Serbia's Ambassador's party

Srpski Ambasador – Serbia’s Ambassador

Mirjana Eric wrote a blog post entitled “Dobrovoljni srpski ambasador / Serbia’s ambassador – volunteer” talking about me and my website saying:

Karl Haudbourg is a Frenchman who lives and works in Belgrade. He has chosen my country to be his home because he loves Serbia and its people that much. I can’t say that I’ve heard of him ever before, but I surely won’t forget him now… I strongly recommend everyone to go and explore the site himself.

Karl Haudbourg je Francuz koji živi i radi u Beogradu. Odabrao je Srbiju da mu bude dom iz čiste ljubavi prema našoj zemlji i narodu. Ne mogu da kažem da sam ja pronašla njega ili da mi je neko pričao o njemu, desilo se upravo obratno. On je pronašao mene… Umesto da prepričavam šta sam videla, toplo preporučujem svima da sami pogledaju.

Thanks Mirjana. I work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (Yes I am sleep deprived) to change the negative image of Serbs and Serbia in the world today. I will succeed. I will persist until I succeed.

American Woman Likes & Supports Serbia’s Ambassador

I have received yesterday a donation of $20 from Ms. J Tiger, a young lady from Washington, D.C., United States. I thanked her, and she replied saying:

I will be in Serbia for the first time in December and am really enjoying your website as I research and plan my trip and just gather general information about a country that is so often wrongfully portrayed in the media here. I appreciate your work and really get a lot out of the information you share. A donation was the least I could do to support your efforts.

Just great to hear that a woman in the United States likes my website, supports it by donating, and is going to visit Serbia. I would hope others will follow suit.

Serbia's Ambassador - Karl and Luna

A Day in the Life of Serbia’s Ambassador to the World… Karl Haudbourg

I recently got to spend a day with Serbia’s Ambassador to the World, Karl Haudbourg, and his 7-year-old daughter, Luna. I knew that this single father worked very hard for Serbia, but I had no idea the sacrifice he makes on a daily basis to try and make a better life for Serbs, while at the same time provide the very best life possible for his Luna. I’m not a professional writer, or journalist; in fact, I don’t even have a blog, but I felt the need to try and write something that might help the thousands of Karl’s Facebook followers understand exactly what a day in his life looks like…

Let me just preface this by saying I began my time with Karl and Luna around 3:00 PM, so the first part of the day that I’ll write about is what Karl shared with me…

Luna wakes up around 9:00 AM, and she’s full of energy and curiosity, just like any 7 year-old child. She makes coffee for her Dad and she sits with him and plays while he sips his coffee and contemplates the upcoming day…

Karl and Luna live in a modest flat in Zeleni Venac, which overlooks the Sava River. Karl spends quite a lot of time in the early part of the day straightening the flat and cleaning up toys, doing laundry, etc. Then, he and Luna go to the green market at Zeleni Venac, where they buy carrots and cucumbers and strawberries for the day :)…All the while, little Luna rides around on her scooter, while Karl follows behind. As I walked around with them, I realized that Karl has to always be on guard due to all the crazy traffic in Belgrade. I did notice that the drivers in Belgrade didn’t seem to follow too many precautions on the road, so of course, parents must always be “on guard”…And Karl has such a gift for being a Dad; he’s always so calm and kind with Luna; he’s so patient with her…Even though he has so many things on his mind (such as being Serbia’s Ambassador to the World), you would never know that he’s thinking of anything except being the very best father to his little girl. This really affected me when I saw this with my own eyes…I wasn’t sure that there were too many people left like this in our crazy world…

Later in the afternoon, Karl opens his computer and reads any posts that people might send, searches for videos about Serbia, reads and tries to respond to the hundred’s of daily emails he receives, all while Luna is playing and chatting with her father. Sometimes, she’ll go over and sit next to him and try to help him with his work. It’s so sweet the way he interacts with her, so kind and loving; something we don’t see enough of in this busy world! He also tries to schedule meetings with various institutions that might assist in helping Serbia. When he has a meeting, he puts on his suit, and he and Luna head out together to the meeting! Yes, this is true, Luna goes everywhere with Karl, and I found this to be so wonderful!!! I come from the United States, where parents are often looking for a reason to find a sitter for their children so they can go about their busy lives, but Karl’s first focus is that of being a father…

Then around 6:00 PM, Karl and Luna head out to one of Belgrade’s parks so Luna can play. Before they leave the flat, he gently brushes her hair and irons her clothes so that she looks her best! On the way to the park, they stop and Luna gets an ice cream, and then they head to the park where Karl sits on a bench and watches her play for about 2 hours. After the park, sometimes they will go to a restaurant and listen to the beautiful Serbian music, while Luna eats a bowl of cucumbers and carrots! Yes, cucumbers and carrots!! Sometimes, she even puts the carrots in a glass of water and then drinks it :).

