"In the Steps of My Forefathers"
Autobiography by Bora Dragasevic
Bora's great-grandfather General Jovan Dragašević in his later years (upper left), grandfather Borivoje Dragašević (upper right), father Dragor Dragašević (lower left) and Bora (lower right). The crown above the Serbian coat of arms is the Karadjordjevic crown.
TRANSLATION FROM SERBIAN
provided by Draga Dragasevic
GREETINGS ON THE OCCASION
OF THE CEREMONIAL UNVEILING OF THE BAS-RELIEF
TO HONOUR THE MEMORY OF GENERAL JOVAN DRAGAŠEVIĆ
FROM HIS GREAT-GRANDSON BORIVOJE BORA DRAGAŠEVIĆ
Honourable members of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Serbia, distinguished officers and participants at this ceremonial gathering, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great honour to have this opportunity to send my sincere regards on the occasion of this great tribute to my esteemed great-grandfather General Jovan Dragašević, founder of the military press in Serbia, a prolific writer, scholar and historian who dedicated his entire life working for Serbia and for Serbdom. It is interesting to note that his son Borivoje, whose name I carry, was also an officer and continued his father’s work as editor of the military journals “Vojin” and “Ratnik” which are still published today.
I am very happy that Jovan Dragašević is being given recognition in this way for his work and his contributions and also for the motto “Samo Sloga Srbina Spasava. [Only Unity Saves the Serbs.]” It is known that during his lifetime my great-grandfather complained to his friend, writer Jovan Bošković, rector of the Great School and Minister of Education, that his motto was being regarded as folk wisdom. In one letter he writes: “In truth, I was glad that my proverb entered the national wisdom, but I was saddened that what belongs to me personally was being taken away from me during my lifetime.”
Now, precisely one hundred years after his death, you are giving him due recognition and also for this motto with this solemn gesture and memorial bas-relief, and in this way, you are “returning” his words to their author.
In 2004, with thanks to Colonel Miloje Pršić, I had the honour to speak at the celebration of the 128th anniversary of the Military Historical Institute and on that occasion I presented a copy of a portrait of Jovan Dragašević from the archives of the Dragašević family. As far as I know, that portrait now hangs in a prominent place in the Institute which makes us very proud. Thanks to Colonel Mihailo Basara I also had the opportunity two years later to address the gathering on the occasion of the 130th anniversary of the Institute.
For today’s ceremony, I have one more piece of good news. The Dragašević family financed the renewal and restoration of the family grave site and the monument erected by great-grandfather Jovan during his lifetime in the Novo Groblje in Belgrade. All that he did for his homeland cannot be written on the monument, but today the following words are inscribed on it:
“General Jovan Dragašević, writer of ‘Jeka od gusala’, author of the motto ‘Samo Sloga Srbina Spasava’, founder of the Military Historical Institute, Serbian delegate to the Congress of Berlin in 1878.”
Following his example which was passed from generation to generation, to my grandfather Borivoje, to my father Dragor and to me, I have dedicated my entire life in Serbia and Canada to the defense of Serbia and Serbdom which I wrote in my autobiography “Stopama predaka” which was, with the great support of Dr. Momčilo Pavlović, published three years ago by the Institute for Contemporary History in Belgrade.
I extend my deep gratitude to the Ministry of Defense, the Military Historical Institute and to all of you who have participated in this remembrance and acknowledgement of the work of my great-grandfather Jovan. I bow to his memory and pray that the Lord will grant me enough strength in my 91st year to return for the last time to Serbia to see this memorial bas-relief and the restored grave site and monument.
When we think of the entire painful history of the Serbs, great-grandfather Jovan left all of us a straightforward and modest roadmap how to love and defend one’s homeland and people: “Only Unity Saves the Serbs, so it is written on the Serb’s coat of arms.” Those are words from the heart of a great Serb and patriot, my great-grandfather General Jovan Dragašević, of whom I am eternally proud.
To his memory!
Borivoje Bora Dragašević
In Toronto 12 July 2015.
For more information about General Jovan Dragasevic and the ceremony honoring him in July of 2015, please take a look at the following link:
If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org