Introducing Yugoblok

Yugoblok is a global community for all who celebrate Yugoslavia’s legacy, cultivate its memory, and imagine its future possibilities.

Listen: “Introducing Yugoblok” (Episode #93)

Transcript: “Introducing Yugoblok” (Episode #93)

[JINGLE]

PETER KORCHNAK: This is Remembering Yugoslavia, the show exploring the memory of a country that no longer exists. I am Peter Korchnak.

[SOUNDBITE]

Remembering Yugoslavia is four years old. 

[SOUNDBITE]

I released the first three episodes of this podcast in the first week of July 2020. Though it seemed like a pandemic project, which in a way it was in its timing, it had been in the works for years. As I recount in one of those early episodes, the roots reach as far back as my childhood in the 1980s Czechoslovakia, that other disappeared country. 

Yugoslavia was a distant dream then and I never got to visit the country while it still existed. So, years later, I did the next best thing: study it. And the podcast was—still is—a milestone on that journey through the lost country that has become something of a spiritual, if adopted homeland. For as long as someone remembers Yugoslavia, the dream will live on.

This is episode number 93 of Remembering Yugoslavia. Nearly 200 guests have shared their stories and expertise on the show, on topics ranging from memory to monuments, from books to sports, from food to music. Hundreds of thousands of downloads; 4.5 to 5 star ratings on Spotify, Apple, and other platforms; Listen Notes’ top 2.5% most popular podcast in the world.

More importantly, I’ve learned a lot. I hope you have too. I’ve met a lot of people and made quite a few friends through the show. 

Quite a few of you have donated to support the show and me in making it. 

It’s been a ton of fun. 

And it’s turned into my life’s work.

And over the years, the podcast has grown into something else, something that wants to be a place of sorts, where people and stories and ideas meet, connect, share. 

I receive messages from listeners almost on a daily basis (perhaps even from you),  sharing kind words about the show and what it’s meant for them (for you), asking questions, pitching stories, commenting on episodes, requesting connections, offering this and that and the other. 

Just the other day, Marina in the US posted this public comment on the episode about third-culture kids. I excerpt: “This episode really spoke to my soul in a way I’ve desperately needed. I’ve spent the last few years painstakingly peeling back the layers of what I learned from my parents about Yugoslavia in order to piece together my own thoughts and opinions now as an adult. Discovering this podcast has been a godsend, and listening to this episode in particular was one of the very first times I’ve truly felt like I’d found community since I started this journey for myself.”

In the past few days, an author reached out to discuss his new novel about a Bosnian-Jewish Partisan; another writer sent in an original text; a photographer sought to collaborate on a book; a graduate student shared her master’s thesis with me and yet another is interviewing me for her thesis on yugonostalgia; a descendant asked for help tracking down his grandfather’s story of immigration; a historian asked to use some of the podcast footage for a video he’s making about Yugoslavia’s history… 

I’ve had people ask for travel advice, tell me the podcast has been therapeutic for them, invite me to collaborate with them, pitch in with their stories complementing what they heard on the show, suggesting ideas for the show, topics to explore. 

There’s just no end to it—and I love it. It’s more than I ever thought a little passion project would become, what it would do, what it would mean to other people.

What it also showed me is that the podcast is not enough. A big piece, or maybe a few, is missing. You and hundreds of people told me as much in the big survey I ran a few months ago. There are things you—we—all need and want when it comes to Yugoslavia and what we think and how we feel about it and others like us.

Earlier I said the podcast wants to be a place because a podcast is just a medium for stories. It’s not the right medium for this hive of activity that is just waiting to be unleashed. And since such a place did not exist, I’ve created it.

Today I’m proud to introduce Yugoblok, “a global community for all who celebrate Yugoslavia’s legacy, cultivate its memory, and imagine its future possibilities.” 

Perhaps you are searching for people like you around the world or in a specific location. You’re seeking connection, someone to talk to about all this, about Yugoslavia, to support you or perhaps even to uplift you, or simply to know you’re not alone. 

