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January 29th Cinema Komunisto, the impressive documentary of young Serbian director Mila Turajlic , will premiere in Belgrade…

At the latest edition of the IDFA festival in Amsterdam, the movie was shown in avant-premiere, only four days after the final touches were made to the definite cut, to the international movie industry and press. By which it was received with a very warm welcome, given (e.g.) the fact that Brian Brooks from indieWIRE spotted the film as a candidate for the Sundance Festival, and Rivetingpicturtes from Chicago USA noting on her cinema blog: “Cinema Komunisto is a thoroughly and exhaustively researched film about Josip Broz Tito and his passion for movies. (…) Filmmaker Mila Turajlic spent 5 years researching archival films to put the doc together and it shows. (…). It’s an incredible piece of historical documentary filmmaking that is also an engaging and fascinating story.”

IFA-reporter Serge van Duijnhoven, a former war correspondent in ex-Yugoslavia during the violent nineties, interviewed the young and extremely gifted director during the avant-premiere in Amsterdam. It became a revealing talk about the meaning of cinema, the grand illusion of the communist filmstudios and the country they were made in, about the curse of not learning from one’s history and the envy for a former generation who had the privilige to live in the decors of this sublime illusion where still everything seemed possible and promising. Cinema Komunisto explores the myth that created Yugoslavia, President Tito, the man who directed this fictional story, and how the image and the reality diverged until it all collapsed, leaving behind rotting sets and film clips from a country that no longer exists.

After January 29th, the documentary will be shown at various major movie festivals around the world.


Mila Turajlic was born in Belgrade, Serbia in 1979. Bsc in Politics and International Relations, London School of Economics. BA in Film and TV Production, Faculty of Dramatics Arts in Belgrade. MSc  in Media and Communications at the London School of Economics

Interview took place at the IDFA 2010, Wednesday nov 25th – at Arti et Amicitiae Amsterdam and Pathé Cinema Muntplein16-17h

© Serge van Duijnhoven, IFA 2010/11 – all rights reserved

SvD: You were born one year before Tito died. Did it take somebody of your generation to make such an un-biased documentary about the legacy of cinema and culture that was produced during the communist era of Marshall Tito?

Mila T.: Well… in the first ten years after his death, Tito was still very much alive everywhere in the country where I grew up in. He was still on our classroom walls. We had to celebrate his birthday every year. The change was that after 1991, Tito was suddenly completely erased from everyday life. Almost overnight they took his pics of the wall, changed  them for Milosevic and Saint Sava. He became almost unrecognizable for people even younger than me. They did not know who Tito was anymore. Throughout the nineties and until 2007 you could not find out so much about life in Yugoslavia. And for me it was like when you grow up and you have a very distant memory of it from your childood, and you have a very strong wish to go back to that place and see it again. Because it is not very clear to you. You kind of smell it, but it is gone. And so I really wanted to go back to Yugoslavia. And the only way I could really go back to Yugoslavia, was by watching all those old Yugoslav films. Through them you could really feel the old Yugoslavia. It was a big motivation for me to try and find that country again.

Entrance Gate of Avala Studios in Belgrade

SvD: Did you do this with mainly a cinematographical or a historical interest?

