Memorial center Lipa pamti
In the latter half of the 19th and the early 20th century, the people of Kras and Kastav area demonstrated a high level of national awareness. Political activities tied to acquiring national rights were also reflected on their cultural life. Reading rooms were established, soon becoming centres of local social life. Under their auspices, cultural and educational societies were established aimed at “fostering and spreading national… songs and music, elevate hearts through singing… and nurture and promote Croatian language and culture.” Istarska vila (Istrian Fairy) was formed as the first society in the Kastav area under the auspices of the Kastav Reading Room (Kastavska čitalnica) which was established in 1866. The society encouraged the establishment of related societies in the Kastav region, hence the Saint Michael Support and Educational Society (Pripomoćno i poučno društvo Sveti Mihovil) was established in Rubeši in 1901 and the Domobljub (Patriot) Support and Educational Society in Rukavac in 1909.
Flag of the“Domoljub”Association from Rukavac, Kastav, 1909, silk, srma thread, embroidered, AVERS
Flag of the Saint Michael Association for Additional Help and Education established in 1901 in Rubeši, Rubeši, 1901
About the Domoljub (Patriot) Society
The Domoljub (Patriot) Society was established to educate and provide financial support to members in case of illness or death. It operated in the former counties of Pobri, Perenići, Bregi, Dolnji and Gornji Rukavac, Kućela, Zvoneća, Jurdani, Jušići, Puži, Brgud and Matulji. Persons between the ages of 15 and 50 not suffering from chronic diseases and who were not members of other similar societies were welcome to join. Each member had to pay an enrolment fee (between 10 and 20 lira) and monthly dues (5 lira). The Society’s educational activities focused on the establishment of social libraries where educational books could be read and on the organization of festivities. An approved application from 1929 for aid to the poor, indebted and long-time ill member Franjo Pošćić from Gornji Rukavac is an example of financial aid. Franjo was awarded exceptional aid in an amount of 150 lira and was additionally excused from paying membership dues for the current year without losing any membership rights.
Members of the “Domoljub” Association At the Kinkela′s, 1912, photograph taken from a book, Source: Franjo Šepić Bertin, "Pregled povijesti pripomoćnog i poučnog društva Domoljub u Rukavcu", Liburnijske teme 9, Matulji, 1996
Committee of the “Domoljub“ Association, Rukavac, 1912, photograph taken from a book, Source: Franjo Šepić Bertin, "Pregled povijesti pripomoćnog i poučnog društva Domoljub u Rukavcu", Liburnijske teme 9, Matulji, 1996
History of the Domoljub (Patriot) Society
The Society ceased its activities during World War I, but was restored on 25 April 1922 at its first post-war Assembly. Under pressure from the Italian authorities, as of 1928 its sessions were held and its minutes recorded in Italian and, due to the political situation, the Society’s name was changed to Potporno društvo Rukavac – Società di mutuo soccorso (Mutual Aid Society). All articles pertaining to its Endowment, i.e., its educational and library fund, were removed from the Charter and the Society’s activities were limited to mere care for its members in case of an illness or death. The Society stagnated and gradually became Italianized. In 1929, the Society was enrolled in the Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro organization, agreeing to conduct its activities within this fascist association intended for the organization of the leisure time of labourers. The last minutes were dated in 1931. The third establishment of the Society occurred after World War II, in 1953. Its exclusive activities were those related to culture and education. In the 1960s the Society ceased functioning.
Creation and design of the society’s flag
Through its activities, the Society was fostered local and national identity, as clearly reflected in the choice of motifs on its flag, its most important symbol. The flag was designed after the Domoljub Society’s establishment in 1909 and displayed at ceremonies and also during the funerals of its members. Along with the flag, a ceremonial Croatian tricolour sash was displayed during ceremonies, while its black and blue version was displayed during funerals. While there are no verified sources on its production, a story was recorded that the flag was made by nuns in a Viennese convent.
In the search for identities that would be neither Hungarian nor German, most of the motifs on flags and other symbols have a pre-Christian Slavic origin, hence a customary formative motif on flags was the linden tree, which is tied to the Slavic pre-Christian heritage and thus suited to the promotion of national identity. The linden is a sacred tree to the Slavs. According to legend, its branches protect against lightning and fire, and symbolize friendship and freedom. It is the mystical tree of life, health, strength and fertility.
Flag of the“Domoljub” Association from Rukavac, Kastav, 1909, silk, srma thread, embroidered, REVERS
Detail of the flag embroidery
Detail of the flag embroidery
Consecration of the flag
The flag consecration ceremony was held in the Church of St. Luke in Rukavac on 7 September 1913. Attendance by various choral and entertainment ensemble, labour organizations and Sokol societies from Kastav, Volosko, Rijeka and Sušak-Trsat headed by a musical band, contributed greatly to the ceremony. On a makeshift altar installed in front of the church, the pastor, Deacon Fran Rišlavy from Kastav, blessed the flag. Prior to the blessing, the flag’s godmother, Tereza Grgurina, hung a sash with the Croatian tricolour over the flag as her gift. The sash bore an emblem and the year, 1913, was written on it in gold letters. She delivered a brief speech. Following the consecration, the pastor addressed the members of Domoljub Society, urging them to be united and diligent labourers and to guard their flag by living honestly. Fifteen nails were then struck into the flag pole by representatives of various societies and individuals, including parliamentary delegate Spinčić, municipal chief Kazimir Jelušić, a merchant named Ricci, and V. Tomičić, a patriot from Volosko. Speeches were delivered by merchant Milan Kundić, the Domoljub Society’s president, and the priest Matko Mandić, who imparted warm words and extolled members to always act with love, fraternity and unity and to never to forget that they were Croatian labourers. Eventually, everyone followed the musicians and flags to the Sušanj Inn, where a concert was held.
Flag ribbon or ribbon with the Croatian tricolour, Rukavac, 1913
The flag’s unusual destiny
Saint Luke′s Church in Rukavac where the flag blessing ceremony was held; photograph taken from the book
Ivo Mileusnić and Vana Gović,IZ FOTOGRAFSKOG ALBUMA URBANA RIENZNERA Activities of “Bozen”, the 1st SS Police Batallion in 1944 in the area of Istria, Kras and Kvarner.Maritime and History Museum of the Croatian Littoral, Rijeka, 2017
Ruins of the church were photographed in April 1944. Members of “Bozen”, the 1st SS Police Batallion, pose at the altar.
The Domoljub Society’s flag was unwelcome during the Italian administration, as it emphasized a Croatian orientation. At the same time, it was safeguarded by local residents as a sacred object since it was so unique. It could not be allowed to fall into enemy hands. Hence, it is no wonder that following the Society’s first restoration, following World War I, the flag was never mentioned in any minutes. It was hidden from the Italians in the vestry of St. Luke’s Church. Yet, due to ongoing Italian searches and the looming threat of the flag being found and destroyed, Ivan Mandić-Opačijov took it across the border to Kastav, making the flag, like so many people, an émigré. It “travelled” from Kastav to Virovitica, where Ivan Debeljuh guarded it during World War II. After the war, most likely in 1946, Marica Dubrović-Jeličina returned the flag which, in 1947, during the final negotiations regarding Istria’s annexation to Croatia, presented evidence of the Croatian presence in the area. Koča Popović, the foreign minister at the time, took it to the Paris Peace Conference.
Ceremonial handover of the flag
Immediately after the third establishment of the Society on 7 December 1953, a ceremonial handover of the flag from the old to the restored Society’s new leadership was organized. A procession featuring Domoljub’s flag and sash, carried by old members – former president Vjekoslav Šepić (Lojzo Šalov) and former vice president Danijel Seljak – set off from Kinkelovi to Čonjini in the afternoon. The procession was led by a brass band from Opatija. There was an old stage above the bocce court in Čonjini. The ceremonial handover of the flag was accompanied by a performance by a choral and tamburica ensemble and a reading of reports for the occasion by Danijel Seljak and Josip Crnić, the Society’s future president. After the re-establishment of the Society in 1953, the flag was safeguarded by Josip ‘Veli Jože’ Crnić until 1970, when he turned it over to Franjo ‘Bertin’ Šepić. Then in 1982, Šepić, on behalf of the Rukavac Local Committee, handed the flag over for safekeeping to the Kastavština Museum Collection, a branch of the Maritime and History Museum of the Croatian Littoral Rijeka, where it is still held today.