Saturday, July 07, 2007

Koštunići and Ravna Gora


Our next destination was the village of Koštunići, located on the southern slopes of the Suvobor Mountain. We had come to see the ethno village opened in 1996, but were disappointed to hear that the entire thing was closed down now due to bankruptcy (other businesses) by the owners. It would have been great to have seen local villagers demonstrate regional crafts. Hopefully in a few years the place will be bought by someone else and reopened. We were met at the intersection of a road by Mr. Damljanović, a preppy-dressed man who identified himself as our host. Once at their farm, we were warmly greeted by the entire family – his wife, mother and father, and 4-year old daughter. After carrying up our luggage to the upper level of the house, we went outside for some drinks under a grapevine-covered veranda. For lunch we were served kaymak, (a creamy dairy product) pršuta (smoked dried meat slices), chicken, tomatoes, cheese, and more.

After our hike in the heat around Ravna Gora and a visit to Mr. Damljanović's aunt and uncle (see below in Ravna Gora section), we all were tired. Despite this, Mr. Damljanović immediately put on his farm clothes, helped the grandmother milk the two cows (using a small pulsator machine recently purchased), and then left to move some beehives several hours away. What a hard worker! We took a small tour of the farm, the grandmother and 4-year old Ljubica leading us around. We tasted some of their plump raspberries also tied up like vines. Ljubica helped the grandmother move the sheep from the pasture into the barn.

After another large meal, we settled down for the evening, chatting with the family. The following morning we were treated to another hearty meal. We bought some of their honey and they packed up some raspberries for us. It was a pleasure getting to know this close-knit extended family.

Ljubica and her mother drove down with us to the small museum in Koštunići, showing us the small St. George Church and a museum honoring Vojvoda Zivojin Misić (1855-1921), general of the Serbian First Army during critical times in battle. This man was an uncle to grandpa Damljanović. The museum included some of his weapons, clothing, personal items, writings, portraits of him, topographical map of the Serbian and German army locations. Thanking them once again for their hospitality, we exchanged contact information and promised to stay in touch.

Ravna Gora
In the afternoon of our stay in Koštunići, Mr. Damljanović took us to Ravna Gora, the site where Dragoljub “Draža” Mihailović, commander of the royal resistance movement gathered and pronounced the beginning of the uprising against the Germans on May 13, 1941. The site is now a mecca for Serb nationalists celebrating “Uncle Draža”, with tens of thousands coming on the 13th of May to sing songs, wave the Serbian flag, and drink rakija (brandy, typically made from plums). Recently, a monument to the general, St. George Church (1998) and a conference hall has been built on the historical mountain plateau, mainly with funds from Canadian Serbs. One man had a small stand and was selling t-shirts of “Uncle Draža”, hats, and other memorabilia. Traditional nationalist music played loudly.

Prior to visiting the monument, we took a several mile walk through forested areas and some open prairie lands to see a cave. Between steep inclines and the heat, the walk was a bit challenging. A small stream ran with cool, clear water. A bit farther on, was a cave. We were only able to go into the entrance, as it was dark and filled with water. Mr. Damljanović explained that this was the site where the chetniks successfully hid and sought refuge from the Germans. He also noted that the forest in the area had been burned by the Germans as a way to more easily find the Serbs. Refreshed from the coolness of the cave and a drink from the stream, we headed back to the t-shirt stand and then up to the monument area.

After our visit to the church and monument to “Uncle Draža”, our gracious host took us to his aunt and uncle who lived nearby on a farm only accessible on foot. Carefully ducking under an electric cow fence (must have been battery-operated), we were greeted by the 73 year old aunt who was working in the garden. Pleased to see her nephew, she welcomed us and asked us to sit down. Once again we were offered some honey and water. A bit later the 87 year old uncle joined us. Now living on a farm without electricity or phone, the uncle was at one time a judge. Chickens and small chicks wandered around the yard. After showing us the house interior, we thanked the couple and walked back up the hill to the van.


Anonymous said...


Nicholas Thompson said...

The Serbian Chetniks led by General Mihailovic were the first large scale resistence against the Nazis in all of Europe in May 1041.

Their remarkable sacrifice against insurmountable odds was an inspiration to all of the oppressed peoples of Europe at the time.

General Mihailovic was postumously awarded the Legion of Merit Medal by President Harry Truman for the Chetniks material contribution to the final allied victory in Europe.

Mihailovic and his Serb Chetniks remain an inspiration to all freedom loving people around the world. Serbs should be proud.