Marija was my best friend, Maid of Honor at my wedding and someone who knew me truly and deeply. So unique in her inner and outer beauty, inimitable in her warmth, Marija was a true blessing.
She called me Biljka. That was a nickname by which only Marija used to address me and later on it became contagious – her parents and all our mutual friends started calling me Biljka (pronounced as Bilyka). This word was like a code for expansion of my heart – the moment I would hear Marija’s warm and long “Biiiiiiiiiljka”, coupled with her unique smile, a wave of inner joy would engulf my heart. She would make me feel so loved, authentic and special.
The warmth and depth in Marija’s eyes, the joy in her mouth-wide-open hearty laughter, her ability to listen ever so deeply and devotedly noticing every little detail, her unique words of endearment and style of communication – that was my one and only shesha whom I love with all my heart.
“Shesha” was the number one favorite word invented by Marija, a word embedded with cuteness, softness and love. That was the word she used for her pet and all those whom she loved a lot. Such was Marija’s nature – indescribable beauty and love, and most of all striking purity of heart which can never be forgotten. This is my humble attempt to convey just how much I love my dearest Marija and how uniquely beautiful she was.
University days in Rome
I will never forget our first encounter. We were on some sort of a tour organized by John Cabot University (JCU). I joined JCU in late August 2000, after a year of truly challenging work as Language Assistant for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo. I barely survived that year, went through a near-death experience and many dangerous situations.
When I arrived to Rome after winning a Balkan Presidential Scholarship, I received a life line, regained my sanity and started a completely new life. Still, initially it took me a couple of months to actually adapt to my new environment. It seemed too good to be true and the weight of the past experiences took time to digest.
Due to the war in Former Yugoslavia and many ups and downs of life, I felt much older than the students of my generation. I did not quite connect with any of them – not until Marija arrived to JCU a year later. She just appeared out of nowhere that day, during this JCU tour. It was she who spotted me in the crowd of students listening to the tour guide that afternoon. She shared with me later on how she experienced our encounter:
“I noticed a girl who stood out from the rest through her very presence. You were dressed differently and radiated differently. I could feel your clothing and posture were not a show-off different, but authentic different. I somehow knew right away you were from Serbia. When I heard you speak I could make out by the accent that my intuition was correct. So I approached you right away.” That day marked the beginning of a friendship that truly enriched my life.
At that time I was deeply in love with Sinisha, a Serbian guy from Croatia. I met him in Zagreb in August 2000 while waiting for my student visa to be issued. During the two days that we spent together I fell in love with him so deeply that it took me some time to gather myself. Just like everything in my life, Sinisha could not be like ordinary guys. He had an unusually high IQ and was very spiritual, deep, mysterious and complex. Our conversations and emails were like spiritual discourses and many a times our emotional rollercoasters were overwhelmingly intense. There was nothing I loved more than to meet my dearest Marija over a cup of Cappuccino in one of the many beautiful café bars of Trastevere (the heart of Rome, where our University was located and where I managed to find a small apartment to rent) and discuss our number one topic – Sinisha. In fact, ‘Spirituality cum Sinisha’ was our favorite topic because of the depth of his words and his spiritual background. Marija and I loved to talk about spiritual teachings, real-life issues, challenges on the soul’s journey, astrology, love and pain, the essence of life… Many times it happened that I would meet her with the following words, brimming with excitement: “Shesho, you won’t believe what happened….” – we couldn’t wait for the lectures to end so that we could sit together over a cup of Cappuccino and discuss my latest communication with Sinisha and the realization related to the same.
While listening to me, her sparkling eyes would glue on me as if she wasn’t breathing. She would get so deeply engrossed. I have never met such a great listener like Marija. Her empathy was endless and focus onto herself and her own needs so incredibly small. Unlike me, she mainly wore jeans, paid no intention to hair styling or make-up. She was as simple as she could be, completely natural and so beautiful in her simplicity. We were like two opposites that matched perfectly as friends. Sinisha’s father was a great astrologer and he did a 120-page-long astrological profile of both of us. We dissected it in pieces and were often joking about my Moon in Leo (which is why I always had to have puffed hair and striking presence, like a proud lion who finds it natural to dominate and be ‘on stage’) while she was a real Leo in horoscope but so introverted.
