What a Delightful SURPRISE!
Only two weeks before, I met Protonica Mirijana’s brother, Joey Puhar, in a chance encounter at the Stan Hwyet Mansion in Akron, OH, where he and fellow Chicago Choir members were honored guests later that night for the Kosovo Men’s Choir of Eastern Ohio’s Slava Banquet! My sisters Rose and Alexandra were with me touring the mansion along with our group, the Sewickley Valley Historical Society from Pennsylvania! Oh, the joyous screams and hugs that followed that Serendipitous meeting!!! Who could have believed it? One minute more and we would have all missed each other! A Heavenly Encounter for sure!!
So,who would believe that on Sunday, November 1, 2015, there I was up in the Tenor section of the choir, when the altar doors of our church opened, and there was V. Rev. Stav. Fr. Jovan Todorovich, a long-time friend of my father, +Milan Karlo, and Kum to our priest, V. Rev. Milan Krstic & family!
What a delightful surprise!!!
However, it should come as no surprise to learn about the many wonderful deeds accompiished by Fr. John and his Protonica over the years.
Perhaps the couple is best known for Fr. John’s leadership on building the magnificent Serbian jewel church, St. Sava’s Church in Merrillville, Indiana where he took a leadership role as Chairman of the architectual committee after an unfortunate fire destroyed the beautiful church and magnificent altar of the St. Sava Church on 13th and Connecticut Sts. in Gary, Indiana in 1978.
It was Fr. John who helped lead in reconstructing the small hall in Hobart into a chapel for services that were held there for 13 years.
140 acres of land were purchased in Merrillville on Mississippi Street the same year the church burned, and the mortgage was liquidated in 1980. In 1982, work began on the construction of the new church, where Fr. John’s planning, soliticing donations, and decorating the church contributions were enormous.
The “Farewell Testimonial for V. Rev. Jovan and Protonica Mirijana Todorovich (1/14/2007) states that “the consecration of the church in May 1991 and seving with His Holiness Patriarch Pavle in 1993, and the burning of the 15 year $2,500,000 mortage was paid in only 5 years on Nov. 19, 2006 had to be focal moments of priestly service!!!”
Fr. John was born on July 5, 1940, to Ilija and Milica Todorovich in the village of Vratare, near Krsevac, Serbia, the youngest of four sons. He studied at the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Seminarian College in Prizren, graduating in 1960 with a degree in Theological studies.
Fr. John emigrated to the USA joining his father, Ilija, in Kenosha, WIsconsin. Since he had graduated from seminary school, he was employed in the Diocesan offic eof Bishop Dionisije at the St. Sava monastery in Libertyville, IL.
During THAT Summer Camp, he met the beautiful Mirijana, daughter of Branko and Jelena Puhar of Chicago, an don February 6, 1965, they were wed! One month later, Fr. John was ordained as a deacon, and in April, he was ordained into the priesthood by Bishop Iriney at the St. George Church in Racine, Wisconsin. Shortly thereafter, the membership of St. George Church in Oakland, CA asked him to serve as their permanent priest, serving his first litury in 1965.
In 1970, he was the permanent priest for the congregation of St. Sava in Gary, Indiana, making big audacious goals, acquainting himself with the geographic and membership challenges of the large parish, and then creating a pastoral plan to serve the parish and its needs.
Fr. John is to be congratulated for writing and publishing books that help all of us understand our religion and heritage better.
Here are two of those publications written not for theological experts, but for the average person to understand, like you and me:
I can’t recommend these two publications highly enough! Each family should have a copy of these books in their homes. They would make wonderful gifts for the children on St. Sava’s Day! Fr. John assures me these books can be attained at the New Gracanica Book Store in Gray’s Lake, Il.
Another magnificent publication was the beautiful booklet entitled: A VISITORS GUIDE TO ST. SAVA CHURCH, that thoroughly guides the visitor through every icon in the church, and giving a detailed, concise explanation of the exterior and interior of the church.
“He worked tirelessly and contriubted to the Consecration Books of New Gracanica and St. Sava. He contributed many religous articles to the Diocesan Observer and well as his own church’s monthly bulletin, GLASNIK.
(Take a virtual tour here of Gracanica Monastery. You have many choices, viewing the outside of the grounds, the inside of the church, etc.)
His most recent publication was co-authoring with George Sladic, THE BOOK MONOGRAPHIA OF +Metropolitan Irinej.
The Todorovichs have three daughters: Vera, Nada, and Dara, all graduates of Purdue Univerity in We. Lafayette, IN. They in turn, gifted their parents with grandchildren Alexandra, Nicholas, Christian Jr., Jovan and Natalia!
Ziveli, i Mnogaja Ljeta!
Reception for Boris Tadic….
Leon Lysaght, Mim Bizic and Arthur Jibilian, Radio man for Operation HALYARD, which led to the rescue of 512 American Airmen from behind German-occupied lines in Yugoslavia’s Serbia. The three are shown here at the Reception given by Mr. and Mrs. Alex Machaskee for Serbia’s President, Boris Tadic, who visited Cleveland, OH on his way to a United Nations meeting in New York.
The same year Leon Lysaght was honored with the Czar Dushan Award, The Merit Award of 2005 was given to Alex Machaskee, past President and Publisher of The Cleveland Plain Dealer which during his long tenure has been the most fair and unbiased reporter of news related to the former Yugoslavia.
From the Serbian Bar Association of America website:
“Alex Machaskee is one of the most respected journalists in the United States, whose reputation as a great American and proud Serb is known both in the highest circles of the Bush administration and in every Serbian parish in Cleveland area. Born in Youngstown, Ohio and raised in Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church there, Mr. Machaskee (pre-Ellis Island Macesic) roots are in Kordun in the Serbian Krajina region. He is a member of St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma, Ohio, the Serb National Federation, the Serbian Unity Congress and host of Cleveland, Ohio and US civic and fraternal organizations. The SBAA is honored to have a man of Mr. Machaskee’s stature accept the SBAA Merit Award. “
Update: Dec.14, 2009. Genealogist Robert Jerin pointed out this info:
“In fact Alex MACESIC arrived through the Port of Baltimore. Below is his arrival information. Not all immigrants arrived via Ellis Island, which served as an Immigrant Processing Station from 1892 to 1924. (after 1924 immigrants were processed at American Embassies or Consulates in their home countries and Ellis Island served only as a detention center from that time until it closed around 1954). Baltimore was perhaps the second most common Port of Entry for immgrants from Croatia.
Name: Alex Macesic
Arrival Date: Feb 1903
Age: 23 Years 0 Months Years
Estimated birth year: abt 1880
Race: Servian (Serbian)
Port of Departure: Bremen, Germany
Ship Name: Breslau
Port of Arrival: Baltimore, Maryland
Destination: Johushown, PA
Friend’s Name: Marko Miogewooic
Last Residence: Krstinja, Croatia
“Of course he came from the old The Croatian-Slavonian Military Frontier (Militär Grenze), Vojna Krajina, which was populated by ethnic Serbs, Croats, Vlaci and Germans.”
While I am thankful and grateful to Robert Jerin for his information, I would like to point out my grandparents (4) and my husband’s (4) grandparents never considered themselves Croatians. They were very proud of the Krajina areas they came from, but were always extremely defensive of their Serbian Orthodox heritage. They guarded it in America as their ancestors once guarded the Vojna Krajina frontiers.
Robert Jarin adds another interesting fact for which we are all again grateful: “I have done some research of church records in the old military borderland… and the most striking thing was that every adult male had a status of Granicari (border guard). I found no one listed as Seljaci as I would find in most villages.”
Paul Bielich, worthy successor to Vlajko
In celebration of Vlajko’s and Paul’s great deeds over the years…
of Choirs and Highlights
To enlarge any photo on this page, simply click the lower right hand side of the photo.
