Systematic destruction of Serbian holy places by the Serbs who have gone astray:
The cases of the church Gračanica of Miracles, near Valjevo
Gradac Monastery, the oldest known Serbian Metropolitanate dating back to the tenth century
A blessing or a curse?
„Brethren, there is no need for you to go to the holy Mount Athos. Behold, here is your Holy Mountain, right before your eyes!”
With these words, spoken about Gračanica near Valjevo in the thirties of the last century, Saint Nicholas of Žiča made revealed to every Serbian Orthodox soul the nature of this holy place and the magnitude of its sanctity. The Monastery of the Holy Archangels, better known to the simple people of Serbia as Valjevo’s Gračanica, celebrated this summer the 33rd anniversary of its martyrdom which was prophesied more than half a century ago by the Holy Bishop, Saint Nicholas of Žiča himself, who, according to the testimony of his only surviving descendant, had been actually baptized in that church. The church of the Holy Archangels, situated on the grounds of Valjevo’s Monastery Gračanica—the age of whose foundations could not be determined even by the greatest among archeological experts, but whose wonderful cupola was erected at express instructions of St Nicholas of Žiča and modeled after the cupola of his own monastery near his native village of Lelić—represents today a place where Orthodox Serbs are being asked again (as they have been God only know how many times before) to make a choice between the earthly and the heavenly kingdom.
More than three decades ago, the Holy Archangels witnessed the beginning of the construction of an artificial lake as part of the Stubo-Rovni dam in its immediate vicinity. That the decision was made to locate a dam in the immediate vicinity of a monastery cannot be considered just an unfortunate coincidence as such decisions have happened far too often inSerbiain the past fifty years. Nor was it dictated by necessity, as we shall presently demonstrate that such was not the case.
The first plans envisaged the elevation of the water level at 333 meters above the sea level as this level neither endangered the existence of the church nor interfered with the state of ground waters and the aquifer which are of interest to Valjevo. This city is considered to be one of the more fortunate cities inSerbiaas far as the availability of drinking water supply is concerned. However, the insatiable greed of some people was put before national interests. Subsequent changes were made to the plans and the elevation of the water level in the dam was raised from 333 m to 375 m above sea level. The raising of the water level to this elevation will result in the flooding of theHolyArchangelsChurch, as well as the mixing of the waters of the artificial lake with drinking water through the leakage of water through surrounding limestone. And all this is happening right on the tectonic fault in the region which is expected to become the epicenter of future earthquakes.
And so, through unfathomable Divine Intervention, theChurchofGračanicanear Valjevo happened to be in the exact position where, under its protection, we can testify our faith as we find ourselves again confronted with the choice between this world and theHeavenlyKingdom. Our Lord placed the fair Church of Gračanica in that exact location where the Serbs can see it as a shining beacon in the darkness of godlessness, shedding its light on the way they must follow if they are to be a nation of God’s people.
* * *
The original church was most likely built at the time of Saint Simeon the Myrrh-Streaming by one of his brothers, as were the near-by monasteries Pustinja and Jovanja. These three churches were built at the same time and are located on a most precise, geometrically straight line. In style, these three churches differ quite strikingly, not only from each other, but also from all other churches known to Orthodoxy. They were most probably dedicated to God by Saint Sava’s three uncles on his father’s side. Gračanica was built with broken stone, indicating that it was constructed before the golden age of the Nemanjić dynasty.
Through time, it suffered degradation and underwent multiple rehabilitations. The present church dates back to the nineteenth century and was built on the foundations of the churches that preceded it, as is customary in Serbian church-building. The old, monastic medieval cemetery is partially preserved. Nearby, there is also a stone-lined monastic cave in which, according to oral tradition, monks hid from the Turks. Above Gračanica, in theSušicaCanyon, there are remains of three smaller monasteries. This fact is taken as evidence that Gračanica was a large monastery which generated around itself lesser, more secluded monastic communities.
