Monuments of Sutjeska
Additional Monuments in the Sutjeska Area:
Within the boundaries of the massive Sutjeska National Park, there are dozens of memorial sites which are dedicated to the epic 1943 WWII conflict known as the Battle of Sutjeska, during which Tito and his Partisans made a dramatic and seemingly impossible escape from the clutches of Axis forces just as all hope seemed lost. While it would certainly be an endeavor for this website to explore each and every location, this page will instead explore the six most stylistically unique and historically notable monument sites which all contain abstract memorial elements created by Belgrade sculptor Miodrag Živković during a 1986 effort to improve the park's infrastructure.
Monument at Ljubin Grob - Slideshow
Ljubin Grob Monument:
On June 12th of 1943, the column of evacuating Partisan units, along with Tito and the Partisan Supreme Command (and wounded soldiers), were making their way north out of the Zelengora Mountains through Dobri Do valley during the final stages of the Battle of Sutjeska. However, as the column was moving through the valley, segments of the German 118th Jäger Division began to descend on their location. To protect the evacuating column, Partisan soldiers of the 3rd Battalion of the 4th Montenegrin Brigade, as well as the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Proletarian Brigade, moved in to set up a defensive barrier at the Ljubin Grob mountain pass at the top of Dobri Do to prevent the German unit's advancement. What resulted was a two day bloody conflict between the two sides. The fighting here was so brutal that it often was reduced to hand-to-hand combat. Ultimately, these two units holding the valley were successful in aiding in the escape of the Supreme Command and the majority of the Partisan forces, but hundreds of fighters died in the process.
Photo 1: A 1980s Yugoslav-era tourist map for Sutjeska National Park
The Sutjeska National Park monuments which will be explored in the following sections are the sites at Ljubin Grob, Donje Bare, Krekovi, Ozren Mountain, Dragoš Sedlo and Borovno. In addition to the two central monuments down in the Valley of Heroes (Dolina Heroja), which are the Sutjeska monument and the Spomen-Dom, these six sites reviewed here are the primary monument attractions which were promoted to visitors of the park during the Yugoslav-era. This is evidenced by examining a 1980s tourist map for Sutjeska National Park seen in Photo 1. For each monument site, their exact geographic locations are indicated both in the above interactive map and the individual monument description section. For more information about the park or accessing these sites (especially in regards to seasonal information), you can visit Sutjeska National Park's main visitors center, which is at Hotel Mladost in Tjentište village. You can also visit the Sutjeska National Park's official website.
When visiting the Ljubin Grob mountain pass today, you will find a small memorial site dedicated to the Partisan fighters of this battle. The central element of the site is a ~5m tall abstract memorial sculpture built from concrete, which is positioned right at the apex of the pass looking down into Dobri Do valley. This monument was created in 1986 by sculptor Miodrag Živković. Despite its remote and inaccessible location, the sculpture sits in relatively good condition, although there is some damage from weathering and distress. The exact coordinates for this spomenik site are N43°22'36.2", E18°35'50.0". However, reaching the Ljubin Grob site is considerably difficult, due to its remoteness. The most straightforward way to reach Ljubin Grob is by following a 21km 4x4/biking/hiking trail from the valley floor that leads deep into the Zelengora Mountains and straight up Dobri Do valley. Though, keep in mind that is a difficult route, so it should only be done by those well prepared for the journey. Also, if you do make it up to Ljubin Grob, there are several interesting katun sites (sheepherder mountain huts) that you should check out if you are in that area.
Monumement to 2nd Dalmatian Brigade - Slideshow
Dalmatian Brigade Monument at Donje Bare:
From June 5th to 9th in 1943, the 2nd Dalmatian Partisan Brigade played a pivotal role in holding defensive positions near lake Donje Bare against the German 118th Jäger Division during the Battle of Sutjeska. As a result of successfully holding these positions and keeping back the advancing Nazi fighters from pursuing the fleeing Partisan command column, Tito and the rest of the Partisans were given additional time to escape out of Sutjeska Valley in order to head north out and over the Zelengora mountains. On the 8th of June, the Dalmatian Brigade was reinforced by the Majevica Brigade, but the German 118th Division was soon joined by the notorious 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division "Prinz Eugen". As a result, on June 9th, the 2nd Dalmatian Brigade's commander made the decision to pull back from their positions at Donje Bare in order to rejoin Tito and the Partisan column exiting the Zelengora mountains.
