We have envisioned this place to serve for transmission of old practices and creation of a new one. Song, dance, speech and customs are indicators of our strength, said Milan Uzelac, Lika-Senj County deputy perfect at the inauguration of the Serbian Cultural Centre in Udbina.

By: A. Kožul

A new meeting place for men and women from Lika, the Serbian Cultural Centre in Udbina, was inspired by the homeland and its thorny and grand history, but above all it is dedicated to our mutual future. We are happy to have an opportunity to share this festivity, as well as a burden of demands which our reality has put in front of us. We are aware of negative trends of the depopulation and departure of people, but we couldn’t base our actions only on obvious facts. We need vision, a guiding thought which doesn’t need to be practicable, but the one we would imagine together. Tonight, we are here precisely because we were able to imagine a place not only for transmission of old practices but also for the creation of a new one. Song, dance, speech and customs are indicators of our strength even when the strength is lacking. So rest assured, the door of this house are open to all who need a roof for their song and foundations for their ideas, said Milan Uzelac, Lika-Senj County deputy perfect at the inauguration of the first Serbian Cultural Centre in Udbina.

Newly opened space of the Serbian community in Lika is located in the middle of Udbina, in the Katedralska Street. This Serbian Cultural Center is one of around forty similar projects launched by the SNC in the last five years. Besides construction of cultural centers, the SNC has restored nine community centers in the region of Lika only: in Gornje Ploče, Mogorić, Vrepac, Lipovo Polje, Doljani, Gornji Babin Potok, Ličko Petrovo Selo, Debelo Brdo i Donji Lapac. The Serbian Cultural Center will be open for all inhabitants of the municipality of Udbina, and for wider area. As the deputy perfect Uzelac said, the object was brimming with activities even before the inauguration. In the grand hall, dozen children’s birthday parties were organized, as well as meetings, plays and the folklore society rehearsals. The Serbian National Minority Council of the Lika-Senj County will be in charge for the Center, and duties and responsibilities will be divided between the deputy perfect and activists, explained Uzelac, “all of them experienced virtuoso improvisers.”

Milorad Pupovac and Anja Šimpraga attended the inauguration (Photo by: Sandro Lendler)

Milorad Pupovac, President of the Serb National Council, said that “People of Lika should be proud of people who did their best to create cultural centers in Udbina and Lika”.

– We are happy that you have these municipal authorities, major and deputy major, your fellow residents, who managed in a relatively short time to create a place where people live in good relations. Municipal authorities are treating everyone as equal and as their own. We have accomplished all of this thanks to those who were in charge for the Municipality before us, to current major, Josip Sueček, and to deputy perfect Uzelac, said Pupovac. He dedicated his speech to the prominent family from Lika, Budisavljević.

Even their descendents nowadays are not able to establish a reliable relationships of kinship and origin, said Pupovac. In the Serbian Biographical Dictionary, published by the Matica Srpska, there are thirteen entries for notable person with the family name Budisavljević who had been born in Lika.

– Aleksandar Leko Budisavljević, imperial colonel, has published a book, “Clan Budisavljević in the Upper Military Frontier” in 1890 in Novi Sad. Recently, again in Novi Sad, a comprehensive genealogical atlas was published for 37 branches of the Budisavljević family. That is a span of over 300 years, and the family Budisavljević is still alive. Such a family is very rare, particularly among Serbs in Croatia. One is the Desnica family, descendents of Vladan Desnica. Members of the Budisavljević family were by and large soldiers and priests. Bude was their favorite name for children. The most famous among them was Branimir Bude, general and nobleman, renowned as a soldier, and the godfather of the Ban Josić Jelačić. He is credited with the construction of first Serbian school in Gospić, said Pupovac.

He also mentioned Budislav Budisavljević, born in Bijelopolje in 1842. An important individual, he was perfect and grand perfect in Ruma, Požega, Gospić, and Krbava and Bjelovar-Križevci counties for 30 years. He was also a deputy in the All-Serbian Assemblies on several occasions. Besides, he was renowned author. In his writings, you can sense folk literature, folklore and folk humor, said Pupovac. His works were published in two volumes by the Matica Srpska, and the Matica Hrvatska erected a memorial plaque in his honor in 1968.

Among notable members of Budisavljević family was also Julije, surgeon from Zagreb. His wife, Diana Budisavljević, is renowned humanitarian who embarked on a campaign of rescuing Serbian children from Ustasha concentration camps during the World War II. Dana Budisavljević, director of the movie “Diary of Diana B”, also belongs to this family from Lika, said Pupovac.

The youngest members of the folklore ensemble SCA Prosvjeta, subcommittee Udbina, performed “Đikac”, the deaf dance from Lika. Many people from Lika and Dalmatia attended the inauguration. Anka Milojević, from the village Mogorić below Velebit Mountains, said that places like this are always necessary in Udbina for people to feel better.

– Our center in Mogorić is restored now, and we are using it on various occasions. We organize New Year’s Eves, get together and people from all sides are coming. Even before the war we had our places for meetings and shows. As a child, I used to participate in them. Our school in Mogorić had two stories, classes in two shifts, always full of children. It is nice to see a folklore show here. We don’t have a folklore ensemble in our village. This town is large and it is possible to organize something. But, we have a “jukebox”, and everyone plays their favorite songs on the mobile phone. We are listening, but folk music is the best, said Anka about the village social life.

Dejan Stojaković, an actor from the Akademija 28 Theater in Belgrade, played a monodrama about the life and work of Sava Mrkalj, Serbian Cyrillic and language reformer and poet, entitled “Hear my Voice – Sava Mrkalj”.

Anja Šimpraga, Deputy Prime Minister of the Croatian Government, emphasized that Serbian cultural centers all over Croatia are “permanent monuments to the Serbian culture and history and future.”

– We should pledge to Sava Mrkalj that we will not hide or neglect our culture and tradition, that we proudly use our language and script, and show them to the world. I whish you have a lot of projects, concerts and visitors who will come here and make this place alive, said Šimpraga to the inhabitants of Lika.