My Balkan Life


By Aila Durakovic, Staff Writer

Being a first-generation American comes with so many benefits and downsides. My mother and all of my family were born in Montenegro, besides my father, but I spent most of my life with my mom so I wasn’t raised as a typical American child. As I grew up, I picked up on things my mom, grandma, cousins, and family friends would constantly tell me. Balkans have millions of superstitions and theories that might sound crazy, but they were probably created for a reason. If you’re Balkan then you should 100% know all of these theories.

  1. Promaja (Pro-ma-ya)

This is the Balkan killer. If you get hit with this then you’re as good as dead. This word cannot exactly translate to English, but the definition is leaving a window/door open on each side of the house to cause a draft. If you get a headache, stomachache, or any type of pain, then you were hit with promaja. The only thing that can cure this is drenching your socks or rags in rakija (a famous type of Balkan alcohol) and putting it on parts of your body. In the Balkan mentality, rakija can cure anything.

2. No whistling in the house

If a Balkan mom or grandma hears you whistling in the house, then you better be prepared for a wrath. Whistling in the house is known to summon the devil. Balkans do not take any chances in contacting the devil. I don’t believe in this as much since I always whistle in the house and I still have yet to see a red man with a pitchfork and some horns. My mom still yells at me every time because the possibility of summoning Satan is just not worth the risk.

3. Red String

If you ever visit the Balkans, it’s very likely that you’ll see a child with a red bracelet. They’re always been made out of string but now people also buy red bracelets and necklaces for their children. The red is supposed to stand as an evil eye. When a child is born or a bride is getting married, they’ll be gifted with this accessory and wear it to protect them from the darkness. Red is an extremely popular color in the Balkan culture.

4. Tugging earlobes to prevent bad things

This is fundamentally the same thing as knocking on wood. For example, you go out with your mom and you see a kid in a cast with a broken leg, your mom will tug your ear and make a noise with her mouth. Somehow this will grant you a god forbid pass to never have a broken leg. Anytime a Balkan adult sees something not healthy or tragic, they go straight for a child’s earlobe.

5. If you walk barefoot on tiles then you’re automatically getting sick

In the Balkans, every house has tile floors somewhere. Mainly in the bathroom, kitchen, or balcony. If your grandma catches you barefoot on a tile then you’re gonna give her a heart attack. She’ll either get you a pair of think socks or some house slippers. Balkan grandmas cannot afford to see their grandchildren get sick, but they also don’t want to be the ones taking care of you when you get sick.