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Last Updated: Monday, 10 May, 2004, 05:17 GMT 06:17 UK
Nostalgic Yugoslav re-creates land of Tito
By Matt Prodger
BBC correspondent in Serbia and Montenegro

Man weeps for Yugoslavia
Emotions run high for those whose lives were easier in Yugoslavia

The sign on the gate reads "Welcome to Yugoland".

Next to it flutters the now obsolete flag of communist-era Yugoslavia. We are stepping back in time.

Yugoland is reminiscent of the film The Land That Time Forgot - that one where a submarine gets lost somewhere in the ocean and resurfaces in a land full of dinosaurs.

The face of Yugoslavia's former President Tito (he died in 1980) is everywhere: on posters, T-shirts and badges.

The music is at least 30 years old, performed live by a traditional band or from crackly LPs: folk songs, communist sing-alongs, and paeans to the glory of Yugoslavia.

Yugoslavia was formally erased from the maps last year, when what remained of it was renamed Serbia and Montenegro.

The rest of the constituent republics went their own way during the Balkan wars of the 1990s: Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina.

One of them - Slovenia - has just joined a new club of nations: the EU.

Distraught

But the founder of Yugoland, a businessman called Blasko Gabric, from Subotica in northern Serbia, was so distraught at the loss of Yugoslavia that he decided to recreate it in his back garden.

An exact replica, constructed to scale, over three hectares of land.

Traditional dancer
Visitors celebrate everything they saw as good in the old society

It's nowhere near finished. Mount Triglav, Yugoslavia's highest summit, is currently a 20-metre-high pile of dirt.

And the Adriatic sea off Croatia's coast is an empty trench waiting to be filled with water.

But it's an ongoing labour of love for Mr Gabric: "I lost my country once, and I don't want to lose it again.

"Serbia and Montenegro means nothing to me. It's artificial.

"And from a business point of view, why change a trademark?

"Everybody knows the name Yugoslavia.

"Only an idiot messes with the trademark.''

And it's a trademark that's paying well.

Deep nostalgia

On this particular day visitors arrive by the coach load, welcomed by a band playing the national anthem.

Elderly women queue up to buy back their Yugoslav citizenship for a couple of hundred dinars.

This makes me feel wonderful. Yugoslavia still lives in my heart
Josip Broz,
Tito's grandson
Not that anybody recognizes it outside of here, of course.

Yugoland is tapping into a deep-held sentiment in this region: a desire to re-create the old days.

And people can't be blamed for feeling nostalgic.

Under Tito Yugoslavs had free health care, free education, a job for life, and peace.

Life for many of them now is a daily struggle to survive.

One of the visitors tells me: "I love this. I'm all for having Yugoslavia back.

"I came here for May Day this year, and I'll definitely be back next year."

History books

The star attraction today is a man who at first glance appears to be none other than Marshal Tito himself.

Blasko Gabric
Gabric welcomes many visitors to the as-yet incomplete park

He even has the same name - Josip Broz.

He is in fact Tito's grandson: "This makes me feel wonderful.

"Yugoslavia still lives on in my heart. We'll never forget the life we had then. Today it's different. It's harder.''

On the stage behind him a banner reads: "As long as we live, so will Yugoslavia.''

But most of the visitors to Yugoland are over the age of 60.

For children in the Balkans, Yugoslavia is something they read about in the history books.

Despite its rather basic design a visit to Yugoland can be an emotional experience - especially late in the day when the band is in full swing and the beer barrels are running dry.

One elderly man stands out - he's wearing the 40-year-old military uniform - complete with cap - of a country that no longer exists.

As he prepares to board the bus home, he straightens the medals on his chest and wipes a tear from his eye.

For a few hours at least, he was back in Yugoslavia.




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