Trip to Baghdad
Soon after graduating from John Cabot University, Marija and I embraced the opportunity to go to work for a month or two for an American company, a private contractor with State Department. Our friend Ron said we would be safe at the Baghdad hotel and could work there as admin assistants. It was a great idea to earn a bit of money, but more than anything to experience firsthand what is happening in Iraq, an experience that kind of matched with our field of studies of International Affairs. So off we went. It was a real adventure to get there and even greater adventure to stay there.
Even though it was very dangerous to commute in Baghdad, we decided to visit the family with whom Marija grew up. She lived in Iraq for several years as a child and was eager to meet these people and see if they needed any help. I will never forget the moment we reached their house with an armored vehicle and their shock when they saw the tall and beautiful Marija whom they saw last when she was 5 or so. With tears in their eyes they showed us the photo of Marija and her family and expressed so much love. All of it was simply surreal.
Postgraduate studies in America
After graduating from JCU and visiting Iraq, I went on to Amerika. I was incredibly lucky to win another scholarship just through mere internet search and application – this time for the postgraduate Peace Studies at the stunning Notre Dame University. I was in touch with Marija literally daily and when she came to know that Sinisha is about to get a son from another lady, with whom he was in a long-term relationship all along, she immediately decided she had to tell me that even though she knew it would hurt a lot. With Marija’s support and love I could handle anything. She always referred to problems as challenges, lessons of Saturn, etc. She had a unique talent to somehow direct one’s attention to deeper topics and meaning, beyond the obvious. She was always there for me to help me surf the waves of duality of life.
After graduating from Notre Dame, my job search and longing to be near India, the cradle of spirituality, brought me to Dubai. I eventually got employed by a man from State Department who recognized me from the UN days in Kosovo and offered me a job as Office Manager straight away. I had nothing else really solid going on so I accepted. The company grew fast and I was soon promoted into Director of Administration. I was allowed to employ people and so I brought Marija and my sister Dana to work with me, while Aleksandra (Belka) from Belgrade joined our merry group later on as well. For almost two years a group of joyous Serbian ladies lived in a villa by the sea in Dubai with an African American friend and we shared many beautiful experiences. We traveled to India many times for various spiritual courses and trainings, went Salsa dancing, walked and meditated at the beach together, trained Tae Kwan Do together and overall shared many unforgettable experiences that deepened our friendship many times over. I felt blessed that we had the chance to live and work together, embracing the infinite possibilities and experiences of life with openness and gratitude.
In 2006 I took two weeks off and joined a holistic doctor from Croatia on a spiritual adventure of travelling across India with GDV camera with which she intended to scan the auras of spiritual Masters. It was lots of fun. In the end we went to the abode of Sathya Sai Baba where I experienced profound realizations. It became clear to me that I wanted to do real service to humanity and that only a man who would be like a spiritual Master but unassuming could be my life partner. I asked Sai Baba for that blessing and forgot about it.
Soon after I returned to Dubai, the company we worked for went bankrupt all of a sudden, owing us last six salaries. We trusted them fully, naively and patiently waiting for the salaries to come. That never happened. In a blink of an eye we entered some serious financial challenges of life. Each one of us went her way looking for a way out of the debt on our credit cards. My sister Dana got a job offer in Nepal and moved there, while Marija and Belka returned to Serbia. Due to the car loan, I had to stay in Dubai and find another job. At that time I also became a certified Yoga instructor, learning how to stabilize myself from within in any circumstance of life. I did get a job offer through another friend to join United Nations Mission in Jordan, but I refused. For the first time after Sinisha, in January 2007 I finally met someone special with whom I could imagine myself in a deep and fulfilling relationship. His name was Mohan and out of respect people called him Mohanji. He was a founder of a charitable organization called Ammucare, dedicated to his daughter whom he lost in a road accident.
It didn’t take me long to understand that he was THE ONE I asked for from Sai Baba. Through telepathic communication with Mohanji, Sai Baba made sure we understood that.
