My friend Sreto Borojević, who died aged 56-years-old last October, was a refugee from the break up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.
He eventually came to settle in Fitzrovia where he worked as a caretaker at a mansion block, a children’s playground, and as a volunteer care worker.
He became a well-known personality in the neighbourhood, earning a reputation as a kind, loyal and generous friend to a great many people.
Always an early riser he would love to experience the city as it awoke. From his home in Newman Street he would be up and out before 5am through the back door to Rathbone Street, across Charlotte and Goodge Streets, enjoying a brisk walk through the quiet of the early hour while day broke, witnessing the neighbourhood as it came to life.
Heading for his first cup of coffee of the day up Tottenham Court Road to Warren Street he would greet early morning workers, street sweepers clearing up the discarded remains of the night before; some of the many people who would become his friends, sharing the news, talking about football, and about what was going on in the world.
Sitting in a cafe in Tottenham Street — he was usually the first customer through the door at 6am — he would open two or more papers. Intellectual and worldly-wise he would scour The Times and The Guardian for news about the Balkans, sport, and the lives of those who live on in the obituaries.
Then he would set about to work on the many duties he took on. Shopping and caring for a friend, walking dogs, feeding cats, ensuring the residents under his care had what they needed, that post was sorted, rubbish removed, gates unlocked, then later locked, and that the daily maintenance was attended to.
Taking a break he would seek out a cafe for a late breakfast. Perhaps later in the day a short drink in a pub. Always making time to greet and chat with the owners and workers wherever he was.
He would keep in touch with friends and family sending photos from his phone of himself in places with food, drink, dogs, cats, people. Passing comment on life with his own inimitable humour.
As he hurried crisscrossing the West End districts on a chore he would take note of the many changes and movements of urban life — new neighbours, new businesses, shops and cafes opening and closing. New friends to make.
Always busy but always looking out for others. Now dearly missed but fondly remembered.
Sreto was born in Split, a city on the Adriatic coast in what was then Croatia, one of the six republics of The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and what is today the independent Republic of Croatia.
His parents were Marija (neé Barac) and Đuro Borojević. They had four children. Three girls: Kosa, Danica, and Dragica; and one boy, Sreto who was the youngest. Kosa died in July 2022. Danica and Dragica live in Split.
Sreto completed his early education and medical college in Split. He qualified as a medical nurse in 1983 and was then called to complete his obligatory one year of national army service.
He then started to work at his local hospital. Although his medical expertise was in the field of physiotherapy, he worked as a medical technician in the pathology department until the start of the war in 1991 which led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia.
He then flew from Belgrade to London, and then travelled to Edinburgh. His initial idea was to look for a work as a physiotherapist, but he instead enrolled at the University of Edinburgh where he completed a BA (Hons) in Sociology.
From Edinburgh he moved to London where did a variety of jobs and living at various addresses before eventually working as a caretaker at Lancaster Court in Newman Street and where he also made his home.
Although he led a busy life he always made time to visit his homeland Croatia at least once a year. And it was to Croatia that his body was returned and where his funeral was held.
Sreto Borojević: born Split, 20 October 1966; died London, 22 October 2022.