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Day 4

Zemun displayed a tough crowd. A historical part of Belgrade gathered men who live and have lived by the Danube and want their place to be counted. We heard so much of a claim that Zemun was a crucial space for Belgrade as Austro-Hungarian border was just after it. This tense relationship with the capital city still colours the inhabitants from Zemun which is often referred to as the separate borough, a place on its own and outside of Belgrade’s beat.

Zemun folk was ready to represent Zemun in the best light and they brought us photo albums and rehearsed stories about different times, but mostly before WWII. It seems that during the Kingdom, proud aristocracy spent time strolling around the Danube coast with their hats, dogs and governesses and this was a time for remembrance rather then socialism…

From Đorđe Aćimović's private collection

- Kej (dock) as "organised coastal fortification with promenade" had upper and lower level like they have done it in the last reconstruction. The government took care that Zemun is protected from the floods, strong winds and dust. When the green spaces were arranged, the people respected them. Now there aren’t signs any more "Do not walk on the grass", because the hooligans destroy that immediately. What is important is that when it was promenade on the dock and in the park you could not come in the short trousers or shorts, but you would dress decently, regardless of if they were parents with children or with nannies. Richer houses had nannies which got lost between the wars, but before every house had a nanny who was educated, she knew some foreign language to educate those youth.       

90 years of life in Zemun  

I know Zemun from the young age like I do a part of Belgrade. Zemun has always been divided to Upper and Lower City and New Village and Prvomajska street, now called Sutjeska. The main streets that were with asphalt were Tzar's Dusan, Ugrinovacka and Queen's Maria that was during the old Yugoslavia. Prigrevica is the part that goes from Gardos down to New Village, that is my part, where I was born. Many Zemun people do not know that there is Zemun village. It is going from Filipa Visnjica Street, horse school, Sumadijska, Niska, Ruska, Skopljanska and Vrsacka. That part changed drastically after the war. Can you believe it, all up to the New Village there was no drainage, asphalt, but pavements with bricks, apart from those 3 streets I mentioned from the old Yugoslavia. That part where now is Partizan's playground was called Big Meadow. Can you believe it, all water from Novogradska Street, via Ugrinovacka street poured down to those ponds. We, children played there, swam, sledded and even skated. In that time, there was no thick traffic, so cattle was taken via Ugrinovacka Street, Prvomajska Street and Tzar Dusan Street to that medow and ponds. That is where the cattle of our peasants gathered and they hurled the cattle to Danube. The traffic was not existent, only cars for some coal and wood and only peasant's car could pass there. We did not have water supply either to Novogradska Street, but a few wells we moved by wheel. Can you imagine carrying the water to the house 100 or 200 meters to wash the street. We were all obliged citizens, to clean in front of our house  and keep the order regardless of the season - winter or summer. You must have made the street capable for pupils and other citizens to move along. If you did not do that, there was an officer who walked down the street and who did not clean, he was penalized for 10 dinars. I suggest that now, that we employ this whatever the building, 4 or 10 stories high. I went to the Citizens school. Can you imagine from the horses school via Ugrinovacka Street to park where there was Gymnasium and Citizens school to say "Kissing hands, good day". I have kissed the hand of this lady that was left from the childhood, the way I was raised.
Zemun did not have buses, the bus only came in 1939 and it went through the main street Tzar Dusan's (before the war - Pavlova, now Rade Koncara), through Prvomajska (now Queen Maria Street) and then to Terazije where it was turning around. That was our only line, that was interrupted by the war.
Zemun before the war had 28.000 residents as I know. Zemun was craft and market city.

Let me tell you in short about my Zemun:

Hey traveller, stop a little bit to see how beautiful is my Zemun.
By the Zemun blue Danube flows I enjoy on the dock almost every evening.
On the cam the tower high and thin, that is the Tower of Sibinjanin Janko
In Zemun there is an old church of Saint Nicholas, Zemun is the part of the earthly heaven.
History museum is there, monuments from the old times, to walk around Zemun is a great pleasure.
The parks are full of flowers and blossomed roses, to all good arrivals, my Zemun offers welcome. 

Now walk on the dock and see what Zemun people have done. That is a blessing, nice walk, old and young, able and disable, they all walk and are having a good time. 

Zemun on the Danube

- At Kapetanija (harbourmaster) on the Danube was a sign 1173, marking the kilometre of the Danube and the sign was there. When the cars started being driven, that was parking, so all sorts of drivers always knocked over that sign and then it was transferred because it has to stay there - on one or another coast of Danube, that mileage. I remember when I was 6 and going with dad on the Danube, when we arrived in '41, I remember that he showed me that number and explained that that is the mileage from the estuary of the Danube; there is on the Sava too, where it is written 0 on the estuary and majority that passes there does not even know what it is. 

- There where you can see the council, unfortunately that house was sold about ten years ago, that is the house of Voja Pejovic, there in Mornarska (Sailor's) street. That was the old house and it did not have the cellar, but you were coming to the house by climbing five steps and then you were in the house, because that Mornarska street was flooded every year. It does not happen now. Recently, it was funny when they made a fuss about the flood here; it is far from the truth that Zemun is now threatened. Once upon a time, the biggest water in Zemun was somewhere around 15th of May because the ice and snow were melting in Alpes and then the Danube was on the edge. There were one or two steps only on this  in 1928 or whenever the dock was built because it was flood. There is a picture where "Galeb's" (Seagul's) four-oar team was pictured in front of its beam scale that is where the fishmongers were. That was flooded and rowing club "Seagull" was in front of that building.

From Đorđe Aćimović's private collection

- The main transport from Zemun to Belgrade were the ships. Zemun's market women were taking their goods on Jovanova market. They come in the early morning hours, bring their goods, market ladies pick up one load from the ship and unload in Belgrade on Bajlonova market. We did not have another transport.

- Watermelons were arriving from Surduk, Belegis with boats, barges, that was fully packed, just so they don't sink and then the unload was here in Zemun and then on the market it was transported to Belgraders, for Zemun. The trumpet players get brave and go to them to negotiate, give money and they kick them to the coast to eat them. I can eat as much as I sit in the water; that is how much of watermelon I can eat. They bet how many watermelons they can eat. Those melons, people use to steal them, one watches with the stick, and they swim, and just take down one, so five drop to the water because they roll down. 

- You could go by train too. Not today, because it takes a lot of time.

- When you come to Danube in the summer, you ask, especially in September, if the ship is going to the big Danube because it was assumed that it goes by "Yugoslavia" (hotel), but if it is the high water, then you had to go on big Danube and the trip lasts 40 minutes and if it is on small Danube then it is about half an hour. The children had a free ride, two dinars was one journey.

From Đorđe Aćimović's private collection

- On a particular day in the week the viennese ship arrives, they were big white ships with gold parts. The names were "Heaven's planets" etc. And then we were interested, one part of the passengers gets off board in Zemun, then in Belgrade; they were not all exactly aristocrats from Vienna, there were all sorts of vagabonds, but the people liked to see when the boat arrives. Once in a week, our ship also went for Vienna, those were the most luxurious ships "Aleksandar" and "Karadjordje" or "Vienna ship".

- I had a boat for a while, my friend had it, then I used that one more and more; there were only 20 to 30 boats on that coast, it was not like nowadays, now some mafias took it over, without paying some 30.000 a year you can not have a boat. Who arrived, bought a boat, dropped the stone with the barrel and anchored the boat. There, in front of "Šaran" was that substation for across the river where we went down to the coast.

From Đorđe Aćimović's private collection

- I had an honor to over all this we call Old Bridge now walked on the first day when it was open in the summer of '42. My father and I went to Zemun with passport and we crossed pontoon bridge. The Germans had one phenomenal bridge with four tracks which was out of the use by night because the boats were passing and in the day from 1 to 3pm the middle bit was moved away so the boats could pass and the rest were four tracks and two pedestrian tracks, all in wood.