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MY CAREER BEFORE THE NOVELS

During the twenty-seven years (from 1965 to 1992 when the country disintegrated) at the American Embassy in Belgrade I worked as a Cultural Assistant and translator for five years and the rest of the time as an English Teaching Assistant, Specialist and finally Advisor. I organized seminars, conferences, lecture tours and mini-seminars for Yugoslav teachers of English in all of the six Republics and two Regions of Yugoslavia. These activities were done in cooperation with the Republican or Regional Ministries of Education and the British Council. I used to organize up to thirty English Teaching activities per year.

I loved my job and enjoyed thoroughly doing it. Because of this love I received the following awards:



The following are only a few fragments of hundreds of letters of appreciation I received from the visiting American professors, my British counterparts and the Yugoslav seminar organizers.

At that time my last name was Krstic.

1974
... Let me take this opportunity to express my gratitude to you for all your help and support at both Osijek and Dubrovnik seminars.

John Shorter
Assistant Regional Director
The British Council, Zagreb

1974
... Again, Ms. Krstic was quietly in the background ready to handle any problem or request, administrative or clerical, all day, every day. ... I would like truly to than Ms. Krstic for her efforts and for making participation in the seminars a gratifying experience.

Mary Hines
Fulbright Lecturer
University of Nis

1974
... It was, of course, delightful to see you again, looking so ravishingly beautiful. You are a top administrator and it was really a pleasure having you in charge of everything.

Dr. Sylvia Holton
Georgetown University
Washington D.C.

1976
To Mr. Edward McBride, Cultural Affairs Officer
... The smoothness and success of your operations is particularly due to Gordana’s tremendous efficiency. In my experience I have never met anyone who has been so industrious or conscientious in her work, as well as having the personality to get along well with others. I definitely appreciated the help she provided me over the past two years.

Donald Bouchard
Fulbright Lecturer
University of Ljubljana

1976
To Mr. Terrence Catherman, Public Affairs Officer

... Ms. Gordana Krstic, your English Teaching Specialist, did a masterful job of planning and organizing the lectures... She made sure that every minute detail was taken care of.

Dr. Morton Benson
Professor of Slavic Languages
University of Pennsylvania

1977
To Mr. T. Catherman, Public Affairs Officer

... I must say I was impressed by Ms. Krstic’s expertise and efficiency. She impressed me as a very professional woman. She handled all situations with diplomacy and grace. She is clearly a valuable asset to the Embassy. Not only is she meticulously proficient in carrying out the full duties of an English Language Officer, but she is also a charming and interesting person. In fact, I have doubts whether and actual American Officer could do any better at handling the difficulties of a job which combines care for details, mastery of arrangement and scheduling, and concern for interpersonal relations between American, British and Yugoslav teachers. She made the Fulbright visit for myself and my family intensely rewarding.

Dr. Warren Wedin
Professor of American Literature
California State University

1978
To Mr. T. Catherman, Public Affairs Officer

... Gordana Krstic is a priceless jewel whose relationships with staff, participants, British Council counterparts, Ministry of Education officials are so warm and full of insight that her presence at a seminar becomes invaluable. She has a superb sense of organization but most importantly she has that rare gift of insuring that happiness and well-being of everyone around her.

Dr. Mary Finnochiaro

1978
To Mr. T. Catherman, Public Affairs Officer

... Not only is she extremely thorough in planning the myriad details... She skillfully weaves together the threads for a successful seminar experience and its follow-up. She is extremely highly regarded by the foreign language advisers in the various Republics of Yugoslavia, and it is easy to se why. Indeed, she is more attentive to the problems of language teaching in Yugoslavia and to the needs of visiting Americans than this visiting American, at least, is accustomed to experience from his own countrymen while lecturing overseas.

Dr. Howard Altman
University of Louisville

1979
... My primary praise must be reserved for the manner in which you handled the American Lectors meeting. You channeled the meeting into a positive direction right from the beginning, so that the suggestions made were constructive and the atmosphere one of good humored professionalism and cooperation.

Liga Abolins
Fulbright lecturer
University of Titograd

June 12, 1979
Dr. Leon M. S. Slawecki
Cultural Attache
American Embassy, Belgrade

Dear Dr. Slawecki:

It was a distinct pleasure for me to lecture on English-language teaching methodology and contrastive analysis in Yugoslavia. Audiences of teachers and students everywhere in the country impressed me as enthusiastic and eager to hear about the lasted developments.

The success of the lecture tour was due, in great part, to the excellent preparations made by Ms. Gordana Krstic of your staff. Ms. Krstic is unique among ESL specialists. Not only is she highly efficient in the execution of mundane but necessary tasks, she also brings to her work an intimate knowledge of contemporary developments in the field and a first-hand acquaintance with those who matter in the teaching of English in Yugoslavia. An immediate and significant sign of her professionalism is the excellent library of textbooks and support materials in ESL which she has amassed in her office.

My own work in Yugoslavia was greatly facilitated by being able to draw upon Ms. Krstic's knowledge of what was needed specifically by each audience as we went from city to city. Thanks to her, my lectures carried a focus they could not have had otherwise.

Reflecting on my past experiences in workshops and lecture tours on ESL in several countries, I can say, without qualification, that Gordana Krstic is the most competent English-teaching specialist I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She carries herself with a degree of style and aplomb that is enviable. We in the U. S. are fortunte to have a person of her abilities working on our behalf in the foreign service. Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to collaborate with her in the interest of better international understanding through the teaching of English.

Sincerely,
Dr. Robert J. Di Pietro
Chair, DEPARTMENT OF LANGUAGES & LITERATURE
UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE

August 2, 1979
Mr. Leon Slawecki
Cultural Affairs Officer
American Embassy
Belgrade, Yugoslavia

Dear Mr. Slawecki:

My wife and I have covered a lot of territory since we last saw you in Donji Milanovac... I now, finally, have a chance to look back over the last two years in Yugoslavia from the outside. Naturally, I find myself thinking mostly about the people I knew there. For some reason, very few of them stand out clearly from the rest.

The reason I'm writing you this letter is that Gordana Krstic definitely stands out and I feel compelled to give credit to her that it's so obviously due.

What is the highest praise I can give? If I ever found myself responsible for staffing an organization and had unlimited funds, I would make Gordana an offer no one could refuse. In my entire life I have worked with only one other person who could match her efficiency and precision. She is one of the very few people in the world who have actually, by their example, inspired me to change my ramshackle ways; I count her among those from whom I have learned. One thing I never learned, however, is how she does it all without ever giving the impression of being the least bit in a hurry. I believe that her knack for getting the best out of those of us who have worked with her is due essentially to the fact that we respect and admire her too much to give any less.

Sincerely,
Teddi Bynum
Fulbright Lecturer, (formerly)
University of Nis

1980
To Mr. Leon Slawecki
Cultural Affairs Officer

... It is with great satisfaction that I record these few thoughts about English Teaching in Yugoslavia. It is, undoubtedly, unique. In fact, exceptional. And not without reason. Gordana Krstic is English Teaching in Yugoslavia. Academically, she is one of the most updated EFL specialists that I have met in Europe. Her sense of organization is precise. And her awareness in relating cross various cultures seems so effortless, so smooth.

I compliment your office for such a fine program and for such fine assistance.

John Dumicich
Professor, New York University

1981
I would like to open this report by thanking you personally for the masterful way that you handled the seminars. Everything was beautifully prepared and all my personal and professional needs were anticipated. What a pleasure it is to work for you!

Dr. Jean Bodman
New York University

1981
... We are grateful for your special efforts which resulted in the fact that we had really exceptional lecturers who had offered a truly in depth view of the most contemporary tendencies in the methodology of teaching foreign languages.

I am convinced that our cooperation will continue successfully.

Gradislav Milenkovic
Director
Republican Ministry of Education
Republic of Serbia

1982
... Being able to tightly coordinate the lectures, group sessions, and evening activities made the most coherent program of work which I have been able to present at any seminar, and the thanks for making this possible belongs to you.

Dr. Joseph Mullin
Fulbright Lecturer
University of Skopje

1982
Ms. Cynthia Efird, Cultural Affairs Officer
... The thing that impressed me more, however , is Gordana’s knowledge of the field of TESOL and how best to use U.S. funds to meet the needs of the English teachers in Yugoslavia.

Dr. Mary N. Bruder
University of Pittsburg

1982
Let me thank you on behalf of the Institute of Education of SR Croatia and on my own for your cooperation in organizing and carrying out the seminar for teachers of English in Karlovac, August 22-27, 1982. Based on the opinion of both the Foreign Language Advisor and the participants the seminar was successful. They were especially satisfied with the work done by the American lecturer, Prof. Thomas Buckingham. Please extend our gratitude to him.

Dr. Mato Jergovic, Director
Republican Institute of Education, SR Croatia

April 26, 1982
Mr. David Anderson,
United States Ambassador to Yugoslavia
Belgrade

Dear Ambassador Anderson:

I have just returned from a two-week lecture tour through Yugoslavia, organized by the English Teaching Specialist in your Embassy, Gordana Krstic. I would like to make a brief report to you concerning that tour before any further time elapses and other affairs intervene.

Although this was by no means the first time that lectures were arranged for me at other locales, I must tell you that my Yugoslavia tour was the best planned, best executed, and most enjoyable that I have ever experienced. And the credit for this belongs squarely with Gordana Krstic. Her ability to organize and carry out a complex set of arrangements spanning two weeks, ranging over much of Yugoslavia, involving many different people, and requiring constant adjustments to the vagaries of a state bureaucracy is a phenomenon that one must truly marvel at. Her position requires at appropriate times that she be firm or flexible, businesslike or sociable, carefree or concerned, complimentary or admonishing. And all this she manages to accomplish with seeming effortlessness, grace, intelligence and sensitivity.

Gordana is a most extraordinary woman, and one cannot say enough in her praise. She is to be treasured by our Embassy and I would urge that she be assured of whatever professional rewards it is within the jurisdiction of the Embassy to bestow.

Respectfully yours,
Dr. William E. Rutherford
Director
College of Continuing Education
American Language Institute
University of Southern California

November 14, 1983
Ambassador
Embassy of the United States of America
Belgrade, Yugoslavia

Dear Mr. Ambassador:

I am writing to praise the efficiency and effectiveness of one of your staff, Mrs. Gordana Krstic, English Teaching Specialist, and to express my appreciation for her professionalism and her organization in promoting better U.S. - Yugoslav relations.

I just returned from a two week lecture tour of Yugoslavia. Although I enjoyed myself a great deal, no one could possibly claim that this trip was an academic boondoggle: in fourteen days I traveled to nine cities, delivered eleven lectures on seven topics, and participated in countless informal shop-talk sessions. I addressed teachers and administrators from all levels of the public school system, university professors and graduate students, and the staffs of intensive language centers. The fact that all of this hectic traveling and talking came off without a hitch is due to Mrs. Krstic's professional insight, administrative efficiency, and cross-cultural sensitivity.

I enjoyed myself immensely, learning a great deal about Yugoslavia- the country, the people, the languages and dialects-and about language teaching programs and policy. My graduate students and colleagues will benefit directly from these experiences.

Given the long history of this lecture tour in Yugoslavia, I believe it difficult to overestimate the importance of this program in promoting favorable U.S. - Yugoslav relations. We are fortunate, indeed, to have an individual of Mrs. Krstic's abilities working in this capacity.

Sincerely,
Dr. Mark A. Clarke
Associate Professor
University of Colorado at Denver

1984
We would like to thank you for the successfully organizer seminar for teachers of English in Sumarice (Serbian Seminar, June–July). We learned a lot (communicative skills, inter-actions etc) and got many wonderful ideas for group work in the classroom... Hoping that such high quality seminars will continue we wish to you much success in bringing to us valuable lecturers.

