Zeynep, one of our guest bloggers, used to see this lady, Gordana Naslas, every time she went to the gym. There was something about Gordana that always fascinated Zeynep. Apart from the obvious fitness for her age, Zeynep was just so intrigued by her. One day Zeynep saw her walk past her place of work so she plucked up courage to say good morning and find out more. Since that initial meeting Zeynep has struck up a friendship with Gordana and is very admiring of Gordana’s simplistic but very sincere outlook on life. Gordana is very determined in her approach to life and each new phase she embraces and makes the most of. I think there is much that we can learn from this wonderful lady.
First of all can you tell the CountryWives readers a little about your background and how you came to be in Henley? I was born in ‘Yugoslavia’ in 1932. I trained to be an architect at the University of Belgrade in 1956. My husband was also an architect. As Finland is famous for its architecture, we moved there in 1964 where we lived for two and a half years. I have also lived in Berlin. When the time came to go home, we thought why not go via the UK, and we fell in love with it that’s why, many years later, I am still here. After living in Richmond, Sheffield, a brief period in Bracknell and Marlow, I finally moved to Henley-on-Thames in 1982. I divorced in 1986. We have one son who is a musician and lives in Henley too.
I have always worked for local authorities as an architect. My last employment was with Bracknell Borough Council where I was made redundant. Since I was close to 60 I thought why not concentrate on my hobby. I have always enjoyed art. During my London years I attended pottery classes. My first exhibition of collage and pottery took place a year after I was made redundant. Selling half of my artwork encouraged me to concentrate on that and create more artwork. I have since decided to try different methods. I did a summer course in printing in Edinburgh and so I started printing after that. I then joined another course in Wimbledon to do glass work. I have continued to do this every summer for five or six years. I really enjoyed it; ideas just came and I combined glass and collage; collage and printing. Whatever I find around I make things with such as leftover frames, willow tree branches, coat hangers etc. I give different names to my artwork which I think makes them interesting.
I used to have an allotment and won the Best Allotment Award in 2011 but I had to give it up when the next allotment was taken over by a person who decided to use weed killer! I am part of Henley Arts and Crafts Guild and Reading Guild of Artists. We have a few exhibitions every year.
How have you changed since turning 50? I am 86 but I feel 55. I changed when I divorced and started to live on my own. After I retired my life has changed for the better. I am free. My ex-husband had given me a summer house in Croatia but I sold it. Why go to the airports? Here I feel I am on holiday every day.
What do you do in your free time? I prepare for the exhibitions so I am very busy. I also take photographs. Everything around me inspires me; whatever I look at I get ideas from.
How are you with modern technology? I detest technology because I am frightened of doing something wrong. It stresses me out and confuses me. But despite that I even went to college to learn how to use the computer. The teacher assumed we all had previous knowledge and I did not learn anything. Still, I tried to use my computer but the screen went upside down. My neighbour managed to sort it. I have a mobile for when I drive and in case of emergencies. No one knows my number. If anyone wants to contact me I have a landline and and an address!
What are your fashion or beauty tips? I buy all my clothes from charity shops and my creams from Pound Shops. I always wash my face with olive soap and never use any make up. There is a book called ‘100 Faces of Henley’ where there is a photo of me. They wanted to put make up on my face but I refused! I also cut and colour my own hair.
What do you like to eat and drink? I enjoy eating simple foods like fruits, eggs, cheese on toast etc but I have a sweet tooth. I love chocolate, biscuits, Halva, traditional pastries. I am a vegetarian but I eat fish, never cook it though for it smells. I like it if someone makes it for me. I drink milk and water, never wine. My face goes red, I never enjoyed drinking alcohol.
What books do you like to read? I do not have a habit of reading but there is a book that really moved me to tears. It is called Chernobyl Strawberries by Vesna Goldsworthy. She writes about life in Yugoslavia and England, comparing the two. I could picture everything she was talking about.
Do you enjoy television? I used to go to the cinema but now I am on holiday. I enjoy watching all kinds of sports on TV. I don’t understand how people can enjoy TV series when the language is so bad. This is the same problem I have with comedians. They make jokes and laugh at other people’s expense which I do not like.
What is your musical taste? I love classical music and I used to have so many records but I gave them all away. I don’t listen to music anymore maybe because it brings back so many memories. You cannot do the same things all your life. People change, circumstances change.
What can you not live without? I cannot live without my art and physical activities. I go to the gym 5 days a week and swim too. Sometimes I have an extra swim over the weekend. I have been doing this since I turned 70 years.
Who are you most grateful to? I owe everything to God – he has given me so much. I am grateful for my faith. We all go through hard times and I know I can find a way out with God’s help.
What is your tip for other women? Always look on the bright side as there is always hope.
For previous Woman of the Week click HERE