March 3, 2022
Nikita on film, Split, February 26, 2022.
I arrived in Split on Friday afternoon. Nikita was waiting for me on Katalinić hill, from which there was a beautiful view of the Split archipelago and its islands. For me, a Zagreb-born with a few drops of Dalmatian blood, joy fills my face as I see Jadrolinija's ferry sailing towards Šolta. That Friday was Nikita's last training session of the week at the Marjan taekwondo club, where, after representing the Swedish national team, she arrived to represent Croatia. Nikita won fourth place at the 2016 Olympics, the same year she was second at the European Championships, and a year later, she won bronze at the World Championships... She was – and still is – successful in what she does. And what she does, she loves.
Nikita Glasnović is a Swedish with Croatian origins living in Split who cooks, trains, and tries to be better every day. At least, that's how she describes herself, quite modestly and inconspicuously. In her company, you will always be inspired by conversations about beautiful things, and you will talk about the good in others without mentioning evil and arrogance. Nikita is simple, disciplined, and so unique that pages and pages could be written about her. But this time, after the weekend spent in her Split, along with all the conversations that friends expect, we talked about style and clothing, an important (albeit only one) part of what makes her special.
After the sun began to hide behind the island, we set off on her scooter towards Nikita's new apartment. While she was showing me parts of Split on the way, I was counting the graffiti dedicated to Hajduk (the iconic football team, and I counted five in 100 meters!), holding the suitcase with my feet so it wouldn't fall out. When we arrived in Žnjan, we entered the apartment she had decorated with her Olivier, a chef from Switzerland and the Dominican Republic. My view continued to reach towards the sea, which is so clearly visible from her living room, and she told me that on beautiful days you could see the island Vis (but I'm not complaining that on that Friday, the view only reached Brač island). Suddenly Nikita started cooking; she prepared her famous šalša (a traditional tomatoes sauce), well-kept in the glass jar labelled Šalša 2021, tomatoes from Ankica and Vlado. She buys fruit and vegetables from them – Tomorrow, you will meet them at the market!
During dinner and unforgettable September tomatoes, Nikita tells me about life with sport or sport with life... It is difficult for her to separate the two because she has been involved in sports since an early age, which is why she is grateful for the discipline and motivation that sports taught her. She tells me – The reason I am the way I am is the result of hard everyday life in which sport is the most important, followed by everything else... She dislikes sports stereotypes, which she claims she has always avoided. She aspired to be more than an athlete because she felt stereotyped as a girl only interested in sports. Instead of breaking that stereotype, she chose to embrace everything she is, and she now proudly declares herself to be a professional athlete. However, she requires something that will divert her attention away from sports, at least partially.
She studies online following the Swedish university model, enrols in something new every semester, and does not like to be defined by one profession. She told me, with the tone of someone who enjoys learning, that she attended various studies, from art, sports psychology, rhetoric, Croatian and German to wine studies. In the end, this form of education does not give her a diploma, but she tells me that "paper" was never important to her, but that by choosing new things, she remains creative and free. – I give myself space to develop in any direction because the training is so repetitive, and I have been doing the same thing for years, so for me, college is a place where I can develop my creativity. She is pursuing a degree in art and visual studies, which she believes she will complete. She enjoys discovering Croatian visual artists, and thus, she says, gets to know Croatian culture. To the hateful question that Nikita has been hearing repeatedly for years – what will you do after your sports career – she confidently answers – You know what, I have no idea! Do we have to be defined only by what we make money from? and, after a brief pause, she continues – I have such a character that I can do everything I want... I know I will succeed.
After going to Pazar on Saturday morning (where I met Vlado), we started talking about style, clothing, and what I was so interested in. I start with the following: What is your definition of style, and how do you perceive it? (At the same time, I purposefully avoided mentioning clothing style as one of the style concepts because I wanted her to tell me what came to mind). Nikita responds: – It's a lot of things, but when I think of that word, I think of culture... She pauses, thinks, and adds – of a person who stands tall, a proud person. I envision someone who possesses detailed knowledge but is not required to demonstrate it, someone who is not required to prove himself. Finally, this is someone who gives a lot, tells stories, and is always curious. Nikita sees style in modesty, knowledge, what we have and what we know, but it is unimportant to us that others recognize it as well. Then she discusses her clothing style, which she describes as functional and comfortable. I've learned what works for me and what makes me happy over the years... It is important to me that it looks nice and that I am comfortable, but the most important aspect is that it is neat. Even though her mother had a completely different style, she loved colours and was eccentric; she says she owes her style to her mother. But she seemed proud, and Nikita inherited that trait from her. Like most of her wardrobe. I wonder if her clothing style has changed, to which she responds – it changes constantly, every day... Because I am constantly changing... It depends on how I feel; clothing is a feeling we use to communicate our beliefs, she concludes.
Dressing up is a game for Nikita. She approaches it with ease and enjoys it. She enjoys dressing up and deciding what outfits are appropriate for which occasion. Especially since, as she puts it, "80% of the time I'm in sports clothes," the remaining 20% of the time she wants to feel good and dressed up. Nikita's grooming is never overemphasized or direct. She is as subtle as the style she described earlier. She emphasizes only one thing when she dresses up. – If I'm wearing something that is not special, I want my hair to be lovely. But if I'm wearing a nice dress and shoes, I don't draw attention to my hair... I balance... I try not to look like I've worked too hard; I enjoy an effortless style. Nikita confirms this laid-back attitude by stating that we don't need to buy new clothes every season: I have things that my mother wore, and that's genius... You can wear the same shirt in multiple seasons. Similarly, why can't you wear a dress you've already worn to a wedding? Give it new life and a completely different look. It’s all a game. After all, she claims this is the message she conveys through her clothing: style is distinct from what is fashionable.
Suddenly, we go through her closet together. While taking out individual garments, she recounts what binds her to them. She mostly has her mother's things that she inherited, jewellery, jackets, bags, shoes... It's difficult for her to let go of some things because they hold many memories for her, and some she proudly wears again and again. I asked her to select one item that is made to last. She starts to think, looks at what she has, and after a while, she asks me – Can I choose ceramics and not clothes? – Certainly! I respond as we enter the kitchen, where Nikita proudly begins to pull out her favourite long-lasting pieces. Just like clothes, pottery ties her to her mother. – After the Olympics, I wanted to do something other than training, I wanted to get away for a bit, so my mom took me to a ceramics class, which she often went to. Our entire kitchen was equipped with things that mom made, she loved it, and we were proud; we used them every day... Nikita soon fell in love with ceramics, with the peace that this activity brings and the concentration it requires, with something that was once her mother’s, and then it became shared. The memories are even stronger because Nikita's mother passed away a little over a year ago. – What makes ceramics made to last is the fact that it is art, but art that is used. Recently in college we talked about how paintings in museums deteriorate over time due to humidity and bad conditions... But wait, is the purpose of paintings to be viewed or kept under controlled conditions? Ceramics are part of socializing; they are stories from memories that create new ones – For example, when I put it on the table, and someone asks me where I got that bowl from, I could talk about it for hours...
With the storm's strengthening, the weekend is coming to an end. Nikita balances again with my suitcase on the scooter, we drive around the city under Marjan, and she tells me – I've made a lot of progress since I moved here... I came alone and created a new world. Already tomorrow, she returns to the daily rhythm with two training sessions, continues to cook, paint, and bake several types of sourdough bread and strives to be better every day. Simple people are my favourite, I've realized.