Vladana Likar-Smiljanić (Serbian Cyrillic: Владана Ликар-Смиљанић) (born July 18, 1943) made a variety of contributions, most famously as an illustrator of children’s books but also in electrical engineering. Vladana’s versatility was foreseen in her childhood, as Leonardo da Vinci has fascinated her since then.
Vladana is among the best-known illustrators in the former Yugoslavia, where she illustrated children’s books that were sold in hundreds thousands of copies. Exact numbers of sold copies are hard to know due to the unruly nature of the Balkans especially in uncertain political times. Vladana’s books were sold also in Spain, Italy, the United States, Germany, Soviet Union. Initially, she became well known for her page “Cica’s Corner” in a popular Yugoslav magazine for entertainment. Vladana’s first and most famous book is “The Treasury of Children’s Poems by Jova Jovanović Zmaj”. This book alone was sold in several hundreds thousands copies. After her successful debut, Vladana illustrated more than twenty books that were almost as popular as her first book. She was collecting counting songs for the hide and seek game of many nations, and illustrated those in one of her favorites “Counting Songs”. Vladana both wrote and illustrated her last book “Princess Milly” that was devoted to her younger daughter Milče. Milče was somewhat frightened little girl, and the stories of this book were weaved to encourage her to handle whatever situations she would encounter.
Vladana’s “real” job were teaching and researching at the School of Electrical Engineering of Belgrade University. She was a popular teacher. For her research, she was examining the properties of various materials, in particular their complex permeability and permittivity at high frequencies. She published quite a few papers in the prestigious international journals. Vladana is a coauthor of two textbooks in the area of microwave communications.
Vladana’s political work during Milošević governance in Serbia is another aspect of her contribution to the society. It was noted by Human Rights Watch, and Helsinki Committee for Human Rights. Finally, Vladana became a director of the computing center at the School of Electrical Engineering of Belgrade University in 2001, that was quite devastated at the time by the anti-university politics during the previous decade. Vladana helped the computing center reach the world standard.
Modern times of narrow professional specializations did not influence Vladana, she is persistent following the Da Vinci polymathic way (art+engineering+politics).
Vladana became proficient in drawing, painting and sculpture. However, Vladana decided to enroll electrical engineering at Belgrade University. However, Vladana never quit drawing. First, she was drawing cartoons for the popular students’ magazine “Electron”. While working for "Electron", Vladana met her husband Mića. This love was lasting, and it is still going on. Vladana had passed the course for a tailor, and was illustrating the fashion patterns for the magazine “Practical Woman.” As a part of this work, Vladana illustrated the cook book that was sponsored by the magazine. After she completed her degree on time, she became a teaching assistant at the School of Electrical Engineering of Belgrade University and made a break in drawing.
Vladana gave a birth to her daughter Aleksandra in 1970, and found a new inspiration in illustrating Aleksandra and her little friends. So, soon she became an illustrator of a well known magazine for youth “Politika Entertainer”. She had been working for the magazine for the next twenty one years. In 1973, the editors of “Politika Entertainer” recommended Vladana to illustrate “The Treasury of Children’s Poems by Jova Jovanović Zmaj”. This was a breakthrough of Vladana’s career as an illustrator of children’s book. Book has been sold in hundreds thousands copies and continues to be the best-seller of all times. After the treasury, Vladana illustrated more than twenty books for children: “Sparrow Rayko”, “Most Beautiful Fables”, “Counting Songs”, “For Your Birthday”, "Princess Milly" and others. At the same time, she was teaching and researching at the School of Electrical Engineering. She defended her Ph.D. thesis in the area of optical communications.
The long steady state in Vladana’s life as anyone else’s in Yugoslavia was interrupted when Slobodan Milošević came to power. Difficult time had come, and had been lasting for more than a decade. This was a call for Vladana to become politically engaged for the first time in her life. When Milošević posted unreasonable people to lead the opposing university, Vladana did not want to sign the new “Law on University” and was not let to the building of the school for two years. She started the correspondence with the list of a thousand alumni around the world (most of whom were her former students), informing them about the events of those dark times. The correspondence was published in “An E-mail has Arrived”. This book is filled with the emotions and the accurate descriptions of the last phase of the Milošević regime. Vladana’s political engagement was reported by Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, and other non-government organizations. When Milošević was ousted, Vladana returned to the university. In 2001, she became a director of the computing center of the School of Electrical Engineering. The alumni have helped Vladana to build the new computing center according to the standards of the developed world.