Name: Monument to the Fallen Soldiers of WWII from Vodice
Location: Vodice, Croatia
Year built: 1965
Designer: Marijan Burger
Coordinates: N43°45'21.8", E15°46'26.1"
Dimensions: 10m high obelisk
Materials used: Poured concrete and rebar
Condition: Good, well maintained
Click on slideshow photo for description
This memorial sculpture at the small spomenik complex in Vodice, Croatia is dedicated to the fallen Partisan soldiers of the Vodice region who took part in the Liberation Battle against fascism from 1941 to 1945.
World War II
After the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was invaded and occupied by Axis forces in April of 1941, the region of Vodice, along with the rest of modern day Croatia, was integrated into an Axis puppet-state which was called the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). However, along the coast of Dalmatia, military control was mostly administered by the occupying Italian army, not the NDH Ustaše militiamen. As a result of the intense oppression and subjugation many people in Croatia felt under this new government and Italian military rule, especially in light of the forced Italianization upon local residents, many people from Vodice joined and created resistance groups which opposed and rebelled against Axis rule.
In Vodice, the vast majority of rebels enlisted with the Vodice Partisan unit, part of the Dalmatian Partisan Brigade. The Partisan leadership was a communist anti-fascist political group lead by the charismatic commander Josip Tito (Photo 1). During the war, Vodice became a central hub in Dalmatia for the dissemination of Partisan recruitment material, while also hosting a large Partisan communications base. In addition, the NDH government never held much influence over Vodice (as it was mostly controlled by Italians), as such, support for the Partisan resistance was continually quite high. The Vodice Partisans resistance fighters engaged Axis forces in battles all across Dalmatian region of Croatia, as well as parts of western Bosnia (including the battles at Sutjeska and Netetva). Of the 3,400 citizens of Vodice during the time of WWII, 750 directly took part in the rebellion, and of them, approximately 238 died during these conflicts and struggles, both during the fight to free Vodice and in conflicts across the greater Yugoslav region. The town of Vodice was finally liberated by Partisan resistance fighters in October of 1944.
Photo 1: Josip Tito evaluating members of the Dalmatian Partisan Brigade, 1944.
Photo 2: The original tile base of the monument
In the early 1960s, plans were made for the construction of a memorial complex on the Vodice waterfront to commemorate those local citizens who perished during the uprisings and rebellions of WWII. After reviewing several submitted proposals for the memorial's design by various Yugoslav artists, the selection committee granted the commission to Croatian artist Marijan Burger. The monument was officially unveiled to the public in December of 1965, commemorating 20 years since the end of the Axis occupation of Dalmatia. The central memorial element of the complex is a 10m tall highly stylized white concrete blossoming flower. This sculpture sits on a modest circular platform, located only a few meters from the Vodice harbor, right on the Adriatic Sea. At some point during the early 1990s the original base of the monument, which was a simple squared red and black tiled arrangement (Photo 2), was altered. The new base for the monument was of a circular white stone configuration. At the time of this modification a modest circular stone stage was built, in front of which is a small setup of amphitheatre-like seating.
While many WWII monuments have fallen victim to abuse and neglect over the years since the dismantling of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the spomenik complex here at Vodice has remained well maintained and in reasonable shape. For instance, as recently as March 2016, almost 100,000 kuna (~13,500 euro) has been spent attempting to clean, repair and renovate the monument. The monument is regularly seen in promotional material advertising the sea-side town and is seen by many in the community as one of its most recognizable symbols. However, a controversial event occurred just recently in Vodice, in 2015, where an anti-Yugoslavian group erected a competing monument, not far from this one on the Vodice waterfront (Photo 3), which commemorates what the group calls the 'victims of communist Yugoslavia'. Anti-fascist groups in the Vodice area have strongly opposed the construction of this monument and have called for its removal, saying that it is an affront to those who fought and battled in the Liberation Struggle of WWII.
Photo 3: Competing 2015 monument honoring victims of Yugoslav communism
Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:
Engraved into the base of the monument there is a poem, (Slide 1), written by native Vodice poet Ive Čaće, which translates from Croatian into English as:
"Oh, my comrades spread out on the mountain, our victory is won, but there is still sadness in this joy that victory often brings me. I am reminded of the source of that freedom and the origin of the fight. Behind your footsteps the path has grown, the road will never see your return, but your victories will always reign supreme over the lands. They reverberate through the country with brotherly love."
