Serbian postman goes the extra mile
- Published: 16/10/2013 at 12:49 PM
- Online news:
BELGRADE - When Filip Filipovic was named postman for a cluster of isolated villages deep in the mountains of southern Serbia, he soon knew his job would not stop at delivering the mail.
"I simply knew I could not look away and turn a blind eye to reality, to the living conditions of these children who have nothing, and lonely and abandoned elderly people," said the 30-year-old, recalling his first tour of the remote area. Click to see video.
"When I saw children having to walk to school 10, 15 kilometres (six to nine miles) every day, who live without water and electricity, often in a single room with their parents, I decided to do something to help," he told AFP.
Kursumlijska Banja, some 300 kilometres (180 miiles) south of the capital Belgrade, hosts one of Serbia's oldest spas, which has been closed and in ruins since 2007, sign of the economic hardship blighting the country.
Filipovic was 28 when he first made the journey from his hometown Kursumlija to Kursumlijska Banja, a dozen kilometres along a narrow road lined with rows of pine trees and empty houses, some collapsed, abandoned cafes and restaurants.
"I told myself I had to do something. A few kilometres from 21st century civilisation, we have people forgotten in the 19th century," Filip said.
Postman Filip Filipovic brings groceries on October 7, 2013 to a family near Kursumlijska Banja, some 300 kms south of the capital Belgrade
He started by renovating the post office, in a shabby building which also hosts the local primary school, using his own money to repaint the premises.
At the same time, chipping away at his salary of barely 300 euros ($400) per month, he was bringing chocolates and sweets to children in remote villages, for whom such luxury was unheard of.
At 6:30 am in Kursumlija, it is a morning like any other.
With a list in hand, Filipovic tours shops to buy a range of items from bread to newspapers or cleaning products, before swinging by the office for his post bag and hitting the road.
"There are no more shops in the home villages of the people I help, so I do the shopping for them," explained the self-effacing young man, with light brown hair and bright eyes.
"Filip is our guardian angel," said Marika Pavic, a grateful 70-year-old woman whom Filipovic visits daily.
Around midday he knocked at the door of the Dragicevic family in a remote house on a meadow, surrounded by dense forest.
That day, he picked up their boys Milomir, 7, and Radomir, 9, and drove them on to school so they would not have to walk the eight-kilometre journey.
"At the Dragicevic's, we have started to build a bathroom as they don't have one. I hope it will be done by the end of the year," Filipovic said.
"Without Filip, we could never afford to provide our children with everything they have. What he is doing is very rare and precious," whispered Milena, the boys' 28-year-old mother.
The postman did not stop there.
For two years he has financed, organised and helped with the renovation of the local school’s only classroom that provides education for six boys aged 7 to 11.
Last year, the six left home for the first time in their lives for a one-day excursion, organised by their postman at his own expense, to a town in central Serbia.
He bought the boys schoolbags, notebooks and pencils, and also provided six computers.
Filipovic rebuilt the school's toilets in the yard. This summer, during his vacation, he built a playground for his young proteges.
"When I saw the swings I told him 'You are the best, better than Santa Claus'," said smiling Aleksandar, an eight-year-old boy surrounded by his classmates.
"Two swings and a slide. For children from the town it's certainly no big deal, but to them it changed their whole universe," smiled the postman.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency