In our new column Meet a local we present interesting individuals from different professional fields living in Belgrade. The idea is to get to know some locals and their favorite neighborhoods and venues in the city.

  1. Please introduce yourself to our readers:

My name is Jelena, which is one of the most common female names in Belgrade among my generation (1983), so everybody calls me by various nicknames derived from my last name, Knežević. When I was making the decision of what to do in my life, I wanted my profession to have a higher cause, I wanted to be able to make this world a better place; I wanted my job to be creative, dynamic, influential. That is how I chose management and production in culture, and I must admit that I enjoy what I do. I am currently in the position of the executive director in Bitef, while pursuing my PhD at the Faculty of Drama Arts in Belgrade, where I got a chance to teach practice in the subject theatre production to students.

2. Has there been a new project lately?

Very exiting preparations for a special, double Bitef edition “Edge of the Future”, which is to be held between 13th and 25th September are underway. We will present 14 performances from France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Mexico, Chile, Iran, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, which tackle issues of ecological crisis, and explore the concepts of transhumanism and posthumanism. We will watch live how icebergs are melting, robots, drones, light installations. Organization of such an ambitious theatre festival amidst the coronavirus pandemic is more than a challenging undertaking, which asks from all the team members to display agility and great amount of tolerance to uncertainty and change.

Also, I am preparing the promotion of the book Always Contextualize – An Exercise in Curating Performing Arts, edited by Ana Vujanović, PhD, which I have co-edited with my colleagues Biljana Tanurovska Kjulavkovski and Marijana Cvetković. The book was created in cooperation with Station – Service for Contemporary Dance, and Walking Theory.

3. What do you like about Belgrade?

There are so many things that should be changed and improved, a lot of work for various civic initiatives and social participation. Isn’t that a good reason to love Belgrade and to stay in it?

4. Where do you like to go out?

Lately, almost exclusively to theatre and a nice walk along the rivers. I don’t have favorite places – I love new and different places, I like to see everything and to meet different people. I go wherever they invite me.

5. Name 3 of your favorite restaurants in the city?

Madera is a restaurant which has existed for a very long time, and which has managed to maintain a high standards in every respect.

Mezestoran Dvorište has an interesting offer of Mediterranean food. I like appetizers and refreshments because that type of food gives people space to talk and spend some time together.

Radost Fina Kuhinjica, peaceful place with healthy and delicious food including vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options

6. Where do you drink coffee?

VeZa – a vegan low waste café in Dorćol.

Šoljica and Greenet – they are close to my office, so that is where I get my coffee to go.

Photo credits: Jakov Simovic

7. Where do you spend your leisure time?

I enjoy jogging and walking, so nature is my first choice. Milja Vuković, an art historian and eco-activist, said at a recently held lecture at Bitef Zona one thing that made me think – we can best save nature if we save it in the cities! I think that saving nature in Belgrade is the most sensible thing. I don’t want spending time in nature to be something associated with vacation and leaving the city, I want to live in a building surrounded by nature, I want to be able to walk by the river are through the parks to get to work, and I want each part of the city to have enough greenery.

8. Name your 3 favorite locations in Belgrade and justify your choice.

Višnjička banja – an area in Belgrade where I grew up and which I really love. I live in a part of that area which was built by Energoprojekt company during the 80s and the construction of which followed a very clear urbanistic plan, where buildings are surrounded by parks and trees. After the 90s, unplanned buildings started popping up, and no one could prevent that. I am sorry that it happened to Belgrade – that is a damage which can hardly be repaired.

Bitef Theatre – brave, engaged, multi-genre theatre that belongs to young people by age or by spirit, located in the vibrant theatre space of the reconstructed evangelical church in the very heart of Dorćol.

Ada Ciganlija i Košutnjak – my favorite places for early morning runs.