I was just thirteen years old, a girl in Communist Yugoslavia growing up under Tito. We all lived in constant fear. At this time, everything was in short supply and I was pleading with my mother for a dress, any dress. I had no new clothes, ever, in my young memory.
My mother scraped together enough money and through contacts managed
to buy some clothing coupons, which allowed her to purchase four meters
of fabric - just enough for a dress. She left early one morning and
waited in line all day, at last arriving home with precious, navy blue
fabric, of light wool to make my first new dress.
My darling aunt offered to sew it and, after a lot of consultation
around the family, it was decided to make it with deep front and back
pleats, able to be 'let out' as I grew. The dress was pretty with
three-quarter raglan sleeves and suitable for all occasions. I loved
As I grew, the dress grew with me. The waist and hem were
lengthened, and small, extra patches were added. Over the next six
years, the dress was patched and let out more and more. Each year, in
order to update my dress, I would save up enough money to buy just one
meter of white fabric with blue dots or flowers to make new collars and
cuffs. The dress was my pride and joy from my early teenage years until
the time I met my husband.
I got married to my husband, a New Zealander, and on leaving
Yugoslavia, took my precious, only dress with me. One day, after I had
been in New Zealand for about six months, I brought the dress out of the
small wardrobe and got enough courage to turn it inside out and show
the patches to my husband. He was speechless and, with tears in his
eyes, said, "You must keep that one forever." I began to cry and
replied, "What would make me very happy would be to have a burning of
the dress and a celebration of thanksgiving and prayers, for now I have
On Thanksgiving, we made a special day of it and in our small
backyard lit a fire under an oil drum incinerator and ceremoniously
burnt the precious dress. That was 55 years ago, and the celebration
and thanksgiving is still in my heart and the treasured memory continues
to live on with me. Invaluable moments like these have been the spark
to ignite my imagination into a great symbol of "Love & Peace" - a
monumental flower which will be shown around the world, bringing love
and joy to all needy hearts.