The Church of Saint Sava was built in 1903, originally dedicated to St. Columba, an Irish abbot. In 1952 however, it was established as an Orthodox Church under the power of the Serbian Patriarch in Belgrade and the Anglo-Scandinavian administration. Lady Paget helped set up the church, primarily for the Royalists who fled Yugoslavia after Tito rose to power.
The tumultuous historical conditions of Serbia have led to multiple waves of migration. The first, after WWII when the communists gained power; migration and religion are intrinsically linked in this case, as religion was strongly suppressed by the Yugoslav state and was associated with the former monarchy. The second wave of migration was in the 1960s as border control weakened and emigration restrictions were lifted. Lastly, in the 1990’s during Milošević’s presidency emigration rates were particularly high. One of the primary host countries was Switzerland with 500,000 migrants, an astonishing 6% of the population. Britain also has a very large Serbian community, with approximately 40,000 Serbs residing in London and the surrounding areas.
A visit to the Church of Saint Sava and the Serbian Community Center, situated in Ladbroke Grove, helped us uncover the Serbian culture of London. We quickly discovered the vibrancy of this close knit community, there were multiple events organised, such as folk dancing, language lessons and religious education programmes. Children and families visited to partake in these activities, which grow with the intense involvement. Inside the community center we had the opportunity to see Serbian traditional dancing, a routine being prepared by the young girls to be part of the celebration of the upcoming National Holiday. We were keen on filming the dance however we were discouraged to do so as people are not always comfortable with their children being filmed.
We then decided to check the restaurant which served large portions of traditional meat dishes as well as fries. Men and women were drawn to the television as the final of the French Open with Nadal and Djokovic aired, which proved to be a disadvantage for us as wanted to film interviews and get answers to some of our questions. We did manage to talk to some people who were excited about our involvement in Serbian culture and were very keen to help us and answer our questions. Dragana who gave us an interview illustrated the nature of the Serbian community and provided us with insight on what it means to be Serbian in a global world.