The country of Yugoslavia may no longer appear on any physical maps, but it remains on many people’s mental maps; though Yugoslavia may be dead forever as a political entity, it lives on as a cultural project.

Yugoslavia’s material and cultural production inspires many people to make art and products. And a lot of them have little or even no lived experience in or memory of it.

These are their stories.

Part 3 of many: Partisans.

With Daniel Skoric, Darko Nikolovski, and Ana Radovcich. Featuring music by Nikolovski.

Listen

Subscribe

[podcast_subscribe id=”1797″]

Support the Podcast

Become a monthly patron on Patreon:

Become a Patron!

Make a one-time contribution via PayPal/credit card:


Episode Transcript

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

[JINGLE]

PETER KORCHNAK: This is Remembering Yugoslavia, the show exploring the memory of a country that no longer exists. I’m your curator Peter Korchnak.

You’re listening to the third installment of the new series here on the podcast, Inspired by Yugoslavia. In the first, you heard from a couple of young filmmakers who are making documentaries in the contemporary era they consider Yugoslavia’s future. You heard from an academic collaborating with her peers from across the former country to elevate women researchers in quote unquote Western higher education institutions. And you heard from an artist making a graphic biography of her mother. In the second installment, in the previous episode, I spoke with a video game maker, an architect and illustrator, and a location guide.

Today’s projects inspired by Yugoslavia are connected by way of World War II history. Specifically, the Yugoslav Partisans and their fight against Nazi Germans, Fascist Italians, Ustaše Croats, and Četnik Serbs.

The Partisans were a guerrilla army formed, led, and grown to several hundred thousand fighters by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito. The Partisans fought for both the liberation of the country and the establishment of a socialist regime there, a federation, again under the Party’s (and Tito’s) leadership. A number of battles, such as those at Sutjeska or Neretva, became both legendary and an object of post-war veneration, in school books, monuments, and films. This ultimately victorious fight was later labeled the People’s Liberation Struggle or War, and became one of the main ideological pillars of the post-war Yugoslav regime; the Partisan force was later reconstituted as the Yugoslav People’s Army, the JNA.

My guests today honor and commemorate this legacy with their creativity. And, be it film or board game or drawings, the connection to the Partisans is quite personal for all of them.

But before we emerge victorious, remember that the fight don’t come cheap. Like a true guerrilla force, Remembering Yugoslavia relies on the individual support of generous listeners and others who quite literally put their money where their ears are. Join them!

If the stories you hear on this podcast resonate with you in some way, if they enrich your life, or you learn something from them, make a contribution now to support the show. Go to RememberingYugoslavia.com/Donate (or follow the link in your podcast listening app) and join the fight there, you don’t even have to pause the show. Whether you choose Patreon or PayPal or a paid subscription to the podcast, every little bit helps.

Death to fascism, freedom to the podcast!

[SOUNDBITE]

Comrade Commando

[SOUNDBITE]

DANIEL SKORIC: My name is Daniel Skoric. I work in television. And I have been inspired by my own family to create a comedy series making fun of communist propaganda films from the former Yugoslavia.

PETER KORCHNAK: A series is the pie-in-the-sky goal; a more condensed version in feature film form is the next best thing that Skoric attempted last November to raise money for on Kickstarter. That project narrowly fell short of the funding goal but he’s not giving up. The project is just that good, and I’m speaking from my own perspective having watched the trailer. It’s goofy, it’s dorky, it’s over the top, down to using a dubbing track to mimic the films that inspired him…

[SOUNDBITE]

PETER KORCHNAK: Skoric was born in 1984 in Australia to Croatian immigrants. Škorić didn’t learn to speak English until kindergarten.

DANIEL SKORIC: You’d be surprised how difficult it is to, especially for my mother, to get information out of her, to find out about what had happened to my family. Like with my mother’s side, they they come from an island off Zadar call Otok Ugljan, a town called Kukljica, and at that time, she was technically born Italian because the Italians had annexed that area from Yugoslavia in, I believe, in 1922. My mother’s name in Croatian is Plavia Penić but in Italian she was born Plavia Pennini. So she had two names.

And there’s all those stories about Italian occupation, and then World War Two started. And it’s been very hard to get information. But my grandfather was a navigator on cargo ships mostly. And he actually went to the US and he came back after a long trip. And when the Germans invaded, he thought, I’m going to take the family, I’ll navigate a cargo ship and we’ll get out of Yugoslavia, we’ll go to some neutral country, something of that sort. But unfortunately, the Adriatic was mined. And as far as he was concerned, it wasn’t worth the risk.

And then the situation got worse and worse. And they started to just take men, [that would be] drafted for the German military service or by the Ustaša or sent to Germany to work in factories as forced labor. A lot of men didn’t want that to happen to them, so my grandfather and all the men in his village went into the woods and they over time built, basically, a shack. And the day before they were going to put the roof on that shack, someone had given them up. And they were all rounded up and sent to the mainland near Zadar. My grandfather managed to escape, he joined the Partisans, they didn’t trust him at all, they thought he was a double agent, and sent him directly into the front lines, straight into action.

Unfortunately, he got captured again. And now he’s in a field with nothing but planks of wood and barbed wire around him, with several other men. And he escape again. And this time, the Germans don’t bother, they just shoot him right then and there. And apparently, one of the men who was there with him held him while he was dying, and the last thing he said was, “What about my wife and children?” Stories like that kind of stay with you.

And then to hear the complete opposite on my father’s side of the family, where my father, my father’s, my grandfather, I should say, on my father’s side, he didn’t really look after his kids and he was a bit of a drunkard and all this stuff. But I have to say he was pragmatic and quite smart. He saw what was happening and he didn’t want to be bothered. So he got an axe and just put it to his own leg, just maimed himself so that when Germans or Italians or the Partisans or the Chetniks, whoever would come through trying to recruit him or bother him anyway, he would say, “Look, well, I can’t do anything, look, I’m a maimed man, I’m absolutely useless to you.”

Unfortunately my parents are in their 80s now, so trying to get for more information is hard. I tried doing with my dad, and he ended up just crying every time. Apparently, why was his ankles had his head chopped off on the family’s property. I can’t find out who, what, and when.

PETER KORCHNAK: Skoric became fascinated with Yugoslav films when he discovered many of his favorite action movies, like Sam Peckinpah’s Iron Cross, had been made there, with filmmakers taking advantage of lower production costs.

[SOUNDBITE]

Partisan film [is a] genre of filmmaking that was from the former Yugoslavia. Essentially propaganda films, but with the Hollywood sheen to them. The Communist Party of Yugoslavia after World War Two had to reunify a country that was broken up by the Second World War. So how do you do that? Well, love people can’t read but they can all watch film. These films basically showed the Communist Party leading the Partisan resistance against the fascist aggressor.

PETER KORCHNAK: Eventually he decided to make his own take on the genre.

DANIEL SKORIC: I’ve always wanted to make a comedy film with action elements to it. I started actually research the film industry and those films and started watching them. And then asking my parents further about the stories.

We’ve all seen World War two films, we’ve all seen comedy action film. And I think everything’s been done in that genre. But I just wanted to take all those things and give it a Balkan twist, and put all that Balkan humor and the iconography. You know, like, originally, I wasn’t going to have an accordion in there, but I went, we need more Balkan things in here and accordion is just for me just makes that perfect for those little things in there.

[SOUNDBITE]

So basically, it’s everything that we have seen in that genre, but with that communist Balkan twist on it.

PETER KORCHNAK: Some of the plotlines and details in Comrade Commando are lifted directly from his family history.

DANIEL SKORIC: For me, this is a family story.

PETER KORCHNAK: The film’s protagonist is Bronco Skoric, played by Daniel; Skoric’s father’s name is Branko and he served in the Yugoslav People’s Army in the 1960s.

[SOUNDBITE]

“And the reason I chose my father is, my father is a bit of a storyteller.

