The Miloradovics, Milidragovics, and Milidrags…
Where are they from and where are their descendants?
It is quite normal for all the people who have a common ancestor, and who care about their background and family names, to be aware and have some knowledge of their family history; to cherish it and pass it on to the generations to come; to know something about their own origins, about their ancestors and the homeland of those; to know where their ancestors lived and where they are buried, which place they moved to and where their relatives live today. For a man without ancestors is like a tree without roots. The more we know about our family and roots, the better we get to know ourselves.
The Milidragovics and Milidrags, who aren’t “trees without roots”, cannot boast that they have cherished their family history in order to be able to leave it to their children. Even the older ones don’t know much about their roots and ancestors, whilst the younger ones barely know who their grandfathers were. Our posterity will have an even poorer knowledge of this if we don’t do something to preserve it.
There are not many preserved testimonies about the Milidragovics and the Milidrags, but when it comes to their ancestors, the Miloradovics, who left Herzegovina, this is not the case; how far back can the family trace their roots, where have they originally lived and when have they settled in Vranjska, in Romanija, Ljeskov Dub, Sarajevsko Polje and other places; Where did they move to, how many of the family members still live and where; It is only known that they have lived in their homeland for many years, and that times came when they had to move apart and head to many different places. However, although there are not much written records left, we can take the oral storytelling of our ancestors as a source of information.
Based on oral storytelling, on written records and monuments of material culture, as well as other sources, I attempted to create a more complete record about us and our ancestors. Ivo Andric wrote the following about our homeland: “Herzegovina, especially the South and the South-eastern corner of the country, is generally inhabited by a good sort of people. It is a country with a lot of stones and a little of everything else, but the few crops that grow there are nutritious and noble, while the water and the air in those regions generate healthy and reasonable people”.
As the old Latin proverb says, ” Verba volant, skripta manet” which means “spoken words fly away, written words remain”.
As a medieval nobility in Stolačke Dubrave and in Hrasno, in the time of the Bosnian kings, the Miloradovics owned large land holdings, numerous cattle and had their serfs. After the arrival of the Turks in 1482. they held on their Christian religion and stayed on their land, while retaining many of their rights with the sultan’s approval. They were allowed to keep calling themselves dukes, to ride horses, carry weapons and not to pay the haratch. According to some sources, the sultan Mehmed Fatih granted Milisav Miloradović the title of sipahi, six houses, serfs and the permission for him and his family to build endowments. In return, they were required to carry out military service. As aristocrats, they built their endowments.
Stjepan, an aristocrat from Popovo Polje, is referred to as the founder of this family on a document he signed, concerning a dispute with the people of Dubrovnik, that was sent to the Austrian emperor in 1604.
He had three sons: Petar, Radoje and Vukić. Petar was succeeded by Radoslav, and Radoslav by Radoje. They built the monastery Žitomislić and churches in Ošanići, Trijebanj and Klepci.
After World War II, all of those edifices (Christian places of worship) were declared national monuments under the decision of the Commission for the preservation of monuments in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Many historians wrote about the Miloradovics: Nikifor Dučić, Vladimir Ćorović, Savo Skarić, Bogumil Hrabar, Nedim Filipović, Jevto Dedijer, Marko Vego, Milenko Filipović, Vojislav Bogićević, Ljubinka Kojić and others.
The Miloradovics owned large estates including vineyards, pasturelands and forests, in the region of Stolacke Dubrave (in Crnići, Dubrave, Trijebanj, Žitomislić, Dračevo, Svitava, Gabela).
Since they were cattlemen themselves, they also owned large pasturelands (summer pastures and pens) in Sitnička and its surroundings, where they used to bring their livestock over summer.
It is therefore believed that they were also connected to Vranjska, which is compatible with Jevto Dedijer’s statements in his book “Herzegovina” (p. 79), who did research about the roots of the Herzegovinian families and had extensive knowledge about that topic.
Milislav built the monastery Sv. Blagovještenje (Holy Annunciation) in Žitomislić and was buried in it. In his book “The Count Sava Vladislavić” ( 1924’s edition, p. 35), Jovan Dučić states that “the sipahi Milisav personally went to Constantinople to obtain a firman from the sultan for the construction of the monastery on the foundations of an old church from the Nemanjić era”. In the aforementioned book, Vladimir Ćorović states that the sultan Mehmed II granted the Miloradovic family “six houses in the village Žitomislić” (p. 64). In some documents written in turkish, the duke Miloš is mentioned as the father of the three brothers Miloradović.
After 1566, Milislav is frequently mentioned as the benefactor and protector of the monastery Žitomislić. He is no longer referred to as a duke, but as a sipahi (landowner). His successors carried the same title, which indicates that the social conditions in Bosnia and Herzegovina had changed with the arrival of the Turks. In the monastery’s memorial book from 1618/19, along with Petar and Radoje, we find the following names: Ivan, Đuro, Vukašin, Nikola, Stojan, Damjan, Milos and others, as well as eleven female names from the Miloradović family. In a document written later, in 1648, in addition to the names mentioned above, we come across the names Rajo, Stojan and Vuk. Subsequently, it becomes impossible to track the family history in continuity, given that some of their members moved to foreign countries, changed their name or converted to Islam.
The Žitomislić monastery was built near the same named village, on the left bank of the Neretva river, where its gorge widened out into a fertile valley, which was the location of the St. Nicholas Church from the Nemanjić era. The monastery was a significant spiritual and cultural center where the Herzegovinian Serbs used to gather. At the beginning of World War II, a large fire was set by the Ustashe in the monastery, that destroyed the library, a museum and a treasury, but, coincidentally, the monastery and some exhibits remained undamaged. The most beautiful Serbian carving work from the 17 century, “Church doors”, was kept in the monastery. Because of its old age, the monastery is one of the most important cultural monuments in which one could recognize many different influences that affected our national history, architecture and visual arts. The monastery was restored in 1967. However, in the civil war 1992-95 the monastery was razed to the ground by the Croatian army. That was the greatest misfortune that struck the monastery in its half a millenium long history. Only a pile of stones remained of it. With the destruction of the monastery, a large collection of icons and other works of great cultural value disappeared, but a part of the collection and some valuables were removed fom the monastery before its destruction, and therefore preserved.
Ten years after its destruction, the monastery was restored and rebuilt on the initiative of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Banja Luka, and the authorities in Sarajevo. In the last few years, a monastic brotherhood including three monks resides in it. When the war broke out in 1992, fleeing from the shells that ravaged Žitomislić, the monastic sisterhood first sought shelter in the monasteries Dobrićevo, near Bileća, and Tvrdoš near Trebinje. They found it in Domir near Ub, where one of the oldest churches (built in the 7th century) in the western part of Serbia is located. The priest Matija Nenadović and other famous nation and church leaders received their education in that church. Upon arrival in Dokmir, the diligent nuns from Žitomislić cleaned up the weeds covering fertile fields as large as several hectares. They turned those fields into an arable land where they began to grow fruits and cereals. Supported by the Serbian government and other donors, they built a modern residence, bought cattle and sheep and created appropriate living conditions, in an effort to turn Dokmir into a new Žitomislić.