Yugoslav Professors of English,
Institute of Foreign Languages, Belgrade

November 24, 1984
Ms Pamela Smith
Cultural Affairs Officer
American Embassy
11000 Beograd

Dear Pamela:

In the past year I have had a good deal of contact with Ms. Gordana Krstic of the U.S.I .S. English Language Teaching Office. I have worked with her on four seminars and mini-seminars for Yugoslav teachers of English, and am currently planning for the December Lectors' Conference with her. In addition, her office has served as a sort of materials and advice headquarters for my own teaching activities at the Fllozofski fakultet in Novi Sad.

The longer I know Gordana and the more I see of her work, the more deeply I am impressed by her competence. She is for one, one of the most organized and efficient people I have ever worked with anywhere (a natural "one minute manager"). She responds to letters the same day, and has attended to the 1001 details for each seminar with grace and aplomb.

I have also been somewhat amazed at how she manages to keep up contacts with people in the States. Such contacts are critical to her function, but difficult to maintain from Belgrade in such a fickle, trendy field as EFL. Yet she is familiar with the latest terms, the latest titles and the latest names.

Most importantly perhaps, I have become increasingly aware of the wide and invaluable network of relationships which she has developed over the years with teachers throughout Yugoslavia. Her reliability and graciousness make her an attractive person to do business with, and so they do. Especially now, when Yugoslav teachers cannot afford books from abroad, much less a trip to an English-speaking country to brush up their language, school boards and teachers' associations count on Gordana more and more to keep them in touch with native speakers and the latest methodologies through her seminars and materials. I cannot Imagine that any American could replace her; the foreigner could not develop such close or honest ties with teachers around the country, nor could he/she understand the needs and perceptions of Yugoslav teachers so well. U.S.I.S. is very fortunate to have Gordana in its employ.

Sincerely,
Pamela Martin
Fulbright Lecturer
University of Novi Sad

1986
... Yesterday my department chairman, David Gies, called to inform me that the promotion to full professor is now official. Today I am writing to share that good news with you and to thank you for your support. Without your kind comments the promotion would not have been possible, and I sincerely appreciate your taking the time to write a letter in my behalf. Your confidence in my abilities and your expression of that confidence in your letter to the University of Virginia enabled me to achieve a significant honor in my career, and I am truly grateful.

Dr. Kenneth Chastain
University of Virginia

June 17, 1986
Pamela Smith
Cultural Affairs Officer
American Embassy
Belgrade, Yugoslavia

Dear Pamela Smith:

Although I have heard that your assignment in Yugoslavia is nearly finished and you will be leaving soon, I would like to take a moment of your time to comment on the work I have done for Gordana Krstic during this past year and to add my praise to that of others for her competence, efficiency, and professionalism.

Throughout the year I participated in four of the seminars which she organized. The first one, in Crikvenica, was a five-day residential seminar; the others, in Mostar, Skopje, and Subotica, were mini-seminars. These seminars were truly highlights in the past year. Each seminar was carefully planned and organized; arrangements were always completed with plenty of lead time. Ms. Krstic is meticulous about details, exchanges of letters, requests for reimbursements, and other administrative matters. Unlike some other administrators I have dealt with, both in Yugoslavia and elsewhere, she is accessible, returns calls, answers mail, and is thoroughly reliable.

But Ms. Krstic's talents are more than administrative. She maintains excellent working relationships with local and regional English teaching advisors. That is reflected both in the atmosphere of the seminars and in the high degree of enthusiasm and seriousness which participants demonstrate in those gatherings. She has the respect of her colleagues, which she has earned honestly by her hard work. I sincerely believe that the good quality of English teaching in Yugoslav primary and secondary schools is directly related to the programs and seminars which she has organized over the years.

Fulbright lectors in Yugoslavia sometimes feel that their work here does not challenge them in ways which add to their professional development. However, my work for Gordana Krstic has been, professionally, a crucial factor in making this year such a good one. The Embassy has a talented and competent staff member in Ms. Krstic. She has my highest respect and admiration.

Best wishes to you as you prepare to leave Yugoslavia. I'm sorry we didn't have more opportunities to talk this year. I have greatly enjoyed my year in Yugoslavia.