During this Dalmatian Brigades four-day confrontation at lake Donje Bare, over 230 Partisan fighters were killed. Of all the total deaths of the 16 Partisan brigades present during the month-long Battle of Sutjeska, the 2nd Dalmatian Brigade suffered more losses than any other single brigade, with deaths exceeding 833 Partisan troops. During the Yugoslav era, the brigade was awarded numerous prestigious honors for their efforts at Sutjeska, as well as for their other wartime accomplishments.
Just a few hundred meters north of lake Donje Bare on the northern edge of the Bare meadow there is a ~5m tall abstract concrete memorial sculpture near the location where the 2nd Dalmatian Brigade held their positions against advancing Nazi units. It is a commemorative work that honors the efforts and deeds of those who fought and perished at this site. The monument was created in 1986 by sculptor Miodrag Živković. Installed on the ground next to the monument is a small honorific plaque which reads, when translated into English, as:
"The Germans are pushing harder and stronger and we have lost two thirds of our people, but count on us as if we were in full force"
-Fighters of the 2nd Dalmatian Brigade told to the NOVJ Supreme Command
Here at Bare from the 5th to 9th of June, 1943, Dalmatians fought fiercely against the much more powerful German units, securing the breakout of our forces, headed by Tito, from the Sutjeska ring. It was the toughest and most famous battle of the 2nd Dalmatian Brigade. The Majevica Brigade also participated in the battle.
The quote mentioned at the start of the plaque's inscription refers to a very famous quote sent to Tito during the battle that went on to solidify the brigade's legendary status for a unit typified by bravery and sacrifice for the Yugoslav Partisan cause. Meanwhile, despite the remoteness and inaccessibility of this site, it exists in a relatively reasonable condition. My research found no recent records or articles mentioning whether annual commemorative events or ceremonies are still held here at Donje Bare. The exact coordinates of this spomenik complex are N43°19'17.5", E18°37'59.5". The site can be accessed by driving Sutjeska Park's Western Access Road to the mountain house at Donje Bare lake, which is a roughly 18km drive. From the lake, hike approximately 300m north across the Bare meadow to the monument. Keep in mind that the Western Access Road is an unpaved gravel road and can be very muddy and rough at certain times of the year. Only attempt this trip if you are properly equipped and/or have the proper vehicle.
Tomb of Sava Kovačević - Slideshow
Tomb of Sava Kovačević at Krekovi:
Situated along the slopes just above the central Sutjeska monument is a memorial gravesite honoring the famous Partisan commander Sava Kovačević (Photo 2). Born near Nikšić, Montenegro in 1905, Kovačević was one of the primary driving forces in Montenegro behind organizing the Partisan uprising against the occupying Italian forces. Through his command of numerous Partisan units, he became a beloved figure among the soldiers for his charismatic personality and audacious displays of bravery in fighting against the enemy. However, on June 13th, 1943, Kovačević was killed at Ozren Mountain as a result of German machine-gun fire while in the process of breaking his units through the Axis offensive circle they were enclosed within. If you visit this spot of his death on Ozren, near the settlement of Krekovi, you will find a tomb complex called 'Savin Grob' (Sava's Grave) which commemorates Kovačević and acts as the final resting place of his remains.
The Savin Grob tomb complex, as it exists today, was created in 1986 by Belgrade sculptor Miodrag Živković. It consists of two primary elements tucked away in a forest setting that is reached via a long stone stairway. The first element of the site is a ~3m tall white concrete pyramid-like sculpture (Slides 1 & 2), while the second is a circular black granite tomb marker at the center of a stone-paved courtyard (Slides 3 - 5). The tomb marker bears an inscription (Slides 6) that reads, when translated into English, as:
Leading his brigade here in the last assault for the breakthrough of the enemy ring on Sutjeska on June 13, 1943, the commander of the 3rd Attack Division, the national hero Sava Kovačević, was killed.