Mila T.: Both. The real motivation for me to make this movie, was when I went to the Avala Movie Studios for the first time. It was during the 1999 Nato bombings, I was studying at Film School, I walked through the opening gate, and it was like walking into a secret garden. I looked behind a wall, and suddenly a whole world was revealed that I had never known existed. . It was immense, a ghost town of abandoned and rotting sets, out-of-date equipment, empty film lots and unemployed technicians. And nobody had ever told me anything about it. Everything was gone, and at the same time still there. The costumes, decors, everything was still in its place. Films had not been made there for almost twenty years. But there were still about a hundred people employed in the studios. Getting a salary. Doing  whatever they wanted to do. Smoking, drinking, talking, making objects of wood or clothes… It was incredible. It felt like a ghost town. I really got the urge right there, to further explore this forgetten Walhalla of film and of all those magnificent movies that were made there during communist Times. But when I started to do research I discovered that there was no proper book about Abala Films Studios. No film ever made. No study done into its meaning or history. No proper archive. There is nothing you can find about the films that were made there. One night I got to this point where I clearly realized that the filmstudios were a metaphore for how Yugoslavia was created and for how Yugoslavia collapsed. From the end of the Second World War the Story of Yugoslavia was given a visual form in the creation of Yugoslav cinema. In a sense the Avala Film studios are the birthplace of the Yugoslav illusion. For me they represent a promising point of departure – that collapsing film sets can reveal something about the collapse of the scenography we were living in. I realised that one could make a whole history of Yugoslavia through the story of these very filmstudios. Because the way they made films is kind of the same as the way they made the country. Yugoslavia ultimately was – as well as these magnificent films that were made there – one grand illusion.  A big story. With Tito as a storyteller.  That’s basically what he did. Tito told the Yugoslav people a really good story. A story people wanted to live in. And when the story-teller died, the country collapsed.

Private screening of movies at Tito’s residence. Jovanka, Tito. Left behind: Leka the personal projector of the marshall.

SvD: Everything connected to the period leading up to the secessional wars of former Yugoslavia, is charged with a heavy load of symbolism. Did it take somebody like you, from a younger generation, to value the things that were to be valued in a more unbiased way?

Mila T.: Indeed I enter this story as a member of a new generation of Yugoslav filmmakers, one that has hazy memories of a country that no longer exists. We come of age surrounded by the ruins of something that is nostalgically referred to as a golden era, but no one has yet offered me a satisfactory insight into how it was all thrown away. We were born too late, and missed that party, but we arrived in time to pay the bill for it. I dont have a stake in offending, accusing Tito or in defending Tito.  In that sense, I really have the liberty to step away and say hey this is a really good story. A funny story, a tragic story. And a story through which one can begin to understand some things better. I am less interested in how the older generations will perceive my movie – they are fucked up anyway. I am more interested in how my and even younger generations will perceive it. How we see it, who did not really get to go to the party. And when studying the archives, it is a proven fact that those older generations were definitely living much better than in other countries reckoned to be part of the Eastern Block or communist Europe. In Slovenia it is very probable that our documentary will be better or at least much differently received than in some other parts of the former Yugoslavia that suffered a lot in the nineties. In Slovenia Tito has grown to be some kind of Che Guevara or pop cultural icon than an austere historical figure. But in Bosnia or Croatia, I know we are going to get very devided opinions. And also in Serbia proper…Absolutely. It is going to be long, long journey with this film. No doubt about it.

Projector Leka at Tito’s statue: the marshall always at one’s right side

SvD: Tell me something about the esthetical point of view regarding your movie.  It is a very intricate working process that you used, with many layers.

Mila T.: One thing I decided very early on was that I wanted to try and use these filmclips of relevance in a way people dont usually use them.  I knew immediately that I wanted my main characters to communicate with the films. And the characters in the film to communicate between them. So I wanted to make this kind of dialogue between the present  and the filmclips and in between the different films, because it would help you see these films in a new light. It helps you to look through the image as well as at the image. And another thing I knew I wanted to do immediately, is use feature films to tell the history. So my whole idea was: can we tell the history of Yugoslavia only through scenes from feature films, without using archives. And for the most part we managed to do that. And when you really put together all these movies that were made in Yugoslavia, you actually get a really good time line of the history of Yugoslavia. Of how it was told on screen. So you get both the history and you get how they chose to tell the history. And once I started doing that, I started to collect films. I managed to find 300 of them that were relevant. Then I started to make a database with them. I watched the film, and then as I watched it I noted the timecode and what was happening. The dialogues, the scenes. Then I would choose the parts of the film that I found very interesting. I would rip them into a moviefile. And then I would make in a database a small card for it. Give the clips a name. Who you see in it. Close up or mass scene. If there is a dialogue.  Funny death. Love. Partisan-German theme Etc. I had about a thousand fivehundred clips in the end. And we used that a lot in the editing to find things. Cause my editor would say to me: now it would be great if we would have two partizans talking about the new Yugoslavia. I would enter New Yugoslavia, and I would find twenty or thirty clips where we would have that. This process of selection and categorization took about two to three years. The editing took one year. The whole movie took us four years to make.