Among the Miloradovics who moved to Russia, Mihailo, a Russian general, gained fame for his military skills and courage. He studied at the universities of Königsberg, Göttingen and Strasbourg. He participated in the Italian and Swiss military campaign, under Suvorov’s command. In the Russian-Turkish war, the Danube division under his command occupied Bucharest on the 25th of December 1806, where he met with Karađorđe’s delegates. In the battle against Napoleon in 1812, he occupied important command positions next to Kutuzov, and also played a significant role in the battles at Borodino. He also gained recognition in several battles during the Russo-Turkish war 1806-1812, which propelled him to the position of governor-general of Saint Petersburg, where he was mortally wounded in the Decembrist Uprising of 1825. The inscription on his gravestone says: “Here lie the ashes of the Russian general and Knight of all European countries, the Count Mikhail Miloradović”. Further information about him is to be found in the Museum “Battle of Borodino” in Moscow. Tolstoj mentions him in his novel “War and Peace”, as a “Knight without blemish and without fear” (p. 183, volume IV). In Russia, he is particularly remembered as a hero in the war against Napoleon and the French army. A street in the center of Moscow bears the name “Miloradovij pereulok”. Since he didn’t have children, his title of Count couldn’t be passed on to the next generation. However, the Emperor Alexander’s decree on the 13th of March 1873 allowed a descendent of his uncle Petar, Georgije, to carry the Count’s title to “perpetuate the memory of the General”.
After the death of his son Alexander in 1952, the family, whose members were granted Counts titles in Imperial Russia, was extinguished.
More written evidence about the Miloradovics is to be found in Russia.
Many books, studies and presentations are written about them. Among others: “The Miloradovics as defenders of Russia during 200 years”, “Anegdotes from the lives of the Miloradovics”, studies on the military units under their command, studies on places in which they ruled as governors, records about individual members of the Miloradovics family etc. The count and general-major Grigorije also wrote about the Miloradovics and their life in Russia in his travelogue published 1890. Travelling through Zadar, Opuzen and Metković, he visited the village Žitomislić in 1883 and placed a metal commemorative plaque with an inscription in Russian on the monastery, his ancestor’s legacy. On that occasion, the “Serbian paper” in Zadar published the following article: “This morning, after a brief visit to Zadar, the Count Grigorije Miloradović, General and member of the Russian Emperor’s council, went to Herzegovina. The Count is of Serbian descent from Herzegovina that emigrated to Russia. He went to visit the monastery Žitomislić near Mostar, founded in the XVI century by one of his ancestors. Letters about this old Serbian family are kept in the monastery, and in the monastery church, one can see a portrait of the founder…”.
The church in Ošanići was built around 1500. Radoslav was buried under a stone slab near the church. The church, dedicated to St Peter and Paul, has been devastated several times. However, the royal doors carved in wood, as well as several wooden icons of timeless beauty were preserved. Next to the church, we find large stone chairs on which the Miloradovics used to sit as judges who were to punish their disobediant subjects. Some think that the village Stolac got its name after those 2,5 meters high chairs (“sto” meaning “table” in Serbian). One of them bears the inscription “Count Stepan’s table”, that was “restored by his son Petar”. Their names are also written on a medieval tombstone in the Radimnja cemetery. This medieval cemetery, the largest and most beautiful in Herzegovina (133 tombstones, 63 of which are decorated) and the complex of churches in Ošanići also belonged to the Miloradovics. That was confirmed by the inscriptions of five tombstones. On one of them, among others, the following words are written: “The good Radoje and Duke Petar”. Marko Vego place this inscription between 1480. and 1488. The historians Fohn V. A Fine and Robert Donia state that “Radimnja was the family cemetery of the Orthodox clan Miloradovic” (“Bosna and Herzegovina – the Tradition they betrayed”, Sarajevo, 1995, p. 21).
The church on Trijebanj, dedicated to St Nicholas, was restored by Radoje, who is referred to in 1521 as the “Duke of the Lower Vlachs”. This church is one of the most famous cultural and historical monuments of the old Herzegovina. The founder’s portrait and a record written by the Count Radoje are still kept in it, along with a list of people who renovated the church later in history, Sima Milićević (1707) and Simat Gavrilović (1857). A valuable biography written in the 16th century was preserved in the church, along with frescoes and a portrait of Milisav, “whose face is sad, and whose eyes, filled with concern, beg the future visitors of the church to preserve it as a legacy”. The churche’s murals were restored by the painter Branko Šotra on the eve of World War II (Šotra was a political commissar of the Partisan Batalion in Vranje 1942, and he became Rector of the Belgrade Academy of Arts after the liberation).
The church was destroyed during the last war, in 1992.
The new social conditions, the increasing pressure and frequent disputes with the Ottoman authorities led to an organized resistance of the Miloradovics against the Turks. As a result, members of the Miloradovic family began to emigrate in the mid-17th century. Some of them moved to Russia, believing that it was a country where one could attain safety, power and wealth. At the end of the 17th century, Ilija moved to Russia with his three sons, Mihailo, Gavrilo and Alexander. These are the ancestors of three lines of the Miloradovic family in Russia. Another family line, before moving to Russia, lived in the Habsburg Monarchy (Jeronim and Moses). One of Ilija’s descendants was a Serbian colonel and a Russian diplomat in Montenegro. In 1711, during the Russo-Turskih war, as a delegate of the Russian Emperor Peter the Great, he went to Cetinje and on Vidovdan, along with the Bishop Danilo, founder of the Petrović dynasty, he issued a Proclamation of Rebellion against the Turks in Montenegro. In his letter, the Russian emperor encouraged the Montenegrins to rise against the Turks and chase them back to their homeland, Arabia. However, after tough battles near Onogošt (Nikšić), where many Montenegrins died, he returned to Russia in 1712. His son, and later his grandchildren, were engaged in the Russian military service. Mihailo’s son, the General Andrej, was governor of Ukraine, and later Count-general Mihailo and Commander of the Russian Danube Army; General of the Russian Army Petar; Colonel Aleksandar, Commander of the Russian volunteer brigade in the Serbian-Turkish war in 1876; Leonid, governor; Nikolaj, state councilor; Vasilije, judge and ethnographer; Rodion, journalist and satirist; Vladimir, deputy of the State duma, Boris, Serafin and many other whose names are listed between the 16th and the end of the 20th century, as stated on the free Encyclopedia Wikipedia. They practiced different professions, but most of them worked in the military service as generals, colonels and other high-ranking officers of the Russian army. At the time of the Empress Catherine II, following a decree of the Senate in 1776, the Miloradovics acquired nobility and a family crest.
The crest, registered in Russia, depicts a Herzegovinian and a Montenegrin man as the family’s protectors, as stated by Dragomir Acović in the study “Heraldry and the Serbs” (p.434).
