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Jugoslav Cultural Garden

 


 

75

 

Jugoslav Cultural Garden

 

 

The Jugoslav Cultural Garden is located near the St. Clair Avenue-East Boulevard approach to Rockefeller Park, and embodies the culture of the Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs. A circular fountain and pool are the central features of a paved court. Two stately linden trees, the typical Slovenian "lipa", whose sweet-scented, delicate blossoms are used in the brewing of a delightful tea, tower at either side of the garden entrance. The Jugoslav Garden slopes in three levels between the upper and lower boulevards. To the left of the entrance is a reposeful, formal, sunken garden to the right, a semi-circular section. A semi-circular stairway leads to the halfway lower level, and a wide stairway from the mid-level to the lower level, where there extends a spacious, stage-like paved court. Encircling this setting is a beautiful, natural amphitheatre formed of massive shade trees and the cooling stream of Doan Brook. Because of its theatre-like design, and the generous sweep of its lovely vistas, the Jugoslav Garden, since 1949, has provided the ideal setting for the annual One World Day celebrations. Over 2000 plants and flowering shrubs adorn this impressive garden.

The Jugoslav Cultural Garden was officially opened on May 15, 1938, with a parade of assembly of lodges, drill teams, and bands, and the presence of Dr. Adlesic, Mayor of Ljubljana, as principal speaker. Other speakers included Mr. John Mihelich, Mayor Harold H. Burton, Governor Martin L. Davey, Senator Robert Bulkley, Common Pleas Judge Frank J. Lausche, United States Representatives Martin L. Sweeney, Robert Crosser and Anthony Fleger Chief Ohio Supreme Court Justice Carl V. Weygandt, Common Pleas Judge Frank J. Merrick, WPA Director Colonel Joseph H. Alexander, Hugo Varga, director of parks, Mr. Charles Wolfram, then president of the Cultural Garden League, Mrs. Marian Kuhar, treasurer of the Jugoslav Cultural Garden, Joseph Grdina, secretary of the Jugoslav Cultural Garden and Dr. Konstantin Fotic, Jugoslav Envoy in Washington. Mr. Anton Grdina was program leader.

The Jugoslav Cultural Garden group was organized in 1929. The first president was Councilman John Mihelich. Mr. Anton Grdina succeeded him, and has remained president to the time of this writing. Other officers active since the time of the garden's inception till the present are: Mr. Joseph Grdina, secretary Mrs. Marian Kuhar, treasurer and Mrs. Johanna Mervar, vice president. Mr. Anton Grdina has been the moving spirit, both from a material and cultural standpoint, of the Jugoslav Cultural Garden, and also has been actively interested

 


 

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Anton Grdina at the Cankar Memorial

in the entire Cultural Garden project, serving as treasurer, from its earliest period.

The site of this garden had been formally dedicated December 4, 1932, upon the occasion of the 14th anniversary of Jugoslav independence, for in 1918 Jugoslavia became a united kingdom after 17 centuries of struggle. Charles J. Wolfram presided at the ceremonies. Dr. Leonide Pitamic, Jugoslav Minister to the United States, professor of constitutional and international law, member of the Jugoslav delegation to the League of Nations, was the principal speaker. In his dedicatory remarks, he emphasized the equal importance of cultural and political international good will, and presented and planted an evergreen tree. Mrs. Jennie K. Zwick and Mr. Anton Grdina also spoke.

In the fountain rotunda are the busts of Bishop Frederick Irenaeus Baraga and the poet, Petar Petrovich Njegosh. The bust of Bishop Baraga was unveiled by the Slovenes on September 22, 1935. It was dedicated by Archbishop Dr. Gregory Rozman of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Guests of honor were Governor Martin L. Davey, and Dr. Bozidar Stojanovic of the Jugoslav Legation in Washington. Bishop Baraga was born in Slovenia in 1797, and was ordained a priest in 1823 after studies in Ljubljana (capital of Slovenia) and Vienna. In 1830 he came to America and was sent by the Archbishop of Cincinnati to the Ottawa Indians in the wilds of Michigan. He labored unstintingly against great physical and spiritual odds for the welfare of early Americans. Called the Apostle of the Chippewas and acclaimed a hero of the Northwest Territory, he also achieved fame as writer both in America and Europe.

This saintly man died on June 19, 1868, and is now being proposed for canonization in the Catholic Church.

