The Magical Hill of the Danube
Since 1975, when this institution was founded as the hundredth one in the world and the first one in ex-Yugoslavia, more than eight hundred orphans passed through its thirteen houses. They grew up there, they finished schools and they left as grown up people into real life, and they always come back. For them, this is where their eternal home is, the unchangeable centre around which the whole world spins

By: Zorica Todorović Mirković

Among many pearls of Fruška Gora, stands a small and unusual village, only with children living in it. No! This is not a sad fairy tale from a book, written a long time ago – SOS Children’s Village in Sremska Kamenica, ”Doctor Milorad Pavlović” is real. On a magical hill, by the Danube River, right across Novi Sad, stand thirteen houses. Since November 5th 1975, when they were first opened, the doors of this Village never closed... It was founded as the hundredth one of the sort in the world and the first one in former Yugoslavia. The village accepted more than eight hundred children since. Now, there are 116 of them. Some of them have just started their lives, others are teenagers and the rest of them are grown-up girls and boys. They came from many sides, but they are a true family. They do not have parents. However, if they do have them, those parents did not want to take of them. On the other hand, they do not know how. Their home, the Village, is located in the beautiful town of Sremska Kamenica, in the place where lived and worked the greatest Serbian children’s poet Jovan Jovanović Zmaj.
SOS mothers-nurses, a psychologist, a pedagogue, social workers all care about the residents of the Village... They try to ease the suffering of its protégés.
– It is impossible to make a clear limit between professional and emotional – says Branislava Balaban for National Review, the Manager of the Village. – The working policy of our institution is our biggest achievement, all those young lives in which we participated with our knowledge, efforts and love. We are obliged to give our children love, which they will give to their own children tomorrow. I am happy and very proud when they step into life with courage, with a smile on their faces and with faith.
Children’s Village in Sremska Kamenica is not an orphanage, but, as the manager calls it, ”a comfortable life stop on the way”. Here, we write the word optimism with a capital ”O”. Maybe that is why they represent a natural and harmonious family. All of this would be much harder if there were not for benefactors and true friends who are helping the Village for years now.
– Children know how to appreciate what is given to them – says Balaban. – In the houses of this Village, there are no gardeners, and everything is full of flowers; there are no hygienists and everything is clean and tidy. The children are raised through good examples and hard work, which seems to be forgotten in other places.
Growing up, personal seeking for the meaning of life, motivation for forming families – this is not so easy. What you need is patience, understanding, care, and mostly love. The employees, fifty-seven of them, take care of the children 24 hours per day, 365 days a year. They comfort them, advise them and praise them. Moreover, even scold them, if needed. They now how important a realistic opinion is. To those who find it hard to study, the workers try to help them to get at least a three-year education. To those who enjoying reading and studying they help in developing their talents. They try to get the best from both groups. Some of the former residents of the Village there are doctors, mathematicians, professors, lawyers, artists...


– The emotion born in the Village never fades away – says Zdravko Krunić, the manager for the accommodation of children in the Village, called Uncle. – The children who have started their own lives, visit us on the weekends, on holidays, phone us... When we celebrate the Day of the Village, on June 23rd, our former residents come every time – to see us, to see their room, their worktables, the park... They also bring their own children and their partners.
The youngest resident of the Village is Radmila, a four-year-old girl, one of the five Sali children. She lives in house number six. Slobodan Mirović, the oldest resident, is 25. He is tourism studies, he plays the bassoon, he sings in a choir... He is still in the Village, because his tutors have decided that he is not ready to live on his own, in an apartment.
– For years now, a very nice campaign is taking place - kind and noble people take the children from Village in their families – says Krunić. – It is very important for the children to feel to atmosphere of a true home.
A girl Jasmina Pepić (19) is welcoming us in house number eight. She had just fed her fish in the aquarium around which two little boys are running. The room is painted in blue, even the tablecloth and the flowers in the vase are all bluish.
– This is our living room. This is where we rest, spend time together, study... It is very pleasant and comfortable – explains Jasmina.
The Village is her home. She never met her parents. She was two months old when she was left with her brother Alen and her sister Daca. They went from one family to another, until they found the Village.
– I cannot judge my parents, because I do not know what made them do so – says Jasmina, adding that most of the children of the Village went through. – This is my family now and it will remain so forever. I do not have another home.
She likes everything in the Village, but mostly Uncle Zdravko. She confesses that she is so fond of him that she started calling him dad. She tells him all her secrets, he went to her parent’s meetings, he advised her and he encouraged her to study.


It is time for lunch. The scent of sauerkraut with meat gathered all residents. Slobodanka Velemir and Margareta Radaković, fifteen year old girls, Mile Aleksandrov, a six year old boy and the 24 year old girl, Anđelka Petrović. The meal is probably delicious because the plates were empty very quickly.
Slobodanka, from Mladenovo, explains how it is possible that she is still a seventh grader:
– So what?! I went to the fifth grade two times, but I shall finish eventually. I want to study sports and to become a professor of physical culture.
– Yeah, dream on – says the blonde girl Anđelka. – You should finish elementary first!
Anđelka is the oldest here. She came from a forth guardian family to the Village. One sister is here with her and the other – she has not seen her for a long time.
– Her guardians do not let her see me – and she leaves the table.
Authorized services should seriously investigate guardian families, because motives for accepting children are not always sincere and true.
Anđelka has no parents. They died. She remembers Grgeteg the village from the other side of the mountain, where she was born, and she remembers her sick mother. She did not want to separate from her children… However, it is the past. Anđelka studies philosophy on University in Novi Sad… that is the future. She wishes that her other sister comes to the Village, and then all three sister can be together.


The first resident of Children’s Village was Snežana Milić, and the first mothers were Jelisaveta Krstić from Kula, Gospava Vrhovac from Prnjavor, Živana Petojević from Sremski Karlovci, Verica Vukadinović from Velike Livade and Evica Sretenović from Kruševac.


– Kind people who can help the Village mean a lot to our community – says the Manager Branislava Balaban. – We have eight apartments in Novi Sad, where live our children who are now students or young people waiting to get a job. Professor Lazar Rakić gave the first apartment, and the last was bought from our own money, which was donated by our famous football player Siniša Mihajlović.

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