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Gligino Brdo (Глигино Брдо)

Brief Details:

Name: Freedom Hill Monument

Location: On Gligino Hill, just east of Dobrljin, Republic of Srpska, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Year completed: unknown, maybe late 1970s [?]

Designer: Ahmed Bešić

Coordinates: N45°08'32.3", E16°29'47.5" (click for map)

Dimensions: ~10m tall monument

Materials used: Poured concrete and rebar

Condition: Poor, abandoned

(glih-GEE-no BER-doh)

History:

This spomenik complex on Gligino Hill (Gligino Brdo/Глигино Брдо) commemorates this location as the spot of the region's initial uprising efforts and organization by Partisan rebels during July of 1941.

World War II

In April of 1941, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was invaded and occupied by Axis forces. At this point, one of the leaders of the Croatian nationalist Ustaše movement, Slavko Kvaternik, declared, on behalf of nationalist politician Ante Pavelić, a separation from the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and that a new country, the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), would be formed. This new country was comprised of most of the land of modern day Croatia and Bosnia, with the government and the country operating essentially as an Axis controlled puppet-state, while the Ustaše acted as their military enforcement. The NDH hoped to create and ethnically pure Croat state, which resulted in a severe persecution and oppression of all ethnic-Serbs, Jews, Roma and other dissidents the government did not approve of. Almost as soon as this Axis occupation and oppression began, many oppressed peoples in Bosnia (and across for Yugoslav region) began to ban together to form resistance movements, planning for an eventual uprising against NDH rule.

In the Bosnian region of Bosanka Krajina, some of the first organized uprising efforts occurred around the small town of Dobrljin, just on the south side of the Una River. These plans of resistance in Dobrljin began in large part due to the the work of a man named Mirko Zec (Photo 1). Born in 1916 in the small village of Gornje Vodičevo (in the foothills a few kilometers south of Dobrljin), Zec, a Bosnian Serb, grew up as a farmer of modest means. After serving in the Yugoslav Royal Army in 1938, he returned home to work in the local coal mines. While working in the mines, it is reported that he developed a reputation for standing up and advocating for worker's rights, improving working conditions and increasing wages. These actions are said to have increased his standing and respect within his local community and also within the wider region of the Una River valley. When the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was dismantled and taken over by the NDH Axis puppet-state in April of 1941, he was looked to as a natural leader to aid in resisting these occupational forces. On July 27th, 1941, Zec enlisted and gathered a small group of rebels at Gligino Brdo, a hill in the uplands just east of Dobrljin, where they planned the region's first resistance efforts against the Ustaše militia. Four days later, on July 31st, a small detachment of Ustaše soldiers arrived in Dobrljin. Just as they entered, they were ambushed and shot by Mirko Zec and his fellow fighters, among who was another notable local rebel named Mihailo Đurić (Photo 2), who would go on to be one of the first Yugoslav National heroes after his death in Vrhpolje in 1942. This action instigated a widespread uprising against occupying Axis and Ustaše forces across the region as Zec, along with thousands of other Bosnian dissidents and rebels, joined the communist-led Partisan resistance movement.

Photo 1: Mirko Zec in Travnik, 1944

Photo 2: Mihailo Đurić

As the uprising continued, Zec was quickly promoted through the Partisan ranks to commander of the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Krajina Brigade in 1942, then in 1944 he was promoted to commander of the 6th Brigade of the 25th Serbian Division. He was killed while leading the 6th Brigade in the eastern Bosnian town of Kozluk in April of 1945, almost surviving until it to the end of the war. He was buried in Lukavac, Bosnia, just west of Tuzla. The town of Dobrljin was liberated by Partisan forces in June of 1944, where it is estimated that over 200 Bosnian Serbs were executed by Ustaše forces during the war.

Spomenik Construction

During my research, I found very little to nothing about the planning, design and construction of this spomenik complex here at Gligino Brdo. While I was I not able to find the year this memorial was unveiled to the public, I was however able to discover that the artist who designed this monument was Banja Luka sculptor Ahmed Bešić. Yet, other than this fact, I could find little other information. I would guess from its design that it may have been created at some point in the late 1970s, however, I cannot be sure of that date. If you know any of the above information I have been unable to find, please contact me. I will update this sections as I receive and discover more information.

As far as the form of this spomenik complex, the central memorial element is a roughly 10m tall concrete sculpture whose shape slightly resembles that of a blooming flower with a wide cylindrical base. Meanwhile, a small amphitheatre was originally located just a few meters south of the monument.

Present-Day

Today, this spomenik complex at Gligino Brdo sits completely neglected and abandoned. There are no signs that any nature of maintenance or stewardship is undertaken to protect or preserve the complex, nor do there seem to be any indications that commemorative or remembrance events are held here any longer. It appears that few visitors, much less tourists, patronize this location, as it is not only out of the way in a remote area on a high hillside, but there are no signs which might lead visitors here. I have found no evidence or indications that any local government groups or veterans organizations are planning restoration or rehabilitation efforts. For all intents and purposes, this spomenik complex seems completely forgotten, aside from the vandals and thieves who have openly left their marks.

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

There are several interesting examples of inscribed elements and graffiti at the spomenik complex here at Gligino Brdo. Firstly, sitting on the ground just a few meters south of the central memorial sculpture there is one small engraved marble plaque installed into a small concrete base (Slides 1 & 2). Translated into English, the inscription on the plaque reads as:

At this place, on the 31st of July, 1941, movements were made towards uprising. We leave the world for a better sunrise. The big light on this hill shines love onto this country. Life and death have changed the name

of this hill to 'Freedom Hill'.