Because my uncle killed their German in the Bosnian war, they hit him in the helmet, alright, and kill him on the spot. Just hit him, hit him on the top of the head.
So this is kind of if my father was an adult in World War Two, the stories that he would tell me of the things that he had done in that period.”

PETER KORCHNAK: Bronco is tasked with stopping Germans from carrying out their plan for world domination, which involves amassing huge quantities of slivovica so that they can use it to build a superweapon.

To promote the film on Kickstarter, Skoric made a mini-documentary about it, it’s about 6 minutes long, and worth every second of its runtime.

[SOUNDBITE]

DANIEL SKORIC: I find the Partisan film to be quite funny. It doesn’t matter what machine gun or rifle, they could be throwing stones, they’re just mowing down Germans. And I find it funny. And then on top of that, massive belt fed machine guns, they raise them to the sky, and they just start shooting German aircraft down like they were nothing. It’s a communist Rambo, these films, and I find that hilarious.

DANIEL SKORIC: That really kicked something off in me, where I want to actually make a proper documentary about the Yugoslav film industry and how it links to other film.

So though Comrade Commando might not be made anytime soon, that documentary I would love to make, which I’m working on at the moment. That would also hopefully, supercharge when we relaunch Comrade Commando.

I’m very happy for the with the amount of support I’ve been getting. At the end of the day, just watch this space, there’ll be more coming.

[SOUNDBITE]

PETER KORCHNAK: Like Skoric and other creators I feature in this series, I rely on the generous support of others to make the magic happen. If Skoric’s and other stories you hear on the show brighten up your day, please consider making a contribution. In your podcast listening app, follow the link in the episode shownotes to RememberingYugoslavia.com/Donate, and pick the option that’s most convenient to you.

Now on with the action.

[SOUNDBITE]

Get the Podcast in Your Inbox ›

Postani Partizan (Join the Partisans)

[SOUNDBITE]

DARKO NIKOLOVSKI: My name is Darko Nikolovski. I am from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.

PETER KORCHNAK: Nikolovski’s father is from Macedonia, his mother from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and they met in Ljubljana where they immigrated for work. You could say that Nikolovski, born in 1978, was a true Yugoslav child.

DARKO NIKOLOVSKI: Tito was still alive at that time. [LAUGHTER]

PETER KORCHNAK: Tell me the origin story of the game. How did you come up with it? What inspired you? What the process was?

DARKO NIKOLOVSKI: Well, life inspired me. [The] World inspired me. Injustice inspired me. Revision of history inspired me. The rise of nationalism inspired me. The rise of fascism inspired me, you know.

So basically, I do have a long history with my antifascistic [sic] stance. Because since I can remember—and my mother and father will vouch for that—I was always against the injustice, you know, always, always against the oppression.

And when I grew up, I kind of came to the conclusion that the most glorious part of our history was the part of [the] Second World War. Because that was the time, in my eyes, were people connected without prejudice, without looking at the other people’s nationality, you know. The good people just stood together for the right cause.

So after all the revisionism in my country, I decided that I will make a game that will try to introduce this part of history to the generations that well, that history has been lost to them, you know, during our process of growing up and independence and everything. There was like a big push from the far right to try to forbid everything that came from our past, you know, and that’s why we all have today in Slovenia a bunch of far right politicians, which are basically glorifying Nazi collaborators. And they are doing it without shame. And I cannot explain to them that such an act as they are, such act as they are doing it here would be totally inappropriate in France, for example, or in Germany. But somehow, they decided that everything connected to Yugoslavia was bad and they try to rewrite the history in such a way that they just show the bad things and they lie about the bad things which is even worse, you know.

And I wanted to make something against it. I wanted to bring this glorious history to the people, you know. And then the whole idea of a game appeared somehow.

PETER KORCHNAK: Nikolovski has been involved in creating antifascist stories all his adult life. He directed the film “Stari Pisker,” available on YouTube with English subtitles, about Partisans breaking out of a German Nazi prison.

