House of Commons, Vidovdan 2016
There was standing room only in Committee Room 16 on Vidovdan, 28th June 2016 when over eighty people attended an event to commemorate the centenary of ‘Kossovo Day’ 1916 in Britain. Of which the Manchester Guardian said ‘In all the strange developments of wartime there can hardly be anything of such curious significance as Kossovo Day as it is being kept this year. That in London and Manchester and other English cities people should meet and demonstrate in memory of a battle which occurred in The Balkans 527 years ago – here surely is an extraordinary thing.’
The event was organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia and the Serbian Council of Great Britain and was hosted by Stuart Andrew, Conservative MP for Pudsey and Vice-Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Serbia. He welcomed everyone to the event which he was glad to host, particularly since he recognised the importance of Vidovdan to Serbs and Serbia, and he was delighted that relationships between Serbia and Britain were strengthening.
His Excellency, Dr Ognjen Pribicević, then introduced the event reminding the audience of the heroic days of the Serbs in Britain during the First World War. This was a time when Queen Mary, wife of King George V, was Patron to the Serbian Relief Fund and when on ‘Kosovo Day’ 1916 more than 20 MPs from all parties passed a resolution expressing their admiration for the valour of their Serbian allies and their profound sympathy for their suffering.
Olga Stanojlović, Chairwoman of the Serbian Council of Great Britain, who was chairing the event, introduced the actress Marija Pavlovic Allport who read three poems about Serbia in the First World ‘To Serbia ‘ by Vera Holme who served in the Scottish Women’s Hospitals from June 1915 to October 1917, Plava Grobnic by Milutin Bojic, probably the most famous Serbian First World war poem and Ruka by Trifun Djukic, which was translated for the event by Pavle Ninkovic.
The main focus of the event was the talk by Jenny Blake about how ‘Kossovo Day’ was commemorated in Britain in 1916, probably the only time Britain has celebrated the National Day of another country. Jenny explained that the idea came from Serbian exiles who were unable to commemorate the day on Serbian soil. It was seized upon by Dr Elsie Inglis, founder of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, which operated extensively in Serbia, who suggested a Committee be set up to organise ‘Kossovo Day’. Its members were influential people who knew Serbia well and it had an office in Parliament Street. Jenny told the audience that thanks to the efforts of the Committee ’ Kossovo Day’ was commemorated in: 12,000 schools; there were public meetings across the country addressed by speakers from Serbia or who knew about Serbia; a 1,000 theatres and cinemas showed a short film about Serbia; articles appeared in the national and provincial newspapers; penny pamphlets on Serbia were sold; and there was a service in St Paul’s Cathedral, addressed by Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic which King George V attended.
Much to the delight of the audience the evening concluded with Zivorad Nikolic, the acclaimed accordionist, playing Serbian First World War songs including Tamo Daleko, Krece se Ladja fransuska and Mars na Drinu.
The event, promoted by the Serbian City Club, has attracted a lot of interest in Serbia, Republica Srpska and in Canada and has appeared on over 6o websites.
View photos at Britic