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I Shall Remember Thy Holy Name From Generation To Generation

A Serbian-American Woman Awakens To Christ ‘s Call...

I Shall Remember Thy Holy Name From Generation To Generation

A Serbian-American Woman Awakens To Christ’s Call...

By Ariane Trifunovic Montemuro

With Tim Weeks

Printed with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Longin +++

I Shall Remember Thy Holy Name From Generation To Generation

www.generationtogenerationbook.com Brentwood, Tennessee

Copyright © 2016, Ariane Trifunovic Montemuro.

Published by Ariane Trifuncovic Montemuro at Smashwords.com.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. This book is available in print at most on-line retailers.

No portion of this book may be reproduced in any fashion, either mechanically or electronically, without the express written permission of the author. Short excerpts may be used with the permission of the author or the publisher for the purposes of media reviews.

Smashwords.com ISBN 978-1-62880-154-5


Print editions published by: Ideas into Books® WESTVIEW P.O. Box 605, Kingston Springs, TN 37082, www.publishedbywestview.com, ISBN 978-1-62880-131-6

First Edition, Revised, November 17, 2016

FRONT COVER PHOTOS: (top right) Ariane’s mother Danica as a child with her parents, 1935 (bottom left) Ariane’s father Aleksandar as a child with his parents, 1925

COVER & BOOK DESIGN: Elaine P. Millen, TeknoLink Marketing Services

Photographs on pages 25, 60 (top), 76, 104, and 137 are in the public domain. All other photographs are from the author’s private collection.

The author gratefully acknowledges permission to reprint the lyrics to Undeniable, Composition: (4182804) Undeniable (50%) Chuck Butler/ Gabriel Patillo/ Jason Ingram/ Toby McKeehan Controlled Label Copy: Open Hands Music (SESAC)/ So Essential Tunes (SESAC)/ Be Essential Songs (BMI)/ Jord A Lil Music (BMI) (admin. at www.EssentialMusicPublishing.com). All rights reserved. Used by permission. Song ID: (109647) Undeniable (50%) Chuck Butler, Gabriel Patillo, Jason Ingram, Toby McKeehan Copyright © 2015 Achtober Songs (BMI) Universal Music - Brentwood Benson Songs (BMI) Songs of Gotee (BMI) Patillo Music (BMI) (adm. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com) / All Essential Music (ASCAP) / So Essential Tunes (SESAC) / Buddybabe Music (ASCAP) / C/O JASON IN GRAM (SESAC) All rights reserved. Used by permission.

DEDICATION

I dedicate my book to my great-grandfather, the Very Reverend Trandafil Kocić, a priest who served the Orthodox Church in Leskovac, Serbia. His beautiful voice was silenced when he and many fellow priests were martyred for the Kingdom of Heaven in Surdulica, Serbia, on November 17, 1915.

On November 17, 1990, exactly seventy-five years after his untimely and tragic death, Ariane and Tony Montemuro were married at St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

FOREWORD

TO MY CHILDREN

SPECIAL THANKS

CHAPTER I: God: The Fabric of Our Lives

CHAPTER II: Tapestry of Childhood Memories

SCRAPBOOK MEMORIES I: My Serbian Roots

CHAPTER III: Seek God First and His Will (Not Yours) for Your Life

CHAPTER IV: God Caught Me in His Threads

SCRAPBOOK MEMORIES II: The Serbian-Americans

CHAPTER V: From the Threads of the Old World, Come the New

CHAPTER VI: The Blessings of My People

SCRAPBOOK MEMORIES III: A New Generation

CHAPTER VII: A Cloud of Witnesses

CHAPTER VIII: Weaving My Way Back to God

EPILOGUE by Tim Weeks

BIOGRAPHIES

FOOTNOTES

COMPANION STUDY GUIDE: For Individuals or Groups


FOREWORD

BORN FOR ETERNITY

The Lord is present everywhere and nothing happens without His will or His permission, either in this life or eternity.”

Serbian Orthodox Elder Thaddeus Vitovnica FOOTNOTE 0.1

I have always thought that by the time I hit my fifth decade, my life would be pretty well-defined and ordered according to my personal goals and dreams. At this very moment, I have “arrived” at that point and I see that many of my hopes have been achieved. However, something new and unexpected has now popped up for me to ponder in these last few years. I began to earnestly question and sense a strong, almost unstoppable, pull to search for the deeper meaning to my life. Everything was changing…the way I thought, the way I felt. Even the style of my oil paintings was different.

I had not prepared for dealing with my sensitive, stubborn, proud, strong-willed, colorful, fashion diva, five-language-speaking, Sorbonne-educated, Serbian-born mom slipping away rapidly from vascular dementia. My Serbian-born dad died over thirty years ago. Now I feel a new type of solitude. I realize that I am becoming the matriarch of the family. I am the living generational thread to our family history and my Serbian parents and ancestors. I am rapidly becoming the “keeper of stories” as my mother once was. I am the one now to discern which stories are important to keep for my children and which are okay to let go.

