The monument, a real boulder, four meters high and almost 80 centimeters in diameter, huge and black, stands in the very center of Belgrade, on Terazije. Thousands pass by it every day without even receiving it. This is a story about the most neglected monument of the Serbian capital and a great shame for all of us.
In the early morning hours of August 17, 1941, the German occupiers issued a warning to all those who might think of resistance. In the center of the city, five Serbs who were shot earlier in the Gestapo yard were hanged on the flags on Terazije.
Their crime? The simple and stereotypical platitude “resisting the occupier”.
The alleged “terrorists” were: student Milorad Pokrajac, tailor Jovan Janković, shoemaker Svetislav Milina, and farmers Velimir Jovanović and Ratko Jević. The bodies were left to hang for days, as a sign of threat, on public lighting poles as the pinnacle of the humiliation of a city, of humanity…
Forty years later, the citizens of free Belgrade erected a monument on the same spot. A huge black obelisk four meters high and 80 centimeters in diameter, the work of sculptor Nikola Janković, still stands today in Terazije. Those who look closely will see carved scenes of the hanging and verses of the famous Vasco Popa.
The problem is that hardly anyone notices.
– Fortunately, we do not have a tradition of deliberately destroying monuments, but there is negligence. Belgraders know little about history and monuments. You can go out on the street and ask someone whose monument this is, and the question is how many people would know – Neda Kovačević, a writer and chronicler who systematically listed and photographed all the capital’s monuments, tells Dnevno.rs.
In the meantime, the government also forgot about the patriots. You will not find the story of the shot Belgraders in any history textbook, and the monument, although it is located in the center of Belgrade, is not on the city’s website in the section dedicated to the capital’s monuments. And the bronze memorial plaque with the names of the murdered and the epitaph was stolen several times.
To make matters worse, this is not the only thing that was stolen!
The original gallows-poles on which the hanged Serbs were hung were threatened during the construction of the Alley of the Shot Patriots in 1941-1944 at the New Cemetery, where a special memorial was arranged.
And then, during the reconstruction of the complex in 2003, someone stole the gallows!
– Thefts are common in Belgrade, but this was the most shocking case for me. The flags have been removed and left aside while the work is done. In front of the cemetery guards, during the night, they came with shovels and dragged them away. The flags were found, but they could no longer be repaired. Those who stole had no idea what they were stealing and what value it had – says Neda Kovačević.
Three Roma were caught for stealing the gallows. They took them away in a cart, and the monument was cut up and sold as scrap metal for a few thousand dinars. The police found the destroyed gallows in the waste.
Since then, there are only replicas at the New Cemetery.
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