interview by Veliborka STALETOVIC and Irena GAJIC
REPORTER: Who helped you the most in your career? Who hindered your career in the early years, about which little is known?
CECA: Let me tell you something. I do not remember bad things. Simply, I ignore them and do not care. I am more interested in the present and future. I do not care about the past. The most important people in the beginning of my career were above all my parents and my sister. They gave me full support to start performing. Very early, I was 14 at the time, I started singing. I was fortunate, thanks to my parents who protected me from everything that could have happened to me, to have a good upbringing and become a mature woman. Very young, at the age of 20, I got married, I had a husband who was an exceptional character and protected me from all sorts of negative influences. And then I experienced a life tragedy and became a widow. I know for sure that a part of me died with my husband, but at that moment, thanks to God, I also had good people around me, people whose support was very important to me. That life tragedy has only made me stronger. I have two small children who are a big inspiration in my life. I live and fight for them. As for those who have betrayed and disappointed me, they are insignificant in my life.
Even after the tragedy you experienced, you remain a national star. How did you manage that?
My private life has nothing to do with my profession. I am fully aware of my fame, but that does not burden me and fame can never change me to the extent I forget people who have helped me in life. I think that I am firmly planted with both feet on the ground, that I am very natural, simple, and most importantly - I haven't changed. The fact that I am a big star in my country can only inspire. Whether they want to admit that or not, I am famous in other former Yugoslav states as well. They also listen to my songs.
But, then, this damned politics is responsible for everything that has happened to us. The tragedy we have experienced has scarred everyone and all of us have experienced it very personally. In my opinion a lot of time will be needed, because all those wounds are still fresh. That is to be expected, but I am convinced that sooner or later everything will come together.
Women are a majority of your fans. Is that important for you?
I think that women have better taste and I find it very encouraging that they are not jealous of my success. On the contrary, they like and support me. Many of them identify with my life story.
Are you feared when you appear in public?
As son as I get up, I go to Obilic, go to my office and stay there until six in the afternoon, depending on obligations. But, if I go shopping, I get approached by kids, both boys and girls, and elderly women. All of them like to talk with me. Elderly women like to hug me, to kiss me. They ask how I am doing. I haven't noticed any distrust or fear. I am with my people, a national favorite and people love me. I don't think that anyone should mistrust or fear me.
Is it difficult to protect privacy?
As a public personality one is surrounded by slander, fabrications, rumors; if I paid attention to all of that I'd go crazy. Because such things hurt, whether you want it or not. One creates a sort of a shield and gets resigned to the fate. And that's it. At first I had a lot of trouble getting used to all that - that's not true! How can they print that?! And now, I don't care. Let them write whatever they want.
How did you reach the decision to continue performing after two years of mourning?
When the tragedy happened, for a while I toyed with the idea of never singing again; however, at the insistence of Zeljko's mother - even my parents advocated that because they love Zeljko very much and will never, just like myself, get over his death - and my close friends who kept telling me that Zeljko would not have approved, I decided to go back to singing. And that is the truth. He was proud of my success, he loved me the way I was, and helped me a lot. He was the chief producer of concerts, he designed the stage, and backdrops, he was full of energy. All I had to do was look good and sing as well as possible. I had no other obligations. As far as music videos were concerned, Zeljko came up with storylines, talked with directors. He was extremely creative. He had traveled the world over, several times, and he could teach one a lot. What influenced my decision to return to the stage the most was my realization that he would have deeply disapproved if I abandoned singing. Because, whatever I do, anything else but show business, music and singing will always be my fate. That's what decided in the end. What Zeljko would love, what he would do and how he would decide.
You are adamant that you have no interest in politics, that you do not wish to be involved in politics. However, if you had to pick between two options, Djindjic and Kostunica, which one would you choose?
Neither. I'd choose a third option, the Party of Serb Unity. I would not know how to be a politician.
Perhaps you would know how to introduce order in the Serbian parliament, if you showed up there. For starters, most likely all representatives would show up to see you?
(Laughter) No, no... I think that one needs a special talent for politics. I am a great patriot. I love my people so much, but do not hate any other nation. I find hatred totally unacceptable. I lived next to the man who was a great patriot. He proved that with his actions. He was a great Serb, he loved his nation; he risked his life a thousand times only to defend his nation. If nothing else, since I married him very young, I had a good teacher.
Look, I'll tell you something you probably do not know. When our son Veljko was born, Zeljko was an experienced parent. He was crazy about children; he loved to bathe them when they were little and he is better with kids, I can vouch for that, than any woman. When he lulled Veljko into sleep, he kept telling him "Kosmet [Kosovo and Metohija] is a Serb land and will always be a Serb land; Kosmet is a holy Serb land". The child looked at him and would fall asleep right away. I kept telling him not to poison the child with politics while he was still young, but now Veljko is extremely patriotic.
Have you ever considered leaving Serbia, abandoning singing and your soccer club Obilic and doing something else?
I am very nostalgic and could never live abroad. I can leave for ten, fifteen days tops. After one week abroad I am already dying from boredom. Everything pulls me back to our country, back to Belgrade. I have many friends here, my best memories tie me to this city. I'd die from nostalgia.
Have you considered choosing a different career?
Just like soccer players, singers do not have long careers. Fame is fleeting, new faces always show up, beautiful women, handsome men... everything new is interesting. I'll find a new job eventually. I am not afraid. I'll find a job that will allow me to express my creativity. One should retire in time and be remembered as a great star.
Your favorite at the coming world soccer championship?
Although Brazil is my favorite team, I think that it would be better for our soccer if a European country won the world cup. God forbid if an African country of Brazil won the championship. Then the price of soccer players from those countries would jump and the price of European players would fall. That's why I would prefer if Italians or another European country won. If I have to choose between Brazil, although I like their game, and Europe, I'd prefer if an European country won.
Are you happy with how Obilic did this year?
I am absolutely unhappy. I think that we haven't achieved anything this year. We have excellent players, but this season our casual approach to the game proved to be more important. The usual Serb "it's all going to work out somehow". But, we shall move on to new victories. We are participating in the Intertoto cup where we have good opponents, first a Finnish team and then Fulham from England, which should motivate my players to pass the first hurdle. The new championship starts on August 10, new victories. That's life.
You have stated that you are investing everything you earn into soccer. Does it pay off?
FC Obilic is not only a business, or an easier job for me. I have emotional links with Obilic, because the moment my husband and I took over the club there was nothing here. A meadow with a couple of sheds. Today, we have a modern stadium. We did not get any government assistance, did not get any outside sponsors. We invested our own money in Obilic. That is why I fight for this club and am working as hard as possible. This is an extremely big burden. This is a young institution, the club has been playing in the first division for only five-six years; it requires a lot of energy, a lot of tension, but I do not give in easily. I am a fighter.