The existing records indicate that many of the Miloradovics who left their homeland as Herzegovinian aristocrats and Ottoman landowners, became Russian counts, generals and governors.
The portrait of one member of the Miloradović family, wearing a wig, shiny armor and many medals, was preserved in the monastery Žitomislić.
More written evidence about the Miloradovics is to be found in Russia.
Many books, studies and presentations are written about them. Among others: “The Miloradovics as defenders of Russia during 200 years”, “Anegdotes from the lives of the Miloradovics”, “Study on the Miloradović clan”, studies on the military units under their command, on places in which they ruled as governors, as well as many records written about them as prominent personalities. Among the Miloradovics that emigrated to Austria, Jeronim of Dubrave gained recognition as an Austrian officer in the battle against the Turks in the second half of the 18th century.
The connections between the members of the Miloradović family who moved to Russia, and their relatives who stayed in Herzegovina, got broken. The ones who remained in Herzegovina were common people, peasants deprived of their rights. During the wars, they first fought on the Turkish, later on the Austrian side.
Because of the reputation of family members who turned their back on Turkish authorities and went to Russia, the Miloradovics in Herzegovina couldn’t keep their former name. They had to opt for another name, usually deriving from the names or nicknames of their ancestors. The Stjepanovics were named after Stjepan, the Kuzmanovićs after Kuzman, the Avramovićs after Avram. The Ljoljićs were probably named after an ancestor’s nickname.
As the last names of the tribe Hrabreni (The Braves) – Hrabrenović, Miloradović, Milidragović and Milidrag – were alternately used, and their members left the Dubrave plateau to move towards the South-East, there was no need for the Milidragovićs to change their name.
They kept their last name and were proud of it, because it was well-known. According to storytellers, the Milidragovics were named after Milidrag, whose mother lulled him to sleep singing the words “sleep tight, my dear and lovely child” (Mili – dear, drag – lovely in Serbian).
THE MILIDRAGOVICS FROM VRANJSKA
About their homeland
The Milidragovics, Milidrags and others who descend from a common ancester, have their roots in Vranjska. Vranjska is located in Eastern Herzegovina, on the Sitnička Plateau (700-950 m/altitude), on the border of the municipalities Bileća, Stolac and Ljubinje. It is located 20 kilometers towards the north-west of Bileća. The region around Sitnica is characterized by its remote location and mountains. It is located between the mountains Rudine and Humnine, that graduatelly fall towards the Adriatic sea. (Rudine are in the eastern part of Herzegovina, above Trebinje, and extends accross Bileća and Plana to Kobilja glava, southern of Gacka). Humnine is the common name that designates the lower regions of Western Herzegovina, below 300 m, “a warm temperate area where it doesn’t snow in winter and where vineyards are grown”.
Vranjska and its surrounding area are characterized by numerous hills that couldn’t be described as mountains, except for Sitnica, a 1419 meter high mountain. It’s a rocky Mediterranean region with relatively harsh winters, early, warm springs, fresh summers and sunny autumns. It’s an area of stone houses and numerous monuments, the homeland of rebels and heroes in the battle for freedom. It’s the place where our literary language emerged, the land of gusle (traditional single-stringed instrument), the home of patriots who love their nation and respect the other ones.
Vranjska is a large valley that extends towards the south-west and the north-east. On the southwest side, under the Sitnica mountain, the edges are steep, while the piece of land on the opposite side gradually descends. The surroundings are covered with rocks and woods, but some land in the area is arable.
The road along the Vranjska bay used to be an ordinary horse trail. Meanwhile, it has been turned into a road that connects Bileća and Ljubinje, passing through many villages and hamlets. The local population spend most of their lives along this road. Several hiking trails intersect with the hills, connecting Vranjska to the neigbouring villages.
The whole area is arid, therefore the population collects rainwater in cisterns that they use as a drinking water supply source,. In the center of Vranjska, there is a source of water that never dries up. When the summer is dry, people bring their livestock to Ponikva, in Dabarsko polje, an hour and a half walk away from Vranjska. No one knows why the area was named Vranje, neither do we know how the places Divin, Kubaš, Bitunja and others got their names. Vranjska (the place of crows) is an unusual name, perhaps inspired by the flocks of crows inhabiting the area. However, we do know how some other villages and hamlets nearby got their names. The hamlet Jasenje was named after the ash tree (“jasen” in Serbian), that is widespread in the area, as it is the case for the village Orah (Walnut) south of Bileća. The village Prisoje, near Vranjska, was given this name because of its exposure to the sun, and Oblo Brdo (Round Hill) because of its location on a round-shaped hill.
It is not known at what time the villages in Vranjske emerged. It is believed that they were built in the Turkish era. It is assumed that some villages in that part of Herzegovina emerged on former pasturelands, where our ancestor used to bring their cattle all the way from Stolacke Dubrave. In Vranjska and its surroundings, there are many material culture remains: tombstones from previous centuries and numerous burial mounds. The mounds of various sizes are located on hills and mountains. The largest are the ones in Velika Gradina and Mala Gradina, as well as the ones on the Trenslova plateau. According to studies carried out by experts, the Illyrians used to bury the dead here, which is how the mounds were formed. After burying them, they piled stones on those hills, creating mounds with diameters of several meters.
Scientific tests have shown that the deceased were burnt in those places. Some weapon, usually spears, and somewhat rarely swords, daggers and two-bladed axes, buried next to the deceased people, have been excavated in this area (Vladimir Ćorović, “Bosnia and Herzegovina”, Belgrade, 1925, p. 17-18). In addition to that, a bunch of silver coins were found in Vranjska in 1901, dating from the second half of the XIV century, forged during the reign of the ban Tvrtko I of Bosnia. 203 pieces of coins were excavated (dinars), of which 19 belonged to ban Tvrtko, while the rest of them were dinars from the Republic of Ragusa that circulated around that time. Both had the same value, which indicates that there was a developed market in the area, and that Vranjska was open to trade with Bosnia and Dubrovnik. At that time, Dubrovnik was a window to the world. (“The Bosnian Fairy”, 1/95, p. 11).
According to the archives of the Eparchy of Zahumlje and Herzegovina, there were 206 homes and 1729 residents in Vranjska at that time.
In more recent history, Vranjska is mentioned in connexion with the Herzegovinian uprising from 1875 to 1878. It’s the place where, on the initiative of the Duke Mića Ljubobradović, the Great People’s Assembly was supposed to be held, that would determine the direction of the uprising in Bosnia and Herzegovina, elect an interim government led by a hero from Vojvodina, Svetozar Miletić, adopt a provisional constitution ,execute a mobilisation and send the muslim Serbs in battles against the Turks. In a proclamation written on that occasion, it is said: “Rise, agas and beys, let us chase the Ottomans away, rise up brothers, let us cooperate and be united like in the kolo dance”. (Milorad Ekmečić, “The Creation of Yugoslavia 1790-1918”, Volume II, p. 294). However, we don’t know for sure whether this Assembly was held in Vranjska, or in the Kosijerevo monastery near Bileća.