By most people’s standards, I, Ariane Trifunovic Montemuro, am blessed to be living the “American dream.” The daughter of Serbian immigrants to the U.S., I have everything I wished for as a little girl. I have a virtuous, kind, loving, wonderful husband, who is the father to our two beautiful children. We have a well-adjusted, happy family together. Even our dog is my dream dog! But, after achieving all my worldly joy, I’ve felt a need to find new answers to the timeless question — who am I, really? What is the most precious treasure I am obligated to dutifully pass onto future generations regarding my life? What is my life all about? What is most important to Ariane Trifunovic Montemuro?

This book is about my discovery of the deeper meaning of life. It is essentially about the supreme purpose of my life — or any human life, for that matter. I am not any different from you. My life is just as beautiful and special and joyful as yours. My life has had its share of pain, anger and confusion like yours. I have veered off course just like you. I have felt alone like you. What we have in common is our need to know who created us and what this life is all about. Our entire life is a journey of discovery. We discover many things along the way. This book is written for only one reason. It is written to remind people of the order of life.

The order of life is God — first and foremost. He is first and nothing happens in your life without the will of God in action. Everything in your life has enormous spiritual meaning according to the will of God. This goes for everything from the timing of things to the significance of dates and people in your life. It even includes the seemingly insignificant parts of our lives. This is what is most important to pass onto future generations. God’s living and active presence fills all details of our lives. He is the head of our lives. If we are not pursuing God and seeking Him, what or who are we seeking? Everything else in life falls under that order. Do we live life according to God’s commandments? Do we really know who God is: God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? Our God is Triune. One God in three persons. Do we try to draw near to God by praying or talking to Him and involving Him in every day of our lives? Have we ever opened His book, the Bible, to learn how to live? Do we use it to judge ourselves or simply to judge others? What are we meant to strive for in this lifetime? Simply put, we must constantly work to be aware of the Kingdom to come. This life is only temporary. We are born for eternity.

We all have the same high and important calling no matter who we are. All of us. From generation to generation, we must work out our salvation during this lifetime. We must constantly struggle to draw near to God. This has been the plight of early Christians and it needs to continue to be the goal of the current generation. We must work to preserve the image of Christ in all we do. We must examine our lives as we journey through them. When we look back on our lives one day, will we truly be able to say we tried as much as we could to live our lives as Christ teaches? Are we consciously aware of God’s presence in all we do? Do we know what this means?

We must confess and forgive each other and let go of grudges. We must love. Are we working to rid ourselves of our own anger or are we blaming others? Christ gave us the blueprint on how to live. We must align ourselves with the Church to guide us and help us stay on course. We cannot separate the Bible from the Church. If we do, we open the door to confusion and untruth. As a Christian we must know and accept Christ and his teachings and the whole entirety of our Christian faith. But do we even know our ancient Christian faith? St. Paul teaches us: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2 Thessalonians 2:15 KJV). Therefore, we cannot separate the Bible from the ancient Holy Tradition of the Church. The Holy Traditions of the Church are both doctrinal and liturgical practices that have been handed down to us since before the completion of the Bible. These traditions express the totality of our Christian way of life that lead to salvation. It is not for us to take away from these traditions nor change them. This is what the Ancient Orthodox Church is.

For 2,000 years, the Church has taught that salvation does not come in one single day or moment. Our entire life is a journey of salvation. We all have the chance to draw near to God each day. Every day we must work to live a Christ-centered life. This is not an easy thing to do. As a first-generation Serbian-American woman, I want my love of God to be a strong link to the next generation. I want to struggle to know God and to live in Christ. It is hard to be in the world, but not of the world. We must preserve our ancient Orthodox Christian faith for the future generations. For many untold centuries my Serbian ancestors fought to preserve their Christian faith and even died for it because they knew this same faith could preserve them. I am grateful to them and I believe their efforts were not in vain.

This book is my offering to God. It is also my statement of appreciation to all the Serbs who gave their lives in defense our Holy Orthodox Christian Faith. I pray that future generations and anyone who reads this book will always remember God first. If I am even remembered for anything, let it be for only inspiring people to struggle to put God first and to always preserve and cherish their unending love for Him in word, deed, and truth forever.

God is all there is and all there ever was…

In God I found out who I am and who I need to be…

the living image of Christ.

“…my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.”

(Psalm 45:1 KJV)

Glory be to God in all things. Slava Gospodu za sve.


Ariane Trifunovic Montemuro


TO MY CHILDREN

Ariane and her family: husband Tony, son Tony, daughter Ana, and their Westie dog, MacDuff

Maka (Grandma) always said, “Krv nije voda (blood is not water).”

