Name: Kadinjača Memorial Complex (Спомен комплекс Кадињача)
Location: 14km NW of Užice, Serbia (prounounced 'OO-zheets-eh')
Year completed: 1952, with expansion in 1979 (2 years to build)
Designer: Miodrag Živković (profile page) and Aleksandar Đokić
Coordinates: N43°54'43.7", E19°44'33.7" (click for map)
Dimensions: Large complex covering 15ha
Materials used: Poured concrete, rebar and granite blocks
Condition: Very good, well maintained
Click on slideshow photos for description
This spomenik complex at Kadinjača, Serbia commemorates fallen Partisan fighters from Posavina and Orasje and all the fighters from the Worker's Battalion who perished at this spot fighting against German forces during the Battle of Kadinjača on November 29th, 1941.
World War II
The series of events that led to the Battle of Kadinjača began in the autumn of 1941, when Partisans liberated the region around the city of Užice, which was formerly under the control of German-occupied Serbia. Partisans called this liberated area the 'Republic of Užice' and it stood as the first liberated territory within Axis occupied-Europe. Within Užice, the Partisans set up their command headquarters within the town's central bank, using the facility's underground vaults for a munitions manufacturing. With his Partisan troops liberating the expelling German forces from the region and establishing this new Partisan-controlled Republic, commander Josip Tito traveled from hiding in Belgrade to join his forces at Užice. In response to this action by the Partisans, the Germans put into action "Operation Užice", which was the first German led anti-Partisan effort of WWII. The aim of this operation was to not only take back this Partisan-held territory, but furthermore, it was the first in a long series of offensives through the war by the Germans to decapitate and eliminate the entire Partisan resistance movement.
In late November of 1941, Partisan intelligence informed Marshal Josip Tito, commander of the Partisans, that an attack by German soldiers was imminent. German planes began bombing the city on November 22nd, with one bomb striking the bank building the Partisans were using as their HQ, an event which caused an explosion in the underground vault where munitions were being manufactured, killing +120 people. Then, on November 28th, Užice's Worker's Battalion, along with two Partisan units from Posavina and Orasje, all commanded by Andrija Đurović, were ordered to intercept the German Wehrmacht 342nd Infantry Division who had been spotted advancing up towards Kadinjača mountain, only 14km away from the edge of Užice (Photo 1). Before the Germans troops were able to reach the ridge of Kadinjača they were intercepted by the Partisan forces at 8am on the morning of November 29th. The German 342nd Infantry Division, made up of well over 3,000 soldiers, far outnumbered the roughly 400 fighters of the Partisan Worker's Battalion, yet, the Partisan unit fought on regardless. As a consequence, nearly all of members of the Worker's Battalion were killed in combat, yet, they stood their ground against the Wehrmacht for nearly 6 hours, giving ample time for a retreat of civilians and Partisan leadership at the Supreme Headquarters out of Užice and to safety.
Photo 1: Worker's Battalion fighters rallying in Užice before leaving for Kadinjača, Nov. 28th 1941.
Photo 2: Yugoslav poster for the 1974 film 'Republic of Užice'
By the end of that same day, the city of Užice fell to the advancement of these German units. However, while Užice fell back under Axis control, the German's overall mission to capture Tito and destroy the Partisan resistance was a failure as the Partisan leadership was able flee the city and escape to the sanctuary of the Sandžak region. During the Partisan's engagement on Kadinjača mountain, even despite all the Partisan's efforts and mass loss of life they incurred, only two German soldiers were killed during the conflict. After the end of WWII and the establishment of Yugoslavia, the town of Užice changed it name to 'Titovo Užice' in honor of Tito and his Partisan's ambitious establishment of one of the first breakaway territories of WWII.
Furthermore, the events of the battle, and the fall of Užice, were depicted in a 1974 Yugoslav film called 'Republic of Užice' ('Užička republika'/'Ужичка република'), which was directed by Serbian filmmaker Žika Mitrović (Photo 2) This film was even successful in international markets, where it was re-titled as "Guns of War" for English speaking audiences. The film went on to win awards both at the Pula Film Awards and also the Moscow International Film Festival. This film can be watched for free in its entirety on this website at the Spomenik Database Video Archive.
