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Grmeč

Brief Details:

Name: 'Monument to the Revolution' or 'Monument to the Bosanska Krajina Partisan Hospital' or 'Monument to Korčanica'

Location: Korčanica Memorial Zone of Grmeč Mountain, FBiH, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Year completed: 1979

Designer: Ljubomir Denković (profile page), with Milovan Matović & Savo Subotin

Coordinates: N44°41'14.1", E16°26'15.5" (click for map)

Dimensions: 15m tall monument

Materials used: White marble blocks

Condition: Abandoned

(GER-mech)

 

History:

This memorial structure at the spomenik complex here on Grmeč Mountain, Bosnia commemorates a secret hospital which was operated by the Partisan resistance on the slopes of this hill during WWII, as well as all the medics who worked to treat injured soldiers.

 

World War II

As the communist-led Partisan resistance fighters began to liberate more and more territory from Axis military control in the region of northwest Bosnia in the fall of 1942, Partisan support forces constructed a series of hospital complexes hidden in the mountain forests of the slopes of freed-zone of Grmeč Mountain. Five hospitals were constructed all together, totaling 54 builings, but the most significant of all of these sites was the one on the northern slopes of the mountain called 'Korčanica'. Situated on these rolling slopes of Grmeč, Korčanica was a complex of 19 buildings, with the hospital at its center, which itself was a significant 36m x 8m in size. Some sources estimate it was the largest hospital in the liberated Partisan territories at the time, having served an estimated 2,800 wounded and typhus patients during its operation. Within this sprawling facility there were workshops, warehouses, a bakery and even a power station. Initially, the hospital was intended as a primary treatment facility for soldiers from the three units of the 1st Krajina Detachment (Photo 1), who were stationed at and patrolled Grmeč mountain -- however, as the war raged on in Bosnia during late 1942, the hospital started treating wounded Partisan soldiers from units all over the region. Then, in November of 1942, the freed-zone of Grmeč mountain was able to merge with other freed territories in western Bosnia, at which point this massive zone declared itself 'liberated' and assumed the name the 'Bihać Republic'.

However, just a few months later in January of 1943, German command initiated 'Operation Case White', which was an offensive intended to retake the liberated 'Bihać Republic' territory, while also eliminating all Partisans from western Bosnia and capturing their leader, Josip Tito. As the Case White operation (4th Offensive) went into effect on January 20th, the area around Grmeč Mountain became over-run with German forces who proceeded to push the Partisans south to a trap they had waiting for them at the Neretva River. Despite the speed which the German troops descended on Grmeč, all the hospital personnel and wounded soldiers were able to be quickly evacuated to safety. When patrolling Axis units finally stumbled upon the deserted hospital compound in February of 1943, it was all burned to the ground and aerially bombarded. Such force was a result of Axis commanders initially believing that the complex to be the Partisan Supreme Headquarters. Over the course of the hospital's existence, from January 1942 to February 1943, it treated thousands of Partisan soldiers all over the region, from Montenegro, to Croatia, to Serbia.

 Photo 1: The 1st Krajina Detachment north of Grmeč at Budimlić Japra, 1942  

 

Photo 2: The design entry submitted for the competition by Ljubomir Denković

Spomenik Construction

In 1975, local and regional government, along with the SUBNOR veterans group, organized an initiative to create a vast memorial complex at the old site of the Partisan hospital compound. To determine the shape the monument would take, an open design competition was organized, for which 13 proposals were submitted from artists and architects from across Yugoslavia. The jury of the selection competition subsequently award the first prize to the design entry submitted by famed Novi Sad designer and sculptor Ljubomir Denković (Photo 2), while engineering intervention was preformed by Milovan Matović and Savo Subotin. The cornerstone for the monument was laid by famous Yugoslav Partisan war hero Đuro Pucar, who not only fought against Axis forces at Grmeč during World War II, but he also went on to be the first Chairmen of the People's Assembly of the SR of Bosnia. After two years of construction at the site, the finished complex was unveiled to the pubic during a grand ceremony on July 27th, 1979, a date which marked the anniversary of the day of uprising of the people of Bosnia during World War II.

The keynote address during this July 27th event to inaugurate the Grmeč spomenik complex was given by the President of the Assembly of BiH, Niko Mihaljević (Photo 3). During this address, he made some of the following statements:

"Grmeč and its surroundings, more than any other place in our country, burned the fire of the nation-wide uprising from the very first day. Thanks to that, right from the start, the rebels were persistently and decisively struggling to destroy everything that the occupier and the domestic traitors could do in as far as achieving their goals. It was in these fateful days that the true and complete response was, as ascribed by the Communist Party, an uprising of the people, waged upon all fascist occupiers and their servants, in a triumphal march of conscious fighters for a new life, for 'Brotherhood & Unity', for social justice, for national freedom and for equality."