This story is a love letter to my children…Tony and Ana Montemuro, grandchildren of Aleksandar and Danica Trifunovic and great-grandchildren of Velibor and Darinka Dobrić and Ljubomir and Vera Trifunović and the great-great grandchildren of the Very Reverend Trandafil and Natalia Kocić and Mihailo and Danica Dobrić. I wrote my story for you. Even as much as Daddy and I love and adore you both, always remember first how very much God loves you! Put God first in all things. While you were in school, I attended church monthly as often as I could, to pray with the other parents for all of you, our children. We came together to pray an Akathist, or standing prayer, to the Mother of God, “nurturer of Children.” There is one portion of the prayer that stands out so deeply in my heart I would like to joyfully share it with you. I hope that one day you all will pray this for my grandchildren and great grandchildren and all our future generations…

Ikos 4

Having heard Thy voice, crying to Thy Son, “Preserve in Thine inheritance those whom Thou hast given me unto the ages,” I stretch out my hands and my heart towards Thy loving-kindness, entreating that Thou wilt keep my children among Thy servants, and fulfill these my petitions:

Raise my children in Thy most holy inheritance.

Raise my children with all Thy Saints.

Raise my children to be Thy servants, fulfilling all thy commands.

Raise my children to seek help from Thee alone.

Raise my children to inherit eternal life.

Raise my children, O Lady, to be made worthy of the Kingdom of heaven

and make them heirs of eternal blessings. FOOTNOTE 0.2

Glory be to God always and I love you and my entire family forever.

Mama

KISSES / POLJUPCI


Kisses of gratitude to my father, who passed his faith to me.



Kisses of gratitude to my mother, who passed her faith to me.



Mommy and Daddy, 1981, in front of Serbian coat of arms.

SPECIAL THANKS

I offer my book as a thanks to God first and foremost. Then, I offer it to everyone as a testimony and witness to His glory working in all our lives! I thank God for His never-ending mercy upon me and my life! I pray this extends to my beloved children Tony and Ana and all my future generations!

———————

Secondly, I thank my devoted, loving, loyal husband who exhibits so many beautiful Christian virtues that I have yet to express myself. Throughout our 25 years of marriage, our deep love for each other has always been and will forever be a given. This book would never have come to fruition without my dedicated husband, Anthony Montemuro, M.D., and his unwavering support.

———————

My beautiful mother Danica and my warm-hearted father Aleksandar gave me all they had in terms of love and support to have a better life in their new free country — the United States of America. I would not be who I am without them. I adore them forever.

———————

My beloved in-laws, Pennsylvania State Supreme Court Justice Frank J. Montemuro and Peggy Gigliotti Montemuro, who always treated me with such respect and love.

———————

My older brother Robert who has always looked out for me and helped me. I love you and your family forever. I also thank my brothers-in-law, Frank and Mike, and their families for their love.

———————

My Uncle Mike Dobrich, my Aunt Lela, and my dear cousin Doris Manojlovic and her family for sharing our family history with me.

———————

I thank God for handpicking my co-author Tim Weeks. I could not have found such an extremely talented writer and producer on my own. Tim’s life journey has many parallels which helped him understand the main theme of the book. God knew he was the best writer for my book! His patience with my never ending emails and letters and texts concerning additional information for the book entitles him to receive an “Honorary Serb” Award from me. (Drumroll) I think he needs a new name, Timothi Weeksić. Ha! I also heartily thank his devoted, lovely wife Teresa for introducing me to Tim!!!

———————

My longtime, dear friend Elaine Millen for beautifully designing my website and this book.

———————

The following clergy who inspired me to write the book: most especially Father Serafi m Baltic, Abbott of new Gracanica Monastery who answered many of my numerous questions and emails and helped me realize a book like mine would be relevant and useful in today’s world and needed to be written. Father Gregory Hohnholt of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church for praying with Tim and me for the book’s success before we began. Father Stephen Rogers of St. Ignatius Antiochian Orthodox Church for giving us his kind pastoral blessing as we finished the book. And Father Aleksandar Vujkovic of St. Petka Serbian Orthodox Church for his many kind and encouraging words.

———————

I want to highlight my appreciation for Father Nektarios Serfes with the Decani Monastery Relief Fund, who opened my eyes to how important it is to serve our needy brothers and sisters in Christ. From malnourished children to desecrated churches, there is much we can do to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of God’s people. Father Nektarios’ life is an ongoing inspiration to me. In 2015, he received the prestigious St. Sava Medal from Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej.

———————

Finally my girlfriend iconographer Jennie Atty Gelles who is truly like a sister to me. Her loving words and encouragement kept me inspired to finish the book.

———————

Thank you all for your love! I love each of you and May God bless each of you and keep you forever!

Ariane in her art studio with one of her completed paintings.

