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Radovan, Bozana and Veljko Bojovic
Radovan, Bozana and Veljko Bojovic

Radovan, Bozana and Vetko Bojovic are descendants of the Bojovici tribe, once a powerful clan in the mountains of Northern Montenegro.

Until the mid-19th century, society was organised in tribes which controlled certain lands. A clan could number as many as 250 people and was usually headed by its oldest member. Every tribe had its chief and an assembly of elders. By the early 17th century an all-tribal general assembly was formed to guide and regulate interaction between neighbouring tribes. Although this body had no executive or judicial powers, it was practically the sole "governing body" in Montenegro until the mid-19th century.

The Bojovici forebears are buried at the cemetery in the tiny village of Zminjica, where the family has lived for 350 years. Nearly all the tomb stones feature the Bojovic name. Their written family tree – dating back to 1500 – is over a meter long. Radovan, Bozana and Vetko’s branch of the Bojovic family now lives off small-scale farming and hunting, and from tourism.

Vetjko Bojovic, 82, the oldest member of the family, is well-known for his hunting prowess. He still goes out to shoot wolves.

"I am 82 years old. I live in the Zminjice village. I was born here and my father left me here to live my life. My brother went to school and I stayed here. There were really tough days. Lots of snow, the force of nature, hardship, small children, this and that, but everything turned out alright. I worked in the forests a bit. With this saw I cleared the wood and it was the woman who helped me. I couldn't find anyone else and so she took one side and I took one side, and that's how it went. Later I hunted wolves. My relative, the forest warden who was here today, and I; truly, using guns or poison we caught more than 50 wolves. We waited in the evening, at night, and killed wolves. I hunted wood grouse and kept some as trophies. That's how I hunted.

God was generous in everything: these three sons work hard, I married off my daughter. They borrowed quite a lot, but possessions aren't everything. The most important thing for me is life and when a person is doing well and is healthy, he has everything. Possessions are fleeting and I remember well that there were very rich inhabitants in Durmitor during the war, but they were killed and thus disappeared. Property brought them all of this, also politics, and that sort of thing.”

Northern Montenegro is 41% Serb, so it's no surprise that eight of its eleven municipalities voted against independence. Vetko Bojovic is proud to be a Serb.

Well, my perspective is centred around a joint state, for Serbia, with Serbia. There are many of us there, also many of the Bojović family, and roughly 250,000 Montenegrins. They sadly had no right to vote. I voted against it. The sons … they went, supposedly to vote for Montenegro, that we should split off. I don't see anything in that. So if we Bojovics also had monks in Serbia, they couldn't come here to visit us. Because he's a Serb, that's why!”

Q: Do you feel Serbian?

Yes, Serbian. My father was a Serb. My father wore that cap. This is a real Montenegrin cap. My father wore it for 80 years, my grandfather and great-grandfather before him, and now me. And when I die, I want to be wearing this cap and not that of Milo and his group from Podgorica. We fought for this cap, the Serbs just like the Montenegrins. See for yourselves: "Samo sloga Srbina spasava", that means "Only unity can save the Serbs.”

Son Radovan owns a hotel in Zabljak, a small mountain town of 2,000 people in the Durmitor National Park, which is becoming one of the major tourist centres in the country, an alternative to the Adriatic coast. Despite a lack of transport and tourist infrastructure, the unspoilt mountains of "Wild Montenegro," which have defeated so many invaders in the past, are now becoming an attractive tourist destination for summer hiking and winter sports.

April 2008

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