March 31, 2009

Regards from Serbia by Zograf

While NATO was throwing bombs over Serbian territory, people where not really hiding in caves and holes (it's not like pictures you might remember of Kabul where all human beings desapeared from the surface). People went out, let themselves hear and some of them got really creative. One of the was Aleksandar Zograf (a.k.a. Sasa Rakezic) who with a comic: "Regards from Serbia" wrote a kind aof daily cronicle about the Bombing. He's emails to friends during the 78 days air-raid were also published on italian websites. His entire diary in italian (I couldn't find the english version though it exists) can be read here.

Zograf writes: “When the series of conflicts started, I was overwhelmed by the dark overtones of the reality that surrounded me…Suddenly the world around me became the source of nightmarish and intense images and experiences…The material reflecting the turbulent 90s was mostly quite bleak — some of the drawings seemed somehow distorted by my own rag e and misery.”

March 28, 2009

Impressions from Kosovska Mitrovica and Zvecan

Here just pictures from Kosovo on march 24th 2009. Serbians were remembering how they were attacked 10 years ago.
Walk through Kosovska Mitrovica

A little before the walk started toward Zvecana. Some of the flags!

da molitvama Preciste Matere Njegove,Prepodobnih i Bogonosnih Otaca nasih i svih Svetih,Gospod Isus Hristos,sin Boziji,upokoji duse svih slugu svojih ubijenih u nato bombardovanja.Amin.

Monument to the people from around Kosovska Mitrovica killed by NATO bombing and UCK terrorist attacks

Arrival in Zvecan

1 Minute of silence. A moment to pray.

Children from Kosovo and Metohija Elementary school wrote messages on colored papers.

Great thanks to my dear friend Johanna that gave me these pictures!

March 23, 2009


Tomorrow it's 10 years!

This War was the first War in Europe after 1945, despite the fact that nobody wanted War in Europe anymore. It was the first War that was officially supported by the United Nation and the first War that was supported by left wing and democratic usually against War governments. The pacifistic movement strangely didn’t complain against this War, probably because it was lead by their people, by the „good“ ones. It seems that there are some „good“ and some „bad“ Wars, so it looks that the pacifists are just against the bad ones. So it was a "good" War?

Nato agression against Yugoslavia was accompaigne
d by mediatic lies, strumentalisated with ideologies and simplified with futile explanations.
Western people have been heavily fooled b
y NATO and democratic government's propaganda that used an absurd word with absolute no sense: the Humanitarian War. The War "to prevent a Humanitarian Catastrophe" killed thousands of people, contaminated the territory with landmines and depleted radioactive uranium (still a humanitarian and ecological problem now!) and left a geoplitical instable situation with the best roots for future Wars. Some states condemned the strikes as a unilateral use of force and a blatant violation of the United Nations Charter, while others said the action would prevent a humanitarian catastrophe resulting from Serbian attacks on Kosovar Albanians. (in 1999 there were 81% ethnic Albanians and 11% Serbs in how realistic are these theories?!)

The representative of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia said NATO had been "unmasked", when it ceased to be a defensive military alliance and launched an act of the most brutal and unprovoked aggression. By bombing the cities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, NATO had become the "air force and mercenary of the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)".
Yugoslavia had been attacked because it had used its sovereign right to fight terrorism and prevent the secession of a part of its territory which had always belonged to Serbia and Yugoslavia.

I prepared an extra information about NATO agression "Nato Trail - an unusual guide to Belgrade". You can download it here (pdf. 7MB) for free, and please send it to your friends!

This were the flyers that NATO threw from their airplanes over the cities:

March 16, 2009

5 years - Pogrom 2004


5 Years ago in the night from March 17./18. extremists of albanian ethnicity set christian churches and monasteries in the Kosovo region on fire.
All these barbarous acts have occured in the presence of UN and the International Peace Forces (KFOR), not in the time of war but of peace.

What a sign do we set, if we consider it OK to burn down the symbols of Christianity? If we award this shameless behavior by recognizing an illegally proclaimed state?

