Johnstown, PA - Much more than "Flood City!"

Congratulations, Johnstown on SERB FEST 2010!

Rich Uzelac, Vice President of the St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church in Johnstown, PA, and President of  Bottleworks Ethnic Museum, and KUM for St. Nicholas with Kuma Chee-Chee-Czubak 2010— proudly proclaimed at his Uzelac Family Reunion of 140 strong, “We want to be known for more than just being the ‘Flood City!'”

Indeed they will be forever more!


 Friendly & Hard-Working Johnstown

Johnstown Serbs have to rank among the topmost friendly, warm, gracious, Christ-loving, hard workers in all of America who value their ethnic Serbian heritage and live by their Serbian Orthodox values.  A wonderful time was had by all who worked so hard to prepare for these special days and make Rich’s vision come true.  And their many guests from throughout the Johnstown area would agree too.


Check out my YouTube video of the 2 day event here:


Many thanks to the people who Partnered with the Johnstown Area Serbs to make a dream a reality!

The BOTTLEWORKS Ethnic Museum of Johnstown



Kristina & Mom Rose worked so hard on the MANY displays to make the day so special!


Serbian Recipes in the Tribune-Democrat 7/26/10 form the Johnstown Area Heritage Association Cookbook, Ethnic Recipes of Johnstown.


Church Members Trace Footsteps of Ancestors

by Tom Lavis, July 12, 2009


Teammates Teach Serbian Immigrant English



Read about Maria Budisavljevic Oparnica Simic and her husband, Andrei Simic.  Project funded by the Center for Visual Antrhopology at the University of South California.
Story by Tom Lavis, July 25, 2010
 Bozo Gojsevic
Read about Danica (Buncich) Wess and Pat (Buncich) Niel, sisters very active in the Serbian Orthodox faith.  Their great-grandfather was Bozo Gojsevic, founder of St. Nicholas.
by Tom Potts, July 25, 2010
by Tom Lavis, July 25, 2010
Read about Rich Uzelac, at 61, the youngest of 14 children, grew up in Franklin Borough, who is proud of his heritage.  “Many Johnstown area residents can trace their roots to a region near Vojnic, now in present-day Croatia.
by Chip Minemyer, July 25, 2010
This has to be one of the BEST stories ever told on Serbian heritage as its so funny, yet factual.
Wait until you meet Richard Earl, grandson of Nikola Knezevich of Belgrade, Serbia!  Just a hilarious account of a proud, proud Serb!
 Thank you to the Johnstown newspaper once again for all the tremendous coverage of Serbian heritage.  We are all so deeply appreciative! 
Thank you so much!
by Tom Potts, July 25, 2010
Nick Matijevich, Dorothy Podolak,, Sylvester Saula and Dianne Tomak are interviewed about their parents/grandparents and how much their Serbian Orthodox faith means to them.
Editorial posted in the Tribune-Democat:
Homelands’ articles, festival stir interest

“The ‘Homelands’ articles on July 25 about the Serbians were very enlightening and very much enjoyed, as are the other ‘Homeland’ series articles.

“Hats off to the reporters and all others who contributed.

“By coincidence, just prior to the latest in the series I had purchased a book by Gregory Freeman, “The Forgotten 500.”

“Once I started the book I could not put it down.

“On Monday in The Tribune-Democrat, I read where Freeman will be the guest speaker Sunday at the Serbian Festival on St. Clair Road in Westmont.

“Believe me, I will not miss it.

“As a side note, thank you to all the brave Serbians who risked their lives in World War II to save our downed airmen.

Tom Wiegman
The “Wedding Party” as narrated by Danica Wess, to the delight of the full-house audience!
Just some of the large crowd in attendance for Serb Fest 2010
Think these Uzelac sisters are proud to be SERBS?
Wrote one of the beautiful kids at the Uzelac family reunion of 140+
 Way to go, Johnstown!!!

Gregory Freeman Speaks  in Johnstown  8/1/10

Gregory Freeman was as much a hero as were the wonderful characters in his book, THE FORGOTTEN 500, as he addressed the huge crowd of residents gathered for the first annual SERB FEST in Johnstown, PA, USA, when he spoke of the brave deeds of Draza Mihailovich and his Serbian Chetnik villagers, the OSS American heroes, and the 500 USA Airmen they rescued.

“The local Serbian people were willing to sacrifice their own lives to keep the airmen out of German hands.” 

“The rescue with the help of the  C-47 crago planes from behind enemy lines was an audacious move, and filled with never-ending problems,” he said.

“They built an airstrip without any tools– but then, they were typical of people of that generation– to do whatever it took.”

Greg then spoke of the local Cambria County hero, George Musulin, who will be formally inducted into the Cambria County Military HALL OF FAME on September 18, at the War Memorial Arena, the same area Freeman signed books the day before and answered questions from local Veterans who filled the reception room while TV cameras captured and documented his replies for history.

Freeman told how Cambria County’s “Gov” Musulin was the son of immigrants who befriended the Serbs in Serbia.  Once they saw the big American who could speak their language, the Serbian villagers became fast friends with the burly guy from Pennsylvania.  

The author spoke of how GOV had been a former steel worker, played football at the University of Pittsburgh, and for the Pittsburgh Steelers (then called the Pittsburgh Pirates like the current baseball team), and served in the army at Ft. Mead, Maryland.  He was quickly identified there as an excellent OSS candidate, and well he understood the mission, that he might not return.  Gov was rather big for his size (like 100 lbs. over the parachute exemption), and his friends took bets on how successful his parachute jumping practices would be, if the parachute would work.

Freeman urged the Johnstown attendees to read the story about the sacrifices that people made for others, and tell the story to the world. 

Freeman then spoke on a wide variety of topics, including his interview with the then 92-yr. old George Vujnovich of NYC who vividly described for the author his life as a carefree American student studying in Belgrade, to spearheading the effort to get the American airmen back.  (Side note:  George Vujnovich was recognized in 2009 by the Ambridge Area High School (Pennsylvania) HALL OF FAME for his daring bravery in this rescue.

Greg Freeman explained, “These young men did more with their lives before they were 20 than we have at 80 or 90!” 

He excited the crowd when he complimented the many present who had held onto the story of General Draza Mihailovich with strong emotions throughout their lives, those who were outraged at the sad fate dealt to Draza Miahilovich who was killed after a mock trial in Belgrade by Tito and his Communist government.

And although “Cica Draza” was always so dear to the Serbis in America, he spoke of the other regular Americans, including those 500 airmen, who did fight to clear Draza’s name over the years after he was branded a “Collaborator” by the Cambridge spies in Cairo.  “Hope for the resurgence of truth, of humanity–depicting stories of individual human beings helping others.”

“This story IS of individual human beings helping others, with such emotional drama–more than any fictional tale in history could be.”

“The downed airmen told me that when they met Draza Mihailovich, they felt physically small, although the General was almost the same height.  They said they could feel his sense of duty to his people.  He was warm and kind, but still he instilled discipline in his troops who adored him. “Cica” (Uncle) Draza was greatly loved by the local villagers too.  He was a Celebrity without presence.”

All to soon the great story teller had to wrap it up.  “Thank you for having me at the festival, and thank you for your time.”

Even in the BAR they were looking for autographs, & Greg was happy to oblige! (Click lower right hand corner of image to enlarge)


Wildly enthusiastic response followed as it had when the author finished his Q & A period at the War Memorial Arena in downtown Johnstown!


AGAIN, thanks to the Johnstown newspaper, the TRIBUNE- DEMOCRAT! What a great community newspaper!!!

Gregory Freeman signing a book for Veteran at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena on July 31, courtesy the Tribune-Democrat of Johnstown, PA

    (Click on the above link!)


World War II hero’s exploits recalled

by Arlene Johns, 7/9/10

Story of the role played by the late Army Captain, George, “Gov” Musulin, OSS, in recovery of more than 500 American fliers and Allied soldiers.

 “May we have a closer look at your historical photo of “Gov” while Gregory signs your books?  Thanks, fellas!

George (Gov) Musulin played both for PITT and for the Pittsburgh STEELERS, but then known as Art Rooney’s “Pirates,” before joining the OSS and becoming an unforgettable hero to all of us!


‘Forgotten 500’ finds ready audience here

I love my Apron! <3

 Chee-Chee in the middle flanked by “bride” Kristina and “groom” Chris.  The pair are wearing the wedding clothes Chee-Chee’s grandmother brought over from the Old Country for her own wedding!
Two STALWART SHEPHERDS of St. Nicholas’ Serbian Orthodox Church in Johnstown

Fr. Ned Grgujevich
 Fr. Purich

 Can you tell these two are related?  Absolutely incredible resemblance! 
Like father, like son! 
Very successful Son Steve remembers being a waterboy for General Draza Mihailovich!