After a couple of hours, Karl and Luna start to head home so Luna can go to sleep and Karl can work…Yes, work, and it’s late, and I know he must be exhausted after such a full day, but after Luna goes to sleep, he opens his computer and searches for ways to help Serbia’s image in the world. You see, this is very important to Karl; his purpose when he came to Serbia was to make a difference in the life of Serbs, and this is what he continues to do on a daily basis, even though he’s barely able to survive monetarily. After he writes his blog and continues to respond to all of the emails and Facebook comments, he finally goes to sleep around 3:00 AM…Yes, 3:00 AM, which means, he’s lucky to even get 6 hours of sleep each night!

To conclude, I want to say that spending this day with Karl and Luna changed my life. I saw a man who’s been mourning the death of his wife (Luna’s mother), raising Luna in the best possible way, trying to make a living, and trying to change the world’s view of Serbia. I never once heard Karl say he wanted anything for himself; I know that this is a man who truly is trying to make a difference in the lives of others. Karl is one of the kindest men I’ve ever met…Even though he has so many worries and obligations, he carries himself with such grace and dignity…and honor! Karl is an honorable man, and I feel truly blessed to have spent time with both he and Luna.

Karl needs the help of his Facebook and blog followers to survive…I would just like to ask everyone reading this, if you’ve benefited by what Karl has done for Serbia, could you try to help him out with a small donation? He dedicates his life to others, but he can’t keep doing this without money…

My hope is that you’ll help Karl to realize his dream…And as I mentioned previously, I never heard Karl one time talk about anything for himself…This is a man just trying to survive in the world and make a difference in the life of his daughter, Serbia, and the world!!!

Thank you for reading this…
Leslie Jones (Prague, Czech Republic)
I live in Prague, Czech Republic as an English teacher (I’m originally from the United States).

Serbia's Ambassador to the world - Novi Magazin

Serbia’s Ambassador To The World In Novi Magazin

On Thursday last week, a Serbian magazine called Novi Magazin (a weekly publication) had published a large article about me, my daughter, and my work on improving Serbia’s image. Many thanks to Mirjana Pantić and Zoran Raš for making this happen. So for today’s blog entry, Anna Jekich Pullinger has translated the article in to English:

I’m no spy, I simply love Serbia

Karl Haudbourg, who left his French homeland for a new life in Zeleni Venac, voluntarily took it upon himself to show the whole world that Serbia is not populated with bearded people who have never met a bar of soap. Mirjani Pantić has uncovered what motivated him to come to Serbia and start working on improving Serbia’s image.

Karl came to Belgrade from France with his now 7 year old daughter, Luna, almost 2 years ago. Karl is on a mission. He is determined to change the unenviable image Serbia has in the world, which, even a decade after democratization, has been unable to shake off the burden of the past or make any noticeable strides. Karl’s mission did not come from the French government, nor the French secret service, nor even the European Union. His self-imposed challenge is to convince foreigners that Serbia is not full of bearded men who don’t use deodorant and have never tasted chocolate. Karl took on this challenge willingly.

Karl presents himself as Serbia’s ambassador to the world. He describes his mission as not to embellish the truth, but to present the true picture of Serbia. “I have only one goal and that is to publish the truth about Serbs via the real stories of people who have become acquainted with Serbs and have seen what kind of people they really are. I want to tear down that false image that has given so many people the wrong impression.”

His main weapon for changing the way Serbia is represented abroad, especially among the young, is the internet. Karl set up a website, www.ambassador-serbia.com, where he publishes positive stories about Serbia, along with photographs and videos. The site has an average of 5,000 visitors a day, of which half are from America, about 30% from Serbia, and the rest from other countries. These are wonderful numbers, especially in view of the fact that Karl does not advertise his activities in any media and relies entirely on getting the word out via the internet, particularly through the social networking of Facebook.

“I heard as long as 8 years ago Serbian politicians talking about how the image of Serbia had to be repaired. However, it looks to me like they haven’t done anything about it.”, Karl points out, determined in his goals to bring ever more tourists to Serbia and to convince Serbs scattered all around the globe to come back and participate in the redevelopment of their homeland.

He first fell in love with Serbia, as he says, in 2002 when he watched a documentary film that presented the country realistically – it neither excessively praised, nor overly denigrated it. He became interested in the history of Serbia, the culture, the people…

He ­says he, himself, never had any prejudices about Serbia but that such was not the case with most of his compatriots who took the negative media stories on board as fact.

My previous life I spent in Serbia: In 2005 Karl visited Serbia for the first time. He spent the evening before his departure with a group of young friends who said to him, “Are you crazy? What do you want to go there for? Don’t you know that there is war in Serbia?”

He paid no attention to that kind of talk. He came here to find the friendly atmosphere and culture he had read about. “I spent a week in Belgrade. As I walked around the streets, I had a feeling that I’d been here before. Maybe this was my home in a previous life.”, explained Karl in excellent English that he spoke with a noticeable French accent.

