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Sarajevo (Сарајево)

(sahr-rah-YEH-voh)

Brief Details:

Name: Vraca Memorial Park (Spomen-park Vraca/Спомен-парк Враца)

Location: Sarajevo, FBiH & RS, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Year completed: 1981 (1 year to build)

Designer: Vladimir Dobrović and Alija Kučukalić

Coordinates: N43°50'40.6", E18°23'58.4" (click for map)

Dimensions: 78,000sq meter monument park

Materials used: Poured concrete, rebar, stone blocks, bronze and granite

Condition: Poor, neglected

History:

The Vraca Memorial Park (Spomen-Park Vraca), located on the slopes of Trebević Mountain in Sarajevo, commemorates the thousands of the region's fighters and civilians victims who perished during the National Liberation War (WWII) at the hands of Axis aggression

Austro-Hungarian Era

The occupation of Sarajevo by the Austo-Hungarian empire began in 1878 as part of the Treaty of Berlin. During this time, the Austro-Hungarians built a considerable amount of fortifications on the mountain ridges around the city in order to more efficiently secure in the event of an invasion. One of the more significant of these fortifications was a large stone castle-like structure built on the slopes of Trebević Mountain in 1898 at an area which was referred to as 'Vraca' (pronounced: VRAH-tsah) -- the fortress was built to act as a type of 'blockade', as it was located near one of the primary south entrance to the city (hence the name 'Vratca', which means 'small door' in Serbo-Croatian). On June 28th of 1914, Austria's Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated on the streets of Sarajevo by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip (Гаврило Принцип) (Photo 1). This action effectively began WWI, an event which brought an end to the Austro-Hungarian state and its rule over Sarajevo. After WWI, Sarajevo became capital of the Drina province in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The fortress at Vraca would later become a central element of the memorial park which was to be built there in 1981.

Photo 1: Artist depiction of Archduke Ferdinand being murdered by Princip, 1914

Photo 2: Mass execution of Bosnian Serbs in Sarajevo, 1944

World War II

On the 6th of April, 1941, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was invaded by German-led Axis forces, with the city of Sarajevo being subsequently taken over and occupied a week later by the German Army's 16th Infantry Division. After the city was taken, Sarajevo was integrated into the Axis-created puppet-state called the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), which was under the military control of the nationalist Ustaše militiamen. A few weeks later, on July 23rd, 1941, the Ustaše issued an order calling for the "emergency arrest of all Jews and Serbs who were known as communists or who seemed to be suspicious". The situation then escalated even further as the mass execution of these prisoners began just nine days later (Photo 2). One particularly notable execution site in the city was at Vraca, on the slopes of Trebević Mountain -- it was a place where significant groups of prisoners were routinely brought to be executed during the war, while also being used as a disposal site for those executed elsewhere in the city. All of the dead who were either killed at Vraca or brought there were buried in the area directly around the Austro-Hungarian fortress. As Vraca is right at one of the primary entrance routes to Sarajevo, the Ustaše also used the site as a deportation hub where prisoners were sent to additional death camps across the region.

In response to these brutalities committed upon the people of Sarajevo, dissidents and rebels opposed to Axis occupation and NDH control organized themselves into a formidable resistance movement. This movement was led by Vladimir 'Valter' Perić (Владимир Перић) (Photo 3), a Serbian communist aligned with Josip Tito's Partisan rebels. In 1942, Perić began recruiting and enlisting people across Sarajevo to join the Partisan resistance efforts to undermine the NDH's control of the city. As resistance forces grew, Perić even went so as far to directly involve himself in the training, formation and deployment of Partisan units around the city. The city of Sarajevo was finally liberated on April 6th, 1945 after the last of the German 181th Division was driven from their strongholds, during which time Perić was killed when a hand grenade was thrown at him by a German soldier. Perić was designated by President Josip Tito as a National Hero in July of 1953. During the course of the entire war, researchers believe that over 100,000 people passed through the Sarajevo's prisoner camps and detention centers, with around 24,000 of those being executed. At Vraca, it is estimated that over 11,000 people were executed at that site over the course of the entire war.

