Read, Write, Run, Roam

Beyond the Yugo: Kragujevac, Serbia


After I published yesterday’s post, I read that Zastava is shutting down. I’m not sure if that’s true-I certainly hope not. In any event, Kragujevac is more than Zastava. After I spent an hour snapping photos of Yugos (I can only imagine what people thought of me), I wandered into Saborna church.

I’m not a religious person, but I always wander into Serbian churches. Every one has been different from the others. This one did not disappoint.

These photos are pretty poor-sorry about that. The inside of the church is a beautiful shade of blue, with paintings on every possible surface. Compared to the stark white and red exterior, I felt like I was breathing in the vibrant colors and soft images. Carved wooden chairs line the walls.

I would have taken better photos, but there was always someone coming in to pray and kiss the icons stationed around the church. It was about 11am on a Tuesday, but you would have thought it was Easter. I don’t know if there was a holiday, or if people are very observant here. It was a lovely sight, and one I didn’t want to interrupt with my camera.

I wandered back out and walked to Sumarice Park. Kragujevac has its share of war damage and tragedy, but perhaps none as brutal as Sumarice. In 1941, Communists staged an uprising against Nazi forces, killing German soldiers. In retaliation, a Field Marshall ordered 100 Communists (Serbians and Romas) to be killed for every German soldier killed, and 50 to be injured for every injured German soldier. In a span of three days, an estimated 2,800-5,000 Kragujevac civilians were executed.  The site of their execution is now a park featuring sculptures and a genocide museum.

"Broken Wing" sculpture at Sumarice, representing a 5th grade class that was executed with their teacher

Feeling a bit wrung-out from that experience, I decided to end my day with a trip to the National Museum. A quick note about cities in Serbia-they all seem to have a national museum. I’m not sure if most cities have artifacts from the main National Museum in Belgrade, or if any city museum with artifacts gets to call itself a national museum. It’s a mystery.

The location of the National Museum was also a bit of a mystery. It was dark when I arrived, and I walked past it several times before I saw a small wooden sign in Cyrillic. The museum is a complex of buildings, and it was getting late, so I wasn’t sure where to go. I started to feel like I shouldn’t be there when a man came stepped outside of a door and asked if I needed help. In my halting Serbian, I asked if this was the National Museum and he nodded, motioning for me to come in.

Does this look like a museum to you?

“Do you speak Serbian?” he asked politely, knowing that I didn’t. He explained that he knew English and was a curator at the museum. It was shutting down in about 40 minutes, but he could take me on a tour if I wished. I spent about 20 minutes looking at collection of modern and ancient art, and then we moved to the historical artifacts building, where the curator explained the different weapons and costumes. He even gave me historical gossip: Prince Mihailo (as in Knez Mihailova street) had to build a separate house for his wife when she got sick of him bringing little chippies home. He didn’t have any children with his wife, but did have an illegitimate daughter with an unidentified mistress. Meow!

The Princess' building burned in 1884, but the "Uncle's House" remains

Maybe it was because I had my own curator, but I thought the museum was surprisingly interesting. They had rotating exhibits in several other buildings, but it was getting late. I left the museum, and Kragujevac, in the best possible way: knowing that I’d seen a good part of it, but that there was more to uncover.

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2 responses

  1. Great photos! Sounds like a fun excursion.

    January 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm

  2. Pedja

    I had never heard or read something with so much respect to everything he saw and felt while he was in Serbia. Thanks a lot!

    March 20, 2011 at 5:37 pm

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