[Archived News] Friday July 18, 2008


By Rachel Conway, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Not long ago, someone referred to Milana Bizic, of Moon, as a Serbian warrior.

The outgoing and ever jovial retired Edgeworth Elementary School librarian laughed because she actually liked the moniker.
"When they called me a Serbian warrior, I thought that was an accomplishment," she said.

Ms. Bizic, who is known as Mim, has spent a lifetime celebrating her Serbian heritage and this weekend, those who share that heritage will celebrate Ms. Bizic, 66, as she is named the Serb National Federation Person of the Year during an annual gathering in Pittsburgh.

The federation, based in Pittsburgh, was started more than 100 years ago to help steel-working Serbian immigrants buy insurance.

It supports the building of churches here and in Serbia and provides Serbian Americans the opportunity to gather and share their heritage, Ms. Bizic said.

"I don't feel it's just my award," Ms. Bizic said. "It's a reflection of all the people who came before me and all the people who are going to come after me."

Both sets of Ms. Bizic's grandparents came to the United States from Serbia and she was raised by Serbian parents on the South Side of Pittsburgh.

Her father, Milan Karlo, was editor of the American Serbian newspaper Srbobran for years and also wrote a book, "Early Days: Serbian Pioneers in America."

"Our parents taught us we were American first, last and always, but we should always remember our Serbian heritage," Ms. Bizic said.

And she has. Ms. Bizic, whose great uncle was a founding member of the federation, has been a lifelong member.
She was instrumental in preparing the historical photo display for the federation's 100th anniversary celebration in 2001, is a contributing writer for Srbobran and has started her own Web site, www.babamim.com, dedicated to all things Serbian.

When she retired from the Quaker Valley School District in 2004, Ms. Bizic dedicated a small percentage of any remaining retirement funds to the Serb National Federation in the event of her death and also has taken out a small life insurance policy naming the federation as beneficiary.

In a tribute written in 2006, the late Larry Maravich, a former Aliquippa School District superintendent, called Ms. Bizic, " . . the irrepressible, unflinching and dedicated High Priestess of Serbian Orthodoxy; Matriarch of Serbian Ethnicity and Duchess of Serbian Culture in all its dimensions. . . ."

That she will receive her award Sunday, 46 years to the day she met her late husband, Gus, makes the honor even more special, Ms. Bizic said.

Ms. Bizic's son, Nick, and his wife, Dana and their daughter, 18-month-old Jocelyn, came in from Houston for the presentation.
Ms. Bizic said she wants to leave her granddaughter with a rich legacy of what it means to be of Serbian descent.

"What she'll get is built-in love and protection. No matter where she goes in the world, if she meets another Serbian, she will be instantly embraced."

Ms. Bizic said she's deeply touched by the federation's Person of the Year award and that people see her as a Serbian warrior, ambassador and matriarch of Serbian ethnicity.

Nothing, however, beats her favorite title.

"Baba," she said, which means "grandmother" in Serbian.