Nikola Jovic, Serbian Dancer, Teacher



Loving wife, Nada & Nikola.  Salute!  ZIVELI!

Unofficial Serbian Ambassador:   Nikola Jovic!

Thirty years!  30! Thirty years Nikola Jovic has devoted his life to teaching others Serbian Folklore and the most intricate of dance steps, helping to keep his beloved Serbian Orthodox culture and heritage alive, helping all of us.  He certainly has worked his magic as an Unofficial Serbian Ambassador throughout the USA and Canada!

His Church Folklore groups have included groups from all over the Eastern American seaboard—the USA AND Canada! Lackawanna, NY, Hamilton, Ont, Niagara Falls, Ont Youngstown, Ohio, Cleveland, Ohio, Akron, Ohio, Monroeville, Pa, Youngwood, Pa, Pittsburgh, Pa, St. Petersburg, Florida, Edmonton, Alberta, Sudbury, Ont. 

Nikola also taught at our SHADELAND CHURCH CAMP DURING FOLKLORE WEEK FOR 20 YEARS, using his vacation time from work to “Pay it Forward!”

Anyone who has seen the Shadeland performances or has been lucky enough to witness them elsewhere, knows that Nikola has certainly left his mark on many communities who have witnessed some of the most incredible performances.  The audiences are usually so impressed, they rise to give thunderous applause and a standing ovation to both the performers and their instructor(s).  Nikola, wife Nada says, has NEVER said “No” to any group who asked for help and was always proud to share his knowledge with others.

Nikola and his dance groups have traveled extensively throughout the USA and Canada to cities like: Buffalo,NY,  Lackawanna, NY,  Youngstown, Ohio, Cleveland, Ohio, Akron, Ohio,  Pittsburgh, Pa, Steelton, Pa., Elizabeth, New Jersey, Chicago, Ill, Milwaukee, Wisc., Schererville, & Merrillville, Indiana, Detroit, Michigan, Phoenix, Arizona, San Diego, California,  Windsor, Ont, Kitchener/Waterloo, Ont, Hamilton, Ont, Oakville, Ont, Missisauga, Ont, Toronto, Ont, Sudbury, Ont, Ottawa, Ont, Sherbrook, Quebec and of course Niagara Falls, Ont.

From whom did Nikola learn?

Everyone needs to start somewhere!  Nikola learned from the best!  He participated in many folklore dance workshops that were conducted by many renowned famous directors and choreographers,:

Mr. Atanas Kolarovski of Tanec Ensemble of Yugoslavia

Mr. Bora Gajicki of “Ensemble Kolo” from Beograd. 

Mr. Vladeta Vlahovic of Beograd State Folk Ensemble

Mr. Bozidar Travica  past member of Beograd State Ensemble

Mr. Dragan Kovacevic   past member of Ensemble Kolo from Beograd, Serbia


Pupil, yes, but ever the Teacher!

But Nikola was wise enough to know that he must ALSO pass this knowledge on, and so, of the 1000+ students that he taught, he always made sure throughout the years that he included a student from his oldest group as his assistant throughout the school year.  He enjoyed sharing his knowledge and at the same time was training future instructors for the next generation to come!!!  Marianne Kovljenic, Dijana (Tadic) Manojlovic, Milan Zakula, Zoran Matijevic, Tomislava (Stojsavljevich) Andjelic, Jovan Madjercic, Katarina(Pantelic) Maniatis, Dr. Branko Bojovic & Miso Gostimir

Today, Nikola sees many students who are second generation—children of past students!


A Surpise Party for Nada!

(These two LOVE their Serbian heritage!) 


Nikola’s Early Life

Thanks to his wonderful Nada for this info!

“On a hot summer day a ‘PROUD SERBIAN BABY BOY” is born on June 22, 1957 in Niagara Falls, Ont Canada.  Proud parents +Mirko & +Zora Rose Jovic. 

Nikola is the 7th of 10 children. 

In 1960…Due to lack of work at Niagara Hydro, the Jovic family moves to Lackawanna, NY with the assistance of long time friend  +Very Rev. Miodrag Djurich. 

8 kids born in Niagara Falls, Ont Canada…2 born in Lackawanna, NY… USA

(in Canada…Ana, Mary, +Joey, Vladimir, Olga, Milan, Nikola, Milorad… USA…Dusan, Jovanka (affectionately known as Seka)

Nikola joined St. Stephen’s Tammies in Lackawanna, NY in 1966 at the age of 8.  +Nada Milosevich taught Music Theory in preparation for playing tambura. 

At the same time he was dancing folklore with Kathy (Djurich) Sljegovich and Monica Damjanovic as his instructors. 

After finishing music theory in 1968 Nikola graduated to Brac with +Stanko Djurich & +Stevan Vranjes.  At the same time he continued dancing Jr. folklore under the direction of Jane Sheehaud. 

After seven years, he left the instrumental group and remained a member of dance under the direction of Dennis Piatkowski. 

In 1974 Nikola answered the call of becoming a member of St. Stephen’s Choir “Kosta Manojlovic” which he still remains a member.  In 1976 the “Kosta Choir” was getting ready to travel throughout Yugoslavia.  In preparation for their journey +Nada Milosevich invited Mr. Atanas Kolarovski (renown director/choreography from Tanec Macedonian Ensemble from Yugoslavia) to teach a dance workshop to the newly formed Kosta Dancers.  

He took the liberty of teaching a dance representing each region of Yugoslavia that the choir was to visit & perform.

After Atanas returned to Macedonia, +Mr. Zifko Andreff continued to instruct the Kosta Dancers.  

1977 the trip took place.  This trip was a very memorable travel for all members.  Many high-lights of this trip were singing in the SABORNA CRKVA & having an audience with the +Patriarch German, visiting many famous monasteries STUDENICA, PEC, ZICA, DECANI, ST. MARK CATHEDRAL IN BEOGRAD , OPLENAC  & many local churches through-out their visit and performing on stage alongside Ensemble “KOLO” in Beograd.   

After returning home from this unforgettable trip Nikola continued dancing under the St. Stephen’s Tammies & singing with “Kosta Choir”.  The dance bug bit him again that he also became a member of Goce Delcev Macedonian Dance Group of Lackawanna, NY which +Mr. Zifko Andreff was director/choreography.   

+Mr. Andreff became an inspiration & mentor to Nikola which lead Nikola to teach Folklore.  In 1980 Nikola received a phone call from his friend +Mr. Nikola Bogdanovic from St. George Church Niagara Falls, Ont that there was a dance workshop being held in Niagara Falls, Ont by the renown director/choreographer Mr. Bora Gajicki of “Ensemble Kolo” from Beograd. 

WELL…Nikola jumped to this opportunity to study folklore dance with such a famous, professional choreographer!!!  When it rains it pours…the same time Nikola received a call from +Mr. George Terzieff to join the Balkan dancers of Buffalo State.  +George was the director/choreographer of this group which performed dances from the Balkan region of Europe.

Nikola, Nada and her brother Mickeyand sister-in-law Millie in front of St. Sava’s Church in Cleveland, OH.

 Lackawanna Tammies….


Ziveo, i na mnogaja Ljeta!

Our dear Nikola,

We congratulate you on your 30 years of commitment, dedication and love towards our Serbian church, folklore community, and our Serbian youth.  God has truly blessed you with a very BIG heart and a very special talent!  


Nikola Jovich and Nicole Belich (Pittsburgh gal!).  They were a dynamite team of Instructors at Shadeland’s Forklore Week for many, many years! Always put on incredible programs that made your heart soar higher than any Fireworks put on by the Zambelli Fireworks company!  They got the kids enthused and always taught them to be their best!

Stella Banks said: “They taught us to Serbian dance and sing with pride and always give our best.”

AND, they DID!!!!  Thank you, Nikola and Nicole!

From ALL of US!!

Shadeland Diocesan Day 8.2.09

Check out the video above! 🙂

Nada’s TIMELINE of Nikola’s Activities


Nikola Jovic & Shelly Phillips Vranjes were approached to teach the St. Stephens Tammies.They accepted with great inthusiasim & joy.Taking this upon themselves, they did not realize that they would both continue teaching for many years to come.Shelley remains to this day the director/choreographer of the Tammies along with her sister Stacey Delmont.Nikola & Kosta choir travel to Cleveland, Ohio to be guests at the Njegos choir concert weekend.That weekend he meets me!!!Our sudbina is starting without us even realizing!!!!.