Currently he is producing a theater play about the Slovene poet and resistance fighter Karel Kajuh Destovnik.

And even as a rapper, which was something he did early on in his creative career, one of his top tracks was titled Partizan.

DARKO NIKOLOVSKI: Somehow I have taken as a task to fight against nationalism here and against the rising fascism, not with guns but with knowledge, with spreading the knowledge about what happened and where this— all this hate leads to, you know, that’s why our game our party games, but with informative character, so to speak.

PETER KORCHNAK: It is definitely an unusual, uncommon way to deliver the message or to spread the word or to educate people. I mean, a board game…

DARKO NIKOLOVSKI: Well, look, basically, if we return to that question, how did the idea comes [sic]. First, years ago, when I was thinking about how to bring all this greatness of our history to the younger generation, I thought that it should be like a game. And then I thought first that it should be like a quiz game.

But after thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that I would never play a game like this because it is boring. So then I dropped the idea.

And then I went to Belgrade with the Partisan chorus Pinko Tomažić from Trieste, we were having a performance together. And since I do have some relatives there, I decided that I will stay for a couple of days to meet them and return with the train. Well,
on that train, I had the epiphany moment. It was like, at one second, I basically played through the whole game in my head. I cannot explain it differently. But if you just try to think of it like I was, I was plugged into this matrix, you know, which instantly downloaded to me information about this game. I knew everything, all the rules, the look, the topics involved, I knew everything.

So I came home that night, from the train, and I stepped into the house and I said to my wife, “Listen, whatever you have planned for me for the next couple of months, forget it. I’m going to the study room and I’m going to work on this project. And I needed three months to complete the game, to finish it, with everything, with all the content to be able to provide it in— as a product.

PETER KORCHNAK: Let’s talk about the game, what is the objective of the game? How do you play it? How many players do you need? How long does it take to complete?

DARKO NIKOLOVSKI: Well, it’s easy. Basically, the objective of the game is to beat the fascists, liberate the country, and become the People’s Hero. There can be there can five players five to six players can play the game, even though four is really up optimal. One can take the role of the enemy. But in our rule book, we do say that if you have a friend who voluntarily takes the role of an enemy and a traitor, then you should think a little bit about your friend.

Our game is happening in Slovenia. It is year 1941. And somehow you, as a player, are stranded in Slovenia. Our map contains my country, and it shows how it was divided by the occupying forces. So you don’t want to join neither the fascist, neither the Nazis, neither the Croatian Ustaša, and you decide that you will fight for the people and for the liberation, so join the Partisans.

Now, the game starts when you get the mission from the General Headquarters. And this card leads you to where you need to go and tells you who attacks first—either the Partisans attack first or the Germans attack first.

Then after you fulfill the mission, after you move to that position on the map, and you fulfill the mission, you get the question from the Partisan school, which is meant to boost your knowledge because everybody wants to have a smart commander, right. With all these questions from the Partisan school you also get points. The person with the most points at the end becomes the party’s Commander and he gets the honorary title of tovariš komandant, and he can use it in the next game to brag about it.

After you fulfill your mission from the General Headquarters, you also have this special missions that you need to fulfill, like rescuing the British prisoners of war, for example, you can evacuate the wounded, you can destroy a bunker, you can bring food to the comrades at the table, for example, you know.

The person who gets [the] most points at the end from all of these actions combined together, of course, is as I said, Commander. But in our game, you can also wear a medal. We have these great medals and if you earn a medal, you can put it on and wear it proudly during the game. So this is like a great moment that brings [a] smile to people’s faces.

And then we have this all add ons, for example, stars and traitors in which with stars your Army power grows, and with traitor, there is like this game when you have to search for the traitor amongst the comrades that are playing the game, you know.

[SOUNDBITE]

PETER KORCHNAK: In Slovenia, there was another movement, homegrown movement during the war, during World War Two, and that was the Slovenian Home Guard, Domobranci. Why not choose them as the protagonist of your game?

