THE CIRCLE OF SERBIAN SISTERS "PRINCESS JELENA" CELEBRATED 85 YEARS SINCE ITS FOUNDATION
On Saturday, February 18, 2023, the Circle of Serbian Sisters "Princess Jelena" of Gračanica Church in Windsor solemnly celebrated 85 years since its formal establishment in 1938. This jubilee comes just two years after the celebration of 75 years since the founding of the Gračanica Church-school congregation in Windsor and testifies not only that the Circle was a predecessor, but also that it played one of the key roles in planning and organizing the community around Windsor’s Gračanica.
Our local "Circle" has come a long way since their first vision in 1938 to build a community around a beautiful Gračanica church building. Their role was primarily visionary, and then, what they imagined, they slowly but surely put into practice. The most important undertaking is certainly the construction of the Gračanica Church and the Serbian Centre around which our community is gathered and knows where it belongs, and then the construction of the parish house. However, the maintenance of the Church facilities and the decoration of the church require constant care and work. The fresco painting and installation of special windows are projects that required decades of effort and work. But, with God's help, everything that was conceived and planned was eventually realized.
Today, the Circle of Serbian Sisters continues to play a vital role in our community. It is impossible to imagine any major community event without "Kolo" at the helm. The decades-long success of their endeavors and multiple awards are a reflection of their love for their Mother Serbian Orthodox Church and their community, as well as a testimony of the quality of work and dedication of everyone involved.
For eight and a half decades, the "Circle" has been carrying out activities continuously, something that few humanitarian associations in this area can boast of. Therefore, the celebration of this jubilee is of great importance, not only for the Serbian community, but also for the wider Windsor community. This jubilee brought together our Windsor community from all three churches, as well as representatives of the wider Windsor community.
The event itself was marked with a festive banquet in the Serbian Center and an appropriate program led by Mrs. Mara Jelić. Upon entering the Serbian Center, guests were greeted by Maja Jelić and Dane Kontić who were dressed in Serbian costumes and who greeted everyone by offering bread and salt. The banquet began with the prayer chanted by the SSS Gračanica, and the table was blessed by Fr. Vladimir Vranić. Father Jovica Ćetković from the Church of St. Dimitrije in Windsor and father Duško Marković from the church of St. Petka in Lakeshore took part in this solemn event and we especially thank them for taking the time to share in the joy of our community as new pages of history are written. The program started with the showing of the first part of the film about the history of the Circle of Serbian Sisters "Princess Jelena", and for collecting data from the community archives we especially highlight the hard work of Mrs. Lilly Ciganović and Mrs. Jeanne Urukalo, with constant technical support and assistance of Mr. Peter Chuk. It was a special joy that we had the opportunity to welcome and host Mr. Irek Kuzmierczyk, Member of Parliament for Windsor-Tecumseh, as well as Mr. Nebojša Tatomir, the new Consul General of the Republic of Serbia in Toronto. Mr. Kuzmierczyk greeted the gathering and for his part congratulated on the occasion of this great jubilee, both to the Circle of Serbian Sisters and the entire Serbian community, which throughout history had a great role in the life and building of Windsor and Canada. In this regard, Mr. Kuzmierczyk also read a congratulatory letter sent personally by the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Justin Trudeau, which will remain as a kind of historical recognition of the Serbian community in Windsor from the highest state level, for which we are very grateful.
Consul General of the Republic of Serbia Mr. Nebojša Tatomir, for his part, also addressed the gathering and wished to the Circle of Serbian Sisters as well as to our entire community much success in the future endeavors. Then the second part of the film about the importance of the Circle of Serbian Sisters was shown featuring personal messages of the president of the Gračanica Church-school congregation, Mr. Goran Todorović, then the current president of the Circle, Mrs. Đuja Kričkić, along with Mara Jelić and Maja Jelić (three generations of the same family at the same time active in "Kolo"), then Mrs. Anka Obradović and Nada Milojević, former presidents of the Circle, as well as Mrs. Anđa Stipić, honorary member of the Circle, and a message from Mrs. Stana Lončar, honorary president of the Circle, was also shared on the screen.
Then the SSS Gračanica, under the baton of Mrs. Rista Urukalo, sang two compositions that are remembered in our community from the earlier days invoking some wonderful memories: Praise the Lord and Years have passed. After the sung compositions, Mrs. Denise Chuk, on behalf of SSS Gračanica, extended her hearty congratulations to the Circle of Serbian Sisters, upon which all present chanted traditional song: God grant you many years!
Mrs. Biljana Milošević-Dronjak, the president of the Federation of the Circle of Serbian Sisters, addressed the gathering on behalf of the Federation and wished a happy anniversary to the “Kneginja Jelena” circle and much success in their further undertakings, and at the same time invited the younger generations to join the Circle, in order to continue the unbroken tradition. On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Gračanica Church-school congregation, the gathering was greeted by Mr. Đorđe Veličković, the first vice-president and excellent connoisseur of the history of the Windsor community and author of the Memorial (Spomenica) on the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Serbian Orthodox Church-school congregation Gračanica. After his short but very meaningful speech, Mr. Veličković also read a message from Fr. Božo Bakajlić, former parish priest at the Gračanica church, who, on his part and on behalf of his family, sent heartfelt congratulations on the occasion of this historic jubilee.
At the very end, the signer of these lines also addressed the gathering, with words of gratitude first of all to God for this wonderful jubilee. Then, briefly summarizing the importance of the "Circle" throughout history, he called on the younger generations to join the "Circle". He said, among other things, that today we are called to recognize the challenges of the present times, and they are undoubtedly greater than the challenges of cooperation between different generations. Then, Fr. Vladimir pointed out a bright and beautiful example of three generations presently active simultaneously in the Circle, Đuja Kričkić, Mara Jelić and Maja Jelić. - In order to continue the noble role and work of the Circle of Serbian Sisters, younger generations are needed, and this means that the elders should be more open to the younger ones, and the younger ones should respect the elders and learn both from their successes and from their mistakes. By doing so, the younger generations take an active part in that initial angelic "circle" entrusted to the Myrrh-bearing women who were worthy of the most wonderful news about the Resurrection. That same “circle” is transmitted to this day everywhere where the Circle of Serbian Sisters is active, thus perpetuating their noble and indeed sacred mission in the Church. –
We express our special gratitude to the organizing committee: Mrs. Đuja Kričkić, president of the "Kolo", Dubravka Jurjević, Lilly Ciganović, Jeanne Urukalo, Rajna Dobrić, Raviojla Ajdinović, Beverly Dobrić, Audrey Bajić, Helen Vasilić and Lucy Kovačević.
The entire event was professionally recorded with a video camera and photo camera, for which we thank the tech team from TeamGoran, as well as Mr. Zoran Kljajić and Aleksandar Media, respectively.
In the Lord,
Rev. Vladimir Vranic