A family memoir that focuses on the life of an intrepid young woman who left her family in Montenegro to become a dedicated Alaskan.
Radovic (Getting to Know the Manager, 2014) first met Vuka Stepovich, his great-aunt, when he visited her in Saratoga, California, in 1973, when he was 25 and she was 70. The author, born in Belgrade, Serbia, grew up listening to family tales about Vuka, who, in 1928, defied tradition and eloped with a much older man, Marko. He’d left his homeland decades earlier for California and eventually scored his own fortune in Alaska. After divorcing his first wife, he returned to the “Old Place” of Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, to find someone with whom to share his life. The timing was perfect, as Vuka had spent 10 years caring for her father and younger siblings after her mother’s death, and she was ready for escape and adventure. So began a love story that took her from the sunny Adriatic coast to the frigid, harsh Alaskan territory, which she embraced with enthusiasm. In 1942, she, Marko, and their four children moved to California, where Marko had begun his American dream, but they never gave up their Alaskan homestead. Even after Marko’s death in 1944, Vuka maintained their northern holdings, and by the ’70s, she was spending her summers up north. Although Radovic’s life work has been in international finance, he’s apparently inherited his family’s love of history. As a result, his slim memoir of his own family serves almost as well as a Slavic chronicle of times dating back to the Ottoman Empire and through two world wars. Overall, it is conversational in tone, with an occasional, pleasant quirkiness of phrasing as he traces the lineages, migrations, cultures, and religions of those who’ve populated the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea.
A personal recollection and tribute that’s loaded with engaging historical tidbits.