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Ostra (остра)

Brief Details:

Name: Monument to Courage (Spomenik hrabrima/Споменик мужевима)

Location: Ostra, Serbia

Year completed: 1969 (2 years to build)

Designer(s)Miodrag Živković (profile page) & Svetislav Ličina

Coordinates: N43°54'41.5", E20°30'59.7" (click for map)

Dimensions: 10m tall and 17m long

Materials used: Poured concrete, steel frame and aluminum panels

Condition: Fair to poor, neglected

(OH-strah)

Click on slideshow photo for description.

 

History:

This spomenik at Ostra stands as a memorial to the fallen soldiers and veterans from the Čačak Partisan Detachment who were all from nearby city of Čačak, Serbia (pronounced CHA-chuck).

 

World War II

Only a few days after the initial July 7th, 1941 uprising in Serbia defending against Axis occupation and aggression at Bela Crkva, the Čačak Partisan Detachment, nicknamed "Dr. Dragiša Mišović", was formed on Jelica Mountain, on July 12th, just outside Čačak. Formed by a group of anti-fascist communists and Serbian nationalist (Chetniks) hoping to take back their homeland from these invading Axis aggressors, this Partisan Detachment, initially commanded by Partisan commander Momčilo Radosavljević (Момчило Радосављевић) and Chetnik leader Predrag Raković (Предраг Раковић) (Photo 1), was among the first armed and organized resistance units in all of Serbia. Nearly as soon as they were formed, the detachment began assaults on German units and infrastructure. Then, on September 24th, 1941, the Čačak Partisan Detachment (Photo 2), along with 12 other Partisan detachments and their Chetnik partners, took part in the liberation of the nearby Serbian towns of Čačak and Užice, along with the surrounding region. Out of this brief liberation, which was one of the first areas liberated from Axis occupation in all of Europe, the free-state of the Republic of Užice was created.

Photo 1: Predrag Raković

Photo 2: The Čačak Partisan Detachment in 1941

However, within 5 weeks, Germans re-took the territory of the Užice Republic, while the defeated Partisan detachments retreated into neighboring Bosnia and the Sandžak region. Furthermore, during this defeat, Predrag Raković and his other Chetnik fighters betrayed the Partisans over internal conflicts and differences, then joined sides with the German troops on the eve of Užice's fall. Meanwhile, in the process of  this hurried retreat from Užice, eight wounded members of the Čačak Detachment were left in Zlatibor, in hopes they would simply be taken by the pursuing German units as POWs. However, upon finding them, the German troops executed them, along with many other wounded soldiers left from other Partisan detachments.

For many months, the surviving members of the Čačak Partisan Detachment continued to evade and flee from pursuing Chetnik forces, who were now working on behalf of Axis interests. However, one of the units of the Čačak detachment, under the command of Radiša Poštić (Photo 3) and consisting of 25 fighters, managed to sufficiently gain enough momentum in the spring of 1943 to make a renewed push for the liberation of the city of Čačak. On the evening of March 4th of 1943, during the course of their trek towards Čačak, the detachment was spending the night hiding in a local herdsman's barn in the village of Ostra. However, during the night the barn's stable-master informed upon the Partisan's location to a local unit of Chetniks. The next morning on March the 5th, the Chetniks intercepted and ambushed the handful of Partisans with over 400 Chetnik fighters. By the end of this battle, the Partisan detachment was defeated, with 14 fighters losing their lives and only 11 surviving. After this attack, Predrag Raković, now a high Chetnik commander, wrote a report about to battle to Supreme Chetnik Command saying:

Photo 3: Radiša Poštić

"On March 5th, my people surrounded 25 communists by a barn in the village of Ostra. These communists had been on the run since 1941 under the leadership of engineer Radiša Poštić (deputy commander of the Order). In a fight that lasted for three hours, 14 communists were killed, including Radiše Poštića, who had gotten out of the fight, but was slain during his escape."

While this push to overcome Axis forces to liberate the city was a failure, Yugoslav Partisan forces were ultimately successful in liberating Čačak when the last of the German troops were driven out of the city on December 4th of 1944 with the assistance of the Soviet Red Army and Western Allies

 
 

Spomenik Construction

In the mid 1960s, regional government and veteran groups organized the creation of a memorial complex for the site of the 1944 battle near the village of Ostra. The construction of a monument to the Čačak Partisan Detachment was begun in 1967, with Serbian sculptor Miodrag Živković and urban planner Svetislav Ličina chosen as the creators for the complex (Photo 4). After two years of construction, the memorial sculpture, titled "Monument to Courage" or "Monument to Bravery", officially unveiled to the public on July 7th, 1969. The monument created for this complex was a 10m tall and 17m long aluminum monolith which seemingly bursts out of the ground, with the monolith texturized with fractal motifs and hyper stylized human faces, a design approach seen in many works by Živković. At the entrance to the complex, there is a small triangular concrete with inset raised text relating the story of the 1944 battle.

Photo 4: A photo of Miodrag Živković working on a model of the Ostra monument, late 1960s

Photo 5: Saint Petka Church under construction, 2014

Present-Day

The monument complex was regularly visited and patronized during the decades leading up to the break-up in Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, at which point the monument complex entered into a state of neglect and re-purposing. An decision to construct a Serbian Orthodox church dedicated to Saint Petka (Света Петка) directly adjacent to the spomenik began in 2006 and was not completed until around 2015 (Photo 5). The inclusion of the St. Petka's church within the monument complex was controversial even at the onset of construction (especially with anti-fascist groups), while its construction at this location was also opposed by the creator of the original monument, Miodrag Živković. Some even accused the group building the church that it was being done without proper permissions or authority. As the church is positioned exactly between the monument entrance and the monolith, it could be said to be disruptive and undermining to the design and intention of the monument itself.  Secondly, the symbol of a church in the middle of a monument highlighting the crimes of fascism could seen to be inappropriate, as the Partisan movement (as well as the Yugoslavian government) was a decidedly non-religious and non-denominational in nature. Interestingly, while the brand new church is in excellent condition, the rest of the original surrounding monument complex is still in a state of neglect and disrepair.

