The village of Smiljan, not far from Gospić, is known in the world as the birthplace of the great scientist – Nikola Tesla.
Milojko Budimir, Secretary-General of the Association of Serbs from Croatia, told RTS that in 2006, during the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Tesla’s birth – a memorial center was established, the church and birth house were renovated and electricity was introduced. He spoke about the situation in Lika villages today.
The birthplace of Nikola Tesla was founded and inhabited in 1577 exclusively by the Serb population, and 1,520 Orthodox Serbs were recorded in the first large census from 1847.
Later, that number would increase significantly, until 1941, when violent conversions to Catholicism and mass killings by the NDH began.
Then, the closest relatives of Nikola Tesla were killed. Everything happened again in the last war.
Milojko Budimir, Secretary-General of the Association of Serbs from Croatia, told RTS that he was in Smiljan in August and that every time he visits his homeland near the source of the river Zrmanja in the municipality of Gračac.
“Before I usually went to Dalmatia, Knin or Benkovac and Zadar, but this time my brother and I visited Smiljan, visited the church and the birth house of Nikola Tesla,” said Milojko Budimir.
Speaking about life in Smiljan, he recalls Ilindan in 1941, when more than 500 Serbs from that village were killed. Next to the church was a memorial tomb, where they were buried.
He says that there was a monument with the names of the victims until 1991, but that monument was also destroyed, so that list no longer exists.
The priest Dragan Mihajlović erected a cross in front of the church where Milutin, Nikola Tesla’s father, served.
The Church of St. Peter and Paul in Smiljan was ruined in 2005, otherwise damaged in the Second World War.
Renovated church and birth house
“The church was renovated in 1964 and damaged again in this war, and in 2006 during the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Nikola Tesla’s birth – a memorial center was established, the church and the house were renovated and electricity was introduced in Nikola Tesla’s house,” Budimir said.
There is a memorial collection there. “There is talk of Bunjevci and Vlachs, and those who are not familiar with history cannot conclude that Tesla was a Serb. Could this be one of the forgeries that are constantly being planted, even though we all know who Nikola Tesla belonged to and whose family he is?” says Budimir.
Until 2006, there was no electricity in Nikola Tesla’s birth house.
“There are many villages in Lika where there are returnees, where some stayed behind after the “Operation Storm” without getting electricity. I am afraid that there will be no Serbs until the electricity comes. The number is decreasing. In the municipality of Gračac, which is one of the largest municipalities in Croatia, the situation it’s even harder, two inhabitants per square kilometer. There are no prospects for Croats either, there is no economy, you can’t make a living from agriculture and animal husbandry,” Budimir pointed out.
“From Gospić to Gračac towards Knin, everything is uncultivated”
According to him, from Gospić to Gračac towards Knin, everything is uncultivated, there were fertile fields, mostly animals, hunting grounds, and some Serb returnee or who stayed after the “Operation Storm”.
“Through the Association of Serbs from Croatia, we took actions, we fought to return the deprived tenancy rights, to return pensions, to make that return sustainable. Since that was not done, we hope that since Serbs got one deputy prime minister in the government, the situation could change, which would enable the return of people and a quality way of life, ” Budimir said.
On September 9, 1993, the area of Gospić was attacked.
Every year, the Association of Families of the Missing “Tears” organizes memorial services on the occasion of sad dates from recent history from 1991 to 1995.
Tomorrow at 11 a.m. in the Church of St. Mark, a memorial service will be held for all those who died – three sub-Velebit villages were attacked, 88 soldiers, policemen and civilians were killed. Some were not identified or found.
There is almost no one in those sub-Velebit villages, such is the fate of most villages in the area of Lika, the Secretary-General of the Association pointed out.
Most of the monuments from the National Liberation War do not exist anymore
Considering that he is an archaeologist historian, Budimir points out that every time he gets the opportunity to record something about that area, he tries to publish it.
“I published 20 collections – the civil war in Croatia where it is written about what happened. Each village received a monograph. The last one we made was about our region of Zrmanja, about settlements, about historical monuments. It should be mentioned that most monuments do not exist.
We mentioned Gospić, all monuments from the National Liberation War were destroyed, more than 40,000 people were killed there and thrown into Velbit pits, “says Budimir.
“There are monuments to Spepinac and Tuđman, and there are no contracts with the anti-fascist struggle, nor can you see any monument,” Budmimir said.
He called on his compatriots not to forget their homeland. “We do it through books, but that’s not enough. Whoever can visit it and renovate the house. Croatia has not returned the deprived tenancy rights that are not substitutions through the housing program, and we should be more active in that regard because a third of the space in Croatia where “Serbs lived in a deserted area where there is no life,” Budimir concluded.