DARKO NIKOLOVSKI: Well, it would be pretty hard because Domobranci, or Slovene Home Guard, were the soldiers who swore allegiance to Hitler. So I don’t think that I would enjoy playing a Nazi. And this is like a great cancer wound on the Slovene nation, which has not been healed since the Second World War, which is basically similar as the Ustaše in Croatia or Četniks in Serbia.

This story is has a long beard, but it is the same story. Četniks, Ustaša, and Slovene Home Guard were all collaborators of the Nazis. They were openly collaborating with them, they were receiving arms payment[s] and everything from them.

Lots of people still cannot live with this burden of betrayal, you know, betraying your country so that, so they basically would do not feel at ease when their ancestors are labeled as traitors. Yeah, you know, so this is the problem, which lays in this region.

PETER KORCHNAK: But they’re not in your game, though. Like there are other enemies in your game.

DARKO NIKOLOVSKI: My game is made in such a way that when you get the card from the General Headquarters, you get get a destination and you get a date, which tells you what happened in that area on that date. It is [a] historically backed game, you know. So if you, for example, have a battle with the Germans, you fight with the Germans, but if you have a battle with Slovene Home Guard units, you fight with them, you even fight with Ustaše and Četniks because they will also present here on this area. But they are mostly labeled as an enemy, you know.

PETER KORCHNAK: I would imagine that Slovenian nationalists or right, extreme right people are not super happy about this game. So what kind of response have you been seeing in Slovenia in terms of the public discourse, but also in terms of sales? How’s business?

DARKO NIKOLOVSKI: Well, in Slovenia, the business is great to be honest because here even though the far right is trying to rewrite the history people still have strong antifascist stances.

We made the first game in Slovene language only and we sold [a] thousand units. And then we decided that we will make an international version. So we make went to the Kickstarter, we had a successful Kickstarter campaign, and we made it basically into five different languages. Now we have translated our game into English, Croatian, Italian, German, and now a French translation is coming up.

I can tell you that there were some comments from the far right in Slovenia, which was really unpleased [sic] by the whole idea. And they made comments about the game without even seeing the game, without going through the content and everything, you know. So, I cannot basically take to my heart if somebody is commenting on the product that he has never seen, you know.

We do not take this topic easily. We approached it with all the seriousness and all the respect for the people who fought.

I’m trying to bring the knowledge of this glorious movement outside of my country. And this is a little bit problematic step for me, because when you cross the border, you know you, sometimes you get lost in the big world.

PETER KORCHNAK: [LAUGHTER] So the Slovenian version appears to be sold out on your website, the other language versions are still available, is that right?

DARKO NIKOLOVSKI: Yeah, the first version that was only Slovene was sold out. And now you have three versions: in Slovene language, in English language, and in Italian language that are available.

But when players use our cards, they can scan them with smartphones, you know, and because they contain QR codes, they don’t need no apps for that. And but by doing so, they get extra content, they get pictures from the museums that supported us, they get some videos that I made in special missions that give you side missions to earn extra points and so on and so on.

PETER KORCHNAK: Do you offer international shipping?

DARKO NIKOLOVSKI: Yes.

PETER KORCHNAK: A follow up to Join the Partisans is in the works.

DARKO NIKOLOVSKI: Now I’m making a story about Yugoslavia, which will involve all all the great battles like Sutjeska and Neretva and Drvar. Basically, the game that I’m developing now will be a little bit different. And it’s, my aim is not only to fight the fascism and Nazism in [the] Second World War, but it is also to fight the nationalism in modern days. Therefore, our game has a lot of parts by which you must basically respect the other nations and show them respect by playing songs from their states.

[SOUNDBITE]

PETER KORCHNAK: Nikolovski generously sent me a copy of the game to check out. I haven’t played it yet but it looks fantastic. Get yours, in Slovenian, Italian, or English at jointhepartisans.com (translations into Croatian and German available via QR codes).

