Croatia: Unrelenting Woes For The House of Antun Gustav Matos – cultural centre in Tovarnik

Antun Gustav Matos of Croatia

Suffice to say: every nation cherishes and celebrates its own remarkable people and when it comes to cultural icons then special care is taken in ensuring they stand out for the world to see and marvel at. This is because national cultural icons are among the essential elements that define sense of national identity and so, pursuing and showcasing of national cultural icons has been a practice of world’s societies for centuries.  It is, regretfully, very disquieting and utterly dispiriting to watch the resistance in Croatia that has been developing with regard to the finalisation and establishment of a memorial place/house for Croatia’s outstanding writer of the past Antun Gustav Matos. The idea was and is that Matos’s birth house be turned into a memorial place, but the stumbling blocks the Committee for that is encountering are heartbreaking and profoundly unfair towards doing the right thing for Croatian national identity generally. Often it seems that activities going against this project are undertaken purposefully and in order to rob Croatian national identity of its cultural icons.

Conceptualising the future Antun Gustav Matos Memorial Centre
in Tovarnik Croatia

I found the following reference to the project idea on the website:

’People can achieve everything, apart from a name, if they lose it.’ This is how Antun Gustav Matoš, one of Croatia’s most significant personalities, wrote about identity in his own way briefly underlining essence, not only when the skill of beautiful writing is concerned.

It is this concern about ‘the not losing’ of names in preserving the legacy of this great writer that was our motto in the planning of a house dedicated to the life and work of a man who during his life became part of the national identity.

We haven’t imagined Matos’s house just as a reminder, but as a starting point of a coexistence with his ideas. A memorial library, scientific meetings and workshops are intended for professionals and the local residents, whilst an interactive themed walk through Tovarnik and the Syrmia estate in a permanent exhibition are a unique combination of a living encounter of culture and tourism.

The House of A. G. Matos – the cultural centre in Tovarnik represents a great wealth of Croatian literature and culture thanks to the legacy of one of Croatia’s greatest writers, Antun Gustav Matos. It is conceived as a complex cultural institution which represents a key point in the reviving of Matos’s legacy on a national level, as well as a cultural-tourist attraction that with a strong literary identity initiates the development of a cultural-tourist micro-destination for Tovarnik and this part of Croatia.

The exhibited display will lead visitors on a journey through the writer’s literary work and life, through several themed parts: Matos’s homeland, Matos’s travelling and Matos today.

Besides the exhibition, the House of A. G. Matos offers rich and varied cultural content, including the writer’s memorial-collection, a library with a reading room and a memorial library where first editions of Matos’s book and literary works of Syrmia will be exhibited. There is also a place intended for scientific meetings, seminars, workshops and a literary club where visitors will be able to rest, a documentation centre, souvenir shop, and outside there will the ‘Matoš Days’ and ‘Fair of the Written Word of Syrmia’ events, a Matos’s Tovarnik themed route and the traditional Syrmian estate.”

This planned project is led by Antun Gustav Matos Society in the town of Tovarnik, Croatia, headed by Mr Zeljko Anic. where Matos was born in 1873.

Aerial view of Antun Gustav House in Tovarnik Croatia

However the project has had enormous difficulties in getting off the ground and Matica Hrvatska/Matrix Croatica ( the oldest non-profit and non-government organisation in Croatia with one of its goals being promoting Croatian identity) has been reported in the media for being the main culprit in placing stumbling blocks on the path to finalising the Matos House memorial place in Tovarnik.  That is, it has been reported in the media for a couple of years now that Matrix Croatica intends selling Matos’s birth house to cover reported debts that the Antun Gustav Matos Society Tovarnik owes the Matrix! In January of this year the Vukovar district court put the public auction on hold.  Of course, the Tovarnik Society is fighting that eventuality because it could mean that this historically and culturally important landmark will be lost forever when it comes to its national cultural identity value.

