A sea of ink has been spilled documenting the life and times of Josip Broz Tito. But Tito’s biographies place his life against that of Yugoslavia, so that reading a biography of Tito means reading the history of the country. If you want to know about Tito the man, you’ll get a broad strokes picture, an outline, a composite, if not a caricature, that everyone fills with the story they want. For details that reveal his human side, you have to sift through texts like a gold prospector.
There’s another way to get to know the peasant who became president: a documentary featuring anecdotes by those who worked for him; a peculiar interpretation of his life style; and a tour of milestones along his revolutionary path.
With Ania England, Janja Glogovac, and Danijela Matijević.
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PETER KORCHNAK: This is Remembering Yugoslavia, the show exploring the memory of a country that no longer exists. I’m your psychoanalyst Peter Korchnak.
A sea of ink has been spilled documenting the life and times of Josip Broz Tito. I’ve counted at least 16 biographies of the man out there, dating back to the 1940s. Check out Episode 24, “Tito and His Biographers,” for more on this.
These biographies have one thing in common: they place Tito’s life against that of Yugoslavia, linearly focusing on politics. In other words, reading a biography of Tito means reading the history of the country. Which, of course, makes sense from the chronological standpoint.
But if you want to know about Tito the man, you’ll get a broad strokes picture. He loved to dress up, he loved women, and so forth. You get an outline, a composite, if not a caricature, that everyone tends to fill in with the story they prefer. For details, those precious anecdotes that reveal his human side, you have to sift through the texts like a gold prospector.
I kept wondering if there are other ways to learn about Tito’s personality. Not to glorify the Bolshevik cum New Class Capo, but to understand him as the main character of the story that was Yugoslavia.
JANJA GLOGOVAC: I was trying to imagine what life this man had. And I was trying to imagine what I would ask him if I would meet him.
ANIA ENGLAND: The more I read about him, the more I was astonished that I had the camp figure in front of me.
DANIJELA MATIJEVIĆ: And really his life story is remarkable.
PETER KORCHNAK: A documentary featuring anecdotes by those who worked for him. A peculiar interpretation of his appearance. A tour of milestones along his revolutionary path.
In today’s episode of Remembering Yugoslavia: getting to know the peasant who became president.
But before we turn to Tito’s traits, remember that it’s you who makes it all possible. Thank you and welcome new Patreon sustainers Patrick, Mark, and Mike, and thank you, Billie, for another generous contribution.
Remembering Yugoslavia is a one-man labor of love. If the stories and analysis you hear here twice or more a month enrich your life in any way, as they do for Patrick and Mark and Mike and Billie and dozens of other people, please consider supporting the show—and me in making it—with a donation. Visit RememberingYugoslavia.com/Donate and contribute today.
Tito: A Documentary
JANJA GLOGOVAC: I wanted to understand Tito, I wanted to understand who he was, I wanted to understand a person who was able to bring together so many different religions so different nations and keep it together for 40 years. And we were all believing in the common things, the common sayings, and in good things and good values. And we were living good. And we were all educating for free. We had all medical care for free. There were all the leaders coming to Yugoslavia and hanging around with Tito. So probably he was not such a bad person, right?
PETER KORCHNAK: Janja Glogovac is the director of the documentary TITO, released in the year 2000. The film places recollections of those who worked for Tito against the backdrop of archival footage. His violinist; his chief of protocol; his grill specialist; his biochemist who inspected all the food and incoming mail and gifts for safety; his tailor slash clothes attendant; and a man who fought with him in the Partisans all share anecdotes from their interactions with the Old Man.
The picture that emerges is that of a man who worked a lot, to escape poverty, to have a better life, and then some. “He always wanted to be more than he was,” says his chief of protocol.
Tito indeed enjoyed the good things in life: food (he loved sausages and other meats, almost to the last breath). Clothes (there were days when Tito changed five times; he liked not just the suits and uniforms, but silken or camel-hair underwear). Hunting. Traditional music. And of course the company of women (Sophia Loren was among his faves and, I have to say, I still harbor a crush on her in Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow).
He was a man respected by world leaders. A man who was stubborn and perhaps arrogant (Titostalgics love to share the photo of Tito smoking next to Nixon in the Oval Office despite the strict prohibition). A man who was also generous, as when he gave a staff person who couldn’t tell him the time a gold watch. A man who, in the words of his tailor, was “exceptional, simple, and open,” and who treated everyone with the same respect, regardless of their position.