For my part, I invite you to become a supporter of Remembering Yugoslavia. The show may be ad free but it’s not free free. It takes countless hours and dollars to produce and while as a good guerrilla fighter I do all the research, interviews, writing, and editing alone, it does take the logistical support of dedicated backers to keep up the fight. So join the effort and make a contribution to keep the show going. Visit RememberingYugoslavia.com/Donate or click the SUPPORT THE SHOW link in the episode show notes available in your podcast listening app.

Get the Podcast in Your Inbox ›

[SOUNDBITE]

Unuka Partizana

PETER KORCHNAK: My last guest today will tie the episode together. Ana Radovcich first reached out to me in the podcast’s early days, way back in November 2020, to share some very kind words about it, which, with just a few episodes on the board, offered early encouragement for me. She also shared her story with me.

ANA RADOVCICH: Both my grandfathers were Partisans. My maternal grandmother was a member of the Anti Fascist Front of Women. My maternal grandfather was captured by the Germans–this is in World War Two–he was sent to a forced labor camp in Germany. So he survived the war. My father’s father, he fought and died at Sutjeska, he was in the Second Dalmatian brigade. They’re the ones famous for saying “Računajte na nas,” (count on us) because they had lost two thirds of their unit fighting, and they sent a message to Tito saying, you know, we’ve lost two thirds of our men and women, but you can count on us as if we’re a full brigade. And so he died on Zelengora.

My father’s older brother joined the Partisans at 16 years of age and he lost his life on Gorski Kotar, which is in northern Croatia. And when he joined the Partisans, he was only just fresh out of the concentration camp, an Italian concentration camp. So he and my father, along with their two sisters and their mother were sent to an Italian concentration camp where they spent about 18 months. The reason for this was that they had a member of the family in the Partisans.

So my father, he lost his own father and his brother. So he had quite a traumatic childhood. And we’d often hear about this at home when I was growing up. We weren’t allowed to waste any food, because my father nearly starved to death in the camps. So it became a presence in my younger years as I was growing up.

PETER KORCHNAK: Radovcich’s parents and her two sisters emigrated from Yugoslavia to Perth, Australia, in 1967. Radovcich herself was born in Australia.

She is a multimedia and multi-talented artist: she sculpts, she paints, she draws… She also teaches arts in a program for older teens and adults in Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia.

Like for many people, including myself, the pandemic was a catalyst for Radovcich for doing what she does.

ANA RADOVCICH: We had strict lockdowns in Australia and travel bans. So I couldn’t travel, or make my yearly trips to Croatia. I had to stay home in Australia. So you know, I was missing Croatia. So I was just looking for things to fill that void. And so I started exploring, looking for things on the internet, I was reading articles from Balkan Insight, I was watching Croatian news, listening to music, Partisan songs, and then I came across your podcast and I was very excited…

So I found that I had a lot of spare time during the pandemic, so I could get back into my own art practice.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Unuka Partizana (@unukapartizana)

PETER KORCHNAK: In the spring of 2021, she drew the first picture of a Yugoslav Partisan, a portrait she found online.

ANA RADOVCICH: Drawing Partisans has been a way for me to process what my parents went through. And also a way of honoring what they went through and what their parents went through and trying to keep their memory alive because since the Yugoslav Wars in the 90s, the partisans have become a taboo subject. And so I feel like I’ve had to suppress my history, my Partisan history, because it’s become political. And I like to separate it from that, you know, for me, the Partisans is about that time in history, World War Two, and what they achieved.

The other thing that propelled me into drawing Partisans was, I was probably reading too many articles on Balkan Insight and I found them all very negative, because they were about the historical revisionism that was occurring in Croatia and other former republics of Yugoslavia. So I was finding it a bit depressing and a bit disheartening, and I felt like I wasn’t allowed to be proud of my Partisan history, that that part of my history had to be silenced. So my way of pushing back against that was to start drawing Partisans.

PETER KORCHNAK: Then a friend suggested she post the portraits on Instagram, where she received not only positive feedback but also a request for a commission, from a Canadian man whose great uncle died in a concentration camp.