Photo 3: Vladimir 'Valter' Perić

Photo 4: Momčilo Krković concept

Spomenik Construction

During the Yugoslav era, the execution site at Vraca became a sacred spot, transforming into a symbol for the resistance and sacrifice many across Sarajevo made for the liberation of the city. Plans were made by Sarajevo's government and veteran groups to construct a large memorial park on Vraca to commemorate the site as early as 1965. However, a lack of available funds pushed construction of the project into the late 1970s. An open design competition was initiated for deciding what form and shape the complex would take. Many notable artists contributed proposals for consideration, including notable Belgrade artist Momčilo Krković (Photo 4). However, it was the concept created by Serbian designer Vladimir Dobrović was chosen, which would have sculptural work done by Sarajevo-born artist Alija Kučukalić and landscape work coordinated by Croatian architect Aleksandar Maltarić. Construction on the spomenik complex began in April of 1980 (just one month before Tito's death) and was fully completed in November of 1981.

On November 25th, 1981 a grand unveiling ceremony was held to commemorate the official opening of the memorial to the public. This date was chosen for the unveiling as it was not only Bosnia's 'Day of Statehood', but it was also the day of the first meeting of Bosnia's Anti-Fascist Council Meeting for National Liberation in 1943. This spomenik park consists of several memorial elements, most notably: a pyramid fountain with an eternal flame, a bronze sculpture honoring women fighters, the Josip Tito Memorial, a granite cube sculpture marking the tomb of the city's National Heroes, walls engraved with the names of thousands of the city's war victims and a museum in the Austro-Hungarian fortress. These memorial elements will be examined in more detail in subsequent sections of this spomenik profile.

Photo 5: Image of Vraca Park from the early 1980s, just after opening

Yugoslav-Era

As an interesting side-note, in 1972 a Yugoslav film directed by Bosnian filmmaker Hajrudin Krvavac explored the search for Vladimir 'Valter' Perić in Axis-occupied Sarajevo, being released under the title 'Valter brani Sarajevo' ('Walter Defends Sarajevo' in English language markets) (Photo 6). You can watch this film in its entirety in the Video Archive section of this website. As a testament to the social power of the 'Valter' tale, this film is considered to be the most watched Yugoslav film of all time, as well as becoming an extremely popular cinematic hit in China. In a famous scene at the end of the film, the German investigator 'von Dietrich' who has spent the film searchering for Valter looks out over Sarajevo from a hillside overlooking the city (very much like the Vraca site) and is discussing with his fellow officers about why he was never able to find his nemesis. One of them asks von Dietrich whether he has any idea who Valter was. At this point von Dietrich has a realization and exclaims to them, "You see the city there", gesturing towards Sarajevo, "That is Valter". Such an ending was most certainly meant to communicate the universalist and inclusive nature of the people's uprising against German occupation in Sarajevo. A similar style ending was used in the 2005 Hollywood film 'V For Vendetta' [YouTube link], directed by James McTeigue, in which the hero character 'V' (prehaps a reference to Valter) dies and Natalie Portman's character answers the investigator's question, "Who was he", with a similar universalist message, essentially saying "He was all of us", as they both look out wistfully over London. The idea of Valter is still popular in the former Yugoslav region, with a museum about the 1972 film set to open in Sarajevo in 2018, as well as there being a cevap restaurant in Belgrade named after Valter and with decor dedicated to the film.