Legal proceedings have been thrown about regarding this and one may indeed frown in horror when one realises that the government has not yet seen fit to inject funds into this project and perhaps become leading partner in it. One can only conclude that this project for Croatian national identity via a cultural icon has been placed on a back-burner by the political elites that lean towards nostalgia for Yugoslavia and shun Croatian national identity icons at any cost. Furthermore, Matrix Croatica has for some time evidently been infiltrated by political forces belonging to that sector that never wanted an independent Croatia. Matrix Croatica is reportedly working close with government authorities on this matter, while the Antun Gustav Matos Society in Tovarnik fights the battle for the preservation of Matos’s house and turning it into a national cultural icon.

While this unsavoury battle goes on, here is an open letter By Mr Jurica Jurisic to the Board of Matrix Croatica published during this week in Croatian media:

“As a long-time member of Matica Hrvatska with heartache, I have for many years been vehemently contesting the construction project of Matos’s birthplace in Tovarnik, carried out by some, to put it mildly, suspected members of the Parent Administration, whose dishonest actions are increasingly learned from the media. Since spring, after visiting a few friends with Matos’s birthplace, I intend to ask you to finally dive in and take on our Antun Gustav Matos to present it in a well-designed memorial to everyone in the world and Homeland who love and appreciate Croatian literary and cultural heritage.

Therefore, referring to the great Matica’s tradition, which we are proud to be proud of, I am free to propose to you the following: due to the enormous cultural, political and material damage, immediately and unconditionally suspend the shameful sale process of Matos’s birthplace, which is undoubtedly the saddest episode in history Matrix Croatica; to determine the liability of those members of the Management Board who are responsible for the loss of that priceless property owned by the Matrix Croatica.

I hope that you will consider and accept these proposals in the context of the two Serbian documents published last spring – the decision of Matica Srpska to establish the Krajina Committee for the Military Border, Slavonia, Dalmatia and Croatia and the Charter on the Serbian Cultural Area. I am convinced that you share my opinion on the unacceptability of the cowardly withdrawal of Matica Hrvatska from Srijem in the face of increasingly aggressive Serbian imperialism, which achieves its goals primarily by using cultural and religious institutions in all Croatian countries. ”

Antun Gustav Matos Memorial Park Bench
at Strossmayer Promenade overlooking the city of Zagreb

The construction of Matos’s birthplace in Tovarnik is led by members of the Antun Gustav Matos Society, veterans of the Croatian Homeland War, including Ivan Anđelić Doctor, the legendary hero of the battles for Vukovar and Rama. Perhaps this circumstance bothers the managers of Matrix Croatica, against whom legal proceedings for financial misconduct have reportedly commenced, that it has been hindering the project by all available means for several years? Couple this with political inroads of those who do not want a strong Croatian national identity to be displayed to the world to marvel at, it becomes clearer and clearer that Croatian being and identity will continue to have a vicious battle on their hands for some time yet! What a pity! Ina Vukic

Petition To Save Antun Gustav Matos House


Antun Gustav Matos

A heart wrenching event is about to occur next week in Croatia unless as many as possible people sign the petition to try and avert this utterly despicable act of erasing, destroying and chilling neglect of Croatian cultural treasures and heritage. PLEASE ACT QUICKLY! Should you wish to sign please follow this link to the Petition Form, sign and submit. THANK YOU!

Translation of text for the Petition:

In line with the order issued by Matica Hrvatska (Matrix Croatica, cultural non-profit institution), on Wednesday 16 January 2019 the drum will start rolling for a public sale of the birth house in the town of Tovarnik of one of Croatia’s greatest literary cultural treasures – Antun Gustav Matos!

Matica hrvatska, founded in 1842, had committed itself to act for the benefit of Croatian people to gather cultural workers and all who are ready to help realise its purpose and tasks; to promote the national and cultural identity of the Croatian people in all areas of artistic, scientific and spiritual creativity.

That is why we are asking for an answer to the question in whose interest does Matica hrvatska announce this scandalous sale and the bankruptcy of Croatian culture. All of us who experience Matica as a Croatian mother will want to know why such a step-motherly attitude towards our Antun Gustav Matos and towards Croatian Syrmia.