In 1952, a modest 11m tall marble pyramid-spire memorial, designed by Stevan Živanović, was built near the summit of Kadinjača Mountain, under which was built a crypt where the remains of the Worker's Battalion soldiers who died during the 1941 battle were interred. The marble was sourced from the nearby village of Karan. However, in late 1962, the SUBNOR veterans group and the municipalities of Užice and Bajina Basta devised plans for a much more expansive memorial complex to be added to compliment the stone pyramid crypt. After an prolonged pre-construction planning process, designer Miodrag Živković and architect Aleksandar Đokić were ultimately commissioned in 1976 to create this memorial's expansion (Photo 3). The monument solution that Živković & Đokić proposed was highly ambitious and would not only expand the complex, but also bring a new modernist aesthetic/sculptural tone to the site. In discussing his ideas for devising this concept for the Kadinjača complex, Živković made the following comments in a 1976 interview with a Belgrade newspaper (translated here into English):
"I wanted my monument to ascend with a landscape, to remain as part of the history of that region, that physical space. When I started to work on the Kadinjača project, together with the architect Aleksandar Dokić, who was the project's architect, I went many times to that place. There again I read the poem "Kadinjača" by Slavko Vukosavljević, feeling as if it were a living response to the Workers' Battalion, the determination of these fighters to save the revolution, to enable the withdrawal of the Supreme Headquarters from Uzice, in a word, they were aware of their high rank and their responsibilities. All that seemed to have lived in that place. I sat down and tried to figure out how to express their decision through sculptural material - stone. So, I made a series of elements from the so-called white concrete, (a stone joined with white cement), tall and sharp (18 meters high), which fit into the figuration of the terrain, emphasizing the ridge of the ridge, symbolizing the rebellion and strength of the Workers' Battalion, their consciousness and decision."
Photo 3: A model of Živković's initial 1976 proposal for the Kadinjača monument complex
Work on the project began in 1977, with the project being significantly funded by local organizations and private donations, with other money coming from the government of the SR of Serbia. Newspaper sources from the era quote the cost of the project around 30 million Yugoslav dinars. Interestingly, the initial concept that Živković proposed for the central monolith of his monument complex was originally of a much different design and configuration, arranged instead more like a large fracture (Photo 4) rather than the star-burst/bullet-hole motif that was finally settled upon. It is unclear why (or when) this element was so drastically changed between concept and completion. Construction on the new Kadinjača memorial project was conducted from 1977 to 1979 (Photo 5).
Photo 4: Živković's original concept for the central Kadinjača memorial sculpture, 1976
Photo 5: Elements of the Kadinjača monument complex under construction by stone masons during 1978
The complex was formally opened during a grand ceremony at the site on September 23rd, 1979, which was personally presided over by Yugoslav President Josip Tito himself and reportedly attended by over 100,000 people (Photo 6). During this unveiling ceremony, sources recount Tito making the following statements during his inaugural address (translated here into English):
"Here at Kadinjača, a dramatic and difficult battle was fought against a far superior enemy. The Worker's Battalion fighters selflessly sacraficed themselves and were resolved to stop the enemy at all costs. There are rare examples in the annuls of war history of a small troop of heroes, with incredible courage and perseverance, confronting such an overpowering and armed enemy. Fifteen German units were attacked by one Partisan unit."
The new addition of Živković's sculptural elements to the spomenik complex consisted of several segments... firstly, a museum complex (designed by Aleksandar Đokić) which is called Spomen-Dom Kadinjača. Following this was a sprawling and undulating series of white painted concrete pylons emanating from the earth at different angles and sizes which was named 'Alley of the Worker's Battalion', with this 'alley' following the ridge of the hill. The focal point of these undulating white concrete pylons are a pair together which are tallest among the rest (~14m). This tall flat pair, arranged side-by-side like a wide wall, have their upper-half pierced with what resembles a bullet-hole like opening (within which face-like forms can be seen). In addition, a large amphitheatre was built in the center of the complex, named the 'Plateau of Freedom', which hosted educational presentations, 'Young Pioneer' meetings and school gatherings. Interestingly, in the final form of the redevelopment of the old memorial by Miodrag Živković, the original stone pyramid element was not removed or minimized... in fact, Živković's new sculptural elements are often credited for enhancing and highlighting the original memorial element, especially in the way in which it emphasizes rather than over-takes it.