Meanwhile, on a wall of the adjacent small amphitheatre of the monument, there is a bronze plaque (Slide 2), which catalogs the deaths of citizens and soldiers from the Vodice area (which is interestingly also translated into English). Curiously, there is another plaque, on the other side of the wall (Slide 3) which was removed at some point in the late 2000s from its setting and went missing (presumably stolen, destroyed or damaged), with the spot left empty for many years. However, in the summer of 2016, it was replaced with another bronze plaque bearing the Croatian national coat of arms (Slide 4), commonly referred to in Croatian as the 'šahovnica' or 'chessboard'. As the vast majority of spomeniks shy away from national symbols of the individual Yugoslav states, it can easily be assumed that this was not the original plaque for the setting in question. Finally, on the outside edge of the amphitheatre, there is a long series of bronze plaques (Slide 5) engraved with the names of the region's fallen soldiers from the National Liberation War.
The most obvious and straightforward interpretation of this monument is that it is depicting a stylized blossoming flower. While my research has yielded no direct words or notes from the designer regarding what ideas or feelings they explicitly meant to communicate with this sculptural symbol, one can draw assumptions that the blossoming flower represents concepts like rebirth, youth, progression into another phase of existence, mourning and loss. In her writings about the symbolism of this monument, Zagreb researcher Sanja Horvatinčić proposes that "the central element of the monument in profile reveals the phytomorphic [plant-like] genesis of the form, a symbol for organic growth, that allows for the summation of the sculpture as a whole to be expressed as a floral structure emerging as the fruit of unity".
Status and Condition:
The condition of this monument is very good. Its location is right on the waterfront promenade for the city of Vodice, so it is well maintained and kept-up. There is no visible graffiti and no signs of neglect, degradation or deterioration of the structure's concrete. Interpretive signs and plaques are all well in place, including multi-lingual ones. As mentioned above, extensive cleaning and maintenance was underwent in early 2016 by the Vodice municipality to clean and refresh the concrete facade of the monument, after years of weathering and dirt accumulation from sea-spray and exposure to the elements.
Photo 4: A 2017 commemorative event at the Vodice memorial
As a result of the proximity of this monument, it receives a good deal of foot traffic and passers-by admiring the monolith. However, to what degree these visitors are coming explicitly to see the monolith and learn of its history is not clear, but I would imagine it is a very small percentage of the whole. While I found no wreaths, candles or flowers or other honorific offerings left here upon my most recent visit, annual commemorative events are still held at this site, generally around early December, which marks the liberation of Dalmatia from Axis control. Furthermore, events are also held here each year during Anti-Fascist Struggle Day on June 22nd (Photo 4), which is the day when the first popular uprising against Axis occupation began in Brezovica forest near Sisak, Croatia. These commemorative events are generally attended by both local and regional politicians and dignitaries.
Additional Sites in the Vodice Area:
This section explores additional Yugoslav-era historical, cultural and memorial sites in and around the greater Vodice area that might be of interest to those studying the monuments of the former Yugoslavia. Here we will examine the Memorial Park Šubićevac in Šibenik, as well as the Monument to Fallen Fighters in Bilice.
Memorial Park Šubićevac:
Roughly 10km east of the town of Vodice along the Adriatic coast is the town of Šibenik. Within the Šibenik neighborhood of Šubićevac (SHOO-bee-cheh-vats) is situated the Šubićevac Memorial Park. The primary element of the park is a ~8m tall white marble obelisk, with some sources saying it is meant to resembled a simplified geometric human figure (Slides 1 & 2). This monument is dedicated to the Partisan fighters executed at this spot, most notably on May 22nd, 1942, which was when Partisan folk-hero and KPJ Central Committee member Rade Končar (Photo 5) was put to death by along side 25 other Partisan fighters by a firing squad of Italian soldiers. Končar, who was the head of organizing the Partisan uprising in Croatia, famously said during his trial, "I do not ask for grace nor do I give to you". During these 1942 executions, each victim was placed up against and tied to a row of concrete fencing pylons, at which point they were shot. A historic image of the executions can be seen in Slide 3.