The above inscription is signed with 'Mizara', as that was a familiar nickname that was often used for Kovačević. In addition, there is another inscription at this site in the form of a small circular pylon on top of which is a round bronze plate (Slides 7). This raised-letter inscription on this plate contains a verse from the famous folk song about Kovačević which reads as, when translated to English:
Photo 2: Portrait of Sava Kovačević
"From the land to the sea and across the country all know of the glory of the acclaimed Commander Sava. As the Sutjeska River roars, its blood gushes as Sava's division rages against heavy fighting."
It is important to note that the small memorial complex that exists here now replaces an earlier one which was built in 1951. A photo of the original complex can be seen in Slide 8. The tomb marker that exists today is clearly a modified version of the original. This original marker also contained an inscription on its top face (Slide 9) which also featured the above folk song verses seen in Slide 7. However, after the songs verses, this original plaque includes this addition inscription:
As the head of his heroic division in the struggle for freedom, the independence and honor of his homeland and of this place, piercing through the circle of the hostile 5th Offensive, a hero fell.
National Hero, Sava Kovačević
This site is still well visited and hosts regular annual ceremonies and commemorative events. The coordinates for parking for the Savin Grob complex are N43°21'03.4", E18°40'42.6". From the parking lot, signs will lead you to a stone staircase that will take you to the monument. The site can be accessed by using the Valley of the Heroes' (Dolina heroja) Western Access Road, which is the left-hand turn off of the main highway roughly 2km north of Hotel Mladost. Keep in mind that this is an unpaved gravel road and might not be optimal for some vehicles. Alternatively, you can hike the 1.5km trail to Savin Grob directly from the central Sutjeska monument in the valley.
Finally, to learn more about Sava Kovačević, his life and death here during the Battle of Sutjeska, there is a much more extensive write up about him at the Spomenik Database profile page for the Monument to Uprising & Revolution located at Grahovo, Montenegro (Photo 2a) near his birthplace. At the center of this memorial complex, there is a large bronze statue of Kovačević also created by Miodrag Živković.
Photo 2a: Monumnt to Sava Kovačević at Grahovo, Montenegro
Grave Site for Nurije Pozderac - Slideshow
Tomb of Nurije Pozderac at Dragoš Sedlo:
On June 8th, 1943, during the build-up to Tito's push out of the circle Axis forces had enclosed them within, the Vice President of the Executive Board of the Partisan Liberation Army (AVNOJ), Nurija Pozderac (Photo 3), was wounded by flying debris from a bomb drop on Vučevo Mountain. Three days later he died from those wounds just south of Vučevo at a mountain meadow called Dragoš Sedlo. His son Sead was present upon his death. Pozderac was one of Bosnia's most notable Partisan leaders and, being from the Cazin district of Bosnia, he was instrumental in rallying local Muslims into the uprising during the early days of WWII. In addition, Pozderac's father, Murat Pozderac, was the Cazin region's last agha (or local representative) of the Ottoman Empire, resulting in Pozderac's family being considered one of the area's most prominent. Pozderac was buried at the location of his death there at Dragoš Sedlo. After the end of the war, Pozderac was proclaimed a Yugoslav National Hero.
There are two central elements of the Nurija Pozderac grave site Dragoš Sedlo. The first element is a concrete abstract memorial sculpture (Slide 1), roughly 1-2m tall, which was created in 1986 by Belgrade sculptor Miodrag Živković. Next to this sculpture is the second element of the site, which is a stone-paved platform at the center of which is a square burial zone framed by a set of polished granite slabs (Slides 2 - 4). The burial marker was created in the years just after WWII, while the sculpture was created presumably in the early 1980s (at the same time as the Savin Grob renovations). Along the short approach pathway to this gravesite is a short circular pylon on top of which is a round bronze plate that bears an inscription (Slide 5). This inscription reads as, when translated into English:
"Seriously wounded on Vučevo, here on June 12, 1943, the first Vice President of the AVNOJ Executive Committee, Nurija Pozdarec, died."
