On the plateau, at the foot of the hill of „Lješanska nahija“, about 10 km away from Podgorica, as monumental as freedom is, there is a monument built in honor of all the people of Lješane - fighters from this area who gave their lives fighting for freedom. Through its multidimensionality and totality, it reflects the complexity of the heritage - personal, local, national and wider spaces - of a country that no longer exists - Yugoslavia. It opens the door to the world of art, architecture, philosophy, human values and the higher goals it strives for. It is an introduction to the turbulent history, life in this area - personal and family stories, and at the same time a reflection of the author's respect and perfect understanding of people's identity and tradition as a continuous process and its creative reflection in contemporary architectural forms.
This monument is part of the being of the people of this area. This is where all the values that have been cultivated in „Lješanska nahija“ - one of the four „nahija“ of old Montenegro - have been expressed. It was named after Lješ (in today's Albania), from which, according to tradition, the ancestors of Lješanje moved to take refuge from the invading army of the Ottoman Empire. According to some interpretations, the intention was to create a territorial defensive shield that would stop their further entrance to the west, which is supported by the findings according to which some people from Lješ committed themselves to this before the Venetians, confirming their courage, which this monument evokes.
Monument on Barutana – from local to universal values
The monument on Barutana was ceremoniously opened in 1980, on the occasion of marking the 35th anniversary of the victory over fascism. The general social conditions in the post-war period were very favorable for the development of architecture in Yugoslavia. Also, monumental architecture was strongly represented, as an expression of general respect for the victims of the Second World War. Leaving behind a strong stamp of this time, architecture has confirmed itself as one of the most pronounced and oldest elements of identity. However, this monument differs from other monuments of the People's Liberation War because it is dedicated not only to those who died in World War II, but also to other wars that took place in the Balkans during the first half of the twentieth century where heroes participated - the First and Second Balkan War and the First World War.
The republic competition for the conceptual design of the monument was announced in 1975. Although the competition was open, several authors were invited to participate. Among them were the most famous Montenegrin and Yugoslav architect Svetlana Kana Radević (1937 - 2000) and the artist Slobodan Bobo Slovinić (1943 -). Svetlana Kana Radević was in America when the invitation came, while she was there for specialization. She decides to participate in the competition and sends her proposal by mail. However, on its way from America to the jury, the mail was lost, so in the first phase of considering the received proposals, Slovinić gained the advantage. When Kana's conceptual solution was finally found, which she called "Flowers", the jury opted for it and decided that it would be a first-prize-winning work.
The monument is the result of the extreme creativity of the architect. She shaped the space with it, giving an artistic dimension to the stone, which is synonymous for Montenegro and this region. She transposed it with other traditional features into universal values through the shapes and elements of the monument, which seemed to be nobody in this place. It merged with the area - the overgrown dog-rose and oak, bordered by properties known for the cultivation of tobacco and grape vine. The monument also carries a strong idea of brotherhood, which is in line with the author's understanding of what the monument should reflect. This indicates her perfect understanding of local values and their wider context that has been developed here, because in the conversation the locals themselves say that the monument has twinned them.
The locals gave their contribution to the construction of the monument in various ways - both with work and money. In the early morning, buses would pass through the villages of Lješanska nahija, transport the people of Lješanje to the construction area on Barutana, and then return them to their homes at the end of the working day. Young people were engaged in the Youth Brigade "Barutana '80" and worked on extracting and transporting stones from various locations. The best, they say, was a stone from Kamenica. All the masters from the „nahija“(nahija is the smallest municipality in the age of Turks) were engaged in stone processing and construction. But not only with their work, the people of Lješanje also helped with the construction. Some families even decided to do so on the occasion of commemorating their members who died during the construction of the monument. Even today, there are homes that keep newspapers, with pages dedicated to the deceased, which confirm their contribution to the community. Thus, the war suffering of their family members, neighbors and friends united and fraternized the people of Lješanje with sorrow, and then with respect for the dead and with pride that they are their descendants. Furthermore, they were united by the construction, showing that by working together, there can be an imprint created that means immortal remembrance. It gave them a way to express their identity - the pursuit of lofty values - freedom, dignity, trust and justice.
