Discovering Novi Bečej: Stories, people, history

By the paths of the past: Discover the rich history, interesting events and unforgettable people who have shaped Novi Bečej through time, as we return together to the heart of this beautiful city on the banks of the Tisza.

Foreword

The love for my homeland has been within me, particularly emphasized since my earliest childhood. I have an unforgettable and painful memory when, at the age of fourteen (1931), I had to move from Novi Bečej to Zrenjanin (then Veliki Bečkerek) for my education. There, I lived with my sister and three other students, slightly older than me.

The first day of separation from home, from Novi Bečej, and all that was dear, somehow passed peacefully. However, when I lay down in the evening, much later than I did in my parental home, the night stretched on and became endless. I believe I had never experienced a longer night until then, or since. I tossed and turned in bed, got up several times to drink water, but sleep eluded me. Thoughts of the farm, where I grew up with my parents, of the Tisa River, of Gradište, of the places where I spent the most beautiful and unforgettable days of my youth, lingered until morning. I didn't close my eyes until dawn.

Tears flowed because they had torn me away from my mother and her kindness, from friends, from the Tisa River. I remembered the cows I used to tend to every day after coming home from school. Those memories alternated with thoughts of the dogs that eagerly awaited my arrival and sensed it from a great distance. They would come to the road, wagging their tails, and greet my arrival. Tears welled up until sobbing. I dared not cry aloud, as the boys who slept in the room with me would be upset if I woke them. I believed they couldn't understand, that they would mock me. They hadn't felt such pain when leaving their places. No - I was convinced - they couldn't understand me in this state. I would be considered weak, a mama's boy. Those were the years of boyhood when pride had to be shown on every occasion.

So it went on the next day, the day after, and the days passed, and I endured for a month. Not a day longer, no matter the cost. I cared little for pride; I cried whenever I remembered Novi Bečej or when someone mentioned it. My pain could not be understood by anyone in the house, not even my younger sister, who was the pet of the landlady and her entire family. I haven't changed much even later.

Now, in my advanced years, I get the impression that my love for the homeland has grown more over the years, especially as life's currents have separated me from it. Neither the parting nor the enhanced intellectual upbringing liberated that love. On the contrary, they seem to have intensified that poignant and uncontrollable yearning for the homeland. By parting from it, I probably carried a part of the shared soul, and because of that, I never severed ties with the whole. Even today, it's as if numerous invisible yet firmer threads connect my being to the social life of my region. Thus, all my free time and modest work energy are dedicated to immortalizing places, events, people, and objects deserving of remaining unforgettable. I want the youth to see or read about how life was once lived in their places and what binds us so strongly to our native soil. They say that the blood of the fields ties a person so strongly to their homeland that it doesn't allow them to feel as free anywhere else as in their own, and that is probably the case with me.

Now, in the twilight of life, living more on memories, I embellish my present with thoughts and memories of what once was in Novi Bečej and Vranjevo. I have been living in the capital city, beside my children, for a long time now, but some inner richness, my thoughts, memories, and recollections from my homeland are my only secret. The feelings that engulf me at that time are surely one of the main motivations to record these memories. I want to go back to those beautiful days of the past, to everything that filled me with a special mood, a kind of bliss, over the years. Such feelings drive a person to, even in this modest way, repay those who have greatly indebted him.

Not much time will pass, and the last traces of the life of former Novi Bečej and Vranjevo will be erased. A period and a life will vanish from memory, which historians may consider primitive, but no one will deny that it had something noble and warm, something that raised generations to be proud of their homeland and to love their native soil.

Today, many old houses are being demolished, and each of them takes with it a story - a past. Every change and beautification of the face of many streets erases a part of the tradition of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo.

My desire is to record and preserve something from that time, which is disappearing before our eyes, so to speak unnoticed, for future generations. In addition to notes, I have created a hundred paintings (in oil and watercolor), striving to immortalize or at least preserve from complete oblivion, parts of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo that are disappearing. A portion of these paintings (20 pieces) is provided in the form of photographs in this book.

If I sometimes go beyond the framework of notes, I do so with the intention of presenting here some historical data for those who haven't had the opportunity to become acquainted with them. That's why, at the very end, I have given a brief historical overview, using data from my manuscript "Novi Bečej and Vranjevo throughout history from ancient times to 1941."

The journey into the past that I have chosen will not be a scientific analysis or a literary attempt to paint a certain time of the environment from which I originated. It will rather be expanded notes in which I present only those data that I think are necessary to create a certain idea of people's lives, the appearance of streets, individual buildings, the merits of individuals and groups, the worth and resourcefulness of the residents of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo.

With my memories, I may only indicate places and people who deserve not only to be mentioned but also to be remembered with more attention and more frequent recollections on other occasions.

 

In Belgrade, 1988.

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