ANA RADOVCICH: This inspired me to take a next step. So I thought, I’d like to draw other people’s Partisans. I sent out an invite through social media, asking people to send me their Partisans. And so what they do is, they will send me a photograph of their Partisan who might be a grandfather or a great aunt or father, any member of a family that was in the Partisans. Often these photos are in really bad condition because they’re taken in the 1940s. There’s very high contrast, sometimes eyes are blacked out by the contrast and the shadows, so I can’t see any detail, the photos are torn, creased. So I have to do a little bit of restoration work before I can start on them.

PETER KORCHNAK: That first commission Radovcich did? The guy offered to assist with the restoration work, digitally processing those old photos to clean them up and render additional detail.

ANA RADOVCICH: I draw the portrait life size, and I try and make it look better than the photo.

And the deal is, you know, I get to draw the Partisan, post it on my social media and my website and post the story.

PETER KORCHNAK: The sender can get the original in exchange for covering the shipping costs and a voluntary donation.

ANA RADOVCICH: It’s been really lovely to connect with these people. I’ve drawn. Partisans for people from all over the world, from Ireland, Turkey, Canada, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Switzerland, Australia.

PETER KORCHNAK: Radovcich drew the Partisans in her own family only later on.

I do wonder how much of the fact that you drew later has to do with the fact that, as you said, this Partisan history in your family and, you know, generally in the region that your family’s from is contentious, in some circles anyways. So any art project that is worth a damn, it’s very personal, I guess.

ANA RADOVCICH: Yeah, it is very personal. And it’s very personal for the people that I’m doing it for. And it’s an intimate thing, too, when you’re drawing someone’s portrait, I feel like I’m getting to know the person in some way. I’ve been told their history. Sometimes what is known of their history is very small, sometimes I get longer stories. But it’s nice to just sit with that Partisan and spend a few days drawing them because you need to traverse over every millimeter of someone’s face. And so you do become intimate with them, you’re spending time with them. So I find that very special.

And then I can pass that on to the owner, the family member, and they’re so grateful that somebody has thought of their Partisan, they’re grateful that somebody else is honoring their Partisan and not really asking for anything in return. So it’s kind of like a feel-good project.

Some of them stay in touch with me. They’re just very grateful, and often repeat that, and they’re just happy to discover, just like I am, just happy to discover that there’s other people out there in the world that still cherish this history and want to keep it alive. And and that they’ve suffered the same sort of thing that I have, where I feel like I’ve needed to silence my history, that I’m not allowed to be proud of it. So it is quite an honor to draw these people, especially when they’ve been through horrific times.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Unuka Partizana (@unukapartizana)

PETER KORCHNAK: Last May, in Zagreb, I was lucky to be present when Radovcich hand-delivered a portrait of a Partizanka to Danijela Matijević, of the Walk with Tito tour, whom you may recall from Episode 45, “Secondhand Tito.”

What was that experience like, being able to do this in person?

ANA RADOVCICH: I was also excited because this was my first Partizanka from a descendant that I had drawn. And just the story that Daniela told me about her auntie that she was influenced by her as a child. And she was just so excited to be receiving this drawing. And so we decided to do a trade. So she would take me on a Tito walk and I would give her her drawing. So we met in Zagreb, and you were there for the meeting Peter, and photographed our little handover. So it was a real honor and a lot of fun to meet her in person and then to be able to give her her drawing.

PETER KORCHNAK: And that photo is on Instagram, on Daniela’s or the Walk with Tito’s Instagram.

You mentioned your family’s from Dalmatia. And one of your grandparents was in the Dalmation Brigade at Sutjeska. Now I understand that you are working on an exhibition that explores more of that history. So tell us about that project.

ANA RADOVCICH: I’ve been invited to have an exhibition at the Museum of Victory and Freedom in Šibenik. I’m drawing some portraits, just my traditional portrait style, the realism.

And alongside that I want to have some sort of abstract or more experimental artwork to tell the story about Sutjeska where my grandfather fought. So I’m producing a series of drawings and I’m using a fair bit of symbology in the composition, and some abstraction to tell a story.

