Hundreds of Yugonostalgics from all over the former Yugoslavia gathered at Josip Broz Tito’s mausoleumon Friday to celebrate Youth Day and the late Yugoslav leader’s 120th birthday.
|Child overlooking the Tito's grave I Photo by BIRN|
Despite the rain, communist era Yugoslav flags flew as the sounds of the traditional tune 'Druze Tito Mi Ti Se Kunemo' [Comrade Tito, We Pledge Our Allegiance] blared over loudspeakers. Hundreds of people from all over the Balkans cheerfully joined in the celebration, with many wearing badges and shirts with Tito's portrait.
While Tito may be criticized by some for his autocratic rule, those celebrating at the House of Flowers today wouldn't have any of it. ‘We never lived better than we did under Tito' and 'Come back and restore our dignity' were among the slogans heard from the stage.
The gathering was a throwback to celebrations of Tito’s birthday during his lifetime. Youth Day was marked with a massive relay that wound across the entire former Yugoslavia, and ended in Belgrade on May 25 with a spectacular ceremony at the Yugoslav People’s Army Football Stadium where Tito was ceremonially presented with the baton.
Cultural and artistic groups from all over the former Yugoslavia gave the gathering a festive atmosphere, and even prompted a few older people to dance along.
Joska Broz, the grandson of the former Yugoslav leader and the current president of the Communist Party, who helped start the tradition of marking Youth Day, says that Yugoslavia may not be rebuilt as it was, but that the Yugoslav spirit lives on, since it was obvious that the Balkan people cannot exist without each other.
Participants in the day’s celebrations came from as far afield as Nis, Subotica, Istra, Zagreb, Tivat , Banja Luka, and Ljubljana.
A delegation from Bosnia, who carried one of the ceremonial relay batons, a traditional gift to Tito on Youth Day, all the way from the town of Zenica, said that they had come to Belgrade to pay their respects to their former leader and to call upon their “brothers” to unite again and create a state without borders.
The ceremonial batons were brought not just from Bosnia, but from other parts of the former country as well, evoking memories of "the good old days", and promoting the idea that the old Yugoslavia still lives on and that the Balkan nations never had such a great and inspiring leader as Tito.
|Yugoslavian Flags on the May 25 Celebration I Photo by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network|
|A young pioneer I Photo by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network|
|Tito's Grave in the House of Flowers I Photo by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network|
|Tito's grandson Joska Broz, current president of the Communist Party I Photo by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network|
Kristin Brown and Boban Petronic also contributed to this article.