Glogovac was born in Maribor, in 1974, in what was called a mixed marriage family, in other words an ethnically diverse family. As she puts it, she grew up in a country that doesn’t exist anymore. When her country fell apart and descended into war—
JANJA GLOGOVAC: I just couldn’t understand how it is possible that people who are brothers and sisters at once are enemies. I felt like somebody’s tearing me apart inside.
PETER KORCHNAK: Glogovac got the impulse to know Tito better as she was coming of age, while the wars of Yugoslavia’s dissolution unfolded.
JANJA GLOGOVAC: I was in secondary school. And I remember all these pictures of Tito and the statues of Tito being thrown away into the garbage. I actually went to save some of the pictures of Tito together with my brother. I was watching to [sic] this picture. And I was trying to imagine what life this man had. And I was trying to imagine what I would ask him if I would meet him, not knowing that one day I would really [be] asking those questions that I would ask him. And I really tried to see more who this person was.
So I went to make a documentary about Tito when I was actually in the first year or second year of Academy in Zagreb before I went to study film directing in Prague, where I actually also finished it.
And Project Tito was [a] very secret project at the time. I was studying and doing the project at the same time and actually, my professors in Zagreb didn’t know that I am doing that film and also at the start my professors in Prague didn’t know that I’m doing also this project.
And at the time, it was very dangerous to even say Tito’s name. It was a war. And my feeling inside was so strong. I have to go there and I have to tell the people that they were loving each other before and now they are hating each other.
And being an idealist and being a dreamer, I thought with this film, I can stop the war. I thought that when people will see this film, they will realize what they are doing to each other. And they were brothers and sisters and they were once all together. And the war will stop. That was my vision.
And this was so clear for me in my head that I didn’t even know where it’s coming from. Probably it came from much [sic] years of watching Tito’s picture. So if I was the right person to bring that story at that time out, I don’t know, but I was the only one who dared to go through all and bring the nice picture of the President Tito, which everybody was calling at the time a criminal out and saying, “Look, he was this kind of a person, he did these kind of things.” And I was actually more interested in his personality than I was interested in [the] political side of Yugoslavia.
PETER KORCHNAK: Glogovac collaborated with a number of people on the film. With Slovenian director and producer Franci Slak, she started the project as a story of Tito’s grill master.
JANJA GLOGOVAC: Ljubiša Samardžić who was very known actor and a producer at the time, the actor that hang around with Tito also and that we all knew, said, “I want to co-produce the film.” So when he came into the production, the whole picture started to be wider.
We were sitting in Belgrade, I remember, and he said, “Kid, do you really think that this film should be only about the barbecue?” And I said, “No, but I don’t know where to find another people. Can you help me?” He said, “Sure, I will call some people.” And at once there were a lot of people who wanted to make an interview because Ljubiša called them. I believe nothing happen [sic] in life coincidentally, so it was meant to be.
Later I told to my professor Vávra about this project that I’m doing and it was incredible. Once he brought me 10 pages written by his hand about Tito and about him remembering Tito. And all what he found, for me was there. It was, it was unbelievable. I had really luck and really support with this film with the greatest people of Yugoslavia and also of the Czech cinema.
They supported me the whole way to tell the story without limits. They didn’t say what I should do. They were just there helping me bringing the picture that I had as very young woman—I was actually 20 at the time when I started. Who on earth would bring a woman so young to make a documentary about Tito and not being afraid to ask questions or talk about Tito.
When we were editing the film, I was dreaming Tito for one month. He was telling me all his secrets and where should I look and what else should I include. It was like being almost like, wired into another sphere.
I had to go through a lot to make this movie but nevertheless, the film was worth to be made [sic]. Probably I was called to get on that road. And I heard the call, and I accepted it.
PETER KORCHNAK: The film was received well, including in the countries of former Yugoslavia—
JANJA GLOGOVAC: The response of Croatians and Serbians and Bosnians and Slovenians, actually, was amazing. It was great. So it was like, oh, people woke up and remembered that they actually did really love each other, that they actually really did believe in those things.
It’s incredible not to talk about this and to look back, and to remember on how many film festivals TITO was at the end. We had all special fans from all around the world, from Argentina, they were even making fan pages there. It was incredible. When I was going around with the film, it was like Tito is still alive. I felt really a big support from also his spirit. It was incredible.
