Sanja has a black belt, a university degree, eight children and is married to a priest: “My dad always used to say: my dear, first get your university degree, and then have as many children as you want.”
She is a striking dark-haired beauty, with the smile of a young woman. She is a mother to two daughters and six sons, a karate master and a pedagogue. Out of love for her husband, priest Zoran, she left the world of sports and never looked back. There is a lot of work to do every day, because the family must function like clockwork.
When you say that a woman has a black belt in karate, that’s quite enough to know that you’re talking about a person of strong will, persistence, fearlessness and readiness to try out something new where many would only see risk and danger. It was quite unusual, Sanja recounts, when a team consisting of three sisters would come out on the battlecourt – Sanja, her twin sister Vanja and their third sister Bogdanka. As a top team, they won all competitions for years, and although there were six of them in the family, the three of them were their father’s greatest hope. Dad was pleased that his daughters were winning numerous medals in karate, but still what he wanted the most was to see them bring university diplomas home.
– When I was little, it was quite unusual to have five brothers and sisters. I don’t know if that sparked a fighting spirit in me, but as a young woman I had already set a goal that I would have even more children than my mother. I will give birth to seven, I said, and my dad used to tell me, “My dear, first get your university degree, and then have as many children as you want.”
Sanja enrolled in the university, but did not graduate until 20 years later. This would have sounded like a failure had she not given birth to eight children in the meantime and unexpectedly reversed the order which her father had advised her to follow. Now that she has a university degree, eight children, a husband who supports all her plans, the waistline of a teen, a spotless reputation and only 44 years of age, it’s clear that her order of doing things in life was in fact the best. And the children have all made their parents proud. Irina (22) and Hristina (21) are about to graduate from the Music Academy in Belgrade, their son Vladimir (19) is a student, Nikolaj (17) is a student of the seminary, and Damjan (14), Maksim (12), Vasilije (9) and Pavle (4) are yet to choose their paths in life.
Sanja has demolished all stereotypes.
– It’s unusual for many people when they hear me say: “At the moment, there are only four of them at home.” People often ask me if I am pregnant again; they joke with me that pregnancy is the proper state for me, and I laugh because I am aware of the courage with which I had stepped into motherhood. I also broke the stereotype that multiple pregnancies irreversibly change a woman’s body.
– Sanja says with a smile.
They have been a well-coordinated team for a long time and everything seems easy, but it hasn’t always been like that. Sanja and Zoran met by chance, as all young people actually meet, while hanging out at their friend’s place. She did not take this encounter seriously when he said that he was attending the seminary in Knin. She was only 16 years old and had a promising karate career ahead of her.
– I knew that being a priest is a calling that requires immense discipline and sacrifice, and I also knew that he grew up in a children’s home, together with his sister and brother, and that he had an uncertain future in front of him, but still even then he knew very well that a real woman is more valuable than all the treasure on earth.
– Sanja remembers their beginnings.
She, on the other hand, was the daughter of wealthy parents, a girl with a great potential, who planned to enroll in a university in Belgrade and continue to compete in karate, together with her sisters. Despite her parents’ insistence that she continue her studies, the following summer, when Zoran returned during the summer vacation, was crucial.
– Until he had completed the seminary, I used to write him a letter every day and I waited.
Zoran, now a young theologian, got married and became a priest, and Sanja left everything and went with him to a small, ruined village near Derventa, where it was necessary to initiate the return of displaced Serbs.
We make 30 meals a day
During the conversation, Sanja and Zoran do not say a word that would indicate that anything was difficult for them. There they had three children, while living with elderly returnees, in poor living conditions. But those who love, also pray to God, and now they remember this time as a happy period that can never be repeated again. They were soon transferred to Bijeljina, where they still live today; Zoran as the elder of the town’s Cathedral Church, and Sanja as a master’s student in pedagogy, at the Faculty of Pedagogy, University of East Sarajevo. They say that they make 30 meals a day, just for their family. They also say it’s fun for friends to see their pantry that looks like a small grocery store.
– You should see us doing grocery shopping! We buy everything in large packages, and now, in September, a package of one hundred notebooks for school.
– they both laugh out loud.
The Petrović family is together on weekends and during the summer school break. They are aware that their gigantic strength – much like that of Samson – lies in strong family bonds. By getting together and staying together, they restore their energy drawing it from that inexhaustible spring of love that only a healthy family can give. To make things more incredible, Zoran has a brother who also has two daughters and six sons, but that is material for another story.
To conclude, Sanja says that a large family is like a sports club, like a national team. And every club, in order to be successful, must have a coach and a captain. The secret to their success is that she and her husband alternate in those two positions. And another secret is the love that always lights their way.
By Sanja Hajdukov
Source: Blic Žena