The bust of their great poet, Petar Njegosh (1813-1851) was placed here by the Serbs of Cleveland. A distinguished statesman and philosopher, Njegosh was Prince-Bishop of Montenegro, and the first Montenegrin ruler who obtained recognition for Montenegro as an independent state. What Shakespeare is to the English, Njegosh is to the Serbs. His work attracted wide attention and was admired by Goethe. He is best known for his two epic poems, " The Mountain Garland"and " Light of the Microcosm".

Inscribed on the mounting of his bust in the Jugoslav Garden are these lines in English translation from one of his poems:

" flash mid mortal dust are we

We are a torch engirt by darkness.

What good is Empire to inhuman men,

Except to spread their shame through all the world.

The very corn is spiked for self-defense

And thorns do punish plucking of a rose.

The oppressed do rise against the oppressor

The stroke calls forth a flash from out the stone

Lacking that stroke, imprisoned were the spark.

Suffering reveals the virtue of the cross

Except by death was never Resurrection.

For all this vast array of things confused

Hath yet some rhythmic harmony and law:

O'er all this curious mixture of a world

There yet doth reign one over-arching Mind."

The priest, Simon Gregorcic (1844-1906) is the most beloved of all their poets to the Slovene people. The melody, the tenderness, the intensity, the heart-to-heart messages of his poems were a hopeful consolation to the oppressed people, who hailed their cheerful prophesies with great joy. An ethical note pervades much of his poetry, and because of their lyrical quality his poems readily lend themselves to musical settings. Many of them have become virtually folk-songs. A good example of his strong humanitarian feeling is conveyed in his poem, " Alone"

" Alas for him who sighs in grief alone

Nor happy he who drinks his joys alone.

Is Heaven kind to thee, O brother mine,

Then from thy fellows turn not eyes of thine.

The noble mind all pain alone will bear,

But happiness will with another share.

Thy heart, thy hand wide open lay,

And seek to wipe a brother's tear away,

Seek thou an orphan's sorrow to allay.

He who would drink his joys alone,

Shall shed his tears in grief alone."

 


 

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Archbishop Rozman at Unveiling of Baraga Bust

The 100th anniversary of the birth of Simon Gregorcic* was commemorated by the Jugoslav Cultural Garden group on August 13, 1944. The program featured a colorful pageant and some of the poet's finest works.

In a small court to the right of the fountain rotunda is the bronze head of Ivan Cankar, also honored as an immortal poet by the Slovenian people. He was born in 1876 in Vrhnika, Slovenia, and died in 1918 at Ljubljana. The Cankar and Gregorcic monuments were jointly dedicated on August 13, 1944, by two Slovenian professors, Dr. France Trdan, Superintendent of Schools, and Professor Julius Slapsak, both of Ljubljana.

Cankar is an emotional, subjective writer, revealing a profound symbolism. He freely employs allegory, paradox, and satire, but only as a means of emphasizing the truth as he sees it. He is often a negative writer, succumbing to a bitter pessimism, but this is his method of bringing out the more forcibly his deep yearning and his unswerving faith in his people, spurring them on to greater activity in the attaining of right and justice. The bronze head of Ivan Cankar in the Jugoslav Garden is the work of Rudolph Mafko, the only Slovene sculptor in the United States.

Each year, the Serbs hold their own celebration in the Jugoslav Garden.

The statehood of Jugoslavia, constructed out of the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, dates from the close of the First World War. The homeland of the Jugoslavs included former subjects of Austria-Hungary, Serbia, and Montenegro. Their union and independence were achieved in 1918. The Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs, throughout history have been very closely bound by ethnic and linguistic bonds, yet, because of divergent backgrounds—the Slovenes and Croats under western, the Serbs under eastern influences—show marked political and cultural differences.

Substantial material and cultural progress was made by the new state during the two decades before the Second World War. Autonomy, democracy, and constitutionalism were near fulfillment at the dark and chaotic time of the Nazi invasion in 1941.

In addition to their might contribution to labor, which has helped to make America the most prosperous nation in the world, Americans of Jugoslav origin have added the gifts of their honesty, their thrift, their genial and quaint hospitality, and their strong moral consciousness. The fusion of these qualities with the best in American ideals and traditions insures a high type of citizenship.

The Jugoslav Cultural Garden is the concrete testimony of the stubborn idealism of this brave people, and of their love of their national poets and of their adopted country.

*Translation by Ivan Zorman. Cleveland poet and musician of Jugoslav descent, who contributed the major portion of this chapter.


Njegosh

 


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