And a lot of people, a lot of artists start[ed] to cooperate with each other after that. And it was not any more taboo to say, “Tito is good,” or Tito name.
At the end when the film came out, the war did stop.
PETER KORCHNAK: The film is available for free on YouTube.
* Full “interview” with Janja Glogovac:
PETER KORCHNAK: Speaking of food, the biochemist Branko Trbović, who inspected Tito’s food and who makes an appearance in Glogovac’s documentary, documented the meals and menus the big man enjoyed. That documentation provided the basis for Tito’s Cookbook, a translation of the Serbian Titov Kuvar, by the late Anja Drulović.
The book is a delightful romp through Tito’s gourmet life and Yugoslavia’s history, with each dish accompanied by a story of where, when, and how it was served, the menu it was part of, and the recipe. Plus there are archival photos from those meals and photos of each dish as recreated at a Zagreb restaurant for the book. I’ll be making one of the recipes in an upcoming episode about food, so stay tuned, and I mean subscribed.
In the introduction, the Croatian food writer Rene Bakalović calls Tito “a Communist with style.” In Yugoslavia, the protocol always involved lavish meals where, quote, Tito “himself was a guarantee of good time and extraordinary experience…. Tito turned on the charm like some first-rate member of high society” as he “realized long ago that he had this great charisma, not only when taking the floor at plenums and rallies but that it also transformed into exceptionally effective charm at the table.”
According to Bakalović, “Tito was able to be so fascinating at the table primarily because he took pleasure in food and drinks, indulging himself in them passionately—often beyond measure, as his gastronomic gusto was more important to him than the care for his health. He did not have to pretend that he had such zest; it immediately demonstrated his joy of life that overwhelmed his company on such occasions.” End quote.
That said, Tito preferred dishes from his home region of Zagorje: cornmeal mush, cottage cheese rolls, pork shank, sausages… Sophia Loren made some of the lunches while she stayed at Brijuni, including a homemade pasta dish.
On his official trips Tito was exposed to exotic cuisines. “If he did not like something, he rejected [it] with great style,” writes Bakalović. He didn’t really like a sparrow dish in China, so “he stated he could not possibly eat sparrows as they were the avian proletariat.”
Here’s the crucial part: “Excellent lunch and dinner parties were always a pageant with two crucial characters,” writes Bakalović, “a chef as the director and Tito as the lead actor.”
Tito as a Camp Icon
ANIA ENGLAND: People [in] Yugoslavia and have completely different view of Tito to because they live through Tito, or they were taught about Tito during the history classes, but I had none of the knowledge. So I was completely blank. And I think that was the beautiful freedom that I could create my own story about Tito. I didn’t have any prejudice, I didn’t expect anything from him. I just look at him and I just took whatever I could to construct the story about him from my own perspective.
PETER KORCHNAK: Ania England is a Polish art historian. In 2014 she visited Serbia to research camp in Serbian art.
ANIA ENGLAND: I was quite shocked that I couldn’t find anything and a month or more passed, and I couldn’t find anything, I couldn’t find articles, I couldn’t find books. I was browsing catalogs with art and none of the art speak [sic] to me in a camp way. And I was really very miserable because I have to produce something. I was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from our European Commission and I was quite stressed about this. But I know that there must have camp because Yugoslavia postwar was much more liberal than then, for example, Poland. And in Poland, the bible of camp, which is Notes on Camp, written by Susan Sontag in ‘64, in Poland, it was translated in ‘79. So I couldn’t believe that there is no translation of Notes on Camp camp in Serbia.
And one day, I went to the library, quite depressed. And somehow I was browsing the books, and I look at the bookshop, and there was a new book about Tito and I look at the cover, and I saw portrait of Tito looking at me in his sunglasses, white teeth, sun tan, and there were his orders on his suit, and I was thinking, “Oh, yeah, I am at home.” And I knew for all of this time, that the camp is in front of my eyes, and I just just couldn’t touch it. And I just, I didn’t know what is it, but I know that it’s around me. And then it was like, somebody took the veil from my face.
PETER KORCHNAK: Let’s back up a little. What is camp?
