Almost every village in the Srem region took part in battles against the occupying forces in World War II, and thus most have a monument similar to this one in the centre of the village. They are mostly simple, figural and done by second rate artists of their time. The one in the village of Čortanovci was important in two respects. Firstly, it has defined a new centre of this mountain village, together with a shop and a post office, located further away from the church, which was the old social centre of the village. Secondly, the monument has for years been the centrepiece of village celebrations, especially the communist manifestation of the liberation of the village that took place on the traditional holiday, St George’s Day.
Additionally, the only monument in the village, which stands at one end of the park laid out at the time of Socialist Yugoslavia, also marks the most modern part of the village. That being said, the monument is nowadays much less respected than it had been in the time of communism and is often, though vaguely, ridiculed by the younger generation. If we disregard the new plaque, with the names of villagers who died in the wars of the 1990s, subsequently added to its side, the monument is in excellent condition. The grass around it is being mowed regularly, and on important days flowers are laid in front of it. Though it remains the central point of the village, the church has now become the focus of most commemorations in Čortanovci.
TEXT BY VLADIMIR DULOVIĆ
1953 Monument to the fallen in combat against fascism
2018 Monument to fallen in WW2 and in the 1990s wars
Form of government
1953 Socialist Federal Republic
2018 Parliamentary Democracy
Spatial Planning Agency
1953 Urbanistički zavod, Novi Sad
Type of heritage and protection
Interview with Dušan Đorović
DĐ: Well, first of all, in an orientational and geographical sense the village is pretty strange. Determining the centre – and I’ve lived there for years – it’s very hard to say where the centre is. Is the centre by the monument and at the beginning of that street just because it’s called Marshal Tito Street? That’s the logic of it but then somewhere lower down that street is the church and over there up and right is the local community centre, their premises, etc. and over there even further away is the school over in that direction. So the village doesn’t have a strictly determined centre as is the case with those Srem villages where you have one main road, a street everything passes through and with another street crossing it and where they meet is some kind of centre. Here we don’t have that, here it’s a bit strange because Čortanovci is a very strange place. In everything, not just in geography. It’s a strange village because it’s hilly because it has a river, the Danube’s right there, then it has woods and lots of history… Through the centuries and millennia, various peoples settled here for which there are evidence and archaeological findings. There, that monument is a more recent feature, erected relatively – 50, 60, 70 years – when was that – from that time – reminding us of those days… And how many people now really notice it in the way it was intended at the beginning – it has lost that meaning. Although the occasion is still marked in some way annually.
VD: So there is an annual gathering? What is that? Fighter Day? Or a day marking the liberation of the village?
DĐ: Yes, well, strike me down, if you put a gun to my head I couldn’t remember what day it’s held on exactly. What day they chose to mark the occasion, to decorate the monument, bring flowers, hold an event… That was done before but I think that happens less now. They have some – I mean “they” over there in Čortanovci where I’m from – village slava, which again is contradictory because for that slava they go behind some house and shoot over the roof towards the church because that’s the direction liberation supposedly came from. Some other villagers say there some symbolism in that, that they deliberately shoot at the church like they want to show that the former system was part of some occupation. Because communism, socialism, whatever it was, when it came after that Second World War wasn’t just liberation but also an ideological change. And when they wanted to show this ideological rejection of what came before, what was there? There was the church of course.
Interview with Ivko Bondžić
IB: It was held every year. Only this year it wasn’t. I don’t know about last year – I come through but I only dash through, that’s all.
VD: Has the way celebrations are held changed? Do more people attend or less?
IB: It has changed. Older people, they celebrated it, you know, properly. However, this younger generation doesn’t pay as much attention.
VD: Now there’s a new plaque on the monument – one with a cross and so on. That was added later? And, as that celebration is held once a year, is it attended by the priest or by SUBNOR? Who comes to the celebration?
IB: I think that SUBNOR attends but the priest doesn’t.
VD: So, even with the cross and so forth it’s still SUBNOR attending?
IB: That was put on there for propriety’s sake.
VD: And what’s your feeling about the mood in the village? Does the monument mean something to most people or…?
IB: It means a lot to older people but not to the young people.
VD: Has anyone ever started an initiative saying, “Let’s remove that monument, we’ve had enough of Partizans”?
IB: No, not that.
VD: What do you think about that monument compared to – here on Fruška Gora every village has a monument like that – do you think the one in Čortanovci is in a better or worse state?
IB: It was maintained normally, until last year.
VD: When it was erected, the whole centre of the village was fixed up.
IB: A fence was put up… everything was fixed up.
VD: And the park, was that fixed up…?
IB: That came later.
VD: Do people make a link between the monument and the park and the socialist era?
IB: The park is in the background, this was in the foreground.
VD: So there are no negative feelings about the monument in the village?
IB: I haven’t heard that.
VD: And do you think that the monument is in a way the new centre of the village? Where do you feel the centre of the village is?
IB: I think so. That’s where the centre is. There’s nowhere else.
VD: Ivko, tell me, please, you've been here for 40 years and some years in Čortanovci, what was the relationship with that monument to a fighter earlier and what is now?
IB: Every year it is maintained. This year I just did not, I do not know last, I'm passing but the only ones that are out there and that's it.
VD: And has it changed the way this is maintained, is there more people, less ...?
IB: It's changed. Older people, they kept it that way, pretty good. However, this younger generation does not give more attention.
VD: Now on that monument there is a board with one with a cross and so on. It was later raised? And is it now coming, when this celebration is being held once a year, is there a pop or comes SUBNOR, who is coming here?
IB: I think SUBNOR is coming and pop does not come.
VD: So even though he has that baptism and so on, that's all and still SUBNOR?
IB: That's the order of the matter, and that's it.
VD: And how does it feel to you now in the village, most of the locals do they mean something of that monument or somehow ...?
IB: It means a lot to the older people and does not mean for the younger ones.
VD: Has anyone ever tried an initiative to say, "Let's take this monument, a lot more of those Partisans"?
IB: No, it does not.
VD: How do you think this monument is compared to - there is one such monument in each village on Fruška Gora - do you think that this Čortanovački is in a better, worse condition?
IB: Maintenance, up to last year, normal.
VD: This monument when it is raised is then arranged around the whole centre of the village.
IB: The fence set ... everything is arranged.
VD: But is this park arranged and ...?
IB: It's later.
VD: Do people somehow connect this monument and park, that it is from the era of socialism?
IB: Park is the second plan, and this was in the foreground.
VD: So there is no negative sentiment in the village around the monument?
IB: I have not heard.
VD: And do you think that this monument is somehow a new centre of the village? How do you count where the village centre is?
IB: I think so. There is a centre, no other.
Interview with Živan Pašić
ŽP: Very interesting. See here, in a way none of the villages in Srem was liberated. When Belgrade fell in October, the Germans retreated across Srem and later formed the Srem Front. This means that none of the villages in Srem struggled for their liberation. Instead, they passed through, the villages were liberated and I know for a fact that in Čortanovci a local Partizan came and said, “People, freedom is here”. There was no fighting but, what’s unique about Čortanovci is that we organised a rural, socialist celebration, as it was called back then, on the 6th of May, on St George’s Day. We were captured on the 6th of May, for St George’s Day. The Germans and Ustašas from Novi Sad, that is from Karlovci, came and captured the village. Because that was the village saint’s day since time immemorial and now the village was captured on the 6th of May but we celebrated on the 6th of May because the Partizans realised that if the celebration was in October when Srem was freed of fascists, then we couldn’t celebrate St George’s Day. So they then basically left the old celebration date as it was…
VD: In fact, they stuck their celebration over it…
ŽP: Well, yes, and they were pretty cunning: Beška and Krčedin and all the other villages of Srem had two celebration days. They kept their old, religious ceremonies but in October, on whatever day, they celebrated Liberation Day.
VD: Does that then mean that Čortanovci were more aligned to the Partizans and communists?
ŽP: They had a lot of educated people here. I wrote a book, so I had a chance to see that because we were close to Karlovci and people found it easy to get an education as they travelled. And when a man is cleverer, he thinks better.
VD: What did those celebrations look like back then?
ŽP: Very, very overblown, with speeches that everyone listened to but no one understood. I took part in these celebrations because I was a member of the local community and head of the youth organisation and such like. And then came the time when there was no more socialism, the system changed. Earlier we called it a “Partizan Slava” and then later a “Socialist Slava” and when that socialist part passed, I was the head of the local community and said, “now we’re going to call it the ‘Village Slava’ as we did before.” And we celebrate it as before.
VD: So, now there is a village slava again, on St George’s Day, but it also takes in the monument?
ŽP: Yes, that’s right.
VD: So, some church and some monument?
ŽP: That’s right. Because the evening of the fifth, the day before St George’s Day, which is on the 6th, we celebrate in front of the church, in the centre of Čortanovci – the former centre because the village has grown – we organise an outdoor programme. We light a fire, a bonfire, and organise a rich programme of arts and culture, lots of people come to see that. And immediately before that, an hour earlier, a procession comes from the school with the veterans and other people and we lay a wreath at the monument to fallen Partizans… and when I wrote a book about our church I found out that only a couple of days after liberation our church held a mass for the fallen from Čortanovci, whether they were Partizans or not.