The Balkan Wars of 1912-1913
The first of the so-called flowers, as the author's project calls the smaller units of the complex, is a memorial to the heroes who died in the Balkan wars who confirmed that the battles for freedom are common for all Balkan countries. Namely, in 1912, they started a joint war for the final liberation from the Ottoman Empire and its 5 centuries long regency. In this way, Montenegro wanted to regain all the cities that were part of it in the time of Duklja and Zeta. The liberation struggles in the north and east lasted shorter and were successful, while those for the liberation of Skadar lasted longer. With a large number of casualties, the Montenegrins won, but it was too late. They had to leave the newly liberated city, because at the meeting of foreign ministers, held in London, a few days before their victory, the great powers decided that Skadar should belong to Albania.
The people of Lješanje also took part in the battles that took place there. Numerous people died. It happened that a lot of families were gone after that battle, but the names and surnames of all of them remain shining with immortality. It happened with the family of Kikun Radunović, from the village of Progonović. After the death of one of his sons in the Russo-Japanese War, all three sons he still had - Aleksa, Blagota and Ilija - died in the fights for Skadar. But, on his way to visit the graves of his sons, Kikun dies beside them because the grief was too great for his heart. Today, his sons live through their names carved on stone slabs, and also in the stories and epic song that is sung.
However, after the final reckoning with the Ottoman Empire, due to the disagreement over the division of the conquered territories, the Second Balkan War between Serbia and Bulgaria broke out. Montenegro provides assistance to Serbia and participates in decisive battles such as the battle of Bregalnica, in today's Northern Macedonia. In both Balkan wars, 115 people from Lešanj were killed. Their names are engraved on concentrically placed stone slabs, in this complex dedicated to these historical events.
The World War I of 1914 – 1918
In the reconstruction and development after the Balkan wars, Montenegro was interrupted by the First World War. Exhausted both economically and due to the loss of humanity during previous wars and centuries of fighting, Montenegro still took part and sided with Serbia, to which Austro-Hungary declared war, which then grew into a conflict of unprecedented proportions. The people of Lješanje also gave their contribution to the successful battles and heroism of the Montenegrin army. The names of 114 of them who died in this war are engraved on stone slabs that are part of the „flower“ - a memorial unit of monuments dedicated to these global tragic events. By the way, the plaques with the engraved names of the fallen fighters were developed according to the same concept for all war conflicts included in the memorial complex. They are facing the sky, expressing the aspiration of these heroes for freedom. They form concentric circles that at first glance resemble threshing floors as places where Montenegrins gather and work during the harvest. These circles symbolize the circle of time - the closed circle of the life of fallen fighters. Inside, there are vertical shaped elements, also oriented towards the sky and higher goals. They are grouped next to each other, just as were the heroes in common struggles - united and thus stronger to win freedom and eternal glory. These vertical elements are of different sizes and truncated, indicating the premature death of the fighters.
The World War II of 1941 – 1945
The third memorial unit is dedicated to the heroes who fell on the battlefields throughout Yugoslavia in the People's Liberation War. The „Lješanska nahija“ itself was the scene of battles, in which the national hero Milovan S. Čelebić also took part. His attacks on enemy forces in the battle of Staniseljići, the village of Lješanska nahija, are still alive in the stories. He died at the age of 31 from wounds received in the battle of Jablanica in 1943 (in Bosnia and Herzegovina). Along with his name, and with the other 230 fighters killed in the People's Liberation War (NOR), the name of the heroine Jelena B. Ćetković (1916 - 1943) is inscribed here on the stone plaque. She was shot in Jajinci, leaving behind the song "Behind Bars" which she wrote during slavery in the Banjica camp (Belgrade).
