Name: Monument to Ivan Goran Kovačić (Spomenik Ivanu Goranu Kovačiću)
Location: Lukodov, Croatia
Year completed: 1964
Designer: Vojin Bakić [profile page]
Coordinates: N45°25'43.8", E15°07'34.0" (click for map)
Dimensions: 3-4m tall sculpture
Materials used: Stainless steel
Condition: Fair to good
The monument here at Lukovdol, Croatia commemorates the Partisan fighter Ivan Goran Kovačić who perished during WWII, who was also one of the most famous Croatian poets of the 20th century.
Born on March, 21st, 1913 in the village of Lukovdol, Ivan Kovačić (Photo 1) was raised by his Croat father and Jewish mother. He began his schooling in the Lukovdol but soon moved onto the nearby town of Karlovac for his secondary education. Even at a young age he was an accomplished writer, publishing his first collection of poetry in 1932 in a book entitled "Lirika" (Lyrics). After graduating, he briefly attended the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Zagreb, however, he soon left schooling and pursued a career of writing and journalism. In addition, early in his life, Kovačić adopted the nickname "Goran", which essentially means "mountain-man" in reference to the Gorski kotar mountain region where Lukovdol in located.
Having been a staunch supporter of the Croatian Peasant Party, Kovačić joined the anti-fascist communist resistance group called the "Partisans" in the months after WWII swept into the Yugoslav region in April of 1941. Interestingly, he joined the Partisan rebel group even despite knowing that he was already infected with the tuberculosis disease. While fighting with the Partisan rebels, he primarily engaged in offensives and operations in the southern Bosnia region (Photo 2). During these military marches and fighting across Bosnia, he wrote extensively about his personal experiences and the horror of war he witnessed which were committed by the Axis-aligned Ustaše military forces of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). It was after seeing such atrocities that Kovačić began to write his most famous poem through the years of 1942 and 1943, which was a dark set of anti-war verses that was titled "Jama" (The Pit). The poem's name "Jama" was in reference to the many ethnic-Serb civilians who were found by his Partisan unit thrown into the karst caves and pits of the Herzegovina region by Ustaše forces.
Photo 1: Ivan Goran Kovačić
Photo 2: Ivan Goran Kovačić with Partisan fighters in Bosnia, 1943
While Kovačić was fighting with his unit in the village of Vrbica near the present-day town of Foča, Bosnia, he was killed by an incursion of Chetnik fighters on July 13th, 1943. He had just prior survived the bloody Fifth Offensive at Sutjeksa, but while going back to rescue a scientist friend of his Dr. Simo Milošević, it was reported he was ambushed and executed along with his friend Milošević. He was 30 years old at the time of his death. His poem "Jama" was published soon after his death in 1944, which was met with wide acclaim and celebration within Yugoslav Partisan circles. After the end of the war and the formation of a socialist Yugoslavia, the poem became one of the county's most famous literary works while also being considered one of Croatia's most important poetic works of the 20th century. During the Yugoslav-era, the poem was widely studied and taught to school children across the entire country.
In the early 1960s the village of Lukovdol organized the construction of a monument to be built next to childhood home of Ivan Goran Kovačić. Famed Croatian sculptor Vojin Bakić, who had been personally working on sculptural variations of Kovačić since 1946 (Photo 3), was commissioned to create the memorial sculpture which would be the centerpiece of this new complex. The memorial was officially inaugurated and opened to the public on March 21st, 1964, a day which recognized Kovačić's 51st birthday. The inauguration's events included a staging of the first "Goranovo proljeće" (Goran's Spring) poetry competition for young writers and poets, which then went on to become an annual event at the site. The central element of the memorial complex is a 3-4m tall stainless steel sculpture which stands as a stylized depiction of the head of Ivan Goran Kovačić. In addition, the complex contains a large outdoor amphitheatre as several other small sculptural elements. Interestingly, an identical sculpture to the one here in Lukovdol was built by Bakić in 1964 in stone instead of stainless steel at Ribnjak Park in Zagreb.
Today, the Kovačić memorial site at Lukovdol is regularly utilized by the local community and visited by tourists. The Goran's Spring poetry competition continues to be held at the site, along with other commemorative events related to Kovačić. However, in 2017, Lukovdol was not able to hold the Goran's Spring event for the first time in 54 years due to a lack of funding from the Croatian Ministry of Culture. However, the event returned to Lukovdol for the 2018 event.
