Keywords Change this

Yugoslavian Modernism, Monument

Project timeline

1980 – 1981


Monument & Memorial

Location Change this

Vraca Memorial Park
71000 Sarajevo
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Architect Change this


Article last edited by Bostjan on
October 27th, 2022

Vrača Memorial Park Change this

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
by Vladimir Dobrović Change this
1 of 14

Description Change this

Vrača Memorial Park is dedicated to the fallen fighters of the National Liberation War and victims of facism in Sarajevo in the years 1941 to 1945. It is located on a site of an Austro-Hungarian fortress, which will be later integrated into the new monument, and where Ustaše during WW2 shot over 11,000 Sarajevans. Among the victims there was a significant number of babies and children under 5 years old. As the Austro-Hungarian monarchy forcibly occupied, and later annexed, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878 by annexation decision at the Berlin Congress, the monarchy built a significant number of military fortifications on the slopes of Sarajevo mountains. One of the largest and most significant of such stone fortifications was built in 1898 on the slopes of Mount Trebević, in the area known as Vraca. The fortress was built as an observation point and is positioned at the southern entrance to Sarajevo, named vraca from the word vratca- a small gate. On April 6th 1941 Sarajevo fell into the hands of Axis Powers and was put under the command of the NDH (Independent State of Croatia) led by Ustaše military forces. Several weeks later, on July 23rd, Ustaše issued an order to immediately arrest all Jews and Serbs known or suspected of being communists. Vrače fortress was one of the mass killings places, which later also became a mass grave where victims of the facist terror were disposed. During WW2, 11 000 Sarajevans were brutally killed and thrown into the mass grave at Vraca. On April 6th 1995 Sarajevo was officially liberated from the Nazi and Ustaše occupiers by the Resistance movement, which was active throughout the war and led by Vladimir Perić, known as Valter.

In the former state, Vrača became a symbol of the suffering and resistance movement of Sarajevans fighting for the liberation of their city. Already in 1965, Sarajevo war hero and partisan Ratomir Dugonjić initiated the process to build a memorial in Vrače. However, due to a lack of funds, the international architectural competition for the new memorial park, happened only in the late 1970s. Thirteen projects were submitted, but none was awarded first prize. Vladimir Dobrović’s work, previously awarded second prize, was selected as the work that met most criteria defined in the competition brief. The works of Sarajevo sculptor Alija Kučukalić were added to Vladimir’s architectural concept, and the landscape was developed by the Croatian architect Aleksandar Maltarić. The construction began only in April 1980.

Vrača Memorial Park was officially opened on November 25th 1981, the Statehood Day of B&H and also day of the first ZAVNOBIH session in the Mrkonjić Grad where B&H was guaranteed equality within the Yugoslav Federation and confirming its administrative borders dating back to the Medieval Bosnia. Mayor of Sarajevo (1948-1955), Dane Olbina, stated in his inaugural speech: Only when I read the names of murdered children, our elderly fellow citizens, and especially the terrible fate of out Jewish fellow citizens, do you understand the true horror of facist terror. It covers over 78,000 m2, embodying several spatial units and elements: a pyramidal fountain with an eternal flame, a bronze sculpture commemorating female soldiers and partisans, a memorial monument to Josip Broz Tito, a granite sculpture representing the tombstone of the National Heroes with an ossuary, walls with names of thousands of innocent Sarajevo victims of Ustaše crimes, as well as a museum which was located in the aforementioned Austro-Hungarian fortress.

Structure of the Complex

1- Eternal Flame and Memorial Fountain: Positioned at the main entrance, it is intended to symbolize the entire Memorial Complex and act as a gathering place where the Eternal flame stands as a reminder to never forget the sacrifice made by the people of Sarajevo. By using two opposite ancient elements: water and fire, the symbolism of honouring heroes is insinuated.

2- Monument to female soldiers and partisans of the NOB: The bronze sculpture is depicting a woman with raised arms, looking towards the sky. It is believed that the sculpture was modelled off Radojka Lakić, the National Heroine buried in the tomb of the National Heroes in Vrače. The symbolism is clear- it stands as a reminder of the importance of women fighters and partisans in the National Liberation War. In 2013, as an act of vandalism, the hand was torn off the sculpture.It was later found by the authorities, but never returned to the monument.

3- Josip Broz Tito monument: West of the Austro-Hungarian fortress, on the steep side of the complex, there is a 5m tall monument with a relief portraying Josip Broz Tito and a part of his speech from April 6th, 1945: Today, on April 6, 1945, during the campaign to capture and liberate Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I express my gratitude to all the fighters and leaders of the units who have aided in this great victory. Glory to the fallen heroes of the liberation of our fatherland! Death to fascism - Freedom to the people!"

4- Tomb of the city’s National Heroes: Located at the top of the stairs, east towards the Austro-Hungarian fortress, is a granite monument marking the grave of 26 fallen Yugoslav National Heroes of the National Liberation War in Sarajevo and its surroundings. The 26 names are engraved in the monument to eternally gratify their name and the sacrifice made for the city and the homeland.

5- Memorial wall with the names of the Sarajevan victims: On the steps in a cascading composition, along the sloping terrain, are positioned walls with engraved 9,091 names of innocent citizens of Sarajevo killed by Ustaše and Nazis in the period of 1942 to 1945. The names are categorized: 1,100 children, 7,092 Jews, 1,427 Serbs, 412 Muslims, 106 Croats and 55 other nationalities.

6- Austro-Hungarian fortress: The fortress was integrated into the memorial park. It was renovated and converted into a museum which consisted of 750 historical artifacts, including photographs, documents, maps and works of art. During the Siege of Sarajevo from 1992 to 1195, the museum, together with its whole collection and a wall in its atrium with 9,000 engraved names of victims of Ustaše terror, was completely destroyed.

There is an evident hierarchy in the concept and spatial units composition; starting from the main entrance at the south side and its gathering space, towards the west in order there are 1- Eternal flame and the fountain, 5- Memorial wall symbolizing the base of the entire monument, at the top of the stairs is the 4- Tomb of National Heroes, a spatial element elevated in relation to the entrance, hence its importance in the composition; at the top of the hill is the 6-Austro-Hungarian fortress as well as the 3-Josip Broz Tito monumen, while the 2-Monument to the fighters and partisans of the NOB found its place east of the main entrance. The very position of the monument at the top of the hill suggests the symbolism of ancient Greek temples.
Right by the pyramidal fountain, at the very entrance to the monument, is quotation of Josip Broz Tito speech, celebrated even today by people of Sarajevo: "Our glorious past will be an example to new generations, of how the peoples of a small country were determined to defend their country and freedom at the price of the
heaviest casualties, ready to perish rather than slavishly kneel before the fascist occupiers" (Tito)

Today, Vrača Memorial Park is in a neglected state, receiving minimal attention. Sole institution showing interest in its preservation is the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, by organizing yearly cleaning of the monument before each April 6th, date nowadays celebrated as the Day of the City of Sarajevo.


  • Dunja Krvavac


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