Incomprehensible to common sense, Matica hrvatska – after abandoning Matos’s birth-house, of which it was the owner and on which stands a memorial plaque dedicated to Matos and Matica hrvatska – is now placing Matos’s birth house on a public auction, which has never been done with cultural institutions in European history and it is evident that Matica hrvatska is aiming at erasing Matos from Tovarnik. Even the Serbian-Montenegrin barbarians did not succeed in such a thing when in Autumn of 1991, in occupied Tovrarnik, they fired bronze bullets at Matos’s bust which was considered as the most powerful symbol of Croatian culture and independence plights and Matica hrvatska will not succeed, either.

In respect of Matica’s explicit request that not a single one of its bricks can be built into that Croatian lighthouse in Eastern Croatia, we invite all the Petition signatories to contribute financially and in accordance with their capabilities, if they wish to do so, to Antun Gustav Matos Association (Društvu Antuna Gustava Matoša) to alleviate the hardship that the debt of 197.102,38 kuna presents (IBAN: HR7923400091110187281; SWIFT: PBZGHR2X).

At the same time, we call upon Matica hrvatska honourable membership to demand the revocation of millions of affairs burdening the leadership, described in detail in the Proposal for the initiation of an extraordinary procedure for assessing the legality of the work and responsibilities of the Secretary General of the Matica hrvatska Zorislav Lukić and assess the legality of the work of the “Matica hrvatska” association. We, the signatories of this Petition, demand from the once eminent Matica hrvatska, that immediately, due to the enormous material damage caused to the Committee for Construction of AG Matos House and the immeasurable damage to Croatian legitimate and legal cultural interests, suspends all the destructive proceedings which it has been mounting against Antun Gustav Matos Association, the owner of the AG Matos house and the carrier of its remarkably designed reconstruction and construction, for the past fifteen years.

We are determined to stand up against all the destroyers of Matos’s home, whether they are a part of Matica hrvatska or outside it, and say – While we exist, there will be Croatia!


Signatories to the Petition may be viewed via the Kamenjar portal.

Related newspaper article link/Hrvatski tjednik

Diplomatic Quarrels Surge As Refugee Influx Into Croatia Grows Unbearably

Dumped in "nowhere in the dark of night" by Serbia near Croatian border at Strosinci Marko Drobnjakovic / Keystone

Dumped in “nowhere in
the dark of night” by Serbia
near Croatian border at Strosinci
Marko Drobnjakovic / Keystone

According to Wall Street Journal (which is also the figure given by Croatian HRT TV news) 67,000 refugees and illegal migrants have come into Croatia over the past 10 days. Confusion, rather ugly and unnecessary recriminations and diplomatic spats between Serbia, Croatia and Hungary gripped the nations throughout the past week and Croatian authorities struggled to keep up with the massive influx, constant flow of refugees crossing from Serbia.

Croatia at first welcomed the migrants, thinking they would transit through to Slovenia, Austria and then Germany. But Slovenia refused to let the people pass, leaving Croatia responsible for tens of thousands of people. The government in Zagreb then accused Serbia of shunting the refugees into its territory and closed the border pass near Tovarnik which led to a standstill for the cargo trucks crossing into and out of Serbia. Hungary had shut itself from Serbia by building a high fence.

Most refugees reaching Croatia from Serbia were and are given temporary shelter in a recently built refugee reception centre in the village of Opatovac near the Serbian border, not far from Tovarnik. Then they are usually taken on buses and trains to three border crossings with Hungary.

Strosinci Croatia Saturday 26 September 2015

Strosinci Croatia
Saturday 26 September 2015

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said earlier this week his government would continue erecting fences on its borders with fellow European Union member states Romania and Croatia that are outside Europe’s document-free Schengen travel zone; they have already completed the fence between Hungary and Serbia, which in fact triggered the massive influx into Croatia.