Now Kosovo declared his indepen
dence a little more than one year ago. A lot of Western Countries recognized its independence setting wrong sings.
Not one problem is solved, and for the Serbs (and non-Albanian population) the situation is unsatisfactory.
Here a few pictures I got from my friends who went to church a few weeks ago at the Sveti Sava church in Mitrovica (the side of town with Albanian ethnic majority). Does it looks like something normal and decent to you?

From Northern Mitrovica (Side of the town with Serb majority) one bus was organized to go down to the Albanian part where the Church of Sveti Sava is located. it's not save for Serbs to go without shielded transportation.
The Church is destroyed and burned.

My friend who was there on January 27, 2009 writes:
"It was a nice but sad experience for me, it's the first time I go to church in such a condition and surrounded by military...I hope next year Serbians don't need special authorization or vigilance to go to pray in their churches.
Albanians who saw our bus were starring at us with attitude of the winners and kind of laughing at the situation...really sad!"

Here an extract from Peacereporter 8.3.2007 (in an Interview with Babsi Jones made a little before Kosovo's unilateral independence declaration) The original is in italian, I tried to translate it:

What in the end is your opinion about that area of Europe? Healed wounds or are the wounds still open? Is there still a risk for new riots?

Babsi Jones: Badly sealed wounds, and a lot of wounds are still open. Also a high risk of new riots. An analysis would take pages and pages. Peace in the ex-ju republics can only be a reality by solving the Kosovo question:at the moment it's a little narco-state that pretends indipendency, and it pretends it in a brutal way: just think about the pogrom of 2004. Totally ignored by Western mass media, it has legitimated ethnic cleansing of everything non-albanian. If the institutions in charge to solve the Kosovo question go on ignoring Belgrade's pleas and constructive requests and go on to consider Serbs "unreliable interlocutors" (what is done already for a long time for propaganda purpose or for convenience) the balkanic area will be once again destabilized. Maybe it's what the powerful forces wants. Nevertheless, the biggest American military base since Vietnam is located in Kosovo. A tax free zone, a dark spot that hosts traffic of weapons, drugs and humans is a good deal for everyone....except for thousands of fugitives and "desaprecidos of non conform ethnicity..of course!

(here the original in italian)
Qual è infine, la tua opinione sulla situazione attuale di quell'area d'Europa? Ferite cicatrizzate, ferite ancora aperte? Rischio di nuovi scontri?

Babsi Jones: Ferite cicatrizzate male, e parecchie ferite ancora aperte, certamente. Rischio di nuovi scontri, anche. L'analisi richiederebbe pagine e pagine; se debbo darti una risposta succinta e diretta, forse scomoda, la pace nelle nuove Repubbliche ex-jugoslave passa per la questione del Kosovo: allo stato attuale è un piccolo narcostato che pretende la secessione e la pretende in modo brutale – basti pensare al pogrom del 2004, totalmente ignorato dai mass media occidentali, che ha di fatto legittimato la pulizia etnica di tutto quello che non è albanese. Se le istituzioni incaricate di gestire il problema-Kosovo continueranno a restar sorde agli appelli di Belgrado, alle proposte costruttive di Belgrado, se continueranno a considerare i serbi "interlocutori non credibili", come da sempre fanno per propaganda e per convenienza, l'area balcanica si troverà nuovamente destabilizzata. Forse è quello che i poteri forti desiderano. In Kosovo, dopotutto, è stata innalzata la più grande base militare americana dai tempi del Vietnam… Un porto franco, una zona scura che ospiti traffico d'armi, di droga e di uomini fa comodo a tutti, tranne alle migliaia di profughi e di desaparecidos di etnia "non conforme", naturalmente…

March 14, 2009

Ljubostinja Monastery and the first Serbian poetess Jefimija

Todays post is dedicated to Biljana in Skopje, thanks to her I discovered the story of this great Serbian Poetess, a diplomatic and creative woman that despite the tragedies in her life believed in God's goodness and cared for her country.


