Once upon a time in Belgrade on Detinjce

After the First World War, Belgrade was a ruined and devastated city. Austria-Hungary stole everything that could be stolen in Belgrade, and that did not only apply to Belgrade, but to the whole of Serbia.

Already in the first days, commissions were formed to list the damaged houses and the degree of damage, and since it was known that the list would be large, certain days were determined when the commission would come to a certain street.

In Belgrade, and in the rest of Serbia, there was great poverty, so from year to year, various humanitarian organizations were created to help the population, as well as many children who were left without parents. Unable to help the children because their own relatives and neighbors lived in constant struggle for at least half a loaf of bread, they sent children to Belgrade, from all over Serbia, in the hope that someone with care would take care of them.

Starving parents were forced, in order for their children to survive, to leave them in front of rich houses in the hope that wealthy people would feed or adopt them. There were a small number of cases where children were adopted, even very negligible. The children grew up and managed on the street left to themselves. They also got names among the citizens of Belgrade as children from the cobblestones or Belgrade tents.

Children from the cobblestones wandered the streets of Belgrade in search of food and some place to hide. Belgrade tents managed to steal to feed themselves or sell stolen goods. Always torn clothes, dirty, rude in the eyes of most Belgraders were children who were bypassed because in their eyes there were thieves, not those who are fighting to make a living. The children were children from 6 to 17 years old. Even the newspapers of that time did not understand how to force the government to find a solution for poor children, so they often characterized them as “dangerous” thieves who steal from shops or warehouses. According to the journalists at the time, one of the “dangerous” thieves were children who stole chocolates and cookies in order to sell them.

There were not enough places in the homes to accommodate all the children, even if they tried to help them. Belgrade’s poor children without parents and from southern Serbia were taken to other cities to be taken care of. Mostly, these were some places in Vojvodina that were a shade richer at that time.

The number of children left without their loved ones is in the thousands, so some abandoned houses have become homes for children or floors or rooms have been created as shelters. One of the famous homes for children was located at Dobračina 16, which was created on November 30, 1918, shortly after the liberation of Belgrade, it could only accommodate 60 small hungry mouths. Those he could not receive he gave them food and sent to some families or back to the street. It was difficult to get clothes and it took a real small fortune.

In one of the homes where there were almost a thousand children, the women who looked after them figured out how to make the children happy and if they struggled every day to provide enough food or at least just bread.

They entered their rooms early and did not let them get up until they said so. They tied everyone’s legs, and then they sang a song and distributed socks to everyone. They drove them away and wished them a happy day. The joy of the children is hard to describe because they wore some socks every day because for others it was just a dream.

The nurses at the home managed to raise money and buy wool with which they knitted socks. The socks were knitted day and night, in shifts, in order to satisfy almost a thousand children.

The fate of the children from the cobblestones was literally left to a fate that knew to be very cruel.

Author: Alexander from Belgrade

( Detinjci – are celebrated on the third week before Christmas (Orthodox). Early that morning, or after arriving from the church from worship, adults tie their own or other people’s children. A strap, cord or plain twine, or plain thicker thread is usually used for tying. Usually the legs or arms are tied, so one part of the rope is tied to a table or chair – multiple symbolisms. First, it symbolizes strong family ties, harmony, peace, respect and mutual help on all occasions. )

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