Chapter I

God: The Fabric of Our Lives

Samo Sloga Srbina Spasava: Only Unity Saves the Serbs

This is a famous quote by St. Sava, the first Archbishop and Enlightener of Serbia. His purpose was to inspire his fellow Serbs to remain united to preserve their Orthodox Christian heritage and national identity. Every word in the slogan begins with S, which is C in Cyrillic. Thus, there are C’s in every quadrant of the cross.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

Matthew 7:7 (KJV)

My name is Ariane Michelle Trifunovic and I was born on December 1, 1963 in Wilmington, Delaware in the United States. Today, as Mrs. Anthony Montemuro, I’m a painter, a wife, and a mother of two beautiful children, living near Nashville, Tennessee. I’m blessed with God-given gifts as an artist, but I’m not a writer. But God asked me to write a book — my story of spiritual reawakening and discovery of the depth of my spiritual heritage as an Orthodox Christian.

My maiden name is a little different because I’m Serbian American. My family immigrated to the United States from the former Yugoslavia, a country in Eastern Europe. Trifunovic is even the “Americanized” spelling of the name; in Yugoslavia, our name included the accent, Trifunović, to indicate the ending pronunciation as “ch.” So both spelling styles of Serbian names are included in my book. European names and locations include the accent; American versions do not. Some names, like my mother’s maiden name, changed even more over time. Dobrić became Dobric, and some family members, such as my uncle Mike, started spelling it as Dobrich.

After the break-up of Yugoslavia, Serbia, where my family is from, became an independent country again. It’s a land with a very rich Christian tradition as an Orthodox nation. Like Greece and Russia, Serbia has a long history with Orthodoxy, the second largest Christian Church in the world after Roman Catholicism. So, the Serbian Orthodox Church is the faith of my ancestors.

While my parents took me to church as a child, I didn’t fully understand the services performed in the old Slavonic language, so like many others born into an “immigrant church,” I took it for granted and spent most of my life not understanding or appreciating my Orthodox heritage. Only in recent years have I begun to experience the depth of faith found in Orthodox spirituality and it has changed me and brought so much joy into my life! Jesus tells us to “seek and we will find” and it’s a journey worth sharing that will hopefully inspire you to find deeper meaning in your own walk as a Christian!

God is the fabric of our lives and that has special meaning for me. Nothing happens without a reason. God gave me a few threads to follow and they led me to a beautiful tapestry of Saints, prayer, and devotion. Now I live with God and His Holy Church as the center of all things in my life.

For me, it keeps coming back to my name and my family. We cannot escape our ancestral lineage and we’re ultimately a product of our family; we also cannot escape God. The thread of family can ultimately lead us back to God, as well. We work out our salvation, or our journey to God, through our family and all the circumstances God allows to experience. So, I begin my story with my own family in order to share 4 my journey to rediscovering the ancient Christian Orthodox faith of my parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. This faith laid the groundwork for me to hear Christ’s call.

My Serbian Orthodox Christian parents were born in the former Yugoslavia — my mother Danica in Belgrade in 1932 and my father Aleksandar in Visegrad in 1923. My mother’s Slava Saint was St. George until she got married, then it became St. Paraskeva, (or St. Petka as she is commonly known by Serbs) which I, in turn inherited. Her feast day is celebrated by the Serbian Orthodox Church on October 27th.

All Orthodox and Catholic Christians (and some Protestants) are familiar with namedays, the feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Saint for whom they were named. The Serbian Slava Saint is a bit different.

The Serbian family patron Saint Day or Krsna Slava is a Christian commemoration of the Saint on the day when the family ancestors were baptized. It is unique to the Serbian Orthodox Christian people and it’s deeply instilled into their souls.

Once the Serbs became baptized Christians, they saw their family unit as a sanctified institution. St. Paul the Apostle teaches that the family is a “home church.” In one of his letters, he says, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus… likewise greet the church that is in their house” (Romans 16:3, 5 KJV). St. John Chrysostom continued this theme when he called the family the “small church.”

The Serbs began their history with the acceptance of Christianity and Holy Baptism and they did it freely and voluntarily because of the witness of Christian missionaries. This is the Ancient Christian faith which existed long before the beginning of Christian denominations. Christians, in general, celebrate Christmas in honor of Jesus’ birth and Epiphany in remembrance of his baptism. These are examples of Christian feast or commemorative days. It’s the same with the Serbian Krsna Slava; it is the most important day in the lives of our predecessors. Through baptism my ancestors became members of Christ’s Church. Their patron Saint Day is their “spiritual birthday.” In commemoration of their baptism, they began to celebrate Slava.

The first Archbishop, enlightener and unifier of Christian Serbia was St. Sava, a monk from Mt. Athos in Greece; he blessed and proclaimed Slava as a Christian institution. A ritual was prescribed to glorify God and venerate the family patron Saint. From then on, to be Serbian meant to celebrate Slava. FOOTNOTE 1.1

St. Petka, my Slava Saint, is a very popular Serbian family patron Saint. She dressed poor people in her expensive clothes so she became the Patron Saint of such trades as spinning, sewing, weaving, and knitting. She was a fitting Saint for my father since he was a textile engineer who designed textile machine parts used to create a variety of fabrics. He had forty-eight patents registered with the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. for his textile inventions.