ANIA ENGLAND: Not sure how to answer because at the beginning, that was code amongst the gay people to communicate with each other. That was before the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. And of course, gay people and homosexual community couldn’t really go out and just live normal life. So camp was considered as a way of communicating via some gesture, clothes, way of walking, underground language. But since the publication of Notes on Camp by Susan Sontag in 1964, the camp like switch from gay environment into heterosexual, if you could say like that, or asexual. and it became [a] sensibility, so [a] way of looking at things, way of appreciating. So for example, the list of the worst movies you ever watched or appreciation for bad things which are so bad that they are good, that’s camp.
So there’s a very popular Facebook page called Terrible Art Found in Charity Shop, that’s also camp. And also this kind of style, everything has to be exaggerated, on top and artificial. Dandies are also camp because they they put so much attention to clothes and to gestures, how they walk, how they dress, how they look. That’s kind of like theater on the street, I could say.
PETER KORCHNAK: In what ways was Tito a camp figure?
ANIA ENGLAND: The sunglasses, they are like kind of a symbol of some high class, vacation, holidays. And then he got artificial white teeth, which are a symbol of, you know, only the rich people who can afford to have nice teeth have the white teeth, and false tan, and all of the medals and orders he had on suit, which looks actually like a woman’s brooches.
He was considered as one of the best dressed men in the world, his suits were delivered to him from New York. And he was always on top with the fashion, so we could call him fashion dictator. And he was the suits a couple of times per day. And also during the summer, his suits were white and during the winter, his suits were gray. So he was very, very conscious how he looks like. And the looks was used also as a political tool. Because of course when he came into power, he was already [an] old guy. And during the 70s he was really already quite old. So he was trying very hard to look younger than he was. So he was paying a lot of attention how he looks like.
And unfortunately he was also a man who likes to eat. He likes many pleasures in life. So the older he gets the more round he became. And he lost his kind of sexy appeal because he was also a womanizer. And he was considered to be very handsome. So he was using the clothes as his political tool to show to the people that he’s still on, in on top.
PETER KORCHNAK: Every time I see a photo of the peasant boy in the white marshal’s uniform, I think of African dictators who shared the same passion for lavish military display. What’s the story there?
ANIA ENGLAND: I think that they were all loony. They all had the same style for gold, for this kind of Baroque buildings, for the same kind of pomp. So I think that there was this kind of, I think, maybe lack of self confidence. So you have to really build something around yourself to present yourself bigger and more important.
But also the older he gets, the more camp kind of theater he created. So that was a birthday cakes in the shape of his head created. And people really went crazy. And he was using this theater to really show that that was the type of his life.
PETER KORCHNAK: If all the world’s a stage for Shakespeare, Yugoslavia was a theater stage for Tito.
ANIA ENGLAND: When I came to Serbia, I also felt very surreal because for me, it felt like I came to Poland in the 90s. So I felt like I was 20 years younger. And I was going among the streets looking like some actor in some huge stage. So for me, I was already in some kind of weird environment. And I didn’t know actually who I am and what is it all about? What kind of stage is it? So that was the frame of my mind.
So when I was talking to people, the teachers at the Academy of Arts and from the museums, I told them about this, that when they were talking to me about the life during the Yugoslavia, I get this feeling that it was like theater, like everything was staged, like everything was artificial. And then to my mind came the movie Truman Show when everything was also staged and designed for him, and people are watching him how he’s growing up and how his life is. And I was thinking that it must be like that in Yugoslavia that people were also like on the stage. And as long as we’re playing according to Tito script, everything was okay. But if you didn’t, then well, things weren’t so nice.
Tito was a big fan of Hollywood movies and he was hosting on his Brijuni islands stars like Elizabeth Taylor, who spent their entire month and also Richard Burton, who not who was playing Tito in the movie, Battle of Sutjeska. So he was really very fascinated about Hollywood movies, actors, and he was [a] big fan of movies.
In the documentary Cinema Komunisto it is said that he was watching every night a movie and he had [a] special cinema in his residence and he was watching [a] movie every night. So this metaphor of a theater really talked to me because I felt like I am in theater and on some movie set. And Tito in my mind was also like [a] huge and big actor, he has to be very skilled to play between the East and the West to his advantage.
PETER KORCHNAK: I highly recommend Cinema Komunisto, a documentary about Tito’s movie obsession, featuring his personal projectionist, and, quote, “how the myth of Yugoslavia was constructed on the screen.”
One thing about Tito, of course, is that he came from a village, from a peasant family, and trained to be a machinist. It is in part this poverty, the deprivation he experienced in his childhood and youth that explains why he liked to indulge in food and clothes and so on. How did that background impact the camp aspect of his personality?
