Story from AFP dated 21st December 2003.
After years of
travelling Europe bringing joy to children, Edika's fabulous mobile
amusement park has finally reached the end of the road in Bosnia.
With no money to repair the ageing machines, and with the magic
of its simple pleasures apparently lost on a new generation of
post-war Bosnian youth, fair owner and custodian Josip Janota is
facing an undignified retirement.
After 50 years based in the northwestern Bosnian town of Banja
Luka, the city council has told him to take his stuff to the dump.
There are big plans for a parking lot and the old amusement park has
to go. "There's no place in Europe where my father Edika's amusement
park hasn't travelled. But now our fair machines are old and we have
no money to fix them," said Janota, 54, who lives in a bus with his
Edika, whose real name was Eduard, was a Czech who took the
amusement park around Europe in the days after World War II.
During one visit to Banja Luka he unexpectedly married a local
girl and the municipal authorities allowed him to station his
equipment on public land in the city's market-place.
For years Edika's amusement park was the best fun in town and it
became a favourite for every Banja Luka child, with its pinball
machines, one-handed Jack, billiards and obligatory merry-go-round.
But it was also a hit for parents, who could leave their kids
here without worrying about crime or drugs, trusting Josip and
Lidija -- who never had children of their own -- to chase them away
when the school bells rang.
"We don't have children of our own but we had them in a way,
because our yard was always full of kids. We were the city's
babysitters," Lidija said, showing cherished photos of children
Things were never the same after the fateful day when the
merry-go-round was packed up on its special bus, ready to hit the
road again. But the engine failed and the bus hasn't moved since.
The wheels of the bus which Josip and Lidija call home have sunk
into the ground after 50 years of immobility. "Edika died in 1980 but we carried on his craft, especially with
the merry-go-round and pinball," said Lidija. "But when the (1992-95) war started, little by little children
stopped coming here and our fun-fair machines don't work anymore."
Now the owners of the market-place want to use the land for a
parking lot and have permission to remove the buses.
Josip breaks down in tears when he thinks about the future.
Every noise outside makes the couple nervous because they expect the
authorities to come knocking any day.
"Since I was born I have lived in this bus and now the
authorities want to throw all this in the dump. I have no other home
than this," he said.
Banja Luka resident Slavko Podgorelec, 53, is one of many "big
kids" who will also shed a tear the day the amusement park is
levelled with concrete. "I remember very well Edika's tent because I spent most of my
childhood there. I would spend all my free time and all my pocket
money there. My favourites were the one-handed Jack and pinball," he
said. "Edika's place remains the best memory of my childhood. His tent
and buses deserve to go to a museum and definitely not to a dump
Market director Radosav Grbic has no time for nostaligic
sentimentality. "We will make the parking lot in this location," he said, adding
that he had given Josip and Lidija 15 days to move.
The deadline expired last week.