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05 Aug 10

An Adventurous Holiday, Part II : Homage to Tito

Dusica Ikic Cook

I remember watching the Farm in Mali Rit as a series when I was a kid. There are sentences and names from it that we still use.

It is from there that we new students were the main force of communism and children were the true heroes, the ones we wanted to be. Of course, national TV, in the absence of other content, was giving who-knows-what number of re-runs. Dario was glued to the TV every Monday night, and he played Partisans and Swabians with his friends outside.

As I was doing the plan for the holiday one Saturday, he came to stay with us for a weekend and was very proud to inform me that the night before he had played Tito for the fifth time. It was then that I knew the House of Flowers (Kuća cveća) was the first stop on our journey. No Kalemegdan, no Knez Mihajlova, no nothing – just Tito’s final resting place and the museums adjacent to it.

The morning of our departure started with shouting and complaints; just as I expected it. The moment we sat in the car it was all replaced by them pulling my chain and continuously bringing up the “fantastic” idea of a camping toilet. Of course, thinking about it now, I could have bought a Garmin or Tom-Tom navigatior instead, for it is now sitting in my flat, where it is not needed at all. Still, I let them and laughed along; they were right! 

We arrived in Belgrade without delay. It took us a bit to find the Museum of Yugoslavian History as there are ongoing repairs right at the only exit I knew I needed to take. I expected an empty and sad site, but on the contrary – the place is well maintained, frequently visited and there are sellers of various souvenirs around it.

The moment we parked the car, we were welcomed by a nice, middle-aged man, selling T-shirts, postcards, pens, key-rings and other things. We thanked him, for we were not really in a position to take any more stuff in the car. Next stop was a retired military person, who had written a book about Tito. I could not quite follow him, but apparently, he was one of the persons in charge of collecting data and writing a book about Tito’s life, right after his death. All former republics (i.e. their military staff) were supposed to write parts of this book, giving the information from various aspects of Tito’s life and rule, but this book has never been written.

The man we spoke to said he decided to use the material he had gathered at that time, to publish a true story about Tito and to give a military aspect of Tito’s life, but also to tell the readership of the way wars are managed.

Honestly, I was not tempted by the sound of it and, although I think he must have done a great job, I am tired of the “true”, “only” and “real” biographies of Tito, as my father has bought quite a number of those during his life, and it will take me another few years to read what I already have at home.

Passing the sellers and walking up the path which was, 30 years ago, filled with people who came to pay their final respects to the then-belloved leader, we came to the entrance and were welcomed by a very nice and warm elderly man, who sold us tickets. Stickers with the logo of the Museum were put on our T-shirts so that we could enter all three facilities and we headed of with our visit. A photograph with the Augustinčić’s Monument to Marshal Tito (1948) was a must.

It was at that place that Alen made a remark how all these people we had met so far, seemed to have been frozen in time and still living in Tito’s era. There was no difference between nations, ethnicity and age, but only the one between fascists and partisans. The warmth with which they talked to us, made him experience what I remember from when I was a child. 

And then we went to the House of Flowers. I remember it from my school days, when we had excursions organised at the end of the school year. The only way you could visit this place then was in total silence, walking from one side to the other, seeing Tito’s tomb in the middle, and having just glimpses of the rooms around the walking area. It is all very different now. You walk around, you see the rooms from the inside, you can talk, you can take photos, you can come very close to the tomb and you miss on that feeling of reverence that was once so present and tangible here. 

One of the rooms is turned into a museum of youth batons, which were traditionally given to Tito for his birthdays. The year he died, the baton did not reach him. That was the year we – the common people – see as the year when “it all started”. My brother was born just a month after Tito’s death and I concluded that this year’s baton was the most beautiful one.

The one in the year I was born (1971) was not so appealing, and I could not find a baton for the years of my travelling companions, for they had not even been planned in that time. I took some time to explain to Dario what the map of the world meant, showing the countries whose representatives came to pay their respects.

There are only a handful of the “yellow” countries, i.e. those not present, and Dario (who has “mastered” the world geography at the age of seven) was quite amused by these figures. “Wow”, he says: “So few countries missed to come!” He asked why that was so, but I was unable to answer.

Trying to be a good aunt, I promised to look the answer up on the net and to tell him as soon as possible. We signed the book of grievances and then went further on to visit the rest of the complex. 

Less exciting for the kids were the Old Museum and the former Museum of 25th May. The first features traditional costumes of the peoples from the former republics, gifts for Tito, many of them handmade (towels, rugs, socks…), as well as musical instruments, traditional costumes and gifts he received on his numerous travels to far countries (Mongolia, Bolivia, India, Burma, Chile…).

The second was showing the exhibition made around Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s attempt at calling for the establishment of a world peace. 

They sent two acorns to Tito (as well as to other 50 world leaders, together with an SP with “Give Peace a Chance”) to be planted to grow and relay the conceptual message that East and West can live and grow next to each other.

The acorns sent to Tito were planted in the yard of the Presidential Residence in Belgrade, in the vicinity of the museum, and this 40-year old tree is still there today; a living sculpture dedicated to the world peace. 

And so, in the spirit of eternal love and peace, we squeezed in our beloved, tiny, little Punto, took deep breaths, and went along a sweaty road towards South. As Dario chatted away about what he saw, Ivana put on her headphones and decided to ignore our requests for water and food from the fridge next to her. Alen was a bit concerned as to how Thule would behave on the motorway and whether we would lose more fuel than planned, and I was just happy to see that my planning has started paying off, for – at the end – they were happy with my first choice for a stop. 

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