ANIA ENGLAND: I don’t know but I think that he was actually a bit of ashamed of his upbringing. I think he was really confused. In my mind, he was generally confused. And he didn’t know who he was. And he was just playing to, you know, whoever expected him to be so yeah.
He was a peasant and he didn’t have an education, but he was aspiring to be someone better. So he really working [sic] very hard to develop the style. And he learned how to dance waltz, of course, how to play chess, he was [a] very keen photographer, because that was very fashionable. He was very keen on shooting animals because that was also, you know, high style and high class. He moved into the residency of Prince Paul to play aristocrat, and there was even a conspiracy theory that he was a Polish aristocrat that is why he could dance the waltz and his mannerisms, which are of aristocrats. And he’s just pretending to be someone else. So there was always a conspiracy that he’s someone else than he is. And I think that he was also using this to his advantage that people really didn’t know who he is.
PETER KORCHNAK: What other insights into Tito’s personality does his being a camp figure give us?
ANIA ENGLAND: For example, that he was a queer. I mean, not in the sense that he was gay, quite the opposite, he was a womanizer. But I mean that he was a queer wherever he went because he was of Slovenian and and Croatian background. And he was born in Kumrovec in Croatia, which is like really, really center of Croatia. But because he spent childhood in [at] his maternal grandparents, he developed in Slovenia, he developed [a] different accent. So when he came back to Croatia, he was like perceived as a queer with different accent.
Then he was always perceived as a spy because of that accent and some intelligent people during his time they gossips [sic] that he never properly learn[ed] to speak, Serbian, that he’s always from outside. And he was a queer because he split with Stalin in 1948, so he was like, queer amongst the communists. And he was like, queer for for the West because he was communist, but he was also queer for the East communist because he was not very communist. So he like put himself in a very queer position, queer in the sense of weird, different. And I think that was also his big aspect.
But for me also that he was a great dandy. I mean, the scale of his wealth, pompous luxurial [sic] life that was just unprecedented.
And also his funeral, that is the biggest gathering of statements in human history that everybody were there kings, sheiks, princes, stars, everybody came to the funeral of extraordinary man.
PETER KORCHNAK: Speaking of the funeral, you call it his last camp performance. However, he’s dead. How is it his last camp performance?
ANIA ENGLAND: I think that was not actually his last performance, I actually think that his ghost is still among his people. Because when I was going from Novi Sad quite often to Belgrade. And for me, that was extraordinary that I look at the streets and I saw an enormous amount of white poodles. And, you know, huge guys very mucho walking with white poodles. This is something I never saw, in streets, either in the UK, or in Poland, that white poodles are considered as kind of not very intelligent dogs, which you do not really show yourself with the dogs, you know, walking with other dogs. And the huge guys, the macho guys were walking with white poodles on the streets. And it was just like normal. It was just all over the streets. They were working with these poodles. And I just couldn’t believe what was going on.
Until I read that Tito was a huge fan of white poodles. So I think that maybe from the above, he’s really, he’s still influencing the people of ex-Yugoslavia in this kind of way.
I think that the guys who are walking on the street they’re not even thinking where the white poodles came from I think that it was just passed like some genes.
PETER KORCHNAK: There’s also Titostalgia, that special kind of nostalgia that’s for Tito, manifesting in his face plastered on all manner of merchandise.
ANIA ENGLAND: He’s selling very well, he’s tourist attraction now. So still, you can see him in our, on our towels, on the kitchen towels, shoes, whatever you can put to space. He’s still there and I think that he will stay there forever.
PETER KORCHNAK: Speaking of Tito as fiction, in her novel, The President Shop, Vesna Marić features him as the unnamed “President.” The story is about a family who owns a shop selling the President paraphernalia the people of “the Nation” display in their homes.
“The President was soft, jolly, wise, practical, tough, fair, focused, and, frequently, funny,” writes Marić, describing the picture a protagonist paints of the man from all that she’s heard from her parents and teachers. “Mona admired the President’s determination and his sense of fairness and loyalty—he never betrayed his comrades even when tortured—and she loved his sense of humor.”
In one set piece, Ruben, the family patriarch who loves and admires the President the most, travels by train to meet the big man on his yacht.