Very sincerely,
Mary Lee Field
Fulbright Lecturer
University of Novi Sad

3 February 1986
Ms. Gordana Krstic
American Embassy
11000 Belgrade

Dear Gordana,

Thank you very much for the detailed arrangements you made to promote the smooth running of both the seminars I attended. The British Council's tutors, Stephen Slater, Cynthia Beresford and Andy Barfield, ask me to thank you on their behalf and our two visitors from Britain send their regards.

With thanks,
Marilyn Robertson
Acting Representative
The British Council

September 2, 1986
Mr. L. Plotkin
Cultural Affairs Officer
American Embassy
Belgrade, Yugoslavia

Dear Mr. Plotkin:

I recently participated as an Academic Specialist in two seminars for English teachers. These seminars, held in SR Slovenia and SR Bosnia and Herzegovina, were organized by Gordana Krstic of your office and by representatives of The British Council.

This was my fifth trip on an Academic Specialist Grant to Yugoslavia since 1982, and as has been the case on each of my previous trips, I was very impressed with the quality of organization of these events and with the enthusiasm of the participants. This was especially noteworthy during the seminar held for primary and secondary school teachers of English in Bosnia and Herzegovina, since this was the first such event in that republic in several years.

Please accept my thanks for the opportunity to participate in these valuable seminars. I hope that your office will be able to organize and sponsor similar seminars in the future, both in the places where such events have become commonplace and in areas which have had less exposure to visiting academic specialists from the U.S.

I am sure that you know of the reputation which Ms. Krstic enjoys among American, British, and Yugoslav teacher-trainers as a consummate organizer of such events; I can only say that in my experience, much of the credit for the success of these professional events results from her careful planning and organization.

Best wishes for the coming year.

Sincerely yours,
Dr. Stephen J. Gaies
Professor of English and Linguistics
University of Northern Iowa
Department of English Language and Literature
TESOL and Linguistics Section, Cedar Falls

June 22, 1987
Lawrence Plotkin
Cultural Affairs Officer
American Embassy
11000 Belgrade
Yugoslavia

Dear Mr. Plotkin:

I am writing to convey my high praise for the work that Gordana Krstic has done and continues to do for the English language teaching profession in Yugoslavia.

I first started working with Gordana in 1980 when I was in Yugoslavia on a Fulbright TEFL grant. Since that time I have had an opportunity to conduct teacher education seminars in Yugoslavia on a number of occasions. I have never been disappointed by Gordanas organizational abilities and her ability to ensure a positive professional experience at seminars for the Yugoslav teachers of English.

... I feel that I can attribute my success in getting a position in large part to the teacher-training experience I have had in Yugoslavia.

Preparation for the seminars forced me to crystallize my ideas for teaching, Gordana's advice on these ideas consistently helped me keep the practical needs of the Yugoslav English teachers in mind, and thereby led to effective materials, positive attitudes, and professional gain for both the teachers and for me as a lecturer.

I have worked in a variety of education programs for teachers of English over the past ten years and feel that the seminar program in Yugoslavia is one of the best. Gordana should be commended for her sensitivity to the needs of the teachers and for her persistence in the further development of teacher education programs in Yugoslavia. I know her work is highly respected by the Yugoslav English teachers and the U.S. lecturers alike.

Sincerely,
William Perry
Assistant Professor in ESL
St. Michael's College
7800 Freiburg
F.R. Germany

1987
... I want to thank you for such a marvelous job in planning and carrying out my lecture tour! Everything went like clockwork thanks to your good work.

Dr. Douglas Brown
American Language Institute
San Francisco State University

American Embassy
11000 Beograd, JUGOSLAWIEN
September 27, 1988

Dear Mr. Ambassador:

I would like to call your attention to the outstanding performance of your English Teaching Advisor, Ms. Gordana Krstic, in organizing the Slovenian and Croatian seminars for English teachers, August 21-September 2. Not only did Ms. Krstic fulfill her responsibilities in an exemplary fashion but she also went way above and beyond the call of duty in order to make the courses the resounding successes that they were. She consistently went out of her way in order to insure the comfort and well-being of myself and my American co-worker, Prof. Dicker.