Marija and I now had many more profound stories to share. She was no longer with me physically but we were in touch regularly through online chat and email. After she went to USA and got busy with her studies and work challenges, our communication did reduce a bit but we always longed to spend time together. Memories of our long talks over a cup of Cappuccino were something we always used to mention with great joy.
When I got married in April 2010, Marija was my Maid of Honor at the wedding. We shared the joy of that day and laughed how Mohanji and I left the wedding to conduct the meditation in Belgrade.
Marija was fully involved with all our spiritual happenings.
She was the first person from Serbia to be initiated into Mohanji’s Energy Transfer and conducted Mohanji’s meditation in Belgrade on regular basis.
When our daughter Mila was born in 2011, Marija came to our home in Novi Sad and held her with endless love. All her loving expressions were special and beautiful.
She was teasing my Dad a lot calling him “Ljubinko” because he likes to kiss a lot and easily cries during any moment that he finds touching. Mom, Dana and I criticize him a lot when he drinks but Marija would always say “Don’t be too strict with my Ljubinko. He has a good heart. That’s what’s most important. ” Her warmth and love simply engulfed our home, with so much joy and laughter. Such was Marija’s presence.
At this point in time Marija was already living in New York and struggled financially. She spoke often of the tough life lessons that she was going through and how Saturn is delaying everything – no boyfriend, no job, no stability of any sort. But she was not telling anyone just how heavy that weighed down on her. I remember a point when she sent an email asking her closest friends for financial help. I knew how proud Marija was and that she must have been in real, big-time trouble to actually ask for help. Her email left a deep impression and I could feel her pain. With the help of our well off friends who worked in Oman, Mohanji and I opted to send Marija the savings earmarked for Mohanji’s ashram in India because we decided that supporting Marija was more important than buying the land. However, that still wasn’t enough because her student loan debt was very big. I was praying for Marija to come out of those challenges and never thought they would leave a detrimental effect on her health…
Life in Serbia
I never thought I was actually going to move to Serbia. In 2014, after I went to Kailash (Tibet), I decided to take a plunge by leaving my office job, embracing an adventure of life through Yoga teaching and experiential spirituality.
Aside from Mohanji, Marija was a great support in this entire process of me becoming authentic and fearless. She was the first to encourage me to simply go back home and experience how much the support of the parents really means, especially when one has a small child. Even though she was not married and did not have her own children, somehow she had this amazing practical knowledge and wisdom. She was right. After ten years of living in the Middle East, I actually felt happy and settled when I came back to Serbia. I travelled a lot in that period and was happy to meet Marija in New York once.
Angelo, our friend from student days in Rome, and Marija met me in a Pizzeria and teased me about my Indian accent of English (I do admit I was pronouncing some words with Indian accent because I was mainly surrounded with people from India). We hugged and laughed to no end.
Marija’s style of communication was uniquely transmissible through her written communication as well. Here is one example of messages filled with love that I was getting from Marija via online chat:
“Woooooooow, how sweeeeeeet all of you are. And my sweet little Milkaaaaaaaa Milkarevich – she is absolutely BEA–U–TI – FUL. Singing a birthday song to her Papa Paparevich.”
Next time we met was at Marija’s home in Mostanica, Serbia in 2015. I came with my parents and daughter Mila, with whom Marija played a lot, talking with her like with an adult. They were plucking strawberries from Govedarica family’s garden, laughed and played, and overall we enjoyed our time together so, so much.
Bidding farewell to Marija
I remember how shocked I was to learn that Marija got diagnosed with ovary cancer. Initially I just couldn’t believe it – the news simply wouldn’t ‘digest’ within me. Then we went on discussing various treatment options. With time I understood her frustration of receiving so many advices but not knowing how it feels when one actually has a fast progressing cancer, demanding urgent action. Even though we never thought Marija would resort to chemotherapy, she said she had to. She was too scared at that point. I felt I had no right to advise her.
I was travelling with Mohanji to US in April 2016 for his programs in America and felt so happy I could squeeze a trip to New York into the already packed schedule.
Mila travelled with us so two of us went to Marija’s apartment in New York to visit her and her Mom Nada who was by her side all along, helping her in all possible ways like only Moms could. Marija was working on laptop, doing her office work from home whenever she could concentrate.
I admired her determination to continue working even while in the midst of chemotherapy treatment. Mila was dressed as a princess Rapunzel and wanted to play with Marija. She showered Mila with love and attention, never even giving her a hint that she was not well.
Her stomach was filled with water and she was feeling weak but she smiled a lot and showed so much of strength. I was sure she was going to make it. I had a flue that day and could not do Mai-Tri energy healing for her. I felt sad about it as I really wanted to share that energy with her, but I guess it was not meant to be…
Last time I got a message from Marija was on 11 May. She said the latest immunotherapy was working well and that the last scan showed the cancer is withdrawing. She was using several other holistic remedies and said most likely the joint effect of all that was good. We were on Hvar island in Croatia at that time. Mohanji was conducting a retreat. I sent Marija a video in which Mila imitates her style of talking, uttering another famous word of Marija’s: “Chuuuuupitza”. Mila pronounced it exactly the way Marija does and that made her so happy! We laughed about it endlessly. She then said: “Lucky you. Enjoy the sea and fresh air, enjoy for me as well. I am with you in my meditations and prayers.”
I never thought those would be her last words to me.
I sent her several messages in June but never got a reply. And then, one day I got a message from Angelo via messenger: “Did you hear about Marija?” I immediately felt my heart rate increasing and wished he would say that what I felt he is about to say is not true. But he didn’t. Then aunty Nada answered the phone and confirmed it to me as well. We cried together and I simply had to allow myself some time to stay in silence and not run away from the pain.
Two days later, while conducting our regular meditation in Novi Sad, I asked all present to send blessings to the soul of Marija who left her body. The word “death” never resonated with me because I know through my own experience there is no end on the soul’s journey. I knew that leaving the body doesn’t mean that anything real ended, only physical existence in the current scenario did. At some point during that meditation, I spontaneously started sending energy to Marija, as if doing distant healing. I visualized her face and her body and started sending energy, which was literally gushing through my palms. And then it happened – she appeared in my inner vision in the form of light and spoke to me in her typical teasing way: “Biljka, silly, I no longer have a body. Why are you visualizing me like that?” And then she beamed intense sparkling golden energy into my being, flooding me with immense joy. This experience removed all the sadness from my heart. I was ecstatic!
At Marija’s funeral, when her Mom Nada asked me to speak about Marija, I agreed simply because I felt I was now empowered to lift myself above the tears and sadness and speak about the beauty of Marija. Frankly, I don’t remember what I said at that time, it all just flowed through me, but I was happy I could do it for I know Marija would have teased me: “Well of course, who will speak if not my dear Biljka”, always encouraging my “Moon in Leo” expressions and the highest possible version of me.
Not a day passes that I don’t remember Marija. In my prayers before eating food, in various moments of life, Marija is with me. Through the scholarship at John Cabot University and love in our hearts, Marija lives forever.
In the month of June 2018 I visited our John Cabot University and our beloved Trastevere for the first time since 2003 when we graduated.
I had tears in my eyes when I entered and saw our group photo with Marija on it. I would give anything to be able to invite her for a cup of Cappuccino in Trastevere and share with her all the latest news and experiences on my soul’s journey.
Nobody could ever share my joys and pains like my true friend Marija… I walked around the University reminded of so many beautiful experiences with her and soaked all that in through silence and tears…
Destiny so willed it that I came to Italy 15 years later for an amazing event called Peace Pledge, celebrating unity in diversity, the essence of all religions and spiritual teachings – Love and Compassion as the foundation of Peace.
15 years ago I would have never thought I would be here again with my husband from India and dear friends from various countries, that too for a cause of Peace. A true miracle of life… I regret not meeting any of my friends and former professors as it was weekend. But most of all, I missed my dear Marija a lot…
I love you my dearest shesha – you live in my heart, now and always, into Eternity.
Amin and Namaste,
Your Biljka/Devi Mohan