Vlajko and Paul
In appreciation of the lifetime work of the founder of the SSF, the Johnstown Choir donated this portrait of Lugonja to the SSF Headquarters and Museum.
This CD was produced by the SSF for its 72nd Anniversary. Mim Bizic is proud to say that her mother, Laura Mamula Karlo, her Aunts Martha Mamula Belosh, Millicent Mamula Bobik, and “Little Rosie” Trbovich were singing with the Phiip Visnich Choir of Pittsburgh when this photo was taken.
Lugona persuaded Michael Pupin’s daughter to donate this Silver Cup in her Father’s Memory. At the time, the cup was worth $1,500.
The “Branko Radicevich Choir of South Chicago” with their director, Sabine.
Professor Boris Dobrovolsky and his St. Elijah Serbian Orthodox Choir of Aliquippa, PA.
The Vojislav Ilich Choir
Vljako being feted at the 1977 Choral Workshop.
Lugonja was beloved around the USA and Canada and travled freely to be with friends at happy occasions. Here he is in Ambridge, PA, at the wedding of Gus and Mim (Milana Karlo) Bizic on June 9, 1963. As I finish this site tonight, June 9, 2020, this marks the 57th anniversary of that date!
Laura Mamula Karlo, mother of the bride, wrote in her teen-age diary about when Vlajko Ljugonja came to Pittsburgh and helped form the then Philip Visnich Choir of St. Sava’s Serbian Orthodox Church in Pittsburgh, PA. The choir has since merged with the St. George Church and formed the Holy Trinity Cathedral Choir of Pittsburgh that has hosted many a great choir festivals.
Memory Eternal to a great friend of the Serbian people!
Glaze for Stevo’s Schlivo Cake
1/8 lb. of butter (1/2 stick!)
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup Schlivo!
Melt butter, stir water and sugar together, boil for 3 minutes and then remove from heat. Add the Schlivo and stir all together. Then pour over the top and sides of Your Schlivo cake!
Ummm! “Everybody LOVES it,” says Roz! No wonder!
Don’t forget to come back!
Today, St. Sava’s Day, 2011, Melanie Tomich Limerick listed another version of the Schlivo Cake on Facebook.
So, take your pick! This one calls for a little more schlivo!
* 1 cup chopped walnuts
* 3 cups sifted cake flour
* 2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
* 1/2 tsp. salt
* 2/3 cup butter (softened)
* 1-3/4 cup granulated sugar
* 2 eggs (bring to room temperature)
* 1 tsp. vanilla
* 1-1/4 cup milk
* 1/2 cup Slivovica
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease & flour a 10″ tube pan (Bundt pan is ok too.) Sprinkle the ground nuts over bottom of greased/floured pan and set aside. Sift together flour, baking powder & salt…set aside.
Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla to creamed mixture and beat at medium speed until well mixed. Add Slivovica and flour mixture to creamed mixture, alternating with milk, beating well after each addition. Continue beating for one minute.
Pour batter over nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour…..cool.
After cake has cooled, invert on to a serving dish. Prick top and pour glaze over evenly.
* 1/4 lb. butter
* 1/4 cup water
* 1 cup granulated sugar
* 1/2 cup Slivovica
Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water & sugar. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in Slivovica. Pour over cake, which has been pricked with holes.
St. Sava Monastery, Libertyville, IL, Feb. 25, 20102
With deep regret it was learned that His Eminence Metropolitan +CHRISTOPHER, our beloved Archpastor and spiritual father, has reposed in the Lord on August 18, 2010 at 7:45 pm, following a short and serious illness at the age of 82.
Born in Galveston, Texas, and baptized Velimir Kovacevich, the future Metropolitan Christopher was the ninth of twelve children of Serbian immigrant parents. After graduation from high school, he attended Nashotah House and graduated from St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Seminary in Libertyville, Illinois. After marriage, he was ordained to the Diaconate and Priesthood. Continuing his education, he earned a B.A. (Philosophy), Master of Letters (History) at the University of Pittsburgh; the Master of Divinity from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, and completed courses and examinations for the doctorate at the Chicago Theological Seminary.
Father Velimir ministered to parishes in Pennsylvania and in Chicago, also serving as chaplain to four universities. He assisted his parishes to become bilingual in their worship and education programs, and at the same time he was active in the defense of unity and canonical order in his church during a period of schism. As a priest, he served as spiritual father, counselor, youth worker, administrator, educator, and, above all, in priestly ministry at the Holy Altar. Widowed in 1970, he is the father of four, as well as the grandfather of nine.
Elevated to the episcopate in 1978 by the Assembly of Bishops in Belgrade and tonsured with the monastic name of Christopher, he became the first American-born bishop to serve a diocese of his church in North America. As Bishop of Eastern America and Canada, he soon developed a diocesan-wide program in religious education. Active also in ecumenism, he has served on the joint commission of Orthodox and Roman Catholic bishops and on the Orthodox-Lutheran dialogue, and has represented his church at high levels in both the National and World Councils of Churches. In 1991, he was elevated to the rank of Metropolitan, thereby becoming Primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the U.S. and Canada.
May the Lord our God grant blessed repose and eternal rest to His Eminence Metropolitan Christopher.
MONDAY, AUGUST 23, 2010
– Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, 10:00 AM, Monday, August 23, 2010, at Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, 5701 N. Redwood Drive, Chicago, IL 60631.
– Funeral Matins, 7:00 PM, Monday, August 23, 2010, at Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, 5701 N. Redwood Drive, Chicago, IL 60631.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 24, 2010
– Hierarchical Divine Liturgy and Requiem Service, 9:00 AM, Tuesday, August 24, 2010, at St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Monastery 32377 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville, IL 60048, followed by burial at grave on south side of church.
A memorial lunch will be served at Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, 5701 N. Redwood Drive, Chicago, IL 60631, following interment.
FIRST AMERICAN BORN BISHOP TO SERVE THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX DIOCESE IN AMERICA
Read more about Metropolitan Christopher at this link called
which speaks more about how Metropolitan Christopher was born on December 25, 1928, the son of the late Petar and Rista Kovachevich.
It lists his sons Petar, Paul, and Velimir, and their wives Michele, Roxanne, and Pamela, and the Metropolitan’s daughter, Valerie Backo, and her husband, Simo Backo.
Here is the Kosovo Men’s Choir singing “Oce Nas” in Trebinje
I wrote on Facebook:
I always valued him as being my priest at St. Sava’s Church on 21st and Sidney Streets in Pittsburgh (no longer there as the parishioners are now part of Holy Trinity Cathedral) while I was in my teen years. He was our “Father Vel” then. (…Velimir).
While he was very important to the SSF, we can’t forget his wonderful contributions to Shadeland Camp. Most people don’t know the early history, but he and Fr. Savich (also of Pittsburgh then) used to pretend they had a rivalry going between the two churches to see which one could raise more money for the wooden cabin (now gone) and the other buildings that followed “The Shadeland of Tomorrow” architectural drawings done by George Voinovich, father of Senator George Voinovich.
Thanks to his communication savvy, and with the help of Milan Tomich, a full-page article with lots of photos taken by my dad, Milan Karlo, appeared in the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph about the early cabin that was to be built. Hence, he was able to raise money from others not of Serbian descent who read and agreed with the camp concept too.
He was always busy connecting with the media to gain exposure for the Orthodox religion via the radio, TV, newspapers, etc. for holidays. I recall with pride how everyone in the Pittsburgh tri-state area heard our Christmas services (Jan. 6 midnight/Jan. 7) on the radio each year. He was a great communicator.
He also worked hard with the Orthodox students attending Pitt.
With him goes a great treasured memory too, as he could recall items precisely…. he was very smart, and although he loved us all, he never forgot his Galveston, Texas roots either….