In more recent history, especially during the Uprising against the Germans and Italians, many events are related to Vranjska. A huge exodus took place when several thousand Serbs left Western Herzegovina, fleeing from the slaughters effected by the Ustashi.
Vranjska was the seat of the Batallion of Sitnica, of the new government authorities and other war establishments. The following song originates from that time:
“Two superpowers started a war,
the small Vranjska fights against Italy.
The Italians throw bombs on our Vranjska.
Thanks to the Lord, they cannot harm us,
for Vranjska is tougher than the whole of Italy”.
The writers of publications dedicated to Herzegovina during World War II, couldn’t ignore Vranjska. Although one can see Dalmatia and the Adriatic sea from the surrounding hills, Vranjska was isolated from coastal influences. Vranjska is also quite far away from the roads that connect Stolać-Bileća-Trebinje and Stolac-Ljubinje-Trebinje. The local population travelled to the neighbouring places and back to Vranjska by following footpaths. They travelled on foot or on horseback. Cargo (food, fuel) was carried by horses or people. Life without horses would have been inimaginable. It was only after 1960 that Vranjska became connected with Bileća and Ljubinje through a macadam road. Since then, that distance can be traveled much more quickly than the original five or six hours needed. Later, Vranjska was provided with electricity.
There are many villages and settlements in the Vranjska bay. In some places, several settlements constitute a village. For instance, the village Srednje Selo is made of the hamlets Drijenak, Prisoje and Podosoje. The hamlets Rugojevina, Rupe and Krstače constitute the village of Simijeva. However, all the villages in the bay are collectively named Vranjska. From the southeast to the west, those are: Simijeva, Todorići, Ostrvica, Gornje Selo, Srednje Selo, Jasenje, Dlakoši, Mileča and Oblo Brdo. No matter which one of those villages the people come from, they consider themselves as inhabitants of Vranjska. Most of the villages are scattered and far from each other. The houses are bunched together into neighborhoods, but they are not next to each other. They were built separately, on different pieces of land.
The houses are made of stones, lime mortar and sand. They usually have only one, or two floors. The ground floor is used as a basement. The houses used to be covered with rye straw or stone plaques, which have recently been replaced by tiles. Many houses had only one room, which was a bedroom and a living room at the same time. The windows were small and rather looked like loopholes. The houses built somewhat later had two rooms. One was the living room with a fireplace, the other was used as a bedroom. Under the roof, in the attic, meat was dried and grains were kept in baskets or barns. Cattle buildings, constructed for horses, cattle, lambs and goats, were next to the houses. They were usually made of dry stone and covered with straw. Larger households owned two or three houses, but all the members lived in community and ate together. Several descendants of a common ancestor lived in those communities (family cooperatives). The community host was recognized for his age and reputation. He was in charge of the house, the estate and the finances and he distributed the household tasks. When he grows old, his role is taken by his brother, son or nephew. Such communities have disintegrated and been replaced by families composed of a married couple with children. Men were good hosts. Their houses were neither empty, nor filled with guests. They were tall, clever men with a warrior spirit. They were lean and tough, with hardened hands. Those strong men could be stubborn at times and were very independant. They acted like heroes, had disheveled hear and looked somewhat wild. The women were hard-working, very persistent, committed to their families and household tasks. They looked older than their age. Hard work and a strenuous life left their traces on them. They worked without a break from dawn till dusk, taking over both female and male tasks. They spend their best years bearing and raising children. They treat men with respect, as it is usual in this area. Those women are healthy, robust and a bit impudent.
People wore traditional, national clothes. All of the clothes and shoes were homemade. Little was purchased, except for cotton fabrics. Men wore coats and pants (“Rajtozne”) made of homespun yarn, and cotton shirts and underwear. They used the wool from domestic sheep to knit and weave all kinds of socks and footwear. They wore the traditional, light “opanci” (peasant shoes), made out of leather or rubber. On their heads, they had wether the montenegrin cap (zavrata), or the classical one (mica). Women wore linen skirts and blouses and decorated belts. Footwear was the same for both men and women. Women wore a wite headscarf. After 1945, various types of clothes were worn. Some continued wearing the traditional peasant costume, other opted for military clothing or the clothes they got from humanitaran aid workers. Later, both men and women, especially youngsters, dressed as townfolks. At home, they had a specific way of life. Beds, tables and chairs with high legs were rare. They usually slept on pallets, on the floor. In every home with daughters, they were collecting marriage attires in chests. Cutlery was often wooden. Everything was homemade, except for the iron plate for bread baking, the metal tools and a few other items that were purchased.
The feudal system, introduced during the Ottoman reign, have remained for a long time in this area. On the aga’s lands, Serbs were serfs. The sultan gave the agas lands – not as their property, but for them to spend quality and relaxing time on them. The serfs (Orthodox Serbs) had the so-called “serf’s right”. It consisted of the right to inherit the land, and the duty to work the soil. In return, the serfs earned most of the income, and had to give to the aga a “hak” (income in kind), that was worth a third or a quarter of the revenue. The situation didn’t significantly change with the rise of the Austro-hungarian empire. “The old and worn saddle was just replaced by a new one”, as Petar Kočić wrote. Even in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, that carried out a land reform, the farmer’s position hadn’t changed much. The former “haratch” (Turkish tribute) and “kuluk” (forced labour) were replaced by taxes and surtaxes, under whose burden the peasant’s back kept swaying. A huge gap separated the wealthy from the majority of poor people.
The local population of Vranjska had a small surface of arable land, mostly dry and thin. The pieces of land that could be ploughed were scattered around the villages and on the hills. Every second or third year, the drought led to poor harvests. Not only humans, but also cattle worked the soil. Some farmers used oxen to plow their fields. The treshing was often done by horses, that continuously ran in circles and managed to beat out grains from ears with their hooves. People had to make up for the lack of appropriate tools by working hard from dawn till dusk. They used to wake up very early in the morning and go to bed late at night. From one generation to the next, large land estate became smaller, they were divided and given away to numerous sons. Due to climatic conditions, lowland plants couldn’t grow there. Although the land was suitable for tobacco, local people didn’t grow it much. They grew vegetables like potatoes, cabbage, beets etc, and cereals like rye, barley, oats and spring wheat. Livestock had an important role in the local economy. People bred sheep, goats, pigs and cattle. They mainly lived out of farming and animal husbandry. To have enough bread wheat was the main concern of every family. Bread, soup, dairy products and meat were essential.
Vranjska administratively belonged to the county of Bileća, that was divided into municipalities. Between two world wars, it belonged to the municipality Divin. At some point during World War II, there was a separated municipality of Sitnička based in Vranjska. After that, a local national committee was formed and in 1952 was again part of the municipality of Divin. Since 1955 the districts have been renamed in municipalities, so that small municipalities like Divin were abolished. Since then, Vranjska is a part of the municipality of Bileća, located in the same place as the former, same-named district.