Photo 3: Nurije Pozderac
Commemoration events and services are still held at this memorial annually and efforts are made to maintain and preserve the complex. This site is located on the edge of nature preserve of the Perućica primeval forest and coordinates for the parking area for this site are N43°19'17.6", E18°42'21.2". The monument is situated eastwards down the road less than 100m on the left. To reach this site, drive Sutjeska Park's Eastern Access Road for roughly 10km from the valley floor. Be aware that this is a gravel/dirt road and can be rough in some areas and in some conditions. This parking area is also access for the trailhead to the amazing Skakavac Waterfall and other wilderness attractions.
Photo 4: Hospital monument at Dragoš Sedlo
Finally, also located at Dragoš Sedlo is one last abstract monument created by Miodrag Živković (Photo 4). About 4m tall and located among the trees on the northern edge of the meadow, this concrete work is meant to mark the location of a Partisan hospital that existed at this site during WWII. It seems to have been built during the same era as the other Živković monuments in this collection. However, additional information about it or about the Partisan hospital which it commemorates has been difficult to track down thus far. The work is weather-stained and appears seldom visited. Its exact coordinates are N43°19'19.1", E18°42'30.3".
Monument at Borovno Meadow - Slideshow
Kragujevac Battalion Monument at Borovno:
The mountain meadow known as Borovno along the slopes of Vučevo Mountain was the scene of a battle on June 5th, 1943. As the Partisan fighters of the Kragujevac Battalion of the 1st Proletariat Brigade were attempting to push back the Axis offensive circle enclosing them (in order to establish more favorable conditions for a breakthrough), they came into conflict with the German 118th Jäger Division. The result of this battle was the Partisans successfully repelling the German from Borovno and widening the area for the Tito's approaching push off of Vučevo Mountain and north out of Sutjeska (which would begin four days after this battle on June 9th). However, in the midst of the fighting at Borovno, nineteen Partisan fighters were killed. Among those were local Foča-born Partisan named Šerif Lojo (Photo 4) of the Battalion's Foča Youth Company. Lojo had participated in multiple liberation battles, distinguishing himself in his service to the Partisan movement. After the battle, Lojo and other fighters were buried at Borovno meadow.
In the early years of the Yugoslavia, Šerif Lojo and the battle at Borovno became popular in Yugoslav historical folk tradition in relation to the Battle of Sutjeska. Then, in 1951, Lojo was posthumously named as a Yugoslav National Hero for his dedication in the battle at Borovno and other similar wartime efforts and deeds. If you visit the site of the 1943 battle today at Borovno meadow, you will find a small memorial area located in an undeveloped location at the center of the meadow. The central element of this memorial is a ~3m tall concrete sculpture (Slides 1 - 5), created by sculptor Miodrag Živković around 1986, which commemorates the Kragujevac Battalion as well as Partisan fighter Šerif Lojo himself. This angular sculptural work is characterized by the confluence of several sharp pyramidal shapes pointing out towards the sky in multiple directions. Next to the sculpture is a small three-sided metal pyramid (perhaps bronze), less than half-a-meter tall, which has on one of its three faces a raised-letter inscription (Slide 6). This inscription reads as, when translated into English:
In this place, on June 5, 1943, breaking the circle of enemies of Sutjeska, the Kragujevac Battalion of the 1st Proletarian Brigade won a significant victory against a segment of the German 118th Jäger Division. In that fight, 19 proletarians from the Foča Youth Company and the 3rd Kragujevac Battalion were killed.