In 1983 the Jovic family mourn the loss of their beloved mother after a lengthy illness and 5 months later the loss of their oldest brother +Joey in a tragic accident.

In 1984 Nikola moves back to Canada after the passing of this mother & brother.Upon moving to Canada he is approached by Mrs. Mima Ivosevic and asked to teach the St. Nicholas Cathedral Dance Group on Nash Rd. in Hamilton, Ont. He accepted the position and started teaching in 1985.This was a huge challenge for him with approx. 80 students ranging in age from 5-18. Through the years the membership was as high as 150 dancers. With so many students 6 groups are formed.RASTKO, OBILIC, KARADJORDJE, NJEGOS, MORAVA, and AVALA.Proto Stevo Stojsavljevich was the parish priest on Nash Rd. He would often come and greet the children at many rehearsals and state to our Serbian youth on how important it was to respect the Orthodox Church & the holy days of our church calendar. Whenever the groups traveled to be guests at other Serbian communities, Proto Stevo would emphasize that they were the Ambassadors of our SERBIAN community.
Eager to expand his reparatory, Nikola invites Shelley (Phillips) Vranjes & +Zifko Andreff to conduct a dance workshop to his young dancers.The following year +George Terzieff accepts the invite to conduct a workshop and share his knowledge of folklore.

+Bishop Christopher & +Zorka Check (Eastern Region KSS President) called Nikola to teach dance during folklore week at St. Sava Camp in Shadeland, PA.Continued teaching folklore with many talented music directors such as:Kathy Loncar, +Nick Zatezlo, Martha Kukich, Vuk Kandic, Demitrija Lazich, Nicole Belich.With these talented Serbs together with Nikola each camp season they compiled a weeks worth of music & dance to entertain the people in attendance at the last day of camp.Later, Bishop Mitrophan becomes the Bishop of the Eastern Diocese & Nikola continues receiving offers to teach at folklore week at our beloved camp.Some of the directors/camp mothers during this time were:+Olga Galagaza, Daniella Milanovich, Millie Radovick, Martha Springborn, Vesna Meinert, and Dee Dee Baskot.

+Nikola Bogdanovic & Nikola Jovic traveled to NYC to meet the dance troop BELGRADE STATE ENSEMBLE and to make arrangements for yet another dance workshop in collaboration with George Lukic (Director of Kolo from Sv. Nikola of Hamilton Barton Street). The workshop was held at McMaster University with Mr. Vladeta Vlahovac as the instructor.He was the Renown DIRECTOR/ CHOREGRAPHY of the famous BELGRADE STATE ENSEMBLE.

Married October 14, 1989 on the feast day PROTECTION OF THE THEOTOKOS at St. Stephens Serbian Orthodox Church by parish priest Proto Rastko Trbuhovich, Proto Stevo Stojsavljevich of Hamilton, Ont & +Proto Slobodan Zivadinovich long-time family friend to both the bride & groom. Nada (Patijarevich) Jovic moves from Cleveland, Ohio to Hamilton, Ont. Not only does she marry Nikola but also accepts the life of folklore with the man that swept her off her feet!!! At our wedding 12 of the members of Avala folklore of Hamilton were part of our wedding party wearing Sumadija Nosinje. In addition we had a total of 40 in our bridal party!!! As a gift to us the Avala folklore group performs for us at our reception & welcomed Nada with open arms!!!

No sooner we get back from our honeymoon, we are off to another folklore workshop held at Buffalo State University. Mr. Bozidar Travica (former member of Belgrade State Ensemble) was the instructor of the workshop. A close friendship develops between Nikola & Nada & Bozidar.

Mrs. Mary Paich & Very Rev. Dragoljub Malich invite Nikola to teach the Monroeville Tammies a new dance set to be performed at their spring concert 1991. Monroeville Tammies of St. Nicholas Church.

1991 -1992
Invited by Rev. Miodrag Popovic from St. Sava SOC of Edmonton, Alberta to become director/choreographer of OPANAK Folklore Group which Nikola accepts.
+Bob Stone invites Avala Folklore of Hamilton to be the entertainment for the weekend. They became the first CANADIAN DANCE GROUP to perform for the weekend celebration but ALSO the first dance group to perform ALL THREE DAYS!!!! Kennywood, Majestic boat cruise & castle Shannon!!!!

Nikola established a new folklore group in Hamilton (St. Nicholas Cathedral ..Nash Rd) called Czar Lazarwhich consisted of former Avala Members who were university & career oriented members over the age of 21.Their first performance was at the opening ceremonies at the World University Games held in Buffalo, NY.

Nikola was invited to conduct a dance workshop in Sudbury, Ont at St. Peter & Paul Serbian Orthodox Church.Proto Milan Savic was parish priest at the time.
1994Nikola & Nada move from Stoney Creek, Ont to Niagara Falls, Ont.

Fr. Milos Milovanovic, parish priest from St. George SOC of Niagara Falls, Ont offers Nikola a position as Choreographer/ Director of the STUDENICA FOLKLORE.Nikola once again.ACCEPTS!!!With much enthusiasm former dancers of the St. George community approach Nikola with interest in forming an adult dance group which became known as ENSEMBLE STUDENICA. This group consisted of dancers 18 years of age and older from Niagara Falls, Ont but also from the neighboring Serbian communities of Hamilton, Ont & Lackawanna, NY.Not only does he have is day job but now he is teaching in the evenings at both Hamilton & Niagara Falls.


Nikola attends a folklore dance workshop sponsored by the SNF which was instructed by Mr. Dragan Kovacevic former member ofKOLO (Beograd, Serbia) & at the time Serbian Choreographer for Duquesne University.

+ Proto Janko Rajlich along with Mrs. Ann Milkovich contacted Nikola & asked him to teach the AVALA TAMBURITZANS of Holy Trinity Church in Youngstown, Ohio. For 2 months, Nikola traveled every weekend & prepared the group for their annual spring concert. That same year, Fr. Stevo Zaremba parish priest from Holy Ascension SOC of Youngwood, PA asked Nikola to conduct a dance workshop for the parish youth.

Fr. Dejan Obradovic becomes parish priest at St. George SOC and serves his first Divine Liturgy in Canada on January 2nd which coincidently is the Jovic family Krsna Slava ( Sv. Ignjatije Bogonosac). Folklore membership grew immensely. Fr. Dejan suggested that we rename our groups in keeping with the monastery themes Decani, Hilandar & Studenica.

A little overwhelmed with time Nikola with a heavy heart decides to stop teaching in Niagara Falls and continue to teach in Hamilton. He concluded his 22 years with Hamilton in 2007. That same year, Mr. Dusan Kolundzich (church president in Niagara Falls) approaches Nikola to come back & teach here at St. George. WELL, NIKOLA ONCE AGAIN CAN NOT SAY NO AND WITH A BIG HEART ACCEPTS.

After being approached by former dancers from Niagara Falls & neighboring communities, Nikola forms yet another adult dance group consisting of formers dancers ranging in age from 19-33 years of age. These members consisted of university students and many held professional careers. Keeping with the church theme.this group is named VRACAR!!!


In the fall of 2009, Nikola is contacted by Jedinstvo Folklore Group President Patty Opacic &Director/ Choreographer Milana Capuzzi from Holy Trinity Cathedral of Pittsburgh, PA to be guest instructor for a 3 day weekend folklore workshop held at Shadeland Camp. He also returns to Pittsburgh 2 more times that season to conclude his teachings. In May 2011 Jedinstvo held their annual Folklore Concert with Folklore groups HILANDAR, STUDENICA & VRACAR OF Niagara Falls as honored guests!!! Proto Rajko Kosic is parish priest.

Nikola is contacted by long time friends Proto Stevo & Protinica Svetlana Zaremba & by Folklore President Rajka Rakovic to teach the Folklore Group Srpski Biser of St. Sava Church in St. Petersburgh, Florida. Nikola traveled 1-2 weekends a month in order to prepare the group for their annual concert held in February 2011. The honored guest dance group for this event was St. George SOC Folklore group Vracar from Niagara Falls, Ont Canada of which Nikola is the choreographer/director.

30 year anniversary for Nikola teaching SERBIAN FOLKLORE!!!

Nikola has been our Serbian maestro, sharing his happy self,  sprinkling his magical PIXIE dust all up and down the Eastern Seaboard of the Americas!  Ziveo, Nikola!

