Dear brothers of the cloth,
Dear friends, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters,
Today, here at St Sava’s Church, the time has come for us for us to say goodbye to a great man and Serb, a great Orthodox believer and intellectual. To say goodbye to our dear Nenad Petrović.
This past month and a half, the flame of his life flickered under the vigil of his Church and individuals to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. I would like to mention them by name – Olga Stanojlović, Božana and Zorka Maksimović, Nemanja and Ljiljana Subotinović, Zoran Gaćeša and indeed us priests and friends, his friend Đorđe Novaković from Brighton with whom he would talk every day by telephone while Nenad was able and after when he was no longer able George would ask us every day, “How is Nenad?”
I want to take this opportunity to thank the staff at the medical centre Athol and to thank all of you who visited him during his illness.
The path of Nenad’s life was not at all easy just like other Serb emigres who had been blown away far from their homeland by the winds of war.
Many thought Nenad an only child. But he was born with a twin brother Predrag who died early. Nenad Petrović was born in Zagreb on 30 May 1925 , the son of a king’s officer Vojislav, born in Doboj and his mother Nadežda – Nada whose maiden name was Jakšić, a teacher from Glina.
Nenad’s father Vojislav was a great patriot and left Bosnia so he could enlist in the Serbian army during WWI (whose centenary falls in this year of 2014) joining the bravest volunteer corps of Vojvoda Vuk. He emerged from the war decorated with several medals for bravery and became an officer in the Yugoslav army reaching the rank of colonel.
Due to his father’s calling, Nenad attended primary schools in four different republics of the former Yugoslavia – Zagreb, Podgorica, Sarajevo and Belgrade.
He completed his studies at the Third Boy’s Grammar School in Belgrade in 1944. Rather than enjoying his youth in peace he joined the Resistance due to his upbringing of patriotism, honesty and loyalty to his country. It was with utmost difficulty that he crossed Raška and Bosnia only to fall ill with typhus. He was hospitalised in Slovenia and from there went on to the internment camp in Eboli, Italy. Later at the camp in Lammie near Naples he served as an interpreter and translator for the Yugoslav units under the British Army.
Later he passed through Germany to reach England in 1947 where he worked as a farm labourer and was later hired as an administrative clerk for company giant Lyons & Co. That was a prolific time as he also in studied politics and economics in London.
As a patriot and a scholar Nenad served both his Church and his people. During his time in England he never sought a UK passport or citizenship, instead travelling with the documentation he was first issued with as a displaced person. Some years ago after Communism fell and Serbia became an independent state did he apply for a Serbian passport but unfortunately due to his advanced age and later ill health he could never use.
For more than 20 years, he was secretary of the Serbian Orthodox Parish in London and later its president from 1985 to in 1988.
The Church was his second home and we priests and others were his friends and kin. That is why he donated his vast library to Sv Sava’s Church in London. I hope the Church committee will soon find space for this collection with an inscription above the door reading Library of Nenad V Petrović. The library and the material gifts he bequeathed to the Church has made him a major philanthropist and the greatest donor in her history.
Nenad did much in the cultural and national fields. He became a member of the Association of Serbian Writers and Artists Abroad in 1964 (which was founded by Slobodan Jovanović in 1951) . He was secretary of the same association from 1977 to in 1986 and subsequently its president . In Belgrade, he was elected an honorary member of the Association of Writers of Serbia in 1989.
He was a member of the Oslobođenje Association from 1956 up until it was disbanded in 1994. He was one of the editors and contributors to the monthly Naš Reč and a member of the editorial board of Naše Delo.
At one time he was secretary of the expatriate committee of Liberal International.
As a writer and journalist, Nenad was associated with many newspapers and magazines around the world such as the weekly Voice of Canadian Serbs in which he was a regular contributor from 1964 to 1974. He worked on the Parisian Savremenkuand “Dialogue” and the Australian Slozi. The two-volume Katena Mundi which was edited by Dragoslav Dragić Kijuk was published in Belgrade at a time when the authorities were glad to welcome his extensive article about Slobodan Jovanović.
He was a member of the Democratic Alternative which published two of hos books “Democratic Yugoslavia” and ”For a new social and political morality”. There he also wrote ”The awakening of nationalism under Communist regimes”.
He wrote an article in for the journal “Democratic Reform” (which is edited by Vane Ivanović and Aleksa Đilas) entitled “Nationalism and democratic reform” (1982).
A few years prior, Ljudi govore – a Canadian journal of literature and culture – published an interview with Nenad Petrović in issues 9 and 10 along with his essay on Jovan Dučić.
Nenad’s book ” The two faces of communism in Yugoslavia” was published in 1964.
“The Daughter of Marx” a critical historical view of Eleanor Marx and the beginnings of socialism in England was published in 1973. The Review of the Study Centre for Yugoslav Affairs in London published an article in 1965, in English , entitled “Yugoslav Communist Party Congresses since the War” in 1967 and ” The Fall of Aleksandar Rankovic .” In Serbia, in 1998 he published a book of essays “From the life of the London Political emigrants” describing Russian, German and French emigration and in 2000 the Association of Writers of Serbia published his book “Essay on Sense and Aberrations” within the context of the library “Diaspora” which was exhibited here in London a few years ago.
He knew London and its events very well and was ready to act as a guide for anybody or for any excursion and I believe that no one could describe the city as vividly as he did.
Nenad was a man of great knowledge and culture built and a true and urbane gentleman. He was never presumptuous. He lived modestly but would willingly pay for books, magazines and newspapers. He never complained about spending money on them.
With his death our Church and community in this country loses a faithful member, a good, reputable and exemplary man and friend.
So finally, dear Nenad:
Today I am especially sad to have lost a true friend and ally but I am also glad that I had one such as this.
Therefore, on behalf of our priests, on behalf of the Serbian Orthodox Church in London, on behalf of the Church committee, on behalf of the Kolo Srpskih Sestara Kosovska Devojka, the Church choir, the Sunday school, the dance troupe Rastko in the name of the Spiritual community and Discussions on Faith, which you regularly attended, in the name of your kumovi and friends in this city and this country and those in Serbia and around the world, I bid my farewell to you , that on this spring day this year our Maker of heaven and earth and your Creator has called you to pass from this earthly springtime to the eternal summertime of the Kingdom of God. Your patron Saint Archangel Michael awaits you as does your father Vojislav, your mother Nada and brother Predrag . The river of your earthly life is poured into the eternal ocean. As your body rests quietly in this Serbian Church cemetery at Brookwood, may your soul rest joyously in eternal light. Thank you for all you have done for your Church and your Serbian people. We will not forget you. God rest your soul and there abide until the general resurrection of the dead.
After this Prota Milun read condolences.
London 27/03/2014 .
by Prota Milun S . Kostic
Photos by Nenad Obradović