image source, Getty Imagesimage captionJohn Challis, best known for his portrayal of Boycie in Only Fools and Horses, had applied for Serbian citizenship

There is a place in Belgrade which will always carry an echo of Peckham.

Deputy Mayor Goran Vesic has not yet identified the precise location – but he revealed that Serbia's capital will name a road in honour of John Challis, who played Boycie in the long-running BBC sitcom, Only Fools and Horses.

"It's the only way to repay a man who loved our country and loved our city," said Mr Vesic, within hours of the announcement that Mr Challis had died at the age of 79.

The love was more than reciprocated. Only Fools and Horses remains a cultural phenomenon in Serbia – and the other countries which formerly comprised Yugoslavia.

They call it "Mucke" – the first syllable sounds like "much", the second rhymes with "meh" – which means something like "Dodgy Dealings". The show still seems to be on constant repeat. And because it is subtitled rather than dubbed, everyone knows the English title and catchphrases.

image captionBelgrade's deputy mayor said a street will be named in honour of Challis, pictured here playing Boycie (L)

Physiotherapist Zeljko Djekic used to regale me with a cheery cry of "lovely jubbly!" at a clinic among the concrete blocks of New Belgrade. Now he says the architectural similarities to Peckham – where the show is set in London – are just one of the reasons why the antics of the Trotter brothers resonate so strongly in Serbia.

"Only Fools and Horses is my childhood," he says. "There's still a framed poster of Del Boy, Rodney and Boycie in the bedroom my brother and I shared growing up. Del Boy is a dreamer – and in Serbia, there are a lot of dreamers."

Others in Belgrade felt a mixture of sadness and affection, following the loss of the man behind Boycie.

"I am so sorry because he was an amazing actor and I think he was a great man," said 32-year-old Dragana Pavlovic.

"Our mentality is similar," said 41-year-old Jelena Kraljevic, "the ways we manage to make ends meet and our wish to become millionaires."

The show's enduring popularity in the region sometimes surprises its actors. Nicholas Lyndhurst, who played Rodney Trotter, said that he "felt like the Queen" on a visit to Montenegro, when "people outside the restaurants and bars stood up and started to applaud" as he walked past.

Challis forged perhaps the strongest ties of any of the cast.

Thank you to Goran Vesic,the Vice Mayor of Belgrade for sending me this book about his beautiful city.We really enjoyed our visit to Serbia and look forward to Boycie being Back In #Belgrade in the future!

— John Challis (@BeingBoycie) September 21, 2020
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

His visits to Serbia included last year's filming trip to make the documentary, Boycie in Belgrade, which showed an enormous crowd greeting him at a book-signing session. He also regularly rhapsodised about the country on social media.

Shortly before his death, he received honorary Serbian citizenship – and had applied for a passport.

Now a street name will serve as a permanent reminder of the joy Boycie brought to the Balkans.

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