ROOTS – WHO ARE THEIR ANCESTORS
The Miloradovićs descend from an old Herzegovinian aristocratic family, the Rabrena-Miloradović family. The privileged members of that family left Herzegovina and adopted Russia as their homeland. The ones who remained in Herzegovina as subjects of the Turks found themselves in a difficult position. In order to preserve their faith and traditions, some of them went to monasteries. They didn’t find refuge only in Žitomislić, but also in other Orthodox monasteries. It is possible to retrace part of the lives of the literate family members, who left written records behind, while most of the others remained anonymous. Jovan was the protector of the monastery Holy Trinity near Pljevalj, Avram was in charge of the monastery in Zavala, while some other family members lived in the monastery Savina in Herceg Novi. The last monk descending from Kuzman, Spiridon Kuzmanović, fled to Dalmatia in 1788, to the monastery of Krk. There he was renowned for his activities. He bequeathed his manuscripts, translations and a large library to the monastery, as it is confirmed by monk Serafim Šolaja in his monograph about Žitomislić.
Their ancestry is unknown, as it is the case for their ancestors who emigrated to Russia. This could be explained by the fact that, remaining under the Turkish reign, they were deprived of their rights. They were serfs bound to their lands, unlike their relatives in Russia who became counts, high-ranking officers and renowned personalities. Besides that, literacy was not developed among the ones who stayed in Herzegovina, and it was therefore impossible for them to leave written testimonies behind. Since they were common people with no social influence whatsoever, others didn’t write anything about them either. As Plebeians, they were invisible. Nobody wrote about people without titles or famous last names. History is not interested in such people. Just a few records were preserved about the Milidragovics and other descendants from the Miloradovics who remained in Herzegovina. In the monograph “Popovo Polje” (published 1959), the authors Milenko Filipović and Ljubo Mićević state that the families Đodan and Rosić from Dvrsnica and Dodanovići, ( 11 houses in Popovo Polje), are descendants from the Milidragovics that lived in the area of Ljubomir. The Đodans allegedly first lived near Ivanjica, above Dubrovnik, then in Dvrsnica, and moved to Dodanoviće in 1880. When the plague raged in Dvrsnica, (1856, “80 boys and girls died”), they all fled, but some of them came back. Nikola Rosić also fled and settled near Stolac. In addition, some Milidragovics are mentioned as natives of Ljeskovo Polje that celebrates the patron St George (p. 76 and 176). Jevto Dedijer also mentions the Milidragovics in his anthropogeographical study “Herzegovina!”. Besides the Milidragovics in Vranjska, (p 186-187), he also mentions a house of the Milidragovics in Počitelj. Dedijer state that one of them “came from Vranjska to stay over the winter, but he stayed until the St George celebration” (p 252).
Besides the ones belonging to the diaspora, some members of the Milidragovic family live on the mountain Romanija and in the village of Rudine. They celebrate the St George’s “slava” and are probably related to the Milidragovic fraternity from Vranjska as descendants from the same ancestor.
The Milidrags can be found in several places in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Pero Milidrag used to live in Polje, between Kalinovik and Konjic. He had two sons, Pera and Jov. Their descendants live in Kalinovic and Foča. They celebrate St George and originate from Vranjska, but the time of their arrival in those villages is unknown. It was probably at the time when the Milidragovics moved to the village Rudine, on the Romanija mountain. Some members of the Milidrag family live in Ljeskovo Polje, between Gacko and Nevesinje. Quite a few Milidrags were to be found in Ilidza and its surroundings. It is estimated that they moved there from Herzegovina 200 years ago. They lived in the current center of the Ilidza municipality, that belongs to Sarajevo. They celebrate St Nicholas and are close relatives to the Milidrags in Ljeskov Dub. (Families who celebrate the same saint are considered to be members of the same fraternity). Many members of the Milidrag family that moved from Kalinovik settled in Sarajevo and Sarajevsko Polje. 62 Milidrags who owned phones were registered in the Sarajevo phonebook 1989/1990. There were probably more of them who didn’t have a phone. Since the end of the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there are almost no Milidragovics and Milidrags left in Sarajevo. Since 1992, 150.000 Serbs have left this city, among them a large number of our relatives that dispersed around the world. Besides their common last name, the Milidragovics from Vranjska also have additional last names or nicknames. The ones from Jasenje are named Šibalić, the ones from Dlakoše Knežević, and the ones in Oblo Brdo Šanjević and Filipović. Their additional surnames have different origins. The Šibalićis (“the ones who wip”), got their nickname after their ancestors Trifko and Ćetko, who were aristocrats. As a chieftain in Vranjska, according to the stories, Ćetko used to whip the disobedient subjects, which earned him the nickname “Šibalija” (“The one who whips”), and his descendants were nicknamed Šibalić. An anecdote about the Šibalićs says that “Everyone in Vranjska feared Šibalija, and Šibalija feared only the Alapić” (Alapić was the nickname of a member of the Samardžić family in Jasenje. It is not known why Šibalija feared that poor man without power and prestige). The kneževićs in Dlakoše got their additional surname after ancestors Sima and Panta, who were princes (“knez” meaning “prince” in Serbian). The Pilipovićs in Oblo Brdo got their nickname after Pilip (a version of Filip). In this case, the suffix -ić was added to the father’s given name, so that the descendant Pilipov was nicknamed Pilipović. The Šanjevićs were also nicknamed after an ancestor, who allegedly limped on one leg and was therefore called “Šanjo”.
The nicknames in Herzegovina emerged from different life situations – in some cases they were created out of good intentions, friendly relations and respect. In other cases, they resulted from sarcasm, mockery and tense relations. Some nicknames are catchy, some other repulsive, depending on the context they emerged from. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish nicknames from last names. Such is the case with the Milidragovics who have been nicknamed Šibalić. In Herzegovina, people are often known by their nicknames as much as by their surnames. Otherwise, the surnames originating from a common ancestor are different. In Herzegovina, some of them are poetic and pleasing to the ear (Ljubibratić, Milidragović, Lepojević). On the other hand, some surnames sound harsh (Hrnjez, Barbarez, Popara) or even crude (Guzina, Pičeta, Derikučka). Some surnames emerged from nicknames. Such is the life on whose ground and source personal names and surnames were created. The Milidragovics have a longer family tradition. There has always been prominent people, princes and military leaders in national uprisings among them; participants in important meetings, where decisions on state and social affairs were made; writers and highly educated people; Eldery who enjoyed everyone’s respect, that were in a position to reconcile quarreling parties and to determine which ones of them were right; hard-working farmers and good craftsmen, whose rough hands expertly crafted many items from stone, wood and iron; women who showed great talent for knitting. In the Milidragovics homes, books were read, Gusle were played and heroic folk poems were sang. The Milidragovics cherished their historic tradition. They enjoyed the gusle (traditional single-stringed instrument) and heroic narratives far more than gossiping about what happened on the city markets. They respected more the honest than the rich people, but also envied the ones who didn’t know about hart peasant labor. Sons were named Miloš, Marko, Dušan, Lazar…All in praise of the Serbian heroes and rulers. They weren’t light-minded and hasty. They had common-sense and were usually extroverts. The old Herzegovinian proverb was true for many of them: “heroic blood and a girl’s soul”. They had a strong sense of kinship to their relatives. They were proud of their roots, which filled them with satisfaction. That doesn’t mean that there were no spendthrift, drinkers and dishonest people among them.