“Ruben opened his eyes slowly. The beloved country rushed past the windows. He remembered the President’s anecdote of the first time he took a train. The President had been a teenager, expecting great things from the great machine, mainly that it was fast and powerful. But upon boarding the train, the boy was disappointed. He said that it was so slow that if he had gotten off and walked alongside it, the train would not have overtaken him. Ruben chuckled to himself and thought, Ah, the President.”
Then, on the yacht:
“They met the President on the first day. He wore dark sunglasses, smiled, and shook each man’s hand. The men, in turn, said their name, where they came from. “Ruben Marić,” said Ruben, his hand clammy with nerves. “From the southern region. I run the President Shop and am the keeper of the Golden Statue. I was in the Third Brigade, an artillery man.” “Ah,” said the President, “what a pleasure to meet you.” To the next man, from the center of the country, a military officer, the President said, “Ah, what a pleasure to meet you.”
Ruben watched the President. He was a great man, Ruben thought. He had not hoped to talk to the President, like a pal might. He had known that this trip was about something else, about instilling a sense of unity. But the President did not seem well. His movements were cumbersome. It had been speculated that he had coronary disease, and that one of his legs had thrombosis, which was evidently the case, since the old man had a cane and a heavy limp. Ruben felt a weight in his heart. The President, this great man, is as fragile as the rest of us, Ruben thought. He knew, of course, that the President had been wounded in the war by a German air strike, and that had it not been for the President’s dog, Rex”—a German shepherd by the way—“who threw himself on his master and thus saved his life, the man who built the Nation would not be standing there, on the thick teal carpet of the…reception area. For that matter, the Nation would not be there. (…) And the President had done some excellent things for the Nation, had given them jobs, raised literacy, built roads, all in the name of raising the Nation to be of a top class, a World Standard Nation, and at this Ruben felt his chest swell with pride. But Ruben was looking at an old man, a marvelous old man, but a man who had evidently enjoyed the last two or three decades with rich food, rich clothes, all kinds of luxuries. His hands were manicured, his clothes immaculate; the President was known for his great taste in clothing, even as a young man, and it had long been clear in his choice of suits and uniforms that he liked to dress well. But it was a far cry from the image of the young soldier that Ruben so admired. (…) he…felt uneasy, he realized as he stood aboard the luxury yacht, about witnessing things that were a world away from the idea of the struggle that was at the heart of the Nation, the struggle against Evil, the struggle for Good, the struggle for Unity, the struggle for Brotherhood, against Fascism, all those values that Ruben was willing to fight for and give his life for, then and now.”
Walk with Tito
DANIJELA MATIJEVIĆ: I’m part of the new generation, which can try to look at Yugoslavia more objectively, like what were Yugoslavia’s good points and what was Yugoslavia’s bad points. So try to be not so passionate about it, so try to have this a little bit more rational approach.
PETER KORCHNAK: Danijela Matijević is a lifelong Zagreber. She’s a political scientist, journalist, and tour guide. She is the founder of Walk with Tito, a walking tour of Zagreb with the focus on socialist Yugoslavia’s heritage.
Born in 1982, Matijević’s lived experience and memory of Yugoslavia is as a child. Her grandparents were in the Partisans and told her stories about that. So family heritage is part of the reason why she started Walk with Tito.
In addition Walk with Tito also sprang from that wonderful Balkan trait of inat, which is an untranslatable word that means roughly spite, but with an element of hard-headedness, defiance, even prickliness. Or, perhaps, she’s channeling Tito the adventurous rebel. At any rate, in 2017, Zagreb authorities renamed the Marshal Tito Square, to the Republic of Croatia Square, despite popular opposition. Matijević took umbrage and did something about it.
DANIJELA MATIJEVIĆ: I was rebellious about it. Okay, now you took the name of the Marshal Tito and now I will give Zagreb [a] tour with Tito’s name. So this was originally how Walk with Tito was created.
For me, I’m not so dogmatic. I don’t even think— it doesn’t necessarily have to have Tito’s name, but the way it was changed and, you know, it was really like very unsophisticated, very revisionist.
PETER KORCHNAK: As befits the revolutionary it traces across town, the tour also aims to counter historical revisionism that’s been ongoing in Croatia about the World War II and socialist periods. I’ve already dedicated some space to this on the podcast, check out the archives.
DANIJELA MATIJEVIĆ: I wanted to do something that it was not done in Croatia. In cultural tourism in Croatia we don’t have this topic we don’t have Tito tour, we don’t talk about Tito’s legacy, nobody talks about it. Because you cannot deny the fact you really, somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but never before and never after Tito we didn’t have such a political historical and revolutionary figure in the Balkans. And really his life story is remarkable.