Photo 3: Vojin Bakić in the 1950s working on a Kovačić sculpture
Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:
There are a number of inscribed elements at the memorial complex here at Lukovdol. Firstly, on the square stone plinth that the metal sculpture of Kovačić sits on has an embossed engraving made around its outer edge (Slides 1 & 2). The inscription on this plinth is the first two lines from Kovačić's personally prophetic 1937 poem "Moj grob" (My Grave), which is a poem that extols on his vision of his own inevitable and untimely death. The inscription of the verse roughly reads, when translated from Croatian to English, as:
"May my grave be in the gloomy mountain, may it be surrounded by the howling of wolves, may above it be the murmur of black branches."
Photo 4: Ivan Kovačić monument at Ribnjak Park, Zagreb
Monument at Ribnjak Park, Zagreb:
A sculpturally identical Ivan Kovačić monument to the one here at Lukovdol was also created by Vojin Bakić in 1963 at Ribnjak Park in Zagreb, Croatia (Photo 4). It was constructed concurrently to the creation of the monument at Lukovdol. However, while they are both roughly the same size, the most obvious difference from the Lukovdol monument is that the sculpture at Ribnjak Park is made of white granite instead of stainless steel. Interestingly, when this stone version was presented to the Yugoslav president Josip Tito at the Zagreb Autumn Fair in 1963, he is reported to have remarked "What on earth is that?... I could have made that myself!" Tito, with his historical background as a laborer and metallurgist, was not always the most charismatic fan of modern art. The current condition of the Ribnjak monument is fair, with it being clearly regularly cleaned and maintained while they park itself is routinely manicured and landscaped. Yet, while Ribnjak does play host to some local events, my research revealed no information or reports that any nature of direct annual commemorative or remembrance celebrations are held for this monument any longer. The exact coordinates of the monument within Ribnjak is N45°49'03.8", E15°58'46.2".
Since 1946, the theme of creating sculptural busts of Ivan Goran Kovačić was a repeated theme of Vojin Bakić. The inspiration of this intense focus on Kovačić may have been a result of Bakić losing his brothers during WWII, a visceral event through which he found emotional and spiritual connection through Kovačić's anti-war poem 'Jama'. Initial incarnations of the Kovačić sculpture took on a decidedly Soviet socialist-realism character and style (Photo 5). However, through the mid-1950s (after Yugoslavia's fall-out with the Soviet Union), Bakić began to experiment with more abstract styles of art, eventually settling on a highly cubist approach of creating a likeness of Kovačić. The result of this artistic experimentation was an almost crystalline shaped portrait of Kovačić which reduced the features of his face to an intricate series of sharp edges and smooth planes. The choice of materials Bakić chose for the sculpture at Lukovdol was a highly polished and reflective stainless steel. This was a sculptural material Bakić employed in numerous memorial works, such as those at Dotrščina, Petrova Gora and Kamenska, which was a material he used to communicate the symbolic ideals of personal reflection and a communion between the viewer and their surroundings, as well as the interplay between illumination versus darkness.
Photo 5: Vojin Bakić working on a Kovačić sculpture, late 1940s
Status and Condition:
The overall state of the Ivan Goran Kovačić memorial park here in Lukovdol is very good. The grounds of the complex are routinely maintained and manicured while the stainless steel monument is regularly cleaned and preserved. The road to the site is marked with adequate signage while the site itself contains multi-language interpretive placards explaining the historic and cultural importance of the memorial. The monument sees regular visitors and tourists, as well as school and youth groups.
Photo 6: Young poets preparing to recite at the 2016 Goran's Spring Festival
In addition, an annual multi-day youth poetry competition called "Goranovo proljeće" (Goran's Spring), which is held in memory of the poet Ivan Goran Kovačić, is hosted at the Lukovdol memorial complex, generally around March 21st on Kovačić 's birthday. Such events routinely draw hundreds of attendees and dozens of young poet participants. Not only is the event just for poet's though (Photo 6)... singers, dramatic artists, concerts and event scientific gatherings are additionally included as part of the Goran's Spring festival. The event is recognized as the largest poetry gathering in Croatia. However, in 2017, the event was not held for the first time in 54 years after the Croatian Ministry of Culture was not able to provide the "Goran's Spring" organizing committee with sufficient funds to put on the event. Yet, the event was held on the subsequent year in 2018 on March 21st, while current plants are in order for the event to be held again for its 56th incarnation for 2019 as well.