No one deserves to be honored more than Nikola in this area for what he has been able to accomplish with the BIGNESS, kindness of his heart! 

King Alexander of Yugoslavia

Magnificent painting of King Alexander who distinguished himself in so many ways in WWI on the battlefield.  Unfortunately for Yugoslavia and the rest of the world, King Alexander was shot while on a peace mssion to France, while driving in a car with the French Prime Minister, Louis Barthou.  

Hundreds of thousands of people cheered the two only minutes before as the car traveled from the port of Marseilles to the designated route.  All of the lamp posts were decorated with garlands of flowers everyone, in welcome to the respected Monarch.

Photo of King Aleksandar, Queen Marie, and young King Peter II, the Royal family.  Note the crest of the white double headed eagles, with the middle body representing the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.


Krajlca Maria and the tapestry:

Note the beautiful tapestery with the double-headed white eages, and the Yugoslav crest in the middle.

Another painting of Queen Marie, formerly of Romania.


Aliquippa, PA, USA, mourns the death of King Alexander, 1934

Click on the photo to enlarge.  When King Alexander was assassinated on October 9, 1934, the whole world mourned his passing far and wide.  Serbian Orthodox churches in the United States all wanted to show solidarity with the grieving country of Yugoslavia, so they took photos outside of the churches with a portrait of King Alexander, and all of the churches flags and banners.  This particular photo was taken in 1934 at the old St. Elijah Serbian Orthodox Church in Aliquippa, PA, located about 25 miles down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.


Click on this YouTube video to see the incredible funeral of King Aleksandar.  His body was carried throughout Yugoslavia, and our own Kum Rudy Ignatovic walked over 100 miles on foot to see his body as it passed by.


 Video from WWI with then Prince Aleksander with the troops:  MARS NA DRINU!

Karadjordje, better known as “Black George” for his dark hair and complexion, was born November 14, 1762.  He is most famous for being the leader of the successful uprising against the Turks in 1804,  after hundreds of years of the Serbs being vassal slaves. He died a most unfortunate death at the hand of his Kum, Milosh Obrenovich, June 26, 1817.

King Alexander was the great grandson of Karadjordge, the founder of the famed Karadjordjevich Dynasty.


Beloved King Peter I, of Serbia,  father of King Alexander I, of Yugoslavia.


Queen Zorka, married to King Peter, oldest daughter of Prince (King Nikola and Queen Milena of Montenegro)


Mim says she recently learned that supposedly, when Victor Flemming heard this story, he was so inspired, that the scene of Scarlett O’Hara falling down the stairs in “Gone With the Wind” was actually based on Zorka’s misfortunes. 

She died a most unfortunate death.  Her husband, King Peter had been away on business for a few weeks and when she learned of his coming home after his party was spotted climbing up the mountains, she ran to meet him and fell down the steps and died. (Some erroneously report that she had a fight with her husband and fell down the stairs.) She died soon afterwards, in childbirth, and her newborn son, Andrew, soon followed his mother to the grave.

 It is said that when VICTOR FLEMMING heard this story, he was so inspired that the scene of  Scarlett O’Hara fallin g down the stairs in “Gone With the Wind”   was actually based on Zorka’s misfortune.  She had five children. Jelena, Milena, George, Alexander (who later became King Alexander) and infant Andrew.



King Alexander was born December 4, 1888 to King Peter I of Serbia, and Princess Zorka, oldest daughter of King Nikola and Queen Milena of Montenegro.


King Alexander and Queen Marie had three sons: Peter, Andrej and Tomislav.  Where birth rank has its privileges!

King Peter was only 11 years old when his father was so cruelly assassinated in Marseilles, France in 1934.

 This is the age of young King Peter when he was the guest of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Too, my mother, Laura Karlo, was first President of the King Peter II Club in Pittsburgh’s South Side.



King Nikola was Prince, then King of Montenegro. He wrote this marvelous national hymn about Kosovo called, “O’namo, ‘namo.”  Be sure to sing along with the words here:

 Turn your volume up! 🙂

Here’s another version!


King Peter II Remains Return to Serbia

A Message from

HRH Crown Prince Aleksandar:Crown Prince Aleksandar

Statement of HRH Crown Prince Alexander II
to the Serbs in America
January 2013

“This is to thank the three generations of Serb descendants in America who have for the past forty three years respected, honored, and protected the tomb of my father, King Peter II, at the Saint Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in Libertyville, Illinois. Many of you I know personally having lived in Chicago as a young family man and from my many visits these past sixty years. In some cases I also knew your parents and even grandparents just as my father knew many of them.

“My father’s resting place these past four decades has been among his friends, soldiers and fellow refugees from World War II at our cemetery in Libertyville. Whatever tragic consequences my father, King Peter II, suffered as a result of World War II, they were no greater than those suffered and endured by your own parents and grandparents who, like him, were wrenched from their beloved country and thrown out into a strange and sometimes hostile world. These blessed souls, your families, my father’s friends, arrived and lived with him in the United States after World War II as refugees and “displaced persons” sometime pejoratively called “DPs”.

“My father was born a King and fulfilled his duties faithfully as best as he could under the circumstances. During World War II your parents and grandparents chose whether to be Royalists. They were the military professionals of the Royal Army who became prisoners of war in 1941, or they chose to join the Chetniks and other members of the Royal Yugoslav Army of the Homeland under General Dragoljub Draza Mihailovich rather than join the Partisans. For the choice your parents and grandparents made I know my father was grateful just as I am grateful today for that exercise of free will and display of loyalty.

“To bring my father home required some difficult decisions in the face of possibly long and unsettling proceedings. The circumstances of my father’s death and funeral in 1970 are best left to history. Thus, a quiet and dignified transfer was arranged. I know all who respect the monarchy and my father’s memory understand that his return was necessary and long overdue. King Peter’s final resting place at the Royal Mausoleum at Oplenac nearby his father King Alexander I in the now free and democratic Serbia will be open to you at all times to come and pay the respect you were unable to demonstrate last week. Thank you again for your past and continued loyalty.

Kardjordjojevic Crown

Parts of the Crown Jewels were created in 1904 for the Coronation of King Peter II’s grandfather, King Peter I, were made from material that included some bronze from Karadjordje’s cannon.  Very symbolic, because 1904 was the 100th Anniversary of the First Uprising by Karadjordje in 1804.



From WIKIPEDIA:  Feb. 11, 2012 at 9:36 PM

World War II

“Although Peter II and his advisers opposed Nazi Germany, Regent Prince Paul declared that the Kingdom of Yugoslavia would join the Tripartite Pact on 25 March 1941. Two days later, King Peter, at age 17, was proclaimed of age, and participated in a British-supported coup d’état opposing the Tripartite Pact.[1]

   Young King Peter

“Postponing Operation Barbarossa, Germany simultaneously attacked Yugoslavia and Greece. From 6 April the Luftwaffe pounded Belgrade for three days and three nights in Operation Punishment. Within a week, Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary and Italy invaded Yugoslavia and the government was forced to surrender on 17 April. Yugoslavia was divided to satisfy Italian, Bulgarian, Hungarian and German demands and puppet CroatMontenegrin and Serb states proclaimed.

“Peter was forced to leave the country with the Yugoslav government following the Axis invasion; initially the King went with his government to Greece, and Jerusalem, then to the British Mandate of Palestine and Cairo. He went to the United Kingdom in June 1941, where he joined numerous other governments in exile from Nazi-occupied Europe.[2] The King completed his education at Cambridge University and joined the Royal Air Force.”

And I couldn’t put more history here, because I do not think the information from Wikipedia is correct.


King Peter was only 19 years old when he was invited to visit with President Franklin and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt on June 25, 1942.  He was surrounded by well-wishers.

Royal Standard of King Peter II:

From Wikipedia:

“On 22 January 2013, Peter’s remains were returned to Belgrade. [7] They will lie in state in the Royal Chapel in Dedinje before reburial later in May. Serbian Royal Regalia were placed over Peter’s coffin. Present in the return ceremony were the Prime Minister Ivica Dačić, Peter’s son Alexander with his family and the Patriarch Irinej of Serbia.[2][8] The latter openly advocated for the restoration of the Serbian monarchy.[9]


A Poem by a beloved follower,

Nikola Ljiliak


 Rest in Peace:  Vjecnaja Pamjat, King Peter II!


It is interesting to note that my mother,

Laura Mamula Karlo,

was the President of the King Peter II Club

of South Side, Pittsburgh, PA,USA

while she was a still a senior in South High School and he was about the same age.