What I focussed on in my documentary, were films that play a part in creating an official narative  of the former Yugoslavia. It was a very known fact that Tito loved cinema and watched a lot of movies. But I wanted to go beyond the anecdotes. I wanted to go down into the story or reality behind these anecdotes. That is why the process of making the documentary was like a detective story in itself. I had to find the traces and evidence of a myth that was once supposed to be real but that had evaporated into air. I found some very powerful and telling traces. Living and material. I found them in the archives. I found them in the people I portray in my movie as main characters of the plot. For example, the main private cinema-projector of Tito who was on standby for 24 hours during thirty years and each day had to choose and project interesting movies for the marshall and his wife in their residences or even during their travels on the Galeb. I found the proof that Tito was very much actively involved in the way Yugoslav epic movies were coming together. I found Tito’s handwriting on some of the scripts scribbling instructions to the directors: a little bit more of this, a little bit less of that. This scene is not accurate, this is how it really was… About 750 movies were shot and produced at the Abala studios during Tito’s regime. Of this huge amount about 300 covered the partizan genre of the second World War and the slavic people resisting the Italian and German occupation. Of those 300 films you only see Tito in one film in a very clever way through archive. And then you see him once again in 1971. Tito did not allow to be shown in these films, as a matter of principle. What is the reason of this? I have no idea.

SvD: In your movie there is a very interesting and revealing fragment of Tito in the company of Richard Burton, on the set of Sutjeska in 1972, talking in rudimentary English, and making a little joke about the airplanes flying over during an intricate movie-scene tip-toeing their wings (“The Germans did not greet us after the bombing, back then! “). And when the joke is made, Burton laughs and waves his head away – distracted by something or somebody else – even though we see Tito still wanting  to finish his joke or add some other comment to the Hollywood actor.

Mila T.: For me, this very scene is the most incredible moment of archive in the movie. At this very moment everything seems to tumble topsy turvy. Suddenly it is not the dictator who is the main star on the set. It is Burton who is the star. Tito becomes like a little shy boy who wants to say something else to the great actor who is standing in his vicinity.  A really incredible moment. And one of the rare if not only instances recorded on film in which we see Tito not as the president, Marshall, war hero or world leader. But as a humbled little child aspiring to be near the world of stardom and fame. It is a moment of revealing truth, almost transcendency. To all people who saw this scene, it sent shivers to their spine.

SvD: Another revealing moment is the one in which we see Orson Welles praising Marshall Tito in the most superlative way imaginable, saying: “If one chooses to determine greatness in a man by leadership, it is a self-evident fact that Tito is the greatest leader on earth.” Was this after Welles had drunk one or several bottles of stara srbska slivovica or croatian stock?

Mila T.: Not at all. Orson Welles had a longstanding relationship with Yugoslavia, which begins in 1924 when world traveler Welles was only nine years old and taken to Dubrovnik by his father, Richard Welles. During the war, Welles was one of the  very first public figures to argue that not the cetniks but the partizans deserved US support in their struggle against the fascists of Mussolini and Hitler. The country furthermore played an important part as well in Welles professional career as his private life, since it became the place where he would not only film The Trial and play in roles in David and Goliath, The Tartars, and Austerlitz (1959-1962), but would also meet his muse and longtime companion Oja Kodar. Between the years 1967 and 1970, Welles would again find himself based in Yugoslavia, (and welcomed by President Tito), while he was filming his own projects in that country, including The Deep and the The Merchant of Venice. Welles appeared as an actor in The Battle of Neretva, which was magnificently scored by his longtime friend, Bernard Herrmann.

