Stevan Sindjelic is a sacred name for all Serbs: it is the name of the hero who made the greatest sacrifice in the fight for liberation against the Turks.
This hero did the unthinkable in 1809: surrounded by 6,000 Turks, faced with defeat in the battle of Chegar, seeing that he could not win, he fired from his holster into a barrel full of gunpowder and killed himself, the rebellious Serbs who fought with him, but also all 6,000 Turks that surrounded them.
Today Sindjelic lives in the hearts of all Serbs, but he also has a special place in Svilajnac, a small town in the centre of the Resava region, where he was born, lived and waged war.
The house in which he once lived is located in the village of Grabovac, some 10 minutes drive from the centre of Svilajnac, a town some 120 km south from Belgrade.
The house is completely preserved, and apart from the memory of Stevan Sindjelic, it is an example of how houses were built in this part of Serbia in the late 18th and early 19th century. Due to its historical value, but also as an example of folk architecture, it is a cultural monument of great importance in Serbia.
By the way, Sindjelic’s house was not originally where it is today: it used to be a few hundred meters away from the centre of the village, to which it was relocated in 1974.
Stevan Sindjelić himself was not born in Grabovac, but in 1770 in the southern village of Vojska, to father Radovan Rakić and mother Sindjelija Rakić. Father Radovan, a craftsman, died while Stevan was a boy, and his mother remarried. Stevan was named Stevan Sindjelic after his mother’s name Sindjelija.
This Serbian hero started a family in Grabovac, and this was his base in later fights against the Turks.
Today, Stevan Sindjelic’s house is located in a large yard, where there are a couple of other museum-type buildings: a chapel, a wooden bell tower and a dining house. There are three rooms in the main house – two bedrooms and the main room, in which there was a fireplace, next to which most of the life of Serbs of that time took place.
Tourists can visit the entire complex, and not far from the well there are benches, where they can sit and enjoy the idyllic peace of this Resava village.
Sindjelic was highly respected among the people in this area, so Karadjordje Petrovic himself, the leader of the First Serbian Uprising, often crossed the Morava and came to Stevan’s feet to make plans to revolt.
Stevan was immediately informed about the announcement of the uprising in Orašac in 1804, and he immediately called to arms all the men in the entire Resava region. The Turks immediately sent the army, but Stevan Sindjelic waited for them with his insurgents and defeated them at Jasenjar near Svilajnac.
Sindjelic then participated with his insurgents in the Battle of Ivankovac, where the Serbian insurgents won a great victory against the Turkish army led by Hafiz Pasha. After this battle, Karadjordje proclaimed Stevan Sindjelic a duke (vojvoda).
Duke Sindjelic continued to fight in his area, so he liberated Cuprija, Paracin and Razanj from the Turks.
Waiting for the much superior Turkish army in 1809, the insurgents dug trenches near Nis, in the vicinity of the village Kamenica. On the hill Chegar, in the first trench, were Duke Stevan Sindjelic and his 3,000 people from Resava. They remained among the last in their positions, and the Turkish army directed the main part of its attack on them.
The battle on Chegar began on May 19, 1809: on one side there were 3,000 Serbs under the leadership of Stevan Sindjelic, and on the other many more Turks. The fighting was fierce, the battle was fought with rifles, then knives and bare hands, and the Turks were constantly getting reinforcements.
As we have already written, when he saw that he would surely lose, Sindjelic made a fateful decision, and shot at the barrels of gunpowder, which started a chain of explosions that killed all the surviving Serbs and 6,000 Turks.
The Turkish leader was furious, and ordered that all Serbian heads be cut off, where the infamous Ćele-kula was later made of them, a building erected from the skulls of insurgents who fell on Chegar.
This text is part of the project “Svilajnac, a small tourist paradise”, and was co-financed by the Municipality of Svilajnac.
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