Hidden in the woods: Zelenkovac, the Bosnian peace village (1)

Zelenkovac is an eco-tourist village in the Bosnian mountains, not far from Banja Luka, hosting artists and travellers from all over the world. According to his founder, Boro Janković, its beauty has a mission

6. Apr 2016. | 12:00 | Daniele Canepa

“Beauty will save the world,” says Prince Miskin, the main character of Fyodor Dostoevskji’s novel “The Idiot”. Unfortunately, as history has shown, sometimes this is not the case. War and hatred make people blind and universal monuments of beauty are destroyed for no reason other than the triumph of the darkness inherent in every human being. In some ways, however, beauty does save the world. According to Borislav – “Boro” – Janković, a painter by profession, beauty has saved the village which is not only his home, but his “creature”, Zelenkovac, the location of a precious as much as rare event during the war in Former Yugoslavia, Europe’s cruelest conflict after the end of World War Two.

But where is Zelenkovac and what is it? Situated only twenty minutes by car from Mrkonijć Grad and only one and a half hours from Banja Luka, the capital city of Republika Srpska, one of the two political entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zelenkovac is today an eco-tourist village in the mountains. Wood cabins and bungalows have been turned into accommodation facilities for travellers who want to spend a few days closer to nature. If this is a good “tourist” description, Boro stresses that the essence of Zelenkovac is that it’s “a place that inspires peace.”

He is one of those people who master the art of narration in such a way that the listener is immediately grabbed by his speech, and curiosity is gradually stimulated in the audience. Indeed, as he is sat at a table one sunny morning, it is a pleasure to listen to his tale while he sips on a coffee and takes an occasional drag of a cigarette. He explains that Zelenkovac has not always been what it is today. In fact, it has changed a lot. Its story, inextricably intertwined with Boro’s life, started in the early 1980s.

“This place belonged to my family. It used to be the location of a windmill. This being a quiet place, after completing my studies at the Art Academies of Sarajevo and Banja Luka, I decided to move here to paint. As I was almost penniless, I started to work with the objects that I found inside the windmill. I turned them into tools for my paintings. People thought I had become some kind of lunatic. After all, why did I come to this place, an old windmill, all alone? So, you know how these things go, they started to call me ‘Crazy Boro’”.

In fact, Boro was laying the foundations that turned Zelenkovac into an oasis of peace and the meeting-place for artists coming from all of the Former Yugoslav republics, who were fascinated by his project. “They were all friends of mine. They weren’t only painters, but also writers and poets. Through the years every one of them helped me build these wooden structures which today allow us to host around fifty people.” Having met Boro, there can be no doubt that so many have tirelessly helped him in his enterprise.

(Excerpt from “Zelenkovac, the Bosnian peace village”, published in its entirety on balcanicaucaso.org)

Na vrh