Interview with Slavica Malbasic
12 October 2020
As part of our Living History project, we are interviewing local personalities who previously worked in the mining industry in Vares.
I would like to thank you for your time and for speaking to us for the third edition of our Eastern Mining newsletter about your experience and employment, this is part of the "Living history project". First of all, could you tell us a little more about yourself?
My name is Slavica Malbašić, I was born in Pržići, where I started a family and now I live in Tisovci, but my children live abroad – one son lives in Croatia and the other one in the Netherlands. During the war, I lived in Drvar, and I worked in the kindergarten for three years. When the lead, zinc and barite mine opened, I started working as a cook.
What was your first job?
I was 17 when I got my first job at the school kitchen in Pržići. This was my first work experience that I continued to develop later while working at the Energoinvest kitchen. When I was 39 years old, I started working as cook at the mine because previously my time had been dedicated to my family and raising my children.
How many people were employed in your employment sector?
Four of us worked in the Energoinvest kitchen. It was really nice to work in the kitchen, primarily because we got along with each other very well and we were like a family. We worked in two shifts due the fact there were 570 people employed with Energoinvest. There was a lot of work because in addition to basic work, we were responsible for guests and business partners who visited us very often.
You have already mentioned that about 570 people worked in the mine at that time, did any of your family members or relatives work in the mine?
No, none of my family were employed at the mine, except me, as I already mentioned, as a cook.
You have said that you had worked at the school, can you say how many students attended primary school at that time?
Yes, I had worked in the school kitchen. At that time there were two classes at each grade, and there were a total of 750 students from the 1st to the 8th grade of primary school. Unfortunately today, we only have two students in this area.
At the time when you had worked at the Lead, Zinc and Barite Mine, were there any employed women?
There where many women employed in the mine. They were mining engineers, chemical engineers and mining technicians. A large number of women worked in the laboratory and administration, too.
What did you like most about your job and why did you like working?
It has never been difficult for me to work, and since women have had little opportunities for education in the past, I have always struggled and tried to prove to myself that I am capable and useful. My most fulfilling role was at the kindergarten, working with children is the most beautiful.
When you look at life then and now, in the area of the municipality of Vareš, can you make a comparison?
Life was beautiful then. Companies were working, a large number of people were employed and families were secure. Vareš had it all. In Pržići, we had a bus every hour to Vareš, we had two cafes, the culture house and a buffet. The parties were often organized. Then, doctors specialists came to the Health centre every week. That doesn't exist any longer. There is not even a bus to the town, just a van that runs until 3 p.m. However, I am very happy about your Project, I see it as light at the end of the tunnel and I look forward to opening the mine.
How did Vareš look like at the peak of its power at a time when the lead, zinc and barite mine was operating?
At that time, there were several companies operating in Vareš and only the Ironworks had 1,500-2,000 workers. As I said before, the mine employed about 570 people. There was also a wood processing company "Zvijezda", Bobovac, Snaga and others. Life was active and high quality, and salaries were regular. Life was really beautiful.
When the mine and the ironworks were operating, was sufficient attention paid to environmental protection and compliance with the laws of the area at the time?
Much was promised, but almost nothing was done. The biggest problem was separation and dust which occurred during the operation of the mine. Although there were reactions and dissatisfaction from the locals, the then management did nothing to improve this situation.
Do you have any message for youth who are just starting to build their careers?
I would tell everyone to stay in our Vareš, and those who left to return because there is no happiness anywhere like at home.
Thank you for your time with the hope that this cooperation will continue and improve!
Thank you for visiting. I’m I glad talked to you and of course you can always ask for any information. I sincerely hope and I wish that the activities of your company will return at least a small part of life as we used to live in the municipality of Vareš.