As you head towards East Serbia, you will see the Serbian Bastille on a hill above Knjaževac. The Gurgusovac Tower, built in the late 18th century, used to be a notorious prison. In more recent times, it has been one of the main tourist sites in Knjaževac and a venue of numerous art and cultural events. In order to preserve this unique site from further decay and provide the future generation with a place to create their own memories, the European Union donated funds for the reconstruction of this unique place in the Knjazevac area.
One of the main landmarks of Knjaževac, the Gurgusovac Tower, has for centuries witnessed the tumultuous history of this part of Serbia. In order to preserve the memories of the past this Tower carries, it was turned into a venue for various art and cultural events, protecting it from crumbling into dust. However, the Gurgusovac Tower visibly deteriorated over the years and was in dire need of reconstruction and adaptation.
“Many parts of the tower were damaged, with visible cracks. Thanks to the EU’s donation through the EU PRO Programme, we reconstructed the ground floor, which was covered by fine sand and was not representative. The seating tiers were already quite old and people couldn’t sit on them anymore so they mostly watched the events standing. They are planked now, so that the audience can enjoy various events in comfort. The stage had been cracked and visibly damaged, far from what it looks like now. There used to be only external lighting, but now we have adequate lighting, so that the Tower itself looks much better,” says Marija Jelenković, a Knjaževac municipal official, adding: “the European Union allocated 57,000 Euros via the EU PRO Programme and the Municipality contributed 12,300 Euros for the reconstruction of the Gurgusovac Tower. The EU’s aid is of great importance for our entire municipality and our cooperation with the EU PRO Programme on the implementation of the project was excellent.”
The Youth Culture Festival is one of the main events that takes place at Gurgusovac Tower. Ever since it was launched in 1951, the Festival has been attended by over 15,000 people every year, who have been coming to watch numerous artists from Serbia and the region. “I am proud to say that the Youth Culture Festival is one of the oldest events in our country and this part of the Balkans. We’re celebrating its 60th anniversary this year,” says Director of the Knjaževac Cultural Centre Dragana Janković proudly, and concludes: “The renovation of the Gurgusovac Tower has breathed new life into the Knjaževac culture scene, because we now have an even greater opportunities to present to the citizens the youths’ majestic achievements in music, poetry, theatre, film, fine arts, photography and graphic novels.”
The reconstruction of the open-air stage at the Gurgusovac Tower is one of the 37 local infrastructural projects the EU supported in cooperation with the Ministry for European Integration with over 4.5 million Euros via the EU PRO Programme. These projects aim to improve the quality of people’s lives by improving the conditions in sports and cultural institutions, schools and kindergartens, and health and welfare institutions; some of them will considerably improve the communal infrastructure.
The activities of EU PRO, a Programme contributing to the more balanced socio-economic development of Serbia, are supported by the European Union with over €25 million. The Programme aims to contribute to increasing the competitiveness of micro and small enterprises, improving the business environment and strengthening social cohesion in 99 local self-government units, in two regions: the Region of Šumadija and Western Serbia and the Region of Southern and Eastern Serbia. The activities in the field are implemented by UNOPS.