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Jasenica

(yah-SEH-neets-ah)

Brief Details:

Name: Podgrmeč Museum and Memorial Fountain (Muzej Podgrmeč i spomen-fontana)

Location: Jasenica, FBiH, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Year completed: 1979

Designer: Marijan Kocković [profile page]

Coordinates: N44°48'11.3", E16°15'30.1" (click for map)

Dimensions: Two half spheres, ~2-3m tall

Materials used: Brač limestone

Condition: Abandoned

History:

This monument at the spomenik complex in Jasenica, Bosnia, commemorates the fighters from this town who perished during WWII and the community here who helped support the war effort.

World War II

In April of 1941, the small community of Jasenica in the Podgrmeč region was consumed by war and terror starting as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was invaded and occupied by Axis forces. As the region was subsequently absorbed into the oppressive Axis-puppet state of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), resistance efforts by the local population started almost immediately. Here in western Bosnia, the resistance was overwhelmingly organized by the communist-led Partisan resistance forces, who assembled numerous armed fighting units set on battling against oppression and occupation. Through early 1942, many local residents of Jasenica had joined the 1st and 5th Krajina Partisan Detachments, under the command of Zdravko Čelara, working towards freeing territory from Axis control across northwest Bosnia. Meanwhile, back in Jasenica, hundreds of young boys and girls from the area took classes learning to be radio operators to help in war-time communications. By the fall of 1942, Jasenica and the surrounding region had all Axis occupiers driven out by Partisan forces. This allowed Jasenica and other surrounding freed-zones to unify by merging together to create a Partisan-run liberated territory which they called called the 'Bihać Republic' (Figure 1). In late 1942, Jasenica took in child refugees liberated by Kordun Partisans from the Jastrebarsko youth concentration camp. Many of these children were housed in the town's main school house.

 Figure 1: Map of 'Bihać Republic' in December of 1942  

 Photo 1: View of 4th Krajina troops at Jasenica listening to Tito's address, Jan. 7th, 1943  

On January 7th of 1943, Jasenica played host to Partisan Supreme Commander Josip Broz Tito as he passed through on his way to Bihać, not long after his escape from German forces Kozara. From in front of the snow covered school house refuge in Jasenica, Tito gave a famous rousing speech to gathered troops of the 4th Krajina Division, who had gathered in Jasenica for a pre-mission resupply (Photos 1 & 2). Proceeding this address by Tito, the soldiers began their march towards battles at Karan and Kozara. However, just a few weeks after this event, Partisans were forced to flee Jasenica because of pressure from Axis advancements the German 'Case White' offensive. With Case White, German forces were attempting to retake the Partisan liberated territory of the Bihać Republic, while also expelling all Partisans from the region and capture the elusive Josip Broz Tito, who the German Army considered the most dangerous man in occupied Yugoslavia. Ultimately, the German operation did succeed in retaking lost territory and pushing out the Partisans, however, Tito remained elusive and escaped yet again. The town was not again fully free from German control until April of 1945 when Partisan troops of the 4th Yugoslav Army liberated the entire Podgrmeč region.

Spomenik Construction

Not long after the end of WWII, the school house in which sheltered the child refugees and from which Tito spoke to his Partisan troops from was turned into a history museum about the region's role in the National Liberation War. It was called the the Podgrmeč Museum and Memorial. Within the museum were hundreds of exhibits pertaining to the war, along with the inscribed names and a fresco celebrating the 4th Krajina Division. On the east side of the museum were a line of about a dozen sculptural bust portraits of Yugoslav folk heroes who were from or fought and/or fell in the Podgrmeč region (Photo 3). In the mid-1970s, local veteran and government groups planned the creation of a small memorial fountain to placed in front of Podgrmeč Museum to commemorate Tito's inspirational rousing of the 4th Krajina Division troops on January 7th, 1943. The commission to create this sculpture was awarded to Dubrovnik sculptor Marijan Kocković [profile page]. The renewed complex was officially unveiled to the public on July 27th of 1979 during a remembrance ceremony marked by speeches and political readings.