In 1925, there was an article about people who came from all overSerbiato gather around this miracle-working church. They came hoping to be healed from various ailments. Instances of miraculous healing in Gračanica still happen frequently even today. There are also other manifestations of God’s presences, like the appearance of heavenly light in the middle of the night and sounds of angels singing. These manifestations have been witnessed by almost every inhabitant in the vicinity…
* * *
The Stubo-Rovni Dam is built on a limestone terrain which is subject to earthquakes and is in close proximity to the line of separation of two tectonic plates—the Jadarska and the Jadranska plates. In other words, the area is the epicentral focus of future earthquakes as indicated by an enormous hill of crushed granite rock situated right next to the dam. Crushed granite is in evidence only in the areas of collisions of tectonic plates, in the epicentral earthquake zones. At the very start of the dam project, before the beginning of construction, no seismic research work was done, so that only now do we see experts coming up with the estimates of the highest possible category of risk indicating the likelihood that this dam will burst in due course. Also, no evaluation was made of the dam’s impact on the environment. As a result, the construction of this dam is illegal both according to man’s as well as God’s laws.
Recent detailed hydrological and geological analyses, which have been published and frequently publicly discussed, show that this dam is highly dangerous; that its water will be contaminated by toxic arsenic and antimony from mines situated above it; that its water would contaminate all ground waters and sources around Valjevo which is one of the riches cities in Serbia as far as the availability of water is concerned; that the swamp water from the dam is not needed as alternative solutions have been found for all water needs. At the same time, these analyses show that Valjevo’s projected population, instead of reaching the expected level of 500,000 inhabitants, now stands at 100,000 and that Valjevo’s current sources of clean drinking water is 14 times larger than Valjevo’s drinking water needs. In addition, these analyses show that the dam would cause seriously negative changes in Valjevo’s climate. And all this, for obtaining unnecessary stagnant water which is likely to turn to mud in some 30 – 40 years hence! In spite of all the scientific evidence, the lawless people in charge of the project, assisted in their lawlessness by the state ofSerbia, continue to build this monument to their own damnation.
His Grace Milutin, the Bishop of Valjevo, has proposed to proceed with the construction of the dam as far as the elevation of 333 m above sea level, which would save the monastery from being flooded and be perfectly safe for the health, the souls and the very lives of the local population. We might mention here that the monastery has been under Government protection since 1997, that is to say that the same hypocritical government which a decade and a half ago put this monastery under its own protection, is now working on its destruction.
All efforts of the people to save the monastery have been in vain because, in the past 30 years or so, the investors, assisted by the state, have become so mired spiritually and financially in this accursed affaire that they are incapable of drawing back.
* * *
The first attempt to destroy this holy place, which happened in 2002 when three workers began to chip away the mortar of the sanctuary walls and which was prevented by the faithful and a couple of priests and monks, made it clear that Gračanica of Valjevo was sorely to be tested.
All this was foretold by Saint Nicolas of Žiča, who appeared to a simple peasant warning the Serbian people, but especially the inhabitants of Valjevo and its environs, that, if they allowed the dam to be filled and the church to be flooded or removed from its original location, once filled the dam would burst and the city of Valjevo and its environs flooded, and that, therefore, the fate of the Serbian people depended on the successful defense of this holy place.
In any case, as a further warning, anyone who had actually participate in the chipping away of the mortar from the church walls, or in the digging up of the monastery’s cemetery for the purpose of removing the relics of the monks buried there, or dared to remove the church’s bell has already met the wrath of God.
* * *
Today, barely a decade after these events, some Serbs have dared again to raise their hands against this God-sanctified place. These unfaithful Serbs, disguised as archeologists, pretending to do archeological research work in order to determine the exact age and value of the church, are actually engaged in the excavation, desecration and destruction of this holy place.
And once again, just like a decade ago, Christ’s little flock, but this time unsupported by clerics or monastics and armed only with the prayers of spiritual fathers of the Serbian Orthodox Church, finding courage in the Might of the Lord, stood up in the defense of this holy place. They were not surprised by the insolence of archeologists. However, they were surprised by the lack of understanding by the faithful brethren and clerics who turned on them calling them sectarians.
Nevertheless, the little flock resolutely continued to come every day to the holy place from summer to late fall and through daily processions around the church, while chanting akathists to the Most Holy Mother of God, they defended the monastery from the hands of those who had gone astray.
And so, this time too, “Gračanica’s watch” persevered to the end and defended successfully this God-sanctified place. The little flock kept its watch until the first icy days heralded the cessation of construction around the monastery.
