On the occasion of Kotor patron Saint Tripun feast day the Rijeka-based Bokelj Navy 809 Croatian fraternity and several co-organisers, including the Rijeka branch office of the Croatian Heritage Foundation, celebrated the Bokelj Navy 809’s wealth of tradition and heritage with a number of events for citizens of Rijeka and its environs from February 14th through 22nd.

The multi-day event kicked off at the Ribook bookstore with a presentation of the Collected Works of Viktor Vida, a volume published on the 100th anniversary of the birth of this Croatian poet from Boka Kotorska, who emigrated to Argentina in early 1948. Following introductory comments by Josip Gjurović, president of the Bokelj Navy 809 fraternity in Zagreb, Željko Brguljan and Siniša Mišković spoke of the life and work of this writer, known for the strong and intimate atmosphere of his work and themes of mortality, isolation and existential angst, written in the tradition of writers such as A. G. Matoš and Tin Ujević.
An exhibition of photographs entitled From the History of Boka Kotorska – The Cravat Among the Bokelj People opened the following day at the City of Rijeka Library’s Public Reading Room on Korzo square, presented by exhibition authors Željko Brguljan and Nikola Albaneže. The eighty photographs on display, created from the emergence of photography to the mid-20th century, tell the story of the history of Boka Kotorska, with portrait of Bokelj natives, maritime captains, members of the Bokelj Navy and their families. The exhibition offers an excellent insight into the ethnic Bokelj folk costume and the development of urban fashion trends over time, including the essential cravat (necktie) as an original Croatian article of apparel. The exhibition is organised by the Bokelj Navy 809 Croatian fraternity of Zagreb and the Academia Cravatica.
On the feast day of St Tripun, patron of the diocese of Kotor, the members of the Bokelj Navy 809 Croatian fraternity of Rijeka performed the famed medieval round dance Balat Svetog Tripuna to the accompaniment of the Trsat Municipal Band on the plaza facing the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The dance is performed exclusively by the Bokelj Navy 809 in honour of St Tripun and only on particular holidays. The kolo, or round dance, has attributes of the ritual, the sacred and of the maritime secular, having developed from the lives and work of mariners. It consists of a dozen figures dominated by forms present in the life of the mariner such as anchors and chains. The Bokelj dance was preceded by the celebration of a Christian mass, led on the occasion of the celebration of St Tripun feast day by Bishop of Kotor Monsignor Ilija Janjić. For the occasion the choir of the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary sang the hymn to St Tripun, and this year’s Bokelj Navy 809 Small Admiral Borna Schubert spoke the Lauds (praise) of St Tripun as a sign of thankfulness on this very special moment.
An exhibition was opened that evening at the church featuring votive gifts made by Bokelj seamen – four hundred eleven ex-voto (votive offering) silver plaquettes – a part of the collection of the diocese of Kotor, which holds a legacy of two and a half thousand such votive gifts from mariners. Most date from the baroque period and were crafted by the traditional master craftsmen of Boka Kotorska. Most of the plaquettes depict the motif of the Mother of God and a ship, which the seamen offered along with votive prayers for safe navigation and a safe return to their port of origin.
Mileva Pejaković-Vujošević, the director of the Maritime Museum of Montenegro in Kotor, spoke of the value of this cultural heritage. Bishop of Kotor Monsignor Ilija Janjić declared the exhibition open.
For the final days of the event the organisers were joined by their dear guests from Montenegro – Marija Vučinović, minister in the Government of Montenegro and president of the Croatian Civic Initiative, and Zvonimir Deković, president of the Croatian National Council of Montenegro. During their multi-day visit to Primorje-Gorski Kotar County and the City of Rijeka they were jointly received by County Prefect Zlatko Komadina and Deputy Mayor of Rijeka Marko Filipović. They also took part in a round table discussion on the Status of Croatians in Boka Kotorska, at which they were joined by Professor Đuro Vidmarović. The very successful Days of Bokelj traditionally closed with the Bokelj Night Ball at the Hotel Bonavia.

Text and photos: Dejan Miculinić