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June 17, 2000
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 443
Erection of a Monument in Belgrade

Nights and Days of Mirjana Markovic

by Biljana Vasic

Two days after the anniversary of NATO intervention, a monument was erected in Belgrade and a 'perpetual fire' was lit as a symbol of Serbia's defence. The monument is situated in the Park of Friendship and Peace in Novi Beograd, some 300 metres away from Business Centre 'Usce' (the former Central Committee of the Communist League of Yugoslavia) which was transformed into ruins by NATO bombs. Apart from Milan Milutinovic, President of Serbia, who uncovered the monument and lit the fire, among the present were also Mirjana Markovic, president of JUL, Milutin Mrkonjic, director of the Department for Restoration of Serbia, Dragoljub Ojdanic, the Federal Minister of Defence and general of the army, as well as many other representatives of state and military authorities.

The ceremony of lighting the fire and uncovering of the monument was also attended by a group of citizens, several thousands of people brought by buses from various parts of Serbia. The gathered crowd was addressed by Milutinovic with the following words: '... Our moral power, which resulted at the end of NATO aggression, gives us right to be the light spot of liberty in Europe. That is why we are on the way of those who are trying to use force and single-mindedness in order to establish order according to the interests of one nation...' Then, the President uttered a word of warning and a message to everyone that treachery never had any support in Serbia, and that 'quislings never lasted too long.'

Mirjana Markovic, President of the Yugoslav Left did not find it necessary to fulfill the solemn moment with her words - all she had to say was carved into the monument itself. Namely, she wrote the text 'Perpetual Fire' signing the Serbian population underneath: 'Let this fire be ablaze forever as a memory to the war which 19 countries of NATO pact - the USA, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Denmark, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Island, Norway, Luxemburg, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic - waged against Serbia, since March 24th until June 10th 1999. In order to be free, the world must find in itself power and courage equal to that with which we fought and defended our country in Spring/Summer 1999.'

Even more eloquent were the verses of the Serbian poet Branko Miljkovic which Mirjana Markovic chose, and the masons carved: 'All that has no fire in itself burns, what burns becomes night, what does not burn brings life to a new day' (B. Miljkovic, 'Yugoslavia'); 'Even if they kill me, I love you' (the same author - 'To the Fatherland').

The newly erected concrete monument symbolises 78 days of resistance to NATO. Although its height is not 78 metres, as it was originally planned, the memorial was erected within a record time limit - ten days. A monument with a cupola in the form of a rose which holds a 'perpetual fire' is 27 metres tall, while the height of the cupola itself is about five metres. Nearby the modest memorial, new wooden benches are placed along the tree-lined path.

The authors of the visual solution for the 'Perpetual Fire' and the monument were the sculptors, the Radovic brothers, the architect Marko Stevanovic and Miodrag Cvijic, while the construction of the monument was entrusted to the following firms: 'Mostogradnja', 'Energoprojekt', 'Gradsko Zelenilo' and many others, with 160 workers who worked 24 hours a day. The 'Permanent Fire' is ablaze thanks to the 'Energogas' company, in charge of providing  the monument with gas, on the left side of which there are enclosed reservoirs with gas. By the way, the Park of Peace and Friendship dates from Tito's times, whereas the tree-lined paths were planted by representatives of the nonaligned countries after the summit held in Belgrade between September 4th and 9th 1989.

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