I believe that Knin could be an example for many in Croatia regarding preservation of customs and culture, and how to build relationships with the majority Croatian population, said Anja Šimpraga, the SDSS candidate, during the inauguration of the Serbian Cultural Centre in that city

By: Dragan Grozdanić

Space of the Serbian Cultural Centre sanctified by blessings of the bishop Nikodim of Dalmatia (photo by Hrvoje Jelavić/PIXEL)

After Beli Manastir, Slavonski Brod and Udbine, fourth Serbian Cultural Centre was inaugurated on April 6 in Knin, in the main King Zvonimir Street. Guests and others came in large number, foremost politicians at state and local levels, and for starters the bishop Nikodim of Dalmatia sanctified the space by blessings.

In the Centre, located in two story building, a few small programs are already taking place. As we have heard during the inauguration, and saw for ourselves, musical programs for children are taking place in which accordion lessons and teachings about their language and culture are organized. In one room we noticed diverse and imaginative children’s drawings. Legal aid department of the Serb National Council (SNC) has its office in the Centre, and larger programs are yet to come.

The Serbian Cultural Centre Knin is one of around forty similar projects launched by the SNC in the last five years. Milorad Pupovac, President of the SNC, during the inauguration of the Serbian Cultural Centre said that culture and cultural activities are among highest achievements of the humankind.

– We would like this Center to be a place where members of the Serbian community, and all who come here, would fulfill themselves in the City of Knin and this part of Dalmatia. This is precisely the meaning and the purpose of its existence, said Pupovac. He reminded the audience of the April 6th, fateful date 83 years ago for all peoples who lived in former Yugoslavia, and particularly for Croats and Serbs. Not only because of the plight, said Pupovac, but also because of the scale of total destruction that came afterwards.

He invoked the memory of the year 1941 when one mighty force attacked a small country and back then destroyed a large part of Belgrade. He added that we should not forget the plight or the other one which came afterwards, including the one that this city went through during the first half of 1990s.

– The Center is important because here we are opening a community center, center for social events and meeting place for people who have something to share with each other. Here, Serbs have an opportunity to cultivate their typical cultural values and together with the whole city and its surroundings to share broad cultural values in the region where they live, while the front door will be open for all other possible cultural contributions in this city, for members of majority Croatian people and entire Šibenik-Kin County, and more.

Dragana Jeckov, Milorad Pupovac and Anja Šimpraga (Hrvoje Jelavić/PIXSELL)

Talking about dramatic relationships between Croats and Serbs in specific periods in this region in which spaces and distances became larger than they really are and deeper than they should be, Pupovac remembered those who made significant contributions to alleviate them, as well as prominent Serbs who as the city majors had significantly contributed to Knin.

– For this occasion, we would like to remember Sava Bjelanović, one of the most prominent political leaders in Dalmatia, born in Đevrske, who has spent a large part of his life as a member of the Dalmatian Assembly while he worked and lived in Zadar. He will be remembered also because in the final phase of his not too long life of 47 years, he managed that disagreements in those time, not always created by the will of the people, hadn’t caused a bad blood but fostered cooperation and unity to achieve common political goals. When we decide on the name this Center will bear, Sava Bjelanović would certainly be on that list, concluded Pupovac.

Marijo Ćaćić, the major of Knin, welcomed the audience and said he supported construction of the Center because this project aligns with development plans for the old part of the city to make it “alive” again. – This is a cultural center which will house not only cultural events, but also various social events, and I’m looking forward to it, and to other similar projects in this city, emphasized Ćaćić.

Anja Šimpraga, Deputy Prime Minister of the Croatian Government born in Knin, said there is no place like home – Knin, and reflected on the Serbian community’s, and the city itself, journey from the traumatic years 1991 and 1995.

– Here we are together to celebrate diversity, to celebrate cooperation and future. This Center was envisioned as a meeting place, a place for learning and exchange of ideas, and for friendship. Knin with its surroundings is a source of many of our stories, some are ugly but much more stories are beautiful, and just like this building and the Center, they are the pledge of our friendship and association. When we started to rebuild then a dilapidated house, we worked bearing in mind that it would also advance relationships between people. I believe and I know that Knin could be an example for many in Croatia regarding preservation of customs and culture, and how to build relationship with the majority Croatian population, said Šimpraga.

With food and song, Knin sent this event off in the warm spring night. Notable attendees included Marko Jelić, the Šibenik-Knin County prefect, MPs Dragana Jeckov and Boris Milošević, Alen Tahiri, director of the Government Office for Human Rights and Rights of National Minorities, state secretaries, members of the Serbian Democratic Forum, and members of the Culture Club “Dositej Obradović” in recognizable folk costumes.