The only place in Croatia where Serbs, Catholics, and Muslims live together: They celebrate two Christmases with national music bands and they don’t lock their doors
There even wasn’t a war here, although every third citizen of Vrbobski with the local council in Moravice was a Serb, there was no one interested in it. And they were armed, some were supplied with guns from Yugoslav national army, and the others from Croatian police.
We can often hear in domestic and in regional media that Serbs and Croats don’t get along. The situation for Serbian minority in Croatia is especially hard, and there are less and less of them each year, and it seems that there is less justice every day. However, it’s not like that in the entire country. In a place named Vrbovsko in Croatia, in a local council of Moravica, Serbs, Croats, and Muslims all live together in harmony. As they said, there wasn’t any war there, they work for the benefit of their city, they celebrate all holidays together in happiness. It’s like that this year as well.
Jutarnji.hr did a coverage on this place and its residents. What they saw there left them speechless and it showed that different religions living together is very possible. In front of the school of Nikola Tesla in the middle of the park, there is a monument of fallen fighters of National Liberation Fight and the victims of fascism, and it is written just like that in Cyrillic, but the panel is like almost like new.
A bit further is a bust of Marko Vuckovic, a fighter, which wasn’t destroyed with spray. There are four cafes in the center, partisan music “Across the forests and hills” can be heard from one, but no one pays attention to it of the pedestrians who just arrived from the train which came from Rijeka.
There even wasn’t a war here, although every third citizen of Vrbobski with the local council in Moravice was a Serb, there was no one interested in it. And they were armed, some were supplied with guns from Yugoslav national army, and the others from Croatian police. They, however, didn’t save their village from one another, they saved it from those “around them”. It is entirely wrong to assume that this place in the mountains preserved Yugoslavia in it, but that these people learned not to hate each other on the national level and to respect each other deeply.
Consensus on plates
They were named Komora Moravice until 1919, and then Serbian Moravice until 1991. They produced celebrated actor Pera Kvrgic and Olympic champion Snjezana Pejcic, and the history remembers that Slavko Kvaternik was born there, Croatian politician.
If there is a nostalgy for past times, then the memory goes to 650 workers who used to work 50 years ago on this once important railroad knot, which is more than the number of citizens today. They had a High School for Railways, and it is now named Railway-technical School. No railway students enrolled this year.
There were 67 eight graders in the seventies, and there are 53 pupils in all eight grades, with two or three students in the first grade. There is probably the lowest rate of emigration here to the countries of European Union here, because there is no one to emigrate. The dying of Gorski Kotar started long ago before it started in the rest of Croatia.
– City Vrbovsko has more than 35 percent of Serbian national minority. We completely administered the law on the rights of minorities into our statute. We agreed with the representatives of the Council of Serbian national minority that the plates with two languages should go only in places where Serbs are the majority, and that is Moravice, with Gomirje and Ljubosina, as well as certain streets. We thought that there is no need for such plates to cover other suburbs, especially those where Croats live in 100% majority – said the mayor Drazen Mufic, who came to the mandate with the independent list, writes Jutarnji.hr.
The same conditions, the same possibilities
Both of his deputies come from Serbian national minority, Andjelka Mamula as a representative of the minority list, as well as Borivoje Dokmanovic, as a candidate of the mayor’s independent list.
– People here have the same conditions and the same possibilities, and we make no difference, the least in nationality. We share the consequences of difficult life. Here, luckily, there was no war, so we turned to work and investors sooner. The cooperation is noticeable in every step, and the greatest mutual project is our budget that doesn’t include anyone, we are financing numerous cultural associations, manifestations, programs. We share good and bad, and our greatest problem is that our villages are becoming empty. We have 63 suburbs on 270 square km, and only 5.000 live there. It is a real challenge to care about numerous unclassified roads, the organization of garbage collection and other utilities – said the mayor Drazen Mufic.
For Novica Vucinic, a professor of history and geography, a painter, and president of the Serbian Cultural Society “Prosveta”, the word “coexistence” is bad, because it says as if you have to live with someone somewhere, and you don’t want that, which is not the case in Moravice.
– We didn’t invent anything new, we continued just like the people before us. When it all started in the nineties, we saw that it was bad, we all had our fools that needed to be “slapped” a bit. Good generations of Croats and Serbs were there that worked hard. It was important not to fall for it, and we managed. There was no problem on a local level, even less on the city level, and the cooperation with the county is amazing. But, it wasn’t like that on the national level. We don’t deal with politics, but it deals with us. We resist, but if it comes from the top, it has to be so – prof. Vucinic said.
These people weren’t divided on nationality, nor were they excluded in respecting of the customs.
