Serb village Strmica nearby Knin, lying at the very tri-border point connecting Lika, Dalmatia and Bosnia, is famous for boules, wine, prosciutto and ojkaca songs echoing through hills and mountains of the beautiful Knin Krajina
The Serb village Strmica outside Knin had 1,700 residents before the war and now has around 100, mostly the elderly.
It is a village which more than 100 trains passed through before the war. It had a school with some 700 pupils, a brick factory with 300 workers, and more than 100 wellsprings. Today, it has barely 100 residents, mainly senior returnees.
The locals have told Srna that the life of the Serbs in the Knin Krajina is hard, the people are unemployed and the youth are leaving in search of a better future.
They say they still have some memories, old photographs and stories which no one can take away from them and they also have what they carry inside, what keeps them going in the place that experienced great suffering and misery in the 1990s war. The Knin Krajina has given the biggest number of lives for the homeland and freedom.
Strmica, an infinite beauty, lying just next to the border between Bosnia and Croatia, with the brightest skies, a stony tri-border point, karst fields and most beautiful girls, is a village lying very close to the ancient Knin. It is a place where history, culture, religious and great courage come together.
The rector of Knin, Golubic and Strmica, priest Savo Majstorovic has been serving in Dalmatia for 14 years now and tells Srna the Serbs there are the lords of their land.
“We safeguard our holy objects the way they safeguard us. We are our own masters, our people have lived here for centuries. We don’t discriminate people by faith or skin colour. We love every human being, the way our faith prescribes,” said priest Majstorovic.
As the priest stands in front of several centuries’ old icons, he recounts that the Church of St John the Baptist in Strmica, according to certain sources, was built in 1618 marking its 400th anniversary this year, while some other documents indicate it was built even earlier.
After several reconstructions, the church was placed under the state’s protection. Another reconstruction is ongoing, says priest Majstorovic, looking towards a hill where the glorious temple stands.
The Serb population annually gathers at the event Tri-Border Point Sit-Together and hope to receive support from institutions from both Croatia and Serbia, because the event is specifically important for the Serbs from the tri-border area.
Believers in the area regularly come to religious services, there are around 80 households, and in the summer there are usually more people coming from all over the globe to their motherland.
Momcilo Stojkovic, a local resident, recounts for Srna that life in the Serb village before the last war was beautiful.
A railway station, a school, several enterprise, around 1,700 residents, and now only 100, says Stojkovic.
“There were many young people before. Now, mostly the elderly have returned. People used to work, live. You could feel and sense a wonderful life here,” he recounts.
Stojkovic says there used to be 700 pupils in the school in Strmica, now it is closed. Everything has come “to nothing,” everything is falling apart and getting covered by weeds.
He says he did not face any trouble when he returned to Strmica before the war but once a Croat mentioned his ethnic background.
“We hope someone will start something up in the future, some plant or something, where young people could work. That is the future of the Serb village so people can stay here. It is well known that people have lately left in search for a better life, but nowhere else is as beautiful as it is in the tri-border point between Lika, Dalmatia and Bosnia, right here in our Strmica,” he said.
Gojko Beric, a man who has always lived in Strmica and Krajina, says he returned to his own place, the place he loves.
“I love this, this is mine. I’m not afraid of anything, what I like keeps me alive. What also keeps me going is telling the truth,” says Beric.
He returned in late September 2000 to find poverty and misery.
“Everybody was asking why I was going back, but I came back to my own land. There was some intimidation at first, but we were simply braver. I’m not afraid to tell the truth. When I came back to Strmica, they asked me at the border who I was, what ethnicity I was, I told them I didn’t do anything wrong, I was just going to get what was mine. My Croatian friends with whom I had co-existed in Knin were happy to meet me, I had good time when I came back, but I will tell you we didn’t have any possessions. It was hard at first, it was a struggle. We worked hard. Now, years after my return, no one does me any wrong,” says Beric happily, pointing to his household.
Beric says he is “proud of my land, and they are proud of theirs.”
“This is our bright fatherland, this no one can take away from us, this karst fields, the beautiful women spinners, the breeze from the Dinara mountain,” say the residents of the Serb village of Strmica.