At first, 5,000 people were expected to attend King Peter II’s funeral in Libertyville, Il.  Instead, newspaper accounts say between 15,000 and 20,000 people were in attendance, many of them who had served the King’s late father and him before WWII in Yugoslavia.  Among them was Major Aleksandar Crepajac, who saved these articles for posterity. 


Eulogy to King Peter II by

Bishop Irinej’s (Later Metropolitan Irinej)

“King Peter staunchly stood by the ideals of Liberty.  He could have chosen an ‘easier way,’ the way of many others who believe it is possible to make a deal even with the devil. But King Peter sacrificed everything he had in the world to remain a symbol of freedom, not only for his people, but for all ENSLAVED NATIONS!  He did so also because he detested dictatorships, be they left or right.  He was above them:  HE LOVED FREEDOM!”

Rest in Peace.  Memory Eternal.  Vjecnaja Pamjat.

St. Sava Monastery in Libertyville, IL is where King Peter II was interned since his funeral in 1970. This photo is from Wikipedia, posted by B. Garrett from Kenosha, WI on Feb.7, 2008.

King Peter was forced to flee Yugoslavia in WWII after the Axis invasion. He traveled widely, but settled in the USA, and died at the young age of 47 after a failed liver transplant.


From the official Royal Family of Serbia website:

His Majesty King Peter II

“King Peter II of Yugoslavia was the firstborn son of King Alexander I and Queen Maria of Yugoslavia. King Peter II was born in Belgrade 6 September 1923 his Godparents were King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later Queen Mother of Great Britain). His education commenced at The Royal Palace after which he went to Sandroyd School in England, which he left after his father’s assassination in 1934. Since King Peter II was 11 years old and underage at the time of his father’s assassination, a regency was formed consisting of three regents including his great uncle Prince Paul Karadjordjevic.

“In 1939 at the beginning of the Second World War, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia found itself surrounded by countries that had joined the Axis as allies of Nazi Germany. Prince Paul’s decision in 1941 to sign a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany resulted in severe protests in the country and this led to a government crisis and a coup d’état by Yugoslav officers on 27 March 1941. As a result of the coup, King Peter II was proclaimed of age.

“The Yugoslav Army was unprepared to resist the ensuing invasion by Nazi Germany and Yugoslavia was occupied within eleven days. King Peter II was forced to leave the country along with the Yugoslav Government – initially to Greece, Palestine and then to Egypt. King Peter II joined other monarchs and leaders of German occupied Europe in London in June 1941. There King Peter was regarded by the people of Yugoslavia as the symbol of resistance against Nazism. King Peter II completed his education at Cambridge University and joined the Royal Air Force.

“Despite the collapse of the Yugoslav army two rival resistance entities were formed. The first resistance entity was the loyalist one led by Yugoslav Army Colonel Dragoljub Mihailovic who was later promoted to General and made the Minister of Defence of the Yugoslav government in exile. The other resistance entity was that of the communist Partisans led by the communist party leader Josip Broz – later known to the world as Tito. A bitter civil war followed during the German occupation.

“The Allies, having initially supported General Mihailovic later threw their support behind Tito. The Partisans entered Belgrade in 1944 in the wake of Soviet tank brigades and illegally established a communist Government. In November 1945, the monarchy was illegally abolished without a referendum and Yugoslavia remained a totalitarian single party state under the League of Communists for more than four decades.

“King Peter II never abdicated. Initially King Peter II lived in exile in London with his wife (he married the Princess Alexandra of Greece and Denmark in 1944, she was the daughter of King Alexander of the Hellenes and Aspasia Manos) and his son Crown Prince Alexander was born in 1945.”


(Be sure to check out all of my WWII pages with the Chetniks to learn more about this period of history!)



This is the beautiful St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Oplenac, where King Peter II will be buried along with other members of the royal family.

My Danilovich relatives in Belgrade gave me this book of the Karadjordjevich Dynasty they guarded from the 1940’s when I visited there for the 600th Anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo in 1989.  Here are only a few of the many photos inside……Enjoy!




Mim Bizic’s photo of her dad, Milan Karlo, then editor and photographer of the English section of the American SRBOBRAN; King Peter II visitng the Serb National Federation Headquarters at 3414 Fifth Avenue in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, PA in the very early 1960’s, and Rev. Fr. Velimir Kovachevich, later Bishop and then Metropolitan Christopher.


 Milan Karlo was working at the Diocesan Observer at the time of King Peter II’s death.  He took most of the funeral photos you see here.


Michael Sneed, writing in the Chicago TRIBUNE of Sunday, Nov. 15, 1970 wrote about the funeral, with the headlines of EXILED YUGOSLAV KING BURIED; 15,000 GATHER TO SAY GOODBYE.

Sneed began: “A king was buried in American soil yesterday in a small countryside chapel three miles north of Libertyville.  ‘Bury me in Liberty,’ King Peter II of Yugoslavia had said, preferring to leave the ‘ville’ off his favorite town.  ‘I want to rest near my freedom-loving people.  I must always share their destiny.’

“A throng of 15,000 people dressed in black filed past his bier, kissed the cross that lay across the top and wept.  His body lay in a brown, metal coffin, the upper half covered with glass.”

In another section, Sneed acknowledged “King Peter II helped thwart Hitler’s movement into Russia” said a WWII amputee who had served with him in the Yugoslav Air Force.”

“When the doors of the chapel were closed, 75 Serbian religious leaders and dignitaries from throughout the world were escorted in, the funeral services began, and it started to snow.

“Candles were lit, the smell of incense filled the room, and Serbian changing began as four bishops prayed for their dead king.”

Near the end of the article he quoted a 17-year old girl for his article: “He was our king.  He hated Communism and all the evil that goes with it.  He loved freedom.  He was a symbol of hope.  Now he is gone.”

Admiral Vladimir Shashkevich and King Alexander I

Up until yesterday (Thursday, March 27, 2014), I had not heard of Admiral Vladimir Shashkevich until I received an email message from Bill and Barb Scharf, alerting me to the Facebook page they had created on the Admiral.  No, they had no relation to him, but Bill’s father worked at Kolcast Industries with Vladimir Shashkevich in Minerva, Ohio before the former Admiral passed away.  When Bill’s own father died, he found these exciting photos / stories and thought they were too valuable to history to be lost.  I’m grateful to Bill for allowing me to share this information with all my readers.  It’s exciting and needs to be known more widely.

Admiral Vladimir Shashkevich

April 2,1895-November 22, 1963

from Rajevo Selo, (Austro-Hungary) Yugoslavia


Escorting the body of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia off the “Dubrovnik,” after his  assassination in Marseilles, France,  on October 9, 1934.  Returning King Alexander’s body home was probably the outstanding national event in Admiral Shashekevich’s Naval career.

Newsletter where Vladimir Shashkevich worked.

Article says he began his KOLCAST career in Cleveland, in January of 1952, and when the operations moved to Minerva, OH, he was there to help tranistion in 1956.

Click photo on lower left side to enlarge

Click photo on lower left side to enlarge…


Vladimir Shashkevich -a 9 yr.old cadet

in Eisenstadt, Austria


Captain Shashkevich, as Commandant of the Naval Base on October 31, 1940, during the Slava ceremony in honor of St. Luke, the Patron Saint of the Royal Navy.  Behind him is his Aide.

The Slava is the most significant holiday to the Serbs, it is fundamental to the  origin and identity, you can say the Slava is the universal religious / traditional trademark of the Serbs.


Vladimir Shashkevich, after coming to America in 1960. 


Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of this story  is that Aleksandra Rebic of Chicago, Illinois, has known Admiral Vladimir Shashkevich’s son, Michael, since the 1990’s.  He is a professor at one of the universities in Illinois, and wrote about Mihailovich and the so-called excavation report in 2004!

Aleksandra also wrote about MICHAEL’S connections to the famous Serbian WWII General,  Draza Mihailovich!

Michael’s father was a personal friend of Mihailovich and learned from his relatives that Draza had married a widowed friend of his from school, who bore him a daughter, Gordana and a son, Branko.  He says the person known as “Drazin’s grandson” is not a bilogoical descendant of General Mihailovich.

Also killed with General Draza Mihailovich was General Kosta Musick, from one of the most distinguished families.  Lukijan Musick  (Archimandrite and Bishop, well-known poet) was the uncle of the grandfather of General Kosta Musick. 

Michael says that it is well known that before being killed by the Communists, General Kosta Musick shouted, “Long Live Serbia!” (Zivela, Srbija!)

Michael says that General Kosta Musick is his blood cousin and he would be willing at any time to give his DNA to prove his relation and the story.