My sister, Rose and I had the greatest thrill of all when we were in Belgrade for church services in Vracar previous to us traveling down to Kosovo for the 600th Anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo-1389-1989. Metropolitan Christopher had on his robe akin to St. Sava’s one one with the crosses on it. Although there were hundreds of clergy in attendance and THOUSANDS of faithful watching the procession, he took time out to acknowledge us lining the route (Rose and ‘Snow White’). Beforehand, Rose had said, “He’ll never remember us…..” It was that memory worki
After graduating Seminary, I stayed on at the Monastery as a Diocesan Employee working on both the Observer and adminstrative duties for the Diocese and the Bishop. I used to spend my afternoons in the Bishop’s office helping him with duties he needed done. Sometimes we would just sit and talk. I learned a great deal from this man who was like a Father figure to me and was honored that he had taken time out of his schedule to talk with and to teach me about various subjects. Some personal and some about the business of leading the Diocese.
Metropolitan Irinej was a humble and spiritual man who had achieved many great things throughout his lifetime, from developing the Serbian camp in Shadeland PA, to buidling the St. Sava Mission and Summer Camp in Jackson California. He was instrumental in purchasing the property in Grayslake, Illinois where he built The Protection of the Theotokos Cathedral and Grancanica Monastery.
When Communism collapsed in Yugoslavia and Patriarch Pavle was elected to replace Patriarch German, BIshop Irinej developed a dialog with the Patriarch about eventual reunification to finally heal the sore on the Serbian Orthodox Church and reunite all Serbs under one omophoriam of the Patriarch. This alone should stand as his crowing achievement.
He went on to do great things after this when the war broke out in the Balkans. Met. Irinej organized the collection and shipping of food and goods for those refugees who were driven from their ancestral homes and hearths. He soliciited donations for and delivered 3 complete field hospitals along with insturments, medications, beds and surgical tools. These hospitals saved many lives from wounded soldiers to children with arms and legs blow off after stepping on a buried mine.
I would love to see more information about him including photos and videos about him. I have some materials. On the occasion of the anniversary of his Priesthood; 40 years as a priest, 30 years as a Bishop and 10 years as Metropolitan, I edited a special edition of the Observer in a magazine format with many color photographs and stories and anecdotes from his life. I have a copy of this magazine. And while I am loth to lose it, I would be willing to scan the magazine into a PDF file.
I also have a similar magazine format Observer Issue as a commemoration of the first Holy Liturgy served by both Metropolitan Irinej and Patriarch Pavle at Gracanica Monastery. This liturgy was the moment the schism between the two sides was healed, and I believe it to be the crowning glory of Met. Irinej’s life of service to his church and God.
“Galveston, Oh Galveston!” we all know the words to that great country song. But it’s always in my heart every time I visit son Nick and his family in Houston, Texas. I can’t wait until we get a chance to head down to that coastal town because of great Serb friends found there, like Mimo Milosevich and Elaine Mitrovich. We always try to attend church services when I’m there and usually find a great place for lunch before heading back to Houston, or eat in the new church hall now with dinners afterwards. The original hall was demolished by the last hurricane.
By Milana (Mim) Karlo Bizic
American SRBOBRAN. 2020
This story begins with me finding something Elaine thought for sure was lost to history like most of her treasured things she had, in the last two big hurricanes the resilient people of Galveston endured. It was a letter and some stories she had written on January 24, 1984 to my dad, Milan Karlo, and his wife Helen for their book EARLY DAYS: Serbian Settlers in America. Alas. The material was never used because that first book became too unwieldy just with stories and photos from the West. It would have to wait until the couple living in New Mexico could make a new book for the Midwest and East, but time and money ran out. It was never done. But with this CORID-19 virus, I’ve had time to go through a few unopened boxes, and found these wonderful letters and story treasures from my Dad to share with you, almost four decades later.
As Elaine herself acknowledged in her letter to my dad Milan and Helen: “I’m probably six months too late with this…” She also wrote how Father Mike Kresojeich, whom we all loved at Shadeland, was no longer in Elizabeth, New Jersey, but now in Florida, and also that Bishop Firmilian was in the hospital.
But let’s move onto Elaine’s father, Tripo Nicholas Mitrovich. What a background story he had. Tripo was the son of Nikola and Ljubi Uljarevich Mitrovich, born on February 16, 1896 in Krusevica, Boca Kotorska, Serbia. His father Nikola had been married before, and after bearing him 8 or 10 children (the exact is not known) his first wife died. In his old age, Nikola married the young woman, Ljubi Uljarevich, and Tripo was their first chid. Nikola died about 1900, leaving Ljuba and young son Tripo, age 4, and also an infant son, who later died. (Just imagine her life!)
One lady, Anna Keseljevich, a few years older than Tripo, had lived across the street from him in the village. Many years later, then also living in Galveston, she delighted Tripo’s children, informing them that since he was his widowed mother’s only child, he was very spoiled and got into mischief with his harried mother frequently chasing after him, a funny sight to see.
Thank goodness Tripo was always close with his older brothers. One of the brothers and brother-in-law were farmers and fishermen as were the rest of the men in the village, but they also signed onto ocean-going cargo ships that plied their ways from their area to Turkey. They had made the trips many times and when he was old enough to travel, they signed Tripo on as a cabin boy to help his brother-in-law (the ship’s cook) in the kitchen. Although it was a short voyage, it was almost his last too. They had just sailed into Istanbul harbor and began unloading their cargo. Tripo had been peeling a huge pile of potatoes on the deck of the ship when the muezzin made his call for the Moslems to bow down in prayer. Being a proud Serbian Orthodox, and not liking the Turks from his history lessons, Tripo began throwing rotten potatoes down on a small boatload of Turks who had prostrated themselves on their deck of the ship below Tripo’s. Needless to say, the enraged Turks did not take kindly to this and jumped off their ship, angrily running up the dock to Tripo’s vessel. His quick-thinking brother-in-law cook threw him into a food locker and threatened him with his life if he even breathed! Then he cooly headed off the Turks by telling them that the kid had jumped into the water on the other side of the boat.
Now, another brother, Savo (Sam), had been living in America since 1907. He sent a letter home, inviting then 16 year old Tripo to come join him in America. Although his mother was happy for Tripo to seek his fortune in the new world, she was also filled with great sorrow, thinking she would probably never see him again. She was right. The morning that her son was to leave, she fixed him a huge breakfast of eggs and bacon, served him milk and coffee and baked goods, leaving Tripo stunned. Why? Because this breakfast was very unusual in that it was the period of Great Lent, and his mother was a very religious woman. He was shocked to see she would break the fast for him, but she told him she had a premonition, and that she had to make sure he would not leave his ancestral home hungry. He never forgot that breakfast nor the tears she cried that morning. He repeated this story freely throughout the years, and whenever he related it to others, he would always have tears in his eyes for the memory of his beloved mother and that memorable day.
Tripo came to the USA in May, 1913, sailing from Boca Kotorska to New York, ending at Ellis Island. From there he took a train from New York to his destination in Galveston, arriving five days later. It was thanks to a Russian man on the train who Tripo befriended, who also spoke English that managed to send brother Savo a telegram, so that Savo was there to meet him at the station. Tripo then lived with Savo, a cook at a downtown cafe, and his wife Frances, who managed their small boarding house, and their two young daughters. Savo (Sam) got Tripo a job washing dishes until he could learn English better. Tripo went from dishwasher to bus-boy, to one of Galveston’s best waiters, and Sam also taught him how to cook.
