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Vođenica

Brief Details:

Name: Monument to the Vođenica Company

Location: Vođenica, FBiH, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Year completed: (unknown)

Designer: (unknown)

Coordinates: N44°38'04.3", E16°16'28.4" (click for map)

Dimensions: ~6m tall monument

Materials used: Poured concrete and rebar

Condition: Abandoned

(VOH-jeh-nee-tsa)

History:

This memorial complex in Vođenica, Bosnia commemorates the lives of the fighters of the Vođenica Company who lost their lives at the hands of the Axis forces who occupied this region during the National Liberation War (WWII).

World War II

As Axis forces invaded the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in April of 1941, the Kingdom quickly fell, and the area of present-day Vođenica, in the Petrovac region, was taken over by occupational forces, being adopted into the newly created Axis puppet-state of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). A fanatic and extremist Croatian nationalist militia group known as the 'Ustaše' operated at the military arm of the NDH. Within a few months of the brutal occupation which the Ustaše waged across the area of Petrovac, many of the region's residents began to rise up against these invading forces by organizing into armed rebel group, with many aligning themselves with the communist-led Partisan resistance movement commanded by Josip Tito. In the village of Vođenica, people from the surrounding villages of Suvaje, Skakavac and Brestovac gathered here and established the Vođenica Partisan Company (Vođenička četa) on July 27th, 1941.

Photo 1: Zdravko Čelar (left) & Marko Jokić (right)

Photo 2: Josip Tito reviewing the 3rd Krajina Brigade in the Bihać Republic, 1942

The first commander of this company was Bosanski Petrovac native and well-known local communist activist Zdravko Čelar (Photo 1). The initial offensives the Vođenica Company engaged in were sabotaging Ustaše communication lines and using guerilla-like tactics to ambush Ustaše convoys operating between Krnjeuša and Bosanski Petrovac. Through 1941, the company grew to a size of over 100 fighters and engaged in anti-Axis offensives across western Bosnia. While back in Vođenica in Feburary of 1942, Zdravko Čelar stepped down as leader of the Vođenica Company after being promoted to be the commander of the 1st Krajina Brigade. At that point, local Vođenica native and decorated fighter Marko Jokić (Photo 1) stepped up to take over command of the company. Jokić was so respected by his unit as a fighter and a leader that many began to refer to the Vođenica Company as the 'Jokić Company' (Jokićeva četa). The Company remained fighting in the area of Petrovac until the summer of 1942, when Vođenica Company was integrated into the larger 3rd Krajina Partisan Brigade.

In November of 1942, the 3rd Krajina Partisan Brigade took part in the storming of the nearby city of Bihać, overpowering the German occupational forces. The newly liberated city was declared a independent territory and designated as the Bihać Republic (Photo 2) of which Vođenica became part of. However, this victory was short-lived, as German troops retook the city just two months later. The 3rd Krajina Brigade went on to take part in numerous major battles across Bosnia, including those at Sutjeska, Drvar and Neretva. Marko Jokić intially became the commander of the First Company of this brigade and then later was promoted to the 2nd Officer's Company in 1944. It was during the lead-up to the 1944 descent on Drvar that Jokić was shot and killed by German soldiers.

 

The village of Vođenica and the Petrovac region were not liberated from German and Chetnik control until August 1st of 1944, when Partisans finally, after several failed attempts, drove these Axis forces out of their stronghold of Bosanski Petrovac north towards Bihać. Many dozens of people from the village of Vođenica and across the Petrovac region, both fighters and civilians, perished during the course of the war. In addition, the end of the war let many communities in tatters (Photo 3), as many towns and villages were burned and razed to the ground, mostly as a result of the intense Germaning bombing the area of Petrovac suffered during the war. To recognize his efforts in the defense of the Petrovac region, in 1953 the Yugoslav government designated Marko Jokić as a National Hero.

Photo 3: Ruins left behind in Bosanski Petrovac, 1944

Photo 4: Current state of the original 1950s-era memorial at Vođenica

Spomenik Construction

During the 1950s, the first attempt to build a memorial to the fighters and war victims of Vođenica was constructed along the road on the east side of the village (Photo 4). It consisted of a concrete wall with a series of engraved stone plaques installed in it. However, a few decades later, presumably in the 1970s (my research did not yield a specific date), an additional more elaborate memorial sculpture was constructed adjacent to this original 1950s monument. This memorial was built specifically to honor fighters from the Vođenica Company. Unfortunately, my research was not able to determine who the sculptor was who created this monument. If you know, please contact me. This new monument was a roughly 6m tall sculpture of four free-standing spoon-shaped fins arranged in a squared-off orientation. This arrangement created an 'inner sanctum' area in which is a small altar existed in the center. All sides of this monument were adorned with engraved black granite panels with inscriptions of the many people from the surrounding region who died during the National Liberation War (WWII).