Jefimija was born 1349 as Jelena and was a Serbian nun and known as the first Serbian poetess. She was the daughter of kesar Voichna in the time of Car Dusan. She married Jovan Ugljiesa the ruler of Serres that died on 26 September 1371 in the Battle of Maritsa. After she lived in Serres and later in Krusevac at the court of Car Lazar.

After the defeat of the Serbs against the Ottomans in the battle of Kosovo, Jefimija joined the Zupanja Monastery with Carica Milica and later they joined monastery Ljubostina. There she spent her last days as abbess with the name Jevpraksija.

Her early life was a tragedy: she lost her family, her house, all her possession, income, land. Later as abbess she was involved in diplomatic affairs, like helping Princess Milica to get intercession for Stefan Lazarevic who refused to participate in the campagne in Bosnia of 1398. She also helped to get the body of Holy Petka Paraskeva back to Serbia, so her mortal remains were hold in the Sveta Petka Church in Belgrade until 1521 (now they're in Romania).

text and picture from serbian unity congress

Ljubostina Monastery

The church was painted just before the Kosovo battle. The original frescoes have survived only on pendetives, in the lower register of the drum and partially elsewhere. Especially interesting are the representations of the Old Testament prophets who vouch for the emergence of Christ.
Invited by princess Milica, painter Makarije of Zrze came to Ljubostinja in 1403, and carried out all the frescoes in the church.

picture from

He repainted the frescoes in the dome, only ten years old, and wrote out his name on the arch above the door between the narthex and the nave.
The family of Prince Lazar is portrayed on the west wall of the narthex: Lazar and Milica are on one side, and Despot Stefan and his brother Lord Vuk on the other. They are all depicted in their full arrays, with all the insignia of power and dignity.

Unfortunately, little has remained of once vast painted area of Ljubostinja. In the nave, only the Annunciation unit of the whole Festival Cycle has survived. The four best-preserved compositions represent Christ's miracles and sermons: the Healing of the weakened man and the Anointment in Bethlehem above the south-choir door. The three major features of the Ljubostinja frescoes are expressive figures, strong contrast of light and dark, and architectural motifs in the background.

Architecturally, the church, dedicated to the Dormition of the Holy Virgin, belongs to the Morava School. Its ground plan has the form of a trefoil with a dome resting of four free-standing pillars. It is extended westward into a rectangular narthex with a blind calotte.
The facade is embellished with rich muling that edge the doors and windows. A horizontal cordon cornice divides the walls into two zones: in the lower one, there are lancet and two-light windows, and the upper zone is ornamented with rose and wheel windows of unequal size with floral and geometrical patterns.
In the threshold stone of the doorway between the narthex and the nave, the name of the "Protomaster Borovic Rade", the famous master-builder, is chiseled.

Prince Lazar and Princess Milica

The legends says that the monastery was built on a site where Princess Milica met Prince Lazar for the first time; and that had happened on the day of St Archdeacon Stefan to whom the earlier chapel on the same place had been dedicated. The construction of this foundation of Princess Milica and Prince Lazar started in 1388-89. After the battle of Kosovo, when Lazar was killed, Milica became a nun, as many widows of the Serbian soldiers did the same.

Eulogy for Knez Lazar
Her most meaningful work (and her first) is the eulogy for Knez Lazar (Похвала кнезу Лазару), a prayer in the shape of a poem. The text is preserved as a embroided blanked (the shroud for Lazar Herbeljanovic) that was made in the Ljubostina Monastery around 1402.

The text is embroided in gold on the shroud of Knez Lazar
and now in the Museum of the Orthodox Church in Belgrade.

The poem was meaningful not only for its beauty but also because it described the events around the Kosovo Battle and the historic period just after that. It made Jefimija one of the most famous Serbian Women.