Photo 6: English language poster for 1972 Yugoslav film 'Valter Brani Sarajevo'

Yugoslav Wars

As the early 1990s brought the beginnings of disintegration for Yugoslavia, the spomenik complex at Vraca began to fall into neglect and disarray. Then, as relations began to break down even further between Bosnian Serbs and the newly independent Bosnian government (led by Muslim leader Alija Izetbegović) in the spring of 1992, the Bosnian Serb paramilitary forces (VRS) began an all-out siege of Sarajevo, which was an attempt by Bosnian Serbs to take the city as part of their own territory and push out the Bosnian government and their supporters. A VRS siege line surrounded the entire city, fortified by barbed wire, tanks and troops, with the Vraca memorial itself being used by the siege forces as a tactical position (both for artillery and snipers), due to its high position and excellent sight-lines across much of the city. From Vraca, VRS artilery and tanks fired onto Sarajevo (Photo 7), while the site also took much fire from opposition forces. Over 15,000 people were killed during the Siege of Sarajevo, with over 5,000 of them being civilian victims. Sadly, among those killed during the siege was Alija Kučukalić, one of the Vraca Memorial Park's three primary creators. As the siege came to an end in early 1996 after the signing of the Dayton Accords, VRS forces fled their positions at Vraca, destroying much of the memorial during their retreat and leaving a significant amount of it in ruins.

Photo 7: The UNIS Towers after being struck by VRS tank fire, 1996

Present-Day

While the BiH Commission for the Preservation of National Monuments declared that the Vraca site was to be designated as a National Monument in 2005, little work was immediately done in the wake of this designation to restore or rehabilitate the damaged complex. Today, as of the late 2010s, the memorial complex here at Vraca sits in an extremely degraded state. Nearly every single sculptural and memorial element of the spomenik is covered in graffiti, while the fortress museum has been completely looted and destroyed. While the site does see many visitors, due to the excellent views and vistas of Sarajevo which can be had here, there are no longer any official commemorative ceremonies or remembrance events held here (however, some non-official smaller scale ones are known to occur). Furthermore, while a great deal of the complex is neglected and ruined, there are some groups advocating for conservation and restoration efforts in order to try to save the site from total destruction and abandonment. Finally, due, in part, to the nature of the location of the memorial right on the border of the Republic of Srpska and the Federation (the border actually passes right through the park) set out by the 1995 Dayton Accords, the area is plagued by a significant amount of ethnic contention, vandalism and criminality. Around 2009/2010 sources report that the Cantonal Institute for the Protection of Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage Sarajevo did put forth efforts to rehabilitate and restore this memorial complex, however, the work they put forward was quickly undone by vandals. However, recent efforts at the site as of 2018 indicate that restoration work on the fortress is currently underway. As of the spring of 2019, much work on this site had been completed, including the re-lighting of the eternal flame for the first time since the Bosnian War.

Vraca Memorial Elements:

Situated around the spomenik complex at Vraca there are a number of memorial elements dedicated to various aspects of Sarajevo's history and involvement in the People's Liberation Struggle (WWII). The following section examines the six primary memorial elements which exist at the Vraca site that have endured until the preset day.

Photo 8: Memorial Fountain/Eternal Flame

Memorial Fountain/Eternal Flame:

The central memorial element found here at the Vraca Spomen-Park is a pyramidal fountain and eternal flame sculpture located right at the main entrance to the park (Photo 8). While the cascading fountain was surely intended to create a serene and calming atmosphere for the memorial, the eternal flame on top of the fountain most certainly was meant to symbolize that these victim's sacrifices would never be forgotten. Currently, the fountain nor the eternal flame operate, as the sculpture is completely derelict and in a state of total disrepair. Not only does it not operate any longer, but upon my most recent visit to the memorial in spring of 2017, it was covered in graffiti with its insides filled with leaves and trash. However, the overall structure of the sculptural work itself is relatively good, so, if the municipality wished to repair it to its original condition, it would seemingly be of only marginal difficulty.