The freedom, architecture and social engagement
And so, along the path with a fence made of local stone, you reach the fourth and fifth units of the complex. Like a river meandering through the passage of time in the stories of turbulent war events, we come to an amphitheater with shaped seats, which are concentrated around the stage. It is located under the auspices of the central monument, which consists of natural concrete pillars, stylized in the vertical, which as a whole symbolize the torch. It is not a rare perception that these are hands facing the sky, which, when half-assembled, preserve freedom and reflect human harmony. The author believed that the monument should be a continuous experience. It should achieve the liberation of dignity and the feeling that life triumphs over death. Also, the monument must be introduced into the life cycle. Thus, here, through the narration of dramatic historical events, an open space is reached, a place that includes man and leaves space for his engagement. It is a place of meeting, gathering of new generations, communication, activities, a place that inspires and mobilizes through interaction, all under the auspices of freedom and the spirit of victory.
Tradition, architecture and art – the famous Montenegrin architect Svetlana Kana Radević
An aerial view and Kana's drawings confirm that the monument grew out of that heritage. This revealed the connection between the names "Flowers" under which she applied for the competition.
The dignity that she reflected through architecture, Kana perceived as an ethical act, and attributed to man, life and freedom, and therefore happiness. Such an approach, as well as her creativity, vision and knowledge of the global reach of architecture, which through the use of local materials brought in unique forms to Yugoslavia, led her work to the exhibition "Towards a concrete utopia - architecture in Yugoslavia 1948 - 1980." of Modern Art in New York - MoMA, 2018 - 2019. On that occasion, Kana's masterpieces were among the works of the most prominent Yugoslav architects of the time, selected by the curators of this museum. Furthermore, the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2021 will open the doors of exhibitions of Kana's works, which is another confirmation of their artistic and architectural value.
A way of living of the Lješanje’s heroes inheritors
Recognized and invaluable artistic and architectural values of this monument around the world have spread the word about „Lješanska nahija“ and its heroes. How the people of Lješanska nahija live today and what place the monument has in their lives, is best experienced through a personal meeting and visit to Lješnjane. After visiting the monument, it is suggested to get acquainted with the local culture - wine production, other typical products of the region, gastronomy and natural beauty.
The proximity of the Skadar Lake National Park, the view of Malo Blato and Skadar Lake and the silence of the hamlets of authentic construction are attractions that guarantee an exceptional experience for lovers of the untouched nature. The ambience of the estate with a stone house, some parts of which are over 100 years old, vineyards and gardens with various vegetables and a threshing floor as a symbol of social life and work in the past are a confirmation of the rich traditions of the place and property. The kindness of the hosts, harmonious coexistence with relatives and neighbors and stories about the monument on Barutana and the local population will open the door to getting to know the way of life of the people in this area. Visitors here can enjoy the tastes of traditional serving - prosciutto, cheese, “rakija”, wine and juice, served with “priganice”, as well as an organized lunch during which they can serve authentic dishes - raštan or japrac prepared in the leaf of raštan or grapevine.
Viticulture and wine production are a family tradition of this household. The preserved inherited authenticity is confirmed by the cultivation of autochthonous grape varieties – „vranac“ and „kratošija“, while the confirmation that the tradition keeps pace with the achievements of modern times is provided by a wide range of products – white and red wines, various brandies (the so-called „rakija“), herb brandies („travarica“) and liqueurs. Proof of the high quality of this household's products are the numerous awards. Visitors will be convinced of the commitment to work and success in the work of all family members during a tour of the property and getting acquainted with the entire course of production - from grapes to wine. The color, smell and aroma of wine and other products from this household will also reveal that. Apart from tasting home-made drinks, you can also enjoy delicious traditional dishes here - roasted lamb, which the hosts recommend if guests want to have lunch on this property.