Additional Sites in the Lukovdol Area:
In this section we will explore additional Yugoslav-era historical, cultural and memorial sites in and around the greater Lukovdol area, as well as the Gorski Kotar region, which might be relevant to those interested in the art, architecture and heritage of the former Yugoslavia. Here we will examine the historical home & museum of Ivan Goran Kovačić, as well as the monument to 26 frozen Partisans at Matić poljana.
Ivan Goran Kovačić Birthplace Museum:
Just across the street from the Ivan Goran Kovačić monument complex (situated adjacent to Lukovdol's central church) is Kovačić's birthplace and childhood home, which has today been turned into a museum. The yellow plastered home was built by Kovačić's grandfather in 1905 and it was opened as a public museum and educational center in 1975. The museum exhibit within the home site is divided into several sections which explore his life and death as a Partisan fighter, his career as a writer and poet, as well as the history of the Goran's Spring poetry festival here in Lukovdol. In addition, there are several rooms in the museum set up in a historical fashion to appear as they may have looked during the time that Kovačić lived here. Today, the museum is managed by the Croatian History Museum in Zagreb and is open daily. The musuem's official website can be found at THIS link, while its exact coordinates for this museum are N45°25'41.4", E15°07'33.2".
Ivan Goran Kovačić Birthplace Museum at Lukovdol - Slideshow
The 26 Frozen Partisans of Matić poljana:
Roughly 21km SW of Lukovdol as the crow flies (but ~43km driving mountain roads) is the Monument to Frozen Partisans at Matić poljana, tucked away high up in the mountains just past the village of Tuk. It was near here that 26 soldiers of commander Viktor Bubanj's 2nd Brigade of the 13th Primorje-Gorski Partisan Division froze to death during the night of February 19th, 1944 while attempting a 52km winter march in order to flee German and Ustaše advances. The route of the marching brigade, which was made up of roughly 680 fighters, would be from Drežnica to Mrkopalj, over the Velika Kapela range of the Gorski Kotar mountains. As night fell for the marching soldiers on the evening of the 19th, the temperature reportedly fell to around -25C, leaving the already hungry and exhausted fighters even more vulnerable. As the brigade approached the fields of Matić poljana the following morning, 26 were found to have succumbed to the cold, while 85 experienced severe frostbite. Surviving members of the brigade reached Mrkopalj later that day.
The 26 Frozen Partisans of Matić poljana - Slideshow
Created in 1969 by Croatian sculptor Zdenko Sila, this monument is composed of 26 sets of stacked limestone monoliths (roughly 3m tall) laid out in a broad curving line over the distance of about 300m (Slides 1 - 4). Highly reminiscent of European neolithic standing stones, these stacked forms are meant to be symbolic personifications of each of the 26 Partisans who froze to death here, as if their bodies had frozen into eternal standing blocks of stone. On the NW end of the site is a three sided inscribed panel set perched atop a boulder (Slide 5). These plaques bear poetic verses written by local elementary school children from the 1960s about the frozen tragedy which befell this brigade (Slides 6 - 8). These verses roughly translate from Croatian into English as:
[Southeast facing panel] (Slide 5)
"They cling on. Panting. The weary fall in the snow up to their belts. They get up. They want to move forward. Step by step. They are crumbling. They hate that whiteness and snow, the dead song of the wind. It stabs them like knives. But they must not stop. Within each of them is an ineffable desire for life. Faster! Faster! They have to endure. It looks as though it is about to open. But no! They fall into an invincible force. They break. Their eyelids shudder at the onset of imagination, thoughts of freedom, a wild dream." --Gordana Rupe, student of 7a
[North facing panel] (Slide 6)
"The stronger help the weaker. Fighter brave fighter - just a little more. A little bit more. Just to endure! You must go on. They raise their legs slowly. Wind! Blizzard! The fighters are lagging behind. Falling. They push on while not discouraged. Matić poljana is looking for victims. Columns are shrinking. Hope is vanishing. The fighters are vanishing." --Dubravko Dosen, student of 5a
[Southwest facing panel] (Slide 7)
"Deserted mountain, help nowhere to be seen. Trouble and pain. Whoever sits stays down forever. Tired, doomed to perish, they remained without hope. And the living continued with their last bits of energy along a path that has no end. Silent, with the only desire to finally see that redeeming light, the hearth, to end the excruciating fight." --Jadranka Matković, student of 7b
Meanwhile, wrapping around the top of all three panels is an inscription that reads in English as: "The 3rd Brigade of the 13th Primorsko-Gorski Division on the night of 19th to 20th February, 1944, lead the way from Drežnica to Mrkopalj." This memorial site sits in relatively good condition, while commemorative events continue to be held here. Some sources say that this monument is the most significant memorial site in the Gorski Kotar region. However, keep in mind when attempting to visit this site that during much of the winter and early spring, this small gravel road that accesses this meadow from the village of Tuk is impassable by car. In addition, if you hike here, it is important to be alert for bears, which are common in this region. The wooden sign at the approach of Matić poljana can be seen in Slide 9. A historical image of the monument site can be seen in Slide 10. The exact coordinates for Matić poljana are N45°17'12.8", E14°53'43.6".