Orson Welles came back to Yugoslavia in 1967 to picture Dead Reckoning starring Jeanne Moreau, he sincerely believed  that it was this left wing paradise, the exemple of how you could create a successfull socialist alternative to a capitalist state.

The other and foremost reason Welles favored Yugoslavia was that he had found out that directors could get money there to make films. That the state would support directors in inequivocal ways to realize bigger productions for which loads of material, actors, extra’s and props had to be mobilized, catered and furnished with lodging… Orson Welles came to Avala and offered to make two movies at the studios at the same time. To shoot one film in the morning and the other in the afternoon. I think Orson Welles had a very simplistic view of the hero-partizans and Yugoslav-communism embodied by Tito, but I also think it suited him. Let us not forget that Orson Welles was among the very first to publicly argue that the USA should offer support to the partizans instead of the cetniks in the battle against the fascist occupiers. The comment in honour of the Marshall is very genuine, in the sense that Welles probably really thought that of Tito. Furthermore he might have said it so explicitly, because it might help him realize some of his projects he could not get done elsewhere.

Orson Welles and Josip Broz Tito

SvD; one thing that is extraordinarily touching in your movie is the decay of the Avala studios that is reveiled to the viewer in all its monstrosity toward the end of the story. These shocking images of the rubbles to which this once so illustrous place of cinematographical devotion has fallen to, are the sad and unmistakable climax of the movie.

MilaT.: It is sad, isn’t it? Avala Films is now up for sale – and will most likely be torn down to build an elite business complex. As the studios disappear, I am not convinced that the best way to move forward is to pretend the past never happened.

SvD: “The house we were living in, was bound to explode”, one can hear the sad voice of one of the main characters whisper towards the end of the movie. Was this  confrontation with the ruins of one’s own childhood house, the sentimental focuspoint you were aiming for from the beginning of the movie?

Mila T.:  My overall feeling that is portrayed in my movie, is not one of nostalgia but one of deep sadness. The decay in the filmstudios is a very visual and very physical manifestation of what I feel inside. Here lies something grand that is now literarally rotting away. Somehting glorious that nobody cares about. Those ruins are our tragedy. I mean it is a tragic urge to which us Serbs are enclined over and over again. The fact that we so stubbornly want to erase the past at a given moment, and that we destroy what was built up during years of work, in order to start from scratch all over again. The partizans erased the past to start carte blanche a new era in Yugoslav history from 1945. Milosevic erased the partizans and started from zero in 1991. The Democrats erased Milosevic and started again from zero in 2000.  We are never building on top of things. We are never reaping what we sawed in a positive way. We are always destroying to start again from zero point scratch.

SvD: Is it a Serbian curse, not to learn from its past?

Mila T.: A curse it is. As well as a compulsiveness. Absolutely, yes.  Destroying the past in the name of a new beginning has become the hallmark of our history, and each new break with the past requires it’s re-writing. I can’t say I feel nostalgia for Yusoslavia because I was born too late to see it. And I can’t really say I feel nostalgia for Tito and his communist dogmas. But there is a very strong feeling in me that our parents and grandparents were lucky because they lived in a country that really had an idea, a purpose and an urgency. An idea of whom they wanted to be and belong to as a society, as a country. It gave the Yugoslav people a great sense of direction and purpose of living. I envy them fort hat. Because we live in a country (Serbia) where fifty percent of the people think that Milosevic was a war hero. And fifty percent think he was a war criminal. Fifty percent would be willing to start a new war in order to gain back Kosovo, and fifty percent think we should face reality and work on our future, fifty percent of the people think the future of Serbia lies within the EU and fifty percent of the country believes the EU can fuck off because Europe bombed the hell out of Yugoslavia a decade ago. So we are a completely devided society that has no consensus. About who we are, where we came from, what we did in the nineties, and where we need to go. If there is one thing Serbia could learn and benefit from, it is from this “let’s-do-this” mentality of the Yugoslav era. If there is one thing Serbia would really need at the moment, it is a shared sense of hope and a common direction in which to proceed. So that we could finally overcome our  division and strive that make our country such a lethargic place of poverty and inefficiency. Even to build a highway, the famous corridor 10 which would connect Europe to Greece through Serbia, proved impossible for us.