Photo 6: A view of the 1979 opening ceremony at the Kadinjača memorial complex
In 1984, a new memorial element was added to the site on the hillside just a few dozen meters southwest of the spomenik's museum to commemorate the death of President Josip Tito. The memorial consisted of the planting of 88 trees to symbolize the 88 years of Tito's life. In addition, a paved pathway was included around the trees along with displays of several WWII artillery cannons. This new memorial was called "Partisan Woods'.
Yugoslav Wars to Present-Day
This spomenik complex at Kadinjača has consistently been kept in fairly good shape and has not faced the plight of graffiti, vandalism, neglect or destruction that many other spomenik complexes across the Balkans were met with during the fall of Yugoslavia and the onset of the Yugoslav Wars. However, in 1992, at the onset of the dismantling of Yugoslavia, the town of Titovo Užice changed its name back to simply 'Užice', perhaps to distance itself from its Partisan heritage during the wave of Serbian nationalism that swept across the country during the early 1990s. But regardless, the spomenik complex at Kadinjača continues to be well maintained, with many thousands of visitors a year still come to visit this site (though not as many as during the Yugoslav-era), while many annual commemorative events are still regularly held here. In addition, there are future plans to include further memorial elements, as well as plans to renovate the museum and the monument's lighting systems. Some of this work may be carried out at some point during 2020-2025, during the time which a new motorway tunnel will be built underneath Kadinjača mountain. One indication that the monument is still widely honored and positively recognized across Serbia is the country's post office releasing a Kadinjača commemorative stamp in 2016.
Photo 7: Artwork by New Mexico artist Frol Boundin
Photo 8: Monument at Musa Dagh, Armenia [Photo by Darmon Richter]
During the 2010s, as the imagery of the Yugoslav memorial sites reached a wider international audience, the dramatic aesthetics of Živković's central monument here at Kadinjača has resulted in it consistently being among the most widely recognized Yugoslav spomeniks. A significant amount of examples can be found of world sculptors, photographers and other types of graphic artists capturing the monument's form in their artwork (Photo 7). One curious example of the monument's recent recreation is at the Battle of Musa Dagh memorial complex (Photo 8) in Ptghunk, Armenia, which commemorates the 1915 Armenian Genocide. This monument at Musa Dagh [coordinates] was created in the lead up to the 100th anniversary to the genocide, which was marked in 2015. I was unable to determine the author of this monument or why it was created in such a similar likeness to the Kadinjača monument.
Finally, it is also notable to mention that the Kadinjača monument received media attention in the fall of 2018 when a Serbian fashion designer "P.S. Fashion" (based out of the nearby town of Čačak) used the memorial site as the backdrop for a fashion photoshoot for a new clothing line they were marketing. The fashion designer using the monument in such a way was widely criticized in media outlets and on social networks.
Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:
The central element of the Kadinjača memorial is still the original stone pyramid monument built back in 1952. As you approach it from the walkway from the parking lot and visitors center, the first thing you'll see on the front of it is a short inscription on an engraved stone plaque (Slide 1). Translated from Serbian to English, it reads:
"Heroes of Kadinjača"
After that, going around to the left side of the pyramid, you'll see a second engraved plaque set into the side of the pyramid (Slide 2). This engraving is a stanza from the famous poem "Kadinjača" by Užice poet Slavko Vukosavljević. It translates from Serbian to English as:
"My beloved country, did you know the whole battalion died here? The blood blooms through the fallen snow, cold and white. During the night, wind swept away the traces, but still in the south, the army walks. The 14th kilometer fell, but Kadinjača never will!"