I am certain that he will concur with me when I tell you, sir, that I am greatly within her debt and that she is to be highly commended to you, Mr. Ambassador, for her excellence and glowing credit to your mission in Yugoslavia.

Yours sincerely,
Paul D. Roberts
Academic Counselor and
Lecturer for American English
FREIE UNIVERSITAT BERLIN
Zentraleinrichtung Sprachlabor (ZE4)

1989
Let me say, first of all, that as I prepared for this trip, it became very clear to me why Yugoslavia has such a good reputation among American academics who complete lecture tours there. This fine reputation is based upon the work of Gordana Krstic, whose careful organization of programs insures their success.

Dr Ann M. Johns
San Diego State University
USIA W O R L D

January 1987, Volume 6, Number 1
USIA PROFILE
GORDANA KRSTIC: Shaping English Instruction in Yugoslavia
BY PAMELA SMITH

YUGOSLAVS, WHO LIVE IN A LAND HAVING a number of languages of its own, frequently also speak English. At least many of Yugoslavia's educated people and an increasingly large number of its young people do.

USIS is fully involved in making English Yugoslavia's most popular language. Some years ago, Russian was taught throughout the country as the principal foreign language with smatterings of German, French, and English instruction. But in the last 10 to 15 years, English has become a predominate foreign language taught in primary and secondary schools in most of Yugoslavia.

OVER THE YEARS

Yugoslavia probably would have joined the march toward English without the efforts of USIS, but it would not have done so nearly as well as it has without USIS' Gordana Krstic.

As an employee in the USIS Yugoslavia English Teaching Office for 20 years and as its English teaching specialist for the last 12, Krstic has brought more information about teaching the English language to more people than anyone in the country. She knows almost everyone important in the business, and she programs many of these people frequently for the seminars that she conceives and organizes to teach Yugoslavia's English teachers how to teach English better. (Although often organized in cooperation with the British Council, the seminars increasingly stress American Studies to complement their main focus-the methodology of teaching English).

The American experts whom she programs include Academic Specialists recruited through the good offices of the USIA Division for the Study of the U.S., experts loaned by the English Language Program Division home office or drawn from Fulbright TEFL (Teaching of English as a Foreign Language) professors in the country, an occasional American Literature Am-Part or Fulbrlghter, or authorities simply enticed by Krstic Into coming on their own. Even after being subjected to Balkan trains, Slovenian rains, Macedonian dust, Serbian menus in Cyrillic, Croatian winters, Montenegrin hotels, Bosnian schedules, and the like, these people want to return.

In addition, Krstic has helped design USIS' annual one-country group program for English teaching officials, and together with USIS branch public affairs officers, she identifies nominees for the agency's Summer Institutes Program, Secondary School Initiative Program, and other initiatives having TEFL or American Studies content.

Also, she enriches English-teaching activities by enrolling approximately 4,000 teachers and administrators as subscribers to English Teaching Forum magazine and by presenting large numbers of English teaching books and USIA materials at seminars.

NEW PURSUIT

In what little spare time she has, Krstic writes novels. She is a prize-winning new talent on the Serbo-Croatian scene. Her first book, "The Scent of Rain in the Balkans," a fictional description of the disintegration of traditional Jewish life in Sarajevo, won critical acclaim and the prestigious Jewish Community prize. Krstic is now at work on a sequel to this novel.

At the same time, she continues to work on future seminars. Four years ago, USIS Belgrade conducted 14 seminars a year, which reached about 1000 teachers of English. In fiscal 1985, the post sponsored 26 seminars attended by approximately 2200 teachers, and a second English teaching staffer, Marlja Dimitrijevic, came on board. The demand for instruction keeps mounting, and the post could double this activity again, if it had the resources.

USIS Yugoslavia is lucky to have Krstic as a colleague. So are Yugoslav English teachers, students, and readers.

---
Pamela Smith was cultural affairs officer. USIS Belgrade, when this article was written. She now is country affairs officer for West and East Germany.