Sunday, May 25, 2003

Youth Day

May 25th used to be known as Youth Day in former Yugoslavia.

According to some documents, Tito was born on May 25th 1892. Later historians found that Tito was indeed born on May 7th, but he got accustomed to celebrate birthday on May 25th. In post-1945 Yugoslavia this celebration took form of national semi-holiday. The climax of celebration was great evening rally on JNA Stadium in Belgrade (these days used by FK Partizan soccer club), in many ways resembling Olympic Games festivities. At the end Tito, sitting in his VIP lounge, would receive baton that was carried by young Yugoslavs throughout the former federation for the past two months. The Youth Day ceremony was kept few years after Tito's death only to be dropped in late 1980s, after serious objections of Slovenian Socialist Youth.

The violent end of Tito's state, emergence of new beloved leaders and establishment's dislike for everything that reminded people of controversial post-WW2 past meant that Youth Day got officially erased from history books. However, for past few years Youth Day went through some sort of renaissance in Kumrovec, Croatia, Tito's birthplace. This quiet little town in Hrvatsko Zagorje area became spot for pilgrims all over ex-Yugoslavia who gather on May 25th and remember good old times and "Dearest son of all our nations" who made them possible.

This year some 6,000 pilgrims appeared and, interestingly enough, many of them were quite young, not even being born during Tito's era. Biggest number of pilgrims came from Slovenia and Istria, but some Bosnians suggested that some sort of baton ceremony be reintroduced in next few years.


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