In the poem, the phrase '14th kilometer' refers to the distance between Užice and this site, which was how far the Fighters Workers Battalion soldiers marched before falling here to German forces. Then, on the opposite side of the pyramid from this stone plaque, there is another stone plaque with a continuation of the Vukosavljević poem (Slide 3). It roughly translates from Serbian to English as:
"Who wouldn't love you Užice?! You were a city of pain and joy... and who could get over you now, a red fruit born in uprising! Someone will fall, someone will come. Oh city, my friend. Oh city, my kin. There will be sorrow, but it'll go away... and you will be flushed with freedom!"
As you are walking from the pyramid towards Živković's series of white pillars and shapes, there is a small bronze circular platform (Slide 4) set into the grass next to the wavy paved pathway. On this bronze platform is an relief inscription of a speech given by then President of Yugoslavia Josip Tito. It roughly translates from Serbian to English as:
"There are rare examples in history of wars where one extremely powerful and heavily armed enemy faces blowback from a very small regiment of heroes. This is an example [of that] and is inspiration for younger generations, as far as gaining and defending freedom and independence of their country."
-TITO, Sept. 23rd, 1979-
President of Yugoslavia
"Tito revealed this monument for the heroes of Kadinjača and he gave the title of 'National Hero' to the whole Worker's Batallion."
On the other side of the monument complex from here, there is small grove of trees which the pathway snakes through. While there are many old pieces of artilery scattered around here, there is also a small concrete platform on which there is another bronze plaque (Slide 5) with a relief inscription. It roughly translates from Serbian to English as:
"Partisan line of trees: 88 trees for Comrade Tito. These trees were planted by the participants of the Gathering of Partisans of Yugoslavia in 1984, in Užice."
At the entrance parking area for this spomenik complex is a memorial museum called Spomen-Dom Kadinjača (Slide 1). Designed by Serbian architect Aleksandar Đokić, this building was opened in 1979 and built along side of the rest of the expansion project by Miodrag Živković. One of the centerpieces of the interior design of the Spomen-Dom is a massive stained-glass window depicting the battle between the Germans and Partisans (Slide 2). Originally the museum complex is contained a series of historical exhibits related to the battle which occurred here during WWII (Slide 3 & 4). However, in recent decades additional exhibits were added to the museum relating to the 1999 NATO bombings of Serbia (Slide 5). Since the creation of the structure it has been plagued with roof issues. In 2015 efforts began to totally replace the roof and repair longstanding problems with the building (Slide 6). This work is ongoing as of the spring of 2018. A historic photo of the Spomen-Dom can be seen in Slides 7 - 10. It is open Mon.-Sat. 9:00-15.00h.
'Spomen-Dom Kadinjača' - Slideshow
Photo 9: Staring faces within the central sculpture
The primary element of the 1979 addition to the Kadinjača memorial complex, created by Miodrag Živković, was the expansive undulating series of white concrete pylons built around the original memorial. The most prominent of these pylons is a matching set of two which are taller than all the rest. This tallest set is characterized by a large bullet-hole-like opening piercing its center. This bullet-hole motif most certainly symbolizes the violence met upon the Worker's Battalion fighters as they battled against German soldiers in 1941 to make time for the evacuation of civilians from the Kadinjača and Užice areas... a fight that most of them would lose their lives during. Visible within many of these pylons you can see vaguely present stylized human forms and faces emerging (Photo 9), almost appearing as writhing tortured souls. I would venture that these forms are a depiction of the soldiers of the Worker's Battalion themselves, screaming out during their final moments. Even within the shards of the 14m tall 'bullet-hole' sculpture, the same horror stricken faces can be seen gazing out, forever trapped within the circle of violence.
An additional symbolic element of the 'bullet-hole' sculptural element is its height of 14m. This number '14' is meant to be a reference to the 14km that exists between the site here at Kadinjača and the town of Užice in the valley below... a distance that was traversed by the Worker's Battalion in the winter of 1941 order to protect the town from the advancing German Army.
