Restored "Sava" river monitor officially opened
Tonight, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Nebojša Stefanović, PhD, attended the grand opening of the restored "Sava" river monitor in the area between Branko's Bridge and the Sava Port, to mark the Liberation of Belgrade in the First World War, as part of the "Days of Freedom" event.
Addressing the gathered citizens, Minister Stefanović said that today we celebrate freedom, which is taken for granted only by those who were not denied it.
- Serbia has not had the luxury of always being free in its history. It had to fight for its freedom. No other participant in the First World War had to pay for freedom so dearly. Serbia lost one third of its population in that war, of which 60 percent of its male population. Our people made huge sacrifice to be free. On that occasion, our capital also suffered, a city special in many ways, including the fact that it was destroyed and rebuilt more than forty times - said Minister Stefanović.
According to him, this determination to fight and, despite numerous falls, the constant desire to get back up stronger, better and more ready for new victories, has put Belgrade among the most organized cities in Europe and the world and made it the most beautiful mirror image of Serbia.
- From Field Marshal Živojin Mišić’s historical cry "Heroes, with unwavering faith and hope, to the homeland!" which began the Macedonian front breakthrough, to the entrance into Belgrade, under the command of Field Marshal Petar Bojović and the final liberation from Austro-Hungarian occupation, those honourable and proud people who were ready to give their lives for their country, charted a path to a bright and great future. We, the descendants of those people who fought for their freedom, are aware of their sacrifice and heroism," said Minister Stefanović.
According to the Minister of Defence, others were right when they told us a century ago that the brightest and holiest pages of history would be written in Serbia’s name, and the "Sava" river monitor is proof of that - a symbol of Serbia's invincibility and at the same time our country’s invaluable cultural asset.
- It was from this ship, which had been constructed in 1904, and was later one of the 10 monitors of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, that the first shot was fired at Belgrade which marked the beginning of the First World War. The ship was then called "Bodrog". After the liberation, its name was changed to "Sava" river monitor. Today, it also symbolizes our people’s non-acceptance of anything less than freedom and independence. From this place, it will remind us all of what the Serbian people were and are like, which is perhaps best described in the words of the Czech writer Erwin Kisch. Kisch, one of the participants in the Battle of Kolubara, says that it was only in Serbia in 1914 that he realized that the freedom of small nations is a stronger force than the violence of the great and powerful, because the will is the inevitable force that can overcome everything - said Minister Stefanović.
He thanked the employees of the Military Museum and the City of Belgrade.
- I want to thank everyone for their hard work. You will see how magnificently they restored this ship. This exhibit will be available and you will be able to visit it. And that is another symbol of our victory and our freedom. I talked to the mayor and the Military Museum staff, we are planning to put here a submarine and several other exhibits owned by the Military Museum, and we want to mount a magnificent exhibition for the citizens of Belgrade, so that they can see a part of the history of their country and be proud of their army, which not only liberated this city, but is always there for its people even today - Minister Stefanović emphasized.
He invited the citizens of Belgrade and all other residents of our country to visit this, once river monster of fascinating biography, to bring their children and introduce them to the history of our homeland, which is full of heroism and sacrifice.
- But also to learn something they should not forget, and that is how much our people suffered and how ready they were to fight for our freedom. Blessed be the liberators of Belgrade and my thanks to them for the Belgrade they fought for and left to us. We promise that we will preserve that freedom forever. Long live Serbia! - said Minister Stefanović.
The Mayor of Belgrade, Professor Dr. Zoran Radojičić, noted that on this day 103 years ago, the brave Serbian army, led by Petar Bojović, had liberated Belgrade.
- After a 600-kilometre journey, 40 days after the Macedonian front breakthrough, three years of agony preceded that liberation. On December 21, 2020, the Serbian army received the Legion of Honour Cross from France. Even then, the whole of Europe and the whole world paid great tribute to the Serbian army for everything it had done in the First World War - Mayor Radojičić pointed out.
But, he added, we must remember once again that the Serbian people were among the biggest victims of that war.
- Nearly one million and 300 thousand Serbs died in the First World War. Four hundred thousand soldiers and over eight hundred thousand civilians who were either killed or died from disease or hunger and exhaustion - the mayor of Belgrade said.
According to him, it is all part of the Serbian spirit of freedom, Serbian commitment to justice and the spirit of indomitability.
- There are few cities and nations in the world that have made so many sacrifices for freedom and justice throughout Europe and the world. The Serbian Armed Forces also remain a symbol of freedom and righteousness and indomitable spirit - Radojičić pointed out.
Belgrade has many symbols reminding us of the period of the First World War, he said.
- The New Cemetery Ossuary, Ossuary to the Defenders at Kalemegdan, Monument to Petar Bojović, Monument to Franchet d'Espèrey, Monument of Gratitude to France, Monument to the Unknown Hero, the Kaimakchalan Observatory in Pioneer Park are just some of the places that remind us and new generations of everything that our heroes did in the First World War - the mayor of Belgrade pointed out.
According to him, tonight’s event and the play performed are only a part of the reminder of our wonderful, brave history and past and everything that our heroes and victims in previous wars, primarily in the First World War, had done for the freedom of Belgrade.
- It is our duty to pass on that spirit of freedom to new generations and in this way we contribute to that as well - said the mayor of Belgrade.
In the continuation of the ceremony, the documentary "The Sava River Monitor" produced by MFC "Zastava Film" was shown, and the play "1918: The Last Year of the War" based on the novel by Aleksandar Gatalica was performed, which ended with the performance of the song "The French Ship is Sailing".
Members of the Collegiums of the Minister of Defence and the Chief of the Serbian Armed Forces General Staff, as well as the Assistant Mayor Andreja Mladenović, also attended the opening ceremony.
The cultural asset "Sava", former "Bodrog", is of strategic importance for Serbia, because it is an irrefutable proof of how the First World War began. It is a rarity of global proportions, being the only remaining battleship from the group of river monitors from which the first artillery fire was opened in the First World War and one of the 10 vessels of that type in the world.