IVO LOLA RIBAR, LOVE AND THEATRE
Personal review of a play creation.
During early 90’s, there was a novel “Legend Of A Girl Named Freedom” in our home library. I laid my hand on it, at the age when girls start to read romance novels and when they do it secretly – on one hand, because the whole world thinks they are too young for love, on the other hand, because everything we read under the table is way more interesting than our reading.
I can clearly remember how I used to hide the romantic story of Ivo Lola Ribar and Sloboda Trajković under my math book, so I managed to read it in one afternoon, and cried myself to sleep… not knowing that, between the covers of this book, I found one more thing, which was, at the time, even more dangerous for kids, than showing early interest in romantic relationships. That was Yugoslavia. The idea of Yugoslavia. Brotherhood and unity in antifascist battle of people and nationality of the country I was born in, which was withering, too painfully and dramatically, to have kids visiting her.
Partisan romance that I found on a shelf, made me visit forbidden worlds. Sloboda and Lola. Love and Yugoslavia.
For the first time, Love and Yugoslavia became one to me, and Ivo Lola Ribar and Sloboda Trajkovic got engraved in my memory as romantic heroes of tragic fate. It wasn’t clear for me – why the hell would anyone change the street named after Lola, since he was ideal to me as a girl: impersonation of all attributes which could be seen as masculine, in a very noble way.
Young, handsome, smart, brave, successful, gentle and a good friend – Ivo Lola Ribar was all you can imagine in a period of growing up, when all the girls dream about their prince. I was lucky enough for my ideal to be a national hero (without monarchy titles), and a girl with whose character I was supposed to identify with, wasn’t one of those little princesses waiting to be saved, but brave enough to make her own choice, even if that meant she would never get to be saved.
I can’t say that I fell in love with Lola, but it’s certain that I fell in love with love as such, from the example of this novel’s couple. Sloboda (Freedom) was my first imagined name for a future daughter… but I had to give up on it very soon: only a couple of years later, when I became aware that a dictatorship figure of a Slobodan rose above my happy childhood.
It wasn’t popular to write “Legend of a girl named Freedom” in a section “favorite book” of a wordbook, neither could I, during my school years, get to shine with an essay or report on this subject. Thus, this first love of mine stayed where all the first loves stayed. In the childhood.
Memory of her came and passed, in some logical stages: I would remember Lola when I read about and learnt about antifascism …and then I would forget about him, as soon as another subject came to me. I used to read newspaper texts about him with lots of interest, but I forgot about them as soon as I turned the page. During time, I managed to catch the ends with the other characters of this story, so I found out about Lola’s brother, Jurica, the artist who died just a few days before him. I found out more things about his father, doctor Ivan Ribar, and also about the day when he was informed by Tito, that he lost two sons in a week. Of course, thought of this antique- like tragic scene, ran through my head, but my thoughts went astray, towards some other themes that were in focus of my (mostly theatre – related) studies.
I couldn’t believe it when Vlatko Sekulović asked me one day: “Shall we make a play about The Ribar Family?” OF COURSE WE WILL, but…where did that idea come from?
I ran to the first meeting with the producers, almost breathless: “That’s fantastic, that’s brilliant, that’s the best subject ever! Who got the idea for it?”
“Well, you did.”, Vlatko told me.
“Me? How come?”
“This summer, when we went to the seminar about the common language, at the Exit festival. Do you remember that?”
I wouldn’t say so.
“I asked you”, Vlatko said, “Which subject is better for the play – Sutjeska or Neretva? Then you asked me: What do you think of The Ribar family? I liked the idea, so I talked to some people about it. Everyone I mentioned that we’d be making a play about Ribar family to, told me it was a great idea.”
Suddenly, it occurred to me that I tried my whole life to get back to that story, that family, that love…even though I wasn’t even aware that I’d been looking for that road all the time.
Two months passed since that meeting. My first two dramaturgic-directional explications passed the reading exams by the producers, and also more and more cooperators came to many of our team meetings.
Beside Aneta Goranović, Guta Grobački and of course – Vlatko, Srđan also came to our meetings on regular basis. Srđan Milošević is a historian, who was known to me just for his texts from the Peščanik website, and whose task on this project was to direct us, supervise and create educational part of the process, which we’d go through with our author team and actors of the play. After we choose them.
During this phase, Srđan picks my reading, I write the names, and run home, to the library or the internet.
„Political memoires of dr. Ivan Ribar“, 4 parts.
„Yugoslavia at war“ series, 23 documentaries.
Jozo Petričević’s Biography of Ivo Lola Ribar, etc.
The list is getting bigger and bigger!
One day I was encouraged enough to ask: „Is there anything easier? Less demanding to read?“
„There is“, he told me, „You must read Mirko Tepavac’s book My second war and peace. That’s the great introduction to the theme. Brilliantly written book, clear and concise, the style reminds of a novel. I’d even give it to my kid to read it.“
That reminded me of asking him: „Have you heard of a novel A legend of a girl named Freedom?“
„Nver heard of it.“, he replied.
„It’s actually a love story.“ I explained to him and stand peacefully, so that I could stand sneering looks on my coworkers’ faces. How could I appeal to a romantic novel at such a serious meeting?
What can I tell you, my dear colleagues?
To me, by chance, Lola equals Love.
The theatre can lack anything, but it mustn’t lack love.
There will be history in this play. And politics. Antifascism. War. Birth and breakdown of Yugoslavia. There will be monuments. Even the desecrated ones. There will be streets. Even the ones with changed names. There will be partisans and chetniks. There will be talks about dangers of historical revision. There will be shouts: DEATH TO FASCISM! There will be Freedom for the people. There will also be political memories od dr Ivan Ribar, there will be SKOJ (League of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia), AVNOJ (Anti – Fascist Council for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia), NOB (National Liberation Battle) and ideology.
But mostly there will be love.
Love that equals our battle and our victory.
„Our happiness and life that we wanted, like millions of other people, we couldn’t achieve isolated, but only through our battles and victories.“, Lola wrote to his fiancee, Sloboda. „That’s why those two things are one in me.“
Before he could send her this letter, he was informed of her death. She was poisoned with gas, together with her family, and thousands of other, innocent prisoners of Banjica camp. She stood brave in front of her enemy. She managed to bear the torture, but she didn’t accept writing the letter which would helppp the fascists find Lola. With every minute of her short life, she justified her name- Sloboda (Freedom).
On this day, November the 27th 1943. Bomb got to Lola. But that wasn’t the end of his story. Later, came the victory, in which he believed until his last breath, never separating it from ideas of love and life.
What do we believe in today?
That will be the elementary question of our play.
What do we believe in…and what do we mean when we say that we believe in love?