It was a job offer at a textile firm called Bancroft in Wilmington, Delaware, that enabled him to immigrate to this country in 1955. My parents were married at St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in Northern Indiana, just outside of Chicago. The marriage sacrament was administered by the Very Rev. D.J. Shoukletovich, who also founded St. Nicholas, a Serbian church in Philadelphia, where I would be baptized and married years later.

I come from a distinguished Serbian family. My paternal grandfather, Ljubomir Trifunović, who passed away many years before my birth, was director of the Simović Lumber Mill in Yugoslavia and he served as Captain in the Royal Serbian Army during World War I. He would also serve his country again in World War II. My grandmother Vera was an amateur photographer.

I grew up knowing my maternal grandparents intimately. My maternal grandfather was Yugoslav Royal Army Artillery Lieutenant Colonel Velibor M. Dobrić, who attended Military Academy in Fountainbleau, France and served his country during World War II. My schoolteacher grandmother Darinka Kocić Dobrić was very proud that I was born on December 1, the date that Serbia joined with neighboring countries in 1918 to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later known as Yugoslavia) under the rule of the Serbian Karadjordjević dynasty. I have memories of my grandparents saying “Our Arianče” (my Serbian nickname) “was born on a very important date,” like it was only fitting their first granddaughter would arrive on a day remembered by all Serbs. They took great care to impress our Serbian heritage on me, their next generation.

To be Serbian meant attending a Serbian Orthodox Church, of course. The church and Serbian people have a 1,500-year history dating back to the era of the Byzantine Empire. Even though we lived in Delaware when I was a child, my parents would make the trek to the closest Serbian church, St. Nicholas in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as often as it was practical. It was a 45-minute trip, but from my baptism until my twelfth birthday, this unassuming brick building in downtown Philly was our home church.

Since our church wasn’t just around the corner, we didn’t attend every Sunday. Vespers or extra services on weekdays were also out of the question with the exception of the major Christian feast days. The distance to church also gave me my first glimpse into other practices of Christianity. During the summer, my mother put me and my older brother Robert in a Presbyterian Church Vacation Bible School since it was closer to home. Looking back, I think it was her attempt to help us understand the Bible in English and there were no such summer schools at our little Philadelphia church. I remember vividly how exciting it was to learn about Joseph and his multicolored coat and drawing it on colored paper. I also recall seeing a movie about faraway places and Christian mission work which seemed 6 exotic to my young eyes. I’m grateful that I went through this experience, because it helped me understand that the Bible was holy like the icons and everything else I observed as a child in the Serbian Church.

My understanding of the faith didn’t come from any great intellectual knowledge. I faintly knew the Bible. I explored it very little on my own. I loved the Psalms, but got confused at the parts in the Gospels listing which ancestor begat who in the lineage of Christ. The Bible seemed long and confusing with no one there to encourage or guide me.

I was, however, quite familiar with how one should behave in church. I saw my parents kiss the Gospel book. On Sunday mornings, my dad typically wore a coat and tie, and my fashion-conscious mother was always “dressed to the nines.” I saw how my parents respectfully crossed themselves and bowed their heads at different parts of the Liturgy and I, of course, learned to do the same. My Mama always bought candles in church for the living and the dead in our family, and she remembered long lists of names of our ancestors in prayer. I watched her as she lit each candle and kissed it prior to pressing it into the sand before the icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary. FOOTNOTE 1.2 So I observed how my parents treated everything in church with a deep reverence and holiness. That stayed with me throughout my life, and I never doubted that God existed because of what my parents taught me by example.

Mommy taught my brother and me “Oče Naš,” which is the Lord’s Prayer, as soon as we were able to memorize things. She taught us to memorize it in Serbian (the only way she knew it), and she impressed on us that it was a very important thing to know. Since I didn’t know it in English, I didn’t understand it was the prayer that Christ taught, however. I just knew that was what you said to God. The words were a bit complicated though because they weren’t the everyday Serbian words I could comprehend. I recall in the 1970s there was a top ten hit on the radio that was basically “Our Father Who Art in Heaven” put to music and sung by Catholic nuns. As Mommy drove us around to all of our school activities in her light yellow Pontiac Lemans convertible, I would sing along, and that’s how I learned to say the prayer in English and understand its meaning.

I remember the sounds and smells of church more than anything. All of my senses were engaged in church. I remember the richness, the beauty. Church felt ancient in every way. I never had to read anything to get that. The priest would swirl the censor, enveloping us in sweet incense smoke, and then he would dramatically disappear behind the Holy Doors of the Iconostasis and draw the curtains — it was all quite a mystery! It felt holy. The ceiling inside the church was blue with gold leaf stars that I would stare at endlessly and ponder where God was and what He was doing. Every inch of the walls was painted with holy scenes and figures. Since I didn’t understand the Divine Liturgy in Old Slavonic, the imagery of the church captured my attention.

