Memorial complex Šušnjari
I) Air out of air
Mind out of mercy
Life out of time
Man without honour
II) The truth lies
Size of man
Seeds of life
In this place, there was a massacre of Serbs, Jews and people from other ethnic groups by the Ustaše during World War II. Several thousand people were killed. In the late 1960s, the process of properly marking this space began.
The board in charge of creating a memorial decided to invite Bogdan Bogdanovic, an architect from Belgrade, Vanja Radaus, an academic sculptor from Zagreb, and academic sculptor Peter Krstic, from Sarajevo to submit tenders for a conceptual solution. Bogdan Bogdanovic's idea proposed a monument in the form of the Babylonian Tower, which was not acceptable to board members. Radaus proposed a solution with forms in the shape of human bones, which was rejected on the grounds that this would be gruesome for the families of those killed, and would encourage the hatred of visitors towards the killers. The third solution by Petra Kostic was accepted.
The area was turned into a memorial complex in 1971, when a finished monument to the victims was incorporated in its design. The monument is built in the form of abstract plastic, lined with aluminum plates at the height of 15 metres. Inside the memorial complex there are mounds and paths, leading to the central monument. Memorial plaques with the names of victims of fascism and fallen fighters of the People's Liberation Army of Yugoslavia (NOVJ) were placed around the mounds.
The monument suffered various damages during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the beginning of the war in 1992, a concrete Orthodox cross was erected with a note stating that the murdered were not atheists but believers. As part of this intervention memorial plaques the names of the fallen Muslim fighters were removed. At the same time, a memorial plaque was removed from the entrance to the complex and a large cross was placed there instead. In 2002 a clean up operation of the memorial area was launched, and on 7 July 2003 Šusnjar was declared a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is important to note that Šusnjer is the largest execution site in Sanski Most.
I must note that the memorial complex was neglected for more than 20 years. This was my third visit to the Šusnjar memorial complex as part of different projects. The first two visits took place before the commemorations, so the monument was completely at the mercy of nature. This visit was after the commemoration, so all the walkways and the surroundings of the monument were cleared and fit for purpose. The picture of the monument in decay sends a clear message that no one cares about it. It is made of expensive high quality material, so there is a possibility that it will be used as a scrap material. The elements which have caused substantial damage continue to be a serious threat to it.
The new narrative is certainly represented by the cross, although it is clear that other people of different persuasions or religious affiliations died there too. I'm faced with the question, don't we as a society really need a monument that talks about our relatively recent history and past? Are we really in a spiritual, moral and identity crisis?
The neglected monument talks about the culture of remembrance, of how much it is actually (un)represented in us. I make a comparison with Korcanica, which is in a worse and more neglected state, one of the sure reasons is proximity, but again we have a double interpretation. Nature is a mother in any case, and it can protect it from possible vandals with its beauty and strength, while again on the other hand if not nurtured it leads to decline and finally decay not only of monuments, concrete, but also our relatively recent history.
My message to future generations is that they treat monuments, places of suffering with care. I ask the authorities to introduce memorial complexes of this type into school literature, organise school excursions, trips. The media must also be more aggressive with its presence at similar sites.
III) Blood debt
To return to man
With faith in man
~ Borislav Marić