Three years later, Tripo enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1916 and was sent to basic training in San Antonio, Texas. One day, shortly before his unit was ready to ship out to France, Tripo’s commanding officer called him into his office and gave him the opportunity to resign. The officer explained that Tripo was actually a subject of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and since the U.S. had entered into the war against them, he could resign because of his citizenship. Tripo proudly told his commanding officer that he was born a Serbian, and was NOT an Austrian, and now considered himself an American. His officer was quite proud of him. Shortly later, Tripo became an American citizen in the District Court of San Antonio. He didn’t see much action in the war due to a hand injury that landed him into a hospital for a long time, but Tripo was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army with the rank of Sergeant.
Tripo remained a bachelor until January 21, 1935, when he married Adela Pechacek, the daughter of Czech immigrants, Alois and Josefa Pechacek. They married in Angleton, Texas, about 60 miles away from Galveston, near Adela’s home town because at the time, Sts. Constantine and Helen Church was vacant, and the couple would have to wait at least six months to marry before a priest could come. Their first home was the vacant parish residence above the now demolished church hall, because the Church Board needed someone to live there until the priest and his family finally arrived, due to insurance issues.
Two children were born to the couple, Milton and Elaine. Milton Louis Mitrovich was born on March 2, 1936 on the 100th Anniversary of Texas Independence, and the couple always took such pride in that fact. Our wonderful Elaine was born September 22, 1940. At this time, Tripo was working two jobs, as a waiter and also a worker for Grays Ship Yards.
Elaine was always so proud of the fact that her father and mother Adela were such hard workers for both their Sts. Constantine and Helen Church and for the Savez, our Serb National Federation. It seemed anytime anyone would see Tripo, he was always busy collecting dues for one or both organizations. Anytime there was a celebration, dinner or festivity, Tripo was in the kitchen working. He was proud that son Milton was an altar boy and his daughter Elaine sang in the church choir with her mom. Tripo was on the Church Board of Trustees, as well as for the Savez and Cemetery Committee. He was an active church member until his health failed, and he had to retire from his employment from the City of Galveston where he had worked for the last thirteen years. He died on April 8, 1970. Elaine says, “My dad was never a wealthy man, but he left so much to his family: Love, Pride in being Serbian, many friends, devotion to his church, fellowship, and pride in the service to his country.
Tripo’s favorite songs were “O Namo Namo” and “Tamo Daleko.” The Mitrovich Slava is St. George. Elaine says that since this was the Slava of practically ALL the Serbian families in Galveston, he and his family attended the Sam Popovich family Slava every year up until the 1960’s. The tradition in Galveston was that the families would visit each house celebrating, and the tradition still continues somewhat to this day. But because families were growing in alarming proportions with each succeeding generation, and the older generation was dying off, families began celebrating in their own homes.
Elaine loves to boast: “Niko Nema Sto Srbin Imade!” From the 1900’s, every Christmas and Easter and Slava was a marvelous celebration, visiting from house to house, eating, drinking, dancing, singing and having fun. “It has always been so special and our American friends who have been lucky enough to be invited to any or all of them were always envious and couldn’t compare them to anything they ever knew.”
Although Galveston is a small colony, it has always been a family-oriented community with everyone mostly related to everyone else, either through blood or Kumovi relations. “Because of our small size, it has always been a struggle for us to keep an active church going, but we would roll up our sleeves and work, and it was such enjoyment to participate with your friends and loved ones, really like one big family.”
I can attest to what Elaine says is true. Visiting Sts. Constantine and Helen Orthodox Church Galveston is like visiting family.
And there are so many more stories to be told! When visiting there, ask to hear about Milton’s and Elaine’s hilarious late baptisms in 1946, or about the old retired hard-of-hearing seaman, Maxim Todorovich, trying to give his confession to their very learned priest, Dr. Tihomir Pantovich. Or about “Miss Mary,” the Serbian lady who ran a saloon next to where the longshoremen worked and had learned a “colorful” vocabulary. Be sure to inquire about the Czech band playing and people trying to dance on a very slippery waxed floor. Elaine says a whole story could be written just about Sophie’s folklore, especially the story about when Sophie and Johnny Milosevich were to get married. Then of course there are the Sam Popovich Constable stories wherein he was the most popular politician on the island after helping to clean up the gambling and red light districts! Sam joked and said even the Federal Post Office at 2528 was at one time a bordello, just another colorful part of Texas history! No wonder my father and Helen loved visiting Galveston as much as we do now. You will too!
Mim Bizic, Mimo Milosevich, and Elaine MItrovic in Galveston, TX, looking at the bricks purchased for the new walkways by and around the church in 2018.
Tripo’s WWI Documentation
Elaine Mitrovich and Family
Elaine Mitrovich and His Grace, Bishop Longin of the Midwest Diocese.
Elaine and her Galveston family with Baba Goya Kovachevich in the center.
Elaine and the ladies of Galveston for a Spaghetti Fund Raiser for their church.
Great friends: Sophie Milosevich and Adele Mitrovich, Elaine’s mother.
The hardworking Ladies o Galveston’s KSS
Nephew Jeff Mitrovich, our Elaine Mitrovich and Fr. Serge Veselinovich, Galveston’s long-time beloved priest now in Chicago, IL.
Son Nick Bizic treated Mimo, Mim and Elaine to dinner at a great Texas Restaurant.
“What is rain? It is like Christ Who was also sent by the Father from Heaven to water a thirsty earth.”
St. Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic
“Вера човекова није друго него отварање врата душе и допуштење Бога да уђе.”
(“Faith is nothing but a man opening the door of his soul and bidding God to enter”)
Bishop Nikolai was born on Jan. 4, 1881 and passed to His Heavenly Father, March 18, 1956
He is called the St. Bishop Nikolai of Ohrid & Zica, and also, “The New Chrysostom”
Засија се лице Србиново,
Зазвонише звона на весеље,
Замириса земља од тамјана,
Заблиста се Христова Истина,
Зацари се милост и поштење,
Анђели се са неба спустише,
Па Србију земљу загрлише.
Хај, шта се оно чује из даљине?
То се опет служи Литургија,
У небеском Царству Христовоме,
Службу служи Светитељу Саво,
И са њиме три стотин’ владика,
И три хиљад’ српских свештеника,
Ђаконује архиђакон Стево,
А са њиме ђакон Авакуме,
Што на коцу за Христа пострада,
На бијару усред Биограда.
А Цар Славе сједи на пријестолу,
Док се земља грми ка’ олуја,
То Србија кличе – Алилуја!
Благо мајци која Саву роди,
И Србима док их Саво води.
To listen to the whole “Heavenly Liturgy” by Saint Bishop Nikolai, visit the YouTube site of Prijatelj Bozlji.
(Copy info below and paste into your Browser.)
The letters to Milan Karlo and Proto Vlastimir Tomich from Bishop Nikolai were not previously published, so in brotherly/sisterly love and good faith, we place them here for others doing further research on the life of St. Bishop Nikolai.
I would like to thank Proto Tomich’s daughter-in-law, Betty Tomich, for sharing these letters with us.
And also a big debt of gratitude to Fr. Mateja Matejic of Columbus, Ohio, for translating them.
V. Rev. Dr. Mateja Matejic,
Translator of Letters
Betty Tomich’s neighbor, Sarah Pesich, shows a photo of the Dedication of the St. Elijah S.E.O. Church in Aliquippa in 1956. The photo was taken by Milan Karlo.
Sarah, a professional seamstress, was called upon to make the white robe for Bishop Dionisije. Afterwards, it was cut into small pieces and each priest got a piece of the robe. “If I would have known it wasn’t going to last forever, I wouldn’t have killed myself in making those tiny stitches by hand,” 86-year old, but very alert Sarah laughed.
(At the time of the Consecration, Jovan, the youngest of Proto Tomich’s three sons, was serving in the Armed Forces of the United States.)
However, it was Bishop Nikolai who had consecrated the grounds of St. Elijah Serbian Orthodox Church in Aliquippa several years earlier.