Too, he says, that Musick’s body was thrown in the pit with General Mihailovich’s body. And, most probably,  also the bodies of Arsa Jovanovic and Andrija Hebrang.

The cliff-hanger is that Michael was with General Mihailovich at the same time in Ada Ciganlija prison, although only a young boy in his teens!

To read more about Aleksandra Rebic’s blog, be sure to visit: 


WWI Postcard of King Alexander of Yugoslavia

I’ve always had a fascination with Prince and later King Alexander (Aleksandar) of Yugoslavia ever since I found a two-spread photo of him decades ago in the middle of an old French publication from WWI, in an antique book shop located in Alexandria, VA.  (This has since been sent to HRH Prince Aleksandar of Serbia.)

Too, my Aunt Rose Mamula, was studying Philosophy as an American student in Belgrade only a month, when they learned of King Aleksandar’s untimely assassination on October 9, 1934, in Marseilles, France, while he was attending a Peace Conference with Prime Minister of France, Louis Barthou.  She wrote a letter home to her mother, my grandmother, Andja Mamula Mamula, explaining the grief that had overcome the whole country.  I found a copy of that letter in the American SRBOBRAN which I will talk about later, including how the 9 USA stipendists carried a wreath from the SNF to Oplenac, where he was buried.

I will talk more about the amazing funeral elsewhere, covered so eloquently and in great detail by the major newspapers from all over the world. 

According to Wikipedia: “As Foreign Minister, Barthou met King Alexander I of Yugoslavia during his state visit to Marseilles in October 1934. On 9 October, the King and Barthou were assassinated by Velicko Kerin, a Bulgarian revolutionary wielding a handgun. One of the bullets struck Barthou in the arm, passing though and fatally severing an artery. He died of excessive blood loss less than an hour later. The assassination was planned in Rome by Ante Pavelić, head of the Croatian Ustaše, in August 1934. Pavelić was assisted by Georg Percevic, a former Austro-Hungarian military officer. France unsuccessfully requested extradition of Percevic and Pavelić.[1

Prime Minister of France, Louis Barthou was killed along with King Alexander of Yugoslavia on Oct. 9, 1934.


And I can’t help but mention, as we read about Admiral Vladimir Shashkevich’s duty as the bearer of King Alexander’s body back to Yugoslavia, how our Kum Rudy Ignatovic told us so many times of his walking on foot over a hundred miles, just to see the body of his slain beloved King Alexander pass throough on its journey throughout Yugoslavia in 1934.  That would be 80 years ago now, but only 13 years since the passing of his loyal subject, Rudy Ignatovic, 11/28/00, who had spent part of WWII in Stalag IX C as a POW.

Royal Standard of Yugoslavia from Wikipedia 3/28/14


(Click all photos on the lower right hand side to enlarge.)

!928 V. Shashkevich seated in the middle in Dubrovnik



V. Shashkevich with young King Peter aboard the year he became King after his father’s assassination.



V. Shashkevich with Admiral of the First Italian Fleet, the Marchese Riccardi at Boku Kotorshu Naval Base, Bay of Kotor.



V. Shashkevich dining in Split, Yugoslavia, with the Turkish Ambassador

Petar Kokovich (Kovich)-Olympic Gold Medalist 1912

Petar Kokovich-Peter Kovich

“Peter the Great,”

Olympic Gold Medalist 1912

Part 2 in our Series of Serbian Immigrants in America from research begun by Milan M. Karlo by Milana Karlo Bizic

from the American SRBOBRAN of Wednesday, June 3, 2020, pp.12,13.


“Sećanje na zaslužne i drage pokojnike nikada ne bledi, nikada se ne gubi: 

“The memory of the deserving and dear deceased never fades, is never lost.”  So began a beautiful obituary in the Slobodan-Liberty newspaper in the Tuesday, September 4, 1968 issue of Petar Kokotovich.

My story begins with finding a package sent to my dad, Milan Karlo, on September 19, 1985 forwarded from the Diocesan Observer office in Gray’s Lake, IL to his then home at 3003 W. Broadway, in Tucson, Arizona, 85745. 

Inside this package I inherited was a letter from Peter’s daughter, Dorothy Stepan, who has since passed away, but then lived at 180 Turtle Lake Court in Naples, Florida. The package also included the SLOBODA obituary which Dorothy was sorry she couldn’t read as it was in Cyrillic, and a write-up from the Campbell Soup Company News.

Finding these wonderful stories about our early Serbian immigrants to America is one of the good things that has come from being confined to my apartment here in Sewickley, PA during this COVID-19 virus.  My dad and his wife, Helen Vuckovich Karlo, had traveled the country, putting on 100,000 miles, collecting stories for their book(s) EARLY DAYS: Serbian Settlers in America, published in 1984.  Because the book with almost a thousand photographs became too thick with just the WEST stories, plans were made to make another one for the Serbs in the Midwest, and then one for the East.  Time and money ran out.

Now, 35 years later, I hope to resurrect these gems of started stories Dad collected for all of us to enjoy and learn from.  They’re great ones for sure!

What an honor it is for me to reintroduce you all to “Petar Mile Kokotowitsch,” a Serb born on September 28, 1888, in Plaški, Karlovac, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  He was such a great middleweight wrestler, he won 22 medals and 3 world championships in Vienna.  In 1912, he represented Austria at the Olympic games held in Stockholm, Sweden and won the Olympic Class A Middleweight title at 160 pounds.

Trying to research that Gold title, at first I was unsuccessful.  “Maybe he was there in Stockholm, which is an accomplishment in itself,” I said to my disappointed self, thinking perhaps the story was exaggerated through the years. But I was persistent, and lo and behold, it’s there! 

Olympic Gold!  Petar M. Kokotowitsch! 

As I’m typing this story for you, a photograph of all the delegates and officers of the Serb National Federation’s Fourth Convention in Pittsburgh, PA, Sept. 12-18, 1943, including my dad sitting Indian style on the floor, are looking down on me and my computer.  I KNOW they’d all be thrilled to hear that good news!

Even better news is this.  Peter came to America on a bet, under the most unusual circumstances. He had a backer who promised him a thousand dollars (Can you just imagine!) if he could beat one of Chicago’s top wrestlers, a heavyweight of 245 lbs.  At this time, Pete only weighed 175.

In the Campbell Soup article, it is written that the match lasted two house before Pete finally managed to throw the heavyweight.  And that started him on a professional wrestling career in the Chicago area.  He is said to have wrestled such old time greats as Johnny Meyer, Joe Catonan and his toughest was “The Mysterious Conductor.”  Peter’s professional name was “Peter the Great.”

My research asserts that on May 27, 1929, Pete was 40 years old with a wife and daughter, and made a declaration of intent to become a U.S. citizen, while at the same time, changed his name from Kokotovich to Kovich. His witnesses were Mirko Ladjenic and George Maslach.

Peter came to America to be a professional wrestler. However, as a proud Serb and a true athlete, he could not stand to participate in the set “matches” where upon request, he had to lose to the celebrator himself, so he was indignant, and let go of wrestling, devoting himself to the locksmithing business that he studied in Belgrade.  

Let us recall the words of Serbia’s famous son, Jovan Jovanovic-Zmaj:  “Integrity cannot be bought, because an honest man wouldn’t sell it not even for all the greatest treasures.  A dishonest man would sell it, but he doesn’t have it!”

So, giving up his wrestling career in 1931, Peter worked as a machinist and later became Division Manager for the Continental Can Company, always moving up because of his expertise and fine manner-his integrity.  His only child, daughter Dorothy, relayed in her letter: “During the period from 1931 to 1938, he traveled all over the United States, living in probably 14 different cities.  Wherever we settled in, he would search out our Serbian people and give jobs at the can company to any that were out of work—- and believe me, there were many during the depression period.”

The 1940 census shows at this time, Pete was 51, his wife, Katherine (Katica Milosevich Kovich) was 47 and Dorothy was 15. He was living at 4007 West Argyle St. in Chicago and was making a goodly sum of $5,000 per year working 40 hours for 52 weeks.  The Census revealed he had two years of High School training.

A dear friend of Peter Kovich, who I only know as Mr. M. Popovich, wrote in his obituary in SLOBODA:  “He was born with an ingenious clarity of spirit, a desire to sprint to the top, and a developed sense of honesty and responsibility to work, inherited from his parents at home.  He worked hard and progressed in his business, took care of his family but also took a very active part in all Serbian activities and organizations throughout his lifetime, so much so, he became one of the most recognized American Serb pioneers, whose respect and sympathy he deservedly gained and enjoyed. 

“He had an innate sense of business and took great care of his family responsibilities, but he also found time to serve as Vice President for the Serbian Brothers Help (Srpsko Narodne Odbrane),  the Serb National Federation, the Serbian-Canadian Diocese, our church schools, and more.  But the most distinguished examples of his generosity came in helping the newly arrived displaced Serbian immigrants fleeing from the Communists in Europe, come to America. He found the Serbian patriots employment with the company he worked for, but they came to the job interview with an enviable level of training from him first, leading to a great deal of confidence, so that with his recommendation, everyone was accepted into work.

“Cika Pero” even bought them clothes until they were fit to stand on their own feet.  He not only helped those who sought his help, but he went after those he had heard of or felt needed his help.  He showed them a dignified, discreet, distinguished and sincere heart, never asking for gratitude, accolades or recognition, just “od srca scru,” from heart to heart.

Peter was known throughout the country as an authority in the canning industry, and served also as a consultant for the Campbell Soup Company. But he was always active and zealous in the fight against communism, even after being retired from his decades of hard work.  He was quoted as saying, “Retirees and old people can have some private life and work, but for the fight of the Church and the Holy See, there must be neither pensioners nor the elderly, we must all work until our last breath.”

When Peter died at age 80 in 1968, his friend Popovich wrote:  This son of Lika was one of the most extraordinary dearly beloved Serbian patriots, whose whole life was devoted to love for his Serbian people and all things Serbian.  “Pero iz junacke Like.”



Daughter Dorothy Kovich married William Stepan on Feb. 4, 1947.  They had three children.  Two of her boys predeceased her.


Peter Stepan died at age 62 in Tulsa, OK where he was Dean of Students at the Victory Christian School, and was buried in Naples, FL.  Not married. No heirs.

William “Skipper” Stepan passed away on Jan. 8, 2013. He was VP of several International companies traveling the world before he relocated to Naples, FL where he had started the Stepan Property Management Co, which his son Nick and grandchildren Luke and Natalie had inherited.   One of his bequests was to help the St. Sava Serbian Church Camp where he once was a camper and counselor. The obituary said he had an “endless good nature, positive attitude and priceless humor.”

JoAnn Stepan Simich (Milan Simich)- was a collegiate athlete, and always embraced the ideals of Teamwork, Communication, Service and Dedication to achieving goals, just like her grandfather.  Other relatives include Christopher Simich, Katie Jantzen, Brendin and Norah Simich and Tatiana and Natalie Jantzen.

A story about Dorothy Stepan from her Sunday School pupil, Pete Puhar

On July 18m 2015, Petar Puhar wrote about his Sunday School teacher on Facebook:

“I want to take a minute and reflect on the passing of a Great Serbian Orthodox Wife, Mother, Grandmother and Former Kolo Srpskih Sestara, and Sunday School Teacher, Dorothy Stepan.“

Teta Dorothy did a lot for the Serbian Orthodox Church, Kolo, Sunday School and Camp. For this, so many Serbian children, now adults, are eternally grateful to Her.

My first remembrance of Teta Dorothy was in 1956/1957 when she was my Sunday School Teacher at Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Church on Schiller Street in Chicago. I loved her as a Sunday School Teacher and I learned much from her.

“I was fortunate as were many many children to have Teta Dorothy when she was Camp Secretary at St. Sava Monastery in Libertyville. She was strict but just as much fun. Her daughter Cookie and Son Skip also were counselors at Camp, and Buddy was a camper for years.

“For a time I believe the Stepan Family was with us on Kedzie until they formed St, Stevan’s Serbian Orthodox Church on Leland. The entire Family has always been involved in their Parish.

“It seems that the Good Lord decided he needed a Great Woman and caller her to Heaven at the young age of 90.  I will always carry you in my heart Teta Dorothy. To the Stepan Family my deepest Sympathies and eternal love and respect..Rest in Peace and Memory Eternal.”


”Dorothy E. Stepan, nee Kokotovich, age 90, of Indian Head Park, formerly of Naples, FL and Chicago Beloved wife of the late William Stepan. Fond mother of JoAnn “Cookie” (Milan) Simich, and the late William “Skipper” and Peter “Buddy” Stepan. Cherished “Gram” of Christopher (Tricia) Simich, Katie (Kerry) Jantzen; Matthew (Elvia) and Nicholas (Jennifer) Stepan, and Great-Gram of Brendin and Norah Simich; Tatiana and Natalia Jantzen; Luke and Natalia Stepan. Private interment was held at Naples Memorial Gardens. Arrangements by JOHNSON FUNERAL HOME, LTD. For info call (708) 485-0214.Published in a Chicago Tribune Media Group Publication on July 5, 2015

Kosovo Men's Choir

From the Kosovo Choir’s brochure:

“The Serbian Men’s Choir ‘Kosovo’ of Northeastern Ohio is under the direction of Dr. Rick Zivic, DDS and Mr. Sam Rusnov of Youngstown, Ohio is president.  The choir was organized in February, 1994; with eleven men from several cities in the Greater Cleveland-Akron area.  They took the name “Kosovo” in honor, and to preserve the memory of Kosovo, a region in South Serbia, the heart and cradle of Serbian Orthodoxy since before the battle of Kosovo, June 15 (28th), 1389.

“The Kosovo Choir has evolved into a regional choir with over 30 members whose repertoire consists of Orthodox liturgical music as well as serbian and Slavic folk melodies.  Not being musical professionals, and not all of Serbian national heritage, but all with a love of Serbian music and desire to sing and preserve Serbian cultural identity has kept them together for more than 14 years, boasting of thrid and fourth generations of mostly american-born singers.  To their credit, they have recorded 4 CD’s including liturgical and Serbian secular music and American National Hymns.  They have been the recipients of numerous citations for fostering, performing and preserving ethnographic songs perpetuating the cultural wealth.

“They have performed across the USA and Canada.  Among the dignitaries for whom they performed are Patriarch Pavle, Metropolitan Vladimir of St. Petersburg, Russia, HRH Crown Prince Alexander and HRH Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia, as well as Senator George Voinovich, the Ohio National Guard and the visiting Serbian Military Attache and others.”


Kosovo Men’s Choir Trip to “Stari Kraj” – August 13-27 2008 

Thanks to the Kosovo Serbian Men’s Choir of Ohio, the efforts of organizers Mary Paich and Dr. Rick Zivic, and our hosts, MATICA ISELJNICA from Belgrade, I was able to accompany the Kosovo Men’s choir ambassadors on a 2.5 week tour of Serbia and five new countries (all once formerly a part of Yugoslavia, that was then only a little larger than our state of Pennsylvania to begin with!).  Every time our bus crossed newly constructed borders, we needed our passports!  Such annoyances paled in comparison to the rich trip prepared for us that proved an emotional and uplifting spiritual journey with some of the most dedicated American Serbs (and Russian Orthodox friends!) from throughout the Eastern Ohio areas and more.  I will write more and share more photos later, but for now, here are some interesting places to visit that highlight some of our experiences.  It is important for all readers to know that the choir worked so hard to prepare for this trip spiritually, mentally and financially, and as Director Rick says, “All of our hard work paid off, as we represented the Serbian people in America well, preserving our “Srpstvo,” and showing our Serbs in the Otadzbina that they are not alone in this world!”

Our tour group at the Royal Palace in Dedinje, with King Alexander the Unifier’s portrait hanging on the wall.  King Alexander was killed by a gunman while he was on a Peace Mission in Marseilles, France, Oct. 9, 1934.  A similar portrait hangs in the W.PA Heinz History Museum in Pittsburgh.  This photo above was taken by the Court’s Official Photographer, Miroslav Djuric from ZIKA SLIKA, as is the one below.

A visit with their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Alexander and Princess Katherine is the way EVERYONE should start a tour!  They were so very hospitable!  Far left is the Director of Matica Iseljnica, from France, who VOLUNTEERS his time for free!

Here’s a stop at the Embassy of the USA in Belgrade, August 20, 2008 with Charge d’Affaires, Jennifer Brush.

Click here:  US Embassy in Belgrade 


The Choir signing “Mnogaja Ljeta” to Ms. Brush of the U.S. Embassy for her generous hospitality. 


 We all loved being in Trebinje, Hercegovina, Republic of Serbia!


The Municipality of Valjevo welcomed us well! 

The camera men in Valjevo were out in full force to cover the exciting event! 

That’s Milan, our TV cameraman, 4th from left. 


