Our Local Serbian Heroes

From health and security providers to scientists and civil servants, these Serbians have become a key part of Austrian society.

Nenad Nikolić

Embriologist

Per aspera ad astra: “Through hardships to the stars’’

Uncertainty, nostalgia and a feeling of loneliness – all these take Nenad Nikolić back to 2009, when he moved to Vienna to study. The idea that he might finish university abroad one day seemed like mission impossible, but that did not stop him persisting and, ultimately, succeeding in Austria. After completing undergraduate studies and a master’s degree in molecular biology at the Uni Wien, he worked at the AKH General Hospital, researching the antiseptic Octenisept, studying its potential in healing skin wounds faster. This took him to domestic and international conferences, where young Nikolić, then only 27, presented his research. In recognition, he received a scholarship last year for a second master’s degree at the University of Graz.

His success did not go unnoticed and he was invited to join the VivaNeo fertility clinic in Vienna as an embryologist and quality control manager, an area he was always particularly interested in. “I am glad to be helping young couples make their wish of becoming parents come true,” says Nikolić. Giving back is important. He hopes one day to open a clinic for artificial insemination in Serbia, to share his knowledge and to provide young scientists with job opportunities, something he says he never had in Serbia.

In Vienna, one of his strongest ties to his native country is participating in a folklore ensemble, where he has danced for five years. Socializing, traveling and a sense of belonging contribute to feeling more at home, even when so far away. One “amazing experience” was the Eurovision Song Contest, which was held in Vienna in 2015. He hosted the Serbian delegation and had the opportunity to meet international celebrities. Events like this make him forget about the language barrier, the difficulties of the Austrian bureaucracy and how much he misses his family. He has lived in Vienna for 11 years, speaks German very well and says he feels integrated – but if integration means choosing a Wiener Schnitzel over Ćevapi, says Nikolić, then he still has a way to go.

(C) Sanja Bauer-Mitranić

Sanja Bauer-Mitranić

Policy Officer, Austrian Ministry of the Interior

“Challenges foster innovation”

Sanja Bauer-Mitranić was only two when she emigrated with her parents from Serbia to Dornbirn, in western Austria. Growing up in a small town and later moving to Vienna clearly influenced her choice of profession. In Vorarlberg, where she was the only one in her class whose parents were not from Austria, she felt very isolated at times. Moving to Vienna changed everything. Suddenly, her heritage was not that important anymore; half of her classmates came from other parts of the world. All of the various nations, cultures and people in one spot taught her a lot, especially to be tolerant and more open-minded.

As a part of the Austrian delegation to the United Nations in New York, she realized she had a role in shaping the future of society, and today, Bauer-Mitranić works at the Migration Division of the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior. There, she is responsible for the development and management of reintegration projects in the migrants’ countries of origin, working with partner institutions to help them start a new life by establishing businesses, finding a job
or by providing support in other ways. During various exchanges and business trips to these countries, she regularly sees the direct impact every single assistance has on people’s lives.
With such a fast-paced lifestyle, the pandemic gave her an opportunity to slow down, to focus on a healthier lifestyle and on being happy at home. Today, Bauer-Mitranić is a world citizen –
a mixture not only of her dual identity (Serbian and Austrian), but also all of the other cultures she has gotten to know.

Being born to Serbian parents made her quick-witted and a fighter. But behind the professional woman who loves challenges and is used to getting out of her comfort zone, also lies hidden a free-spirited woman who loves to dance and listen to soul classics, Latin and electronic music.

(C) LPD Wien

Ivan Milovanović

Police Inspector

“Only in difficult times can you recognize a hero.’’

When we think of Austrian police officers, our associations are discipline, determination and the excellent reputation they enjoy with the public. Officer Ivan Milovanović attributes this to a good educational system and good training, which provide young police officers with a basis for combating daily challenges. When you see him on the streets of Vienna, Milovanović always looks serious, walks upright, giving you the sense that every situation is under control. But behind the professional demeanor is just a regular guy, who likes to do sports, read books and eat pizza.

At his posting at Praterstern police station, Milovanović has been a duty officer for eight years, promoted a few years back to Police Inspector. Thanks to his affinity for languages – he speaks Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Slovak, English as well as German – he has worked with many foreign delegations and ministers as a translator. As a child growing up in the multicultural 16th district, he learned swear words in various languages, which, he says, has proven very useful in his work. It’s a challenging job, and an even more challenging year – first the pandemic and recently the terror attack. Whatever the consequences, he and his colleagues followed the guidelines and kept order, and that is an act of true modern-day heroism.

Little Ivan was nine when he moved to Vienna with his parents in 1996, entering the third class of elementary school. With additional German courses he picked up the language very fast and realized from then on that everything pays off in the end when you put your mind to it. He has great respect for the determination and discipline of the Austrians, while among the Serbs, it is their humor and hospitality. And although he has spent most of his life in Austria, there is one particular Serbian saying close to his heart:
“It’s easy being good when times are good, but only in troubled times you can recognize a hero.” Which reminds him every day to stay humble and strive to be even better.

(C) Vesna Patlidžanović

Vesna Patlidžanović

Head Nurse

“A kind word opens even iron doors’’

Vesna Patlidžanović grew up in Serbia with her grandparents and came to Vienna in 1993 during the Yugoslav war. People were emigrating en masse in search of a better, more peaceful life. Vesna was one of them. In the beginning, she worked as a waitress, even though she had graduated from medical school in Serbia.

Although she did not know a single word of German, her resourcefulness led her to the Hospital Florisdorf, where she started working as a nurse. It was a difficult period, attending German courses, working in a hospital for 40 hours a week and preparing for the qualifying exam so that she could officially become a nurse in Austria. At the hospital, a fear hung in the air that conflicts could break out between employees from the different countries of the former Yugoslavia. It never happened: “One of the women I started working with from the beginning came from Bosnia, and she is now one of my best friends.”

After 20 years of busy days and sleepless nights, Patlidžanović has now become head nurse, leading a team of 20, whom she sees as her second family. When the pandemic broke out, they felt tremendous pressure, not knowing what to expect or how to properly protect themselves. Taking over the ward that received the COVID patients, they were scared. But fortunately, the whole team loves new challenges, and as team leader, she is patient with her colleagues’ learning curve.

And she is always ready to defend them if they make a mistake.

Direct and passionate, she has a gift for finding the right words, and in the spirt of the Serbian saying: “A kind word opens even an iron door.” Yet, without order, work and discipline, she teaches her children, you will never achieve a goal.

Her Austrian neighbors, however, also know that the Patlidžanović family is in charge of good fun. So although they sometimes hang out with friends until the early hours of the morning, the neighbors say they do not mind: If they can’t sleep, they just join in.

Mirjana Alatić
Mirjana Alatić is a big dreamer, free spirit and a curious journalist. She’s finished a degree in journalism in Belgrade and is now doing a Master’s in Communication Science in Vienna. Instagram: @mirka_novinarka

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