Fifteen days after his return home, his wife started complaining about stomach pain. He took her to the hospital. What the doctor told him changed his life. He said that Caroline, Karl’s wife and Luna’s mother, had breast cancer which had metastasized. Unless she underwent immediate treatment, she would only have two weeks to live…

Karl was born in Paris where he lived for 20 years. He worked in the fashion industry for Italian and French manufacturers. As a designer he dedicated himself to creating women’s handbags. Before he came to Serbia, he lived in a small town near Bordeaux, on France’s west coast.

Caroline and Karl had been together 20 years. She was, as he says, his one true love. When she became ill he devoted himself to caring for her, trying to help her while at the same time raising their daughter. Early in 2008 Caroline lost her battle with cancer. She died in Karl’s arms.

The following year Karl decided to pack his bags and embark on a new life in Serbia with his daughter. He started learning Serbian, created his website and opened several Facebook pages to promote Serbia, including “Beautiful Belgrade” and “Beautiful Serbia.” On the former he has about 4,300 fans, but on the latter, which he created with a friend in Serbia, he has 29,300.

“I love this country very much. I fell in love with it. The people are very kind, well-intentioned, happy. Smiling and easy-going.”, says Karl. He hopes that one day he might find a new love in Serbia.

Now we are Serbs and we do what Serbs do: Karl spends his whole day replying to electronic mail, writing about interesting things in Serbia and Belgrade, about the businesses, the people…His most frequent inquiries come from potential tourists from the U.S. who want to know about Serbia with a view to visiting here. They are interested in whether the war is over and if it’s safe to come here.

“Americans think that Serbia is what they have been shown for years on CNN, and that’s not a pretty picture. I do my best to convince them to come and see for themselves. Many of them get in touch with me while they are here. They are thrilled. I don’t remember even one foreigner saying that he didn’t like Belgrade.”, says Karl and adds that it is painful to him when he sees a bad image of Serbia presented in the foreign press. He always writes to the editors abroad who publish articles infused with disinformation that undermines the image of Serbia and Belgrade.

Safety is one of the things on Karl’s list of reasons why he decided on a life in Serbia. As we were walking through Kalemegdan, Luna rode around us on her scooter. Many times she was 50 or more meters away from us, and Karl pointed to her and said : “See, in France I could never have allowed her to go off like that. I simply wouldn’t have felt it was safe.”

Luna will start school in the fall at Vladislav Ribnikar School in the Vracar district of Belgrade where some of the lessons are in French. She is gradually learning Serbian. When her dad decides to take a little break from writing about Serbia, the two of them go out together so that Luna can play. When it comes to playing with other children, not speaking Serbian is no problem for her. “Children don’t need language to understand each other when they play.”, said Karl, smiling, as he noted a 3 year old girl who at that moment was trying to climb onto Luna’s scooter.

In answer to the question about what she likes best about Belgrade, Luna said “I like everything.” Karl says that she is so at home in Serbia now that she has no desire to go to back to France for holidays, because Belgrade is so interesting to her. She feels relaxed, she’s happy. The other day they were walking down Knez Mihajlova Street and Karl suggested that they might head home since it was getting dark. Luna insisted on staying where they were. She said, “Daddy, we are Serbs now and we must do what Serbs do.” Luna had found a clever excuse to stay out longer because she had noticed that Belgraders have their children out with them even after dark. Karl and Luna’s favorite spots are Ada Ciganlija and Kalemegdan, but what gives them the most fun is museum night. They love to eat cutlets Karadjordje-style.

One question still bothered me – how does he manage to live in Serbia with what he makes from one website? Does that story hold water about how he fell in love with this country and wants to stay here always? Maybe he does work for the French Secret Service or is an agent for the CIA?

For the time being, he replies, he has to live on his savings. In December of last year he added a donation link to his website so that people could support his activities. So far he has received 10 donations totalling 425 euros. He can receive donations only from abroad because the payments go through PayPal, which is not an option in Serbia. In May he enabled donations via SMS messages, so that citizens of Serbia could help out. The website displays all the donation information. If he is unable to realize enough financial support from the website and promoting Serbia, he will have to search for another way to get an income because, either way, he wants to remain here.­­­­

But the CIA? No, Karl says he has no connection to them, nor has anyone in Serbia ever been suspicious that he might be an agent. His story is unusual and it’s hard for us to comprehend that a foreigner would move to Serbia because he sincerely loves this country. Somehow we are more used to people falling in love with America, Great Britain or Spain and moving there. But Serbia, never. Maybe we, ourselves, don’t have the best opinion of the country in which we live and don’t believe it’s possible that to someone else it can be the ideal place. The smiles on Karl’s and Luna’s faces as they stroll through Belgrade speak otherwise. It’s possible.