“On January 27, 1952 at the St. Sava Celebration, the campaign was started for soliciting funds, pledges and planning for the new church. On June 1, the same year, Bishop Dr. Nicholai Velimirovich, assisted by our local Pastor V. Rev. V. Tomich, and several Greek, Russian and Serbian Clergy blessed the ground of the new church.”
(On May 30, 1954, there was a ground-breaking ceremony.)
Here’s +Betty Tomich in her home, showing a pencil drawing her very talented late husband, Jovan Tomich, drew of the tent they lived in when they were prisoners of war in Germany.
He drew it entirely from memory of when he was a young child, remembering the experiences and hardships they endured.
+Betty Tomich looking over one of the five letters from Bishop Nikolai to her late in-laws.
(Above photos by Mim Bizic.)
+Jovan Tomich, Betty’s late husband, was known throughout the USA for his vocal defense of the Serbs through his witty and artistic cartoons sent to newspapers, and his frequent calls to all the local and national radio and TV stations that were hell-bent on portraying the Serbs as the only belligerents of the war in Yugoslavia. John was relentless in fighting back.
“We could never enjoy dinner in peace. He was always calling CNN about something or another. Madeline Albright and Richard Holbrook drove him crazy. Right away he would be dialing CNN and challenging their statements.”
John was brilliant in many aspects, including having a magnificent voice which he used in singing with the Pittsburgh Opera.
John was also proud of his service for the Intelligence Branch of the U.S. Army during his younger days which utilized many of his talents, including his knowledge of many different languages.
John was also the architect of record who won many national FIRST-PLACE awards from the Architects of America for his forward-looking church design of Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of Pittsburgh.
He worked for the prestigious Greene Engineering Company of Sewickley, PA and also had his own consulting business on the side.
Wife Betty was gainfully employed as an executive secretary for U.S. Steel Company of Pittsburgh and is now enjoying retirement.
UPDATE: Betty Tomich, born March 6, 1939, passed away on October 8, 2015. Her funeral was from the Greek Church in Aliquippa, but she was buried in the St. Elijah Serbian Orthodox Cemetery.
V. Rev. Vlastimir Tomich
Parish Priest 1949-1968,
St. Elijah S. O. Church,
Info taken from the Banquet Booklet,
Sunday, Oct. 20, 1968,
American Serbian Club, Aliquippa, PA
Fr. Tomich was bon Sept. 23, 1894, in Vrbica, Shumadija, Serbia, located near the Villlage of Orasac, the place where Karageorge started the First Uprising in the year 1804.
He graduated with Honors from the St. Sava Theological Seminary in Belgrade. He was a classmate of the late Bishop of Dalmatia, Dr. Iriney, and both were students of the late (Saint) Bishop, Dr. Nikolai Velimirovich.
Upon graduation he worked on the Ecclesiastical Court in Belgrade and later was a teacher in Arandjelovac where he met and married his wife, the present Protinica Pola. Father and Mrs. Tomich has three sons.
In the year 1934, Fr. Tomich was transfered to the Kragujevac Parish and was also an instructor of Religion in the Girl’s Gimnazija. He was later appointed as the Bishop’s representative for the City and County of Kragujevac.
During the “Concordat Struggle” in 1937, Fr. Tomich began a newspaper called, “Pastirski Glas” and together with the well-known Re. Milan Sretenovic and Rev. Jovan Rapaich, this publication played an important role in the protection and defense of Serbianism and Orthodoxy.
Respecting Fr. Tomich’s national and religious work, upon the recommendation of the Serbian Patriarch, Bishop Nikolai of Zica elevated Fr. Tomich to an Arch Priest or “Proto,” at the Cathedral in Kragujevac.
In the year 1940, Proto Tomich volunteered his services to the Yugoslav War department in case of war to serve as an Army Chaplain. When war broke out in 1941, Proto Tomich was already on the front in Macedonia. Later, he was, together with the entire Shumadija Division, deported and interned in the prison camp in Germany and remained to the end of the war in 1945. During his internment in the Prison camp he served as the camp Chaplain and due to his religious and nationalistic beliefs was shifted several times.
In the year 1944, Proto Tomich was transferred to the Officers camp Oflag XIII N, Hammelburg. At the same time, a group of American Officers who had earlier been interned in Ardeni on the French-German border were brought here.
There were about 1,300 American officers that were brought to the camp and before long, they were shown the true Serbian hospitality and in the most tiring days in the lives of the American Officers, Proto Tomich together with the other Serbian prisoners, gave all they could to ease the situation and make them welcome and comfortable.
The following year on March 27, one group of the Third American Army arrived and they were freed. Soon after, Proto Tomich (with other prisoners) was once again captured by the Germans and sent to the prison camp in Nurnberg where the same army freed him on April 17, 1945.
Proto Tomich together with 1,101 Serbian officers refused to return to his native country which was already overrun and ruled with communists.
After three months in Austria, Proto Tomich set out for Italy to find his family. Deeply saddened with the report that his second son, Milosh, was missing, Proto Tomich together with his wife and youngest son Jovan, arrived in America in March 1947 to assume the duties of parish pastor in Omaha, Nebraska.
Two years later, he was unanimously elected by the local St. Elijah Parish and has served as its pastor since. At the same time, his oldest son, Miroslav, arrived from Germany.
During the past seven years, the local parish has made great strides under the able leadership of Proto Tomich.
The St. Elijah Coir, the Sunday School, and the Mothers Club as well as the Young Men’s Organization has flourished well under his guiding influence.
He was very instrumental in the reorganization of the Church Building Fund in December 1951 and has spent many hours working on the numerous details regarding the construction of the new church. The entire activity of the St. Elijah Church has grown greatly under his supervision and his spiritual leadership.
The result of this activity and the guiding hand of our pastor together with the aid and help of the various committees and the entire parish, was the burning of the mortgage in the sum of $110,000.00 in 1958, only TWO years after the completion of the new St. Elijah Church on one of the nicest sites in the community. It was intended that the debt be paid within fifteen years, but it was paid within two.
Also here, as in other instances, Proto Tomich’s ability to expediate played an important role. Nobody ever waited for him. In the execution of his duties he was always exact and prompt: at baptisms, weddings and funerals, visiting the sick and in emergencies he tried to arrive on time and in time–day or night. His exactness is shown in the church records which contain numerous data about the living and the deceased, and about the number of those who received the Holy Sacraments of Confession and Communion.
The credit for the number of those who were converted into the Orthodox religion from other denominations goes to Father Tomich for his successful work and for the esteem he enjoys in the community.
Briefly said, the Serbian Orthodox Church Congregation of St. Elijah, under the able guidance of Father Tomich, has prospered spiritually and materially for the time of his service.
Fr. Tomich’s legacy was to unselfishly promote materially, culturally, and above all spiritually, the welfare of the members and organizations for the good of America and the Glory of God.
Father of the bride, Milan M. Karlo took this photo in the church following the wedding of Gus and Milana K. Bizic in 1963 officiated by the V. Rev. Fr. Vlastimir Tomich in St. Elijah Serbian Orthodox Church in Aliquippa, PA.
The table was built by Peter and Joe Bizic (father and uncle of the groom) in memory of Fr. Tomich’s son who died in the war, and the late Bishop Nikolai.
Inside, where the marriage crowns are kept, is marked the special wedding date uniting the Karlo/Bizic families.
Because there were several other activities going on at the church the same day, this table was only brought in by Pete and Joe Bizic only 1/2 hour prior to the wedding, so that Pete’s son, Gus, and his wife Mim, would be the FIRST to walk around the little altar table, taking their first steps together as man and wife in an unending circle three times, following in the footsteps and path of God.
Peter Bizic can be seen on the photo above with Bishop Nikolai and Proto Tomich when visiting the SNF.
