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

Breathe life into the forgotten stories of Novi Bečej through our rich collection of articles dedicated to people and events from the past. Travel through the ages, exploring the colorful array of historical moments that shaped our city. Here, memories and reality meet, bringing old streets, stories and events to life through interesting anecdotes, untold legends and rare photographs. Experience Novi Bečej from a new angle, through the eyes of the past that shaped our present, while we try to preserve the spirit and heritage that makes our city unique.

Vranjevo
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Vranjevo and Turski Bečej in 1918

In 1918, today's Novi Bečej consisted of two separate administrative municipalities: Vranjevo and Turski Bečej. They were divided by only a small canal or ditch, as we in Banat call it. While the majority population in Turski Bečej was Hungarian, in Vranjevo, the absolute majority was Serbian, settled by frontier guards from the former Potisje-Pomorišje border.

The residents of Vranjevo, being diligent and wealthy hosts, lived for a century within the Velikokikinda District and were also traders of the most significant grain export center in Banat on the banks of the Tisza River. They managed to resist Magyarization due to their economic strength and maintained their national identity, particularly resenting the Hungarian name for their place, Aracs.

Unlike Vranjevo, Turski Bečej's population was predominantly Hungarian, mostly agrarian poor working on the estates of the Rohonci, Šoljmoši, and Ivanović families. However, there were also many successful and wealthy craftsmen. The end of World War I, due to this national diversity, was experienced differently by the inhabitants of these two settlements. While the Serbs of Vranjevo and Turski Bečej euphorically welcomed the Serbian army led by Brigadier Ristić, the Hungarians were frightened not only for the fate of the Monarchy but also for their own.

A chronicler of the time noted, "Hungarians lamented their fallen homeland, while Slavs sang for their liberation and the realization of the dream of unification." The arrival of the Serbian army in Banat was preceded by social unrest and an anarchic state that did not spare these two settlements either. Both Serbian and Hungarian poor took advantage of this situation and the temporary lack of authority to loot shops and the estates of large landowners. On November 3, 1918, the shop of Jewish hardware merchant Hugo Richter in the center of T. Bečej was looted and set on fire. The scale of this rebellion is evidenced by the fact that a punitive expedition with a hundred German soldiers from Timișoara came to the town to quell it. The organizers of the unrest, five of them, were executed on November 16, 1918, in front of the Orthodox church in Vranjevo, and the next day, the same fate befell three residents of Novi Bečej.

To prevent chaotic conditions, the citizens of these two places elected so-called National Councils, with Giga Jovanović leading in T. Bečej and Bogoljub Malešev in Vranjevo. It is interesting to note that, despite the Hungarian population being a minority in Vranjevo, nine out of 26 Council members were Hungarian. The Serbian liberation army, commanded by Captain Milačić and under the command of Dragutin Ristić, entered Vranjevo on November 21, 1918, at 4 PM, and T. Bečej an hour later. The Serbian population in both settlements joyfully greeted the Serbian army, and Brigadier Ristić was presented with an embroidered shirt by Draginja Josimović. On this occasion, a ceremonial platform was erected in the center of T. Bečej from which Ristić addressed the residents of both settlements. Giga Jovanović expressed gratitude to the Serbian army for the liberation, and Brigadier Ristić humorously commented that the residents should have lit a straw train as it was getting dark, and there was no electricity in the village at that time.

The residents of both settlements took on the responsibility of feeding and housing the Serbian army, and Rada Lucić, who headed the local National Guard, roasted an ox for the liberators. He funded and supported about a hundred Serbian soldiers with his money and contributions from citizens. Twenty years later, in his recollections of those days, he recorded that "accepting this duty in 1918, on which he served, was not without risk. Few were willing to take it on. The situation was quite bleak because if the Hungarian army returned, we would be doomed, but I accepted this duty, come what may."

At the Great National Assembly on November 25 in Novi Sad, when the regions of Banat, Bačka, and Baranja joined the Kingdom of Serbia, eight residents of Vranjevo and two from Turski Bečej participated. One of the first post-war measures was the removal of monuments symbolizing the Austro-Hungarian era. Thus, the Freedom Monument erected in 1903 was demolished, as was the monument to Count Leiningen-Westerburg, Novi Bečej's son-in-law, one of the Arad martyrs from the 1848/49 revolution. However, it should be noted that the monument to the Hungarian victims and defenders of T. Bečej from the events of 1848/49, which still stands in the Catholic cemetery in N. Bečej, was preserved thanks primarily to Giga Jovanović and Milorad Vlaškalić, the last Ban of the Danube Banovina who was a fellow citizen.

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