Maybe you’re on a quest to learn about your heritage. You’re exploring your family history, your roots in a place that’s faraway both in distance and in time, that in fact isn’t on the map anymore. Maybe you’re a third-culture kid working stuff out. 

You are trying to make sense of that complicated place that was and in a way continues to be Yugoslavia. Maybe you’re even a little nostalgic for it. 

Or you are conducting research for an art project, for an academic paper or book, or just for your own curiosity and passion. 

You are traveling to the former Yugoslavia and want to know where to go, how to travel, or to meet people who have been where you’re going or are going to where you’re headed. 

You want to share your art, your writing, your photographs, your music, your videos with those who will appreciate it. 

Whether you’re a post-Yugoslav or an ex-YU diasporan, whether you have Balkan heritage or are simply a yugophile, or if you’re anyone in between and beyond, Yugoblok is for you—for all of us. 

First of all, Yugoblok is the new home for my work. You asked for more podcasts and more writing and Yugoblok is it. This here Remembering Yugoslavia podcast is moving to Yugoblok. It’s where you’ll find all regular as well as extended and bonus episodes. 

It’ll also be home to an upcoming new podcast about travel; Visiting Yugoslavia launches later this summer. 

Yugoblok is the new home to my writing, longform and short, essays and news roundups, analyses and book reviews, newsletters and today in history listicles. Yugoblok allows me to be more planful, structured and regular in my writing about the place. With Yugoblok, I can focus on what I do best—creating—and doing more of it.

You asked for help with travel and for merch. Yugoblok will offer destination guides and tours; the first audio walking tour, of the Zagreb Trade Fair, is already available, and more audio tours are in the works, New Zagreb, Skopje, Ljubljana… 

The shop features original designs, by yours truly and soon also other designers. 

You asked to hear more from experts and personalities. After this summer, we’ll gather at events, virtual and wherever possible, offline. 

It’s all Yugoslavia, all the time.

Where Yugoblok really shines is the community. 

At its core, Yugoblok is a membership-based social network where you and other members can connect, socialize, and chat with each other. With an individualized profile you can share thoughts, opinions, links, photos, and more. You can create groups around shared interests. It’s a little Facebook-y but with a singular focus and without the trolls. The Yugoblok community is a way to bridge the physical distance between us and connect us all over the world. 

Most of what you’ll see at Yugoblok is free, and there are also paid membership options that give you access to even more, be it extended and bonus podcasts, additional features, archives, discounts, and more. 

About the name. In the former Yugoslavia, companies would often have compound names, combining the allusion to Yugoslavia, jugo, and a descriptor of their activities. The national tour operator was called Yugotours. A factory in Split was called Jugoplastika. Jugolinija was a shipping company, Jugoexport was of course an export outfit. Yugoblok draws on this heritage.

Blok, as spelled in the original language, b-l-o-k, is a popular name for a residential neighborhood in the former Yugoslavia, especially in Novi Beograd [New Belgrade]. Bloks are usually numbered, as in Blok 70, or qualified with a geographic designation, like Sava Bloks. 

A blok more generally is a grouping of apartment buildings, towers and slabs, forming usually a rectangular shape. And somewhat metaphorically, a blok is an ad hoc community of people living in a residential blok. As a past podcast guest described her blok in New Belgrade: We’re a big community here: [the] blok is a community in and of itself. 

And that’s the idea. Yugoblok as a virtual place that’s a global community of people with some connection or affinity to Yugoslavia. Of course, the door is open to the yugo-curious among you as well. Whoever you are, wherever you are, Yugoblok is better with you and it’s what you make it.

Visit Yugoblok at Yugoblok.com, that’s y-u-g-o-b-l-o-k.com, and join the community with a free or other membership. We have a world to win.

[OUTRO MUSIC – “Jugoslavijo / Od Vardara pa do Triglava” by Horn Orchestra]

PETER KORCHNAK: That’s all for this special episode of Remembering Yugoslavia, thank you for listening. Find Yugoblok at Yugoblok.com, y-u-g-o-b-l-o-k.com. 

Outro music courtesy of Robert Petrić. Additional music by Ekrem Jevrić. 

I am Peter Korchňak.

Ćao and see you at Yugoblok!

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