Many Serbian Orthodox homes have this special blessing of St. Bishop Nikolai in their homes:
Boze blagoslovi onog ko ulazi u ovaj dom,
Zashtiti i sachuvaj onog koji izlazi is njega
I daj mir onom ko u njemu ostaje.
Бозе благослови оног ко улази у овај дом, засхтита и сацхувај оног који излази ис њега И дај мир оном ко у њему остаје.
“God bless those who enter into this home, Protect and keep in your Grace those who leave from it, and grant peace to those who in it dwell.”
by Bishop Nikolai
Reprinted from the Tuesday, Jan. 7, 1992 issue of the American SRBOBRAN, p. 5
Have you ever brought a Badnjak into your home?
Do you know that the Badnjak is the finest and foremost custom of all the many traditions by which our people enhance the Christmas celebration?
The Serbs begin the celebration of Christmas with the solemn ceremony of bringing in a young OAK tree to the house.
An OAK is usually the most solid tree and produces the most heat.
Have you ever anointed the Badnjak with honey?
Have you rejoiced with your children watching its light emitted in a swarm of sparks?
Have you enjoyed its heat?
It is better to dress the soul in silk and the body in rags than the reverse.
Work and virtue are sisters, as well as idleness and vice.
About Serbia and England:
“When Richard the Lion-hearted sailed from England to the Holy Land, not to fight for the national existence, as we to-day speak of it, but to fight for the most unselfish and idealistic aim, for Cross and Christian Freedom, Serbia was already opening a great epoch of physical as well as spiritual strength. Our king Nemanja, the founder of a dynasty which ruled in Serbia for nearly 300 years, had heard tales and songs about the English king with the lion’s heart, and had helped the same cause, the cause of the Crusades, very much.
His son, Saint Sava, organised the Christian Church wonderfully, and wonderfully he inspired the educational and scholarly work in the state created by his father. This Saint Sava, the Archbishop of Serbia, after he had travelled all over Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria, preaching the Gospel of the Son of God, died in Bulgaria. His body was transferred to and buried in a monastery in Herzegovina.
Afterwards, in times of national hardships and slavery, great pilgrimages took place to the grave of the Saint, which became the comforting and inspiring centre for the oppressed nation; the Turks destroyed the tomb, carried the body over to Belgrade and burnt it, in order to lessen the Serbian national and religious enthusiasm. The result was just the contrary.
On the very same place where Saint Sava’s body was burnt there is now a Saint Sava’s chapel; close to this chapel a new Saint Sava’s seminary is to be erected, and also Saint Sava’s cathedral of Belgrade. And over all there is an acknowledged protection of Saint Sava by all the Serbian churches and schools, and a unifying spirit of Saint Sava for all the Serbian nation.
Saint Sava’s belief was the same as the belief of Saint Patrick and Saint Augustine. His hopes were the same as theirs too. He believed in the one saving Gospel of Christ, as they did. He hoped men could be educated by this divine Gospel, to be heroic in suffering and pure and holy in the enjoyments of life, just as the great saints of this island doubtless hoped and worked.
When I heard that my beloved Milan Opacich had passed away, I couldn’t help crying, because we Serbs in America lost a national treasure, a Legacy maker, a unique soul who had a much larger vision of the world than most of us will ever hope to have!
Milan is a person who WILL live on, much longer after all of us have passed away, because of his multiple contributions in documenting American Serb musical history.
His exploits were LEGENDARY. He was a tambura musician, playing all the instruments, but especially the prim. He would make tapes, wherein he recorded all the instruments on different tracks, and sininging harmony with himself! He experimented until he found the results he wanted. He always kept re-inventing himself, each role better than the last!
He was an incredible singer, and always sang “Bela Ruza” for his beloved wife, Roz, in loving tribute to her. But he could also sing the old westerns of “Cool, Clear Water” and “Rosa’s Cantina” as well and clear as any of those beloved patriotic Serbian melodies we have all come to have a special section in our hearts.
Besides PLAYING the tamburitza music, Milan was a tambura MAKER, and taught the craft to young and old who came to his studio. His tamburas are owned by some of the most famous of country and western singers! His instruments are on display in Opryland museums along with Roy Acuff, Chet Atkins and their friends. At one time, Milan’s tamburas were also on display at the Smithsonian!
John Hancock, one of Milan’s students and a retired boilermaker from Griffith, Indiana, suggested that Milan not only taught guitar making, but “he taught life. He imbued his classes with history and culture and had a wonderful work ethic and wanted everyone to fall in love with the craft. It was what he lived for.”
He told our Serbian heritage story on the radio, on TV, and at Universities.
Every two months his articles about famous Serbian musician groups would appear in the acclaimed SERB WORLD, USA cultural magazine. He worked to the very end, having two more articles to go in the SERB WORLD, even after his passing!
He wrote a distinguished book called “Tamburitza America,” complete with beautiful photos and stories as only he could tell them. He was the ULTIMATE story teller and I anxiously awaited reading his stories first when the magazine came!
He was awarded the highest award our country could bestow upon someone, calling him a NATIONAL TREASURE wherein he received his honor, the National Heritage Fellowship from the NEA, on the steps of the U.S. Library of Congress!
How proud we always were to hear of another huge honor being bestowed upon on Milan, because he DESERVED every one of them! You can read more about his great deeds here and in his obituary.
And I must not forget to mention his love for his Serbian History group at his St. Sava’s Merrillville Church and the astonishing displays they created year after year!
I said when I first heard the news about his passing that this was truly a HUGE loss for all of us, indeed, for all of America.
“Farewell, my dear Milan Op-a-chich-i!” (That’s what his famous country music singers called him on the radio show!) And how we would laugh together on the phone about this. I would call Milan from the farthest away places in my car, as he kept me company with his CDs & DVDs in my car! Hearing those “All day I faced the barren waste” words come tumbling out, always made me smile, no matter where I was!
Milan (and Roz!) made the world brighter because he (they) made it so…. and they, true Lovebirds, took us all along with them! Dragica Lord said to my FB post: “Amen, Mim. Milan was loved, and made so many, many people happy in his presence!”
Read Milan’s Obituary here:
Read more about Milan here and see a few movies he made for the University of Indiana:
Lynn Hadley wrote about Milan in her blog of 2013/01/25 Milan Opacich-The Music Goes On:
“Milan began playing tamburitza when he was eighteen. He decided to try making a better tambura than the one he was playing, an idea he first had when as a child he watched his father make the plywood and rubber band ukulele. An apprenticing tool and die maker at Gary Screw and Bolt Works, Milan, then 23, applied his skills, ingenuity, and determination to make his first tamburitza – a turtleback prima. The instrument, Milan’s first, required a battle with a tenacious Michigan City swamp turtle. Milan and his older brother had to wade into the swamp up to their necks to retrieve it. ‘I can’t swim, and on top of that I have a deadly fear of water moccasins!’ Milan remarked.“
Roz’s cousin, Ted Erceg, also gave a Eulogy on Milan’s behalf and spoke about Milan’s upbringing and childhood.
“Milan was baptized in St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in East Chicago. His father says he was named Milan after his father’s time at the Milan Opera House in Italy, where his father worked for several years. I have often wondered in Milan’s fine voice echoes his father’s time in Milan.
“Milan grew up with his music as a boy, but it wasn’t his only interest. He waas born and raised in Gary’s tumultrous Midtown area, among hundreds of Serbian families where the Opacichs lived at several addresses. In spite of the national poverty, he recalled a boyhood filled with friends and neighbors, people out on their porches in the evening, and out in the streets during the day. Streets were made for baseball and the alleys for “Kick the Can.” The town served as a living lesson in diversity. In this city of European immigrant kids is where Milan grew up familiar with other cultures, including their music. He loved the open-air market and the ice ream venors, the horse-drawn wagons that pulled scrap collectors, and the photographer who snapped pictures of your kids with his goat.