Photo 9: Tomb of the City's National Heroes

Tomb of the City's National Heroes:

Located on the east end of the upper plaza, just at the top of the stairs, there is a cube-shaped granite monument which marks the tomb of 26 fallen Yugoslav National Heroes of the National Liberation War (WWII) from the Sarajevo region (Photo 9). Originally, these remains were interred at Sarajevo's Great Park (Veliki Park), but they were moved for the construction of this new memorial in 1981. The names of these 26 fallen fighters are engraved directly into the granite of the outer ring of the monument. Also, there appears to have once been some nature of a fountain element at the base of the cube sculpture (which no longer functions). Currently, the memorial is defaced and derelict, being severely damaged, completely covered in graffiti and exists is an extreme state of neglect. Several attempts have been made to clean off this graffiti in the past, but it always returns very quickly.

Photo 10: Monument to Women Fighters & Victims

Monument to Women Fighters & Victims:

At the far east end of the memorial complex, there is a monument which commemorates the female fighters and victims of Sarajevo who fell during the People's Liberation Struggle (WWII) (Photo 10). The monument consists of a 4m tall bronze sculpture depicting a women with her arms defiantly raised to the sky. While the sculpture is meant to be representative of all fallen women victims, many believe the sculpture specifically depicts Radojka Lakić (Радојка Лакић), a female leader of the Sarajevo underground communist resistance who was executed at Vraca in September of 1941. Her remains are interred at the Tomb of the City's National Heroes there at Vraca. Currently, the sculpture sits in very poor condition, most notably because the sculpture is defaced and its right arm was broken off by vandals in 2013. Authorities later recovered the bronze arm and there are plans to have it soon reattached.

Photo 11: Memorial Wall

Victim's Memorial Wall:

In the center of the spomenik park, there is a memorial area consisting of a wide stairway leading up to a series of seven terraces, with each terrace containing several stone walls engraved with the names of victims from Sarajevo of the National Liberation War (WWII) (Photo 11). There are exactly 9,091 names engraved on all the walls together in total. Yugoslav General Džemil Šarac calculates that of the 9,091 names, they break down into the following categories: 1,100 children, 7,092 Jews, 1,427 Serbs, 412 Muslims, 106 Croats, and 55 of other nationalities. Also within many of the walls are carved abstract sculptural forms. Currently, many of the wall sections are covered in graffiti, while some wall's stone panels are completely destroyed or missing. Some efforts have been made to restore and rehabilitate the memorial wall, however, it continues to degrade and be neglected.

Photo 12: Austro-Hungarian Fortress

Austro-Hungarian Fortress:

At the time of the construction of the Vraca spomenik complex in 1981, the distressed Austro-Hungarian fortress was integrated to be part of the memorial itself, as it was restored and turned into an expansive visitors center and museum (Photo 12). Upon its opening, the museum contained over 750 historical exhibits, including enlarged photographs, documents, maps, artwork and artifacts. However, after the fortress was used as a strategic location by the VRS during the Siege of Sarajevo, the entire building, including all exhibits contained within, were damaged and destroyed. Currently, the fortress now sits as an abandoned ruin, completely gutted and open to the elements. It is covered in graffiti and seems to be mostly used as a place of mischief for local vandals and drug users. Every year it falls into further decay and towards complete unsalvagable ruin.

Over past years, the fortress was completely open and accessible to any who wished to enter and explore its ruins. However, as of spring of 2018, authorities overseeing the park have completely gated and locked up the entire fortress complex, leaving it completely inaccessible to visitors. Current plans by Sarajevo cultural organizations are to restore and rehabilitate the building.

Photo 13: Josip Tito Memorial

Josip Tito Memorial:

Just west behind the Austro-Hungarian fortress (downhill at the sharp curve in the pathway) there are dual carved marble pillars engraved with a youthful depiction of President Josip TIto, as well as an inscription engraved onto the pillar underneath the Tito carving of a statement he had on the day of liberation of Sarajevo in 1945 (Photo 13). The pillars, roughly 5m tall, sit within the center of a stone paved circular courtyard. Currently, the physical structure of the pillars are in reasonable condition, however, the pillars are signifcantly covered in graffiti and spray paint. Judging from the dates sprayed onto the pillars in some of the graffiti, some of it has been left there untouched for nearly a decade. Furthermore, the small circular courtyard the pillars sits within is extremely overgrown with grass and vegetation. No signs exist that any effort is being made to restore it or rehabilitate this site.