 Photo 2: View of Tito (front far right) standing in front of 4th Krajina Division, Jan. 7th, 1943  

The sculpture element that Kocković created was a pair of large fountains, each a sloping half-spheres constructed of limestone quarried from the Croatian island of Brač, with the curved surface of the spheres engraved with depictions of various weapons. Meanwhile, the flat faces of the half-spheres contained the spouts from which the water flowed, while the area around the spouts were engraved with various quotes. The fountains were situated at the center of a paved circular courtyard

 Photo 3: A historic photo of the row of sculptural busts by the museum  

Yugoslav Wars

During the Yugoslav era, Jasenica was a thriving tourist destination home to roughly about a 1,000 residents, along with shops, hotels, public baths, etc, while also hosting thousands of tourists a year. Also during this era there was a Yugoslav Army (JNA) barrack in the town which housed roughly 500 soldiers. It was part of the soldier's duties while stationed here to maintain and keep in order the entire memorial. However, with the onset of the Bosnian war in the early 1990s, the region was overrun with conflict and fighting, which resulted in the fleeing and disbanding of this local JNA barrack, leaving the memorial area unkempt and unprotected. In addition, the vast majority of the town's residents were either driven from their homes or fled from the region's war. During the war, much of the town's infrastructure and buildings were either abandoned or destroyed, along with the Podgrmeč Museum and Memorial. After the war concluded in late 1995, only about 50 of Jasenica's former 1,000 residents made the choice to return to the ruined village

Present-Day

Since the war, the Podgrmeč Museum was looted and destroyed and now sits in complete disrepair and abandonment. It does not appear that this site sees any visitors nor does it appear that any nature of commemorative or remembrance events are held at the site any longer. Meanwhile, there is no indication that any active efforts are underway on any level to restore or rehabilitate the ruins of Kocković's memorial complex or of Podgrmeč Museum. News articles report that some cultural groups in the nearby town of Bosanska Krupa wish to work towards the rehabilitation of this site, however, they find no governmental funds available to do so. The vast majority of the village of Jasenica continues to sit in ruins relative abandonment.

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

There are several inscribed elements remaining at the site here at Jasenica. Firstly, on the two primary half-sphere sculptures at the middle of the site there are engraved words inscribed directly onto the flat top halves of their the white marble (Slide 1). Looking at the two sculptures standing with your back towards the museum building, we will first look at the sculpture on the left (Slide 2). This engraving (which is written using Cyrillic letters) reads as ,when translated into English:

"We are proud that we have lived and that we are still living in your times."

TITO

I was unable to determine where this quote originated. Meanwhile, the engraving made into the sculpture on the right (written in Latin letters) (Slide 3) reads as, when translated into English:

Slideshow

"We fought, we starved, we thirsted, we charged, we died, we fell in battle, we gave you our youth, Tito, because we trusted you."

It can be assumed that additional engravings and plaques existed here at some point in the recent past, however, with the abandonment and destruction of much of this memorial complex, those additional memorial elements are now either destroyed or stolen. Interestingly, while this site sits in a significant state of destruction and abandonment, there is a surprising lack of any graffiti and spray painted vandalism on either the memorial sculpture or the museum. This could be a result of the site's remote and isolated location from any major population center.

Podgrmeč Memorial Museum:

In front of the small memorial fountain sculpture here at the Jasenica spomenik complex are the ruins of the old Podgrmeč Memorial Museum. Originally, this was a school house, built in 1910, however, during WWII, this old school house was the place in which front of which Marshal Tito gave his rousing motivational speech to Partisan troops of the 4th Krajina Division in January of 1943. After the war, the house was preserved and converted into an educational/historical museum. The museum exhibits explored the history of the region and dealt with the events of war in the territory of Podgrmeč. In the upstairs portion of the museum was originally a large fescso by artists Milivoje Unković, Salim Obralic & Ratko Lalić. In addition, the museum also contained several portraits of prominent revolutionaries & folk heroes by artist Marija Mikulić, as well as over 520 exhibits, historical documents and records. A Yugoslav-era photo from inside the museum can be seen in Slide 2.

Memorial Museum - Slideshow

Furthermore, a historical image of the museum during the Yugoslav-era can be seen in Slide 3, while present-day images of the museum's ruined interior can be seen in Slides 4 - 9. Meanwhile, in front of the museum on the east side of the building were originally a row of eight sculptural busts on pedestals depicting Podgrmeč Partisan folk heroes. The figures depicted in these busts included Dušan Gavran, Cvije Kukolja, Dušan Košutić, Milan Ličina, Veljko Miljević, David Pajić, Petar Škundrić and Mirko Vejinović. However, after the Bosnian War of the 1990s, the museum was neglected by local authorities, which led to the structure falling into a state of significant disrepair, vandalism and destruction. All of the sculptural busts were destroyed. Today, the museum sits in shambles, totally stripped of all exhibits, art work and valuables (even wiring) and currently sits completely abandoned. The structure is fully open to the elements, so it can be easily entered and explored by visitors, but do so at your own risk.

Hotel Jasenica:

Just across the street from the Podgrmeč Memorial Museum was originally the museum's companion accomodation facility called "Hotel Jasenica". The main purpose of this facility was to service the thousands of tourists who came to visit the many memorial sites around the Podgrmeč area every year during the Yugoslav-era. This steeply sloped triangular shaped hotel was of a highly modernist architectural style, which was a common design approach with most hotels attached to Yugoslav monument complexes. While information on this site is limited, the hotel appears to have been built around the 1970s, during the time when Jasenica experienced the bulk of its touristic development. Historical images of the hotel can be seen in Slides 1 & 2. However, the hotel was ransacked and left in ruins as a result of the Bosnian War during the 1990s, while in the aftermath of the war, tourists ceased visiting the region, which resulted in the hotel complex becoming neglected and abandoned altogether.

Hotel Jasenica - Slideshow

The ruins of the hotel stood for a number of years after the end of the Bosnian War, with images of of the hotel in its ruined state visible in Slides 3 - 7. Yet, subsequently, the hotel was eventually burned to the ground by vandals, with some sources indicating the destruction was in 2008, while others stating it was in 2011. A photo of the hotel ruins just after being burned down can be seen in Slide 8. Circumstances which led to the destruction of the hotel are not clear. The hotel's concrete footprint foundation (along with a few stray pieces of charred rubble) are all that is left at its former location. Its exact coordinates are N44°48'07.7", E16°15'26.2". Also, thanks to the "Srpska Jasenica" Facebook page for being the source of a number of the images of the hotel for this section!

Tito's January 7th Speech:

On January 7th, 1943, Supreme Commander of the Partisan army gave a rousing military speech to hundreds of troops of the 4th Krajina Division from in front of the Jasenica school house, which would later become the Podgrmeč Museum. On this snowy cold January day, these troops were gathering to resupply and planning for an upcoming mission to battle Axis forces in Karan and Kozara. However, before heading out, the Division lined up in formation the morning of the 7th to listen to a parting address Tito had prepared to inspire the troops leading up to their departure. I will relate here the speech as records recount it to have been spoken by Tito in full, translated here for the first time from Serbo-Croatian into English:

Comrades. This an immense honor for me and I feel great joy to welcome you on behalf of the Supreme Staff of the People's Liberation Army [NOV] and Yugoslav Partisan Detachments [POJ]. We've been together for a long time, and it's been my wish for a long time to see you all together like this, as you are here today. We've come here to the Bosanska Krajina region with brothers, Serbs and Montenegrins to fight together, to battle and liberate people throughout the whole of Bosnia. I can say that I was not only pleasantly surprised, but also proud, that you and your sons became worthy of your famous ancestors, remained on your native soil and fought so firmly for the freedom of your oppressed brothers and sisters. The hateful enemy wanted to exterminate all Serbs in Bosnia and started from Krajisnik. You have risen to this rebellion and, almost stealthily, you have won the battle for the weapons that you now have, and in that way you saved the Serbian people in Bosanska Krajina from the slaughter and the tyranny of this enemy.

But what if you hadn't taken that rifle in your hands? The bodies of your sisters, mothers and companions, your children, would fill the pits and ravines of Bosnia. But not only this - you have achieved great victories and successes through that struggle, you have battled the whole world with your fight. You knew how to distinguish the guilty from the innocent, you knew how to separate the [NDH leader Ante Pavelić] and his Ustaše from the honest Croatian citizens - and this is also one of your great merits in today's struggle.