Photo 4: A drawing of Partisan fighter Šerif Lojo
It is important to note that the current monument at Borovno was succeeded by a much earlier monument site which was built in the years just after WWII. An image of this original monument can be seen in a historic photo in Slide 7. Presently, the area around this small memorial complex is very overgrown by the meadow and my research has yielded no indication that any annual commemorative events are still being held here. However, despite this overgrowth, the monument and its commemorative plaque appear in reasonable physical condition. The exact coordinates for this memorial site are N43°21'11.6", E18°42'07.8". This site can be reached in two ways. Firstly, you can drive Sutjeska Park's Eastern Access Road for roughly 4.5km to Borovno meadow, and then hike west 150m into the middle of the meadow to find the monument. Alternatively, you can hike up to the monument at Borovno meadow via a 3km trail from the valley floor which has its trailhead just a few dozen meters north of the bridge over the Sutjeska River in Tjentište just by the triangle-shaped lodge.
Site of Tito's Wounding at Ozren - Slideshow
The Site of Tito's Wounding on Ozren:
On June 9th, 1943, during Tito's march north out of the Zelengora Mountains to escape the confines of the Axis circle attempting to enclose them at Sutjeska Valley, the Partisan units saw incoming Luftwaffe bombers overhead just as Tito was leading them out of the valley west over Ozren Mountain. Then, while the column of soldiers were marching through a place on the mountain called Milinklade, the Luftwaffe began to drop their bombs. One bomb struck exactly where Tito and the Supreme Staff were located in the column. In the aftermath of this attack, several soldiers were killed by the bombings while Tito lay on the ground only wounded, having suffered a bomb splinter to the left shoulder (Photo 5). In addition, on top of Tito was reportedly his mortally wounded German shepherd dog ‘Luks’, who, legend has it, threw himself over top Tito at the last moment in order to give his life to save Tito's. Among those dead in the bombing that injured Tito was British Army captain William Stuart, who was part of a special British operation following and assisting Tito.
When visiting the site where Tito was wounded at Milinklade on Ozren Mountain today, you will find a small memorial site honoring the location which is nestled deep in the tall forest. The memorial consists of two main elements. The first element is a collection of five pyramid-like concrete sculptures (~1m tall) arranged around a short star-shaped pylon (Slides 1 - 3). This work was created in 1986 by Belgrade sculptor Miodrag Živković. In addition, along the pathway that leads to this memorial site is a short circular pylon on top of which is mounted a round bronze plate that bears an inscription (Slides 4 & 5). The inscription on this plate reads as, when translated into English:
In the breakthrough of the Operation Group Division's units from the enemy circle through Sutjeska to Zelengora on June 9th, 1943, the commander of the Yugoslav Liberation Army and Yugoslav Partisan Commander Josip Broz Tito was wounded.
Photo 5: Tito's arm bandaged after the bombing, 1943
Overall, the elements of this site are in relatively good condition, however, the sculpture series does not appear to have been cleaned in a long while, as it has significant moss and lichen growth on it. A view of the monument from during the Yugoslav-era, not long after its creation in the late 1980s, can be seen in Slide 6. My research has not been able to determine whether any nature of commemorative ceremonies or events still occur at this site. The coordinates for the parking area for this site are N43°20'51.4", E18°39'23.0". This site can be reached by taking Sutjeska Park's Western Access Road and taking the turn-off for Ozren mountain. Keep in mind that this road is gravel and can be muddy and rough during certain times of the year.
Additional Sites of Interest in the Sutjeska Area:
Within the boundaries of the massive Sutjeska National Park there various sites of interest that relate to the history of this region and to the Yugoslav-era development of the park. This section will explore additional sites in and around Sutjeska that might be of interest to someone visiting the park and exploring its history and hertiage.
Executive Council of SR of BiH Residence:
As the region around Sutjeska was such a pivotal cultural and historical location in the mythos of Yugoslavia, there were a significant amount of commemorative and political functions held in the park. Consequently, a formal residence for visiting Executive Council members of the SR of BiH was constructed in Sutjeska Valley in 1977. Created by famed Sarajevo architect Zlatko Ugljen [profile page], the complex consisted of several buildings that were crafted in Ugljen's signature style of rustic-modern, which combined aspects of traditional and contemporary architecture. The residence is built from rough-hewn pine logs in a log-cabin style, however, the structure's roof has an exaggerated geometry of triangles, sophisticated gables and oversized eaves. In addition, the complex of buildings closed in around a paved courtyard that was deeply modern yet at the same time communed with nature and the landscape in a very visceral way, offering a stunning view of the surrounding peaks.