Communion was reserved for only several times a year, but I eagerly anticipated the holy bread the priest gave to everyone at the end of each liturgy, and we got really big pieces! Mommy always said, “It’s the Ancient Church.” I knew it was old without her telling me; I was a sensitive child. It felt old. It felt otherworldly — heavenly, actually. We even follow the old calendar, the Julian calendar, she told me. “We Pravoslavni (Serbian for Orthodox Christian) never change the holy traditions,” she added.

Church for us Serbian Orthodox extended to our home as well. There was no division or separation between the church and the world. At home, my parents would find the Eastern wall, where the sun rises, to place our holy icons of Jesus, our Slava (family Patron) Saint, a cross, and Bogorodica, the Theotokos, the Ever-Virgin Mary. There was no explanation, it was just done. There was a space dedicated to God in our home — no questions asked. This was tradition and Serbs like tradition!

Tradition is what helped us preserve the Christian faith throughout the centuries. The Serbs really have no recorded history before their baptized history. God has always been the head of everything. Life centered on the Church and that was that. Our people suffered under the Muslim Turks for hundreds of years, while still remaining Christians. The Serbs are a stubborn, strong-willed people to their benefit. This trait helped them save the faith for future generations. As I look now, with older eyes, all Christians must be equally “stubborn” in order to preserve what we believe. We must put God first in each and every endeavor in our lives. We must fight to be a Christian. We must fight to preserve our faith and live God-centered lives, regardless of our nationality or ethnicity. Otherwise, a godless world will trample us and we’ll lose the next generation.

Reaching the next generation — my children and yours — with the love of the traditions in our Holy Church is why God moved me to write this book. It’s my story, but it’s not about me. It’s about God and the truth that we’ve been entrusted with, and it will die with us if we don’t teach our faith to our children.

To be called by God to be His people means that we have a responsibility to preserve the truth and pass it down to our children and grandchildren for them to do the same. “I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever,” says the psalmist in Psalm 45:17 (KJV). We must pray this prayer fervently every day.

If trends continue, Christians could become a minority in this country, and we Orthodox understand all too well what it’s like being the minority of the minority for a long time, even though our church is growing in the United States. I came to understand as a teenager just how isolated one can be as an Orthodox Christian.

To be Serbian American as a child was somewhat confusing, in fact. There were maybe a handful of Serbs in Delaware where I grew up and then later, when we moved to North Carolina — virtually none. The small minority of Orthodox 8 Christians I came to know in North Carolina were Greeks. Orthodox churches in those days were virtually all ethnic, founded by immigrants to retain their culture and religion. I never knew the Divine Liturgy could be celebrated in English. How things have changed. Now there is Ancient Faith Radio. There is Light and Life Publishing and Ancient Faith Publishing. Back then it was difficult even finding a simple book on Orthodox Christianity.

The Holy Traditions and oral traditions — especially Slava — are what kept the faith for so many of us who were sons and daughters of immigrants. Nowadays parents have many resources available at their fingertips about the Orthodox Christian faith and ways to teach their kids. In my time, there was none of this; the church and its rituals were all I had in addition to observing my parents. There was no one like me in school. My Easter was at different times than others and my religious Christmas (or Božić) was on January 7. We didn’t live in a Serbian community. Even so, my parents diligently upheld the Church traditions.

My parents, who left Yugoslavia in the 1950s to come to the Unites States, viewed themselves as émigrés rather than immigrants since they came here for political rather than economic reasons. They also came here speaking English and many other languages. They were educated and skilled. I never once heard them refer to themselves as immigrants. My father came here due to a job offer. Instead of being part of an established Serbian neighborhood in Wilmington, my father’s work actually blended us into a global community. His friends through work included American, Swiss, Dutch, Japanese and a variety of other nationalities. My parents saw themselves as international citizens and it was reflected in their social lives. My mother spoke French and Russian and my father spoke fluent German and Dutch. Additionally, both spoke perfect English and Serbian. We were Europeans living in America. We were from Yugoslavia and then within Yugoslavia, we were Serbian. The Trifunovic family was a tapestry of old and new world and my parents were quite at ease in their new life in America!

I remember travelling to Europe for the first time at age seven; we visited many countries, and in each one either my mother or my father would take over speaking and translating. Finally, we arrived at Heathrow Airport in London and I asked, “Ok which language do they speak here? Who knows British?” Dad responded, “You know this language, little one.” I gave him a perplexed look and wondered what language this could be? I was really confused as my dad just grinned.

My parents were an impressive couple together. My father was a tall man. He was 6’2” and I remember his large hands were matched with a gentle spirit, sense of humor, and refined aura. He was sensitive, intelligent, and a true European gentleman. Aleksandar Trifunovic was warm and loving to all people and that always stood out to me. He would always stand when a lady entered the room. Daddy opened doors for Mommy and even stood when she went to the restroom when we dined at a restaurant.