Photo 10: A memorial ceremony at the Kadinjača complex, 2016
Status and Condition:
The Kadinjača spomenik complex is in excellent condition and very well maintained. Firstly, the grounds are well kept and landscaped, while there are a great number of directional and promotional signs easily leading visitors to it from Užice and surrounding towns. The memorial is also promoted as a touristic destination in many parts of the region and it has at its entrance a multi-language interpretive sign relating the historical significance of the location in both Serbian, English and Russian. It is patronized and honored by many thousands of local visitors and tourists each year, while large official commemorative celebrations are still being held here annually (Photo 10), generally on September 29th in order to honor the deaths of the fighters of the Worker's Battalion. The one aspect of the monument I found lacking was the visitor center/museum complex, which seemed to be closed for some nature of renovation while I was there, and was not even open to be explored. However, sources relate that plans are currently underway to renovate and refurbish this museum and bring it up to modern museum standards.
Additional Historic Sites in the Užice Area:
This section will explore other Yugoslav-era historic, cultural and memorial sites around the area of the city of Užice, the city in which the Kadinjača memorial complex is near (14km away). The two sites which will be examined in this section are, firstly, Partisan/City Square in Užice which formerly contained a large statue of Tito, as well as the Užice National Museum complex.
Tito's Monument at Partisan Square
A central feature at the heart of Užice's unique valley-constrained cityscape is a massive central plaza. Work began in Užice on the construction of this square in December of 1959 after the initiation of an extensive urbanization project, spearheaded by the architect team Stanko Mandić and Milorad Pantović. This project was part of an effort to not only modernize Užice, but also to recognize it for the role it played in the antifascist uprising with creating the Republic of Užice in 1941. The demolition of a significant sector of city core was necessary in order to make room for the new square. Inaugurated on the 20th anniversary of Yugoslav Uprising Day (July 4th, 1961), this sprawling open area was named 'Partisan Square' (Trg partizana), around which was included a post office, department stores, government buildings and a massive theatre complex. However, the most symbolic inclusion within this square was a prominent 5m tall bronze sculpture of Yugoslav president Josip Tito (Photo 11), which was titled "Son of the Peoples & Nationalities" (Sin naroda i narodnosti) and created by famous Croatian sculptor Frano Kršinić.
Photo 11: Sculpture of Tito at Partisan Square, 1970s
Photo 12: A view of the Hotel Zlatibor
Buildings of significant notability in Partisan Square are, firstly, the Cultural House (later designated as the National Theatre of Užice), which can be found on the north end of the square and was designed by architect Stanko Mandić (opened in 1967). This building can be seen in the background of the Tito statue in Photo 11. Meanwhile, located on the south end of the square is another significant building called 'Hotel Zlatibor' (хотел Златибор) (Photo 12). This hotel, created in 1981 by famous Montenegrin female architect Svetlana Kana Radević [profile page], is a 60m tall and 16 story high-rise tower designed in the brutalist style of architecture. The building's ambitious (and somewhat confrontational) design dominates the skyline of the city and has left some of Užice's residents feeling somewhat lukewarm towards its bare and stark concrete form, with some locals derisively referring to it as 'Sivonja' or 'Grey Ox'.
Photo 13: The statue of Tito in Partisan Square being torn down, 1991
As the dismantling of Yugoslavia began in the early 1990s, discussion began about the future of the Tito sculpture at the heart of Partisan Square. Then, as conflicts and violence were raging across Yugoslavia, on August 28th, 1991 (roughly 40 years after the statue was erected) a large crowd of protestors assembled in the square as rumors began to spread about the monument's potential fall. Government orders were then issued to topple the statue, at which point a large crane brought the structure to the ground (Photo 13). The statue was then moved about 1/2 kilometer east to a inconspicuous area behind the Užice National Museum. In recent years, some groups have spoken to replace the statue to its prominent location in Partisan Square, but as of yet, no action has yet been taken towards such initiatives. The exact coordinates for the original location for Tito's sculpture within Partisan Square (today often called 'City Square' [Gradski trg]) are N43°51'25.1", E19°50'24.2".
Užice National Museum
As the Užice Republic was established in September of 1941, the Partisans took as their headquarters a set of bank buildings. Built in 1940, just before the start of WWII, the bank complex was originally part of the National Bank of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In July of 1946, this bank complex was set up as a local museum called the 'The Museum of Uprising' commemorating the town's revolutionary history, but then, in April of 1963, these buildings were transformed into a much more extensive museum facility called the Užice National Museum (Narodni muzej Užice) (Photo 14).