I do put a bit of effort into the aesthetics of the drawing too, I want to make them beautiful drawings because that’s my way of honoring these people and trying to tap into their spirit, I want to do something beautiful for them.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Unuka Partizana (@unukapartizana)

PETER KORCHNAK: As of now the exhibition is slated for July 2023.

Radovcich’s inbox is always open for photographs and stories of Partisans. Get in touch with her on Instagram, at @unukapartizana.

And then you’re still looking for photographs of parties on cars from the Dalmatian brigade. Is that right?

ANA RADOVCICH: Yes, I would like more from the Dalmatian brigade.

PETER KORCHNAK: If you’re listening and any of your ancestors was in this brigade, people should find you on Instagram and reach out and send you the photos.

ANA RADOVCICH: Yes, please. I’m just interested in who was fighting alongside my grandfather. And that’s why I’m particularly interested in people from the Second Dalmatian Brigade. But you know, if there’s anyone from the First or the Third Dalmatian brigade[s], there was a lot of people also from my family’s village, Prvič Šepurina, that were in those brigades.

PETER KORCHNAK: That insta again is @unukapartizana; links are at RememberingYugoslavia.com/Podcast.

For Radovcich, there’s another outcome from the project beyond the feedback and the feel-goodness.

ANA RADOVCICH: After starting my project on Partisans, and having connected to people through social media, I’ve just found this positive, fun world I’ve been able to connect to, people who share the same passion. And I no longer despair from reading Balkan Insight articles. I don’t even read them much anymore. So it was very exciting for me to find this wider community that believe in what I believe and we can share that all together and have fun with it together. It’s a lot of fun being— it’s like a neat little club with all the interesting things that come out of it, you know, like Spomenik Database and people taking tours in Fićas and people making films and yeah, there’s so many interesting things going on. And I’m always learning, this is what I’m loving, I’m always learning, I learn from your podcasts and and you know, it just keeps sending me down. other very good rabbit warrens and—

PETER KORCHNAKL I’m very very happy that I was able to play a tiny little part in all this and what you’re doing.

ANA RADOVCICH: A huge part, Peter.

PETER KORCHNAK: And to put a bow on it, the two other guests on the show, Daniel Scoric with Comrade Commando, and the collaborator of Darko Nikolovski with Join the Partisans board game, they both connected with you and asked you to draw their grandparents who were Partisans as well.

ANA RADOVCICH: Yes. You know, you hear about these people, I’ve heard about the board game and through you, they’ve connected to me, and yeah it’s just nice to complete that web. So yeah, I’m drawing both their grandfathers. And yeah it just sort of snowballs from there. You know, the more connections you make and you discover what people are doing and we become a community.

Get the Podcast in Your Inbox ›

[BACKGROUND MUSIC – “Rainmaker” by Petar Alargić]

PETER KORCHNAK: Next on Remembering Yugoslavia:

DANIJELA VANČIĆ: I’ve always felt this yugonostalgia just because I feel really drawn towards times of when it was more more peace, just more success in the region. I feel that a lot in my generation with other friends that are my age.

PETER KORCHNAK: The Diaspora Voices series returns with conversations with a Vlach-American, the first Vlach on the show in fact, and a Croatian-Australian Yugoslavia superfan.

Tune in wherever you listen to podcasts, follow to make sure you don’t miss out, and subscribe to support us.

[OUTRO MUSIC – “Jugoslavijo / Od Vardara pa do Triglava” by Horn Orchestra]

PETER KORCHNAK: That’s all for this episode of Remembering Yugoslavia, thank you for listening. Find additional information, links, video embeds, and the transcript of this episode at RememberingYugoslavia.com/Podcast.

And before you go, take a moment to back the show. Go to RememberingYugoslavia.com/Donate and join the growing army of the podcast supporters.

Outro music courtesy of Robert Petrić.

Additional music courtesy of Nikolovski and PMG Collective.

The track “Rainmaker” by Petar Alargić licensed under Creative Commons.

I am Peter Korchňak.

Ćao!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart