Kumstvo and the Todorovichs

V.Rev.Stav. Fr. John Todorovich, serving with his Kum, V. Rev. Milan Krstic, in the St. Elijah Serbian Orthodox Church in Aliquippa, PA, 11/1/15.


On Sunday, November 1, 2015, members of the congregation of St. Elijah Serbian Orthodox Church in Aliquippa, PA, USA, were delighted to hear the wonderful sermon V. Rev. Stav. Fr. John Todorovich, retired priest from St. Sava’s in Merrillville, and now of St. Petersburg, FL,  given while co-serving the Sunday Liturgy with his Kum, V. Rev. Stav. Fr. Milan Krstic.  (Also serving in the altar that day was St. Elijah’s retired priest,  V. Rev. Stav. Fr. Stevan Stepanov.)   

Fr. John talked so warmly about what it meant to him and his Protonica Mirjana Puhar Todorovich to be KUMOVI with the Krstic family, being available for each through thick and thin, traveling far distances to be there for family baptisms and weddings, and more. Then Fr. John shared this next part of KUMSTVO and its meaning with all of us:

Kumstvo: Godparenthood

Godparenthood (Kumstvo) is a sacred Christian institution of the Orthodox Church from time immemorial.

Its origin stems from Judaism for there had to be “witnesses” at the ceremony of circumcision. Since circumcision as a ritual of the biblical church was a prototype of the Christian sacrament of baptism, and since the first Christians came from Judaism, it is quite natural that they had witnesses, GODPARENTS (Kumovi), at their baptismals.

Circumcision was the sign of a covenant or a contract of salvation between God and Abraham (I Mos. 17) in the Old Testament; therefore, it was the prototype of the Christian baptism in the New Testament.

A Christian baptism is also a union between the baptized person and the Lord God through the Saviour Jesus Christ, who said: “…Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…” (Mark 16:16)

The Church song at a baptism says: “He who is baptized in Christ puts on Christ.” For these reasons, the Roman law looked on baptism as a treaty or union and prescribed the need for witnesses, or Godparents.

The witnesses or Godparents were particularly needed at the time when the Christians were forced to renounce Christ and baptism in order not to be rebaptized.

Looking from a practical point of view, the Church established the institution of Godparenthood at the time when it started to baptize children.

Since the children themselves could not confess their belief in the Saviour, the Godparents renounced the devil for them, united them with Christ, confessed the faith for them, and witnessed that their acceptance of Christianity was true and sincere.

As for aduits who were baptized, besides being witnesses, the Godparents served as their religious teachers.

A Serbian epic poet immortalized himself by talking about the antiquity of Godparenthood by describing the baptism of Christ. When the Mother of God asked John the Baptist to the baptism of Christ, according to epic poetry, She addressed him thus: “Be my Godfather, oh, John the Baptist; You should baptize Christ, the true God.”

The act of baptism was so moving that, according to the folk poet: “Even John the Baptist was so frightened that he almost dropped his book,” since: “The water of the Jordan raged As if to drown somebody.”

However, the Mother of God encouraged him: “Do not be frightened, Godfather John, the water is not enraged, it wants to be sanctified through Christ.”

Article 200 of the Nomocanon in the Big Service Book tells us why the Godparent in the Church Slavonic language is called the “receiver”:

He is called the receiver since he receives the child from the priest at its baptism and the child becomes his child to teach about everything that is good.

”Therefore:—a Godparent bears witness that a christening was done;—he guarantees before God and Church that the baptized person will remain faithful to the accepted religion and given promises;—he eliminates every deceit, fraud and hypocrisy of the baptized;—he is the spiritual parent since baptism is a spiritual birth;—and, he renounces the devil, unites with Christ and follows the Creed, and in that way, assumes the responsibility to raise, educate and teach his spiritual children the faith and its given promises.

For these reasons, Godparents must be devout Orthodox people who are moral and live a pure Christian life, who are mature in body and spirits, and who have the physical possibilities to fulfill their parental obligations towards their spiritual children.

Atheists, heterdox people and heretics, public sinners and those of bad repute may not be Godparents.

Further, children and those under the legal age, monks and priests who are performing a christening, a child’s parents and blood relatives up to the third degree (generation) may not be Godparents.

The Orthodox Serbs always had the highest regard toward their Godparents. Enlightened by St. Sava’s Faith, they knew that Christening was the most important moment in the spiritual life of Christians that they showed particular honor and respect towards the Godparents who accepted their baptized child.

The behavior between Godparents and families of the baptized children reflected a holy relationship and holy kindness. Families affiliated through Godparenthood enter into a relationship which does not exist even among the closest of relatives.

They are wary not to insult one another, not to inflict any damage nor utter a bad word toward each other. It is a sin to refuse Godparenthood, particularly for a Christening, and it is a greater sin to deceive, slander or rob a Godparent. Thus, in order to avoid the temptation of sinning toward a Godparent, people looked for a Godparent from other areas since neighbors could inflict damage to each other and cause disagreements and quarrels.

It is a rare custom among the Serbs to change a Godparent, so, some Godparenthoods are two hundred or more years old. If change is necessary, one always asks for a blessing from the original Godparent.

Through one Godparenthood, the relatives of the chief Godparent become Godparents also and address each other in that way. Godparenthood mainly plays a particular role in the religious, educational and social life of a people.

Through Godparenthood, a harmony was kept among the people and it was a guardian that nothing bad would happen between such families.

It is obligatory that Godparents help each other. In many cases, Godparenthood served to reconcile two quarreling families. This was particulary seen in the areas where blood feuds were in effect since Godparenthood was the only vehicle to stop them.

Offering Godparenthood to a person who lost someone through a crime softens his heart. 

Aside from a christening Godparent, there also is a Godparent at a wedding, a consecration of a church and at a church slava.

As a spiritual christening is a birth and union with Christ, a wedding is a birth of a new family through the mystical union of the spouses, according to the Gospel: “…and they two shall be one flesh.’ (Eph. 5:31)

The wedding ceremony creates a union between the spouses and God who, by His mercy, blesses the holy matrimony. That is why the Godparent, “holding the wreaths,” testifies that the spouses are baptized, that they are physically and mentally fit for matrimony, that they are not blood nor spiritual relatives, and that they enter into matrimony of their free will, filled with sincerity and love for each other. A Godparent testifies that the marriage really took place.

The Church regulation about who can not be a Godparent at a baptism is also valid for the Godparent of a marriage because of the Serbian custom that the matrimonial Godparent is also the Godparent for the baptism of the children of that marriage.

Since the same rituals are performed at the consecration of a church as in the consecration of every person at a baptism and chrismation, the Serbian people long ago said that “the church is being baptized.”

Therefore, having Godparents for the consecration of a church is a Serbian practice.The Church Slava (Patron Saint Day) is a commemorative celebration of the saint or holy day to whom the church is dedicated. The church is consecrated and in reality baptized. Thus, in order to witness the event and to preserve and promote Godparenthood, Godparents are designated also for Church Slavas.


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!

Leon Lysaght, Alex Machaskee, President of Serbia Boris Tadic, the Serbian Bar Association of America, and Jibby too!

Leon Lysaght, grandson of Butte, Montana grocer, Jovan Vucanovich, Mim Bizic and Arthur Jibilian.

A grateful Leon co-jointly shared his Czar Dushan Award from the Serbian Bar Association headquartered in Chicago with his grandfather,  Jovan Vucanovich, “God’s loyal servant, a Serb true to his culture and history.”  Read Leon’s speech found here below and be proud of who you are. THESE are the Serbs we know!   

(Leon Lysaght is a full-tenured law professor at Wayne State University Mercy where he lives in Detroit.  He is also on the Board of Trustees of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and has been involved with the School of Theology in Libertyville.  He has worked on legal and philanthropic projects in the former Yugoslavia.  Leon’s grandparents were Serbian immigrants from Hercegovina.)


Lou Milicic proudly wrote from Belgrade 10/13/09: “At the time of these Awards (2005), Marya Savich was President of the Serbian Bar Association of America.”


Speech given by Leon Lysaght at the 16th Annual Scholarship Gala of the Serbian Bar Association of America,


It has been difficult to be a Serb for the past ten to fifteen years. In a book entitled Islam and Dhimmitude Where Civilizations Collide, Bat Ye’or, a Jewish historian who was born in Egypt, lives in Britain, and writes in French, made the following comment:

...A media campaign of generalized demonization of the Serbs aimed at neutralizing all opposition to NATO’s anti-Serb war, was waged with terrifying cynicism. The war to annihilate Serbia was intended to punish the crimes of Milosevic and his regime, but the media campaigns endeavored to calm the anti-Westernism in the Muslim world, and of Muslim immigrants in Europe.

It also helped to gain forgiveness for the war in Iraq by a strong pro-Muslim counter balancing policy in the Balkans. (P.338)

She goes on to say that, on a far larger scale, NATO’S war against the Serbs repeated the propaganda tactics used against Jews in Europe and the Middle East. These tactics included control of the media on a world-wide scale; assuring that the information disseminated concerning the war, and its justifications was uniform; the collective demonization of the Serbs, and not just Milosevic’ s criminal regime, and the pillaging of Serbian history.

As the propaganda campaign unfolded, I am sure that you, like me, could not identify who these people that the media kept referring to as Serbs really were. The behavior and motives attributed to them bore no relation to my experience and knowledge of Serb culture and history.

When Patriarch Pavle told us that the only way we could counter this indefensible attack was by confronting our own conduct to the moral teachings of the Orthodox Church, I could not help but reflect on my grandfather.

When he came to this country at the age of 20, he and the small community of Orthodox Serbs in Butte, Montana decided that their first priority was to build a church. He served as the chairman of the building committee and as the first president of the parish, a post he held for 37 years. He opened a small grocery store. During the Depression he sold food on credit to anyone who asked. Eventually he had to close the store because he had no money to keep it open. At the time the store closed, he had $30,000.00 in accounts receivable outstanding. He made no effort to collect from anyone.

He then found work as a janitor in the change house at the Mountain Consolidated Mine, a position he held until his retirement. During the Depression when transients came to his door seeking a handout, he invited them in to sit at his table, even when it forced him to feign lack of hunger in order to feed them. When some family members objected to his generosity, he simply responded that he would not deny Lazarus. Regrettably, those who objected did not recognize the reference. My grandfather taught by his actions, not by his words. He would say no more than, “It is wrong not to do good.”

Is there a connection between the appeal of Patriarch Pavle, the life of a failed grocer in Montana, and the challenges that confront a lawyer in Chicago or Detroit?

Is there a connection between how we conduct our business and who we are, or at least, claim to be?

When I was admitted to the practice of law, one of my cynical relatives said, “Congratulations, now you have a license to steal.” Without a doubt, the license to practice law presents enormous temptations. It also presents enormous opportunities to do good. But the obligation to do good does not begin and end with compliance with the letter of the law and the canons and codes that govern our profession. The canons and codes provide only a minimal standard. They do not provide a comprehensive guide to inform us of our moral obligations as lawyers, much less as spouses, parents, neighbors, colleagues, citizens, and friends.

How are we to know when we must do something that we really don’t want to do, or to refrain from doing something that we really want to do? 

The Orthodox Christian Faith that has sustained and defined Serb culture for over a millennium is, in fact, our only source for guidance. From it we learn that evil can only be understood as the absence of good.

In The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn said that the line between good and evil does not run along the borders of countries, between social classes, political parties, but through every human heart.

And, as Dostoevsky said in The Brothers Karamazov, “without God, all things are permissible.”

As lawyers, we wield enormous power in an increasingly secularized society. The notion of tolerance has been used, or I should say misused, to impose the false belief that all moral values are relative. This type of relativism tempts one to conclude that anything that you can get away with is acceptable and that the attainment of political power, wealth, or status are, in themselves, justifications. If we attain these things without committing a technical violation of the law, or of the codes or canons of the profession, is that sufficient to allow us to say, with certitude, that we have conducted our lives in a manner befitting a custodian of a legal tradition that claims to guarantee liberty and justice for all? More importantly, will it allow us to say that we have complied with Patriarch Pavle’s instruction that we conform our conduct to the moral imperatives embodied in the Holy Orthodox Faith that has sustained and defined the Serbs as a people.

Unlike my friend, colleague, and brother in Christ, Alex Machaskee, who has used his power and prestige in the service of truth and justice for the Serbian people, I believe that I am not the appropriate recipient of the recognition that has been so generously provided this evening. There is another who is far more worthy than I.

So, with your permission, I will accept this recognition on behalf of Jovo Vucanovich, God’s loyal servant, a Serb true to his culture and history: and my grandfather. Thank you.

From the Internet:

Leon Lysaght and Serbian Bar Assoc. Awards


Leon J. Lysaght, Jr


  • Leon J. Lysaght, JrJ.D. University of Chicago ’65
  • B.A. Whitman College ’62

Professor Lysaght began his law career in Montana in private practice. He taught philosophy for one year and served as a visiting lecturer of law and jurisprudence at Queen’s University of Belfast. He came to the University of Detroit Mercy in 1973. From 1976 to 1980 he taught in Canada at the University of Windsor Law School.

Professor Lysaght has been instrumental in developing the Joint Canadian-U.S. Degree Program. His current interests are focused on issues of legal philosophy, commercial and oil and gas law.



Serbia President Boris Tadic addresses full crowd at Cleveland’s Marriott Hotel, Sept. 20, 2009



Alex Machaskee and 2005 Merit Award Speech


In his acceptance speech at the Serbian Bar Association of America’s Sixteenth Annual Scholarship Gala held on Saturday 11/19/05 at the University Club in Chicago,  Alex Machaskee was most grateful, felt proud and blessed not only because of the honor given him, but the fact that his wife Carol, and his 92 year old father, George Machaskee, were also in the audience.  “Carol and my dad, along with my children and grandchildren, are the most important people in my life and I appreciate their constant support.”

Alex had been given many important awards over the years, but said earning the Merit Award was particularly meaningful as it recognized his commitment and support of his Serbian heritage.

“As Serbian-Americans we all share a special bond.  I believe we are all born with the love, respect and sensitivity for nurturing our cultural heritage. I feel very strongly about my roots and I’ve worked diligently through means avaiable to me to raise awareness about my Serbian Orthodox religion and to assist our motherland in becoming more democratic, stable and prosperous.”

To name just a few, Alex and Carol have helped:

  • raise $250,000 to build Monastery Marcha.
  • raised several hundreds of thousands of dollars to help hospitals, orphanages and religious institutions in Serbia & Montenegro.
  • raise over $20,000 for the Hilandar Monastery Restoration Fund.
  • host a dinner at the Plain Dealer with Senator George Voinovich to mobilize the Serbian Americans in the Diaspora, requesting assistance with the difficult situations in Serbia and Montenegro.  He urged contact with Congressional Caucus members, and letters to the SRBOBRAN and local newspapers and suggested investment opportunities in Serbia.
  • the Serbian Unity Congress host the First Serbian Business Conference and Trade Show ever held in the USA with Cedomir Vukic (VP of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce) and Vukman Krivokuca (Ministry for the Diaspora). Twenty Serbian companies exhibited their products and services for the US market.  Mr. Predrag Bubalo, Minister of Industry and Privatization from Serbia, and Dr. Milan Parivodic, Minister of International Economic Relations were guest speakers.  The latter two traveled to Washington and participated in a U.S./Serbia and Montenegro Business Council Trade and Investment Conference designed to promote two-way trade and investment and to strengthen the relationship between the US and Serbia.
  • regularly publish articles in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (one million readers daily) and editorials on the state of affairs in Serbian and Montenegro.
  • host a dinner for U.S. Ambassador Polt and his wife, Hallie, at the Hyatt Belgrade to help promote tourism in Serbia.  Youth exchanges were also discussed as a way for the Serbian Diaspora to invest in Serbia’s future.  A state department initiative known as A-SMYLE is already underway where 115 young people from Serbia and Montenegro attend our High Schools for one year.  (Read more on the net about the American Council for International Education.)
Alex also was quick to point out the startling results of an international survey taken.  He noted that this was even amidst all the chaos the country of Serbia was experiencing.  Serbia managed to rank No.1 (FIRST!) in self-esteem,  compared to the U.S. which ranked only number 6.  The results were based on surveys given to nearly 17,000 people in 53 nations and appeared in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
“We Serbs always persevere!” Alex added. “Niko Nena Sto Srbin Imade!”  Now if we could only realize the intent of “Samo Sloga Srbina Spasova.” 
In closing, Alex quoted from an inscription found by one of his favorite Henri Matisse paintings that hangs in the Cleveland Museum of Art that captures the way he feels.  Matisse said, “I have always tried to hide my own efforts and wished my works to have the lightness and joyousness of a springtime which never lets anyone suspect the labors it has cost.”
“Similar to Matisse, I have a passion for my work not only as a newspaper publisher, but also within the Greater Cleveland community, for my Serbian Orthodox religion, for my fellow Serbs and for the country of my heritage.  My efforts come from my heart.  They are a labor of love for which no recognition is necessary.  I have been blessed in many ways and feel that it is only proper for me to give back wherever and whenever I am able.”
Alex Machaskee truly deserved the American Serbian Bar Association’s MERIT AWARD!

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.



Our hosts: Mr. and Mrs. Alex Machaskee and the President of Serbia, Boris Tadic. Cleveland, OH, 9/20/09


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 

Gender: Male 

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.” 


Reception honoring

Boris Tadic, President of Serbia, in Cleveland, Ohio, September 20, 2009







All photos above by
Debi Jibilian, Martha Zatezalo, Alex Machaskee
and Mim Bizic. 
 PROUD of their Serbian Heritage

Larry Maravich, George Pevac, and Mitch Trivanovich

Three gentlemen from Aliquippa, PA who have since passed on to their Heavenly rewards, made a big impact on my life and I’d like to recognize them here.  I want to honor my dear friends, so they live forever by their deeds!

+Larry Maravich,

+George Pevac, and

+Mitch Trivanovich.

Our dear Larry, just like Czar Lazar for whom he was named, was a Leader of his Serbian people in Aliquippa, PA.  He was born Lazo (Lawrence) Maravich on Nov. 21, 1914, the son of Miladin and Sophia Maravich, in Gary, Indiana.  The family moved to Aliquippa, and Larry began his education at the Logstown School.  He graduated from Aliquippa High School in 1933.

Bright and talented, he had the help of a scholarship, but also worked a full-time job at the Aliquippa Works of Jones and Laughlin (J&L) Steel Corporation. He received his Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree from Geneva College in 1938, and then earned his Master’s Degree at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt). He continued learning, taking graduate courses in School Supervision and Administration.  He received his Siperintendent’s Commission from the Department of Education in 1964.

Larry began teaching in Aliquippa in 1938, and became a Principal there in 1956.  He was elected Superintendent of the Aliquippa School District from 1966 until 1938, a career spanning 40 years.

Larry was a member of the Aliquippa Better Education Council, Aliquippa School-Community Relations Comittee, Citizens’ Advisory Council, and TV station, WQED Educational Advisor.  He was Vice President of the Beaver County Chief School Administrators.

He had an extensive record of community and civil service.  He served on the Aliquippa Area Brotherhood Committee, was program chaiman for the Inter-Faith Exchange Services, was a member of the George Washington Carver Memorial Committe and the Greater Aliquiipa Area Chamber of Commerce.  He chaired the Greater Aliquippa United Way Campaign in 1969-70.  He served on the Board of Trustees with the Salvation Army and was a Director on the Board of the Aliquippa Y.M.C.A.  He was a Trustee of the B. F. Jones Memorial Library for 12 years, and served as VP for two years, and President for six years.

In 1980, Larry was named recipinet of the “Brotherhood” award by the Great Aliquippa Area Chamber of Commerce.  

He served on the Aliuqippa Hospital Board for 29 years as trustee and vice president of the board, active in fund-raising drives for the Aliuqippa Hosptial construction and expansion programs and served as chairman of the Building and Grounds Committee for the Project ’90 Hospital Renovation.

Larry served as counselor-instructor for the Boy Scout “God and Country” Award Orthodox youth. He was a member of the Fraternal organization: Serb National Federation and the ALquippa B.P.O.E. (ELKS).  

Throughout all of this, Larry still found time to devote to his beloved St. Elijah Serbian Orthodox Church in Aliquippa.  He was a life-long member and past vice president and president of the church.  He was also past president of the St. Elijah Church Choir and the St. Elijah’s Men’s Bible Study Group and taught Sunday school and Bible classes for both youth and adults.  He served on various committees during the church building program and construction of the Serbian Center.  He was on the church auditing committee and Boar of Trustees and chaired the program committee for the choir’s 50th Anniversary celebration in 1980.

Lazo also narrated the live radio broadcast of St. Elijah’s Christmas Eve service for many years.

Larry served 4.5 years in the U.S. Army in WWII (1941-1946).  He ended his service on the island of Luzon in the Philippines and was discharged from the Pacific Theater in 1946 with the rank of Captain, Army Medical Services.

Larry resided in Aliquippa his whole life.  At the time of his death on January 15, 2008, , he was survived by his loving wife, Mary (Viovich), two loving daughters, Jeanine and Laurene, a brother and sister-in-law, Eli and Nadine Maravich, a sister, Mae Zeljak a sister-in-law Mary C. Maravich, a brother and sister-in-law Nick and Josephine VIdovich, as well as many nieces and nephews.

Preceeding him in death were five brothers:  Nick, Robert, George, Michael and John, and a sister, Mary Traikoff.

Lazo represented the epitome of love, faith and goodness and will be deeply missed.


The above information on Larry came from a yellowed newspaper Obituary clipping from the Beaver County Times of Thursday, January 17, 2008, carried around in a choir folder by Ron Markvan, as Ron and Larry were roommates on many a choir trip!  Larry still accompanies us on choir trips, and will be with us in spirit when we travel to Phoenix later this year!

Another section of the paper highlighted Larry’s service and remembered him as the loving father and husband that he was.  “He was very outgoing and so sociable,” remembered daughter Jeanine.  “He loved people genuinely,” said daughter Laurene.  “It didn’t matter what size, shape, color, religion.  He particularly liked young people. I guess that was the teacher in him.”

Larry always gave this piece of advice to people:  “Hang tough!”  He did.  To the very end!


Vljako Lugonja and the Serbian Singing Federation

Again, I am humbly grateful to Paul BIelich and his recollections of Vlajko Lugonja for this page to preserve for our American Serb History.

Vlajko Lugonja


Founder, Serbian Singing Federation

by Paul Bielich

Imagine our Serbian churches without choirs? Imagine the beautiful musical culture of the Serbs disappearing into non-existence? This could have happened had it not been for a man who devoted his entire life to a cause – the preservation of Serbian music on the North American continent.

It is only fitting and proper that we devote this article to the man who was responsible for the creation of America’s greatest Serbian cultural organization, the Serbian Singing Federation – the late Vladimir M. Lugonja.

He was one of the most admired men among the Serbian people on this continent and the first among us to foresee the urgent need for a national organization which could serve as a pivotal force to deter the demise of Serbian music, both secular and religious.

In 1931 when America was reeling from financial devastation caused by the stock market crash, Lugonja decided it was time for Serbian youth in America to start singing. With his unflagging determination and the aid of several people the Serbian Singing Federation was born. As incongruous as it may seem for a man to invest his life’s energy into the simple act of singing at a time when the world was rocked by economic disaster, it is no less incongruous that the very man to do so would come from the simplest of beginnings and later rise to head a large international organization whose goals and principles are truly lofty.

Early Days

Vladimir M. Lugonja was born February 8, 1898 in Chemerno, one of the smallest villages in Hercegovina, a region in west-central former Yugoslavia, the son of Marko and Savka (nee Sokolovich) Lugonja.  Vlajko attended public school in Gacko for two years, this being the only formal Serbian education he was fortunate to obtain before immigrating to the United States.

Vlajko came to Chicago, Illinois, April 12, 1907 with his father, a former merchant and political refugee and his sister, Radojka. They came to live with an uncle, Acim Lugonja, a very active member of the Chicago Serbian community. Another sister, Draginja remained in Europe to be cared for by her grandmother.

A few years after his arrival he was one of a group of boys and young men who organized and played in the oldest tamburitza orchestra in the United States – “Srbadija.” Vlajko played the biserica. The orchestra was not interested in material wealth; they only played for the love of Serbian music and donated any money received to the Church.

In these early unselfish acts by a young boy, a pattern of his life arose which propelled the man through his adult years on an unswerving course. Vlajko submerged his own personal identity in a crusade to preserve the culture of the people who spawned him.

At the age of fifteen, Vlajko became the youngest member to join the Branko Radichevich Choir. Because of his high lyric tenor voice, there was a question as to whether Director Arno Mario Hess would allow him to continue singing in the choir, as his voice did not blend with the remainder of the choir. Mr. Steva Bogdanovich had recruited Vlajko into the choir when there was a shortage of tenors.


Trip to Yugoslavia

In 1937, Mr. Lugonja went on a tour of Yugoslavia with a group of American Serbs. This tour was sponsored by our Serb National Federation.

While touring Yugoslavia, Mr. Lugonja met with many living composers as well as with families of deceased composers, and as a result collected a wealth of music. As a result of this early pilgrimage and many other similar efforts, today’s Serbian Singing Federation boasts the single richest collection of Serbian choral music in the world. Many compositions in the SSF Library cannot be found even in Serbia today!

Vlajko’s sister, Radojka married Christ Petrouleas of Detroit, a restauranteer and moved to Detroit to join him in that business. The father, Marko, soon followed her. After a few years, Vlajko, lonely for his family moved to Detroit where he lived with his sister and brother-in-law for several years.

From 1920 to 1936, he lived in Detroit, Michigan. Due to his early experiences in Chicago, he soon became lonesome for the singers he had left behind. Rather than living in regret for a past that was lost, he quickly manifested a personality trait that also became a hallmark of this man. He decisively took action to change the future as he thought it should be. He rallied his new male friends and organized Detroit’s first choir, then known as “Philip Visnich.” This choir discontinued singing because of lack of music and communication with other Serbian groups. In 1930, he again organized the present choir in Detroit, “Ravanica.”

The continued success of this choir and all other choirs in the Serbian Singing Federation (SSF) was due in great measure to his efforts in founding the Serbian Singing Federation in 1931.

The Federation consisted originally of only five choirs. This movement brought the Serbian young people closer to their Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church and the Serbian culture than any other movement.

The success of the federation can readily be attributed, first to Mr. Lugonja’s foresight in realizing the great need for such an organization, and secondly to his perseverance in creating the interest of the original five choirs. He made many personal sacrifices in traveling and organizing choirs wherever the opportunity arose. It is apparent in viewing these events that Vlajko was able to call upon energy reserves that are not readily accessible to most men. He was indefatigable.

No choir can exist long by itself. Armed with this insight, Vlajko persisted in his efforts to organize a national federation of choirs. His series of twelve articles in the “Srbobran,” awakened so much interest in his Serbian brothers and sisters that they quickly responded to his ideas with wholehearted support.

Vlajko was greatly encouraged and called a conference of “lovers of Serbian music” for March,1931 at the Christopher House in Chicago. In October of 1931, the Serbian Singing Federation was formally organized as a completely independent non-profit organization, and the Headquarters until 1936 were in the city of Highland Park, a suburb of Detroit, Michigan.

At the first SSF Convention, Mr. Lugonja was elected Executive Secretary, a position he retained until the year 1962.  Petar Sekulovich of Gary, Indiana (father of actor Karl Malden) was elected the first president of the SSF.

Under Mr. Lugonja’s guidance, the first singing festival was held in Akron, Ohio, Memoral Day weekend, 1936 with sixteen Serbian choirs participating.

Traveling throughout the country, he personally organized choirs and raised the membership of the SSF to thirty member choirs before World War II broke out. Immediately after the cessation of hostilities, he continued with added vigor in his efforts on behalf of the SSF and the membership continued to increase.

The Great Depression 

The Depression years were difficult for everyone, and economic sustenance was everyone’s concern. Mr. Lugonja found employment for a brief period as a publicity consultant for Mr. Mihaila Duchich’s Cloverleaf Dairy.

In 1938, Mr. Lugonja moved to New York City to work for the Consulate of the Royal Yugoslav Government, where he was employed until Yugoslavia was taken over by the Communists.

The contacts he made while being employed by the Royal Yugoslav Government also helped in his efforts to preserve Serbian music on the North American continent.

During the war years there were no festivals and only one convention. At this time, Vlajko put his talents to work and was extremely active as a press correspondent for the Srpska Narodna Odbrana. He coordinated the shipment of thousands of parcels of clothes and food to war refugees.

Mr. Lugonja was also extremely active within the Serbian Orthodox Church and served as a layman on the Diocesean Board. Following World War II as many priests immigrated to the United States, Mr. Lugonja personally assisted in greeting many of them and introduced them to their new parishes.

Vlajko’s work in preserving Serbianism and Serbian song on this continent eventuated in his receiving many awards from choirs and organizations throughout the United States and Canada.

Two awards, however, that stand foremost among them were the decoration by the pre-war Royal Government of Yugoslavia with the order of St. Sava and the Gramata presented to him by our Serbian Patriarch German.

In 1962, Mr. Lugonja relinquished the position of Executive Secretary voluntarily for purposes of retirement. The convention bestowed upon him the title of Honorary Executive Secretary by acclamation, a title he so justly deserved. But the convention would not and did not accept his full retirement; he was given the continued responsibility for public relations, music research and publishing.

Following a period of illness, Vladimir M. Lugonja, Founder of the Serbian Singing Federation and perhaps the greatest Serbian/American youth leader in the history of Serbs on this continent passed away Tuesday, September 27, 1977 and was buried from the Ravanica Serbian Orthodox Church in Detroit on Saturday, October 1, 1977. He lies buried at the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Monastery Cemetery in Libertyville, Illinois.

Today the efforts and wisdom of this capable and dedicated man can be credited as being the prime factor in whatever success the Serbian Singing Federation has attained. His influence still is felt in the Serbian Singing Federation, our Serbian Orthodox Church and in other Serbian organizations.

(Paul S. Bielich and Paul S.Papich)

Your Author,

Paul Bielich, worthy successor to Vlajko


In celebration of Vlajko’s and Paul’s great deeds over the years…

 Photo Album

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!


Stevo Medich's Shlivo (Shlivovitz) Cake....

+Stevo Medich, from Detroit, Michigan 

Before I lose this recipe again, its’ time to put this on the website where You and I can find it anytime we need it.  This delightful SERBIAN Specialty dessert came to me via Milan and Roz Opacich.  Roz swears by it, says it’s a crowd pleaser all the time, but she made sure she gave the credit to our late friend, Stevo Medich, for inventing it.  I’m making it today (7/3/08) for the first time for our July 4th party tomorrow!  OK, looks good.  Make sure you grease & flour the bundt pan well.  I could have done a little better on this end.  (Didn’t have Crisco, used Pam).


1 pkg. yellow cake mix

1 3 3/4 oz. (small box) Instant Vanilla Pudding

4 eggs

1/2 cup cold water

1/2 cup oil (Roz uses Canola!)

1/2 cup Schlivovitz

1 cup ground walnuts 

Here’s the good part…. just mix it all together for 2 or 3 minutes.  Pour batter into a 10″ greased and lightly floured Bundt cake pan.  Bake at 325 for 1 hour.  (Roz’s oven needs the hour and 5 minutes!)

Set on rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Take a serving plate and place it on top of the bundt pan, and invert it.   Take a toothpick and poke lots of holes in it for the glaze that’s found on the right side here—–>

 From Pittsburgh’s Danny Capuzzi, now in Detroit, along with Donna Medich, we now even have +Stevo’s drawing that accompanied his Slivovica Cake!  Thanks for sharing, wonderful ones!  🙂  !!!

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! 

Here’s the gang, with Stevo in the middle.
This would be a good place to urge you to look up more information about the Serbian Singing Federation of which +Stevo devoted his life, and also the St. Elijah Website!

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.

ENJOY!!! : 

Metropolitan Christopher

Photo by Aleksandra Rebic

St. Sava Monastery, Libertyville, IL, Feb. 25, 20102

 +Metropolitan Christopher Passes


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.

Funeral arrangements:


– 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.


–  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.



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


Memory Eternal,

Vjecnaja Pamjat.


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

Metropolitan Irinej

I am so grateful to George Sladic for the following information on +Metropolitan Irinej, a wonderful Priest, Bishop and Metropolitan.

I first met Fr. Irinej at Shadeland Camp, where he proved an incredible mover and shaker, growing the camp, the farm, the Old Folks Home and much more. We delighted in hearing him come into the lunchroom and say, “Prijatno!”  

Fr. Irinej with the weekly campers at Shadeland.

Fr. Irinej receiving keys to the Shadeland tractor.

There was never a better fund-raiser.  Fr. Irinej knew how to appeal to people to give from their hearts to help the kids have a better life at Shadeland, or in Jackson and New Gracanica. Everyone respected him so much as he worked on every aspect: An administrator, a farmer, a builder, a beloved priest.


Everything that is at Serbian Monastery at Gray’s Lake was built by Father Iriney under the direction of Bishop Dionisije. Fr. Irinej became Bishop, then Metropolitan Irinej and as always, knew how to gather his Serbian Orthodox faithful to go above and beyond.  He knew how to get his followers to give more generously of their time, talents and treasures than anyone ever expected.  He made things happen.  He was truly a magnificent worker and leader.  I’m only sorry to say that more history about the monastery or his great deeds aren’t on the web from this time in history for all to read about.

When Metropolitan Iriney died, 1,500 mourners attended his funeral services, as church leaders from throughout the world attended the three-day funeral and burial at the New Gracanica Monastery Church on U.S. 45 in Third Lake, near Gurnee.

He was 84 years old at the time, and died in the Libertyville nursing home operated by his great friends and benefactors, the Stojkovic family after a debilitating stroke. 

Click all photos to enlarge…..

Slides by Mim Bizic presented at the 50th/108th Anniversary of the Old Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Church in Palmer Square, Chicago, IL., Sept. 2013.

Little Falcon’s Magazine by Fr. Tom Kazich:


George Sladic Remembers

+Metropolitan Irinej

of Blessed Memory.

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.

You can contact George here at this email address:


Here are George’s Grandparents and his Teta:


George’s Father’s ID card

To enlarge any of the photos, click the lower right corner.

Sa Vjerom u Boga

Za Kralja i Otacbinu!

Tripo Mitrovich-Galveston, TX

“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.

The Parastos for Archmandrite Theoclitos in Galveston


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.

St. Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic & His Heretofore Unknown Letters

“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”


Life of St. Bishop Nikolai of Zicha and Lelic from Orthodox Photos

Milana Karlo Bizic at the Bishop Nikolai Museum in Lelic, 2008. Many of the photos in the museum were taken by my father, Milan M. Karlo.  There were also articles Milan Karlo wrote on +St. Bishop Nikolai in the American SRBOBRAN and the Diocesan OBSERVER.  It was a treasure trove of history!


(To enlarge, click on lower right hand corner of photo) 

His Grace, Dr. Bishop Nikolai,

visits the Serb National Federation 

L-R are Mr. Jovan Bratich, Serbian Section of the American SRBOBRAN, Mr. Risto Seslija, Administrator Editor of the SNF, Mr. Mileta Milanovich, Secretary of the SNF, Mr. Milutin Devrnja, editor of the American SRBOBRAN, Proto Fr. Vlastimir Tomich, Peter Bizic from Ambridge, PA, and Sava Vujinovich, Treasurer of the Serb National Federation.

Photo by Milan M. Karlo

(Photos on wall:  Vuk Karadjic, U.S. President Harry Truman, Bishop Petar Petrovich Njegosh.) 



Information I relayed to the children of St. Elijah Serbian Orthodox Church’s Children’s Camp (Aliquippa, PA) a few years ago:

Bishop Nikolai had eight brothers and sisters, but all perished in WWII.  Bishop Nikolai himself, was a prisoner of Dachau. The children also learned what a well-educated man Bishop Nikolai was, holding FIVE doctoral degrees, and speaking SEVEN different languages!  The first Doctorate of Theology was in Berne, written in German and published in Switzerland, and later translated into Serbian.  He received his Doctorate of Philosophy at Oxford, England, and his 2nd dissertation was written in French!  He was awarded a Doctorate of Divinity from Cambridge University after speaking about his suffering Serbian people during the war.  Because of his academic excellence, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity in 1919 from the Unversity of Glasglow in Scotland. In 1946, he received his fifth Doctorate of Sacred Theology from Columbia University in June 1946 for his academic excellence.

Keep reading….

Bishop Nikolai traveled with Michael Pupin around the world, and especially to England and around the USA during WWI to embark on an official diplomatic mission in order to obtain support for his suffering Serbian people.  His political astuteness was revealed in several lectures and homilies as he talked about World Peace and methods to attain such a political ideal. He rallied the emigrant Serbs, Croats and Slovenes as “dobrovolcis” and over 20,000 freedom-loving Slavic volunteers, called “the Third Army of Bishop Nikolai,” most of whom fought on the Salonica front, responded.  He also received hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of aid from all over England, France, and the USA.

He collected funds and set up orphanages in Serbia for those poor children who lost parents and relatives during WWI.  (One-half of the male population was lost; 1/4 of the TOTAL Serbian population due to war and diseases brought on by starving and lack of medicines.)  St. Bishop Nikolai gave over 150 lectures and homilies in three months.  He spoke at Columbia Univeristy in NYC, various Serbian communities and the African American Congregation of St. Philip in Harlem, to over 1,500 parishioners.

Look at what he said:  “Don’t blame the Eastern European peasant for the war, but rather, look to the artificially created intellectual class of the European university system.  “The European peasant is a noble spirit, but it is the intellectuals in charge of the peasants who are on the wrong track.”

Look at what he said:  “Don’t blame the Eastern European peasant for the war, but rather, look to the artificially created intellectual class of the European university system.  “The European peasant is a noble spirit, but it is the intellectuals in charge of the peasants who are on the wrong track.”

He thought that America, such a rich multi-national country, could possibly hold high the torch of hope for all of humanity.  He was called a “second Isaiah” and the “New Chrysostom” of our times.

He often broke into tears and cried when he visited the orphans and the poor in his homeland.  While in America, he secured thousands of dollars for the cause of taking care of the little ones.  He personally organized and supervised orphanages in Kraljevo, Chachak, Gornji Milanovac and Kragujevac where over 600 children were granted the love of Christ in action

I thank V. Rev. Fr. Dan Proto Daniel Rogich for his book called SERBIAN PATERICON: Saints of the Serbian Orthodox Church.  He did a tremendous job in gathering information on so many well-known and lesser-well known saints throughout history.

He spoke at a full house at the Carnegie Music Hall as an honored guest.  Others were worried.  “What are you going to say and do?  These people know nothing about the Serbs.”

 When he went on stage, he asked that the lights all be turned off except for a spotlight on the stage, for FIVE whole minutes.  

Then he quietly took out his frula (flute) and played it.  

Then he picked up the gusle he had and sang with the screeching sound machine, never stopping or saying anything until the five minutes were up.  

He then said,

“I apologize for making you all VERY uncomfortable for the last five minutes.  But my people, the Serbian people, were SLAVES under the Turks for almost 500 years!  FIVE MINUTES/500 YEARS!  Imagine how they felt made to do the bidding of their overseers all those years.  But they were never slaves in thought.  They always dreamed of FREEDOM…..”

Lelic Monastery where St. Bishop Nikolai reposes

More photos of Lelic Monastery on Edwards blog

+V.Rev. Fr. Dr. Mateja Matejic, protopresbyter-stavrophor, from Ohio State University and founder of the Hilandar Research Library in Columbus, OH, wrote an excellent review of the new book entitled UNKNOWN LETTERS OF SERBIAN SAINT NIKOLAI by Zeljko Jelich in the American SRBOBRAN on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009. Fr. Matejic’s article was entitled “Saint Nikolaj of Zicha and Ohrid About General Draza.”

Before Jelich’s wonderful new compilation, Fr. Matejic said, only 32 known letters had ever been published.

“The spiritual and literary wealth of Saint Nikolaj of Zicha and Ohrid, which he left to the Serbian people, is inexhaustible.

“Nikolaj evokes memories from his and Patriarch Gavrilo’s incarceration in the concentration camp Dachau. Published in Zeljko Jelich’s new book are letters addressed to: Winston Churchill; Herbert Hoover and his reply to the Bishop; Slobodan Jovanovich; 22 letters to Dr. Dimitrije Najdanovich and his wife Jelena; 5 letters to Dr. Rajko Djurdjevich, and in the Appendix, Bishop Nikolaj’s letter to Dragisa Cvetkovich and his reply to Bishop Nikolaj are published.”

Dr. Mateja wrote: “Of special importance is Bishop Nikolaj’s letter to Winston Churchill, written on March 27, 1946, the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the tragedy of Yugoslavia and Serbia in particular. In the letter the Bishop first reminds Churchill of their conversation held on the ship Queen Elizabeth and of his speeches in the USA, ‘Olympian in style and clarity, but Christian in spirit’. Then he begged Churchill to intercede in favor of General Draza Mihailovich, who ‘is to the very core a Christian believing man.'”

“General Mihailovich will most probably be shot. But you know death is not the end of a man. The dead, especially the righteous dead, are even more powerful than the living ones, and I am sure the General, having been in this world the most faithful to his Lord and to his people and to the Allies, will plead his cause before the righteous God. His blood will fall upon those who are guilty for his death. For we Christians see in the blood of a man not only ‘red water’ as the totalitarian unbelievers do, but a terrible mystery. The Bible, which is frequently quoted in the British Parliament teaches us that the blood of innocents cry to God for revenge. And I certainly would not wish that a drop of the General’s blood should fall upon you and your posterity. Therefore, I beg you to raise your voice, as soon as possible, and say the truth about General Mihailovich.”

Fr. Matejic goes on: “Then the Bishop defended Draza Mihailovich with words, painting his image with unparalleled love and respect:”

“Plead for the unjustly and mistakenly abandoned leader of a nation who is now standing very close to death and eternity.

“May I help you with some description of General Mihailovich’s character?


“He is to the core a believing Christian man. During the German occupation, he visited our ancient sanctuaries secretly, and asked the priests to pray for him and the people who were with him. He relied upon the Lord. He had some clergymen with him who performed church services as often as the circumstances permitted, and they all said grace at meals.

“He went by night to Holy Communion frequently, and he advised others with him to do the same. He issued orders to his soldiers to lead a clean Christian life repeating often to them: ‘We are the Crusaders fighting for the Holy Cross and Freedom as our forefathers have done for centuries.

“He is a real man of the people. The Masses of our people have been looking to him as the incarnation of what is considered the BEST in our national character, in our soul and conscience, in our national as well as our church history. There are instances recorded when men willingly went to their death in order to save his life. Such was and still is, the enthusiasm of a suffering but honest people toward their honest leader.”

Fr. Matejic goes on to point out that Bishop Nikolai made sure that Churchill knew that even when Draza was betrayed by the British and other Allies, he did not betray nor abandon them:

“But even in this second period when the Allies attacked his troops from the air, as I am told, and killed his soldiers, he issued the order that not a single gun should be fired against the English, Americans and the Russians.”



Another Bishop Nikolai Letter

This one, to Milan M. Karlo

Letter from Bishop Nikolai to my father, Milan Karlo, editor of the American SRBOBRAN, July 25, 1953.

It was written from St. Stephen’s Serbian Orthodox Church in Lackawanna, New York



My dear brother Karlo,

Hoping that this first translation of mine into English of “Lucha Mikrokozma” (The Rays of the Microcosm by Bishop Petar Petrovich Njegosh), I send you a copy.

Three greatest seers and visionaries in the XIX century were: Milton, Klopstock and ourNjegosh. His stupendous travel through the space of the created universe to its utmost limits,and far beyond that —– beyond space and time—– into spiritual worlds will, I am sure,excite your admiration.

Forget, please, about my photographs–nothing doing and no importance.

I admired your article on Draza. Excuse only my little remark: you write “The Turks burned the body of the miracle-creating St. Simeon, the father of St. Sava” etc. As a fact, described inmy book THE LIFE OF ST. SAVA, it was the body of S. Sava which was burned on Vrachar in Belgrade,not of St. Simeon.

St. Simeon’s (Nemanja’s) body is lying in the monastery Studenitza, whole and undestroyed until this day.

Best greetings to you, Mr. Sokich and Mr. Bratich.

Very sincerely yours,

+Bishop Nicholai

(Aside: My Dad, Milan Karlo, can be forgiven for mixing up St. Sava and his father, as Milan was born in America to hard-working but poor immigrant parents and had never traveled to Serbia. (Neither did his strong Serb parents ever travel back to Europe. They came from Primishlje, in Kordun, of the Vojna Krajina area-now “Croatia”.) In 1953, there was no computer or Internet with information on demand at your fingertips.

It was very different time than from today. But Milan Karlo’s heart was always in the right place on behalf of the Serbian people.)


(Aside:Dear Mrs Bizic: after seeing the photocopy of the letter of Saint Nikolaj I realized that the letter was written in English, except for the title of the book he had translated. The title of that book is in Serbian and it is “Lucha mikrokozma” (The Rays of Microcosm) by Petar Petriovich-Njegos. I saw translations of that book by +Zika Prvulovich (England) and Vasa Mihailovich, but I did not know that saint Nikolaj had translated that book. I doubt that it is known to anyone else. Best wishes and greetings,Fr. Mateja)


Proto Dusan Popovich and Bishop Nikolai ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Bishop Nikolai’s Five Letters to Proto Vlastimir Tomich


Russ. Monastery

So. Canaan, Pa

Februar 1952

+Dragi mi proto Vlasto,

Hitam i pre vremena da tebi i Poli cestitam veliku roditelsku radost, a mladencima, sinui snaji da po`elim svaku dobru srecu od Boga. Daj Bog da ubrzo docekate da i Jovu o zenite.

S pozdravom i blagoslovom,

+E. Nikolaj


Russ. monastery

South Canaan, Pa

februar 1952

+ My dear proto Vlasta,

I rush, ahead of time, to congratulate you and Pola on a great parental joy, and to the newlyweds, your son anddaughter-in- law to wish good luck from God. May God grant that soon your son Jovan will also marry .

With greeting and blessing,

+B. Nikolaj


Saint Tikhon’s Seminary in South Canaan, PA

Russ. monastery

South Canaan, Pa

Nov. 9

+Dragi mi proto Vlasto,

Sinoc sam govorio s protom Miloradom. Po tom pisao sam mu, da `alim da ne mogu docina vasu panortdoksnu priredbu. Ne mogu, inace veoma cenim takve molitvene sastanke;kroz njih se unapreduje “edinenie vsjeh” a ne utiru se nacionalni ideali i karakter.

Obecao sam ti javiti se posle sastanka sa delegacijom u Njujorku. Jedina mi je korist sto sam se obavestio o stawu Crkve i pojedinim svestenim licima, te sad imam popunjenu,jasniju sliku. Oni su licno dobri ljudi, od dugog robovanja neveseli, i kao nesto pritajeniu pogledu faktickog cilja dolaska. Ja sam im rekao odnosno jedinstva Crkve ono sto i tebi:jedna snazna zajednica ne deli se. Crkvu u Diaspori treba duhovno i moralno osnaziti pase ne bojati cepanja. Neka nam je Hristos Gospod na pomoc. A da bi nam On pomogao, potrebnoje i svestenicko i svenarodno pokajanje s vapajnim molitvama. Zato ja ipolazem mnogo nazajednicku molitvu u Midlandu.

Tvoj uvek odani

+E. Nikolaj

In left margine:

Ako mi budes pisao, javi mi da li jeSava Vujnovic jos u Savezu i radi lina kalendaru. A Milan pozdravi.

Snazn i ….dusni opis srpskogmucenistva je dao – da and|eli zaplacui mene poprskaju.


Russ. monastery

South Canaan, Pa

Nov. 9. 54

+My dear prota Vlasto,

Last evening I had conversation with prota Milorad. After that I wrote to him that I regret my not being able to come to your pan-orthodox event. I cannot, otherwise I greatly appreciate such prayerful assemblies through which is promoted the unity of all without erasing national ideals and characteristics. My only gain is that I obtained information about thesituation of the Church and some clergymen, so that now I have a fuller and clearer picture. Personally, they are good people, sad because of the long-slavery and somehow secretive concerning the concrete reason of their visit.

Regarding the unityof the Church, I told them the same I have told you: a strong community does not split. The Church in Diaspora should be helped spiritually and morally. And then there is no reason to fear. May the Lord Christ help us. In order that He would help us the repentance of priests and entire people with tearful prayers are necessry. That is a reason I put a lot of trust in the joint prayer in Midland.

Your always faithful,

+ B. Nikolaj

(In the left margin):

If you write to me, let me knowif Sava Vujnovic is still with the

Federation and whether he is still working on calendar. Give

my regards to Milan. He wrote a strong and moving description,

of the Serbian martyrdom – for angels to cry and sprinkle me. +


Na dan Svete Katarine, 1951

Dragi mi Vlasto,

Juce sam poslao preko tebe pismo za g. Ducica. Ti ces svakako bitina zboru S.N.O u Pitsburgu. Pozeleo sam im uspeh. Molim se Bogu da samobudu u slozi u S.N.O. Voleo bih cuti od tebe, kako je zbor prosao.

Jedan ovdasnji Srbin bio je u Midlandu na svepravoslavnoj priredbi. Bila je kisa, veli, pa malo naroda. – To ne treba da obeshrabri. Sve veliko pocinje se sa malim.

Sve mi se cini, da sam opteretio brata Mila Vujinovic. Pozdravi ga,molim te, i reci mu, da ako nema vremena za prepisivanje onog mog Ms. neka gapreda tebi na tvoj sud i cuvanje. Nimalo se na njega necu ljutiti. Razumem ja njegov polozaj.

Prota Aleksa izadao je vrlo lep kalendar za -52 godinu. Ako nisi dobioja cu ti poslati.

Sv. Nikolu proslavicu, ako Bog da, u Nujorku. Od tvoje strane pozdravicuBogdana.

Pozdrav i blagoslov,



On the day of Saint Catherine, 1951

Dear prota Vlasto,

Yesterday I sent to you a letter for Mr Ducich. You are most likely going be at the meeting of the S.N.O. I wished them success. I pray God that they in the S.N.O. be in unity.I would like to hear from you how the meeting went.

One Serb from here was in Midland for the pan-Orthodox affair. It was raining – he said,and there were few people. That should not be discouraging. Everything big starts with the little.

It seems to me that I have overburdened brother Milo Vujinovic. Please give my regards to him, and tell him that if he has no time to copy that Ms., let him give it to you for your evaluation and safe-keeping. I am not and will not be angry with him. I understand his position.

Prota Aleksa has published a very beautiful calendar for the 1952 year. If you haven’t received it yet, I shall send one to you.

God willing, I shall celebrate St. Nicholas in New York. I shall give your regards to Bogdan.

Greetings and blessing,

+B. Nikolaj


Bishop Nikolai

Russian Monastery

So. Canaan, PA.

Subota, uo~i sv. Andreja


Ljubazni mi proto Vlasto,Bog ti na pomoc.

Juce poslah ti neko pisanije, a po tom primih tvoje bas ono sto sam zeleo: opis smrti pok. prote Zike.- Ja sam ga uvek zvao svestenik dzentlmen. Adzentlmen nije isto sto i gospodin. Gospodin je Mister, a gentleman =noble man,plemic.

Takav je plemc bio mili nas o. Zika. U svakom potezu, i u reci iu ophodjenju, i u poslu, i u prevelikom covekoljublju, i najzad – kako mi pises,cak i u mrtvackom sanduku. I tako od jula do Vavedenja Crkva srpska izgubi (bar uovom svetu) tri znamnita protojereja: protu Marka, protu Stevu Dim. i protu Ziku.

Hvala ti na tvojoj “top reci”. Samo kako ti znas i umes.

A sad o tvom clanku. Ja sam srpske mucenike stavio u kalendar 31avg. po(illegible, MM) i zajedno sa Saborom srpskih prosvetitlja i uciteca. Najlepsi dan:

i neka bude srpsko dvodnevno praznovanje i veselo i tuzno. Secas li se ti, Vlastomoj, moga napisa: Hramovi srpskim mucenicima, u kome sam molio Srbe da svuda posvetu posvecuju nove hramove Srp. novo mucenicima?

Niko se ne odazva. A brat Dion.na suprot tome povika, da sve nove hramove treba posvet. – sv. Savi!.

Ja sam uveren,da se i sv. Sava na onoljuti. Kao otac nacije, on bi se samo radovao da njegova duhovna cada budu proslavljana i u ovom svetu kao sto su i u onome.

Ne znam kako ce biti s tvojim predlogom skromnijim i obicnijim. Valjda ce Srbito primiti k srcu.

Hvala ti sto si bio voljan da me pozoves u goste. Ja sam kod tebe dosta gostovao.

Pre dve i po godine zeleo sam doseliti se u tu tvoju okolinu, jer nisam znao kuda cu,posto mi je u Njujorku bilo dodijalo a u Libertivilu jos gore. Mislio sam da senastanim u onoj kuci na groblju. Ali, to se nije prihvatilo. Onda me je Gospod uputiona ovo mesto, gde imam i posao i tisnu.

Hvala tvom Miru na pesmi nad odrom +Zike.

Pazi i cuvaj Gospa Polu. Svi neka se staraju o njoj i pomazu je, narocito snaha.

Sv. Nikolu proslavicu sa o. Mijom zajedno. A za Bozic bicu na drugim stranama.

Zelim, srdacno

S pozdravima i blagoslovom tvoj uvek odani




Bishop Nikolai

Russian Monastery

So. Canaan, PA.

Saturday Eve before ST. Catherine

+ My dear proto Vlasto, may God help you.

Yesterday I mailed some writing, and then I received yours, just that what I desired: description of thefuneral of late archpriest Zika. I always called him a priest-gentleman. And gentleman is not the same as mister. Mister is a Mister, and gentleman is a nobleman. Such a noblemnan was our dear Fr. Zika.

In every gesture, in word as well as in behavior, and in work, and in great philantrophy, and, finally – as you have written to me – in his coffin. And thus, from July until Presentation of Theotokos the Church has lost (at least in this world) three outstanding archpriests: archpriest Marko, archpriest Steva Dim.,and archpriest Zika. Thank you for your “top word”. Just as only you know and can.

And now about your article. I included Serbian martyrs in the calendar on Aug. 31 after ____and together with the Assembly of the Serbian Enlighteners and Teachers. The best day: and let the two-days Serbian celebration be happy as well as sad. Do you remember, my Vlasta, my writing: Temples of the Serbian martyrs, in which I have asked Serbs to dedicate new temples throughout the world to the Serbian new martyrs. No one did it. And brother Dion. opposing it said in high voice that all new temples should be dedicated to – St. Sava ! I am convinced that even St. Sava is angry at that.

As the father of the nation, he would also rejoice that his spiritual children be now celebrated in this world as they are in the other one.

I do not know what shall be with your suggestion, more modest and more common. Perhaps the Serbs will accept it in their hearts.

Thank you very much for your willingness to invite me to be your guest. I have been your guest enough.

Two and a half years ago I wished to move in that surrounding of yours, because I did not know where to go, because I had enough in New York and even more in Libertyville. I considered settling in that house on the cemetery, but that was unaccpetable. Then the Lord brought me to this place where I have a job and serenity.

Thanks to your Miro for the poem (read at the laying in state, MM) of +Zika.

Watch and take care of Lady Pola. Let all take care of her and help her, and especially the dughter-in-law.

I shall celebrate St. Nicholas together with Fr. Mija. And for Christmas I shall be in other places.

Wishing you all the best from God, cordial greetings and blessing, always faithfully yours,




Russian Monastery

So. Canaan, PA

February 19, 1952

Dragi mi proto Vlasto,


Mir ti i zdravlje!

Ovoga casa primih tvoje pismo, pa hitam da ti odgovorim pre nego sto Devrnja dodjek tebi, da bi obojica mogli rasuditi. Jer znam iako ste ublizu, retko se sastajete.

Pisao mi je i on i Savo, pa sad i ti, da bi neke nase prvoklasne crkvene ljude trebalogrupisati na ono imanje. Kao da ne znate ko onim imanjem gospodari! cak i kad bi moglidoci ona dva sjajna narodna pastira, meni nije jasno sta ce oni onde raditi u sadasnjemstanju tog mesta!

Osim toga, Devrnja mi je predlozio da pisem clanak u Srbob. Ali kljucece onihljudi, i mnogih mladjih uz njih, kao i pisanje ja bih ukljucio u jedan veliki pokret – nesamo za Ameriku – koji bi se, od prilike zvao Srpska Pravoslavna Akcija Spasnja. Samnogih strana guran na neku opstu spasonosnu akciju, i to vec odavno, ja sam nestosmislio – ne baspotpuno – pa bih potrebovao razgovora i dogovora i savetovanja. A otom ja ne mogu pisati ni tebi ni drugome. Zedan sam razgovora s vama. Aki nit ja moguk vama ni vi k meni – pa kako cemo? Udicki se pak zaposlio u W.J. pa i on nije sa mnom.

Razgivor s D. opsirno, pa sta dokonate, javi.

Srdacan pozdrav i blagoslov,

Odani ti Nikolaj

Milo mi je sto ti se Kosta javio.


R. monastery

So. Canaan, PA

Febr. 19,52

My dear prota Vlasto,

Peace and health to you!

This moment I received your letter, and I haste to reply to you before Devrnja comes to you,that both of you could think over. For I know that although you are close, you seldom get together. He as well as Savo wrote to me, and now you, too, that our several first-class church-people should be brought together on that property. As if you do not know who governs that property! Even if those two excellent people’s shepherds were able to come, it is not clear to me what could they do in the present condition of that place.

Beside that, Devrnja has suggested to me to write an article in the Srbobran. But even the employment of these people and many others along with them, I would include in a largemovement – not only for America – which I would call approximately Serbian National Action of from many sides to some general action of salvation, I came to some solution – not final – so I am in need of conversations and agreements and consultations. And to write about that I cannot either to you or others. I am thirsty of conversations with you.

But neither can I (come, MM) to you nor you to me. As for Udicki, he just got job in N.J. and thus even he is not with me.

A detailed conversation with D. and whatever you come to.

Cordial greeting and blessing


I am glad that Kosta got in touch with you.



Read more about the life of

St. Bishop Nikolai:

* Orthodoxwiki: Nikolai Velimovic


* You can download Bishop Nikolai’s book on Project Gutenburg. (If link does not work, go to: www.gutenberg.org/etext/19871)

(With God’s blessings, I have had all of Bishop Nikolai’s Light and Darkness works on my iphone for 2 years now. It’s allmost like having the Saint with me at all times!)

And if a man loses his soul, with what can he make payment, with what can he buy it back again? With nothing in the world. Not even if he gives the whole world can he buy his lost soul.

Blessed is he who knows this, and who guards his soul as his greatest treasure. Blessed is he who stands guard over his soul every day and does not permit his soul to suffer harm in any way. For he who saves his soul will save everything, and he who loses his soul will lose everything.


The Bible was given not that we might judge it, but that it might judge us.

— Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic of Serbia,
Konzentrierungslager Dachau,
“Every glimmering day,” said Bishop Nikolai, “is another great day in the struggle of the two kingdoms.” Which kingdom shall I choose? Shall I choose the earthly kingdom? Or shall I choose the heavenly? This question, posed to the martyred Tsar Lazar, whispers today in the hearts of all young lovers of godliness and sacrifice. The new sons and daughters of suffering Serbia are slowly coming to this place of martyrdom, seeking to attain the cutting edge in the place where the battle is fiercest and the crowns are eternal. The monastics laboring on the ancient battlefield of Kosovo have already made their choice: to die an earthly death for the sake of the Heavenly Kingdom.
From “Orthodox Word” Nos. 193-4
Copyright St. Herman of Alaska Press
Be humble, for the worst thing in the world is of the same stuff as you; be confident, for the stars are of the same stuff as you.
Nicholai Velimirovich
“Let us be ashamed of our slowness in thanking God when He gives, and of our quickness in grumbling at Him when He takes away.
Saint Nikolai Velimirovic
Source: Daily Lives, Miracles and Wisdom of the Saints and Fasting Calendar

” Grant me the heart of Jesus, around which darkness waited in vain to enter, but never could.”

Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, Prayers by the Lake #44


Post-liberation Easter at Dachau

Wikipedia & Dachau concentration_camp

Liberated Dachau camp prisoners cheer U.S. troops



May 6 (April 23 on the Orthodox calendar) was the day of Pascha, Orthodox Easter. In a cell block used by Catholic priests to say daily Mass, several Greek, Serbian and Russian priests and one Serbian deacon, wearing makeshift vestments made from towels of the SS guard, gathered with several hundred Greek, Serbian and Russian prisoners to celebrate the Paschal Vigil. A prisoner named Rahr described the scene:

In the entire history of the Orthodox Church there has probably never been an Easter service like the one at Dachau in 1945. Greek and Serbian priests together with a Serbian deacon adorned the make-shift ‘vestments’ over their blue and gray-striped prisoners’ uniforms. Then they began to chant, changing from Greek to Slavonic, and then back again to Greek. The Easter Canon, the Easter Sticheraseverything was recited from memory. The GospelIn the beginning was the Wordalso from memory. And finally, the Homily of Saint Johnalso from memory. A young Greek monk from the Holy Mountain stood up in front of us and recited it with such infectious enthusiasm that we shall never forget him as long as we live. Saint John Chrysostomos himself seemed to speak through him to us and to the rest of the world as well!

Cheering crowds of liberated survivors.

There is a Russian Orthodox chapel at the camp today, and it is well known for its icon of Christ leading the prisoners out of the camp gates.

The U.S. 7th Army’s version of the events of the Dachau Liberation is available in Report of Operations of the Seventh United States Army, Vol. 3, page 382.


Stevo Baich of Lackawanna, NY, was kind enough to share these funeral photos of Bishop Nikolai with us.

Click lower right hand corner of photo to enlarge this page from the Lackawanna Anniversary Commemorative booklet. Thanks again, Steve!


MORE from St. Bishop Nikolai about the SERBS from his book SERBIA: In Light and Darkness:

In the words of the Psalmist: O Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him?—or with a little change: O England, what is Serbia, that thou art mindful of her? And the poor sons of Serbia, that thou visitest them?

“A small strip of land with five million inhabitants and without seaboard. A peasant people devoted to agriculture and to nature, to the forest and cattle, to songs and tales. A past full of glory, of blood and sins. A present full of tears, pains and hopes. A king carried on a stretcher through the rocky desert of Albania,—a loyal parliament which refused to make a separate peace with the enemy even in the darkest hour of national tragedy,—an honest government which did everything possible to save the country, and which, when the country was nearly conquered, exclaimed through its President: “It is better to die in beauty than to live in shame!”—a fearless army, which for three years only knew victory, now watching in snow on the mountains of Montenegro and Albania, and lodging in the dens of wolves and eagles.[1] Another army of old men, of women and children, fleeing away from death and rushing to death. Shall I say that is Serbia?

“No: that is only a part of Serbia.

“You have heard talk of Greater Serbia. I personally think that Serbia can never be greater than in this solemn hour of her supreme suffering, in which all the civilised world in both hemispheres trembles because of her catastrophe and sympathises with her. I personally love my little country just because it is so little; and just because its deeds are greater than its size. I am not sure that I should love it so much should it happen to become territorially so big as Spain or Italy. But I cannot help it; I must say that our Irridentists in Austro-Hungary are more numerous than our population in Serbia. Eight millions of our Serbo-Croat and Slovene brothers have been looking towards Serbia as towards their Piedmont, waiting their salvation from Serbia, as Alsace-Lorraine is waiting its salvation from France, and being proud of Serbia as all slaves are proud of their free kinsmen. All the slaves from Isonzo to Scutari are groaning under the yoke of an inhuman Austro-Magyar regime, and are singing of Serbia as their redeemer from chains and shame. Little Serbia has been conscious of her great historic task, to liberate and unite all the Southern-Slavs in one independent being; therefore she, with supreme effort, collected all her forces to fulfil her task and her duty, and so to respond to the vital hopes of her brethren.

Shall I say that is Serbia?

No; that is only physical Serbia.

But there is a soul of Serbia.

For five hundred years the Serbian soul suffered and believed. Suffering sometimes breaks the belief. But the Serbian suffering strengthened the belief of the Serbian people. With belief came hope, with hope strength; and so the Serbs endured the hardest and darkest slavery ever recorded in history, not so much by their physical strength as by the strength of their soul. Besides, it was a great temptation for the Serbs to abandon the Christian faith and to accept the faith of the Crescent. Under this condition only, the Turks promised freedom to the Serbs and equal rights. Several of the aristocratic families could not resist this temptation and became renegade to the faith of their ancestors in order to save their lives. But the mass of the people fearlessly continued to be faithful to the belief in the Cross.


Still more from Bishop Nikolai in 1917:

“We never fought indeed solely for a poor existence in this world. We fought always rather for the ideal contentment of this terrestrial existence. We fought not for life only, but for what makes one’s life worth living—”For Cross and Freedom!”

The Cross is mentioned first, and then Freedom. Why?

Because the Cross of Christ is the condition of a real freedom. Or, because the Cross is for God’s sake and our freedom is for our sake. We should fight for God’s sake first and then for our own. That was the idea. Or, because Cross and Freedom are two words for the same thing. The religion of the Cross involves Freedom, and real Freedom is to be found only in the religion of the Cross.

“For Cross and Freedom!”

Hебеска литургија

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,

Aliquippa, PA 

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.” 


The Spiritual Meaning of the Badnjak

               (Yule Log)

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?

The Badnjak is the tree of happiness and sweetness, the tree of health, strength and youth, the tree of life and love.
Is there a tree of happiness in this world?  Is the Badnjak that tree or is it a semblance and symbol of that tree?  Yes, it is only the symbol and semblance.  The real tree of Happiness is HE Who was born on that radiant day.
The bringing of the Badnjak into the house represents Christ’s coming into the world and His coming into our homes and our souls!
What a glorious custom and marvelous scene!
The Badnjak represents Christ.  As a young and powerful tree the King of Love gave Himself to be slain in order to rejuvenate the world by the fragrance of eteral youth; to thaw a frozen mankind by the fire of His love; to enlighten and bring joy to all men by the flame of His Divine Revelation; to annihilate the false Gods on earth by the sparks of His words; to sweeten the bitter waters by the sweet juice of His blood.
Having brought the Badnjaks into your homes, have you brought Christ into your homes and your souls?
A picture is only a picture, but Christ is the reality.  The Badnjak is a picture of the tree of happiness and as a picture is a warning and reminder that you should bring into your homes and your souls the real tree of Happiness, the Son of God, our Lord, Jesus Christ.
His teaching, His sermon on the Mount was the sermon of Happiness and contains the only charter human happiness.  He Himself represents the true and eternal Tree of Happiness.

A Prayer for Enemies 

By Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, Serbian bishop who spoke out against Naziism, was arrested, and taken to Dachau.
Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them. Enemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have. Friends have bound me to earth; enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.
Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.
Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.
Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless and do not curse them.
They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world. They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself. They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments. They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself. They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance. Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.
Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish. Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a [fly].
Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.
Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.
Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.
Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.
Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of your garment.
Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.
Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:
So that my fleeing will have no return; So that all my hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs; So that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul; So that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger;
So that I might amass all my treasure in heaven; Ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.
Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself. One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.
It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies. Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies. A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son blesses them, for he understands.
For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life. Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them. Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them. 
+ St. Bishop Nikolai loved speaking to the English people in the Chapter House of Canterbury Cathedral in 1917, under the direction of the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.  Here is part of what he said (which more can be found in his book called SERBIA: In Light and Darkness.)
He said that he dreamed of being there from the age of 14.
“I thank you that you gave us Shakespeare, who is the second Bible for the world; and Milton the divine, and Newton and Herschel, the friends of the stars; and Wellington and Nelson, the fearless conquerors of the ambitious tyrant of the world; and Stephenson, the great inventor of the railway and the great annihilator of distance between man and man; and Carlyle, the enthusiastic apostle of work and hope; and Dickens, the advocate of the humble and poor; and Darwin, the ingenious revealer of brotherly unity of man and nature; and Ruskin, the splendid interpreter of beauty and truth; and Gladstone, the most accomplished type of a humane statesman; and Bishop Westcott and Cardinal Newman, the illuminated brains and warm hearts. No, I never will finish if I undertake to enumerate all the illustrious names which are known in Serbia as well as in England, and which would be preserved in their integrity in Serbia even if this island should sink under the waters.
“I have to thank you for many sacrifices that the people of this country have made for Serbia during the present world-struggle.
Many of the English nurses and doctors died in Serbia in trying courageously to save Serbian lives in the time of typhus-devastation. They lost their own lives saving ours, and I hope in losing their lives for their suffering neighbours they have found better ones. Their work will never be forgotten and their tombs will be respected as relics among us Serbs.
Besides, Great Britain also sent military help for Serbia. It was dictated to Great Britain by the highest strategic reasons to send troops to Serbia, to the Danube, in order to stop the Germans there, to hinder their junction with the Bulgars, to annihilate all their plans and dreams regarding the East, to defend Serbia not only as Serbia, but as the gate of Egypt and India, and so to protect in the proper place and in the most efficacious manner her oriental Dominions.
But seemingly England sent her troops to Serbia more to protect her honour than her Dominions, more to help Serbia than to defend Egypt and India. The number of these troops and the time when they arrived in Serbia indicate that.
Hundreds of miles the Serbs had been driven back by the enemy before the British forces reached the Serbo-Greek frontier. But still they reached the Serbian land, they fought on Serbian soil and shed their noble blood defending that soil.
Serbia will rather forget herself than the English lives sacrificed for her in such a catastrophic moment of her history.
Serbian PROVERBS +St. Bishop Nikolai shared with the English:
It is better not to be born than to misuse life.
A king asks another king: How many people do you govern? But if God speaks to a king, he asks, “How many people are you helping?
Work and prayer are two eyes on the same face. The man who works only, without praying, has one eye only; and the man who prays without working only has one eye too. The man who neither works nor prays has no eyes, and walks in darkness.

It is better to dress the soul in silk and the body in rags than the reverse.

If life does not mean work, then life is worth nothing.

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.

+Milan Opacich, USA National Treasure

Milan Opacich:

April 12, 1928-January 21, 2013

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.”


Ted Erceg

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!)

Karin continues:

“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


Nikola (Rasha) Musulin ( 1894-1986) Pittsburgh, PA

Nikola Musulin, whom many in Pittsburgh, PA, USA only knew by his nickname of “Rasha,” was an American Serb Immigrant to whom the Serbs owe a great deal of debt for his Leadership. 

The following information was obtained mainly from his obituary that appeared in the American SRBOBRAN on p.5,  date unknown. (@ Nov-Dec 1986).

He was one of my grandmother’s (Andja Mamula’s) best friends.  Upon finding his obituary in my “kufers,” I decided that more should know of his great deeds and of his wonderful children.  


Serbian Orthodox Nikola Musulin was born on May 25, 1894 in Gormije, Yugoslavia (then part of the Militaire Frontier of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and now simply known as Croatia.  He immigrated to the United States in 1912.    At first he resided in Saginaw, Michigan with his sister, Milica Gv(w)osden.  Then he traveled to Lorain, Ohio, where he was employed at the National Tube Works.  In 1916, he moved to Pittsburgh, where he resided for the remainder of his years.    

During WWI, he served in the U.S. Army with C Company, 26th Infantry, 1st Division, and pariticpated in the Meuse-Argonn e Battle.  He was a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans, Great Pittsburgh Chapter No.8. 

Prior to and immediately following WWI, Nikola was employed and the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company (J&L), the A.M. Byers Company and the G eorge Westinghouse Company.  Then he moved to the City of Pittsburgh Water Department from which he retired in 1963.   He was a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 95.

But what makes Nikola so special?

Nikola Rasha Musulin was a rare and unique individual.  He was a man before his time, an idealist and a fighter, a dreamer and a doer!

  1. Nikola was one of the founders and FIRST PRESIDENT of the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church on Pittsburgh’s South Side, 21st and Sidney Streets that later merged with the St. George Serbian Orthodox Church also on the South Side   and became the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Pittsburgh of which he was a member.
  2. Nikola was most instrumental in acquiring the loan  of Hamilton Road in Castle Shannon which became the picnic grounds and St. Sava Cemetery (now called Holy Trinity St. Sava Cemetery).
  3. Founder of Lodge #11. In 1916, Nikola joined the SNF as a member of Lodge No. #16, Kumanovo. He later joined St. Ilija Lodge No.#8. In 1917 he again became a member of Lodge No. 16, Kumanovio.  But to promote the growth of the SNF in 1933, he organized and founded Lodge No. 11, Vojvoda Stepa Stepanovich.  He was the FIRST PRESIDENT and retained that title until the time of his death.  He served as a delegate from this lodge to numerous SNF conventions.
  4. Determined to promote the growth of Serbian activities, in 1953 Nikola arraged for the mortgage and initiated plans for the building of the American Serbian Club of Pittsburgh.  He served as FIRST PRESIDENT  and as a reward for his efforts, he was granted the title of Honorary President.
  5. Nikola was also active in local and community affairs and under the leadership of the late Mayor David L. Lawrence served as the Democratic Committeeman in the 16th Ward, City of Pittsburgh.
  6. With the help of his wife, Anna Ranick Musulin, he raised 4 sons and four daughters, all accomplished.