PETER KORCHNAK: Whereas accounts of Tito’s life generally focus on the period of socialist Yugoslavia, Matijević covers the periods of Tito’s life that are connected to Zagreb, in the interwar period, during World War Two, and afterward.
DANIJELA MATIJEVIĆ: This is like a story about Tito and antifascist Zagreb during the Nazi puppet stage regime of independent, so called Independent State of Croatia, and all that the anti fascist and communist people did under this four years. So it’s a two layered story. One is consistent to Tito all the times when he was in Zagreb, organized the Communist Party when he organized protests, socialist and activist stuff, and so on.
We have the revolutionary story and then we have personal history because like, I don’t know, for example, what tourists or domestic people can can find out is like, in 1920, Tito came to Zagreb, after the Russia when he got back from the prison in Russia after the second, the First World War. And then he got here with his first wife, Pelagia Belousova, and their, their child. All the places where he worked, how he was part of the workers movement, and all the steps that he did to climb up in the hierarchy of the Communist Party.
PETER KORCHNAK: The Communist Party was banned in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes so these activities were clandestine, teaching Tito the survival skills of eluding capture, changing residences and the like, living in prison after he was captured, and so forth.
DANIJELA MATIJEVIĆ: And the second layer, his private life, he can have several women. As he lived very adventurously in this communist revolutionary way, he also lives very adventurously in his private live as well.
I try not to simplify it. I really object to simplification of such a big important your topics as was the First World War, then the creation of fascism, then creation of socialist and communist movement and like the Second World War, then the partisan army, Josip Broz Tito. Okay, of course, this is a touristic tool, it’s not like PhD.
PETER KORCHNAK: The Walk with Tito tour lasts two hours and makes ten stops. At the Croatian State Archives, for example, Matijević discusses the split with Stalin.
You can book the tour at walkwithtito.com. The tour meets at the Meštrović Pavilion, home of the Croatian Society of Fine Artists, on the Victims of Fascism Square.
As you’d expect, most people who take the tour are foreign tourists. Also unsurprisingly, Matijević gets a lot of online hate mail, from the confused folks on the far right, who, among other things, falsely accuse her of being an agent of and being paid by the Croatian left.
DANIJELA MATIJEVIĆ: This is like personal my initiative, my money. And I’m not part of any member political mandate.
PETER KORCHNAK: Aha, yeah, your money and Soros’s money.
DANIJELA MATIJEVIĆ: Yeah, put it on Tito. If Tito doesn’t bring your wealth, then nobody will. I’m really betting, I’m betting on an old man.
PETER KORCHNAK: A lot of people throughout history have bet on Tito, from the Partisans to the leaders of Nonaligned Movement countries to all the Titostalgics, or rather people capitalizing on Titostalgia who put the man’s face on swag.
People tend to project onto Tito, or his image, their own wishes and desires and regrets and memories. Try as I might to pinpoint his personality, his character traits, I might just always come up with a secondhand image, a story, a signifier that has long been disconnected from the signified. He created and projected a persona, an image to achieve his personal and political goals, and hid his true self all too well. Like a good actor, Josip Broz played the character of Tito so well, the real person was always buried under layers of charm, charisma, and clothes.
So perhaps Tito’s most enduring character trait is that, far beyond his grave, he keeps us guessing so that we can keep spilling seas of stories about him.
[BACKGROUND MUSIC – “Rainmaker” by Petar Alargić]
PETER KORCHNAK: Next on Remembering Yugoslavia:
TEA HADŽIRISTIĆ: So we’ll have one school for Muslims or Bosniaks and one school for Croats. And you know, we’ll just keep it separate. And that way, no one will be afraid to send their kids to school. This is a peacekeeping measure.
PETER KORCHNAK: Children in parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina attend segregated schools. Why is that? What does it do to the society? And how can it be fixed? On the next episode of Remembering Yugoslavia: two schools under one roof in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
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[OUTRO MUSIC – “Jugoslavijo / Od Vardara pa do Triglava” by Horn Orchestra]
PETER KORCHNAK: That’s all for this episode of Remembering Yugoslavia, thank you for listening. Find additional information and the transcript of this episode at RememberingYugoslavia.com/Podcast.
I am Peter Korchňak.