Photo 15: The 1961 Anastasijević sculpture, 1980s
As mentioned in the above section regarding the monument to Tito in Užice's Partisan Square, the statue was relocated to the Užice National Museum complex in 1991 after it was removed during the start of the Yugoslav Wars conflicts. It was then situated in a inconspicuous location against a concrete retaining wall behind the north building of the museum complex (Photo 17). However, while this location for the statue was clearly chosen to not draw attention to it, the sculpture still remains a popular attraction, especially as it is the largest Tito sculpture in the former Yugoslavia. The exact location of the Užice National Museum is N43°51'15.0", E19°50'47.1", while the museum's official English language website with more information can be found here.
Photo 14: The Užice National Museum
Since its opening, the museum has contained various exhibits (some permanent and some rotating) which explore the region's military, cultural, ethnographic, artistic and archeological history. In addition to the museum inhabiting the former-bank buildings, the museum exhibits also extend into the bank's former underground vaults and treasury. It was within these subterranean rooms that Partisans manufactured their own munitions during WWII. Upon the site being bombed by Germans on November 22nd, 1941, a massive explosion of ignited munitions swept through the vaults that killed well over 120 Partisans soldiers and workers. The death toll of the bombing was especially high because many of the city's civilian residents used the underground facility for shelter at the onset of the bombings. Next to the south building of the museum is a bronze memorial work by sculptor Borislav Anastasijević (created in 1961) which commemorates all those who died in that 1941 vault explosion. The sculpture depicts three thin lines representing blast shock-waves lifting a flailing lifeless victim into the air (Photo 15). In addition, within an alcove of the underground vaults of the museum is another 1961 memorial work which honors the victims of the explosion. This work was created by sculptor Nebojša Mitrić and is an abstract form created from various pieces of metal weapon and ammunition debris left over from the 1941 blast (Photo 16).
Photo 16: The Nebojša Mitrić sculpture at Užice National Museum
Photo 17: Tito statue's new location at Užice National Museum
Additional Sites of Interest
Lomača Monument at Dovarj Cemetery: Near the north entrance to Dovarj Cemetery in Užice is a small memorial complex which marks the location where Dušan Jerković and Vukol Dabić, two commanders of the Užice Partisan Detachment, were burned to death in a pyre on December 14th, 1941. The central element of the complex is a monument known as "Lomača" (Pyre) which consists of a pair of abstractly carved flowstone pillars (~2-3m tall), resembling dancing flames. The complex was opened in 1968 and was designed by Belgrade architect Uglješa Bogunović, while his wife Milica Ribnikar created the memorial sculpture. A photo of the monument can be seen in Photo 18, while the exact coordinates for its location are N43°51'05.4", E19°51'03.9".
Stari Grad Fortress: Perched on a dramatic cliff overlooking the Đetinja River just east of the Užice city center are the ruined remains of a 12th centery medieval stone fortress. Not only does the fortress have a fascinating history, relating the story of 500 years of Ottoman occupation, but amazing views and vistas can also be seen from this ancient location. Reaching the fortress is a short 15 minute (1km) walk from the Užice city center. A photo of the Stari Grad fortress can be seen at THIS Wiki link, while the exact coordinates for the fortress are N43°51'07.5", E19°49'43.0".
Photo 18: A historic photo of the Lomača Monument
From the city center of Užice, take Highway 28 northwest out of the city towards Bajina Basta. Follow this road up into the mountains for about 15km. Be careful while travelling on this road, as it is very narrow and tight, with numerous sharp and hairpin turns. In addition, there are many heavy trucks on their road that making driving this road tricky as well. As you start to approach the top of the mountain pass (on which the spomenik is situated), you will see it prominently in the distance. Just before the summit, you will see a parking area for the monument complex in front of the visitor's center. Parking can easily be made here, from where you can walk to the spomenik. The exact coordinates for parking are N43°54'36.7", E19°44'28.9".
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Selected Sources and More Information:
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