Present-Day

Currently, this spomenik complex here at Vođenica is one characterized by extreme neglect, as the entire memorial has fallen into absolute dereliction and destruction. The site is overgrown, while all of the black granite panels have either been destroyed or stolen. No commemorative or remembrance events are held here anymore, and no efforts are being made by any parties to protect, restore or rehabilitate this structure. For all intents and purposes, this spomenik can be considered completely abandoned.

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

This memorial originally had a great deal of engraved black granite panels installed both on the inside and outside of this sculpture. However, the vast majority of these panels have now been removed and/or stolen, meanwhile, the only panel that is still left present at the site sitting on the inner sanctum of the monument shattered into countless pieces (Slide 1). In this shattered panel seen in Slide 1, it relates a list of names of people from the village of Suvaja who were the victims of fascist terror during WWII. Presumably, the other three walls of this inner sanctum would have had plaques listing the names of victims of fascist terror from the additional villages of Vođenica, Skakavac and Brestovac, as these were the locations which fighters from the Vođenica Company originated. Meanwhile, I would also assume that the monument originally would have had additional four distinct engraved panels attached to its four outer sides listing the fighters of the Vođenica Company from those same four villages.

Slideshow

In Slide 2, you can see the small altar at the center of the inner sanctum, which appears to have also once had a plaque attached to it, which is now also stolen. In Slide 3 you can see a close-up of the outer walls of the monument, with a clear outline visible where some nature of plaque, engraving or relief once was installed, which is now gone. It is unknown the fate of the plaques, when they were taken (presumably at some point during the 1990s) or who took them.

Symbolism:

From initial impression, this memorial sculpture, at the spomenik complex here in Vođenica, is of a completely abstract nature, perhaps in an attempt to be as completely universally inclusive and non-representational in nature as possible. However, speaking to Branko Obradovic of Krnjeusa.net, it is suggested that this monument might be a stylized symbolic depiction of a WWII-era bomb (Photo 5), similar to that which were used in the mass German Army bombings which plagued the Petrovac region in 1942 and 1943 during the National Liberation War. In addition, the monument having four distinct sides appears to be a supplemental function of providing four distinct spaces to mount stone panels bearing the names of the four villages which Vođenica Company fighters originated, while also providing a place to list the civilian victims of this region who perished during the war.

Photo 5: A WWII-era bomb

Status and Condition:

The current state of this spomenik complex can be considered to be completely abandoned and derelict. It is abundantly clear that no care is put forward by any responsible parties to maintain this complex any longer, and all the while, this neglect has allowed it to fall into ruin, disrepair and destruction. While the structure of the concrete sculpture itself is still standing and relatively intact, it is experiencing severe weathering, cracking and chipping, while its underlying re-bar skeleton is exposed in several places. Meanwhile, every single one of the black granite engraved plaques which originally adorned this memorial have now all either been destroyed or stolen. The only one even present anymore at the site is sitting on the ground within the sanctum of the memorial broken into innumerable pieces. No directional or promotional signs mark the way to this site and no interpretive signs exist here informing visitors to its cultural or historical significance.

As far as I was able to tell, this place sees few, if any, visitors of any sort. No commemorative or remembrance ceremonies seem to be held here any longer, nor does it seem that any in the local community patronize or honor any element of this memorial. In fact, I would imagine the only select people that even make it out this far into the Bosnian countryside to see this site are the intrepid few spomenik hunters hoping to get a peak at this seldom visited spot. I came across no information indicating that any efforts of any sort were underway to rehabilitate, repair or restore this complex. From everything I have been able to establish, this spomenik can be considered to be completely abandoned and forgotten. Admittedly, it is not extremely surprising that the memorial complex here has fallen into disrepair and abandonment, as the vast majority of the village of Vođenica is also largely destroyed and abandoned, presumably during the Bosnian War of the 1990s.

Directions:

From the city of Bosanski Petrovac, take Road 14.2 northeast out of town for roughly 14km. As you approach the village of Vođenica, you will see a small grove of trees on the right hand side of the road. Park in front of them and you will find the spomenik hidden in the brush just a few dozen meters off the road. The exact coordinates for park are N44°38'03.3", E16°16'28.0".

WARNING: it is crucial to be aware that highway M14.2 just north of Vođenica is an unmaintained rough dirt road from Krnjeuša north up nearly to Bosanska Krupa. Although Google Maps and other sites make it appear as if it is a major paved thoroughfare, this is NOT the case. The road is difficult and hazardous in even the best conditions, and most certainly should NEVER be taken in poor weather conditions. Travel it at your own risk.

Click to open in Google Maps in new window

Comments:

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