How many of you think that Yugoslavia still exists? Well, it doesn't. The socialist country led by Josip Broz Tito broke into five independent republics in 1991-1992: Slovenia, Croatia, FYR Macedonia (now Northern Macedonia), Bosnia and Hercegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The last one was divided into Serbia and Montenegro in 2006.
However, among those countries, there are still so-called „Yugo-nostalgics“ that gather every year to celebrate the values and principles on which Yugoslavia was built: brotherhood and unity. Every year on the closest Saturday to the 25th of May, people from all six republics come to the village Kumrovec to celebrate.
Why the 25th of May and what exactly are they celebrating? In socialist Yugoslavia, 25th of May was a national holiday called the „Day of Youth“. It was also a celebration of Tito's birthday. On that day, children and scholars used to participate in a relay-race that finished on the Belgrade's JNA Stadium. At the end of the race, young people gave a baton with a birthday wish to Josip Broz Tito.
Today the „Day of Youth“ is a bit ironic name for this celebration, since the participants are mostly 60+. It's held in Kumrovec, a village in the northern Croatia, about 50 km from Zagreb. Kumrovec is a birthplace of Yugoslavian leader Josip Broz Tito.
The celebration is organized by the „Josip Broz Tito“ Associations in Croatia. As I already mentioned, people from ex-Yugoslavian countries come to Kumrovec wearing Tito's Partisans' uniforms, Partisans' and Pioneers' hats, decorated with retro badges. They hang out, eat and drink, sing songs about Tito, Yugoslavia, and anti-fascism, and watch different performances. In the festive area, the vendors sell T-shirts and souvenirs with Tito's character, as well as some crafts and farmers' products from Zagorje region.
During the manifestation, visitors can also take a look at the old traditional Zagorje's houses. The houses work as an open ethnographic museum showing old Croatian customs (dining, wedding, farming, old crafts, etc.) and living conditions (old furniture and housewares). You can even find some local people selling traditional wooden toys and pottery out of their stands.
The ethno-village Kumrovec is the largest traditional museum in Croatia. There are about 40 objects that show everyday's life in the Croatian village at the beginning of the 20th century. One of them is an old schoolhouse, where you can see traditional classrooms from that period. During the „Day of Youth", the school is turned into a cinema that shows movies connected with Josip Broz Tito and Yugoslavia.
Who comes to this celebration, you wonder? Well, mostly local people from Zagorje region and Slovenians on bicycles, since the village is only a few kilometers from the border with Slovenia. There is a lot of buses from Bosnia and Hercegovina, as well as a few organized trips from Macedonia, Serbia, and Montenegro. You can often see some visitors standing next to Tito's statue in front of his birth-home and singing old Partizan songs.
I've been to Kumrovec two or three times when I was growing up and I had great fun each time. The atmosphere during the „Day of Youth“ is relaxed, positive, people sing and dance, musicians play on accordions, everybody enjoys a good meal and drink. Each time I've met new people from our neighboring countries – Slovenians, a family from Banja Luka, etc.
The last time I was there (in 2012), I brought with me a couple of friends from college and a large pot of bean stew, the traditional meal on similar occasions. Bean stew was traditionally served on the Labor day celebrations (1st of May). Why? It was the simplest and most caloric food for the labor class, it gave them energy for a day of hard work. Somehow, the tradition of serving bean stew passed on other manifestations for the masses, the „Day of Youth“ being no exception. Don't worry though, you don't have to bring your own pot of stew. You can order it in any of the krčmas (taverns) in Kumrovec.
The „Day of Youth“ in Kumrovec is not the only celebration of Tito's birthday. Thousands of people visit Tito's museum and mausoleum (called „Kuća cveća“) in Belgrade every year on the 25th of May. In Sarajevo, hundreds of people lay flowers at Tito's memorial on the Sarajevo Univesity Campus.
So, if you're curious about Josip Broz Tito and the way that „Yugo-nostalgics“ still honor him, come to Kumrovec and experience this unique atmosphere. Learn more about the life, crafts, and customs in Croatian villages at the beginning of the 20th century and try Croatian bean stew and rakija (schnapps).