Farewell to Goran Puaca, promoter of rural development in Serbia

When foreign experts at social cohesion, regional promotion, combating marginalization, and the similar issues which they had probably mastered at prestigious universities, want to understand how could local communities in Serbia achieve tangible results and international recognition of both their territories and products, they would have to look back at the activities that Goran Puaca, the President of the Futorski Kupus Association (futoski kupus = the cabbage from Futog), who died yesterday at the age of 58, had promoted, organized, supported and developed over the last thirty years.

If Goran had lived in the United States, he would be called a community organizer, which is how Barack Obama also started this career.  Community organizer is a person who works daily on building  community, rebuilding and strengthening social connections through events and public initiatives, fighting for community’s interests and rights, raising awareness of its own identity and specific qualities, being committed to guiding young people and their expectations towards concrete actions and not just mere protests, spreading enthusiasm, engaging in activism to combat fatalism, and making people feel worthy and proud of their rural origins.

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The association Original Serbia is one of many initiatives promoted by Goran Puaca, dedicated to gathering products with protected geographical indication.

Owing to Goran’s dedication, Kupusijada in Futog has grown from a village fair to an event that became widely known throughout Serbia and the Balkans for its promotion of local food and identity, an occasion to have debates on cultural potential of Serbian agriculture, and the meeting place of producers, academics, journalists, and activists. Kupusijada is also a big festivity at which local producers proudly present the fruits of their labour, which for many not only provided employment opportunities but also membership that is recognized beyond national borders.

Goran Puaca was also one of the first people in Serbia to trust an Italian (yours truly) who was trying to promote the concept of Slow Food. He had recognized the sincerity of my intentions and the potential that the network and the concept of Slow Food could have for further growth of his community. The Slow Food Convivium of Futog today remains the best example of a national-scale food community in Serbia, where Carlo Petrini’s concepts are not only limited to a group of enthusiasts and individual quality manufacturers, but involve an entire country. Slow Food in Serbia is in its eight year now also thanks to the constant promotion and positive examples that our friends from Futog, especially Goran, have also been witnesses to all these years.

The many results accomplished by Goran, who will be properly appreciated only after his death, were also due to his good, open, dynamic, and enthusiastic character who was able to convey trust and sympathy at first glance.

We are going to bid the last farewell to Goran tomorrow, Friday, 3rd February, at 12:30 at the Futog cemetery. Those who knew and respected Goran will do their utmost not to squander the wealth of initiatives and credibility he had accumulated in his life as a kind and generous man who was always available to his community.

Biagio Carrano

 

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