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.

Gradište Forest - Gem of Novi Bečej

It might sound a bit unusual, but it was true that no resident of Novi Bečej, when wanting to describe the beauty and appearance of their town, would start without mentioning the Tisa River and Gradište. Gradište was a grove of majestic poplars and oaks. Its name likely originated from the ruins of the old fortress, most of which lie in the Tisa River, with only a small part emerging from the water when it recedes.

The forest was located right next to the Tisa, between the riverbed and the levee that protected Novi Bečej from floods. It stretched from the ferry, today's exit to the Tisa from Svetozar Miletić Street, to the ruins of the old fortress, spanning a length of one kilometer and a width of about 200-250 meters. The part closer to the center of Novi Bečej was mostly covered with poplars, while the section closer to the fortress ruins was under the canopy of oaks.

In the middle part, the forest was cleared and transformed into an open space where a football field was located, and a bit closer to the riverbank, a tennis court was beautifully arranged and fenced with a tall wire fence. Right upon entering Gradište, there was another open space surrounded by poplars where, once a year, the Sokol gymnastics festival for the Novi Bečej district was held. During the existence of two football clubs, "Građanski" and "Soko," this area served as a training ground for the "Soko" players.

Gradište belonged to the landowner (spahi) Ivanović. In the middle of the grove, on a small elevation, stood the keeper's cottage, and the keeper was in the service of the Ivanović family.

Football in Novi Bečej originated in Gradište because of its proximity to the Tisa, allowing people to refresh themselves in the river during summer days. Conversely, one could play football, tennis, and all other sports in the thick shade of the poplar trees, and young people loved Gradište for its combination of sports and outdoor activities. Many experienced their first youthful romantic moments there.

For the older residents, Gradište provided a tranquil escape into peace and quiet, with the pleasant freshness offered by the forest and the Tisa River. In a word, Gradište was the favorite place of all Novi Bečej and Vranjevo residents since, at that time, there was no central park in the town.

Gradište left unforgettable impressions on everyone who visited Novi Bečej, especially on visiting football teams. Even in July and August, amidst the sweltering heat, matches were held in the shade of Gradište.

In the 1930s, a small building was erected on concrete pillars next to Gradište, along the Tisa. In its final years (Gradište was cut down in 1948), this building served as a changing room for football players and swimmers. The building had two lovely rooms and a spacious hallway along the entire length. This small building was in harmony with all the unforgettable experiences that Gradište provided, not only for Novi Bečej residents but also for those who visited Gradište at least once, especially during the summer.

To illustrate what Gradište meant to the young people of Novi Bečej, a recent example can be shared. A meeting of the first graduates of the Novi Bečej Gymnasium was held, and after more than fifty years, each of them, since leaving Novi Bečej, spoke with special joy and fondness about Gradište. They recalled its century-old trees with magnificent crowns and thick shade, the scent of lush grass adorned with yellow dandelion flowers covering all areas where the forest was cleared. They remembered Gradište, where, in addition to playing football, they enjoyed lounging on the grass like on a carpet, something most of them didn't have at home. They reminisced about invented and exaggerated stories and mutual boasting. They recalled all the delights that Gradište, with its tree strength, lush greenery, meadows adorned with wildflowers, clean air, and above all, its optimistic and joyous silence, ignited in the imagination of young people. It's not an exaggeration to say that all of us who spent our leisure time there in our youth experienced our most beautiful childhood dreams and, later, as young and enthusiastic individuals, our richest fantasies about the future.

Everything that Gradište offered was so beautiful that almost all impressions remained indelible. Hence, our overwhelming joy when approaching the place where Gradište once stood. When we reach that spot, we all close our eyes and evoke images of the past beauty of life in Gradište. These images are so vivid and faithful that one might think it's best never to open our eyes, fearing that they would lead us back to harsh reality.

Gradište was cut down in 1948, and with it, a part of the finest threads connecting us to Novi Bečej was severed. The sorrow for Gradište among those who left Novi Bečej long ago is so profound that it's hard to grasp that it has vanished forever.

Unfortunately, despite all the affection for Gradište, it must be said that it was one of the reasons for the modest success of Novi Bečej football. Almost every year, the Tisa flooded Gradište, and the water remained there from April to May, and sometimes even until June. Therefore, Novi Bečej footballers had a relatively short season to prepare for matches in the upcoming competitive year. However, love for Gradište prevented any thought of moving the playing field elsewhere. There was a constant fear that matches at any other location would have lower attendance.

Today, with almost the entire Tisa Riverbank near Novi Bečej covered in poplar groves, it's not easy to explain the charm that Gradište offered to the people of Novi Bečej. But during that time, up until World War II, Gradište was among the largest forests, if not the largest, in North Banat, making it a true exception in the entire area.

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