* * *
As a result of being successful in preventing the “archeologists” from carrying away the relics of our forefathers, which they assiduously tried to dig up throughout the summer, we were sued for a sum of half a million dinars which our accusers claim to have lost due to our reburying these relics. After this, we were notified—on three separate occasions already—that we shall be prosecuted for preventing foresters from destroying the woods around the monastery.
Some accuse us of being sectarians, others of being vandalizing barbarians. Then there are those who pity us for having voluntarily taken on the task of a modern day Sisyphus. But there are also those who are surreptitiously rooting for us. While the actual parishioners of Gračanica have to a man turned their backs on their parish church and abandoned it for a dream of new highway infrastructure and benefits from future tourism. Those actively defending Gračanica come mostly from the city ofValjevosome twenty kilometers away.
We were forced to found and register an association named Istinoljublje [The love of truth] in order to facilitate contacts with the judiciary and the media. But as time goes by, the media’s persecution of us is growing stronger and people with courage are becoming scarcer. And let us not even mention such mundane considerations as making ends meet.
In addition to the fight for Gračanica’s survival and eighteen months of standing in front of the Patriarchate with the determination taught us by Saint Sava and praying that the Church will stand fast against schism and heresy and will preserve her unity in spite of the malicious efforts of certain bishops to destroy it, we also endeavored to be unreservedly active in organizing peaceful, Orthodox resistance to “gay parades” in Belgrade. And that is not all. Here we are again in Valjevo opening a new front against the misfortune-ridden construction of the railway line Valjevo – Loznica whose route is planned to go right through the foundations of the oldest known Serbian church, seat of the metropolitanate during the reign of Grand Župan Časlav in the first half of the tenth century. (Half of the foundations were already dug over in the course of the construction of “Krušik” Football Stadium under the communists.) All of this is cleverly kept hidden from the public eye, and as for the Bishop… We have nothing to hope for from that direction except that, as in the case of Valjevo’s Gračanica, he did write one letter of protest which was followed by many years of silence. We are speaking here about a railway line, the construction of which was begun three times and three times stopped by wars—in 1913, 1939 and 1990. Its construction is about to begin for the fourth time with the money from some Russian loan. Must we wait for the fourth war to start before this unpropitious construction to stop?
So then, the media blackout and material poverty have considerably weakened the fight of Istinoljublje. Even so, we continue to petition the people of Valjevo to protect these holy places, which are among the most ancient holy places in Serbia; we started a court case against the state—but without legal representation we don’t know how far we shall get? However with legal representation it could turn out into a cause célèbre, which we might even win as Rovni Dam is a danger not only Gračanica but also the very lives of local inhabitants as we have demonstrated above.
We are ready not only to continue with keeping watch over Gračanica this year but also to include in our efforts Monastery Gradac. But we have no money to repair and maintain our vehicle, a 1998 Peugeot pick-up which is in a terrible condition and, if we don’t do some basic servicing urgently, it appears to be doomed. Also, its registration will expire soon… However, whatever happens, while our Orthodox conscience is alive within us, we shall labor and endure until with God’s help for as long as we live.
For those who can help us, here are instructions how to do it. And those who would like to but cannot we ask to forward this appeal to some who might be able and willing to do so.
1. via Western Union: Dragan Davidovic, Personal Identification Number 1205973770017; (Number of Personal Identification Card 81 923), currently staying with parents in Valjevo, Naselje Oslobodioci Valjeva 38/16; Home telephone: 381-14-226-218, Mobile telephone: 381 – 64 – 29 – 345 – 30
2. via Foreign Exchange Bank Account: Banca Intesa: RS35-160-5130201126800-83 or Dinar Bank Account: Banca Intesa: no. 160-5700100881802-23
(Let not your hearts be confused: the bank accounts are not in the name of the association Istinoljublje simply because the association was registered as a non-profit entity without membership dues or any other monetary resources. All other forms if registration were too complicated and costly for us. There was a time among Christians when one’s word sufficed. And that is so among us members of Istinoljublje. Let it be thus among all lovers of truth. From those others, whose work is incompatible with the love of truth, we neither ask nor would accept help.)
* * *
For more information about the above, as well as future activities in the coming year, which will be in many ways crucial for Serbian holy places and, consequently, for the Serbian people, visit our site : http://www.istinoljublje.co.nr (mail:firstname.lastname@example.org)