Meanwhile, on the paved path to the Josip Tito Memorial from the Hungarian fortress, there are a series of carved stones with raised inscriptions bearing the names of the various Partisan military units that were involved in the liberation of Sarajevo from Axis forces during WWII. Their condition is good, but many of them are significantly overgrown with vegetation.

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

A few meters southwest of the spomenik's pyramid element, there is an inscription made directly into the stone wall (Slide 1). It reads, roughly translated into English, as:

"Our glorious past will be an example to new generations, of how the peoples of a small country were determined to defend their country and freedom at the price of the heaviest casualties, ready to perish rather than slavishly kneel before the fascist occupiers"

TITO

Slideshow

Continuing walking southwest up the stairway, you see many stone panels with thousands of names (Slides 2 & 3) of the soldiers and civilians who died during WWII in Sarajevo... 9,091 names in all. Among the inscriptions on these panels are various abstract carved stone shapes protruding from the walls -- these can also be see in Slides 2 & 3. In addition, many of the inscribed stone panels bearing these victim's names are in poor shape, with many defaced, damaged and even destroyed (Slide 4).

At the far east side of the spomen-park, there is a large bronze statue of a woman with her arms raised to the air (Slide 5), which is named Monument to Women Fighters & Victims. It was created by artist Alija Kučukalić and is dedicated to the women who took part in and aided in the liberation of Sarajevo. Roughly 10m to the east of this statue, there is a large roughly hewn stone inscribed with a verse (Slide 6). It reads, translated into English, as:

"The fascist villains at Vraca have executed Communist and patriotic participants in the National Liberation Struggle and Revolution. They died for the freedom of present and also future generations. Here lie the bones of those were found. Vraca has since become the inspiration and pride for all of Sarajevo."

November, 1981

Further up the hill, near the top of the stairs, there is a fountain with a ~2m tall cuboid element at its center (Slide 7). It is defaced with a significant amount of graffiti. Around the outer and inner rim of the fountain are engraved the names and lifespans of some of the victims who were killed during the struggle for the liberation of Sarajevo (Slide 8).

At the top of the hill is an old Austro-Hungarian fortress from the late 1800s. In front of the fortress to the left of the stairs is a tall upright flat stone inscribed with the words that Tito spoke at a session of the Communist Party Congress (Slide 9). The inscription reads as, roughly translated into English:

"...Our entire country has always been the scene of a battle between life and death - because the fight was on our home territory, among our towns and villages. Conflict with the enemy was always in the background of people's lives, or rather - enemy conflict was at the heart of all Communist youth, workers and all other true patriots. In Belgrade, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Sarajevo and other cities, people's lives are constantly besieged by underhanded enemy attacks, and this struggle has taken the lives of many members of our Party and members of the Young Communist League, and thousands of other true patriots, workers, youth and intelligent citizens. "

TITO

Next, on the Josip Tito Memorial sculpture (located downhill behind the fortress), there is another engraved inscription of a statement made by Tito concerning the liberation of Sarajevo, which occurred on April 6th, 1945 (Slide 10). The inscription reads, when translated into English, as:

"In several days of fierce fighting in the wider area of ​​Sarajevo, under the very difficult conditions of mountainous terrain, our troops broke the external defenses of Sarajevo's fortified sectors and tightened itself into a ring around the city. Today, on April 6, 1945, during the campaign to capture and liberate Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I express my gratitude to all the fighters and leaders of the units who have aided in this great victory. Glory to the fallen heroes of the liberation of our fatherland!

Death to fascism - Freedom to the people!"

Supreme Commandant, Marshal of Yugoslavia

Josip Broz Tito

Finally, as can be seen in Slide 11, the entire spomenik complex here at Vraca is completely covered in graffiti. Some of it is just gang tags and ill-spirited spray paint scrawlings, however, there are some examples of vandalism which are very ornate murals and designs, which is unique to the style of graffiti I have found at most spomenik complexes across the former-Yugoslavia. I was not able to find any graffiti here, upon my most recent visit, that appeared to be political or nationalistic in nature.

