From the legacy of documents testifying to over-a-century-old history of Kovin’s Public School now called ‘Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj’, fairly large in format, a warm sepia-toned photograph, mounted on a piece of cardboard frayed at the edges, stands out. There is a logo of the local photographer Midlar imprinted at the bottom right corner. The photo presents the teaching staff of the time, seated in two rows in front of the drapery. Right in the middle, as befitted, the school principal is sitting in a massive chair resembling a throne. His eyes are fixed on a point slightly upward which gives him a noble look.
It is Uncle Isa, Isidor Ignjat Kupusarevic. He taught Mathematics, Physical Education and Serbian. His work ’’Kovin up to the end of the 18th century“ published by Oberleiter in 1935 is a valuable historical source illustrating the past of South Banat. Next to him, on both sides, two female teachers are seated: Jelka – Ilonka Vuković, born Teodorović, who taught German and Singing, and Ljubinka Todorović, married name Muravjev, who taught Handicrafts and Gymnastics. Their appearance is typical for the time, the 1930’s: modest dresses, a pearl necklace, a crochet collar, permed hair, but there is a trace of boldness on young Jelka’s face looking straight at the camera with her lips slightly curved up in a faint smile.
Behind them, three male teachers are standing. With a bow tie and a warm look in his eyes fixed on a point in distance, there stands Dimitrije Kurguzov, exiled from the bolshevik USSR, coming from Majkop, a town at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains. The winds of destiny brought him to the Pannonian Plain, to a small town, still puzzled by the disappearance of one and the creation of another monarchy. He taught Mathematics and Gymnastics, but could be easily pictured as an artist and a bohemian at „Chez Maxime“, alongside other expatriates. Next to him we can see Mladen Jovašević, a teacher of Serbian. The records show that subsequently, mysterious Lord’s ways led him southwards to the only oasis of liberty in occupied Europe – The Užice Republic, where he was the principal of Užice Grammar School. The sixth member of the staff is Vitomir Milošević, wearing a straw hat, who taught Natural History and Physical Education.
The Great War is finally over, Austro-Hungarian Monarchy has collapsed. A new era brings hope, prosperity, the faith in common sense and peace. The school uses the curriculum prescribed in the Kingdom of Serbia in 1904. Magnesium light has frozen the look on their faces. Just like the flashlight, the newborn euphoria will end soon and the horsemen of the apocalypse will gallop across ill-fated Europe once again.
They are long gone, but the photograph remains, and the eyes of our predecessors are looking at us from the page of the school website.
Acknowledgements: Gordana Popović, English Teacher