Cultural heritage

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

Jelica, Forever Gavrilović’s Jelica

There was no dilemma for the choice of Gavrilović’s trademark symbol. It was not based on any specific talent, tone of voice, appearance, or beauty, as is usually the case for important marketing projects of this sort. This is what makes Petrinja’s choice of trademark all the more special. When we reveal our choice, you will see that we are not dealing with a runway model or a new-found beauty queen, but rather a simple neighbourhood girl, enjoying her favourite salami: naturally, Gavrilović’s Zimska Salami.

The story goes that Jelica loved to eat since she was a little girl. She would always sneak into the factory, where the workers, who took a liking to her, would slip her some Zimska. It is needless to ask, thus, who was chosen as the trademark for the popular salami. Jelica was the obvious pick. Throughout her life, Jelica, later known as Jela, continued to be fond of Zimska Salami. It is no wonder that her image adorned the packaging wrap for the Zimska. She was also given the privilege of being chosen as patroness for a sailboat named after her. Her image was printed on the sails and the boat went on to win many a regatta.

The year 1926 was important for the Gavrilović family. Apart from being known for their solid meat production and financial dealings, that year was a significant one because it was when the famous Zimska Salami began its promotion. Other salamis began with their advertising as well. The decision on the trademark symbol was made together between the Gavrilović family, several of their advisors, and the Board of Directors – namely Dr. Dragutin Cekuš and his wife Vera, whose maiden name was Gavrilović. It was in Vienna, in 1926, that the Gavrilović trademark symbol of Jelica came about, inspired by the image of the Cekuš’ three-year-old daughter.

And so we have Jelica – not only the Jelica from the history books and chronicles – but stories of a real life Jelica, living in the memories of the Gavrilović family still today. We set up an informal coffee meeting with Aunt Vesna, cousin of the famous Jelica, and closest living relative to the little girl that made Gavrilović so famous. Aunt Vesna emailed us a scanned photograph of the two girls together. We see a baby carriage and baby Vesna inside. Standing beside the carriage is a ten-year-old girl with dark hair and dark eyes, and slender in stature despite her reputation as a greasy-chinned little girl from all the food and salamis she ate. Jelica never flaunted or gloated of her fame; nor was she arrogant. She was a modest and kind young lady. She survived World War II and all its post-war catastrophes just like the rest of the Gavrilović family.

Aunt Vesna remembers hearing stories that, as a little girl, Jelica was vivacious and talkative. She loved exploring and sneaking around the factory. Given her taste for food, the workers were happy to feed her with various meat delicacies and whenever they came up with a new product or pate, they always asked her opinion. This was all very humorous to the workers because there wasn’t a single product that wasn’t to her liking. To her, they were all absolutely delicious; especially the Zimska, which was at the very top of her list. Alas, the thin figure of her youth slowly began to lose its good shape.

Jelica’s mother was worried more and more about Jelica’s figure. After her secret meals at the factory, Jelica would come home and eat again so that her mother wouldn’t find out about her covert visits. One day when Jelica came home she found her mother in the company of her girlfriends. She asked Jelica where she had been so long and what she was doing, and Jelica replied:‘’I was out playing with my friends near the Petrinjčića River!” Jelica’s mother and her friends laughed and said:“Then how did you get so greasy around the mouth from playing with your friends? And your chin is dirty too!” Jelica got all tangled up in her fibs and nearly broke out in tears. She wasn’t used to lying, and the children at school would make fun of how she would get all jumbled up if she had to tell a fib.

Jelica Cekuš was a woman of cheerful disposition, honesty, and good manners. She married into the Laktić family and lived at Gundulićeva 50. In 2007 she died a great-grandmother at a ripe old age and was buried at the Mirogoj Cemetary. Aunt Vesna Izaković concludes:“Everyone loved Jelica for a reason. She was a noble personality, ever since she was a child. It is no wonder that she was chosen as the trademark for Gavrilović products. Her portrait was painted by the renowned Croatian artist, Andrija Maurović.”