream of immersing myself in the culture of this land that has always held my imagination.
But the past week has been a reminder that while culture and politics matter, it is relationships that ultimately provide meaning to life, and family first and foremost.
Of all the conversations, jokes and pearls of wisdom I have been fortunate enough to receive over the past ten months, I suspect Dragan’s will leave the most lasting legacy.
If there were ever a man that truly embodied the adage “a gentleman and a scholar”, it was him.
Adios Amigo. Vjecnaja Pamjat.
My brothers and I enjoying the company of Dragan, Ann and our beloved great aunt, Baba Seka. Houston, TX, October 2015
Published on 12 May 2016.