Cultural heritage

Family stories based on real events from the long history of the Gavrilović family.

A Serenade Under Mayor Gavrilovic’s Window

The majority of the leading figures of the Gavrilović Company, throughout generations, have been active participants in the communal, political and social life of the city of Petrinja. They were mostly councilmen, with the exception of one brother who became mayor. The people of Petrinja were thrilled when this happened and showed their appreciation in their own special way. Various city chronicles illustrate the event:

“There was widespread exhilaration. This was evident in the impressive serenade spontaneously prepared for Mayor Gavrilović in front of his home that night. Over two hundred citizens, holding beautiful lampions and torches, gathered around 8:30pm in front of the Mayor’s home. The City-Firefighters Band played three pieces, while the Slavuj (Nightingale) Croatian Singers’ Society sang three compositions. When Mr. Mayor came to the window to show his appreciation, everyone began to applaud and cheer with enthusiasm. They continued to praise him for quite some time, until they finally dispersed later on in the evening. The city of Petrinja is so proud and flattered to have a mayor that is a Croat at heart and soul and known for his goodwill. He is one of us and will most certainly give his utmost for the benefit and development of his hometown and homeland!”

Gjuro Gavrilović I was honoured by his fellow citizens and voters in their flattering and patriotic ovations upon his election as Mayor. The chronicles of the day write:

“Give the honourable position to a proven, trust-worthy and dignified person; one who will know how to fulfill the duties appointed to him, for the benefit of all. It is understandable that there were differences of opinion. However, anybody even remotely patriotic and nationalist-oriented, would want, and request, that Mr. Gjuro Gavrilović be appointed as Mayor. On Election Day, April 26, 1900, the city of Petrinja was overjoyed as one of its own was chosen to fulfill this honourable duty. A Croat at heart and soul, imbued with virtuous ideas, Gjuro will surely succeed in his role and achieve all this, for the benefit of the city’s management and general well-being.”

“That was a day of great delight for our town, and everyone was in good cheer. The beautiful serenade prepared by the town folk for their newly-appointed Mayor, was an event no one would ever forget. Young and old, anyone who could make it there, hurried to the main boardwalk where the procession was gathering. We wanted to greet our new leader; show him our respect, amity and devotion. We have the highest hopes for our new Mayor. Public opinion is that he is an ardent patriot and will do his utmost for the benefit of our town. For instance, one of the requests of the citizens of Petrinja is that during the construction of the Banovacka Railway the Mayor take into consideration the circulation and flow of the city. Furthermore, there is the question of restructuring the sewage system for the betterment of the health of the people, expediting the ban of peddling, and finally the prompt setting up of military headquarters. All these questions were of crucial importance for the development of the city. Naturally, there were many less significant issues and tasks that needed to be addressed and accomplished as well, hopefully in the near future. These, are thus, the main responsibilities entrusted to our new leader in his tenure as Mayor.”

The elaborate and somewhat overstressed nationalism behind the election of Gjuro Gavrilović as Mayor of Petrinja was a reaction to the previous Mayor Ivan Janko Stromar, who was pro-Hungarian in his political views. During his tenure as Mayor of Petrinja, the atmosphere in the city was very tense – not only among the councilmen, but among the citizens as well. For these reasons, special security measures were taken during the new election and supervised by the Deputy County Prefect, Noble Mark Aurel Fodroczy. Workers’activist, Janko Rohs, who was striving to form a Croatian Workers’ Union for the people of Petrinja, wrote a song for the new Mayor and sung it to him the day after the election (April 28, 1900):

“Glory to you, our Croatian son,
Born from our land; one of our own,
Our model-citizen, we look to you,
Glory, glory our hearts cry out:
Long live our Gavrilović kin,
But, Mayor Gjuro, mostly you!”