Memorial Park Šubićevac - Slideshow
These mangled gun-shot ridden pylons still exist as a central component of the memorial complex (Slides 4 & 5), just behind the obelisk. The creator of this memorial complex was achieved by the team of Rijeka-born architect Zdenko Kolacio along with Zagreb artist Kosta Angeli Radovan, while being unveiled exactly 20 years after the executions on May 22nd 1962. Additional elements of note at the memorial park are a large bronze sculpture positioned at the entrance to the complex (Slide 6), which was created by Radovan and depicts a group of men defiantly standing in front of victims about to be executed, all positioned next to a large waving Yugoslav flag. Along the paved pathway from the main-entrance that leads up to the central obelisk is flanked with three rectangular marble blocks engraved with tributes to those executed, along with a list of their names (Slide 7). The inscriptions on each of these blocks, seen in Slides 8 - 10 (in the order as you approach them along the pathway), read as, when translated from Croatian to English:
Fallen soldiers of the Party
Needlessly, the fascists murder
Gun salute to the chest and head
There is no death that could hinder
The communist dream of shedding public blood
Rade Končar, Feđa Borožan, Ignacija Brajević, Božo Dumanić, Jozo Dumanić, Paško Dumanić, Milivoj Jelaska, Života Katunalić, Dušan Kažimir, Ivo Kovačić, Jozo Kuzmić, Vojko Matošić, Stjepan Polić, Ante Poljičak, Božo Puljas, Nikola Purišić, Ante Radica, Jozo Ružić, Josip Siriščević, Petar Siriščević, Vicko Siriščević, Nikola Trebotić, Ante Vrdoljak, Karlo Vuskovic, Duje Zegarac, Nikola Zitko
In commemoration of the executed Split communists. Italian fascists committed this crime on May 22nd, 1942. This monument was raised by Split citizens, May 22nd, 1962.
Here they shot into the chest of the Party
But they failed to destroy its seeds
The liberty of Šibenik remembers everything:
No one is forgotten
And nothing is forgotten
Belamarić Ante Vladin, Bujas Mate Antin, Junaković Dragomir, Stipin, Lasić Ivica Antin, Šantić Ante Petrov, Višić Blaž Stipin, Vrljević Duško Milošev
Executions by Italian fascists, 1942. To commemorate the memorial stone laid by the people of Šibenik, May 22nd, 1978.
If you are ever stopped, my distant unknown comrade,
And you accidentally come across this place
Let the stone & earth whisper to you their message:
"For your spring, I gave my life"
Kresović Lazo Vojin, Kresović Stanko Spasin, Lazunica Stevan Lazin, Mandić Jovan Todorov, Mandić Milan Stevanov, Matijević Miloš Savin, Mijalica Đuro Jovin, Mijalica Stevan Ilijin, Mišković Luka Vidov, Tomašević Obrad Savin
Executions by Italian fascists, 1942. To commemorate the memorial stone laid by the people of Šibenik, May 22nd, 1978.
Photo 5: Rade Končar
In recent years, these three blocks have occasionally been defaced by vandals with spray-painted fascist symbols, such as the Nazi swastika and the Ustaše "U" (Slide 11). However, these defacements are quickly cleaned by local authorities and upon my most recent visit to the site in 2017, these stones were free of graffiti. Meanwhile, another inscription exists at the park located along a low-profile wall running parallel to the entrance pathway leading to the obelisk on the left (Slide 12). This inscription reads in English as "Proud and fearless sons of the land, you fell for the freedom of the people, you live in our work", which was written by famous Croatian poet Jure Kaštelan. The final inscription at the site is a small stone block dedicated to Rade Končar that marks the concrete pylon on which he was executed in 1942 (Slide 13). Overall, the Šubićevac Memorial Park is in a reasonable condition, however, there are several parts of the complex which have become overgrown with vegetation, such as the concrete pylons and the inscribed stone wall. However, there are some groups that are working to rehabilitate and preserve the monument complex, while commemorative events are still reported to be held at the site, most notably on May 22nd. As of 2019, a major rehabilitation project is underway at the memorial complex, set to be completed by 2020. The exact coordinates for the Šubićevac Park are N43°44'32.4", E15°53'48.7". An image of Šubićevac Park under construction can be seen in Slide 14, while historic images of the site can be seen in Slides 15 & 16.