Leaflet given to refugees while in Serbia. At a border crossing near Bapska, Croatia, volunteers distributed fliers telling refugees they were in Serbia and would get passage to Austria. Photo: Max J. Rosenthal

Leaflet given to refugees
while in Serbia.
At a border crossing near Bapska, Croatia,
volunteers distributed fliers
telling refugees they were in Serbia
and would get passage to Austria.
Photo: Max J. Rosenthal

Relations between Croatia and Serbia heated up to almost the 1990 level when Croatia announced it would secede from communist Yugoslavia and Serbia started “sharpening its knives to attack Croatia” in the event that Croatian people actually seceded from Yugoslavia. However, after an emergency meeting Friday (25 September 2015) night, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told Croatian state TV that Serbia will “absolutely” lift its embargo on Croatian goods. Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said he lifted the blockade, reopened the border crossings at Bajakovo and Tovarnik, but that he may reinstate the blockade again if Serbia keeps on busing migrants to the Croatian border instead of sending at least some of them up north to the border with Hungary. Croatian government believes that Serbia has reached a secret deal with Hungary over refugees and is deliberately sending them towards Croatia after Hungary sealed its borders in mid-September. And I personally wouldn’t put such a dirty trick past Serbia, either!

A child jumps over a ditch as people wait in order to clear a police line after entering Croatia from Serbia in Strosinci, Croatia, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. Conciliation replaced confrontation among European nations which have clashed over their response to a wave of migration, but confusion faced many asylum-seekers streaming into Croatia on Saturday in hopes of chasing a new future in Western Europe. Photo: MARKO DROBNJAKOVIC — AP Photo

A child jumps over a ditch
as people wait in order to
clear a police line after entering Croatia
from Serbia in Strosinci, Croatia,
Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015.
Conciliation replaced confrontation among
European nations which have clashed
over their response to a wave of migration,
but confusion faced many asylum-seekers
streaming into Croatia on Saturday
in hopes of chasing a new future
in Western Europe.

Cooperation replaced confrontation Saturday among European nations as thousands of asylum-seekers streamed into Croatia in hopes of creating a new future in Western Europe. At least 10,000 arrived on Friday alone, and Croatian authorities struggled to keep up with the influx of those fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Sent here from Belgrade, Serbia migrants found themselves not knowing where they were in the wilderness near Strosinci, Croatia Photo: REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

Sent here from Belgrade, Serbia
migrants found themselves
not knowing where they were
in the wilderness near Strosinci, Croatia
Photo: REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

At one tiny border crossing point, Croatian police said thousands were abandoned at a remote crossing after Serb authorities bused them to a point near the village of Strosinci and left.
Unclear where they were, the migrants tried to cross into Croatia, but got lost in the nearby cornfields. Croatian police found them, and called in buses to take the travelers to the nearby transit camp at Opatovac, but individual families were separated in the chaos.

This new crossing at Erdut through the village of Strosinci into Croatia from Serbia has emerged during the night between Friday 25 September and Saturday 26th. Serbia’s buses filled with refugees were driven to the nearby stretch of forests, fields throughout the night and refugees dumped there in the dark of the night to find their way across the fields and forests into Croatia. The refugees slept in the cold fields and were evacuated by Croatian authorities as it was feared that the heavy rainfall that occurred in the night might have dislodged the landmines in the forest still there from the war, left by Serbs, posing a real threat to refugees’ lives.

Escorted by Croatian police from forests and fields into Strosinci, Croatis Saturday 26 September 2015

Escorted by Croatian police
from forests and fields
into Strosinci, Croatis
Saturday 26 September 2015

In unusually blunt but perhaps necessarily decisive language, Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović had during the week criticised on Croatian Nova TV Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and just fell short of accusing Merkel of causing “chaos” in Europe.
Mrs Merkel called them, and now she’s pulled the handbrake by saying Germany cannot absorb all these economic migrants,” Grabar-Kitarovic told Croatian television.  “She makes out as if she wasn’t aware that pulling the handbrake when so many cars were on the road would cause chaos. This needs to be resolved now.”
As one would expect there were those who supported this commentary and opinion regarding Merkel’s actions in this refugee crisis expressed by Croatia’s president Grabar-Kitarovic and, of course, there were those who criticised Grabar-Kitarovic, saying she had insulted the German Chancellor. Croatia’s Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic was the first in Croatia to characterise President Grabar-Kitarovic’s assessment of Merkel’s actions as insulting to Merkel. But one wouldn’t expect much better from a Prime Minister who is struggling to keep afloat amid the shockingly damaging performance to the Croatian economy by his government in this per-elections period.