And Additional Sites of Interest:
Monument to Ski Fighters at Begovo Razdolje: Roughly 21km as the crow flies SW of Lukovdol (but ~43km driving mountain roads) in the small alpine village of Begovo Razdolje is a bronze monument which commemorates ski fighters (borcima skijasima) who perished in this region during WWII. Created in 1980 by Croatian sculptor Tomislav Ostoja, the work consists of three horizontally ski-track-like slanting spikes, with the top-most one designed to appear 'broken' (possibly to symbolize the ski fighters who perished). The work sits in good condition, but I found no reports of commemorative events being held here. An image of the mounment can be seen at THIS link, while its exact coordinates are N45°18'18.7", E14°54'03.5".
Monument to Fallen Fighters in Moravice: Roughly 9km as the crow flies west from Lukovdol is the village of Moravice. Within the center square of the village sits a large figurative bronze memorial sculpture atop a polished stone pedestal created in 1952 by Croatian sculptor Velibor Mačukatin (Photo 7). The sculpture consists of a male fighter in the process of falling, next to whom is a woman bursting up arms spread, seemingly to defend him. On the two broad sides of the pedstal contain bronze sculptural reliefs depicting laborers and fighters. This piece is in good condition and appears well maintained. The exact coordinates for this monument are N45°25'33.8", E15°00'32.7".
Monument to the People's Uprising of Gorski Kotar in Delnice: Roughly 25km as the crow flies from Lukovdol is the town of Delnice, the largest town in the Gorski Kotar Mountains. In a park on the south end of town next to Hotel Risnjak is a bronze memorial sculpture (Photo 8) which is dedicated to the local uprising against Axis occupation and oppression during WWII. Created in 1954 by Riejka sculptor Belizar Bahorić, the work consists of a man holding a large machine gun, while in front of him is a scout keeping watch. The work's original pedestal was low to the ground, but it was replaced with a taller one in the 1980s. The monument exists in a good condition, however, I was not able to find any reports detailing whether annual commemorative events are still held here. The exact coordinates for this site are N45°23'35.0", E14°47'51.3".
Photo 7: Monument at Moravice
Photo 8: Monument at Delnice
Photo 9: Vintage image of ossuary at Ravna Gora
Ravna Gora Ossuary on Suhi Vrh Hill: Roughly 15km as the crow flies west from Lukovdol is the town of Ravna Gora. On a hill south of town called Suhi Vrh overlooking the valley is a memorial ossuary which contains the remains of 33 local fallen fighters who perished during WWII. Created in 1962, the central element of the monument is a roughly 7m tall sharp concrete bent spike pointing into the sky. A stone block altar in front of the concrete spike is inscribed with a stanza from the poem "Naša sloboda" (Our Freedom) by Ivan Goran Kovačić, which roughly reads in English as: "Freedom!... extend your frail hand to us, and you will be transformed by our blood." This monument sits in a neglected state, with it being overgrown by vegetation in places. A scenic view of the valley which once was visible here (Photo 9) has now been completely overgrown by trees. I found no reports of recent commemorative events being held here. The exact coordinates for this site are N45°22'14.7", E14°56'40.9".
From the E65 motorway, turn north onto Highway 42 towards Vrbovsko at Exit 2. Once you pass through the town of Vrbovsko and reach the village of Stubica after roughly 3km, veer right heading north onto Highway 3 following the signs for "Zagreb/Karlovac". Then, after roughly 5km, you will see a sign for a left hand turn with yellow signs pointing towards Lukovdol along with brown signs pointing towards the Kovačić memorial complex. After turning onto this road, you will approach the village of Lukovdol after roughly 1km. When you reach the village center of Lukovdol you will see a small parking area just to the west of the large church in the center of the village. Park here and the monument can be found just up the hill to the north. Exact coordinates for parking are N45°25'42.3", E15°07'33.2".
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Selected Sources and More Information:
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