Our hearts are broken today under the weight of the sorrow felt by the loss of our dearly beloved Aleksandra Vesić Antić, co-founder of Catalyst Balkans, who passed away this past Thursday.

Known as Sandra to some and Alex to others, to all of us at Catalyst Balkans, she was our friend, advisor, visionary, moral compass, critic, philanthropy architect, teacher, role model and biggest supporter. To many of you reading this, you experienced her also as an activist, feminist, strategic planner, board member, program evaluator, mentor, proposal reviewer, individual donor, and a consistent voice of integrity that made you want to be a better human being.

She was a straight talker, and you always knew what she was thinking in the moment that she thought it. She was a hand holder in difficult times, and a gentle voice that could bring back optimism. But that voice was also strong and piercing enough to wake you up from apathy and back you back on track of her clear and contagious vision.

Excellence and exactness were not just aspirational standards, but something that she achieved time and time again in everything that she was involved with. She invested her life in the promotion of human rights in a broader sense, always true to her principles and full of deep understanding for the needs of the marginalized. She was a voice to be listened to and if it wasn’t heard, she didn’t hesitate to speak louder until it was heard.

Aleksandra was energetic, empathetic, brave, understanding, brilliant, principled, perfectionist, workaholic, fierce and gentle at the same time, witty, self-correcting, and humble, always three steps ahead. While she didn’t have a problem saying no, she in fact rarely did. She helped us solve our problems and created new solutions when existing ones weren’t working. She listened to us and laughed with us, and her smile was wonderful. She pushed us to strive for more and to expect more from ourselves, while setting the highest standards for herself.

She possessed a self-confidence to think that she was right all of the time and, while it’s not easy to admit, she was really right most of the time. For that reason, she was in great demand, always ready to dispense advice over the phone or sit across from you at Hotel Zira or Madera and walk you through whatever issue you were encountering. She would tell you where you have gone wrong, and more importantly, what you can do to fix it. Of course, with a cigarette in hand.

The countless methodologies, strategies, approaches, regulations, draft laws, open letters, petitions, research papers, texts, evaluations, processes, and systems that she authored or conceived of, whether credited by name or not, stand as the testimony of her vast and deep contribution to the interlinked worlds of civic activism, philanthropy development and feminist thought and action in Serbia, in the Western Balkans and indeed the world.

Despite our sorrow, we know that Alex would expect us to carry on with the work, get it done on time, impeccably, as she always inspired us to achieve. It was not easy to write these lines – we were maybe a bit too long and openly emotional, but our realization of true greatness that she represented is so strong, and the loss irreparable.

We carry on with full hearts and give honor to her life and the way she lived it. She calls us all to be more active, more engaged, better thinkers, and to demonstrate with our actions the words that come out of our mouths. Without that, words are empty…and Aleksandra never uttered an empty word in her amazing and accomplished life.

Alex… Sandra… you were known for your (sharp) wit and appreciation of (dark) humor, so rather than say goodbye, we thank you for being our (drama) queen.  We still feel you (looking over our shoulders) and can still very clear hear you when you (wryly) say, ‘OK, let’s just move on’. And so we will.

Together with other organizations that have been impacted by Aleksandra, we are looking for a way to design a commemoration in her spirit. We will publish more information soon, and we hope that you will join us to share memories together of how Alex affected our lives.

If you would like to honor her life, we suggest two ways:

  • Donate to the Fond „Sami Čamdžić za sretno djetinjstvo”, in which Alex was involved in suggesting, advocating for and donating to after a colleague in BIH suffered the tragic loss of their son.
  • Consider supporting a scholarship/fellowship fund that will soon be announced that will honor and nurture Alex’s values of solidarity, equal opportunities, equality, freedom, and integrity.