 Photo 3: Opening day ceremonies at the Grmeč memorial, 1979  

The most intensive element built during the construction process (Photo 4) at the site were the two central memorial elements: two large, roughly 15m tall, semi-spherical marble block walls, enclosed around a 2-level inner sanctum area. In the lower part of the sanctum, sources indicate that there was originally a large scale-model relief of the local mountain terrain all situated right in the center of the room with an illuminating skylight directly above it. Within the model was built a small likeness of the Partisan hospital facility which once existed on Grmeč mountain during the war. Meanwhile, in front of monument structure a large circular reflection pool was built, roughly 18m wide. In the forest just west of the monument, a network of trails were built through which were placed various smaller concrete memorial elements. In the forests around this central monument was a network of trails which contained additional memorial elements which presumably marked the locations of various structures of the hospital complex which once existed there during the war.

 

 Photo 4: The Grmeč memorial under construction, 1978  

Present-Day

After the decline and dismantling of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, along with the ensuing Yugoslav and Bosnian Wars, the spomenik complex here at Grmeč began to fall into significant decline and neglect. During this time, many elements of the complex were vandalized, damaged and even destroyed. Over the years, there appears to have been little done to repair or rehabilitate the damage done here. It currently sits overgrown and in a state of extreme dereliction, for all intents and purposes, abandoned and forgotten. Very few visitors come to the site and there were no indications that any commemorative ceremonies were still held here any longer. Speaking about the condition of this monument, Milan-Minja Nedimović, local council member for the nearby town of Jasenica, made the following statements (translated here into English):

"The memorial complex, as a place where children not only came to get to know history, but also where they came to experience education through nature (as well as many other tourists), was completely destroyed. I am convinced that all of this was done with the intent to make it a privatized and to gain personal benefit, for the benefit of us people and this region. It seems to me... no one thinks."

 

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

All engravings, plaques and inscriptions at the Grmeč memorial complex have been destroyed or damaged beyond being decipherable. For instance, in Slide 1 you can see the few remains of metal letters lingering from a long relief inscription that once existed on the inside wall of the upper level sanctum. This inscription was a section of Marshal Tito's speech that he gave at the nearby base at Jasenica on January 7th, 1943. Sources indicate that this inscription read as: "And what if you had not brought your rifles? ... Such a singular group [of fighters] from front to back has never once existed in the history of our people." Meanwhile, in Slide 2 you can see a view the lower level of structure which give an impression of the large amount of holes and marks left on the walls where plaques, panels or engravings were presumably torn out from. As of yet, I have found no historical records or photographs which relate what any of these inscriptions or engravings may have said.

Slideshow

 

Additional Monuments - Slideshow

Additional Monuments:

If you walk west from the upper level of the spomenik structure here at the Grmeč monument, you can wander through a set of trails meandering through the forest where you will find a set of several additional monument elements (Slides 1 - 8). The purpose of these markers was to denote where in this forest the former Partisan hospital buildings once existed, as nothing remained of the original hospital buildings at the time of this monument's construction. Originally, each of these smaller memorial markers would have contained inscriptions which indicated what sort of hospital structure once existed at that specific spot, such as "surgical ward", "power station", "kitchen", "bunks", etc etc. While I have seen at least evidence of about four or five of them existing out here, due to the overgrown nature and derelict condition of these trails, it is unknown exactly how many of these monuments may be hidden out here in the forests among the trees and vegetation. I have included some historical photos of a few of these sites in Slides 3 & 4.

Each of these abstract memorial elements are made of concrete and exist in various states of decay, deterioration and destruction. Many seem to be purposefully destroyed while others seem to be simply consumed by nature. Thanks to Edith Bories and the Bohemian Blog for the work capturing these photos.

 

Grmeč Hotel - Slideshow

Grmeč Hotel:

Just near the main entrance pathway to the central Grmeč spomenik, there is a large abandoned hotel often referred to as the 'Grmeč Hotel' (or sometimes the 'Korčanica Hotel'), which sits in front of the monument's original primary parking area (Slide 1 & 2). A rare Yugoslav-era image of the hotel can be seen in Slides 3 & 4. Built during the development of the Korčanica Memorial Zone in the early 1980s and designed in the modernist alpine mountain house style, this was meant to be a forest/mountain resort destination to cater to the many thousands of people in Yugoslavia coming here to recreate and relax in this massive forest park and memorial area. However, after the fall of Yugoslavia, the hotel fell into neglect and disrepair, similar to the monument it is adjacent to. It also appeared to have been burned at some point, but information about this history of this hotel is limited. The structure now resides in complete dereliction and abandonment.