Son Dr. Michael Musulin Pharmacy Professor of Richmond, Virgina, once worked as a clerk in Karlo’s Confectionery Store on 2508 E. Carson Street.

Son Rudy Musulin was the head coach at Westinghouse High School for many years.  N ikola was so pleased with the partiicpation of his son Rudy in SNF basketball and bowling tournaments.

Daughter Natalie Musulin Kunkle was a Principal and then Head Librarian of all Pittsburgh Area Schools.

Robert Musulin, of Huntington Beach, passed away on March 9, 2011, the youngest of eight children. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and did graduate studies in Computer Science at Purdue. He served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Funeral Services:  Nov.24, 1986.

Nikola was buried from Holy Trinity Cathedral in Whitehall, PA, suburb of Pittsburgh. Officiating were Rev. Dragan Filipovic, parish priest, V. Rev. Milan Savich of St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Schererville, Indiana, who delivered the eulogy for his former parishioner and late friend, the Rev. Milan Sturgis of the St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Masontown, PA, and Rev. Joseph Cervo. They were ably assisted by David Manko, grandson of the deceased and a Reader a the Holy Trinity Cathedral. 

The flag-draped  coffin was bourne by Jeff Kunkel and Wayne Musulin, grandsons, Larry Boone and Rick Locke, husbands of granddaughters, Milton and Stan Dudukovich, great nephews, and Alex Basara and Rudy Vaughn, Kumovi.

Eulogies were given by Kuma Eva Trbovich representing the American Serbian Club of Pittsburgh,   Water Ranick, a brother-in-law and friend, representing Lodge No. 11 of the SNF, and Robert Rade Stone, a friend and President of the SNF.   Taps were blown by grandson, Jeff Kunkel.

“Lots of money in this country” was his rallying cry for the Serbian people to build and preserve their traditions, culture and faith.


  Although he always remembered his beloved Gomirje, he was extremely patriotic to the United States and took pride when his four sons and one daughter (Mary-Mitzie–very smart nurse!) served with the U.S. Armed Forces.  

     He was a great believe in Education and was so proud of the almost fifty years of college education his eight children received.

     He left a legacy for his family, kumovi, friends and the Serbian community.  Vjecnaja Pamjat!  


Info about Monastery Gomirje:

“The monastery is thought to have been founded in 1600. The monastery includes the church of Roždenije Saint John the Baptist, built in 1719.”


Gomirje is a Serbian Orthodox monastery in Croatia. It is the westernmost Serb Orthodox monastery, located in the western part of Croatia near the village of Gomirje, near the town of Ogulin.

Nikola Musulin & Dusan’s Code

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.)


Bishop Petar Petrovic Njegos....

Vladika (Bishop) Petar Petrovic Njegos is as important to us as Nikola Tesla and Michael Pupin.

He was born Nov. 1, 1813 and died October 19, 1851.  He was a GIANT of a man in all respects! 

One of America’s greatest authors, researchers, and Professor of Slavic languages of Serbian descent is Vasa Mihailovichfrom the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.   This is a small part of what he had to say in his Introduction on the book THE MOUNTAIN WREATH that he translated for all of us so nobly.  Sometimes Bishop Njegos’ poem is called THE MOUNTAIN LAUREL too!   (“The experts in Serbian literature claim, in translating the famous Jovan Duchich and P.P. Njegosh, Vasa Mihailovich reaches pinnacles that match and, sometimes, surpass the originals.” Mira Mataric, American Srbobran, Sept. 17, 2008.)

“Petar Petrovic Njegos was a great poet, a prince by inheritance, and the Bishop of Montenegro in the first half of the nineteenth century. In fulfilling successfully these roles imposed on him by circumstances, he not only built for himself a pedestal among the immortals but also set his beloved Montenegro on the road toward full self-realization. Today he is revered as Montenegro’s most illustrious son and the greatest poet in Serbian literature.

“Born November 1, 1813, in the village of Njegusi in Montenegro, Njegos was a member of a leading family which had produced state leaders for several generations in that small mountainous country. He grew up among illiterate peasants and shepherds, whose main duty was to fight incessant battles with the invading Turks and to till their infertile land. He left home when he was eleven and entered the Cetinje monastery, at that time the only place of any culture and education in Montenegro. His schooling was meager and unconventional; first in the monastery, then as tutored by the self-educated and eccentric poet Sima Milutinovic Sarajlija. Milutinovic taught the young Njegos a few basic disciplines and instilled in him an appreciation for heroic folk poems, through which he called forth Njegos ‘s own poetic inspirations. Njegos was sent by his uncle, the state and spiritual leader of Montenegro, to a school near Herceg-Novi, on the Adriatic coast, just beyond the Montenegrin border. His brief stay there was highly beneficial to him because for the first time he was able to live in a more civilized environment. It was at this time that he began to write poems in imitation of folk poetry, which was then the only kind of literature of which the people of Montenegro were aware.

“Though he had meager theological training, at the age of seventeen, in October 1830, Njegos inherited his uncle’s title as the head of both the state and the church. He remained in that capacity until his death. During his rule Njegos spent most of his energy in leading Montenegro out of the Middle Ages, while nonetheless finding time to write. He had to bring order among the Montenegrin tribes, which resisted his attempts to eradicate common crime and often conducted bloody wars against one another. He tried to convince his countrymen that they ought to pay taxes so that the country could be modernized. He also fought to establish the borders of Montenegro and played diplomatic games with the great powers – Turkey, Austria, and Russia – in order to achieve formal recognition of Montenegro as a sovereign state, while at the same time organizing military campaigns against the Turks and their Montenegrin converts. He built schools and roads, very few of which had existed before him; organized a small governing body called the Senate; created the first organized police force in Montenegro to combat crime, collect taxes, and prevent tribal wars; imported a printing press and started publishing books; and sent gifted youths abroad to provide for an enlightened future leadership for the country. All the while he was dreaming of the liberation of all Slavs from the Turks, placing his greatest hope in Russia as the protector of the Slavs. In 1833 he went to Russia, where he was officially ordained Bishop of Montenegro. While on his journey to Russia, in Vienna, he twice met Vuk Karadzic, the great reformer of the Serbian written language and collector of Serbian folk literature. Njegos gave Vuk some of his writings to be published and, in turn, was encouraged by Vuk to write more. From Russia Njegos brought many books, which represented his first real encounter with world literature. His second trip to Russia, in 1837. contributed even further to the recognition of Montenegro as a sovereign state and to the security of its borders. He remained a loyal admirer of Russia all his life, even when Russia had to make peace with his arch-enemy, Turkey.

“The next ten years were a period of lively literary activity in Njegos’s life, during which he wrote his greatest works – The Ray of Microcosm and The Mountain Wreath, while continuing his struggle for a strong and secure Montenegro. The revolutions of 1848 in Europe strengthened his hopes that all Slavs, especially the South Slavs, would completely free themselves from foreign domination, and that his beloved Montenegro would finally be left in peace. When the revolutions failed, Njegos was bitterly disappointed. In addition, strenuous work under unsavory conditions and the constant fighting which surrounded him undermined his health. He fell ill of tuberculosis and after several trips to Italy and Austria in search of a cure, died on October 19, 1851, at his capital Cetinje, in his thirty-eighth year, too young to finish his two main missions – as a statesman and as a poet. He is buried at Lovcen, a mountain peak he had chosen himself. His mausoleum is now a shrine for his whole nation.

“Njegos began to write poetry at a very early age, when he was only six-teen. His four books of poetry The Voice of Mountaineers (1833), The Cure for Turkish Fury (1834), The Song of Freedom (1835, published 1854), and The Serbian Mirror (1845) – attest to the fact that poetry was foremost on his mind and in his heart, even when he was preoccupied with other concerns. His early poems imitate the folk poetry with which he grew up and whose influence stayed with him his entire life. As he matured, imitation gave way to his own renditions of the overriding theme of Serbian folk epic poetry – the struggle against the Turkish occupation or the threat thereof, and the eventual liberation from it. The freeing of all Serbs from the Turkish yoke was Njegos lifelong dream, both as a statesman and as a poet. In poems like “A New Montenegrin Poem about the War between the Russians and the Turks”(1828) and “A Montenegrin Captured by a Fairy” (1834), Njegos glorifies the bravery of the Serbs in that struggle as epitomized by Karageorge, the leader of the First Serbian Uprising against the Turks in 1804. Yet, even though these poems are imbued with the heroic spirit of folk poetry and follow its formalistic features, they also reveal the authenticity and potential power of Njegos’s own poetic talent, which would be manifested in his later works.”

Thank you to Vasa & SERB LAND OF MONTENEGRO!


Montenegrin Poem

Ој јунаштва свјетла зоро,

Мајко наша Црна Горо!

На твојим се врлетима,

Разби сила душманима.

Једина си за слободу

Ти остала српском роду.

Дат ће Бог и света Мати

Да се једном све поврати.


Wonderful Dan Mrkich of Ottawa, Canada, has since passed away, but not before leaving us some of his knowledge about our Serbian heroes.  These quotes from Njegos were published in the American SRBOBRAN in the Sept. 26, 2001 issue.
“In good times, it is easy to be good.  In adversity one recognizes the heroes!”
Dan wrote:  “In 1999, when NATO alliance countries bombed the Serbian lands for 78 days, without a break even on Easter Sunday, which one of us did not recall Njegos’s words:”
“Whose law lies in the club
His traces smell of inhumanity.
Or these:
The wolf claims his right over the sheep.
As the tyrant claims it over the weak man.
But to place foot on the tyrant’s throat,
Bring him to the knowledge of the lock,
 That is man’s sacred duty!” 
Dan wrote: “Serbdom and Kosovo were in the center of Njegos’ life and thought.  In his most famous poem, Mountain Laurel, Njegos refers to Kosovo and Kosovo heroes at least 60 times in the poem of 2,817 lines.”
“The passions and issues of Njegos’s psyche were (1) the freeing of Serbs from subjugation to foreigners, (2) national and religious unity, (3) moral and ethical fall.”
 Click link below for more:

Poem by Bishop Njegos
But the hero of Topola[11], the great, immortal Karageorge,
saw many hurdles in his way, yet he reached his grandiose goal.
He roused people, christened the land,[12] and broke the barbarous fetters,
summoned the Serbs back from the dead, and breathed life into their souls.
He is the Immortal’s secret: he gave the Serbs the chests of steel
and awakened the lion’s heart in those who had lost their courage.
The bands of the Eastern Pharaoh[13] turn to ice in fear before George[14].
Through George the Serbian hearts and arms were instilled with high bravery!
Stamboul, the bloodthirsty father of the plague, trembles before him,
even the Turks swear by his sabre – no other oath have they indeed.
[15]——————————————————————— Bishop Njegosh.

Written by King Nikola of Montenegro  

Онам’, онамо…

…Онамо, онамо… за брда она, 
гдје небо плаво савија свод; 
на српска поља, на поља бојна, 
онамо, браћо, спремајмо ход! 
Онамо, онамо… за брда она 
погажен коњ’ма кликује Југ: 
“У помоћ, дјецо, у помоћ, синци, 
светит’ ме старца – свет вам је дуг!” 
Онамо, онамо… сабљи за стара 
његова ребра да тупим рез 
по турским ребрим’; да б’једној раји 
њом истом с руку рес’јецам вез! 
Онамо, онамо… за брда она 
Милошев, кажу, пребива гроб! 
Онамо покој добићу души, 
кад Србин више не буде роб 
Краљ Никола Петровић

Patriarch Pavle's Funeral in Belgrade, Serbia 11/19/09

“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

Sept. 11, 1914-Nov. 15, 2009 

“The Saint Who Walks”

“I am said to be leading the Serbs into a war for the preservation of Great Serbia.

However, if the preservation of Great Serbia requires crime — I refuse it, may Great Serbia be gone.

If the preservation of little Serbia requires crime — again, I refuse it, may little Serbia be gone.

If the preservation of even a single Serb requires crime — again, I refuse it, may all of us be gone.”

Born September 11,1914, the man destined to become the spiritual leader of all Serbian Orthodox people was born in the village of Kucani, county of Donji Miholjac, in Slavonija, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now today’s Croatia.

His baptismal name was Goyko, born to parents Stefan and Ann Stojcevic, both who died early. He was raised by his aunt who provided him with an excellent education. During WWII, he had to flee his childhood home and seek refuge at the Holy Trinity monastery in Ovcar.  He later took his monastic vows in the Monastery Blagovestenje also in Ovcar, where he took the monastic name of Pavle (Paul).

He was elected Bishop of Ras and Prizren (which includes all of Kosovo) in 1957 and held that position for 33 years before he was elected Patriarch in 1990.

I will let these photos and condolences tell you the rest of the story.

This photo was sent to me by my cousin, Stojanka.

This photo was used to cover a pamphlet dedicated to the memory of Patriarch Pavle.  These Memorial Book pamphlets were given out to the faithful in attendance in front of St. Sava’s HRAM or Cathedral.

What an outpouring of LOVE that was for Serbia’s Blessed Patriarch Pavle!  

Thank you, Stojanka, for sharing with us in America too!


Because of an officially declared swine flu epidemic, TV and radio stations in Serbia urged those with flu symptoms to stay at home during the Funeral of Serbia’s beloved Patriarch Pavle.  Stillclose to one million people participated in probably the most prayerful, respectful, greatest funeral since the death of King Aleksandar in 1934.


Sahranjen srpski patrijarh Pavle  

Photos by Marko Djurica for Reuters 







Serbian Orthodox Church: Patriarch of Serbia reposed in the Lord:  http://www.spc.rs/



More STILL photos of the Funeral



Put this link into your browser to see the full funeral service of Patriarch Pavle here ——>





 Check out more on this site from Politika:   



„Нико нас пре рођења, знамо то, није питао хоћемо ли се родити у овом или оном народу, од ових или оних родитеља, у овом или оном духовном амбијенту. Ми за све то нити имамо заслуге нити кривице. Но, да ли ћемо живети и поступати као људи или као нељуди, то, верујте, зависи од нас. То и јесте једино што нам даје цену и у очима свих људи добре воље…

“None of us before birth, we know, asked if we want to be born in this or that nation, from these or those parents, in this or that spiritual atmosphere. We all have no choice in those matters. However, we must choose to live and act as men or as non-humans; That, believe it, depends on us. That is the only thing that gives us value in the eyes of all people of good will …”

Patriarch Pavle 

Slava Mu! 


 Obituary: Serbian Patriarch Pavle

by Dr. Srdja Trifkovic,  Nov 18, 2009

“Let us guard against inhumans, but let us guard even more against becoming inhuman ourselves.” – Patriarch Pavle


When the man destined to become the 44th Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church was conceived in the the winter 1913-1914, horses and steam moved the world. That world appeared ordered and stable. The calamities of the 20th century – two world wars, revolutions and civil wars, genocides and expulsions, and the suffering of tens of millions of Christian New Martyrs – could not be foreseen. In the Old World the Serbian nation, although divided into two small kingdoms and two mighty alien empires, the Habsburg and the Ottoman, appeared vigorous and full of hope for the future.

Shortly after “the lights went out over Europe,” on September 11, 1914 (n.s.) – the Feast of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist – a boy was born to the Stojčević family in the village of Kućanci, in today’s eastern Croatia. The family’s ancestors came to the Turk-devastated borderlands of the Habsburg Monarchy with the Great Serb Migration of 1690 from Kosovo, the martyred Serbian province with which the future Patriarch’s life was destined to be closely intertwined.

The weeks that followed the outbreak of World War I were a trying time for the Serbs in the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy: they were collectively blamed for the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand in Sarajevo and subjected to mob violence and police persecution. For newborn Gojko’s mother Ana, however, the main worry was the fact that the war was raging, the prices were soaring, and her husband Stevan was far away: he had left for America only months earlier in search of work.

In early 1917, just before the United States joined the fray and made the war truly global, Stevan Stojčević came back home – without a penny to his name – to die of tuberculosis contracted in the workshops and rented rooms of western Pennsylvania. A year later Ana remarried but died in childbirth soon thereafter. Gojko and his elder brother Dušan were left in the care of their paternal aunt who raised them as her own children. He was a sickly child unfit for farm work, but the aunt recognized his aptitude for learning and – although poor herself – endeavored to give him a good education.

After graduating from the Fourth Gymnasium (high school) in Belgrade young Gojko enrolled at the Orthodox Seminary in Sarajevo. During World War II, suffering from tuberculosis, he took refuge in the Holy Trinity monastery in Ovčar, in central Serbia. In 1944 he was given only three months to live. His recovery, miraculous in those pre-penicillin times, prompted him to take monastic vows in 1946 and assume the name of his favorite saint, Pavle (Paul)..

The Serbian Orthodox Church, which had a quarter of its shrines destroyed and a fifth of its clergy killed during World War II, was left in 1945 at the mercy of Tito’s militantly atheist clique. Most of its property was confiscated immediately after the war, religious education was effectively banned, and the political cost of liturgical attendance was high, often prohibitive. Yet monk Pavle visibly thrived in those years, spiritually and intellectually. In 1954 he was ordained hieromonk. After completing postgraduate studies in Athens (1955-1957) he became archimandrite, and only months later elected the Bishop of Ras and Prizren. Bishop Pavle remained at the helm of that ancient diocese, which includes Kosovo and Metohija, for 33 years – until he was elected Patriarch in 1990.

The long decades of Tito’s autocracy were a trying time for the Serbian Orthodox Church. Patriarch German, elected in 1958, had to strike a sensitive balance between the imperative of keeping his Church alive in an inherently hostile political environment and the necessity of establishing a workable modus vivendi with the communist regime. The dilemma, well known to the Russians, had a similar consequence in the misnamed “American Schism” (raskol) of 1963. The split soon spread from the United States to all other communities in the Diaspora. It caused deep divisions that left a lasting scar on the Serbian community as a whole. It is now known that the split was surreptitiously encouraged by the regime in Belgrade, and fanned by the divisive work of its agents infiltrated into the émigré ranks.

As the Bishop of Kosovo, Pavle faced tribulations that were of different nature but similar magnitude. In seeking to win over the Albanians of Kosovo during his wartime struggle to seize power, Tito promised them autonomy and duly proceeded to change the character of the province in their favor after the war. Over 100,000 Serbs were forced out of Kosovo by Albanian Quislings during World War II; incredibly, they were not permitted to return after 1945. An additional 200,000 Serbs left the province, often under duress, between the late 1950s and early 1980s. On the other hand, 200,000 Albanians from Albania settled on deserted Serbian farms after 1945. Their “cadres” took control of the local Communist apparatus. In 1948 the Albanians made a half of the population of Kosovo; by 1981 78 percent; and over 90 percent today.

By the 1970s Orthodox priests in Kosovo were routinely harrassed. Bishop Pavle himself was assailed by an Albanian while walking to the post office in Prizren, and slapped in the face by another at the city’s main bus station. The authorities were invariably “unable” to identify the culprits, however, let alone to bring them to justice. Monastic properties were damaged or confiscated, well before the wave of KLA destruction unleashed by NATO in 1999. The biggest church in Metohia, in Djakovica, was demolished by the authorities to make room for a massive “Partisan” monument. The secessionist movement of the Albanians in Kosovo, derived from the logic of the Titoist order, eventually produced Slobodan Milosevic – the neo-communist quasi-nationalist. The violent disintegration of Yugoslavia in 1991-1999 was the belated revenge of Tito and his ideological heirs.

Bishop Pavle was elected to the Throne of St. Sava in December 1990, on the eve of that disintegration. He did not seek the post but was chosen as a compromise candidate because neither of the two front-runners could secure the necessary majority in the Assembly. In the dark years that followed he would repeat many times that “there can be no interest, individual or national, which could be used as an excuse for becoming inhuman.” As the former Yugoslavia descended into violence, he appealed on the faithful to pray not only for those of good will but for those of ill will, too, as “they are in an even greater need of salvation.” When meeting the late U.S. Ambassador Warren Zimmermann in 1991, he was asked what could America do to help him and the bChurch. He replied, without batting an eyelid, “Your Excellency, the most you can do to help us is not to do anything to harm us!”

This was not to be. Yugoslavia was a deeply flawed polity, and there could have been no serious objection to the striving of Croats and Bosnian Muslims to create their own nation-states. But equally there could have been no justification for forcing over two million Serbs west of the Drina River to be incorporated into those states against their will, and without any guarantees of their rights. Yugoslavia came together in 1918 as a union of South Slav peoples, and not of states. Its divorce should have been effected on the same basis. This is, and has been, the real foundation of the Yugoslav conflict ever since the first shots were fired in the summer of 1991. This political essence of the war has been systematically hidden, all over the Western world but especially in the United States, behind the portrayal of the Serbs as primitive ultranationalists who sought to conquer other peoples’ lands. The most vehement such accusations, coming from Muslim and Croat sources, went wholesale into the media machine, Congressional resolutions, the pseudolegal fatuities of The Hague “tribunal,” and finally into NATO’s marching orders.

Sadly, there are many Serbs who have not followed Patriarch Pavle’s instruction: “If we live as people of God, there will be room for all nations in the Balkans and in the world. If we liken ourselves to Cain, then the entire earth will be too small even for two people.” But the systematic portrayal of the Serbs as demons, and the Muslims of Bosnia or Kosovo as innocent martyrs in the cause of multi-ethnic-cultural tolerance, was a crude exercise in the construction of postmodern quasi-reality. Patriarch Pavle was painfully aware of this fact, but decided to refrain from statements that could be construed as political. He remained silent even when the Croatian authorities demolished the Orthodox church in his native village, in which he was baptized in 1914. He was often criticized in the Western press for making appearances at official functions attended by Milosevic, even though the protocol and tradition demanded his presence, but in 1997 he also appeared, silently, at a rally demanding Milosevic’s resignation.

Patriarch Pavle was deply pained by the Mammonic spirit that became dominant in Serbia in the aftermath of the collapse of communism: “I wish I could stand and beg outside the banqueting halls and other gathering venues of the rich, beg for our poor brothers and sisters and their children. We should actively shame those who sink into arrogant greed so openly, instead of expressing our anguish behind closed doors.” His proverbial modesty was reflected in his use of public transport and dislike of chauffeur-driven cars. During the Assembly of Bishops in 2006 he walked our of the Patriarchate and saw a long line of shiny black Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW cars parked outside the building. “Who do these belong to?” Pavle asked his secretary. “Em, to the Bishops who came to the Assembly, Your Grace.” “I only wonder,” the Patriarch commented, “what would they have driven if they had not taken the vow of poverty…”

Serbia was blessed with several politically astute Patriarchs in some critical moments of its history, notably Arsenije III (Charnojevich) at the time of the Turkish wars and Great Migration of 1690, and Gavrilo (Dozhich) during World War II.

Patriarch Pavle belonged to a different tradition. He was a mystically prayerful monk, rather than a sanguine Prince of the Church. He was a Patriarch who blended, harmoniously, three key functions of his throne: that of the father, of the priest, and of the prophet. He understood, and lived, the legacy of Prince Lazar, martyred at Kosovo in 1389: “The Kingdom on Earth is but paltry and small; yet the Kingdom of Heaven is forever and knows no bounds.


Giant Footsteps 

Here is a wonderful photo of the late +Patriarch Pavle when he visited the Huntington Library in California.  Far left on the photo is Metropolitan Christopher of Libertyville, IL St. Sava Monastery. To the Patriarch’s left is +pokojni Bishop Stefan of Zica; behind the Patriarch is Bishop Irinej of Nis, the CURRENT Patriarch!  The other clergyman is Fr. Blasko Paraklesis.  

The photo was taken by Slobodan Dimitrov. 

The famous photographer will be unveiling a huge LABOR mural in San Pedro tomorrow, Feburary 4, 2010. 

To learn more:  Slobodan Dimitrov


 Slobodan says, “This is the photo my wife and I keep on our wall.  I had them sign the photo for me, plus 3 others for St. Sava’s, St. Stephen’s, and Christ the Savior.  They are the three main Serbian Churches in the metropolitan L.A. area.”

“Also, the image of Patriarch Pavle in Serb World was taken by me, at St. Stephen’s. “

Thank you so much for sharing, Slobodan! 


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 ISpiritual Leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians.


Serbia’s President

Boris Tadic:

“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.”

Bishop Amfilohije


“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.”

Honorary Reis-ul-Ulema,

Hamdija Jusufspahic 

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.”

Bishop Lavrentije


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!” 

Bojana Rankovic


“In life, Patriach Pavle was a walking saint. And now in death, he is a living saint! Vjecnaja Pamjat!”

Alex Kasich


“Počivaj u miru, kao što si i živeo.”

“Rest in peace, like you lived your life.” 

 Tatiana Stojandinovic


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.

It says:

“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,

year 1335! 

Kosovo, 1335 fresco