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Dotrščina Memorial Park

Zagreb, Croatia
1 of 4Vojin Bakic

"Inexhaustible sources of strength / Unbreakable wings of freedom / Brave in death, eternal in life / In the work of the living your deeds last"

The verses carved in a stone block, right next to Bakić's sculpture, at the entrance of the memorial park, like a boundary stone, introduce the visitor to the place of reverence. Between 1941 and 1945, the police of the fascist Independent State of Croatia executed several thousand Zagreb citizens in the Dotrščina forest, making it the site with the largest number of mass graves near the city. The systematic formation of the memorial complex began in the 1960s based on the project of Vojin Bakić and Josip Seissel. Respecting the authenticity of the terrain and significance of the place in the so-called Valley of graves, the tombs were paved and Bakić's sculptures, made of polished steel, were placed there. The sculptures resemble crystals in form, with the landscape reflected by dematerializing the sculpture and creating the impression of an almost sacral place. In the words of the author: "In this way, new spatial compositions will be revealed to the observer moving through the valley, and the spark of metal markings will create the impression of the size of the space and thus hint at the mass of victims." In the 1970s, the thematic opus of the memorial park expanded to form a place of remembrance for Zagreb's victims of war conflicts in general. Three out of the nine planned monuments were realized: a monument dedicated to those killed in Zagreb between 1941 and 1945 by Branko Ružić, a monument to revolutionaries and patriots killed in Zagreb between 1919 and 1941 by Stevan Luketić and a monument to those killed in Zagreb in the 1941 National Liberation War by Kosta Angeli Radovani. Ruzic's monument depicts a prison with a multitude of birds trying to escape, as a metaphor of resistance to the fascist regime. Radovani's monument in the form of a bronze frieze on a stone block deals with the same topic. The abstract monument of Stevan Luketić is composed of three circles and a bronze sculpture, and its form is interpreted as a relationship between the history of the city and the ideas of the new generation. In the 1990s, the memorial park was vandalized, and a signpost and a plaque with historical information were destroyed. Today, the monuments are in good condition. They have been restored and the Croatian forests are taking care of their maintenance. Through the work of independent researchers, the Virtual Museum Dotrščina (https://www.dotrscina.hr) was opened in 2012, which contains numerous information about the history of the place. In addition, the memory of the place is continuously maintained by guided visits and artistic interventions that are documented and displayed in the museum.