(Editor’s note: For us, it was with the photographer’s pony and cowboy/cowgirl attire!)
“It was in the ear of the Miramar Ballroom, built by Serbian immigrants who also constructed our first church on 20th Avenue. Milan felt it an honor to have been born on 12th and Madison Street, a few doors down and a few years later from where the great Serbian St. Varnava was born. There may have been an absence of affluence here, but never a shortage of spirit. Milan LOVED the place.
“As an eleven-year-old boy, Milan discovered that his mom had Extra Sensory Perception. He didn’t know what that was except that in that era, everybody’s Mom had it! Every time he dreamed up his Next Big Idea, his mom had already sensed it and she would head him off at the pass before any damage could result.
“After graduation from Lew Wallace High School, where he starred in track and football, Milan immersed himself in tamburitza music, and at the time, he began his career as a firefighter. It was during his years at the fire station where he developed skills at mastering the craft of the luthier. Over the years, he haught beginers, many of who were not Serbian and repaired instruments for a number of professional musicians. He was on a first-name basis with stars who Nashvilled who relied on their instruments for their livelihood, who came to him for repairs.
“Milan also took an interest in a certain cute Horace Mann High School cheerleader who lived in the Kirk Yard neighborhood, and who was of Serbian descent too. What more can a man ask? Milan and Roz were married at our (old) St. Sava Church in Gary, and soon blessed with Daughter Karin. Their marriage has spanned some sixty years. It was in Mailan’s last few months that Roz, he called her Roe ever since her cousin have her that name, stayed with him through long hours day and night, ever at his side, caring for him. Between breaths, he praised her mightily. Without Roz he was nothing. Karin was with him also until the end, encouraging his cheerfully, and smiling through her tears.
“Milan has always taken great pride in the accomplishments of Serbians in America, but especially so of St. Sava Gary Our presence here today in our commemoration of Milan’s gift for preserving Serbian culture in every day life. He is the star that refuses to fade in the morning sun, rock solid in his heritage, and that, essentially, is what made him the man he was.”
“Most of us know Milan from his playing in the church halls and picnics, at celebrations and good times. We remember the silver haired fellow in front of the microphone singing his heart out, and preserving the Serbian and Orthodox spirit in his music. But we also know him from St. Sava, and in the silence of this chapel, we can hear you clearly from where you are now. No need for microphones and PA systems. We understand your song.
“The 23rd Psalm’s last verse whcih tells us that for living a good and useful life, ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.’ This is our prayer for you from your friends.”
January 21, 2013
Eulogy from Milan and Roz’s daughter,
Dr. Karin Opacich, from the University of Illinois:
“We gather here today to bear witness to the extraordinatry life of Milan Opacich. Words cannot express our gratitude to all of you, to the “selo” (village), however dispered, for your support during this difficult time. Although my father’s suffering seemed interminable to my mother and me, the scientist in me calculated that it actually represented less than 1% of his magnificent life.
Robert Frost wrote in his poem, The Road Not Taken,
I shall be telling this with a sign
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
“Ah, nase Milane, the road you chose turned into a lifelong journey that enriched us all!
“My dad often remarked that he couldn’t believe that a kid from the “central district of Gary” could have seen what he saw, gone where he went, and achieved what he did. My father loved his life. After he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June, he accepted his fate stating that he wouldn’t change a thing about his life. Who among us can really say that?
“As we all know, my father was the penultimate storyteller. He painted vivid pictures of Old Gary—the Depression, the man down the street who survived the Titanic, the family friend who let him play with his ukelele, and the neighbor who took him to revival meetings where he loved the gospel music. I would be remiss if I did not highlight a few of his story.
1. In high school, he formed a group called the Possum Hollow Ramblers in which he played the guitar and sang country songs. Given his love of Nashville, he never quite left the genre.
2. Of course we all know the story of “the turtle” which he and his brother Bob procured from a snake infested swamp to make his first turtleback prima. If you don’t know the story, ask the person standing next to you!
3. Many of you will remember your visits to his first shop in the basement of our home on 4044 Polk St. in Gary. It started as a bench on the north wall and eventually took over the entire basement including the wash tubs where our laundry competed with wood soaking to be bent.
4. When I was 8, I received my first dad-made instrument for Christmas, a baritone ukelele. As he gave it to me, he said, “Someday you’ll remember me by this.” The very next day, he answered a 3 alarm call from No. 2 Fire Station. The roof caved in on him and two of his firemen brothers. They faced eater below, fire above, and smoke, but somehow they miraculousy crawled to safety.
5. We all know that my dad tenaciously supported the establishment of junior tamburitza groups. I remember with fondness when the ship docked in Chicago bearing the dozens of instruments from Jugoslavia for the St. Sava Junior Tamburitzans. The crates were opened in our backyard, instruments unpacked,, and a giant bonfire blazed with packing material to mark the occasion. Every Saturday morning for the next several years was devoted to tamburitza lessons. I retired my prima long ago, but I still smile thinking about my dad’s excitement at concert time.
In the ensuing years, my father fought fires, performed with his tamburitiza orchestras, and industriously built instruments. Most of our family vacations entailed visiting guiatr factories or tracking down some ancient luthier. The house was always humming with music and band saws. I especially loved when practices took place in our living room where sometimes, I even got to sing a song with the orchestra before bedtime.
(Baba Mim Note: HOW Milan loved to tell me about when his daughter Karen sang with the orchestra, “Tata, Kupi Mi Auto!” He even made me a recording of it, due to his extreme fatherly pride in his wonderful and talented daughter!)
“As I got older, I, too, benefitted from the fascinating people who came through our doors like Mr. Tilev, the violin maker from Turkey and Lenin Pierut, the classical guitarist from Cuba. When our friends gathered, our eclectic musical evenings often entailed me playing the piano, singers harmonizing including our own diva, Danica Chirich, and Dad improvising on guitar, cello or prima. My mother still marvels that the neighbors never complained!
As life went on, the recognition and accolades began to accumulate. I have to say that my proudest moment occurred in 2004 when my father received the National Heritage Fellowship from the NEA, the highest federal honor bestowed upon Folk and Traditional artists. To see him honored in this way was nothing short of awesome. That whole week of celebration in Washington, DC was magical. When we entered the Library of Congress for an exquisite reception and dinner under the marble rotunda, I thought I had died and gone to Heaven. When my father took the podium to tell his story and thank his benefactors, I sat mesmerized by his grace and humility. No ordinary man this Milan Opacich. How did I get so lucky in life’s lottery?
Rather than resting on his laurels, Milan launched yet another career teaching his craft. He loved the flow of students that eneded only when he became too ill to carry on. Students signed on for an 8-week session, but many never left, and they became part of his large circle of friends. Two of his proteges were among those who carried him home today, and they are now considered part of our extended family.
Milan was tenacious when it came to his projects. He loved researching articles and promoting causes. He wrote editorials using pseudonyms thinking my mother wouldn’t recognize him when they were published—Jovo Licica, Milosh Obilich (and ye Editor remembers fondly many more!) ….really? Among his final quests were the establishment of the St. Sava Historical Society to preserve the cultural heritage which he held so dear; retrieving the Veterans Memorial from the old St. Sava to the new church; and chronicaling the life and times of Andrew Groehsl, the legendary tamburitza player.
So many of you have expressed to us how much you learned from my dad. In 2000, I had the great honor of paying tribute to him when he received a LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT Award from the American Slavic Association in Phoenix, Arizona. At that time, I cited five of the most important lessons I learned from my father. They remain pertinent:
1. There is something to be learned from everyone.
2. There is power in the written word.
3. There is no greater virtue than loyalty.
4. It’s only money. (Character is far more valuable than a big bank account.)
5. The greatest happiness comes from emersion in meaningful doing, and he demonstrated that a life of purpose and passion has had a rippling effect.