As all peoples today stand firmly in brotherhood, they achieve success. I ask you: would we be able to withstand for the last 19 months if we had no fraternity and unity among our people, would we have found such successes as we have achieved without it? We would not, because disjointed, our enemy would have overcome us quickly. But today we see rifles, cannons, machine guns that you yourself seized from the enemy in battle and inflicted massive blows against these fascist occupiers -- you've struck down these occupiers who had the beastly intentions of completely exterminating our nations. Dear comrades and friends, we have strong enemies in this liberation struggle - the occupiers and their Ustaše and [Milan] Nedić's servants, but we have yet another dangerous enemy in the face of [Chetnik leader] Draža Mihailović and his government-in-exile in London. These enemies introduced a break-in-ranks of a portion of our freedom fighters, in the ranks of the people of Montenegro, Herzegovina, Bosnia, etc. leading them down the wrong path, to the way of service for the occupiers, to the blood enemies of our peoples.

However, most honest people did not follow them and today still remain fighting against those occupier and its accomplices. And what's resulted? We've gone on to win against both the external and internal enemies. Our hands were not shaken even when confronted with facing our own true fathers if they dared approach the traitors, the Chetniks. At the same time, you realized that your fight is only one part of the great struggle that the Soviet Union and its heroic Red Army stand with us on. And after these great victories, we already see who will win. We have made it as it is. Other than the Soviet Union, the whole world trembled when confronted with the power of German imperialism. We also took up this challenge. We have charged against all forces that have entered into this occupied land. And now, our present understanding is clear to us - we will win because we have grown into a great army, because it is powered by the common spirit of fraternity and unity, a common belief in the victory of the Red Army and in our own victory.

Today, as we celebrate Christmas in this liberated territory, we see friends and celebrate it under much better conditions than last year, and we are confident that the next Christmas will not be in such conditions as today. You will celebrate it under even better conditions, you will celebrate it free on your freed homeland. As we celebrate this holiday here, up in the north, in the Caucasus region, the Red Army destroys the fascist war-machine. The fascist conqueror already senses his days are numbered. And it's no longer just hyperbole... the fact is that the German Army is already decimated and in disarray. It is defeated and runs with reckless haste. At the Don [River], in the direction of the city of Rostov, Red Army soldiers are cutting across their army in the Caucasus.  At the Central Front, the Red Army is heading towards the Latvian border and it will not be long before Hitler's army is cut off from its base - Germany. Thus, we see that only the Soviet Union gives a determined resistance to fascism between all the military forces of the Allies.  

 

The Soviet people stood as one to defeat the invading fascist Germany and its accomplices. What is it that enabled this great victory over the fascist war machine, a victory that no one has ever remembered? First, victory is possible because at the forefront of this struggle stands a genius leader and strategist, Comrade Stalin. Secondly, this fight is led by the heroic Bolshevik party. Thirdly, because over 25 years a fraternal unity of nations was created bringing together one-sixth of the globe. Fourthly, because the Red Army is an army of the people, which is helping all forces in the background. Here, these are the factors that have enabled these invading fascists to experience ever greater and even harder defeats and to perish in these more recent times.

And without us there would be no victory and no success in fighting within the ranks of the People's Liberation Army of Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Muslims, Montenegrins, Herzegovinans, etc. and ours ranks would not being filled every day with new fighters. You are, comrades, the army of the people, and you have an honorable task - to not only destroy both internal and external enemies, but everywhere you go, in every village, spread fraternity among nations, because this fraternity is a great asset in our final victory over fascism.

Comrades and friends, today we are not just fighting towards the destruction of the fascist conqueror, but for our own happier future. There is no one among you, there is no man in this country who would not like to regain what that was. Today we are giving our precious blood to have bloom from it a happier future for our future generations. We are a generation that suffers, but we are the ones who create for our descendants a better and happier life. The people have created an army to make peace for himself forever. And that will only be if the people continue to struggle and hold power within their hands. We will never ever allow to return to power those types that would take our sons and daughters to slaughter for a war of their own interests. We have a difficult fight before us, but believe me, comrades, the hardest has already passed. Fascism senses that the last days are ahead and in his anger he will try anything. But we will overcome him. We will create on our bones our future, new cities and villages, our country will find it. And you will not let the rifle out of your hand until it is finished.

