If you venture just 6km outside of Novi Sad, and head downtown of beautiful city of Sremska Kamenica you will discover a yellow house. Even though this charming house may look like any other, it is however very special. This house belonged to the most famous poet of Novi Sad – Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj, and this is the very house is where he spent his final days
About Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj
Born in Novi Sad in 1833 to a well-respected family, even years after his passing his name is still celebrated and his work cherished and loved. He finished grade school in Novi Sad and then continued his higher education part in Novi Sad, part in Hungary. He studied law in Budapest, Prague, and Vienna but upon completion of his studies he returned to where his heart was – his Novi Sad.
This was a golden time for cultural and arts development with many great names hailing from this era. Because of his friendship with the also famous Svetozar Miletic, he was able to get a job as a clerk in the Novi Sad magistrate. In 1861 he met his future wife, the stunningly beautiful Ruza Licanin, who he married in 1862. Shortly after, some of his most beautiful work came to fruition.
You can ask any Serbian to recite his poems by heart and just get ready to be amazed by how many they will know. Poems such as “Tell me, tell me, how do I call you”, “You fell asleep, and I am awake”, “Silent night, my sun is sleeping”, and many others that paint a picture of the happiest period of his life, a period that unfortunately did not last. The happiness he was feeling at that time also inspired him to write a book of poems “Djulici”.
He did not find himself in the work of the magistrate so he left his job in order to pursue a career in literature. In 1880 he began editing a popular children’s magazine “Neven” that was considered the best of its kind at the time.
Nikola Tesla and Jova Zmaj
Nikola Tesla was Mr. Zmaj’s biggest fan, and considered him to
be the greatest Yugoslav poet. They had the honor of meeting each other in Belgrade in 1897. Uncle Jova Zmaj (how he is known by many) wrote verses to honor the arrival of the great inventor.
Nikola Tesla was so touched by this that he started to cry and kissed the poet’s hand. Upon Nikola’s return to America, he took it upon himself to translate some poems from Mr. Zmaj, which made him the first Yugoslav writer to be published there.
In 1870 Mr. Zmaj finished a medical degree, and once again returned to Novi Sad where he began his medical practice. Soon after, tragedy struck in the family. He lost his children, and then his wife to the deadly tuberculosis. From this dark period in his life, a series of elegiac poems were published under the name “Faded Roses”.
Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj died in his sleep on June 14th 1904.
In his honor Matica Srpska set up an award called “The Zmaj’s Award” (Zmaj means dragon) that is awarded every year for poems written in Serbian.
These poems are presented during the biggest children’s festival in Serbia called “Zmajeve Decije Igre” (Zmaj’s Children’s Games) during which a charter is also awarded in order to give recognition for creative contributions to children’s literature.
The museum was closed for public in 1941. , and afterwards it was re-opened for public in 1954, on his 50th death anniversary.
Trg Jovana Jovanovića Zmaja 1, Sremska Kamenica