© Serge van Duijnhoven, IFA 2010/2011. All rights reserved.

Filmposter La Bataille de Neretva, painted by Picasso


Bircaninova 20a
11000 Belgrade
Tel/Fax: +381 11 3619 709



Technical notes

Country of origin: SERBIA
Year of production: 2010
Running time: 100 mins, 2 x 52 mins
Format: HDCam and DigiBETA, 16:9 aspect ratio, color
Language: in Serbian with English subtitles
Filming locations: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia

Credits list

Written & Directed by MILA TURAJLIC




Director of Photography GORAN KOVACEVIC



Graphic designer JELENA SANADER


Additional camera JELENA STANKOVIC

Archive research MILA TURAJLIC




With the financing support of





Developed within the framework of





DE ZEEMEEUW VAN TITO – Het vlaggenschip van de laatste leider van De Derde Weg

Tijdens Tito’s leven bood de Galeb plaats aan ontmoetingen en conferenties. Nu ligt het voormalige vlaggenschip van de Joegoslavische marine te roesten aan een afgelegen kade op een scheepswerf in Rijeka. Van het luxe, luisterrijke jacht van maarschalk Josip Broz is weinig anders over dan een drijvende hoop schroot. Toch is dat velen nog teveel. Het schip blijft hoe dan ook een ankerpunt voor de geschiedenis van een natie die aan broederstrijd en etnische twisten teloor is gegaan.

door Serge van Duijnhoven

De Kroatische schipper en oorlogsveteraan Marko Maroje weet het zeker: het was Josip Broz Tito die in 1995, op een mistige Sint-Jozefsdag, voor de kust van San Vincenzo langszij kwam aangemeerd op zijn imposante vlaggenschip de Galeb (‘meeuw’ of ‘zeemeeuw’). Ten overstaan van de verzamelde pers in Zagreb hield Maroje het ijzerenheinig vol: ‘Tito zag er schitterend en sterk uit. Hij stond op de plecht van zijn schip, met een sigaar in zijn hand. We praatten een tijdje. Hij vroeg: “Hoe staat het er bij jullie nu voor?” Ik antwoordde: “Niet zo goed, maarschalk.”’ Later vertelt Maroje dat iedereen hem voor gek verklaarde: ‘En journalisten vroegen of ik ook Benito Mussolini of Ante Pavelic heb zien rondvaren. Die twee fascistische dwazen, die ons land verpachtten aan de Italianen en de Duitsers! Nee, het was Tito, en hij alleen, meester van zijn tijd.’

Regisseur Vinko Bresan gebruikte in 1999 deze Tito-verschijning als basis voor de komische speelfilm Marsal. Die was enkele jaren geleden ook op de Nederlandse televisie te zien.

Nog altijd verklaren de dorpsbewoners van San Vincenzo de man en zijn graatmagere vrouw geschift. Regisseur Bresan filmde op locatie en gebruikte Maroje’s okerkleurige villa als psychiatrische kliniek. Dorpsbewoners die het gekkenhuis passeren wijzen met een vinger gniffelend naar hun voorhoofd. ‘Ze lachen ons uit!’ verklaart Maroje’s vinnige vrouw met rasperige stem, ‘omdat die dwazen van de film verzuimden de verf van ons huis te halen waarin het woord “gekkenhuis” staat gespeld.’

