Thousands of people lined the shores of the Danube in Novi Sad to bid a final farewell to one of the city’s favorite sons, singer and songwriter Djordje Balasevic who many view as a beacon of free thinking not just in his native Vojvodina region but across the former Yugoslavia.
Balasevic was known for his brave criticism of the authories in the 1990s and later in the 21st century. He was disliked by nationalists because of his anti-war statements and his opposition to fear-mongering and discrimination.
The organized event on the Novi Sad quay attracted people from other places in Serbia, including the capital Belgrade and places across the northern Vojvodina region, to hear and sing along with Balasevic’s songs being played from a sound system loud enough to be heard across the river on the Novi Sad fortress which was lit up with an image of the late singer. Red and white lLanterns were lit and released to float above the river and the city. A choir from the city’s Serbian National Theater sang some of his sadder songs and a saxophone player accompanied the music from a boat on the river.
Balasevic died of COVID-19 in the Vojvodina Clinical Center on Friday, February 19 and was buried on Sunday with family and small circle of friends in attendance. Fans left flowers and lit candles at the grave soon after the funeral. Pictures of the grave have been posted on social media. The city authorities declared a day of mourning on Sunday.
Balasevic was mourned across the former Yugoslavia. Fans in the Croatian capital Zagreb left a sign with a word in Cyrillic from one of his songs dedicated to the city in a central square and lit candles, others sang his songs at a central square in the Adriatic resort of Split. In Pula, in Croatia’s Istria region, candles were lit in front of the railway station which was featured in one of his popular songs. Balasevic’s first post-war concert in Croatia was in Pula with the proceeds going to the local hospital. An image of Balasevic illuminated the city hall in Sarajevo, invoking fond memories of his 1998 concert, just three years after the end of the war. Fans also gathered in North Macedonia’s capital Skoplje, lighting candles and singing his songs. Not since the death of Yugoslavia leader Tito has the death of any public figure been marked across the region as it has for Balasevic.
Tangerines and plush toy rabbits were laid at all the memorial gatherings in reference to one of his early songs about his childhood and native city – nine candles on a cake when I got a pair of tangeries and a white fluffy rabbit. Toy rabbits were thrown at him from the audience at virtually every concert.
The Balasevic family received messages of condolence from politicians in his native Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, North Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina.