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The scourge of Serbia, and I’m sure the entire former Yugoslavia, is called promaja.  It cannot be seen, it can be felt, and sometimes smelled, depending on the temperature and if you’re standing by a dumpster.  What could such a destructive force possibly be you might ask?  It is a cross breeze.  That terrible feeling of a cool breeze on hot, moist skin on a stale humid day.  Typically, most Americans will open a window on a hot day in order to get the air moving and perhaps cool things down in a stuffy apartment.  The act of opening the window alone is enough to send the average Serb running for the hospital with neck pains.  Promaja is widley known as the silent killer.

I was first introduced to this terrible afliction this past May while on vacation in Serbia with my wife and her family.  The first run in was with her uncle, in his car, on the way to Belgrade.  Let me set this up.  Long plane ride.  Hot airport.  Long line at customs.  Hot day outside.  Get in hot car.  Leave windows up for the 30 minute ride.  No A/C.  All because of promaja!  It was horrible.  Horrible!  I made the mistake of cracking the window and Uncle V was slowly inching it back up.  Someone in the back seat must have seen the look on my face so I was told the horrible secret.

This is no joke.  My wife has two cousins in the area and BOTH were on workmans comp for pains suffered from promaja.  One is a cop.  He was off for 4 weeks at the time I met him because he had to drive his cruiser with the window open, and the breeze left him with a pain and stiffness in his neck.  Oviously he couldn’t serve and protect with a stiff neck.  The idea that he went to his superiors and gave this as reason, AND THEY GRANTED HIM THE TIME OFF, still amazes me.  I’m thinking of trying it after New Year’s and seeing what happens.

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9 thoughts on “Pro-my-uh

  1. I think we should seriously consider the consequences of not looking into the validity of this phenomena! Clearly a devastating condition like promaja that can be cause so easily and result in 4 weeks off likely with pay… needs to be investigated.
    I think we should do some stateside studies requiring grants, funding, and of course paid time off. An anthropological study is essential.
    🙂 Shawna

  2. I’ve been married to a Serb for a few years now and Promaja is still one of the most baffling issues we argue about. Whether it is an open window in a car (even just a millimeter or two) to even the most docile breeze, a Serb will think it will lead to some deadly sickness.

    My most memorable story regarding Promaja is my last trip back to Belgrade: it was 40 degrees Celsius so the aunt finally turned on the small portable fan; she blew it directly into a wall. It did absolutely nothing to create a breeze or move any of the stifling-hot air around; to this day I have no idea what this fan was suppose to do to “cool” the house down. In fact, I’m surprised they actually OWN a fan. Come morning, I tried to create a cross-breeze by opening the patio door and my bedroom window and placing the fan to blow some of the cool morning air into the house. Hopefully all is forgiven/forgotten and I’m welcome back.

  3. It’s a common belief here in Croatia too, though called “propuh”. I’ve argued with my wife about it and she’s half convinced, but it still causes her pain on her head and neck if there’s a breeze directly on her. I think it’s psychosomatic. They believe, so it really does effect them. We don’t, so it doesn’t effect us.

  4. Hey 🙂 I live in Belgrade and I think anyone can get sick by standing in the cold wind, and that’s what promaja is when it gets inside of the house. And as a proof of its real existence and devastation, there are broken windows at my home in Igalo, Montenegro. There are three doors, first one on one side of the house that lead to a hallway to the middle door. The middle door leads through a big room and through the third door to a balcony(DOOR-hallway-DOOR-big room-DOOR). This way there is promaja when all three doors are open and it usually slams one of the doors, and all doors have a glass window near the ceiling. It is interesting as it happens regularly no mater if there is wind outside or not.

  5. Хахахаха! This is great! Just bump into your blog searching for something and now I am looking forward to read more! Regards from Belgrade! 🙂

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