Symbolism:

Most of the memorial elements within this spomenik complex at Vraca seem to be of a purely abstract geometric style, thus, they do not seem to be making any overt attempt to convey any specific symbolic or representational message. The only memorial that seems to be overtly engaging in symbolic communication is the Monument to Women Fighters & Victims, which consists of a bronze-cast depiction of the upper half of a female form defiantly raising her arms to the sky. This sculpture appears to be, in a very straightforward way, a symbol for the power and influence women had during the People's Liberation War (WWII), overtly stating that sacrifice that these fallen women made will not be forgotten by the Yugoslav state.

Photo 14: Historic photo showing various levels of the complex

Meanwhile, some sources I have examined state that the layout and arrangement of memorials within the Vraca memorial park is intended to communicate a sort of hierarchical importance of each memorial element (Photo 14). This heirachical concept is said to begin just as you walk into Vraca park through its primary entrance -- after passing the welcoming fountain/flame element in the middle of the plaza, the first commemorative memorial element you encounter at the bottom of the hill are the walls bearing the engraved names of the victims of fascism. While certainly impressive, these walls are a basic and simplistic mass commemoration of a large number of people. However, as you reach the top of the stairs which pass through the walls, you approach the granite prism commemorating the National Heroes of Sarajevo. This is a much more specific and targeted commemorative element which obviously elevates the important of the names of the 26 Yugoslav heroes listed here. Finally, as you reach the top of the hill, you reach the Austro-Hungarian fortress, an impressive historical structure which is used here for the purposes of the Vraca memorial to symbolize the power of Tito, which is evidenced by the massive boulder in front of the fortress bearing his words engraved directly into the stone. In addition, behind the fortress is a memorial consisting of two stone pillars bearing Tito's likeness and another engraved inscription of his statements on the liberation of Sarajevo. Thus, this spatial arrangement of memorial elements around the park very much appears as though it was an attempt to display the supreme importance and dominance of Tito as a figure for not only Sarajevo, but all Yugoslavia itself.

A further element of the Vraca park that holds significant symbolic qualities is the eternal flame fountain at the park's entrance. The first symbolic observation to point out that this sculptural work creates a unity out of the two opposing elements of Greek antiquity: fire & water. These were considered opposites as water flowed downwards towards the earth, while fire rose upwards towards the sky. Greek temples to epic heroes and gods often included altars which created synthesis and unity out of what they considered at that time to be the four basic elements: earth, air, water and fire. As such, this fountain could be understood as an modern recreation of Hellenistic tradition in the worship of the hero figure. Even the site itself, with the stone fortress on top of the hill, has a very Acropolis-like atmosphere (the most famous Greek temple) (Photo 15), which itself was a construction project instigated as a result of ancient Greek victory against the 'barbarians'. Understanding these various elements of the site as a sort of Acropolis-like Greek temple manifestation of 'hero worship' not only ties this site to ancient European architectural tradition, but it also ascribes to the defeated foes (in this case the German/Italian Army, Ustaše, etc) the implication that they were a inferior barbaric people who were duly vanquished by the 'righteous' warriors (the Partisans).

Photo 15: The Acropolis in Athens, Greece

Finally, with this understanding of the site as a sort of an 'Acropolis', we can then think of the fortress as a 'sacred temple' (or even 'treasury') that becomes the ultimate repository (or symbolic 'storage space') of memories for the Vraca Memorial Park, or, in other words, a symbolic manifestation of a "Lieux de Mémoire". This French term, which literally means 'place of memory', is a concept coined by historian Pierre Nora that refers to any object which symbolically operates as a receptacle imbued with a culture's historically significant and valued collective past. As such, a fortress becomes perfect symbolic vehicle to operate as such a receptacle. The destruction of the fortress in violence in Sarajevo that proceeded the dismantling of Yugoslavia can then be interpreted as the process of "Damnatio memoriae", an ancient term from the Roman era which essentially meant an erasure of the past or of an unwanted history.

