Sutjeska River, Bosnia
In May 1943, during the Second World War, the Battle of Sutjeska took place in this nationally revered place. By all accounts, this was a most extraordinary, but phyrric victory for the Yugoslav Partizans, led by Josp Broz Tito. Axis forces totalling over 120,000 were held for some weeks by a force of a little over 20,000 partizan troops of the Yugoslav National Liberation Army. This stalemate ultimately contributed to enabling the Yugoslav forces to drive the Axis troops out of Eastern Bosnia.
I did not find out till I got home, that Richard Burton played the part of Tito, in the movie Sutjeska , made in 1973. I mean to watch it!
View from the balcony of the derelict hotel in the Park
The Hotel Sutjeska; seen better days
It is impossible to imagine what took place here; nearly 80 years ago, and how the sacrifices during those events have become a part of the national psyche. To understand what is taking place in the Balkans today, one has to understand the struggles which have gone on here for hundreds of years; and The Battle Of Sutjeska is one of the most important. I had ridden eastwards from Tebinje, and onto Gacko, still in Republika Srpska, before riding into the Sutjeska gorge, and then into the Sutjeska National Park on my way eastwards.
It was here that I first came across the astonishing phenomenon of the spomenik.
Tjentište Spomenik; Sutjeska Memorial
When I arrived in early September 2018, work was near completion to repair damage to the site around the massive concrete memorial, which had been erected in 1971. Unfortunately, in February 2018, a massive landslide had occurred which threatened the stability of the site surrounding the monument. I cycled up the muddy track to the west of the memorial and up onto the paved area between the magnificent concrete monoliths. They are truly wonderful! I was in awe of these symbolic and abstract sculptures.
Spomen Dom Museum
Also in the same valley; The Valley of Heroes, is the museum complex. Made almost entirely of concrete ( including the main doors ) , its design borrows from the classic wooden shingle roof typical of mountain woodland cabins.
Unfortunately, the Museum was not accessible. Because as this blog shows; the interior is a glorious and graphic depiction of the events being commemorated.
This site in this beautiful valley, was my introduction to the spomenik(s) of Yugoslavia. The wonderful resource that Donald Niebyl has compiled, together with his beautiful and concise and informative recent book, The Spomenik Database, has opened up to me a fascinating exploration of these extraordinary memorials; together with their distant and recent historical connections.