Sreta artist

Milutin Sretenović – Sreta Rags to riches “My life was fantastic”, he says and adds immediately, “but in a bad way”. He says it with humour, showing his large, buck-toothed grin. It’s an old cliché that Balkan singers often have film-like life stories. But clichés exist exactly because they are often true. Milutin Sretenović – Sreta’s story is an extreme version of it, a true rags to (almost) riches story. And if today he doesn’t enjoy real “riches", there have been some rags alright along the way. One just needs to ask him a question and the stories come pouring out, each one madder and extreme than the other. He was born in Eastern Serbia, during the second year of the then newly-formed socialist Yugoslavia. Of five siblings, he was the youngest. When Sreta was just a month old baby, his father was murdered. Mobilised by the communist partisan army, his dad went AWOL, but was caught and mobilized by Serbian Chetniks, the hard-core nationalists. He escaped again. “He wouldn’t shoot at another Serb for anything in the world”, says Sreta today with conviction. His father became a fugitive, running from place to place, hiding, finding temporary refuge all the way down to Kosovo and Macedonia and back to Vojvodina in the North. Always on the run, from two armies and from two ideologies. Finally he got caught and shot, apparently with no trial. His mother was arrested with the baby Sreta, who was just three weeks old, while the other kids were left home to take care of themselves. In prison, Sreta almost died but a friendly guard took mercy on his mother and got her free by saying: “Don’t you see the little one is about to die, let her bury him properly at least.” She took him home and against all odds - he got better. “God didn’t let me die”, says Sreta now, “he let me live so that I could grow and entertain the folks. He wanted to let this voice live on”.