Here a Serbian transcription with English translation (from wikipedia):

У красотама овога света васпитао си се од младости своје
о нови мучениче кнеже Лазаре,
и крепка рука Господња међу свом земаљском господом
крепког и славног показа те.
Господствовао си земљом отачаства ти
и у свим добротама узвеселио си уручене ти хришћане
и мужаственим срцем и жељом побожности
изашао си на змију
и непријатеља божанствених цркава,
расудивши да је неистрпљиво за срце твоје
да гледа хришћане отачаства ти
овладане Измаилћанима,
не би ли како ово постигао:
да оставиш пропадљиву висоту земаљског господства
и да се обагриш крвљу својом
и сјединиш са војницима небескога цара.
И тако две жеље постигао јеси:
и ЗМИЈУ убио јеси
и мучења венац примио јеси од Бога.
Сада не предај забораву вољена ти чеда
која си сирота оставио преласком ТВОЈИМ,
јер откако си ти у небеском весељу вечном,
многе скрби и болезни обузеше вољена ти чеда
и у многим скрбима живот проводе,
пошто су овладани Измаилћанима.
И свима нам је потребна помоћ твоја,
те се молимо моли се заједничком Владики
за вољена ти чеда
и за све који им с љубављу и вером служе.
Тугом су многом здружена вољена ти чеда,
јер они што једоше хлеб њихов подигоше на њих буну велику
и твоја добра у заборав ставише,
о мучениче.
Но ако сиНо ако си и прешао из живота овога,
скрби и болезни чеда својих знаш
и као мученик слободу имаш пред Господом,
преклони колена пред Владиком који те венчао,
моли да многолетни у добру живот
вољена ти чеда проводе богоугодно,
моли да православна вера хришћанска
неоскудно стоји у отачаству ти,
моли победитеља Бога
да победу подари вољеним ти чедима,
кнезу Стефану и Вуку,
за невидљиве и видљиве непријатеље,
јер ако помоћ примимо с Богом,
теби ћемо похвалу и благодарење дати.
Сабери збор својих сабеседника, светих мученика,
и са свима се помоли прославитељу ти Богу,
извести Георгија,
покрени Димитрија,
убеди Теодоре,
узми Меркурија и Прокопија
и четрдесет севастијских мученика не остави,
у чијем мучеништву војују чеда твоја вољена,
кнез Стефан и Вук,
моли да им се пода од Бога помоћ,
дођи, дакле, У помоћ нашу, ма где да си.
На моја мала приношења погледај
и у многа их урачунај,
јер теби не принесох похвалу како приличи,
већ колико је могуће маломе ми разуму,
па зато и мале награде чекам.
Но ниси тако ти, о мили мој господине и свети мучениче,
био малодаран у пропадљивом и маловечном,
колико више у непролазном и великом,
што примио јеси од Бога,
јер телесно страну мене у туђини
исхрањивао јеси изобилно,
те сада те молим обоје:
да ме исхраниш
и да утишаш буру љуту душе и тела мојега.
Јефимија усрдно приноси ово теби свети.