 

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

There are several inscribed elements which exist here at the Monument to Courage here at Ostra. At the entrance to the monument complex along the roadside there is a concrete interpretive wall (Photo 6) which contains a series of bronze plate relief plates explaining the significance and meaning behind this monument. The inscription on the bronze plates contain within it a verse written by famous Serbian poet Slavko Vukosavljević. Unfortunately, due to years of neglect, vandalism and destruction, the entirety of this inscription is effectively unreadable in full at this point. However, I was able to find by searching through old books and newspaper clippings several sources which relate the words which were once contained upon this memorial wall. What follows here is a roughl translation, from Serbian to English, of what these bronze plates once read as:

Photo 6: Interpretive wall at memorial entrance, extremely damaged

5th of March, 1943

"In fighting 500 hostile soldiers, fourteen dead and eleven surviving Partisans affirmed Serbia's history which never once made peace with slavery. This you should know, my descendants... during the liberation war of 1941-1945, the Čačak Partisan Detachment was dying but was reborn, and it testifies that freedom may lose some battles, but it will never lose the war."

Then, underneath the primary inscription at the bottom of the wall (written in a smaller font) is a list of fighters from the Čačak Partisan Detachment sub-unit who perished during at Ostra the March 1943 confrontation with the Chetniks. This list, like the rest of the inscription, is also heavily damaged, but an examination of sources have yielded how the original inscription read. The first name in this list of names is the sub-unit's commader, Radiša Poštić, followed by a list of additional fallen fighters from the unit: Radoje Živković, Svetislav Babović-Ćećo, Vasilije Jovičić, Dragan Jovanović-Šmit, Milan Paunović, Gvozden Paunović, Dobroav Miletić-Bob, Milija Jovanović and Mihailo Pavlović. I am not aware of any current or proposed plans to rehabilitate or restore this defaced and destroyed inscription. 

While there is some graffiti on this monument, it is not extensive and I found nothing of note or significance.

 

Symbolism:

While little information is available on what symbolic or representative elements the original designer, Miodrag Živković, had in mind with the shape and form of this monument, it is possible to make a few assumptions. Firstly, within the fractal patterns in the monolith, the rough images of anguished human faces staring out at the viewer are apparent (Photo 7). This, combined with the soaring, skyward reaching orientation of the monolith itself, I would imagine the whole piece itself is intended to embody the sacrifice, suffering and valor of the fallen soldiers who gave their lives fighting in this battle, signifying that their contributions were not in vain and are not forgotten. The polished reflective aluminum surface of this memorial sculpture, which is a rare material used in such works by Živković, may be representative of mindful 'reflection' or contemplation, or perhaps the shiny material acts to give off brightness in a location fraught with so much darkness. In a July 1969 issues of the newspaper 'Borba', an article describes the symbolism of the monument in the following terms (translated here into English):

Photo 7: A view of the faces within the monument

"...the visual and symbolic structure of the monument is given through sharp and dynamic forms of flat surfaces in which, just as a hint, reveal human figures that merge themselves with the this greater work of freedom."

 

Status and Condition:

The current condition of the original monument complex elements at the spomenik complex here in Ostra, Serbia is fairly poor. The central memorial wall at the front entrance has degraded and deteriorated beyond being able to read any longer, while the stairs at the front entrance are completely overgrown and destroyed. Meanwhile, the landscaping around the monument complex is out of control and not maintained from what I could tell, as grass and weeds permeates through nearly all concrete structures, surfaces and walkways.  However, the central aluminum covered monolith is still in fairly good shape, considering the circumstances of other elements of this memorial. No aluminum panels have been removed or seriously damaged and it is still fully intact as a structure. Yet, these plates still have a significant about of scrawling graffiti and damage done to them which would need replacing or repair if the complex was to be restored to its original state.

 

The newly built St. Petka Serbian Orthodox church in the center of the monument complex is, of course, in very good shape. Yet, there are no apparent signs that it is currently being used, although it may have just been closed the day I was there. I did find remnants of old wreaths and memorial flowers that had been left by local visitors, so clearly some in this community still pay respects to and honor the memory and history of this site. Finally, I noticed no visible signs or markers anywhere, either on the main highway or road into Ostra, announcing or directing visitors or tourists to this monument. Meanwhile, I found no indications that any local villages, cities or municipalities are putting forth any efforts to promote or advertise this spomenik complex to the wider public as a historic attraction or point of interest.

 
 

Directions:

The Monument to Courage is situated on the south end of the small village of Ostra, Serbia, just off of the main road which goes through the village. The area can be easily accessed off of Hwy 22/E-761 by taking one of the small roads north off of the highway at Donja Gorevnica which heads up towards Ostra. Unfortunately, none of these roads are marked or have directional arrows towards Ostra, so consult your maps to clarify you are on the right road. Take care driving on this road, as it is very narrow. After driving about 4-5km, you'll see a graveyard on the right side of the road (Photo 8). Parking can be made there at the gravel lot in front of the graveyard, which is right next to the monument complex. The exact coordinates for the parking location are 43°54'43.4"N 20°30'56.7"E, with a link there to Google Maps.

Map for Ostra spomenik monument location

Click to open in Google Maps in new window

Slideshow

Photo 8: Gravel parking lot by cemetery

Comments:

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