He loved anything to do with home and family life. Mama never used a repairman for anything in twenty-three years of marriage. Daddy was the guy! He could fix anything! He was the quintessential engineer-minded repairman. He was quite the chef too. He enjoyed grilling steaks, baking bread, and making Serbian sarma or stuffed cabbage.

Daddy’s hobby, though, was making things out of metal; he was a metalsmith with a studio in the garage. You name it and he made it, from frames and tables to easels and jewelry boxes. Even towards the end of his short life, he fashioned a three-bar Orthodox cross out of brass. It laid on his chest at his funeral and it was used by the priests at my wedding and the baptisms of six grandchildren. He never knew these beautiful grandchildren, but his cross was there for them. It is still curious to me that he had this urge to make a cross just before his sudden and unexpected death.

Daddy first saw my beautiful mother around 1957 while he was on a textile business trip to Paris, France, where Mama was majoring in linguistics at Sorbonne University. Mama was waiting for her visa to be completed to the United States. She was staying at the home of French General Besançon, a friend of her father’s. To earn extra money, she was a nanny to an American family and she also modeled hats for (haute couture) fashion designer Nina Ricci. It was at one of Nina’s fashion shows that my father first noticed Danica Velibor Dobrić. Seated next to Ricci, his eyes lit up as Mama walked down the runway. Nina poked him and said, “Alex, the one who catches your eye is from your country of Yugoslavia!” Dad never forgot that.

For better or worse, my mother is an unforgettable personality. At her best, she is elegant, beautiful, warm, funny, and intelligent. At her worst, pride can get in her way and make her bitter. In all cases, Mama is never dull.

As a younger woman, she was a classic beauty with perfectly applied lipstick and nail color. She attended several years of medical school in Belgrade before her father called for her to leave Yugoslavia as the new communist government tightened its grip in the years after World War II. She left a serious boyfriend and bright medical career behind and obeyed her parents’ wishes. The last of her family to escape, she followed her father’s path to the U.S. through Paris. She often tells the frightful story of abruptly leaving her life behind — unable to tell her friends for fear they may betray her escape. She boarded the Orient Express train with her aunt, who was a pediatrician and Mama’s inspiration. While on the train, she was so scared that she became ghostly pale; her aunt told her to put blush on her face so she wouldn’t look so sickly — or guilty.

Mama willingly left Yugoslavia so the family could be reunited in America. Her father had left years earlier and was unable to return to a communist nation, so he had not seen his wife and children in seventeen years! Mama recalls a gray-haired man waving his arms on the railroad tracks of Chicago when she arrived. She didn’t even recognize her dear father, whom she hadn’t seen since she was eight years old!

Mama’s presence was always big, and it still is, even today. She can still change languages with ease. Everything in life she learned through its many changes and she always found uses for her talents. When my brother and I were younger, she put her linguistic skills to work as a French teacher to schoolchildren and an interpreter for executives at DuPont.

Later, when we lived in North Carolina, her fashion experience in Paris and life with a textile engineer led her to open a fashion consulting business, DVT Enterprises International. She taught Southern women how to dress high style, like the ladies in New York and Paris! My mother’s roommate in France, Annick Bickert, said she could always make something out of nothing. With just a few scarves, a skirt or two, and a blouse, Mama could create a million outfits!

Mommy was also very big on high heels and gold jewelry. Once on our way to church, she made Daddy go back home because she forgot her jewelry. When she got back in the car, he asked, “Do you have your artillery on now?” Mama smiled, “Sureda- yeh!” which was a combination of English and Serbian they liked to exchange with each other. They were like an “Old World” European couple living in America. Everything was understated classic elegance.

My parents never complained about anything either, and I admired that quality. They left everything behind in Communist Yugoslavia and even though they were isolated from their language and culture, they were happy to move on and build a new life and raise children. They were taught that attitude by example by my grandfather Velibor Dobrić, the artillery colonel. He refused two offers that would have continued his military career. One was with the French Foreign Legion, which could have ultimately led to the rank of Brigadier General. The alternative was to return to Sarajevo and teach ballistics in the new order established by Communist strongman Josip Broz Tito. He rejected these offers because he had sworn an oath to serve a Christian king, Aleksandar I (who was assassinated in 1934) in the Yugoslav Royal Army. He couldn’t serve a communist and atheist leader so he knew his time in uniform was over. Instead, this Serbian and French trained officer was willing to work as a common laborer in a U.S. steel mill near Chicago to start a new life in a free country. He was a model of perseverance. Life never beat him down. I remember how he would go for walks when he visited us in Delaware. He walked erect with his hands folded in the small of his back — always the ‘Colonel.’

A year before he died, when I was ten years old, I was cast as an angel and soldier in “The Nutcracker” at the Wilmington Playhouse. He got to see his granddaughter roll out the cannon in a ballet. He was so proud he jumped up to clap and shout “Bravo Arianče!”

Time is now changing my family into memories. My grandfather passed away in 1974. My dad died of a heart attack in 1982. And my beautiful mother is now in need of nursing care with dementia. It’s up to me to tell their stories, or they will all be forgotten.