In the beautiful of this world you raised yourself from your youth
O, New Martyr, Knez Lazar,
And God's strong and glorious hand
Pointed at you, among all the lords of the earth.
You lorded over your fatherland
And with your goodness delighted
The Christians under your wing.
And with a martyr's heart and a wish for blessing
You went against the dragon
And against the enemies of the holy churches.
Having deemed it unbearable for your heart
To see the Christians of your fatherland
Be conquered by the turks
In order to achieve these
To leave the unstable height of earthly lordship
And to spill your blood
And to join the soldiers of the heavenly emperor.
And so you achieved two wishes:
You killed the dragon
And received a martyr's wreath from God.
And now do not forget your beloved children
Whom you left orphaned by your transition.
For since you achieved the bliss in the eternal celestial joy
Many hardship and suffering fell upon your children
And in many misfortunes they spend their lives,
Because they are conquered by the Turks
And they need your help.
For this I beg you,
Pray to the universal ruler for your children,
And for all those who serve them with love and faith,
for they are fettered with worries,your beloved children
Those who ate their bread raised a conspiracy against them
And forgot your goodness,
o Martyr.
But since you passed from this life,
You know the worries and sufferings of your children
And as a martyr you are free before God.
Kneel before the Lord who wreathed you,
Pray that your children live long lives
In happiness pleasing to God.
Pray thar Orhodox Christian faith amply endures in your fatherland
Ask the victorious God to grant victory
to your beloved children, Knez Stephan and Vuk,
Against visible and invisible enemies.
For if we receive God's help
We will give you praise and gratitude
Call for a meeting of your fellow martyrs
And pray with them to the glorifying God,
Warn George
Move Demetrios
Persuade both Theodores
Take Merkourios and Prokopios
And do not leave out the forty martyrs of Sebaseia
In whose suffering now fight your children,
Knez Stephan and Vuk.
Pray that the help from God be given them.
Come then to our aid, wherever you are.
Consider my small contribution
and count it among many,
For I did not grant you the praise you deserve,
But only as far as my small mind allowed,
And so I expect but small rewards
For you were not selfish, My Lord and Martyr,
In this decaying and short lasting world,
But you are more generous in the everlasting and magnificent
That you received from God.
For you fed me profusely
When I was foreign in a foreign land
And now I beg you both:
To feed me
and to assuage the fierce storm in my soul and body
Jefimija humbly offers you this, O Holy One

March 9, 2009

Serbian entry for Eurovision Song Contest

Yesterday I watched the final of "Beovizija" the Serbian music festival to qualify to the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow. At first I was not very enthusiastic about the entries, but the winner song "Ципела" (Shoe) from Marko Kon and Milan Nikolic stands out from the rest.
At first glance it's a strange performance but the song is really cool, and after a while I even got used to the peculiar looking singer. I know, some might think he should go to get a haircut...but I think that's really OK for such an event to sport a special hairdo! Напред Марко!

Studenica Manastir

The Studenica monastery ( Манастир Студеница) is a Serbian Orthodox monastery situated 39 km southwest of Kraljevo, in central Serbia. It is one of the largest and richest Serb Orthodox monasteries.

Stefan Nemanja, the founder of the medieval Serb state, founded the monastery in 1190. The monastery's fortified walls encompass two churches: the Church of the Virgin, and the Church of the King, both of which were built using white marble. The monastery is best known for its collection of 13th- and 14th century Byzantine-style fresco paintings.
In 1986 UNESCO included Studenica monastery on the list of World Heritage Sites.

The monastery Studenica, dedicated to the Presentation of the Holy Virgin, is the mother-church of all Serbian temples. It was constructed over quite long period of time. The first stage works were completed by the spring of 1196, when Stefan Nemanja abandoned his throne and settled in the monastery's foundation. When he later left for Hilandar, his son and successor Stefan took over the care of Studenica. Nemanja died in Hilandar in 1199. Nemanja's third son Sava, after reconciling his brothers Stefan and Vukan, moved Nemanja's relics to Studenica. Under guardianship of Sava, Studenica became the political, cultural and spiritual center of medieval Serbia. Among his other endeavors, Sava composed a "Studenica Typikon", the rule-book where he described St. Simeon's (Nemanja's) life, leaving evidence of the spiritual and monastic life of his time.

Studenica enjoyed continual care by the members of the Nemanjić dynasty. King Radoslav added to the church a splendid narthex in 1235. King Milutin built a small but lovely church dedicated to saints Joachim and Anna.
Since the fall of the last of the medieval Serbian states in 1459, the Turks often assaulted the monastery. The first of the significant restorations of the damage took place in 1569, when the frescoes in the Church of the Virgin were repainted. In the early 17th century, an earthquake and a fire befell the monastery, and historical documents and a significant part of the artistic heritage were destroyed and lost forever. (from wikipedia)

Map of the monastery

King's church

The King's Church houses the most beautiful murals painted by Michael and Eutychios. Not long after 1314 they painted a cycle of the Life of the Virgin Mary which is among the leading works of Byzantine art. After having worked at the Peribleptos of Ohrid and having painted a series of Serbian churches (those of the Virgin of Ljevis, of Zica, of Staro Nagoricino, of Gracanica, etc.) for King Milutin, these painters found the most perfect expression of their style in Studenica : density of forms and volumetric rendering of faces combined with astounding execution which, in terms of perfection, is very close to that of icons, with highlighting in bright colours, shadows and light executed a secco.