Maroje heeft Tito één keer in het echt ontmoet, toen hij begin jaren zeventig als officier in opleiding dienst deed bij de Joegoslavische marine. Maroje wordt nog altijd lyrisch als hij de inrichting van het schip beschrijft: ‘Het was geen schip zoals andere oorlogsschepen. Het jacht had grandeur. Het was het paradepaardje van ons land. Perzische tapijten, gecapitonneerde plafonds, notenhouten meubilair, gouden schalen, zilveren bestek, porseleinen serviesgoed. In die tijd kon ik mijn ogen nauwelijks geloven. Een kamer was ingericht ter herinnering aan de staatsmannen die de boot hadden bezocht, net als acteurs, musici, kunstenaars, sportlieden en schaakgrootmeesters. Hun namen stonden op platen gegraveerd in de centrale ballroom op het tweede dek. Daar stond ook de vleugelpiano waarop Tito zelf af en toe speelde.’

Tito inspecteert de bemanningh van de Galeb

Een generatie geleden was de Galeb nog een van de meest luisterrijke en luxueuze jachten in de wereld. Tito verwelkomde er sterren en staatslieden als Gandhi, Nasser, Kadafi, Castro, Churchill, Chroesjtsjov en filmsterren als Elisabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sophia Loren en Marilyn Monroe. Vandaag de dag is het 1930 ton wegende en 117 meter lange luxejacht een drijvende, roestende schroothoop. Wat ooit de varende trots was van de federale staat Joegoslavië is allengs verworden tot een symbool voor de puinhopen van een verdeeld land. Het verlaten dek en de lekkende chartrooms vormen een even levendige als pijnlijke herinnering aan de dramatische wijze waarop het land sinds 1991 in enkele burgeroorlogen uiteen is gevallen in steeds kleinere snipperstaten en (schijn)republiekjes.

Tito poseert lezend op de Galeb

De geschiedenis van het in 1938 als bananencargo in gebruik genomen schip is net zo grillig als de levensloop van de communistische partizanenleider die na de Tweede Wereldoorlog het heft in handen nam. In de Tweede Wereldoorlog werd het schip door de nazi’s gebruikt als mijnenjager in de Adriatische Zee. Het werd verscheidene keren getorpedeerd en in 1944 werd het schip zelfs door de Engelse luchtmacht tot zinken gebracht voor de haven van Rijeka. Tito liet het enkele jaren later weer boven water takelen en bouwde het om tot het vlaggenschip van zijn vloot. Hij legde er staatsbezoeken mee af. In 1953 deed hij met de Galeb de havens van Londen en Den Helder aan. Tijdens een luxebanket met een aansluitende ballroomparty liet hij de Hertog van Edinburgh en prins Bernhard aan boord.

Het schip speelde ook een cruciale rol bij de vorming van de Beweging van de Derde Weg. Tito legde tijdens diverse internationale conferenties de fundamenten van de Liga van Ongebonden Landen, die een onafhankelijke koers wilde varen tussen het kapitalistische Westen en het communistische sovjetimperium. De entourage van zijn varende luxepaleis diende in internationale wateren als neutrale grond voor topontmoetingen van deze landen van de Derde Weg. Legio zijn de verhalen over deze in alcohol, muziek, gok- en schaakspelen gedrenkte conferenties.

Tito en Nasser gaan aan boord van de Galeb

Het schip dat nu in Rijeka’s haven ligt te roesten, wordt omgeven door een zweem van nostalgie naar de relatieve welvaart van een voorgoed voorbije periode. Een periode waarin Joegoslavië meer dan twintig miljoen inwoners telde en een rol van betekenis speelde in het perverse schaakspel tussen Oost en West. Zelfs een Kroatische nationalist als Marko Maroje moet erkennen: in de tijd van Tito was het goed leven in Joegoslavië.

Galeb verkommerend in de haven van Rijeka 26 augustus 2009

Elf jaar na de dood van Tito spatte de Federale Republiek van Joegoslavië uiteen als het kadaver van een aangespoelde walvis. En alsof het werd meegezogen in de slachtingen waarmee dat gepaard ging, onderging het schip sindsdien een schrijnende verwaarlozing. In de haven van Rijeka ligt het jacht er triest en kaalgeplunderd bij, net als de verpauperde rompstaatjes Macedonië, Servië, Montenegro en Kosovo, die openbare uitverkoop houden van grond, kapitaal en grondstoffen. De boot wacht op een nieuwe eigenaar die bereid is in het schip te investeren om het van de ondergang te redden. De republieken, op hun beurt, wachten vol spanning af, in fatalistische lethargie of opgeblazen trots, of de Europese Unie of de Navo ze uit hun ellendige isolement zal komen redden. Ook de roem van Josip Broz Tito, de oude oorlogsheld die uitgroeide tot een wereldwijd gerespecteerd staatshoofd, ligt in de haven van Rijeka te grabbel. Vanaf de pier vertrekken iedere dag excursies naar het strafeiland Goli Otok (letterlijk ‘het naakte eiland’), waar Tito zijn politieke vijanden in de blote zon stenen liet hakken tot ze erbij neervielen. Veel ouderen als Maroje voelen heimwee naar de tijden van de sluwe vos, maar worden door een ander deel van de voormalige republiek uitgemaakt voor ‘vuile Joego-nostalgist’. Door hem als bovennatuurlijk te portretteren steekt de website (niet toevallig uit Slovenië, de enige deelrepubliek die het goed gaat sinds de boedelscheiding) de draak met de socialistische dictator. Tussen alle archaïsche vooruitgangsretoriek uit zijn tijd is op een van de foto’s op de site te zien hoe Tito in een speedboot op weg is naar zijn jacht voor een nieuwe wereldreis langs de continenten.

Terwijl hij in zijn jeep naar de mistroostige industriële werf Viktor Lenac rijdt, vertelt scheepsingenieur Branko Rankovic enthousiast over de roemrijke geschiedenis van het schip: ‘Het was een symbool voor vrede en ongebondenheid in de hele wereld. Het is een vredesboot; een brod za mir.’ De ingenieur is belast met de taak om van de afgedankte Galeb opnieuw een luxejacht te maken voor de rijken van deze aarde. Aanvankelijk gaf de Griekse zakenman John Paul Papanicolaou hem daartoe opdracht. Eerder al liet hij het oude jacht de Christina Onassis omkatten, om het daarna voor een tienvoudig bedrag aan een miljardair in Engeland te verkopen. Met de Galeb wilde hij hetzelfde doen. Wat er precies tussen is gekomen, blijft een raadsel. Inmiddels is de achterstallige havenbelasting opgelopen tot bijna zeshonderdduizend euro. De werf is daarom een procedure gestart, geholpen door de handelsrechtbank van Rijeka, die ertoe moet leiden dat het schip zal worden geveild. ‘Het ergste is als het schip op de schroothoop belandt’, zegt de scheepsingenieur. ‘Daar is het schip historisch gezien te relevant voor.’

