Georgina Đuka Tesla, Nikola Tesla’s mother, was born as Đuka Mandić in the village Tomingaj in 1822 into the family of Serbian orthodox priest Nikola Mandić (1800-1863), after whom Tesla got his name, and Sofija Mandić (born Budisavljević) from Gračac in Lika.
Georgina came from one of the oldest families in the area, a line of inventors, and was a typical woman of her time, in the sense that her position in society was humble.
Her father and grandfather had invented many tools for the household, agriculture and other purposes. She was the eldest of eight siblings and had to take care of the younger children after their mother’s death, and as such was the only one who did not go to school.
Despite everything, Tesla’s mother was a truly capable woman, of rare skill, courage and strength of character, who weathered every storm and overcame many difficult trials.
Tesla called his mother a first-class inventor and believed that she would have achieved so much more and developed her gifts if she had not been so separated from contemporary life and its possibilities.
He always spoke of her in an elated way, and emphasised that, much like him, she had the gift of discovery, a gift he considered he had gotten from her.
Geogina Đuka Tesla worked tirelessly from dawn to late at night, managed to discover various devices in the household, and she was renowned for her expert craftsmanship. She invented and crafted various tools and devices, and she weaved beautiful designs with threads she had spun herself. Even past the age of sixty, her fingers remained nimble enough to tie three knots on an eyelash. Geogina Đuka sowed seeds, grew plants and separated fibers, so a large part of the clothes and furniture in the house were her own work.
It is well known that she perfected braiders and used what she made to clothe her entire family. She was also very imaginative and decorated the clothes in creative ways.
When you look at photographs of her daughters Milka, Angelina and Marica, there is nothing rural about them, they display an image of tastefully clothed citizens of their time, and it is assumed that this is because of their mother’s efforts.
Even though she did not know how to read, Georgina was very wise and interested in poetry.
Nikola Tesla definitely inherited many of her abilities, one of them being her excellent memory. She was also ingenious, a good psychologist and a spontaneous educator. When young Tesla fell into gambling, she told him „Go, Nikola, have fun! The sooner you lose everything we have, the better. I know you’ll get over it then.“
After hearing those words, Nikola decided to get rid of his addiction, and spent his entire life training and strengthening his willpower. That same strength of will allowed him to remove himself from the pleasures of modern life: entertainment, women and cashing in on the patents that others milked to have a pleasant life.
When giving lectures in Paris, Tesla heard the news that his mother was seriously ill, so he cancelled his lectures and went to Gospić. He was fortunate to find her alive and say goodbye.
She died on 4 April 1892 at the age of 71.
By: Antonija Pokrajčić
Cover photo: Wikipedia