Church of the Holy Theotokos (or Virgin's Church)

The Virgin's Church is a domed single-nave basilica. At its eastern end there is a three-sided apse, while an extended narthex faces west; there are also vestibules on the north and the south. In the 1230s, a large exonarthex was added. The facades were built with slabs of white marble; inside, the church is revetted with tuff blocks. Externally, the Church harmoniously reconciles two architectural styles, the Romanesque and the Byzantine. The blending of these two styles eventually produced a particular style of architecture known as the Raška School.

Frescos of Saints in the Interior

King Milutin

Sveti Simeon (Stefan Nemanja)

Sveti Sava (Rastko Nemanjic)

The Virgin's Church was painted in the first decade of the 13th century. The original frescoes have been partly preserved in the altar area, under the dome, on the west wall, and in the lower registers of the nave. The most splendid representation is that of the Crucifixion, painted on blue background in 1209, one of the paramount

achievements in Serbian art. On the south wall there is the "founders' composition" which shows the Virgin taking Nemanja with the church model to Jesus Christ as the Magistrate Impartial. The narthex was painted in 1569. Those frescoes include an exquisite representation of the Last Judgment in the upper registers, and the portrait of Nemanja's wife Ana as the nun Anastasija.

The earliest fresco painting in King's church marks the supreme achievement of Byzantine art in the region. The frescoes in Radoslav's narthex and the pareclesions originate from the 1230s and display a close relation to the painting style of the main church. The north chapel, dedicated to St. Nicholas, contains a composition of the Hetimasia and a cycle dealing with the life of St. Nicholas. In the south chapel one finds the portraits of Nemanja, Stefan the First Crowned and King Radoslav with his wife Ana. On the north wall of the narthex, three dignitaries of the Serbian Church are portrayed - the archbishops Sava, Arsenije and Sava II (Radoslav's brother).

A lot of pictures here at Srpskoblago
A very well made site about Studenica here

March 5, 2009

Sopocani Manastir

While traveling around the Raska Region I visited some of the most meaningful Serbian Sacral Buildings: like Djurdjevi Stupovi Manastir (look here), Crkva Svetog Petra (look here) and here Sopocani Manastir.

Sopocani Monastery (Сопоћани) the foundation of King Stefan Uroš I of Serbia was built in the second half of the 13th century. It is situated in the valley of the Raska river, in the ancient region of Ras - the centre of the medieval Serbian state. The monastery church is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. In the Middle Ages it was a thriving monastery with more than a hundred monks. The monastic compound is still encircled by a thick wall. The church also served as a royal mausoleum. After the battle of Kosovo Sopocani monastery was burned by Turks. Even the church was seriously damaged. Reconstruction ensued in the 15th century and by the end of 16th and the beginning of 17th century monastic life in Sopocani was flourishing again. Finally, during one raids in 1689 the Ottoman Turks set fire to the monastery and carried off the lead from the church roof. The brotherhood escaped with some important relics to Kosovo (one of them the coffin with the remains of King Stefan Prvovencani) - but did not return to Sopoćani; it remained deserted for over two hundred years, until the 20th century. The church slowly decayed: its vaults caved in, its dome fell down, and the remains of the surrounding buildings were covered with rubble and earth.
After a period of 30 years when the monastery served as a convent it was renewed in 1996 by Bishop Artemy who brought a young brotherhood to Sopocani. This new brotherhood is now actively working on reconstruction and the spiritual rebirth of this important medieval shrine.

Here an interesting link where you can see pictures of the wonderful frescos in the interior.