This is Baka – my grandmother. Her name is Cécile Yakchevatz, and she was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
When she was about 12 years old, she travelled to Brussels on her own to spend the summer with her godfather. During her stay the second world war began, and she couldn't go back to the Balkans. Her sister stayed in Belgrade, while Baka started high school and never really returned to live in her home country.
"Baka" means "grandmother" in Serbian.
She had two daughters, and her daughters each had two daughters of their own. I was the youngest of our female crew. Growing up close to her had a big impact on me, as she was so caring, very well-spoken (she had an opinion on about, well, everything) and she was so proud to be a woman. She often told me about how strong girls were, that I should never underestimate us. She was herself, always.
Her joy of life was contagious. Always in for some fun, a good conversation and a glass of wine, she'd stay up late & design her own clothes, while her house (that used to be a bakery - we called it ‘le four’) was a little museum of beautiful antique finds, pictures of us girls, old boyfriends and her childhood in Serbia.
I still remember very well the moment she looked at me and said: "Pars pour l'Amerique du Sud, ma petite! Tes rêves, ton avenir... Ils se trouvent là-bas!". That moment she encouraged me to follow my heart, is a memory I’ll treasure forever.
She suddenly died, only months after I had arrived to Chile. The last time I saw her I was sure I would see her again. I know I should be grateful for that, as she left in such a peaceful way.
I look at my daughter now, whom she never met, and see her little personality developing with that fire we all have inside, and I can only think of the seeds my grandmother planted. Be yourself, be bold, and above all: make the best of the time you'll be around here.