– Priests would go to each other during holidays to congratulate each other. I am leading the church assembly in the Orthodox church, and my colleague from work, the music professor, in Catholic. Serbian students are going to additional classes in Serbian language and literature and they go to religious education. Catholics and Muslims often join them because they want to learn Cyrilics. The children went to Trieste together, and they visited Orthodox and Catholic churches. That’s the way here, we live as a community. There certainly are some problems because, we are dying, like the rest of Croatia. But, trouble can only bring people closer to each other, and not separate them – concludes prof. Vucinic.
The parish priest of Vrbovsko, Father Ivan Androic, a spiritual shepherd in Moravice, says that he never shared the Caritas package led by nationalism or religion, and Protoiereus-stavrofor Jelenko Stojanovic presents gifts for the Saint Sava celebrations to both Croatian and Muslim children. He is a Bosnian Serb educated in Belgrade and has been serving in Moravice for 33 years. His management philosophy cannot be simpler, writes Jutarnji.hr.
– When God created the first man, he saw that it was not good that the man was alone, and gave him a wife. God has determined that man is a being of a community, just as God is a part of the community. This very beginning points us to one another, when we love someone we have to fight for them and we should live together, because, the Lord said: “What you do to the brothers, you are doing it to me”. Christianity has foundations on that, on love. It directs us to love to the close ones, and to the God. That is coexistence we must live, that is a community, there is no force – said Protoiereus Stojanovic.
He believes that coexistence is disturbed where people have moved away from spiritual values, where people are more “grounded”, turned to material and selfishness, which is not the case in Moravice.
– Orthodox, Catholics, and Muslims live here, no one is forcing anyone into coexistence. We live like that and everybody has their own problems. Perhaps, this is even a unique example of a coexistence like that. There is always something bad about every good. The Lord had 12 apostles. One betrayed him. However, that remained uncorrupted in this area somehow – the priest said.
He agrees that economic problems are endangering life here.
– People are leaving. I only had 36 funerals this year, and only 2 children were born. That is very defeating. That is not only the problem with Moravica, I think that the same numbers are in entire Gorski Kotar. The desire is certainly to keep the young, to keep the Gorski Kotar to continue living – Jelenko recommends.
Be smart, people
Although it is not more important than Easter, the Christmas is a foundation for all holidays.
– When I talk to children, and often with the Catholic professor, we look forward to joy because it is the reconciliation of God and man. God becomes a man, so the man can become God, by grace, not by nature. God calls for us, he doesn’t want anything, but to enjoy the happiness. That is why the Christmas is the foundation, because everybody celebrates it, in the family, among friends, neighbors, and although it seems that it was stolen a bit by commercialism, everything will come to its place.
There are temptations in every human being, but here, due to several factors, people, representatives of the authorities, clergy – peace has been preserved. It was easier here than in the places where there was no peace. It is a pearl that we need to guard for future generations – says this Orthodox priest, so he takes the opportunity to wish a happy Christmas to everyone, especially Catholics who will celebrate it sooner, writes Jutarnji.hr.
– I wish everyone happy Christmas and New Year holidays, along with the words of the prophet Isaij: “God is with us, be smart, people”. People should come to their senses, and then everything will be alright. Peace of God. Christ is born. The priest Jelenko Stojanovic said.
– Imagine, and I was a Serb – a volunteer in the Homeland War, I entered the Homeland War in Ogulin, first in 1990, and then I became the first Croatian officer, educated in Pula, 369 Croats and myself, the only Serb. We were lined up by Tudjman, Susak, and Moric. I have four and a half years of war experience, but I had to retire because of the threats to my family. At that time, I was employed in HZ, and the three of us are working there” – he said.
He does not like politicians no matter what nationality they are, he is not very fond of them, but he would put his hand in the fire for an ordinary honest man.
– I had problems with electricity bills – and who gave me 1.500 kunas? There he is – one of the Croats is pointing to him.
The other one is suspicious, as the Serb said, but he is a kind man, his father has been in the Croatian Democratic Union since 1991.
– The general problem is the demographic situation. The kindergarten, elementary and secondary schools still work. When they close them, then we will die out. As for the rest, there were never problems, we have Muslims and Roma people and there are no problems. Well, we don’t have a choice, no one ever said a single bad word. There has been music for 10 years in my cafe, there were no fights and no arguments.
Doors are never locked here, nor the bikes. There are no thefts, there is no crime. There are a typical brotherhood and unity here. Better than that, here we are preparing for first Christmas, and we all will sing Tompson, for the second one, we will sing Baja Mali Knindza, and everybody will sing, both Croats and Serbs. It is normal here. Give us a place in the world where that is possible. Like we had the situation the other day, a Croat is playing Tompson on accordion and Serbs are singing.