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Feature 14 Feb 18

Mapping Belgrade’s Great Love Stories

With Valentine’s Day approaching, BIRN tours city addresses that were the scenes of romantic, often tragic, love stories.

Siri Sollie
BIRN
Belgrade

If it wasn't for the plaque on the wall of the building at Prizrenska 7, few might knew the Nobel Prize-winning author, Ivo Andric, wrote some of his most famous works here. Photo: BIRN/Siri Sollie 

Prizrenska 7: Ivo Andric’s Secret Lover

In May 1941, Ivo Andric moved into the first floor of an apartment building at Prizrenska 7 in central Belgrade, where he rented a room with the lawyer Brane Milenkovic and his mother.

The Second World War had just started and the 49-year-old Andric had returned from Berlin, where he had served as the Yugoslav ambassador since 1939.

If it wasn’t for the plaque on the wall of the building, few might knew the Nobel Prize-winning author wrote some of his most famous works here: The Bridge on the Drina, The Woman from Sarajevo and Bosnian Chronicle: A Novel.

The famous novelist and poet had a penchant for married women, according Nenad Novak Stefanovic, author of The Guide to the Love History of Belgrade.

Andric married costume designer Milica Babic in 1958 after meeting her in 1931 in Belgrade.

When they met, however, Babic was married to Nenad Jovanovic, a Bosnian journalist and translator. Andric appointed Jovanovic to an attaché’s post at the embassy in Berlin, allegedly so he could spend more time with Babic, who was 17 years his junior.

Jovanovic was arrested in occupied Belgrade in 1942, after the Gestapo accused him of being a British spy, claiming he was listening to British radios to decipher coded messages from London. He was sent to prison and later to a concentration camp.

Jovanovic survived the war but returned to Serbia in poor health and died in 1958. Andric married his widow shortly afterwards and the newly-weds then moved to Proleterskih Brigade 2a, a street that today goes under the name Andricev Venac.

When Belgrade was liberated in November 1944, Tito and Davorjanka moved into the White Palace. Photo: Wikipedia/gMilanovac 

The White Palace and Tito’s Great Love

The White Palace, the Beli Dvor, at Boulevard Kneza Aleksandra Karadjordjevica 96, in the city’s eastern neighbourhood of Dedinja, was completed in 1929 on the orders of Yugoslav King Aleksandar I.

However, he only spent only a short time at the palace. He was assassinated in Marseilles in 1934.

Josip Broz Tito, leader of Yugoslavia after World War II until his death in 1980, moved into the palace when the Communist-led Partisans took over the country in 1944/5.

Tito had a reputation as a womaniser and married several times. But one woman said to have been Tito’s greatest love was Davorjanka Paunovic who was 30 years younger than him and served as his right hand in the Partisan resistance movement in occupied Yugoslavia.

When Belgrade was liberated in November 1944, Tito and Davorjanka moved into the White Palace.

However, Davorjanka suffered from tuberculosis and shortly after liberation was sent to Vrsac, a town in eastern Serbia, near Romania, to rest and recuperate.

When she returned to Belgrade, the couple spent a while together at the palace, but Davorjanka died of tuberculosis in 1946 at the age of only 25.

Tito buried her remains in the White Palace garden and her grave remains there to this day.

Princess Ljubica residence in Kneza Sime Markovica street 8. Photo: Wikiepdia/Nenad Cvetkovic

Konak Kneginje Ljubice and a tale of Vengeance

Milos Obrenovic, the Prince of Serbia between 1815 and 1839, and again from 1858 to 1860, is famed for having known how to have a good time – particularly in the company of women.

According to Stefanovic’s book, Obrenovic admired the Ottoman Sultan’s right to have several wives and wouldn’t have minded keeping several himself, had the circumstances allowed.

However, Obrenovic’s wife, Ljubica Vukomanovic, did not approve of her husband’s affairs and even went as far as murdering one of his mistresses, Petrja, in 1819, shooting her in the chest with one of her husband’s pistols at the royal residence in Gornja Crnuca, in central Serbia.

Ljubica was saved from her husband’s wrath and the death penalty only because she was expecting a child at the time.

Ljubica’s jealousy and vengeful anger is said to be the reason why Obrenovic ordered the construction of Princess Ljubica's Residence (Konak Kneginje Ljubice) in Kneza Sime Markovica 8.

Allegedly, Obrenovic wanted her away from the royal residence in Kragujevac – the first modern capital of Serbia - where Obrenovic and his wife life until the princess’s residence in Belgrade was finished in 1831.

After the murder of Petrija, Ljubica lived at the residence with their two sons, Mihailo and Milan.

Obrenovic and his wife only saw each other during holidays and family occasions, which is said to have tormented Ljubica.

Legend has it that she once approached Obrenovic with a loaded rifle, demanding he either forgive her or kill her. Overwhelmed by her courage, Obrenovic is said to have forgiven her.

The construction of the Kolarac Endowment at Student´s Square started in 1929. Photo: Wikipedia/Zvonko

The Kolarac Endowment and a Love for the City

Ilija M Kolarac, born in 1800, was a Serbian tradesman who came to Belgrade as a young man with little money in his pocket.

Having a good eye for business opportunities, however, he made a fortune in trading foodstuffs with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and later also invested in the salt business.

He married Sindjelija Radovanovic in 1827 and lived with her until she became ill and died in 1855.

Kolarac never re-married and said that after his death he had no other goal in life other than to benefit his fellow people.

By the time of his death in 1878, Kolarac had amassed a fortune.

As he and Sindjelija had no children, to the despair of his relatives, he left all his wealth to fund Belgrade’s first university and support literature.

Although his family tried to dispute the will, his wishes were upheld following several court hearings.

Kolarac’s devotion to Belgrade and its people resulted in the Ilija M Kolarac Endowment, also known as the Kolarac People's University Building, at Students’ Square 5, in the centre of the city.

Construction began in 1929 and was completed three years later. The building is a monument of great cultural and historical importance and as such was declared a protected state monument.

This article was published in BIRN's bi-weekly newspaper Belgrade Insight. Here is where to find a copy.

 

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14 Feb 18

Mapping Belgrade’s Great Love Stories