I urge you to continue to fight equally against all enemies, wherever you are led by the Supreme Headquarters, to fight against national treason, to fight for peace and to meet our future. Long live the People's Liberation Army! Long live our frontiersmen! Long live the heroes of Kozara! Long live the Soviet Union! Long live the heroic Red Army! Long live our allies!

DEATH TO FASCISM!

Partisan Supreme Commander Josip Broz Tito

January 7th, 1943

To read or evaluate this full speech in its original Serbo-Croatian language, it can be at this PDF link (be aware it is quite large), which is a full copy of the 519 page 1959 book "Zbornik Dokumenata i Podataka o Narodnooslobodilačkom Ratu Jugoslovenskih Naroda, Tom II" or translated into English, "Collection of Documents and Data of the National Liberation War of the Yugoslav People, Volume II", courtesy of Znaci Archives. The speech can be found in section 89.

Symbolism:

The fountain sculpture here at the spomenik complex at Jasenica, Bosnia seems, from first appearances, to be a medium for the very unambiguous engravings made around the curved exterior of the half spheres. These engravings in the limestone presumably depict the tools of war used by the Partisan rebels of this region against the occupying Axis forces, which include not only firearms, but also simple farm tools such as pitchforks and scythes. The inclusion of these varied sets of weapons may be an effort by the sculptor, Marijan Kocković [profile page], to represent the working class and everyday nature of the ordinary people swept up into the struggle and rebellion against Axis occupation.

Meanwhile, I have seen some sources relate that the shape of these sculptural fountains are meant to be a stylized representation of a discarded apple core. With this notion, it is asserted that the idea of a used-up apple core is a symbol for the 'end of sweetness' experienced by those innocent people swept up in this region's war. In addition, the symbolism of the apple-core is also extended to represent the fighters themselves, who gave their last bit of sweetness or 'energy' into their struggles and efforts in fighting a war against Axis occupation. Meanwhile, in a Yugoslav-era touristic booklet about the monuments of Podgrmeč, the "apple" symbolism of this monument is described in the following terms:

"In front of the museum is a memorial fountain in the shape of a broken apple... In the Krajina, the apple is a symbol of gratitude, and this monument shows the readiness of the people of Podgrmeč to share everything with the Partisan Army. As such, drinking water flows from the fountain.

Status and Condition:

For all intents and purposes, this spomenik complex at Jasenica can be considered completely abandoned and forgotten. Everything is overgrown, with weeds and vegetation running wild. The two limestone fountain sculptures are in reasonable physical shape, however, parts of them have been damaged, and the fountains seem far way from ever being able to operate again. Meanwhile, the attached museum is completely destroyed and derelict, with collapsed roof sections and missing walls, windows and doors. There are no directional or promotional signs along the main roads which might lead visitors or tourists to this monument, nor are there any interpretive signs on site informing of the location's cultural or historic significance. Furthermore, it does not seem as though locals in this small village make any efforts whatsoever to advertise or promote the memorial as an attraction or point of interest.

There are no signs or indications that this site sees any locals coming to pay tribute or to honor the site, as, upon my most recent visit, I found no flowers, candles or wreaths left anywhere around the memorial. In addition, there are also zero indications that any sort of annual commemorative events or remembrance ceremonies are still held here. Finally, I have found no information that there are any planned efforts or movements to restore or rehabilitate this site. Furthermore, 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.

Directions:

Finding the memorial complex here at Jasenica is relatively easy endeavor. Firstly, coming from the direction of Bosanska Krupa, follow Road R405 southeast roughly 17km until you approach the small village of Jasenica. Once into the village, take the first major left turn towards the Temple of the Holy Archangel Gabriel (Hram Svetog Arhangela Gavrila) (see photo here). After about 100m you will see the Temple on your right. The spomenik is situated right across the street from the Temple in front of a small abandoned building which used to be a museum. Parking can be made just north of it on an abandoned bit of pavement. Exact coordinates for parking are N44°48'13.0", E16°15'31.4".

Click to open in Google Maps in new window

Slideshow

Comments:

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