The Milidragovićs have a developed interest in social issues and political life. It’s in their tradition. That’s the field in which they are involved, and in which they stand out. Simo and Panto from Dlakoše were princes and renowned personalities. Among those in Jasenje, Trifko was a chieftain in his village. His son Ćetko was also a ruler and a commander in the Herzegovinian uprising, which was confirmed in several written sources (“Herzegovina 1875-1878” (p. 19)), “The rifle from Nevesinje, 1875-1878” (p. 174), “Bosnia and Herzegovina in Russian written records, 1856-1878” where one can read that, according to the rapport of the Russian colonel and correspondent of the newspaper “Russian peace”, P.A Monteverde, “Near the fortress of Presjek, the squads were waiting for the Turks under the command of Sočica, Vukalović, Zimonić, Milićević, Mićunović, Šibalija, Ćerović and the priest Pera Radović” (p. 510). The uprising was carried out to overthrow the Ottoman rulers and to reunite Herzegovina with Montenegro, but the Berlin congress and the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Austro-Hungarian empire ruined those plans.
In the Montenegrin-Herzegovinian uprising and in the Battle of Vučji Do, more than 4000 Turks were killed or wounded, and Nikola Milidragović died. Mihajlo was a member of the revolutionary movement “Mlada Bosna” (Young Bosnia), that organized the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914. Milan, Ćetkos grandson, was also a ruler and a renowned mayor in the first Yugoslavia. He organized the national uprising in 1941 and, just like his grandfather, he participated in several important battles that were fought against the occupying forces from 1941-1945. In a battle in march 1942, on the road that connects Stolac and Ljubinje, the Partisants battalion of Sitnica under his command attacked the German motorized division and 92 German soldiers and officers were killed, wounded or captured. On that occasion, the following song was sung in rebel-Herzegovina:
“Comrade Petar, you may be proud of yourself
And of your thousand soldiers,
May history glorify you,
Sitnica beat the Germans,
In the small village of Badrljače,
While Berlin is crying and lamenting”
Petar was commander of a Herzegovinian military region, when Herzegovina was finally liberated in 1945. And dr. Vojislav Kecmanović – Đedo, president of the State Anti-fascist Council for the National Liberation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in his “Notes from the war days” (p. 34-35), refers to him as to the councilor of the first session of the State Anti-Fascist Council, and of the second session of the Anti-Fascist Council for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia. In the book “Five years of national state”, published in Belgrade in 1948, we can find his photograph as a delegate of the Anti-Fascist Council for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia from Bileća.
The Milidragovics who participated in the National Liberation War of 1941-1945 (18 of them from Vranjska, Zabukvica and Kosovo) became officers (ranked from lieutenants to colonels). The ones who survived came back from the war wounded and highly decorated. In 1948/49, some of them were sentenced due to their political views: Petar was sentenced to 16 years in prison, half of which he served on Goli Otok and other infamous prisons, and the brothers Milan and Vlado were imposed shorter sentences. Milan died on Goli Otok, the Island of death and Yugoslavia’s biggest shame in the XX century. It was a dark chapter in our history, a time when people could easily be branded “traitors” and die because of some words or temporal uncertainty in their positions, but also because of their fanatic commitment to Russia.
Out of many villages and settlements in Vranjska, the Milidragovics live in three – Jasenje, Dlakoši and Oblo Brdo. Jasenje is located lower, and Dlakoši and Oblo Brdo on a slightly higher altitude. Not only the Milidragovics live here, but also others. Up to 1941, Jasenje was the home of the Milidragovics (9 houses), Prodans (2 houses), Samardžićs and Vujovićs (one house each). In Dlakoše, besides the Milidragovićs (5 houses), of which one was a big family cooperative, lived the Vujovićs, Vasiljevićs, Gavrilovićs and Grbušićs. In Oblo Brdo, not far from the Milidragovics (5 houses) lived the Medans and Piljevićs.
The Milidragovićs from Dlakoše and Oblo Brdo originate from Jasenje. In his book (p. 186), Jefto Dedijer states that ” the Milidragovics in Jasenje, Dlakoše and Oblo Brdo are the descendants of three brothers”. One brother remained in Jasenje, while the two others settled in Dlakoše and Oblo Brdo. Since they had their lands as serfs, they are believed to be natives (As natives were considered families that lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina before the arrival of the Turks, and that purchased land estates, or were granted lands by the Turkish authorities for special merits).
The Milidragovics celebrate the St George’s slava, that was celebrated both by Gypsies and royal families. This feast day was established by the Serbian Orthodox Church in Saint George’s honour, it is also the celebration of the nature awakening. It also used to mark the beginning of brigandage: “George’s tribute, brigands meeting”. After Christmas and Easter, the major Christian holidays, Saint George’s day is the most important family holiday and “slava”, on which occasion relatives and friends gather. The Milidragovićs were quite indifferent to religious customs and only moderately religious.
In Jasenje, where the Milidragovics came from, there are many old cultural monuments, stelae and piles. Between Jasenje, Dlakoše and Oblo Brdo, there is a relatively small field. At its southern end, the Saint George’s church. Nobody knows when exactly it was built. It was probably erected by the Milidragovićs, since it is built on the spot where they settled, and since it was named after Saint George. A vast cemetery surrounds the church, in which not only the Milidragovićs are buried, but also others. There used to be a small kafana (bistro) in Jasenje, that attracted many visitors, mostly thanks to the owner Mihajlo Milidragović, a kind man and a talented storyteller, who believed that “joy is the only decent thing in people’s life”. He stood out more for his honesty and kindness than for his wealth.
Since the Miloradovićs, as a tribe, engaged in a conflict with Turkish authorities, the ones who remained in Herzegovina were chased after and exposed to humiliation and injustice by the Turks. One of them, a young man who received education in the monastery Žitomislić, having learned that his relatives in Crnići and Hrasno had been killed by Turks, left the monastery and fled to Vranjska, where the Miloradovićs, who were cattlemen, had pasturelands. Here, in Priječa, near the St George’s church, he built a house and founded a family. Later, when one of his sons got married, a turkish aga came to collect the “hak” (one third of the estate’s revenues) and requested to spend the night with the bride. The groom, already bitter over the turkish authorities, especially over the aga and his requests, killed the Turk whose grave is located near Zborna Gomila in Jasenje. After this event, the entire family had to leave Vranjska. On their way to Bosnia, near Nevesinje, the bey Ljubović took one son away from the family to keep him as a servant and left the others go. Some of the ones who continued their way settled between Gacko and Nevesinje, some others near Konjic. The second ones adopted two surnames: Živac and Bećanović.