The children and grandchildren of immigrants to America are more and more American and less of their original ethnic heritage. I guess that’s why the U.S. is called the “melting pot.” We all stand together as Americans regardless of color or ethnicity. But in recent years, it has become more important to reclaim my Serbian heritage because of the Christian faith they fought so dearly to preserve.

In the story to come, you will see the rich tapestry that Orthodoxy is to my family. It truly is the fabric of my life. I’m reminded of this daily by a Serbian Coat of Arms tapestry that now hangs in my home; it was given to my grandfather in the early 1960s by King Peter II, Yugoslavia’s king in exile and the son of King Aleksandar. It was given to him at a prestigious event in northern Indiana, and my grandfather sat at the head table with King Peter.

The metaphors for tapestry in my life are unavoidable. My father broke with tradition to name me Ariane. Instead of following the Serbian tradition of naming children after their paternal grandparents, he preferred new names. He learned of the name Ariane in his twenties while attending the Hogere Textile School in Enschede, in the Netherlands, and was inspired by a statue of Ariadne he saw while living there. She was a Greek goddess, the daughter of Minos and Mistress of the Labyrinth. The name Ariadne, or Ariane, means “Very Holy Maid.” She saved her lover Theseus, who slew the Minotaur, from being lost in the labyrinth, or maze, by providing him with a golden thread to follow to find his way out. She became a symbol or a mascot of the textile school with the “thread” connection. There are many derivations of this name — Ariana, or Arianna or Ariadna. My father chose Ariane.

Something told my dad that I was a girl even before I was born. He sat my mother down while she was pregnant and told her I had to be named Ariane. Why? My Mom thought it was too difficult a name with Trifunovic as a last name, but he was quite persistent and he wouldn’t budge, which wasn’t typical of his personality.

So by fate or destiny or simply my father’s strong will, here I am, Ariane Trifunovic Montemuro — the daughter of a Serbian textile engineer, in search of what it means to be Serbian…and Orthodox.

Great men and women of God have strengthened and fortified my journey. After a series of miraculous events in my early forties, I embarked on a thorough study of the ancient Orthodox Christian faith; one favorite Russian Holy Elder I discovered was Elder Barsanuphius of Optina Monastery (1845-1913). His Christ-centered words opened my eyes to deeply examine my faith, my life, and my family.

In his biography, he reminds us to spiritually interpret our lives down to the minutest details. “Our whole life is a great mystery of God,” he said. “All of life’s circumstances, no matter how insignificant they seem, have enormous meaning. We will understand the meaning of the present life in the future age. How circumspectly we need to regard it, but we leaf through our life like a book, page after page, not being aware of what is written in it. There is nothing accidental in life; all is done according to the will of the Creator. May the Lord vouchsafe us in this life to acquire the right to enter into eternal life.” FOOTNOTE 1.3

Elder Barsanuphius inspired me to dig into the past to know the circumstances that brought me to this point in my journey. This great Holy Elder also said that names can have special meanings. In the Bible, almost every name means something. Eve means “life,” since she became the mother of all humanity. God commanded Abram to change his name to Abraham since he would be a father of many nations (Genesis 17:5). And his wife Sarai, “my lady” became Sarah, “the lady of a multitude.” FOOTNOTE 1.4

With a name like Ariane, a name that had special meaning to my father, I often ponder the meaning of these words as they apply to my life — and soon, you will too.


CHAPTER II

Tapestry of Childhood Memories

And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.…And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Genesis 28: 10-12; 16-17 (KJV) 14 15

Aside from my birth date, the most important day of my life occurred on January 12, 1964. This was my baptismal day, or Krštenje in Serbian. My grandfather held the censer for the Serbian priest, Father, or Prota, Very Reverend Živan Gavrilović. As I pointed out earlier, our Serbian church was forty-five minutes away from our home and I was just six weeks old. My mother was probably worried about driving such a tiny baby so far in the frigid dead of winter, so she opted for the home baptism. Her parents were there, as well as her brother, and she made a lovely meal for all who came. It was a great day for my parents. First they had a son and now a daughter and both were baptized into their ancestral faith…the same Serbian Orthodox faith that had withstood so many opposing forces including many centuries under the oppression of the Ottoman Empire. And now, both children were born and baptized in their new American country.

It was a significant moment in our family’s history also because it brought us together to carry on our faith and tradition. My grandfather had left home to defend Yugoslavia in World War II when Mommy was eight years old. He was captured and sent to an officer’s prisoner-of-war camp in Germany. After the war, he immigrated to the United States and never returned to Yugoslavia. A total of seventeen years passed before my mother would see him again when she stepped off that train in Chicago in 1958, and the family was finally reunited. Now, many years later, my grandparents and my uncle were together with us again to share in my baptism. As the priest baptized me, my military-minded grandfather stood at attention with the censer, which symbolized our prayers rising to heaven. FOOTNOTE 2.1


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