 

Additional images of the interior of the hotel and be seen in Slides 5 - 9. Upon my most recent visit to the site, I found a number of suspicious-looking vagrants squatting in and around the old hotel complex, so, if you visit this site, I would not recommend entering the abandoned hotel if you feel unsafe or if there are suspicious characters around. The exact coordinates for the ruins of Grmeč Hotel are N44°41'24.8", E16°26'17.6".

 Photo 5: Flower bud  

Symbolism:

The shape of the memorial complex here at Grmeč appears to symbolize a newly breaking flower bud (Photo 5), which is itself may be a representation of newly emerging freedom and 'birth' brought about by the sacrifice of those who fought and died here. In addition, the interior of the bud is intended to represent the very heart of the Grmeč forest, where the hospital that operated here toiled to keep wounded soldiers alive. Meanwhile, the 'flower bud' shaped structure is juxtaposed by a circular pool --  this positioning may be meant to symbolize a dualistic relationship, with the blossoming of the 'flower bud' up from the earth representing 'life' and 'freedom', the adjacent pool symbolizes all those soldiers who fell and succumb to the violence of war. In a Yugoslav-era booklet about this memorial sculpture here at Grmeč, the symbolism for the work is described in the following terms:

"The monumment can be interpreted as a stylized flower bud that is opening up, 15m high and 10m in diamter... partially emerging from the ground as well as from the water. The interior space of this bursting bud form is symbolic for the open welcoming busom of Grmeč, where during the war there was always room for the people and for the Partisan Army."

 

Status and Condition:

For all intents and purposes, the spomenik complex here at Grmeč Mountain in the Korčanica Memorial Zone can be considered completely abandoned and derelict. There is no maintenance of any sort which occurs at the site any longer, while much of memorial's interior and decorative elements have been destroyed and/or stolen. However, the memorial's strong concrete infrastructure is still very much intact, which is impressive considering the site's neglect and weather over decades of abandonment. Meanwhile, there are no longer directional or promotional signs which lead visitors or tourists to the Grmeč memorial site from the main road, nor do any sorts of interpretive or informational signs exist any longer which could describe the site's historic or cultural significance. Furthermore, the local and regional municipalities make no effort to promote this site as an attraction or point of interest.

No commemorative or remembrance ceremonies are held here at the site any longer, which presumably ceased at the monument's abandonment at some point during the 1990s. Meanwhile, this site sees very few, if any, visitors, outside of the vandals who prey upon it. However, the site does see the occasional spomenik hunter, mountain bikers and urban explorer, but these are few and far between. As far as I have been able to determine, there are no plans or initiatives in any form, by government or private groups, to restore or rehabilitate this spomenik site. Meanwhile, I was not able to find this spomenik complex in the Bosnian government's listed sites of preserved or protected monuments, which indicates it very well may not have any official protection status extended towards it. While local interest in this site is minimal, this particular spomenik at Grmeč is one which incites some of the greatest fascination and awe by those who see photos of it from outside of the ex-Yugoslav region. This fascination might be explained by its extremely unconventional appearance, as well as the level of extreme decay it has descended into and its overall remoteness & inaccessibility.

 Photo 6: Steve Messing concept art from the 2017 film 'Alien: Covenant'  

 

Interestingly, a likeness of the monument was used in concept artwork by Steve Messing for the 2017 Ridley Scott directed Hollywood film 'Alien: Covenant' (Photo 6), in which the Grmeč sculpture is depicted as some nature of ancient alien temple. The monument was further used in a similar way by artist Wayne Haag for concept art in the same film, which also made it into segments of the final film. In discussions with Haag, he revealed to me that director Ridley Scott specifically directed artists to use the Grmeč monument as a basis for their design concepts for the alien temple. The genesis of this concept art is further explained in an article here by the fan-site "Alien Exploration".

Directions:

From the village of Lušci Palanka, head west out of town on Road R405 in the direction of the town of Bosanka Krupa. As you exit the village you will immedately see on your right the Temple of Holy Ascension of Our Lord (Hram Vaznesenja Gospodnjeg) (photo here). From here, drive along R405 another half kilometer and take the very next left hand turn onto a paved road that takes you up through the forest. Keep in mind this road is twisty, narrow and in poor condition at times, so go slow. Follow this road about 7km and you will reach a gravel parking area where the old abandoned hotel is located (photo here). Park here and follow the trail at the south end of the parking lot about 200m along a concrete paved trail. This will take you to the Grmeč spomenik complex. The exact coordinates for parking are N44°41'25.8", E16°26'19.3". I do not recommend taking the twisty mountain road up to Grmeč in the winter or early spring, as conditions on it can be very poor in snowy weather or muddy terrain.

 

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Slideshow

Comments:

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