On the Roof of Motherland
In his pupils, he carried everything, from the wolf’s legends to the heavenly throne. Every day he experienced a Kosovo, old and contemporary. He knew that a Serb who says that Kosovo is lost is lost as well. And that, when Serbia stumbles, Montenegro sinks. He prayed that his nation never gives birth to traitors and never tastes foreign poisons. He admired beauty and loyalty. Stories about him are immortal and endless like his votive Chapel on top of Lovćen. Here are some new stories from the hand of one of the most significant Serbian writers and chief editor of the Serbian Literary Cooperative

By: Dragan Lakićević
Illustrations: Archive of ”National Review”


There was, at that time in Njeguši, a grandmother Jela. More a great-grandmother than a grandmother. She didn’t know what happened the day before, but exactly knew what had happened a hundred years ago.
Father Tomo sometimes sent young Rade to grandmother Jela – to bring her honey or cherries, and mother Ivana sent her a dish of sour cream, so that Rade would hear a few words from her. And grandma kept telling about old times and first people.
– Who told you the most beautiful things, grandma? – asks Radivoje gently. – What do you remember from your youth, when old heroes passed these lands?
Grandmother thinks a bit, quietly, then speaks in a distant voice:
– If you ask me, golden child, I best remember what a wolf from Lovćen once told me, while I guarded sheep as a child… I fell asleep… And the wolf sneaked up on me and whispered in my ear:
”A wolf howls when he feels injustice. A raven croaks when he’s hungry for meat. Only people think one thing and say another! I’m also telling one thing, and you’re hearing something else…”
– That’s what the wolf from Lovćen told you?
– The wolf told me, I told you, you tell someone who can’t do without you…
So Rade decided to search for the wolf. To hear what he’s howling and tell people about it.


After a turbulent night, full of dreams and contemplation, Rade Tomov got up at dawn, went out of his house and set off down the Njeguši Field.
His hair disheveled, wind blowing into his face, he was rushing somewhere – towards the sea or towards heavens.
Then, suddenly, a man appeared before him, in golden gowns, with a golden beard and bishop’s stick.
– God help you – said Rade and wanted to pass by him.
– Good luck to you, hero – says the other one. – Where are you heading, so early and hastily?
Rade stopped. The passerby seemed good and gentle, beautiful as an icon.
– I’m about to see: to God or to Obilić! I have to go somewhere!
– And where are God and Obilić, son?
– Obilić on Kosovo, God on Lovćen!
– God bless you. First go to Cetinje, to your uncle, the bishop. He’ll turn you both to God and Obilić!
– Perhaps it’s the same road, holy father – says Rade.
– You’ve already found it, dear son. Have a safe trip.
Rade kissed his hand and continued his journey.
It was St. Sava.


December night, dark skies over Cetinje.
At his desk, with a lit candle, Bishop Peter I is sitting and writing.
He forgot that Rade was sleeping on the ottoman, against the wall, like a young lamb.
But Rade isn’t sleeping. He’s silent, thinking: what is the Bishop writing?
As if he knows what young Radivoje Tomov, fourteen year-old is asking himself, the Bishop begins reading, in a loud whisper:
– May God be merciful. With my heart and soul I wish a traitor will never be born in our nation…
Rade Tomov repeated these words to himself, so he wouldn’t lose them. Later, he repeated them all his life, like a prayer. And crossed himself when saying them.


– Lucky you, Simo. You participated in the Uprising, watched the greatest heroes – said Rade Tomov to Milutinović. – Does the one that raises it also raise the ones that are only about to be born?
– It’s raised by God, like anything else that matters!
– Songs sing that it was raised by Karađorđe Petrović.
– God raised Karađorđe. Karađorđe raised Serbs to arms… An uprising is something more. A rebellion gave birth to Karađorđe, Karađorđe woke Serbia up!
Rade watches towards Lovćen.
– Is God freedom?
– God is everything. Freedom is both man and God.
– Songs tell that saints reminded of the uprising?
– Songs don’t make mistakes. They testify and remember in their own way – they guess and unriddle things that even the songwriters don’t anticipate… God leads saints, the Vožd leads heroes, they’re all one… And above it all the Holy Spirit: can’t stand injustice, misbalance, imperfection… Needs are small and big: someone grooms horses, someone sings with the gusle, someone fights in Mišar… When blood started boiling from the earth, when they all gathered into one day – hayduk Veljko, Zeko Buljubaša, Vuk Stefanović, Filip the Blind – then came Karađorđe to raise an uprising!
Rade crossed himself.
– You’re so lucky you saw him.
– You can also see him, in your heart, son!
– One gains sight in an uprising, and a good song sleeps in a blind man.


Young Njegoš knew that Russia is endless, that St. Petersburg is large, but when he first saw them, he couldn’t believe his eyes. He was happy to see that Orthodox Christianity is so large and endless.
”What are we Serbs big in?” he asked himself and immediately replied: ”In faith!”
He sat in the horse carriage and thought:
”What do we Serbs believe in?”
And began contemplating.
He was only about to say ”nothing”, since he knew how conceited Serbs are, especially Montenegrins, but he said out loud:
– In Obilić!
”I believe that tomorrow, when I become bishop, Miloš Obilić will be with me. If he is on my side, even the Russian emperor will come! Dear God, I pray to you!” the young ruler of Montenegro crossed himself in his room in the evening.
In the morning, the elite came to the church: Synod Procurator, ministers, countesses, clergy – miters and golden pins. Crosses and candleholders.
When the bells rang, the church began glowing as if the sun walked in: the Russian Emperor entered.
He approached the Emperor’s hand, the Emperor approached his.


Vuk Karadžić came to Cetinje, over Kotor, without notice. He hadn’t written he was about to come.
– Welcome, Vuk, to watch us open the tomb of Bishop Peter I, my uncle, tomorrow. It’s been four years since his death… To see him once again. And ask him one more question.
– What will you ask a dead man, Bishop?
– Something I’ll know only if I ask him, because there are many keys in the grave.
Njegoš didn’t sleep that night.
In the morning, when he got up, he saw Vuk at the church door with young men carrying digging tools.
When they excavated him and took of the lid off the coffin, they saw the Bishop: whole, incorruptible, with a shiny face, as if he has just been covered with a shroud and buried.
– He is holy! – said Vuk.
Njegoš smiled.
– He told us enough! Now, let’s see him and kiss him, Vuk!
Njegoš stood for a while, watching his uncle’s clean face, and said:
– Blessed me today and for all times… We have St. Peter of Cetinje.
– People considered him a saint during his lifetime, Bishop. And what the people believe is most often the truth – added Vuk.
And crossed himself.


A countess in Vienna, beautiful as a white rose, fancied the Bishop and told him in front of everyone:
– Are you the most handsome Montenegrin, sir?
– As you are the most beautiful woman in Vienna, dear lady.
The lady’s cheeks burned, but her senses overcame her pride.
– That makes me happy, sir.
– That makes me unhappy.
The beauty smiled and blinked:
– What would make you happy?
– If happiness and beauty could be separated.
– Did you ever try, bishop, to be happy? To give your beauty to someone else?
– I gave, lady: everything mine that is good and beautiful, even beautiful words, I gave to dear God and my nation; I pray that it reaches it as close as possible.
– You are truly a lucky man.
– You are truly smart, countess, and that’s beauty.
She stood up and bowed to him.
(Tomorrow, in his room, he found a chest of ducats on the desk – a gift from her.)


When the Biljarda was built, Đuko Sredanović asked the Bishop where to put which icon.
– Put St. Sava in the room I sleep in, to teach me to pray.
– And in the room you’re writing in, master?
– Put Karađorđe there. May his sabre teach me to write.


Njegoš came to Dubrovnik, to meet his blood brother Ali-Pasha Stočević.
The whole city turned to see them while they were walking the Dubrovnik seafront: a Serb and a Turk together, talking as friends.
The Pasha and Bishop realized how interesting they are to people, so they passed two more times through the old Ragusa main street.
Ali-Pasha’s wife, hanuma, watched them from the window, behind a curtain. She was also surprised and astonished by the beauty of the Montenegrin bishop.
In the evening, when she saw Pasha, she asked him, as if she didn’t know, who his friend in Montenegrin robe was.
– That was the white knight from Kosovo.
– Are there still living knights from Kosovo? Wasn’t Kosovo a long time ago?
– There are, there are. I’m afraid they’ll never disappear!
– But he’ll never have children?
– He is a monk, but he will have more and better children than those he’d give birth to. They will be children imbued with Kosovo…


One day, Njegoš left the manuscript of Mountain Wreath in the printing house of the Armenian Monastery in Vienna.
When he came out, he felt cold.
When he reached his room, he got a fever.
It seems that he has nothing of his own left. That he left everything he has ever had on the papers on which night was falling.
”This is how night is falling on the Monastery of Cetinje and the entire Montenegro”, he thought. ”I put everything good there in a book and sent it somewhere into the world and into time…” he thought.
He woke up at some point, thinking that the printing house could catch fire and that everything could disappear in flames.
He was restless and gloomy those days. Black flames were burning up his face. Branko and Vuk noticed it and consoled him:
– Generations will know your verses, Bishop. Your writings are Montenegro’s most magnificent wreath, master! – said Vuk. – You are now as great as Filip and Tešan, who sang about Serbian glory and heroism…
– I took everything from Montenegro! – he told them.
– And you will return it all, Bishop, gilded and more beautiful than seen and known – cheered Branko Radičević.
And Njegoš thought:
”Am I worthy of Karađorđe’s name? Did I have the right words for Obilić? Mandušić is better than Mićunović! What would St. Peter of Cetinje tell me if he read the words of Bishop Danilo: What can I do? Who is there to help me? Is it him talking or me?”
Then he remembered his mother.
”She would cry if she heard that! And there is no better judge than a mother!”
One day, he received the first copies. He first gave them to Vuk and Branko. They crossed themselves and kissed the book:
”It was worth writing it, just to give it to these two”, thought Hermit of Cetinje.
– May this book be kissed by every Serb, as long as there are men and as long as Kosovo exists! – added Đuro Daničić.


While he was preparing for his trip to Russia in 1836, Njegoš left power to the senate and guardia, and national business was attended by Archimandrite Josif Pavićević.
He informed the heads of Montenegrin clans about his departure. As well as the Russian consul Gagić.
In the night before his departure, Njegoš went out to the monastery quarters porch and turned towards Lovćen.
– Lord – he whispered.
Montenegro was silent, like a tomb.
– I pray to you, dear God, to take these few rocks and few souls called Montenegro into your hands, and keep them as if they were precious stones, because I don’t have any other treasure, and You wouldn’t give me anything else. Keep it so they don’t get lost or wander away, so they don’t get poisoned with mutual conflict, so they would be in peace with neighboring faiths… And mostly, so they don’t forget their Serbian mind, because that mind is the same as God…
He crossed himself, kneeled, and added:
– And you, Lovćen, save from evil winds and clouds, amen.


Njegoš had a hard time in the carriage driving him from Trieste to Vienna, because of his long legs. The carriage was small for his height. He constantly apologized to his fellow travelers. He couldn’t fall asleep because of it.
All of a sudden, the carriage was stopped by highwaymen, robbers who took luggage, jewelry and ducats from passengers. Weapons were clanking.
– Everybody out! – yelled the head of the bandits.
Everyone went out, only Njegoš slowly came out of the carriage because of his height.
When they saw him coming out, getting higher and higher, they thought his bishop’s stick was a big sword, so they stepped back and ran away.
Njegoš crossed them:
– May God turn you to the good!


Many already knew that the Bishop was raising something on the top of Lovćen.
Up there, on Jezerski Vrh, stonecutters were already preparing stones – cut and equal. It seemed that it will be a church.
The stone was whiter every day.
They waited for the weather – rain and winds – to calm down to begin building.
People came to the Bishop to ask what it will be. He smiled and promised that it will be a part of Lovćen: both the Bishop and shepherds will pray there.
”Both a church and a cave!” whispered people in Cetinje.
– Bad weather will bring your edifice down, Bishop! – said one.
– When thunder and lightning strike, they scatter stones on the mountain! – adds another.
– God will not bring it down, brothers. Those who don’t know God may try. Those who try will bring themselves down… This building will show who is who.
When the skies cleared up, the Bishop went up to Jezerski Vrh to consecrate the foundations, bless the beginning of the construction and place the first stone with his own hands.
The stones were bright and clean. The Bishop caressed them with his hands.
– These rocks are holy – he said, kissed the first stone and put it in the foundation. The builders started raising and carrying other stone cubes, but the Bishop beckoned them to stop:
– Wait, brothers! I must kiss every stone. You should also kiss them. That is how you kiss faith and virtue.


During his stay in Italy, Ljubomir Nenadović, son of Priest Matija, wrote his experiences in the form of letters.
He described streets, churches, palaces, theaters, the bay with green shores and boats, flaming Vesuvius. He admired their gardens, palm trees and cypresses, lemon trees in bloom.
Then he discovered something of his own.
”I won’t bore you with describing icons, statues and other attractions. However important they are, they are all made of marble, bronze and color. However beautiful and vivid they are created, it’s all dead, it’s all cold. Objects without feelings within initiate only illusive memories in observers. I found a Serbian, important and living attraction. The Bishop of Montenegro is here…”
The Bishop resembled his work, The Mountain Wreath.
”His Mountain Wreath is a true wreath of Serbian literature”, wrote Ljubomir.
Among the gentlemen in the Russian embassy, the Bishop was taller and more handsome that the others.
Ljuba wrote as the Bishop told him:
With so many nice opportunities, why aren’t you still rising against the Turks? Why don’t you do it? You from there, I from here, and we meet in Kosovo…
– And why aren’t you Bishop, raising against them? Montenegro is the nest of heroes!
The Bishop smiled and quietly said:
– When Serbia rises, Montenegro ascends too. When Serbia stumbles, Montenegro sinks.
Nenadović knew the Bishop had more to write.


One day, Njegoš realized he will die.
He dreamed of Miloš Obilić the previous night. Lazar’s knight was still a boy, but you could see in his eyes that he will be better than all other heroes.
In the dream, Miloš also recognized Njegoš. He watched him as if he knew everything about him.
– It’s time to meet, duke – said Njegoš.
– I was also waiting for it, Bishop – the young man proudly said. – I wanted to ask someone from my nation and from the future if I may head to the place where empires, fates, histories are shared? Fortune and misfortune! To cut what has to be cut with this sword!
– You have to, son. It’s all in Kosovo. Head there; Lazar and Murat and his armies are already there. The side everyone picks now will be forever!
– What about Vuk Branković, duke?
– Serbs are also people. They cannot all be without shortcomings and fears. Some will also pick Branković’s side forever!
– How do you know all that?
– Best known are things which are only to be discovered. I’ll go to Kosovo with you. My fate is there as well. Every Serb must say a word about Kosovo.
Then he woke up and started crying.
”I can die peacefully now”, he said to himself, while tears were running down his face.


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