The ones who settled between Gacko and Nevesinje or moved to the Sarajevo area kept their surname. Some of them just shortened it and were called Milidrazi. The same was done much later by those who left Vranjska. Thus Ćetko’s son Maksim, who moved to the Kalinovik area in the second half of the 19th century, was the only one who retained the surname Milidragović (as it is written on his tombstone), while all of his descendants were named Milidrazi. Some of those who moved to Bosnia continue to celebrate St George’s day, while others have opted for another patron saint to celebrate. However, all of them remained faithful to the old family tradition, and give their children the names of their ancestors from Vranjska (Trifko, Panto, Simo, Nikola…).
According to the story, the young man who was kept as a servant by bey Ljubović in Odžaci, proved himself loyal to his master. After some time, the bey approved his request to return to the property in Vranjska, guaranteeing him freedom and protection from the Turkish authorities. Returning to Vranjska, he built a house in Jasenje, whose walls have been preserved until today. He had three sons, one of which was preparing to become a monk. At that time (around 1750), the Kašikovićs and Piljevićs lived in Vranjska too. One of the Kašikovićs, having converted to Islam, exercised pressure on the Milidragovićs in order to chase them from Vranjska. To help his brothers and protect them, the son who was about to become a monk moved to his ancestor’s land estate, converts to Islam and, by doing so, assures protection to his brothers in Vranjska. With the family he founded, he settled on the land estate in Crnići, where there still is a piece of land registered as property of the Milidragovićs. His descendants are the Opijačs, a family in Stolačke Dubrave (The Milidragović son who converted to Islam drunk excessively, therefore his descendants were named “Opijač” (“Drinkers”) after him. In addition to the brothers agreement, according to which one of them should convert to Islam in order to protect the others, they also agreed that the islamized family should help preserving the monastery Žitomislić and the churches in Ošanići and Trijebanj, as endowments of their ancestors. According to that agreement, if one of the Opijač parents dies or if a child becomes an orphan, the monastery is to take care of them. The Opijačs respected that agreement and every year, in fall, they brought vox, oil, butter, wool and hay to the monastery. That tradition lasted until World War II. When it comes to the motives of the conversion of Orthodox Serbs, among them the Milidragovićs, to Islam, some think that they might have done it out of necessity, in order to keep their properties and protect the other family members. Another opinion is that, by converting to Islam, they gained certain privileges such as education and work in the army or administration. Finally, some think that it could have been an agreement among brothers – one would convert to Islam in order to be able to help the others. At that time, people were more interested in benefits or harm avoidance than in faith. In the worst case, they converted to Islam “for greater benefits and less damage”, as Meša Selimović wrote. Both parts of the family remained blood relatives, but opponents when it comes to religion. So it was until they started to ignore and forget about kinship. The Milidragovićs and the Opijač from older generations knew that they were of the same lineage and blood. Apart from studies done in recent history, there are not many written records about the Milidragovićs. Stories from the oral tradition are the main source of information. Our grandmothers and grandfathers knew much more about the roots and ancestors of the Milidragovićs, especially Aunt Stana (an intelligent, sharp-minded woman with a good memory), and uncles Kojo and Mihajlo. They told many stories about the Milidragovićs, but none of them was written down. Unfortunately, the elderly eventually forgot significant part of these stories in the course of their lifetime. Youngsters didn’t even try to save them from oblivion, with some exceptions such as Simat and Miško.
According to the story, Predrag Milidragović, who returned to Vranjska after having spent years as bey Ljubović’s servant, had three sons. One of them was the ancestor of the Šibalićs, Kneževićs and Šanjević, the second one the ancestor of the Pilipovićs, Barbarezis and Ljubomišljis, the third one the ancestor of the Opijačs in Stolačke Dubrave.
Simo was the common ancestor of the Šibalićs, Kneževićs and Šanjevićs. His sons Ilija, Panto and Šćepan were the three brothers whose descendants live in Jasenje, Dlakoši and Oblo Brdo. He had a house in Mileči and his extended family died of the plague that ravaged the village 1813-1815. Panto, whose sons were Simo and Trifko, had a house in Jasenje. Due to a misunderstanding with aga Mehmedbašić about the aga’s part of the revenue (in kind and in money), Simo moved to Dlakoše, on the land estate owned by aga Rizvanbegović, and his descendants were the Kneževićs. Trifko, who remained on his land estate and on the aga’s property Greba, is the ancestor of the Šibalićs and of the other Milidragovićs in Jasenje. The Šanjevićs descend from Šćepan. The Pilipovićs and the Barbarezis have a common ancestor, whose sons were Pilip and Ivan.
Up until a hundred years ago, there were twenty houses of the Milidragovićs in Vranjska. For instance, Ćetko, who had six sons, is the ancestor of 50 families. Only his son Maksim, who settled in Kalinovik, is the ancestor of 15 families. Although the number of local families fifty or a hundred years ago and the number of families living there now cannot be compared. In the past, those families were huge communities with many members. Married brothers lived under the same roof with their wives and children. Later, families were mostly made of a husband, a wife and a few children.
EMIGRATION AND DEPOPULATION
The United States were one of the emigrant’s destinations after the Uprising 1875-1878 and the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Herzegovinians emigrated as healthy and strong young men, single or just married. Risto Milidragović also moved to America, where he spent the rest of his life. His descendants (William, Nick, Mark, John…) live in Seattle. Upon arrival in America, they wandered from town to town, taking over tough jobs for low wages. They worked under the ground, exposed to the wind and the heat of Arizona and other areas, where they left their youth and strength. They died in mines and tunnels, married foreign women and became alienated. Some of them achieved success, became entrepreneurs, plantations owners, or even leaders in the struggle for worker’s rights. They remembered the tough life they had in their homeland, and how their basic diet consisted of cornbread dipped in hot milk. Yet they felt the desire to visit their homeland and its rocky hills again. Later, some of them returned to their homeland, aged and broken down by hard physical work.
Social issues war the main motive for leaving Herzegovina. The population growth in Herzegovina was so high, that the labor force surplus couldn’t be productively employed on the small and arid pieces of land. People had to leave the country. Better days were not in sight. After the First World War, most of the Milidragovićs went to Kosovo and Metohija, where they settled on abandoned land estates, on wastelands and in forests, where they came as the first settlers. Eventually, they were expelled by Albanians in 1941, who collaborated with the occupier. They headed to Serbia or back in their homeland.
After that, some of them returned to Kosovo, while others had the opportunity to settle in other areas, mainly in Serbia. After World War II and the agrarian reform, the farmers from Herzegovina and other regions were sent to Vojvodina, on land estate that had been confiscated or abandoned. Five Milidragović families from Vranjska moved to Banat. Later, with the development of industry and the urban expansion, some individual emigrations took place. Within a short period of time, many Milidragovićs moved to the cities and worked there. Eventually, some of them left Herzegovina, where they had to work hard for low incomes.
They usually “paved the way” for the other family members and, collectively or individually, they ended up leaving Herzegovina.
The Milidragovićs found it hard to leave home (Herzegovina and Vranjska). The younger ones yearned for a better life and felt happy about moving to a foreign country. The older ones carried their traditions, habits, stories and proverbs in their luggage. They retained some of their traditions, but in that new environment, they had to reject most of them. They adapted to the new circumstances and environment they found themselves in. They are diligent, ingenious, some of them cunning. They are willing to take other people’s advices and to learn from their experiences and, looking up to others, they shape their own lives. They are able to cultivate acquaintances, good neighbor relations and to share life with their partners, but they always mind their own business. They are adaptable. They consider poverty as a shame, so that, when they start a new life in a foreign country, they start to appreciate wealth more than bravery, that they highly respected in Herzegovina, just as Montenegrins do.
After leaving their homeland, especially the elderly never cease to think of it, whether in a foreign country or on the territory of Ex-Yugoslavia. Many of them remain deeply attached to their homeland and to the time they spent in it. They are torn apart between forgetting their “ancient hearths” and adopting the new environment as their own. The ones who accept the new country as their permanent home fight hard for their survival. Thanks to their ingenuity and hard work, they strengthen their social and economic positions and contribute to the development of their new environment. However, many of them never managed to forget their homeland. They treated their nostalgia with rakija (brandy). It’s understandable, since their homeland is the place where they saw the sun for the first time and where their ancestors are buried. The ones who spent a long time in their homeland miss it even more. The youngsters can scarcely remember it and mention it only as their birth place. Their descendants know about their homeland only what has been told to them by the elderly, and don’t show the desire to visit it and discover their roots. In some cases, youngsters remain more loyal to their country more than their parents, who become lazy in the new, better living conditions. Some of them reluctantly think of their homeland and the tough life, based only on survival, they used to have.
However, the emigrants still keep memory of their homeland. They sometimes forget all the things that bothered them there, and create an idealised, idyllic picture of their homeland. They visit it often during the first years. The older they get, the less they return there. Before visiting their homeland, they wish to stay longer there than they can. But upon arrival, they realise that many things are different than they imagined and expected. Based on the time spent there, they pictured their homeland with less stones, more songs and herds. Now much of it is gone and everything seems silent. Just a few of them find their hometown prettier than when they left it. Those are the ones who visit it more often, who feel close to their homeland and its landscapes, who wish to see a lot of things and walk down the path of their youth, to hear the language they are slowly forgetting. But even for them, several days are enough. They just need to revive the memory of the place they fled from, to visit some relatives and their former land estates, to watch the hills, the forests and the paths and to invite themselves in their relative’s homes.
Just a few of them, due to various circumstances, end up settling where they never expected. They put down roots there and possibly never come back, but always seek to maintain a connexion to their home country. That gives satisfaction to some, disappointment to others. Some of them become completely alienated.
Although they are surrounded by their relative’s and friend’s hospitality, many of them leave their homeland before they intended to. Some of them regret to have come, but also regret if they don’t.
They enjoy the time spent in their home country, but also feel good in their adopted homeland. In such situations, they opt for what is more important to them.
The second wave of emigration occured at the end of the 20th century, after the wars that led to the Breakup of Yugoslavia, 1992-1995. Young people left a country in which living conditions had been decent for over fifty years. In places affect by the war, such as Mostar and Sarajevo, people massively left their homes. The former inhabitants of Sarajevo, both the young and the older ones, fled in many different directions. The majority of them went to Serbia. In that general chaos, some have also moved to other countries. Some were killed, and many of them got into big troubles and died, because they had been left without a State and without security. Something similar happened to the Milidragovićs who lived in Kosovo. After the conflicts that broke out there in 1999, they found refuge in Serbia, just like their ancestors did after World War II. History repeated itself again.
People couldn’t even imagine that, on the threshold of the third millennium, such an exodus would occur, and that so many unfortunate souls would be evicted from their homes, that they would lose their homeland and live far away from the graves of their beloved ones. Even today, the statistics cannot determine how many of our people moved to foreign countries. Those were tragic times when everything fell apart: Yugoslavia as a State and the ties that bounded the people from different Yugoslavian countries who used to live in relative harmony in the same state, cities, families and marriages were destroyed.
Under those circumstances, people changed their nature. Herzegovina split into a Serbian, a Croatian and a Muslim part. The young people who moved to foreign countries took over jobs miles away from their field of expertise and education level, that they acquired in a State that disappeared. They survive on meager earnings and can barely cover the costs of a modest life. They have become mere workforce and servants in a foreign country. They cannot help their relatives who have grown old in their homeland. Some of them did not manage to adapt to the new environment. They are not ready to engage in a career, they are hesitant and feel lost. Some of them return to the homeland they fled from, but without the hope of finding a job or enjoying any kind of social security. However, their children adapt quickly to the new conditions of life and stand out in schools. In many ways, they cannot be discerned from young Canadians, Americans or Europeans. Our immigrant youth develops many virtues, but also some flaws. Many of them don’t speak their mother tong, or if they do, they use a lot of loanwords. They belong in foreign countries, rather than in their parents homeland, they don’t want to have anything in common with the Balkan countries, they are not interested in their own roots. Just a few of them describe their homeland with love. Some of them visit their homeland and remember the comfortable and peaceful life they had in it before the war forced them to flee.
There aren’t many Milidragovićs left in their homeland. Hardly several households remained, in which mostly elderly people live. There are just a few youngsters left in villages, where hearths are increasingly shutting down.
WHERE THEY ARE
A number of participants on the first meeting held on their family history in august 2009 personally answered that question. When it comes to the others, it is very difficult to give an accurate answer. At the meeting, apart from Vranjska and Bileća, members of the Milidragović and the Milidrag family came from Trebinje, Dubrovnik, Gacko, Ploča, Šumadija, Banat, Romanija, Mitrovica, Niš, Kragujevac, Kalinovik, Ljeskov Dub, Bijeljina… That is from all over the territory of Ex-Yugoslavia. But our diaspora has already spread accross Canada and America, which doesn’t mean that, in the process of globalization, they will not settle in Vladivostok, Alaska, Australia or in Northern countries.
THE MILIDRAGOVICS FROM ROMANIJA
This part should be written by Brane, with the help of other members of his family from Rudine.
THE MILIDRAGS FROM LJESKOV DUB AND SARAJEVO
This part will be written by Milenko and his family living in Sarajevo.
The concluding remarks would be a brief synthesis of what is written above. This would be done by our editorial group (Brane, Milenko, Milan, Dušan and possibly some other people who might help).