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Bogdan’s letter from 1975

Bogdan BOGDANOVIĆ

The builder who builds in Mostar is burdened with considerations. Mostar is, as is known, one of the most beautiful and unique cities that man has built in this part of the world. On the canyon of the river, with a miraculous bridge after which it was named, stands this special urban structure woven from stone and sun, greenery and water. Of a special, self-similar character, but also of its own soul and will, Mostar is a city of personality, and therefore – the first obligation of the builder, not to betray that personality. How difficult it is to build in this city, how many possible detours, how many opportunities for the imagined not to be brought to an end, or if it is brought wrongly, hastily, so that the builder feels guilty!

The builder of the Mostar Monument built it with genuine fear. But, from fear sometimes courage and audacity are born. So, here is another statement from the builder: If he can say for any of his buildings that it was built under temperature, he certainly says that for the Partisan monument in Mostar. So if any of the visitors and friends of this building sense that temperature, it will be a great reward for the builder.

The monument in Mostar is, in short, a monument of a city. It primarily tells us about Mostar – the fighter, about Mostar – the poet. The monument can sometimes speak of the spiritual and physical beauty of the city, to be inspired by it. Recent history has shown that Mostar – the city, was a city – a man, a fighter, the same thought. The patriotic and humanistic solidarity of this city in the revolution is legendary, and above all, it is true.

Mostar – city – man could not understand the revolution differently than as an embodiment of the principles of life, or as a picture of the future. So, if it is said that the Monument in question expresses faith in life, this pays tribute to the special, complex and at the same time simple philosophy of the man of Mostar, and the man of Herzegovina. This is primarily an unwavering faith in life. Lives were extinguished in the name of life, in the name of light and sun, the eyes of young men and women were closed. But, even closed, they remained open. I learned this thought every day, followed it while building this Monument. (The builder learned something while building his building.)

Otherwise, the builder has established, from the first sketches, an idea that persistently held him until the end – this should be a monument that looks. It is less important whether we see it ourselves and how we see it, although it imposes itself on the view with its physics – it is more important how it looks at us and sees us! Once I almost accidentally said that the Monument is so positioned that the fighters of the revolution look at their city from it. In the people, this remained as a kind of irrefutable explanation. Maybe there is some truth in this slogan.

If Mitrovica, Prilep, Kruševac, Jasenovac are monuments in the landscape, indivisible from the sun, fog, water, grass – this is a monument of urban landscape and space. The monument and the city lookeach other in the eye. The hill opened, it was encrusted with stone interweavings and old plates taken from dilapidated roofs. The smoked plate from Mostar houses, which covered so many troubles and joys, was sanctified, it gained the right to a symbol, the right to eternity. These plates intertwine and overtake each other with other, richer, bolder stone patterns, a mute but sonorous letter of ornament is written, as well as on old Mostar buildings. Finally, if some signs had to be carved into this silent and resonant texture of stone and ornament, they would be, without hesitation, signs of the sun, moon, and stars. Cosmic symbols open before us strange expanses towards which man has always strived, sought himself in them, constantly moved towards them the boundaries of his enthusiasm and knowledge.

And so something turned out, which is, at least at first glance – paradoxical. This Monument, which carries the dead within it, is cheerful and exuberant. A person descends down its ramps, returns to the city with faith in the values of life, carried away by the eternal and final aspirations of human strivings. Wasn’t the guiding idea of the youth who gave their lives – just that faith in the strength of human feelings and human mind. The builder of the Monument would very much like every visitor to descend into the city with a feeling of encouragement.

The builder does not need to talk much about his work. If the work itself does not speak, the builder’s words are in vain. Works stand, builders leave. How will generations after us interpret this building? What will they see in it, what will be experienced? Will it tell them anything? Will visitors and the building converse, as it seems, they are already starting to converse a bit?

Many associations are possible, various imaginings. Will our children’s children see in this monument the image of a strange proud and humane city, raised like a mirage somewhere between heaven and earth? And will they recognize their city in it in a distant, proud and difficult time when it was hardest of all to be and remain a human? Not without a certain fear, but also without decisiveness, the builder would briefly answer: they will recognize both the city and the man, they will meet as long as there are man and city.

Bogdan BOGDANOVIĆ

source: magazine “Most”, issue #3, 1975; also published in “Partizanski spomenik u Mostaru”, IKRO Prva književna komuna, Mostar 1980., str 36-38.