“He speaks more in English than he ever does in Serbian.” Julia remarked before sitting back to pause and reflect. We were all laughing, but the conversation went serious for a minute as Rajko’s wife continued to describe the new found confidence of Rajko. A confidence that had been built during the same time their new project Zrno Cafe in Podgorica was being put together.
The last few years, Rajko and Julia both worked as freelance designers in Belgrade, one in textile and the other in web design. Neither were really satisfied with life. After looking at the options, possibilities, and passions, coffee started rising to the top. The discussion came to returning to Rajko’s hometown of Podgorica which ironically, Julia supported a bit more. It was more than a return to his hometown, but a move to invest in a city that they both see ripe with potential. It was a hope to change and transform a neglected part of everyday life for the locals by offering something different in style and flavor.
Earlier this year in March, the young family moved to Podgorica from Belgrade looking to do something new and invigorating not only for themselves but for a city and what amounts to a local pastime, drinking coffee.
Listening to their story, it is easy to see how the two of them have managed to create what they now have. While sitting with Julia recently, I said to her, “You have not made a cafe or opened a new coffee shop. It is much more than that. You have created an environment, atmosphere, and scene for locals and foreigners to gather and connect.” Julia’s response was quiet and humble. “We never thought about that. We only wanted to design something we enjoy and something different.” And different is an oversimplification of this new, little cafe in Podgorica, yet it signals the potential for change to occur in this tiny capital.
“If I could change anything, the best would be to change myself. This is the best change that could happen.” – Rajko
When asked about what changes he would make in Podgorica, Rajko’s response above was more reflective. As he had been quick to speak our whole time together, his pause and gaze offered a more introspective muse. The greatest change in his mind was taking place in his person and character. It’s a change that has had rippling effects in his family and friends, and how they live out their stories.
And that seems to be the lesson: transformation of our environment requires that we first look inward. And when change and transformation take shape it moves outward affecting those around us.