Status and Condition:

The overall state of the Vraca Memorial Park here in Sarajevo is generally very poor. Firstly, much of the landscaping and vegetation across the complex is overgrown and out of control. Even despite improvements made over recent years attempting to tame it, much landscaping work would still be needed if efforts are made to bring the complex back to its original state. The structure and condition of the various memorial elements at this site is variable, but mostly, they are either poor, neglected or completely destroyed. Most notably, the Austro-Hungarian fortress is completely destroyed and gutted, sitting now in complete ruins, while the Women Victims Monument recently had one of its arms broken off by vandals in 2013. Many plans have been discussed over recent years to initiate a major restoration and rehabilitation effort to bring the memorial complex back to a more complete and restored state, but as of yet, efforts have been small or lacking. Furthermore, the rehabilitation work that is done, such as the 2009 efforts by the Cantonal Institute for the Protection of Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of Sarajevo, is often soon undone by vandals and thieves, as the site has no guards, security or surveillance. Annual clean-up projects are coordinated by the Historical Museum of Bosnia (Photo 16), however, it is said that millions in additional euros are needed to accomplish meaningful or lasting repairs.

Photo 16: Volunteer clean-up at Vraca, 2016

Photo 17: A photo of an April 6th, 2018 commemorative event at the Vraca memorial

There are no directional or promotional signs leading visitors or tourists to the Vraca memorial complex, nor are there are any sorts of interpretive or informational signs at the memorial itself communicating to visitors the history or significance of the site. In the past, the city of Sarajevo put little effort into promoting or advertising Vraca as a local attraction or point of interest, however, recent efforts have been made by Sarajevo travel sites to list Vraca as a touristic site of significance. Meanwhile, the park still does see a significant amount of visitors, as the site's hillside bluffs make for breathtaking views of the entire city of Sarajevo. Yet, to what degree or to what amount these visitors are here to honor or pay tribute to the memory of the memorial is not clear. Upon my most recent visit in the spring of 2017, I found a great many commemorative wreaths and flowers at the base of the memorial wall, which stand as an indication that many in the community still to honor this site.

Furthermore, reports indicate that annual commemorative events are held at Vraca every April 6th (Photo 17), which is the WWII liberation day for Sarajevo, as well as on July 27th, which marks the Bosnian Day of Uprising. These events are often attended by high ranking government officials and politicians. In 2005, the government of Bosnia designated the site to be a National Monument of superior cultural importance. However, despite this designation, the site still exists in an extremely dilapidated condition. While efforts have been put forward in 2017 & 2018 towards restoring the site (with over 50,000KM/27,000 euros being spent on the project), much work is still necessary to bring the complex to a fully restored and protected state. In May of 2019, the eternal flame fountain element was re-lit for the first time since the Bosnian War (Photo 18) -- however, the fountain is still not operating. Also in May of 2019, the front of the fortress was used as a theatrical performance space by a group called the "Sarajevo War Theater" (Sarajevskog ratnog teatra), who put on their rendition of the play "¡Ay Carmela!" about the Spanish Civil War. However, event despite these recent renovations, the site is still a constant target of vandals.

Photo 18: A view of the re-light eternal flame fountain element

Directions:

From the city center of Sarajevo, head across the River Miljacka and get on Zagrebačka Street heading west. After several hundred meters, turn left onto Derviša Numića Street and follow it all the way to the top of the hill where the road comes to a 'T' with Road R446. Take a left onto R446 and follow it several hundred meters until you see a parking area on your left for the Vraca Memorial Park. The exact coordinates for parking are N43°50'40.8", E18°24'00.6". It is also possible to walk to this memorial from the Sarajevo city center, a trip that takes roughly 45-60 minutes.

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