By Branko Mikasinovich
Rarely does one meet someone as gifted as Sava Jankovic (1923-2012). I first met Sava in 1989 when I moved to Washington, DC and attended the St. Luke Serbian Orthodox Church located on 16th Street. During the following years I got to know Sava and his wife Zorana (nee Pecic) quite well. I later met their son Marko, an attorney, and daughter Sandra, a business entrepreneur.
Jankovic was born in 1923 in Klenak, Vojvodina, Serbia, then a part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. He initially attended high school in Ruma and Vukovar, but due to the German occupation of Yugoslavia he graduated from high school in Belgrade. As an anti-communist refugee, after the Second World War, he spent a few years in the Displaced Persons’ camps in Italy, then attended technical school in Achen, Germany, before arriving in the USA in 1951. He was mostly interested, however, in art, especially painting, which he pursued his whole life. In addition to painting, he wrote poetry and prose in Serbian. As a portrait painter, he belonged to the prestigious Charcoal Club in Baltimore where he lived; and as a writer he was an honorary member of the Association of Writers of Serbia.
Jankovic, although trained and working as a design engineer in Baltimore, was an artistic soul who loved literature and art. He once told me, “I write as I paint, and I paint as I write.” I eventually figured out what it meant. His poetry was mostly lyrical and patriotic, while his prose concentrated on his life as a young man during World War II and later experiences in the United States. What was truly surprising and wonderful about his writings was that he retained a very high quality of the Serbian language as if he never left his fatherland. The proof of it is in his books such as Na Prelomu (The Dividing Point) and Spas od Masakra (Rescue from Massacre).
Eventually I had an opportunity to see some of Sava’s paintings at his home in Baltimore and was impressed with his portraitures especially his use of earth-tone colors and the precision of his paint brush. The portraits had almost a photographic quality about them enhanced by Sava’s artistic hand. Thus, Jankovic became, over the years, the portraitist of choice of Baltimore society.
Above all, Sava Jankovic was a Serbian patriot. He even, playfully and proudly named one room in his home the “Serbian Room” which contained his collection of various Serbian books and memorabilia. Sava loved to give a tour of this room to his guests. He also saved a great number of issues of the American Srbobran, to which he occasionally contributed articles. He greatly enjoyed reading the Serbian section of the paper all of those years, which, as he claimed, helped him preserve his Serbian language skills.
In the autumn years of his life, Jankovic visited Serbia and was full of impressions, especially about his birthplace, about Belgrade and the various Serbian writers he met there. On one memorable occasion, he shared those impressions with the parishioners of our church at a gathering dedicated to literature. Sava and his wife hardly ever skipped a church service. Every Sunday and the holidays they drove the hour from Baltimore to Washington for which I admired them. To the end of his life, he was a kind, considerate and unassuming man, except when it came to his paintings and books which would consume his conversations but display his rare multi artistic talents.
Note: This is excerpt from MEMORABLE ENCOUNTERS, by Branko Mikasinovich, available on Amazon.com – str.