Met de bergen rechts en metershoge kranen linksboven komt plotseling de Zeemeeuw in zicht, vastgeketend in helder water. Het grijsgroene schip ziet eruit alsof het zojuist van de bodem van de zee getakeld is. ‘Toch is alles in de boot nog intact’, verzekert ingenieur Rankovic, ‘en precies bewaard gebleven zoals 25 jaar geleden. De kajuit van Tito en Jovanka, de chartrooms en de ballroom, alles is onaangeraakt. Het schip is alleen van buiten vervallen. Nog maar zes jaar geleden is de boot op eigen kracht van Montenegro naar Rijeka gevaren. Dus het hoeft niet lang te duren om het schip ook nu weer zeewaardig te maken.’ Rankovic wijst op de Fiat twin diesel engine die het schip zijn stuwkracht geeft: ‘Het schip haalt nog altijd twintig knopen.’ In de grote vergaderzaal staat vandaag enkel nog een lange ovale tafel. Een vaalgrijs tapijtje bedekt de grond. In de andere vertrekken van de boot druppelt het regenwater langs de wanden, langs scheuren en vochtplekken, terwijl een zware vochtige lucht bezoekers op de keel slaat. In de ooit luxueuze kajuit van Tito en zijn eega Jovanka bevinden zich alleen nog twee ijzeren bedden en een houten kast met lege laden. ‘Het is alsof je in een tijdmachine terecht bent gekomen’, mijmert Rankovic.

Net als de burgemeester van Rijeka vindt Rankovic dat de Galeb een museum moet worden. Daarvoor hoeft hij ook niet zeewaardig worden gemaakt: ‘Een likje verf, wat nieuwe meubels en klaar is Kees.’ Ook Maroje, de man met het Tito-visioen, ziet zo’n museum wel zitten, net als andere veteranen uit het voormalige Joegoslavische leger. Maar het is allerminst zeker of het museum er zal komen. Drie jaar geleden werd de Galeb nog voor zes miljoen dollar te koop aangeboden, onder meer via de website Vorige maand is de basisprijs door de havenautoriteiten van Rijeka vastgesteld op 150.000 euro. Kroatische nationalisten en de oude gevangenen van Goli Otok zijn er op uit het schip voor een spotprijs te kopen en vervolgens naar de schroothoop te brengen, om museale Joego-nostalgie geen kans te geven.

De woordvoerder van het ministerie van Cultuur bevestigt dat het schip inmiddels tot nationaal cultureel erfgoed is verheven, maar zegt dat het ministerie het schip niet zal kopen: ‘De enige die het schip zal kunnen kopen is de stad Rijeka.’ In het gemeentehuis op de brede Korso-boulevard in het centrum van de stad verklaart de burgemeester met galmende stem dat het schip te belangrijk is voor de schroothoop: ‘Alleen al omdat zes brandweermannen van onze stad hun leven hebben gegeven bij het blussen van de Galeb, toen die tijdens beschietingen in de Tweede Wereldoorlog in brand vloog.’

De voormalige oppermachinist van de Galeb, de tachtigjarige kapitein Dusan Milic, zegt dat men het schip willens en wetens heeft laten verkommeren: ‘Het schip werd zestien jaar lang zelfs niet eens geverfd!’ Het is zijn droom om, vijftig jaar na zijn diensttijd op de Galeb, nog één keer terug te mogen keren naar de plecht van het jacht en de machinekamer opnieuw te betreden. ‘Tuzjno!’ mijmert hij. ‘Het is triest dat de Galeb er nu zo aan toe is. Maar het is niet te laat. We zouden gewoon met de oude crew samen moeten komen, dan zouden we de motoren in een vloek en een zucht weer aan de praat krijgen. Dan varen we met het schip direct de haven uit.’ Op weg naar het verleden.

Dit artikel kwam tot stand met steun van het Fonds Bijzondere Journalistieke Projecten. Alsmede met steun van Vlatka Simac, die de auteur tijdens zijn onderzoek in Rijeka als researcher en vertaler terzijde stond. Zonder haar voortvarende hulp had ik dit verhaal nimmer kunnen optekenen (in weekblad De Groene Amsterdammer), noch op geluidsband kunnen vastleggen (voor het geschiedenisprogramma OVT van VPRO Radio).

Photo courtesy

© 2010 Vladimir Tarnovski all rights reserved for the pictures as published in this article.

With courtesy also of Michael W. Pocock and

President Josip Broz Tito seen in Morocco, Galeb is seen in the background.
(Photo courtesy of Vladimir Tarnovski) 

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