Performance at Emir Kosturica’s Drvengrad

with 2 folklore groups, one of them made up of orphans from the war.  The Choir & their tour group guests left $1,500.00 with the young performers! 


Milan Zec, now of Phoenix, Arizona, overlooking Trebinje from the famous “Mala Gracanica” Monastery built by Chicago’s  famous  Serb, Branko Tupanjac for the cost of $2.5 million dollars!

How about THIS for a venue?  It was Awesome!

Ampitheater  at the Mala Gracanica Church.

“We are one!” said a happy visitor to the site. 


Already viewed as saintly by the church for his marvelous contribution to  Trebinje, Mr. Tupanjac is seen here presenting the church to the Virgin Mary.  Next to him is the famous poet & writer, Jovan Duchich.
I found new friends who promised to visit our website, they were cousins from London & Kosovo meeting in Trebinje!
Outside the “Mala Gracanica” church on the top of the hill overlooking all of Trebinje! The men showed their appreciation to Mary Paich for arranging the tour by asking her to be a part of this official photo!
Trebinje was an outstanding place to be and we thank Vaso and Tanya from the TVIKO Agency for making so many wonderful arrangements for us.
Tanya wrote this in her brochure:  “Ecologists say that Trebinje is an oasis; physicians that is is a sanatorium, agronomists that it is Misir, archeologists say that it is El Dorado, pharmacologists that it is Medicaments for free, writers that it is the poet’s province, actors say that it is the stage where everybody plays, and painters that everything has already been done, it only has to be framed.” 
Sargen Train Ride Stop-
The train is from WWII! There are 21 tunnels through pure rock!
Spectacular scenery along our train ride route!
100th Anniversary of Church in Downtown Trebinje
Beautiful children of Trebinje! Hello from America!
The San Rocco Festival in Aliquippa, PA has nothing on the Serbian celebrations in Trebinje!  The Kosovo Men’s choir followed the dozens of priests to the river, following all the church banners and flags.  Many of the men were moved to tears to hear the many nuns singing alongside the boats by the river.
In Belgrade, we were guests of the First Serbian Choral Society of Belgrade, who provided us with food galore, but especially music and song from this extremely talented orchestra.
Look at this great honor for the Kosovo Men’s Choir!
 Salute! Toasting BOTH choirs under tribute to Stevan Mokranjac!
Both choirs gathered at end to sing “Mnogaja Ljeta!” This concert was held in Belgrade’s Ethnographic Museum.
Best part-Meeting up with your relatives!
SERBIA Welcomes you with Open Arms!
At the end of our trip-Belgrade Airport! Beautiful country, beautiful people! Dr. Nenad, Peggy, Fr. Zivojin.  Ziveli, Srbija! 

You can buy some of the Kosovo Men’s Choirs Tapes from here: 

The Choir practicing right before their Concert at Kent State’s Stark Campus, Sept. 20, 2008. Their singing was augmented with a slide show by Kent State music professor, Ken Kramer, of beautiful churches and other scenes of their recent trip.

Kosovo Men’s Choir Trip to Serbia, August 2008

Crest on a jacket pocket.

St. Sava’s Cathedral-Vracar

St. Sava’s Hram in Belgrade

Susan & Lt. Col John Cappelo, Community Liaison Officer, and Air Attache at the Vice Counsel’s House (Ms. Jennifer Brush) of the Embassy of the USA speaking with Mim about “Operation Halyard” & the rescue of the 512 U.S. Airmen from behind German-occupied lines in Yugoslavia.

(See bottom of Draza Mihailovich page on this website to read more!)


Mayor of Valjevo in white shirt

Fr. Zivojin & Rick Zivic with famous poet Desanka Maksimovich and other notables from Valjevo!

Special ladies who made things happen in Valjevo!

Explaining the return of St. Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich’s remains to his beloved Lelic Monastery.

Bishop Nikolai’s Museum with many of my Dad’s photos in Lelic Monastery

Here’s Milan, taking movies of my father Milan Karlo’s photos of Bishop Nikolai’s funeral in Libertyville, IL, USA, on display at the Lelic Museum, near Valjevo.

Dr. Nenad Janicijevich in front of the fresco  to show size.

Grave of Jovan Duchich  is right below the huge fresco above. Duchich died 4/22/43, but was buried in America as Yugoslavia was still communist. 57 years after his death, he was reburied in his beloved Trebinje 10/14/00.

The photo caption above says: “Branko Tupanjac, great benefactor (from the USA) of the new church in Trebinje, and Dr. Predrag Ristic, architect of the church.”

From the article about Jovan Ducic in the American SRBOBRAN, by Dr. Aleksander Petrov.

New friends!  Everyone was so nice and we really enjoyed the evening concert in Trebinje. These young mothers, one of them originally from Kosovo, promised to look up!

Orthodox Church of the Transfiguration built in 1908.  We were there for this 100th Anniversary Celebration that spilled out onto the streets. It’s located in the very CENTER of Trebinje, and is surrounded by a beautiful park.  Our Kosovo Men’s Choir sang  in church and also at the outdoor concert where there were more than 20,000 people gathered!  What an impressive show!

Altar of Orthodox Church of the  St. Transfiguration in downtown  Trebinje.  Next to the church there is the eparchy’s home with the library.


Our homes for 2 nights.

We felt like Heidi and friends, ready to yodel in the beautiful mountains surrounding us!

Chapel dedicated to St. Sava. The choir sang “Oce Nas” here before leaving Drvengrad.

++++++++++++++++++We We took the  Sargen train to ride around the “8” loop in Mokra Gora.

George M., the Choir’s secretary, on a rare occasion without his notebook in hand! George took extensive notes of the trip to help us ALL remember!

Border guards.

Dubrovnik Harbor

Lunch Time!

 Singing  “Oce Nas” in the St. Nicholas  Serbian Orthodox Church right in the heart of Dubrovnik’s walled city.  It was one of the main buildings damaged during the war.

Lovers’ Bridge in Vrnjacka Banja loaded with locks! You’re supposed to stay in love and married forever!


Alex & Connie Ristich add their own lock to the Bridge!

This waiter in Vrnjacka Banja hotel knew how to please the ladies.  You’d spot several of them with freshly picked roses!

Farewell dinner on the River, right across from the magnificently lit-up Patriarchate, and not far from Kalemegdan Park. We were entertained royally with an orchestra, female singer, and the famous Bajich Brothers of Belgrade!

Boris Solomko, Project Manager of St. Sava’s HRAM Construction Site, and his son.  Great job, Boris!

Eugene Zemlansky, one of the Americans of Russian descent singing with the Kosovo Men’s Choir, handed out these lovely 4″ wooded icons to Serbian kids everywhere he went.  He said they were blessed by his priest at the Russian Orthodox Church in Akron, Ohio beforehand..  What a wonderful, thoughtful gift!

Our Itinerary

August 13-Arrive Belgrade

Aug. 14-Royal Palace, Vracar Cathedral, “Ima Dana” in Skardalija, USA Embassy

Aug. 15-Valjevo, Lelic, Celije, Sirogojno, arrive Drvengrad.

Aug. 16-Mokra Gora, Train Ride on Sargan Eight, Zlatibor, Concert in Drvengrad with folklore group orphans.

Aug. 17-Trebinje, Mala Gracanica Monastery Concert.

Aug. 18-St. Basil of Ostrog Monastery, “Glava Zeta” Restaurant in Montenegro

Aug. 19-Dubrovnik Serbian Orthodox Church; Evening: Trebinje Church Centennial Celebration in Town Square, Concert with 20,000 participants!

Aug. 20-Vrnjacka Banja

Aug. 21-Zica Monastery-800 yrs. Concert, Lunch in Vrnjci Restaurant.

Aug. 22-Kosovska Mitrovica, Kosovo-Decani and Pec Monasteries.

Aug. 23-Oplenac, lunch at Alkesandar Restaurant in Arandjelovac.

Aug. 24-Holy Divine Liturgy in Saborna Crkva-reception by Belgrade First Choral Society, Concert-Ethnographic Museum.

Aug. 25-Matica Iseljnica-Ministry for Diaspora, City Assembly & National Assembly at Parliament Building, lunch in Parliament building.

Aug. 26-Free day (I met with relatives, which was the BEST part for me! and lunch at the “Knez” Restaurant in Belgrade near the Patriarchate), then group farewell supper on the “Victoria” river boat.

Aug. 27-Belgrade to Frankfort to Chicago to Cleveland to HOME! 

Thank you to EVERYONE who worked so hard to make this dream vacation a reality!

I appreciated it so much!

M.K. Bizic