St. Sava Cultural Center and Museum at 448 Barry Street in Chicago, IL
Photo: Author unknown at this time.
Aleksandra's Note: My posting yesterday (Sunday, September 4, 2016) regarding the fate of the historic building at 448 Barry Ave. in Chicago, IL U.S.A. has garnered tremendous attention and with that attention have come concerns and questions. It appears that not everyone in the Serbian community here in America or even in Chicagoland is aware of the situation regarding the Serbian-American St. Sava Cultural Center/Museum.
I am posting some links here (some in Serbian, others in English) that you can visit to better acquaint yourself with what has become a critical situation and in my opinion, a tragic one. I spent a lot of time at the St. Sava Cultural Center on Barry Ave. in Chicago during the 1990's when Serbs in the Diaspora were dealing with the tremendous changes taking place in the former Yugoslavia due to civil war in the homeland. I have so many good memories of that wonderful old building, originally a home built in 1905, and the time spent there. I was planning on visiting this summer, but did not manage to do so. Now, that visit has become a priority. It's impossible to imagine losing this cultural center, founded by and a gift to the Serbian community from the great patriot Dr. Slobodan Draskovic and other Serbian immigrants, in 1952.
Thanks to the involvement of Halyard Mission hero George Vujnovich of New York, the board of the St. Sava Cultural Center was able to obtain historical status for the cultural center years ago. Now, the future is in jeopardy.
Fortunately, as attention is increasing over the financial troubles now facing this Serbian-American Museum in Chicago, more people are getting involved to try to save it. I pray that they will be successful and that this gift to the Serbian community will withstand the pressures and survive as an important cultural institution and an example of how heritage is maintained and nurtured.
September 5, 2016
Serbian American Museum St. Sava, formerly known as Serbian Cultural and Arts Center St. Sava, was founded in Chicago in 1952. Thanks to generous contributions of its members, the house at 448 West Barry Avenue was purchased the same year, which later became, and still remains, the Serbian Home.
A Brief History:
The Serbian People Reconstruction Movement was founded in Germany in 1944. Its members were known as Dušanovci, because the organization was known as Dušan the Mighty, headed by Slobodan M. Drašković, PhD.
Slobodan M. Drašković arrived to Chicago in 1947 and took part in the All-Serbian Congress, after which he permanently relocated to the United States. At the same time, Dušan the Mighty relocated to the United States, but in 1952, due to the US laws and regulations, it changed its name to Serbian Cultural Club St. Sava and became a non-profit organization.
Two years after it was founded, the Serbian People Reconstruction Movement started the newspaper The Serbian Struggle (Srpska Borba) whose aim was to reach out to the Serbs outside of Serbia. Between 1946 and 1949, the periodical was printed in Germany, later continued in France, and finally moved to Flushing, NY, USA, where it was printed as a weekly newspaper until 1981. Today, The Serbian Struggle is published as a bi-monthly magazine.
Slobodan M. Drašković, who authored many books, was not only one of the founding fathers of the Center, but was also one of the main pillars of the Serbian diaspora. Below is an excerpt from his book Which Way that was published in "The Serbian Struggle" in September of 1983:
“The first and basic reason for the success of every big venture is in the readiness to accept the risk and danger, to risk failure and to be exposed to the peril of ruin. In that lays the crux of the struggle for assuring the freedom and better future for Serbian people. The misfortune of the Serbian diaspora today is that too many individuals want to call themselves and be considered by others the fighters against communism, but does not want, under any circumstances, to endanger neither his job, nor his house, nor his pension, nor his social security, nor his car, nor his vacation, nothing!
"Imagine if our fathers and grandfathers went to liberation wars of 1912, 1913 and 1914 with this notion that no one will die, and that everyone will get to keep what they have and safely return home!
"That is exactly what the most of the Serbian immigrants want today. And that can’t be! That is not how the great and fateful battles are fought.”
At the 2007 Members’ Congress, a majority of members voted to change the name and status of Serbian Cultural Club St. Sava (501 C-7) private club, to Serbian Cultural and Arts Center St. Sava (501C-3) not for profit organization. Consequently another change was made in 2010 at the yearly congress when majority voted to change purpose and name once again to Serbian American Museum St. Sava (501C-3), first Serbian Museum in diaspora.
October 7, 2014
DePaul University students Jeff Buchbinder, Haley McAlpine, Caelin Niehoff, Sam Toninato, and Wynn VanHaren met with Vesna Noble of the Serbian American Museum St. Sava in Chicago for this entry in the Museum’s People and Places series. They were students of the Museum’s archivist, Peter T. Alter, as part of DePaul’s public history program.
The Serbian American Museum St. Sava (SAMS) is in a quiet residential neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side. The museum’s home is literally a home—a house built in 1905. Its location and physical space reflect the intimacy of Chicago’s Serbian American community. “When I first walked in here, I just loved the building,” Vesna Noble remarked. As an organizer and influential member of SAMS, she shared with us the museum’s history and Serbian culture.
While some rooms on the museum’s second floor serve as living quarters for Serbian visitors and dignitaries, several other rooms now house exhibitions. The display cases feature Serbian garments, immigration items, religious artifacts, and objects pertaining to inventor Nikola Tesla. One gallery features Serbian athletes, such as former NBA player Vlade Divac and tennis star Novak Djoković. Vesna and other volunteers work with institutions and individuals to borrow and acquire artifacts, posters, and documents for SAMS.
This organization was named for St. Sava, the twelfth and thirteenth–century Serbian prince who became a monk and founded the Serbian Orthodox Church. SAMS was not always a museum—Serbian immigrants founded it as the Serbian Cultural Club St. Sava in 1952. Vesna described its early decades as a meeting place for Serbian intellectuals.
In the early 2000s, the organization grew from a private club into a cultural center and finally into a museum. “Becoming a museum,” Vesna explained, “was a change that this place needed, and we believed a lot more people would be interested in helping at an institution like this.” The museum preserves and nourishes Serbian and Serbian American culture. Its leaders, like Vesna, also hope to create an awareness of Chicago’s Serbian community among non-Serbs.
If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com