Lest you think that I am blinded by grief, that I am idealizing the man, let me assure you that he had his flaws and quirks. We had our differences. My dad was feisty and sometimes stubborn and opinionated. That was just a part of his persona and apparently a part of mine. I found myself at the top of his list from time to time, and I’m not talking about the “A” list. Nevertheless, he was loving and generous and honorable. His smile lit up the room and I adored him.
In final tribute to him, permit me to make two additional requests:
1. He loved my mother dearly and would ask your continued support as she reconstructs her life without her husband of 61 years.
2. Finally, whatever he meant to you, or taught you, or gave you, pay it forward. Give that gift to another the same generous spirit.
He made me promise that we would celebrate his life and that is what I intend to do. I loved him dearly. Uvek u mom srcu, always in my heart, Papa, nase Milane. Vjecnaja pamjat.
Dr. Karin Opacich
Univeristy of Illinois
If you google the name “Nikola Musulin,” you will find many Nikola Musulins, in fact, one of them was the famous teacher (and poet) from Prizren, Kosovo, Serbia, who found the famous “Dushan’s Code” that was written on May 21, 1349, in Skopje, the capital of the Serbian Empire.
From Wikipedia we learn that Dusan’s Code was: ““We enact this Law by our Orthodox Synod, by His Holiness the Patriarch Kir Joanikije together with all the Archbishops and Clergy, small and great, and by me, the true-believing Emperor Stephen, and all the Lords, small and great, of this our Empire”. In the Charter, which accompanied the Code, it said: “It is my desire to enact certain virtues and truest of laws of the Orthodox faith to be adhered to and observed”.[3
It was in 1859 that Nikola Musulin the teacher-poet found the manuscript and brought it from a monastery which is now in the National Museum in Belgrade.
(Read more about the Code on Wikipedia.)
“Кад се човек роди, цео свет се радује, а само он плаче.
Али треба да живи тако да, кад умре, цео свет плаче а само он се радује”
“When a man is born the entire world rejoices, only he weeps. But our lives must be lived in such a way that when that man dies the entire world will weep but he will rejoice.”
Bishop Amphilohije on Patriarch Pavle
There was little/no coverage of this beautiful tribute to Patriarch Pavle
in any of our newspapers/TV in the USA.
But believe it, beloved Patriarch Pavle, your prayers were heard throughout the world by your peace-loving children. Those who have ears heard. Those who have eyes saw. Those who have hearts, mourned; those who believe REJOICED. Vjecnaja Pamjat.
Memory Eternal! Milana K. Bizic
One of the holiest men on Earth…..Patriarch Pavle.
May his memory be Eternal!
“His face and appearance were radiant with holiness and righteousness. He was a true monk, a man of endless prayers, kind and calm but also a fighter who does not back down and is ready for any sacrifice when needed.”
“People of Serbia, begin weeping, sobbing bitterly and expressing your sorrow according to his merit, a theologian of broad knowledge, a merciful, peaceful man of open views.”
Patriarch Batholemew I, Spiritual Leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians.
“The Patriarch’s death is an irredeemable loss for the entire Serbian nation.”
“We thank Patriarch Pavle for having been there for us with his deeds and message that we should always be human and never respond to the evil in the others with the evil within us.”
“Patriarch Pavle was a modest and quiet man who is now a beacon of light that shines on us from the sky.”
“People have poured like a river only to touch him.”
“On behalf of the Jewish Community of Serbia I express our deepest condolences with all of you.
The late patriarch’s traits were rare, and that it is “a true blessing that even in the worst years for our common fatherland we had Patriarch Pavle as the spiritual torch-bearer for all of us equally, regardless of faith and nationality”. Your pain is our pain, your loss is our loss. The Lord is his heritage, and may his soul be tied in the Bundle of Life.”
Rabbi Isak Asijel, Serbia’s Jewish Community Leader
“At the time of His Holiness Patriarch Pavle’s crossing into eternity, we feel with him, with all of the SPC, with the entire Serb nation, a special closeness, love and unity.
“While on the one hand we are expressing our deepest condolences, we are also expressing our pride at having lived with him, above all myself personally, and on behalf of the Archdiocese of Belgrade, all of the Catholic Church in Serbia, because we could communicate with him. I am particularly grateful to God that he [the patriarch] so often expressed to me his statements, thoughts, wishes and joys.
Archbishop Stanislav Hočevar. Roman Catholic Church in Serbia.
“His mission and the peace messages he was sending in the most difficult times were bringing back hope in a better future and the need in joint life and tolerance between different peoples and cultures.
Mufti Adem Zilkić, Head of the Islamic Community of Serbia
“My friend, the faithful departed patriarch, left for the better world and left behind a fine memory and proof that great people never die. I pray to the Holy Creator for the soul of His Holiness to rest in peace.”
Community in Serbia.
“This is an irreplaceable loss for the Serbian Orthodox Church, because he was a man who proved the consistency of his own spirituality and harmony between actions, words and believes, which is rare in the modern world.”
Mufti Muamer Zukorlic
President of the Meshihat of the Islamic Community in Serbia.
“Patriarch Pavle’s death is no reason to be sad because the Patriarch always had sought to reach out to God. He has been more in heaven than on earth. The Serbian people now have someone to represent them before God better than anyone else.”
Here are some of the comments found on Patriarch Pavle’s FACEBOOK page noting his obituary.
Нека му је вечна слава и хвала !!! Много лепих ствари је учинио ѕа свој народ, надајмо се само да ћемо бити мудри и следити његове примере!!!
“Let him have eternal glory and praise! Many beautiful things he has done for his people, hopefully we will be just and wise to follow his example!”
“In life, Patriach Pavle was a walking saint. And now in death, he is a living saint! Vjecnaja Pamjat!”
“Počivaj u miru, kao što si i živeo.”
“Rest in peace, like you lived your life.”
Вјечна Памјат!!! Заувек у нашим срцима!!!
Човек који је говорио најтише, али се најгласније чуо!!!
“Memory eternal! You will always be with us.
The man who spoke the quietest, but whose voice was heard the loudest.”
YouTube comment by kljajabgd
“Hvala ti Pavle sto si nas ozario vecnom svetloscu i pokazao nam put kojim treba da se ide. Neka ti je vecna slava, a sto se tice srpskog naroda, on te nikada nece zaboraviti. Tvoje reci sada odjekuju vise i jace nego ikada. Budimo ljudi, budimo Srbi. Pazi na nas, i budi verni sveti sluga i zastitnik naseg naroda i dalje. Nema zaborava, hvala ti za sve. Vecnaja pamjat! “
“Thank you Patriarch Paul who has brightened His eternal light and showed us the way to go to. May you have eternal glory, and as for the Serbian people, we will never forget you. Your words resonate far longer and stronger than ever. We will be men, we will be Serbs. Watch over us, and be our faithful holy servant and protector of our nation and beyond. There is no forgetting you, thank you for everything. Vecnaja pamjat! Memory Eternal!”
Youtube comment by
Click lower right hand corner to enlarge image.
The back of the Christmas Card from the Serbian Orthodox Monastery of New Gracanica Bozic 2010 gave tribute to Patriarch Pavle.
“A Unifier even in death, Patriarch PAVLE of blessed memory, who fell asleep in the Lord on 15th of November, brought together a great mosaic of humanity to his funeral–religious leaders, diplomatic delegates and ordinary faithful.
His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW of Constantinople summed it up:
“The Angel of Belgrade’s Church has risen to the Heavens.
He encompassed the honesty of David, the wisdom of Solomon, and the goodness of Moses.
Rest in peace in God until the eternal resurrection.”
The icon on the front of the card and shown below here is a fresco from the Nativity of Christ,
Church of the Mother of God,
from Pec, Kosovo, SERBIA,
Kosovo, 1335 fresco