Angela Merkel and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic

Angela Merkel and
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic

The fact is that while Greece, Serbia, Hungary, Macedonia were splitting at the seams, paralysed in attempts to cope with the unbearably large numbers of refugees trying to reach the richer EU countries such as Germany, Sweden, Netherlands…Angela Markel kept encouraging the refugees on to take the perilous journey by saying they are all welcome in Germany! Indeed Merkel’s “calls” to the refugee had caused Hungary’s Victor Orban to express harsh words against Merkel and Germany this last week as well as before. Extraordinary scenes played out at an emergency European Union (EU) summit in Belgium on 23 September after the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, criticised Germany’s “invitation” to migrants and warned the crisis had only just began.

Viktor Orban

Viktor Orban

The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban then accused Germany of “moral imperialism”. French president Francois Hollande responded by telling Orban he should “respect European values” or leave while Slovakia reaffirmed its commitment to defy forced migration quotas.



The European Council president Donald Tusk in a thinly veiled attack on the German chancellor Angela Merkel said: “It is likely that more refugees will flow towards Europe. Especially as almost all of them feel invited to Europe,” referring to Merkel’s promise to offer asylum to any Syrian this August, no matter how many safe countries they pass through, and regardless of whether or not they come from a dangerous region.

Donald Tusk

Donald Tusk

The most urgent question we should ask ourselves tonight is how to regain control of our external borders… Otherwise it doesn’t make any sense to even speak about common migration policy. What is at stake is also the future of Schengen, the sense of order in Europe and the common European spirit.”
After “inviting” tens of millions of people into Europe last month, Germany was quickly overwhelmed, closed its boarder and on 22 September forced through a policy to resettle the migrants in other EU member states against their will. Viktor Orban directed his anger at Angela Merkel. “The most important thing is that there should be no moral imperialism … Hungary should have the right to control the impact of a mass migration. The Hungarian people don’t want this,” he said.
Orban followed with an unexpected threat, that unless other EU nations started controlling their borders, Hungary would set up a corridor “through which the refugees or migrants can go to Austria or Germany.”
France’s François Hollande told Mr Orban that if he did not like it, his country should leave the EU: “States that don’t respect European values should ask if they belong within the EU,” he said.
The Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico repeated his promise to break EU law and refuse to bow to the German “diktat,” by turning away the 800 migrants who will be sent to his nation. “Slovakia is not going to respect mandatory quotas,” he said.

Refugees entering Strosinci, Croatia, Satrurday 26 September 2015

Refugees entering Strosinci,
Croatia, Saturday 26 September 2015

While In New York, at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit since Friday 25 September the Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic told Croatian TV news that the Croatian decisions regarding any border closures would be made in collaboration with the EU, that Croatia must show solidarity and not enter into quarrels with the neighbours (as Prime Minister Milanovic has with Serbia and Hungary) and instead of closing border crossings she sought stricter controls at the border.
We need to keep the official border crossings open and close the corn fields, forests, farm fields where the refugees and migrants cross illegally,” Grabar-Kitarovic said to HRT TV news Saturday 26 September from New York. “So, everything we do needs to be done with cooperation and agreement with the EU and in compliance with that which has already been agreed upon – to protect the external borders, primarily between Turkey and Greece, and I would also continue insisting that Croatia receives assistance in controlling the border between Serbia and Croatia.”


Miro Cerar

Miro Cerar

Slovenia’s Prime Minister Miro Cerar said at the UN summit that his country “together with other European countries has intensified the activities in resolving the current migration crisis in Europe. The main principles of our action are based on humanity and solidarity but also security. We should pool our efforts in combating illegal migration and suppressing the trafficking of migrants and human beings.”
Let’s trust the coming weeks will bring more visible cooperation on the global level, steered by the UN, to help solve this EU refugee and illegal migrant crisis or at least bring some order in the movement of refugees, otherwise increased unrest on the streets of affected EU countries, calling for greater input by the people in decisions made, will be the likely scenario. Perhaps that is exactly what is needed as more and more we are faced with the politicians making decisions that seriously affect people’s lives without reference to the people. This crisis has the potential of triggering changes to the EU map, to UN’s global role and to reinvigorate the long-forgotten grass root role in the “Western” democratic processes and decisions generally. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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