Arizona Market’s Native Son
Arizona Market’s Native Son
Matija Misic is a Balkans hedonist and the Arizona Market is his playground.
He likes his homemade brandy (rakija), his women and most of all his barbecued pork. He is boastful and loud, convinced that everything he wants can be bought – a house, a reputation or a wife.
But he hasn’t been able to buy his way into the new Arizona Market development and that is making Misic and his fellow private landowners at the market furious.
Misic is in his regular spot, seated in a Naugahyde booth at the one-room Faraon restaurant, which is built on his land within the market.
“I am an uneducated man, but I’m not a fool,” he says, waving his glass of rakija in front of his face. “ I have lived in the western countries and learned what capitalism is. Private ownership is holy, while here they teach us about capitalism by stealing our land.”
“Communists were the last ones to do this after the Second World War,” says Misic, banging his glass on the table and shouting for drinks all around for his cronies in the restaurant.
Misic’s father left him 9000 square meters of land, on which there is now a car park, the Faraon and about 200 kiosks in the Brcko District’s Arizona Market.
Last year the District government signed a contract with Italproject, a partnership of local and Italian developers, which forsakes the ownership interests of Misic and the market’s other private property owners for the sake of the redevelopment project, or forces them to “leave it to the foreigners,” as Misic puts it.
The concept is common in the U.S., often referred to as “urban renewal,” which gives the government special powers to seize property rights in the interest of revitalizing rundown or crime ridden urban areas.
But what is driving Misic and his friends crazy, is that the only way they can get in on the new project is to buy back the rights to manage their own property from Italproject for what Misic and others say are usurious fees.
Italproject partners say that Misic and his friends simply don’t understand the costs of doing upscale redevelopment.
But Misic says he has two million marks in the bank, which he would like to invest in his land, but the District isn’t interested in his plans.
“They gave (the market) to the Italians for free with all the necessary licenses, where is the justice in that?” Misic says.
Misic considers the market home. He is a native son of Brcko where he was born in 1947.
He spent his childhood with his grandfather, a ploughman, who was a “good ustasa” during the war. Misic finished six grades of primary school, served in the army and moved to Austria.
“I did all I could, legally and illegally. But gambling brought me the biggest gain,” Misic said of his years in western countries. “You see I’m a small entrepreneur, but a big gambler.”
He spent ten years in Austria, married a Bijeljina girl and had two daughters. In the mid 70s they moved to Switzerland where Misic and his friends opened a brothel.
“We had five girls, but the brothel was just a cover for the casino,” Misic says. “Ah, those were the good times but the war spoiled it all.”
When the war in the ex-Yugoslavia started, Misic said he divorced his wife because she was Serbian. But he scoffed at the idea he had any ethnic bias.
“Me, Nationalistic?” Misic said. “I have Serbs, Muslims, and Gypsies working on my land. I even have three Chinese.”
Misic’s current wife pulls up to the Faraon in a white Audi and joins him at the table.
“This is my lady, Pamela,” Misic says, directing her with his eyes to take the seat next to him.
Pamela says they met in 1999 while she was working at the Marlboro night bar in the market. The short, full-figured Pamela came from her native Mordova in Russia to work at the Marlboro as a prostitute, she says.
“Every day she gives me a massage and looks after me,” Misic says. “She is so hardworking that I already have tomatoes in my backyard, and when I bring my friends over she always serves us without complaints.”
Last year Misic says he paid for Pamela to visit her home in Moldova and bought a farm tractor and two cows for her mother.
“For her there is God above, and me down here,” Misic says when he gives her a hug.
Misic’s tenant, Niko Tomic the 34 year-old owner of the Faraon, says that “his boss” Matija is a good and honest man, who likes alcohol
“When he gets drunk he talks too much, but he never tells lies,” Tomic says.