Mayor Gjuro Gavrilović was a man of principle and charitable nature. It is of importance to mention that he was the first and only Mayor of Petrinja to renounce his salary for the creation of the Gjuro Gavrilović Foundation, whereby the proceeds were to be used for humanitarian and nationalistic purposes. Apart from this, he put aside 400 Krones for the needs of poor children in Istria and 400 Krones for the Mensa Academica Society in Zagreb. Proceeds also went to the ill and poor of Petrinja. His contemporaries could not fail to notice and accentuate the need to imitate such behaviour:
“… those who have the means (should donate money), for our nation will then see better days ahead – days of work and labour – and not simply repeat empty promises.”
The Mayor served a mandate of two years, from 1900-1902. In 1908 he was in governance of the city once again, this time as Deputy Mayor, to the delight of the people of Petrinja. He performed his duty honourably for an entire ten years; that is, up until the end of the First World War in 1918.

During this period, Zagreb will have alternated between three of the most successful and longest-standing mayors of that time. The first was Milan Amrus, who held two tenures – the first from 1890 to 1892, and then from 1904 to 1910. In the meantime, another Mayor held the record as the longest-standing in office: from 1892 to 1904. His name was Adolf Mosinsky. He was succeeded by his colleague from the previous mandate, Milan Amruš, who then handed over leadership to architect Janko Holjac from Zagreb. Given that Holjac’s mandate coincided with the period of the First World War, he is often cited as “War Mayor” in city chronicles of that time. The War brought fear, death, hunger and deprivation. The city’s financial reserves were receding and there was absolutely no money for any major communal projects, investments or construction in the city; not to mention that the people were left at the brink of survival. Janko Holjac found his moment to shine and built several important structures before the war escalated. These ended up being some of the most beautiful art-nouveau-styled edifices in Zagreb. The first to be built was the National University Library on Marulic Square (1913). A year later, he built the new Chemical Laboratory on the south side of that same Square. He commanded the building of yet another important edifice that same year; a financial institute and first of its kind: the City Treasury. It was then located at the corner of Petrinjska and present-day Amruševa Streets.

During Amrus’ first term in office, Zagreb’s first horse-pulled tram came into being (1891). A year later, Amrus invited the world-famous scientist, Nikola Tesla to come from New York to Zagreb, to advise the city councillors on how to electrify the city. It was not until 1907, though, with Amruš’ second term as Mayor, that Zagreb’s first streetlights came into being. He founded the first almshouse and given his profession as a medical doctor, offered his medical services to the poor and ill, free of charge. He donated his own land in Klinca Selo to build the first orphanage of that time, funded with his own capital. Given that he had no children of his own and his wife was deceased, he bestowed two of his magnificent palaces on Zrinjevac Street to the City of Zagreb.

Now we must mention the third most influential Mayor of Zagreb, Adolf Mosinsky. He was the one who commanded the construction of some of the most remarkable edifices in Zagreb. He saw to the building of the Croatian National Theatre, which was completed in 1895. Emperor and King Franz Joseph ceremoniously opened the Theatre with a silver hammer made for that occasion by sculptor Franges Mihanović. Then there is the extravagant edifice across the way, the Secondary School (Gymnasium), known as Mimara today. And last but not least, the beautiful Art Pavilion and picturesque garden of the Franz Joseph Square (present-day King Tomislav Square). These edifices together made up the finest urban unit, known as the Lenuci Crescent, or Horseshoe, postcard-picture perfect.

This is now the city that will become the new home for Gjuro and his wife Paulina. In 1906, they bought a two-storey brick house at #13 Franz Joseph Square, sold to them by a respectable citizen by the name of Josip Stjepan Fesselhoferan for 60,000 Krones. Like his father, brothers and uncles, Gjuro I was a humanitarian and charitable person. Alongside his daily duties with the family business at the Factory, as well as his tenure as Mayor and later Deputy Mayor, he always found time to tend to the humanitarian activities he was a part of, with the great help of his wife, Paulina. Of all the Gavrilović wives, she was the one who was most dedicated in organizing various charity events for the city of Petrinja and its needy citizens.

With a sad heart, Gjuro Gavrilović – the most popular Mayor and Deputy Mayor in the last decade of the 19th century, declines the offer of candidature at the 1918 Election: “…due to the great amount of work in the Company and my poor health.”
His devotees accept his apology, but remain confident that, “
…Mr. Gjuro Gavrilović will not neglect his dear Petrinja nor its citizens, even though he lives in Zagreb with his wife Paulina – the respected and hard-working philanthropist from Petrinja – and their two clever and beautiful children, Vera and Gjuro II.”