Slideshow

Upon my most recent visit to the spomenik here at Gligino Brdo in the spring of 2017, I found several instances of interesting graffiti made on the central monument element. Firstly, in Slide 3, you can see painted on the monument the flag for the Bosnian Serb Republic of Srpska (RS), the RS being one of the two autonomous divisions of the country of Bosnia & Herzegovina, with the other division being the Bosniak/Croat Federation of Bosnia & Herzegovina (FBiH). Above the flag, 'Republic of Srpska' is written in red, while under the flag, the date 'January 9th' is written, a date which signifies the creation of the Republic of Srpska in 1992. This purpose of this graffiti is more than likely nationalistic in nature, with the vandals here attempting to communicate the supremacy of the RS over the FBiH, as such graffiti is commonly seen in culturally sensitive locations across the country of Bosnia. Meanwhile, under the 'January 9th' graffiti is painted a small red Serbian cross, which is a common ethic-Serb nationalist symbol. The four hooks inside the cross are often interpreted to be four C's, which then have the nationalist phrase 'Само слога Србина спасава/Samo sloga Srbina spasava' attached to them... a phrase that translates into English as 'Only Unity Saves the Serbs'. Finally, at the bottom of Slide 3, you can see 'Gligino Brdo' written in red.

Then, in Slide 4, you can see painted the Russian flag, with the word 'Russia' written above it in blue, while the word 'Putin' is written below it, also in blue. This clearly represents the vandal's affinity for Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, in Slide 5, two names can be seen written in blue, the top being former politician Radovan Karadžić (Радован Караџић) and the lower one being VRS general Ratko Mladić (Ратко Младић) (Photo 3). Both of these men were Bosnian Serb leaders who were accused by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of committing war crimes during the Bosnian War. It seems that this graffiti is also an example of these vandals expressing their affinity, which is not an in-ordinary occurrence, as some Bosnia Serb nationalists view Karadžić and Mladić as folk heroes who stood up for and defended the interests of the Bosnian Serbs during the Bosnian War. Finally, in Slide 6, you see the word 'Serbia' written on the top in red, while under that, you see written in blue the name of the famous Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic (Новак Ђоковић), who is often considered one of the most famous living Serbian athletes. The writing of Djokovic's is an unusual inclusion not seen at other sites. Other than simply more expressions of affinity and "Serbian-ness", it is not immediately clear why this athlete's name would be graffitied on the monument.

Photo 3: Radovan Karadžić (right) and his general Ratko Mladić (left), 1995

Symbolism:

From first impressions, it would seem as though the form and shape of this spomenik here at Gligino Brdo, Bosnia is intended to represent the form of a blossoming flower, a symbol which is often used to communicate the concept of rebirth and renewal. Such symbolic imagery is used in the design motifs of numerous spomenik sculptures across the former-Yugoslavia, such as the memorials at Jasenovac and Vodice. One source I discovered that discusses the monument asserts that it is indeed meant to be a shaped like a stylized flower and is intended to symbolize the 'birth' of the idea of the July 1941 uprising against Axis control and oppression.

Status and Condition:

For all intents and purposes, this spomenik complex at Gligino Brdo can be considered totally forgotten and abandoned. It does not appear that any regular maintenance, landscaping, grounds keeping or graffiti removal are performed here. While the facade of the primary memorial sculpture still seems fully intact and in reasonable structural condition, it has been totally defaced, while many other of the memorial elements around the site are completely destroyed and/or missing. From the town of Dobrljin in the valley below (or along the way to the site), there is no directional or promotional signage leading visitors the site or alerting tourists to the memorial's presence. In addition, I found no evidence that local municipalities or tourist groups promote or advertise the memorial site as any form of historic attraction or point of interest. While the site itself does contain one degrading engraved plaque with a brief inscription about the site, any further interpretive or informational signs are absent. In fact, so little information is available about this spomenik site that I was completely unable to determine who created the sculpture and the year it was unveiled.

From my research, I found no evidence to indicate that any nature of annual commemorative events are held here any longer. In fact, I saw few, if any, signs that visitors of any sort patronize this site at all, aside from the vandals and thieves which clearly visit here occasionally. No form of honorific candles, flowers or wreaths were present here upon my most recent visit, leading me to believe that few in the local community visit here to pay respects or leave any tributes. Furthermore, I also found no indications that efforts were being made on any level to restore or rehabilitate the memorial site here at Gligino Brdo. 

Directions:

From the city of Novi Grad, head north on Highway M14 for roughly 15km. As you approach the village of Dobrljin, take the first major right hand turn. At this turn you will see at the corner a pink colored house adjacent to the Market Comp-Astor. This road will start taking you up the hill. After about a kilometer, take a right at the first fork you approach. Continue following this road for about half a kilometer and you will see the spomenik complex at the top of the hill. Exact coordinates for potential parking are N45°08'32.7", E16°29'49.7". Keep in mind that the last kilometer stretch of this road to the monument is an unpaved gravel road. While most standard passenger cars should be more than okay if they take the road slowly, please keep in mind that if the road is muddy, wet or snowy, it may not be advisable to drive the road unless you have an appropriate 4x4 vehicle.

Gligino Brdo MAP.jpg

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Comments:

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