Executive Council of SR BiH Residence - Slideshow
Images of the Executive Council of the SR of BiH at Sutjeska in its original Yugoslav-era condition can be seen in Slides 1 - 4, with these being some of the few rare images available of the location before the Bosnian War of the 1990s. It was during that war that this government residence was completely devastated and destroyed, leaving the complex in a burned ruins by 1995. Some photos I took of the ruins of the residence in 2018 can be seen in Slides 5 - 9. However, in 2019, the Sutjeska National Park announced work beginning on initiative to restore and rebuild the ruined residence built by Zlatko Ugljen, with articles about this project reporting that it will be reconstructed exactly according to its 1977 plans. Yet, as of early 2021, I have not been able to establish the status or progress of this project's work due to a lack of available media reports. The location of the site of the residence is in a forested area uphill from Hotel Mladost, with its exact coordinates being 43°21'00.2"N, 18°41'11.5"E.
It is interesting to mention that many sources cite this as being "Tito's Villa" instead of being the residence for the Executive Council of the SR of BiH. While Tito undoubtably visited this residence (and possibly even spent the night here), Tito most often stayed at his hunting lodge on Donje Bare Lake when he was staying in the Sutjeska area.
Tito's Hunting Lodge at Donje Bare:
Nestled at the edge of the remote alpine lake of Donje Bare high in the Zelengora Mountains are the ruins of Tito's Sutjeska hunting lodge. The Sutjeska region was a pivotal location in Tito's life as a result of the huge battle him and his Partisan Army fought here in 1943 during WWII, so, not surprisingly, he came back to this region regularly for recreation and relaxation (and particularly for hunting). However, this hunting lodge which he established on the banks of the remote mountain lake of Donje Bare (most likely during the 1950s) (Slide 1) has very little information available about it. However, surviving photos do indicate that Tito spent a good deal of time here. A photo of Tito sitting on the lodge's terrace next to the head of an antelope can be seen in Slide 2. During the Yugoslav-era, the lake region was for Tito's exclusive use only, and it was not until the years following the end of the Bosnian War in the late 1990s that the lake was finally opened to public access.
Tito's Hunting Lodge at Donje Bare - Slideshow
However, it was also during the war that the hunting lodge was completely destroyed and leveled to the ground. Circumstances surrounding the destruction of the lodge are not known. The ruined foundation of the lodge still remains and is a popular feature for hikers who make the long trek up to Donje Bare Lake. The exact coordinates for the ruins of Tito's lodge are 43°19'07.1"N, 18°37'48.3"E. The lodge ruins are very close to the Dalmatian Partisan Brigade Monument (located in the meadow next to the lake), which is mentioned in the above monument list.
Tito's Plaque on Mt. Maglić:
The tallest peak of Sutjeska National Park is Mt. Maglić, which reaches a height of 2,388m and sits right on the border between BiH and Montenegro. In June of 1973, a bronze plaque bearing a profile of Tito and a red was installed near the mountain's peak. Underneath these images was an inscription which reads, when translated into English, as:
"In memory of all the fighters of the People's Liberation Struggle Army of Yugoslavia who, led by the Communist Party and the Supreme Commander Comrade Tito in the wider area of Sutjeska in June of 1943, won a historic victory over multiple fascist troops. They raise this memorial marker."
Tito's Plaque on Mt. Maglić - Slideshow
This plaque (Slides 1 - 3) was meant to commemorate the 30 years since the Battle of Sutjeska and was installed on the anniversary of the battle by volunteers of the group "Društvo Prijatelja Sutjeske/Society of Friends of Sutjeska". A more detailed story of the creation of this memorial plaque can be read in an article at the website "Wild in the Balkans". The plaque is located just downhill of the mountain's peak, whose rough coordinates are 43°16'52.6"N, 18°43'59.6"E.
Related Spomenik Profile Pages:
Valley of Heroes Monument
Selected Sources & More Information: