Speaking at the round table discussing the work of Miloradić were academician Nikola Benčić and CHF deputy director Ivan Tepeš, joined by pundits Đuro Vidmarović, Sanja Vulić, Alojz Jembrih and Marin Knezović
On the 25th of April the Croatian Writers’ Association and the Croatian Heritage Foundation hosted a round table on Mate Meršić Miloradić, a major national revival figure in the Gradišće Croat community. Mate Meršić Miloradić (Mersich Máté) was born in Frakanava (Frankenau), a hamlet in Austria’s central Gradišće (Burgenland) region on the 19th of September 1850. Miloradić was a priest in the Gradišće Croat community, a mathematician, philosopher, astronomer and the leading figure in the community’s poetry and culture scene. He completed his studies of theology in the Hungarian city of Jura (Győr) in 1876. He served as a chaplain in Filež (Nikitsch, Austria) and in Veliki Borištof (Großwarasdorf, Austria) and as a priest in Hrvatska Kemlja (Horvátkimle, Hungary) from 1878 to his death in 1928. He is the creator of Hrvat mi je otac i Hrvatica mat (“My Father is a Croat and my Mother is a Croat”), the unofficial hymn of the Gradišće Croat community. He wrote in German, English, Hungarian, Russian, French, Latin and Croatian. Under the nom de plume Miloradić he edited numerous Gradišće Croatian publications, including the Calendar of the Holy Family (1903–19) and the first Croatian weekly Naše novine (“Our News”, 1910–22). Following the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian territories in 1921 it was Meršić who introduced Gradišće as the Croatian name of the Burgenland region. He penned a Croatian grammar book (Slovnica hrvatskoga jezika) and school textbooks for physics and religious instruction (catechism). He is considered a forerunner of modern poetry in the Čakavian dialect in the body of Croatian literature. He was active in philosophy, astronomy, geometry, mathematics, physics and theology and published his scientific work in many foreign language journals across Europe. He was a central figure in the cultural history of the Gradišće Croatian community. Croatian Writers’ Association president Đuro Vidmarović penned an article for Matica magazine on the topic of this great Croatian writer, including a review of Miloradić, a monograph on Mate Meršić. Vidmarović observes that Miloradić’s activity as a poet precipitated a revival of sorts both in the literature and the spiritual life of western Hungarian Croatians and that his literary oeuvre laid the groundwork for the standard literary version of the Gradišće dialect of the Croatian language. Academician Nikola Benčić, the author of the monograph, Vidmarović observes, is the top pundit when it comes to the literary oeuvre of Mate Meršić Miloradić and a student of the literary history of the Gradišće Croatian community.
Speaking of Benčić Vidmarović notes that this “Literary critic, linguist, Slavic studies expert, pedagogue and lexicographer is in many aspects the successor of his great predecessor, having, in his broad ranging work lent a hand not only to the study of, but also the preservation and valuing of the cultural heritage and cultural identity of the Gradišće Croatian community. Academician Nikola Benčić’s monograph Miloradić is an exhaustive work, essential as a work of literary theory, literary history and culture studies without which no future study of the cultural heritage and language of the Gradišće Croat community will be possible. The value of the Miloradić monograph is in the fact that it provides an abundance of photographic documentary material that helps in our understanding and comprehension of the creative genius of a great compatriot living abroad, outside the sphere of the culture, language and political events of Croatia proper, but still able to serve as a beacon that to this day sheds light on the entire ethnic space of the western Hungarian ethnic archipelago.”
Joining the author, Croatian Academy of Sciences and Art corresponding member Nikola Benčić, and CHF deputy director Ivan Tepeš at the round table to discuss the Miloradić monograph were prominent experts Đuro Vidmarović MA, president of the Croatian Writers’ Association, associate professor Sanja Vulić PhD and full professor Alojz Jembrih PhD, both from the Croatology department at the University of Zagreb’s University Department of Croatian Studies, and Marin Knezović MA, head of the CHF department for ethnic Croatian minority communities abroad.
Deputy director Tepeš welcomed the participants and spoke of the historical context of Mate Meršić’s work. Professor Jembrih gave a brief chronological overview of the life of Mate Meršić Miloradić and of his first appearance in an anthology of poetry in the Čakavian dialect of the Croatian language. He also spoke of the dissertation penned by academy member Benčić on the topic of Miloradić, and on the discourse of Miloradić’s anti-poetry. Đuro Vidmarović also spoke of the ninetieth anniversary of the passing of this prominent figure in the Gradišće Croatian community. Vidmarović discussed Meršić’s research and literary work in two distinct periods, from 1876 to 1903 and from 1903 to 1928. He also noted that we could today speak of two literary standards of the Croatian language: the Croatian literary standard of Croatia proper and the Gradišće Croatian literary standard. He emphasised that M. M. Miloradić did not consider the language in which he wrote and in which Gradišće Croats were to be educated to be a distinct entity, but rather an integral part of the shared language of all Croatians. In closing Vidmarović noted that this monograph must also be an integral part of the whole of Croatian heritage, saying that, “a round table like this, with which we mark the ninetieth anniversary of the death of the great Miloradić, will only fully make sense if we make it a part of or heritage in full and treat it in the same fashion as we would writers of early Croatian religious poetry or those who are part of his generation.”
Professor Vulić recalled her first encounter with the name of M. M. Miloradić four decades ago. As a student she came into contact with the third book published by Meršić. At the round table Vulić spoke of the poetic language employed, the rare phrases and the imagery they evoke, the value of these literary works and the Turkish loanwords incorporated into the Gradišće Croatian dialect. She pointed to the topic of emigration present in Miloradić’s poetry, noting that domiciliation and a relation towards Croatia proper dominate his themes and that he was well versed in Croatian literature.
In closing, academician Nikola Benčić noted that he had been a refugee at the time he wrote his dissertation, unable to collect all the necessary data, and that the monograph was thus incomplete in terms of noting all those that had had an influence on the poetry of Mate Meršić. It is to be hoped that work on the research of the life and oeuvre of M. M. Miloradić, this great Croatian writer of the twentieth century, will continue.
Other prominent figures taking part in the round table were writer Jurica Čenar, Petar Tyran, the chief editor of the Gradišće Croatian newspaper Hrvatske novine, Gabriela Novak-Karral, a member of the Croatian government’s advisory body on Croats abroad and Luka Kazimović, the curator of the Museum of Samobor.
By: Naida Šehović; photography: Snježana Radoš