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Vesna's Fears

Leskovac - Vesna
Vesna in her shop

Vesna is in her late 40s and from a typical Leskovac textile family. After finishing a degree at the vocational school for business in 1979, she worked for Inkol, one of the major local clothes producers. Her husband graduated from the local textile school and worked at another company as chief of the dyeing plant. Vesna worked her way up the company ladder, and by 1989 secured a job in one of Inkol's retail stores in the centre of town.

As Serbia's isolation deepened in the 1990s, the financial situation at Inkol deteriorated. By 1994, Inkol had stopped paying social and pension contributions for its workers. Vesna continued to go to work for many years, hoping that somebody might buy the firm. This never happened. By 2006, Inkol had shut its doors.

Vesna's husband left his company and worked at the wool dyeing operation of a socialist cooperative. This cooperative also collapsed. Then, to make ends meet, he tried his luck at trade. Vesna remembers: "there was nothing that we did not try to trade". Some of it was small scale trading with textiles or petrol from Bulgaria and Macedonia during the Yugoslav embargo.

In 2002, Vesna left Inkol and persuaded the firm to rent her one of its retail premises of 20 sq.m. where she began to sell electrical appliances. Today, she, her sister and her husband all work there from 8 in the morning until 8 in the evening.

"I really wanted to open a boutique called '5XL', a boutique for oversized clothes (for larger people), but we did not know where to buy the goods, and some friends then suggested to open an electrical appliances shop. We have good ideas, but we don't know how to realise them", she sighed.

Just in case Inkol cancels the rental agreement, Vesna has also rented the adjacent shop from the communal housing fund for 5 years. Retail competition is fierce. As Vesna puts it,

"People here only buy food, and all the rest they buy from the Chinese. Our products are good, the quality is good, people like it, but because they have no money they leave again and buy from the Chinese."

Vesna and her husband live in the working class suburb Dubocica Naselje, in a house they built with her in-laws and the help of state credits between 1978 and 1980. One son, 26 years old, still lives with the family. He was trained as a waiter, but has failed to find work. He is not married. "How could he be?" Vesna asks. "Who would take care of his family?"

February 2007

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