Monument to Executed Victims at Bilice:
Roughly 8km east of Vodice as the crow flies (~17km over curvy roads) is situated the small waterfront village of Bilice. Located a few dozen meters south of the beach is a modest memorial sculpture which marks the location where 12 locals (8 from Bilice and 4 from Šibenik) were executed during a raid upon the village on February 8th, 1943 by Italian soldiers. This monument was unveiled on October 9th, 1977 and primarily consists of a large 2-3m tall five-pointed star fixed in front of a raised platform. Such a star was one of the central symbols of Yugoslavia and the revolution. When the monument was originally created, a inscribed plaque lay at the center of the star which related the names of all those executed at this site in 1943. However, after the wars of the 1990s, the monument fell into a state of significant neglect and began to become a target of vandals. During that time the plaque was destroyed. Presently, the monument is completely covered in graffiti.
Monument to the Executed Victims of Bilice - Slideshow
Over the years, the graffiti on the monument has changed as vandals continue to target the site, as seen in Slides 1 - 4. I found no reports of official commemorative events being held here nor was I able to find any indications that there were plans to fix or rehabilitate the site. Interestingly, the monument was used as a set-piece in the 2016 Croatian comedy film 'Ministarstvo ljubavi' (Ministry of Love), directed by Pavo Marinković. The relevant scene in the film is visible in Slide 5. A historical image of the monument before it was vandalized can be seen in Slide 6. The exact coordinates for the monument here in Bilice are N43°47'04.4", E15°52'50.9".
And Additional Sites of Interest:
The Sea-Tunnel at St. Anthony: Roughly 8km SE of Vodice as the crow flies (but about 25km driving around the Bay of Šibenik) is a WWII-era marine tunnel built directly into the mountain. This sea-tunnel, nicknamed 'Hiter's Eye', stretches roughly 250m through the rock and was made by the German Army to secretly service their ships and submarines during WWII. This complex is adjacent to the 15th century Cave Church of St. Anthony, which is also a very interesting site to explore. More info about Yugoslav sea-tunnels can be found HERE, while the exact coordinates for this site are N43°43'36.8", E15°52'26.8".
St. Nicholas Island Fortress: Located roughly 7km SE of Vodice in the middle of the Šibenik Channel is an island on which is he Fortress of St. Nicholas. This 16th century triangle-shaped fortress was used by the people of Šibenik to defend against potential Ottoman invasions. The structure is in impressive shape and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Access to the fortress can be made via a boardwalk bridge from St. Nicholas Beach, just across from the fortress. More information about the St. Nicholas Fortress is available HERE, while the exact coordinates are N43°43'17.1", E15°51'16.9".
Hotel Jadran: Roughly 10km east of the town of Vodice along the Adriatic coast is the town of Šibenik. Along the main waterfront promenade of Šibenik is a notable building called the Hotel Jadran (Photo 6). The hotel was unveiled in 1959 and designed local Šibenik architect Ivan Vitić, who was arguably the most famous and influential architect in Yugoslavia. Built in the international-style, the hotel is notable for originally being decorated with an array of colorful squares across its front facade, similar to his famous Vitić Skyscraper in Zagreb, completed just a few years earlier than this hotel. While the hotel still stands and still operates, its trademark colorful squares were removed during contemporary renovations of the property. The hotel's Facebook page can be found HERE, while its exact coordinates for Hotel Jadran are N43°44'05.6", E15°53'24.0".
Photo 6: Hotel Jadran, Šibenik, 1970s
City Library "Juraj Šižgorić": Also in the town of Šibenik is the massive City Library (Gradska knjižnica) which is dedicated to the famous Renaissance-era Šibenik poet Juraj Šižgorić. This massive ambitiously-crafted modernist glass complex was also created by influential Šibenik architect Ivan Vitić and was built in 1961 originally as a Dom JNA. It was redeveloped into a library after the Yugoslav-era. It is in good condition was well patronized by the local community. A photo of the library can be seen at THIS Wiki link, while its official website can be found at THIS link and its exact coordinates are N43°44'03.9", E15°53'35.1".
This monument, being situated right along the Vodice waterfront promenade, is easy to find once you make your way down to the sea-side. Parking can be crazy and hectic, as it often is with these sort of Adriatic sea-side resort towns (depending on the season you visit), but, the closer you are able to park to the sea-side, the better, obviously. The monument is located across from the jetty, directly in front of the Dalmatino Cafe and the Palma Pizzaria. Its exact location can clearly be seen from THIS link to its position in GoogleStreetview.
Click to open in Google Maps in new window
Selected Sources and More Information:
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