Archives of Memories: Presentations of the History of Novi Bečej through Anecdotes, Photographs and Untold Stories

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The Women's Kharkov Institute in Novi Bečej
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The Women's Kharkov Institute in Novi Bečej

Between the two World Wars, the Women's Kharkov Institute existed in Novi Bečej, leaving a significant cultural footprint in our town. It was founded on April 29, 1812, in imperial Russia. The October Revolution of 1917 had a considerable impact on the institute's future activities. In April 1918, it came under the patronage of Empress Maria Feodorovna. The "revolutionary events" in Russia led the wards and staff of this educational institution to relocate to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.

In November 1919, 153 students and 38 staff members, led by director Maria Alekseyevna Neklyudova (1867-1948), left Russia. The institute was initially moved to Novorossiysk and later embarked on a journey to the first Yugoslav state, i.e., to Belgrade, via Varna, where they were ceremoniously welcomed on March 4, 1920. They traveled by the steamship "Afon." On the same day, 114 students and 20 staff members, along with five Russian families, arrived in Novi Bečej and were accommodated in the building of today's elementary school "Miloje Čiplić." The institute's funding came from funds collected by the state commission for Russian refugees, as well as contributions from wealthy residents of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo. The local parish priest Stevan Krstonošić organized these contributions, successfully ensuring the institute's existence in Novi Bečej for over ten years. Financial support also came from Russian emigrants who had settled in the United States, but the students and teachers supported themselves. They often organized various events, concerts in the town and surrounding areas, especially in Stari Bečej, which was a grateful environment. They also provided classes not only in Russian, French, and Latin but also in piano, mathematics, etc. Several posters of these activities by Russian women and their teachers are preserved in the local collection at the City Library of Novi Bečej.

In this way, we learn that on Friday, January 11, 1929, a "concert for the people of Novi Bečej with the participation of Mrs. Sofia N. Davidova, a famous opera singer from the Russian and Ljubljana opera, and Mr. Ilija I. Slatkin, conductor, professor, and piano virtuoso, and the participation of the orchestra of the Novi Bečej music society under the direction of Mihajlo S. Sobchenko" was held at the Civil School. The poster specifically indicated that "the entire proceeds will go to the benefit of the poor students graduating from the institute this year."

In 1921, there were seven departments, and by the Decree of the Ministry of Education of the Kingdom of SHS dated August 10, 1922, the institute was equated with eight-grade state schools. This allowed the wards to enroll in Yugoslav universities without taking an entrance exam. Regarding educational matters, the Kharkov Institute was under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education of the Kingdom and the School Council of the Commission for the Education of Russian Refugees.

In January 1929, Queen Maria of Yugoslavia personally took patronage over this institute.

The Women's Kharkov Institute in Novi BečejDuring its existence, many notable figures taught at the institute, including the poet, prose writer, and literary critic Ekaterina Leonidovna Tauber, who translated the poems of Jovan Dučić and Milan Rakić into Russian. Additionally, the visual artist Elena Vandrarovskaya Velimirovna, who became a famous restorer of frescoes in Fruska Gora monasteries after World War II. Besides them, Aleksandar Nikolayevich Kokorov taught Russian language and history, and later Jakob Pavlovich Kobec, Gleb Borisovich Junitsky taught Latin, Danil Danilovich Danilov taught mathematics, priest Father Boško Pecarski taught religious education, Serbian language, literature, and geography, Elizaveta Mikhaylovna Nekludovna taught French and English, and V.I. Buljacelj taught accounting, and so on.

Since 1922, the institute also had two departments: commercial and applied arts school. Fifty-six students completed these courses while the school was in operation.

The institute gained great importance with a visit from Count Pyotr Nikolayevich Vrangel, a former general of the Russian imperial army, who was then in Sr. Karlovci, especially celebrating the 120th anniversary of the institute's founding.

The wards were mostly the children of Russian officers and officials who had the opportunity to educate them. According to the Report for the 1930/31 school year, out of 211 wards, 64 had only one parent, and 16 were without parents.

During the existence of this institute in Novi Bečej, the number of students varied between 200 and 250, and their age ranged from 10 to 20 years. Students younger than 10 and older than 13 were not admitted to the first grade. The first generation of graduates left the institute in 1921, and the best student in the class was A.A. Bogolyubova. In twelve school years, 319 students completed the institute.

For various reasons, primarily economic and the consolidation of Russian schools in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the institute was relocated in 1932 to Bela Crkva (Banat), then called Mariinsky Donsky Institute, for further education.

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