Michelyn Camen, Editor in Chief of CaFleureBon asked me to write about my fragrant awakening, and I accepted the challenge.

Cafleurebon Fragrant Awakening

Here’s the text I wrote for Cafleurebon / Fragrant Awakenings:

I am grateful to her for pushing&enabling me to write my story down in 800 words and spill my heart out.

It was painful and liberating at the same time to write about this, let alone see it published: this was my “down-the-niche perfumes-rabbit hole-moment”! It all started with Comme des Garçons, EdP 1995 in London

I was born in a small town in central Bosnia. Well before time, underweight, feet first. The first photos of me show an extremely skinny, wrinkled, jaundice-yellow face with a prominent thin, long nose. I lived, the nose didn’t change that much.

Elena Cvjetkovic The Plum Girl - growing up, age 7

My parents were on a mission called “connecting to Nature with all senses“, making my first olfactory memories reach far behind garden flowers. I sniffed crushed bugs on the windshield of our car, molehills, brown forest frogs, porcini, and pheasant poop among other things.

Summertime meant weeks spent at the coast of the Adriatic Sea, learning to pick Mediterranean herbs, taking out pine tar stuck in my hair, catching crickets, licking sea salt found on rocks, and memorizing 1001 different fragrant notes of the Sea.

When I was sixteen I received a present from my parents – my first bottle of perfume. Later on, new bottles came 2-3 times a year. I was wearing YSL Rive Gauche Opium and Lancôme Magie Noire in the 1970s and Guerlain’s Nahema was the first fragrance I purchased on my own in 1980. I traveled a lot, studied hard, and the ’80s were just as intense as perfumes from that decade.

I remember well the day I held a bottle of the newly released Lancome Tresor in my hands in 1991. That Tresor bottle, and what was left of any other perfume I had, lasted me for five years. 1.916 days and one night to be exact, from Easter in 1991 to New Year’s Eve in 1995, from the beginning until the end of the brutal Independence War in Croatia.

You see, when you are well aware that in any given moment you might lose all your material possessions and probably your life as well, priorities shift.

Wearing perfume during nights spent in underground shelters wasn’t an option. Buying perfume? Oh, Cafleurebon – this was inappropriate and unaffordable luxury.  Contents of my purse were limited to survival basics: a bottle of water, one chocolate bar, a small box of crackers, ID and the health insurance card, a small transistor, and yes, red lipstick. One little thing to preserve sanity. This is what covers your needs in case of a general danger or air-strike alert and subsequent stay in moldy old underground shelters, smelling of breath, hair, skin, and sweat of a bunch of strangers stuck together for who knows how long.

I’ve learned what fear, uncertainty, shock, destruction, and pain smell like. And yet, I worked, traveled, functioned, lived, and loved. You adapt. La vita e bella.

My fragrant awakening, dear Cafleurebon, took place in London, in early 1995.I was on a business trip and remember having exactly 20 pounds in my pocket (a fortune!) when I headed toward London City. It felt so strange to walk those streets again after almost five years, so surreal. The City hasn’t changed. I have. The aimless walk took me to a place I found soothing: a perfumery. There it was. The first Comme des Garcons, EDP 1994 release! It took me a couple of minutes to gather the courage to enter the store, more to ask to test the perfume. I knew I couldn’t afford it. It happened: I had never smelled anything like it.

You can find the complete text on the Çafleurebon website here !

Thank you for all your comments, you made me cry. I keep thinking about how perfumes connect us! I’m looking forward to reading YOUR fragrant awakenings!

The Plum Girl

Elena Cvjetkovic



Write A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.