by Petar Djurdjev, historian

Historians believe the inhabitants of old Novi Sad, Serbia, who called themselves Greeks, were actually of Cincari (Aromanian) origin, Hellenized Romans, descendants of the former Roman Empire, who mostly inhabited northern Greece.

In the first half of the 18th century, the Kucovlaks, as the Greeks called the Cincari, settled in Novi Sad. Among the settlers were other Greeks too, who wanted to trade with Austria.

There is evidence that the Greeks lived in large numbers in Novi Sad before 1748.

The Greek community asked the Magistrate for permission to open a Greek school in 1782. In their letter, the Greeks said there was Greek presence in the city for the past 50 years.

In historical records we can see that Georgius Rus and his wife Hadzi Janja moved to Novi Sad in 1707. George Vruša claimed in his will, in 1769, that he had lived in his house in Novi Sas for 40 years, that is, since the late twenties.

In 1745, the Orthdox Bishop Visarion Pavlović had a conflict with 15 local Greeks, who went on and chose their own priest, Timotej Dima.

Many Greek merchants came to Novi Sad when Belgrade fell under Turkish rule in 1739. Over a thousand families, skilled craftsmen and merchants left Belgrade to find a new home in Novi Sad .

The free royal city

Under the Habsburg Monarchy, Novi Sad was declared “free royal city” in 1748. In the Charter of the City it was strictly stated that rights and privileges were only given to the citizens of Novi Sad, not to those who came to the city to earn money or to the ones escaping the Ottoman empire.

This meant that those who did not have the status of citizen could not own shops or do their own trade.

The Empress did not approve the request by the Greeks, who were Turkish subjects, to be able to trade with all kinds of goods, she only allowed them to sell Turkish goods. The Greek migrant workers tried to adapt, start families, in order to acquire all civil rights. They tried to bring their families from the Ottoman empire, but the Turkish authorities were vigilant and prevented women from leaving the empire.

In 1775, the council of governors decided Turkish subjects to be barred from trade and commerce, their belongings be sequestered, and they should be expelled from Austria. Not wanting to be second-class citizens, many Greeks in Novi San swore faith to the Empress of Austria.

Grčkoškolska Street

Those Greeks who managed to bring their families or marry Greek women, or had a strong national feeling, wanted their children to attend a Greek school.

It is not known where the first Greek school opened in the 1730s, but it is known that in 1770 Orthodox Bishop Mojse Putnik offered a classroom in a Serbian school for teaching the Greek language. In 1780, Marko Servijski issued a gift letter to the site for the construction of the Greek school.

The Greeks stated in their request to the City Magistrate that they had 80 Greek schoolchildren, and in 1783 they were allowed to build a school. They bought a house in today’s Grčkoškolska Street and built their school there. First teachers were Toma Panajot, Antin Papa, Georgije Haci, Dima Puljo, and the school principal (from 1805 to 1842) was Georgi Beljanski.

Greeks also asked for their own church and the appointment of a priest who would perform the religious services in Greek. At their request, the Church of St. Nicholas was ceded to them. There, liturgies were performed in Greek every other week until the Revolution of 1848.

The Greek school continued to operate (the last teacher was Nikola Janakidis), and it seems it closed down in 1870, as there were only four students. The Greek school was later included in the fund of the Serbian Gymnasium. The citizens of Novi Sad, who were considered to be people of Greek origin met on August 3, 1873, under the presidency of George D. Kode and concluded that the Greek municipality should be dismissed and become part of the Serbian Orthodox Church .

The Buljkes experiment

After the Second World War, at the beginning of June 1945, in the vicinity of Novi Sad, in the village of Buljkes, about 4,000 Greeks settled. They were the members of the liberation movement “ELAS”, who had to leave Greece, after being defeated at the Greek civil war. Later, another 32,000 Greeks, fighters of Marcos’ army, joint them.

The Greeks had their autonomous government, publishing newspapers and money. After the vote of the Information Bureau of the Communist and Workers’ Parties (Cominform), in 1949, they left Yugoslavia. Only a small number remained in Novi Sad and its surroundings.

Kosta Hadzi: for the love of people and football

Kosta Hadzi (1898-1971) was one of the founders and first trainer, technical director and president of FK Vojvodina.

He was born on November 8, 1898 in Vrsac, his father was Kosta Hadži the elder and his mother Sofia, one of the ten children of the family. His family came from northern Greece. He finished elementary school in his native Vršac, he finished high school in Szeged and Novi Sad, where he graduated in 1916. As a Serbian patriot, he was the secretary of the Serbian army in Pecs and the deputy of the Grand National Assembly, who in 1918 elected Novi Sad to join the Kingdom of Serbia.

He left the army in 1919 and studied in Paris and Cannes from 1919 to 1922. He returned to Novi Sad, in 1927, where he passed the lawyer exams and then until 1961 he successfully dealt with the law and advocacy.

As a 16-year-old, together with his schoolmates he participated in the founding of FK Vojvodina and was appointed technical director of the club, where he performed until 1933. He was the first trainer in the history of Vojvodina and was also appointed president of the club.

Kosta Hadzi was the leader of the Yugoslav national team in Montevideo (Uruguay), where the first World Cup in 1930 was held.

President of FK Vojvodina, dr Kosta Hadži, and FIFA President Jules Rimet

In addition to being a lawyer and a football worker, he was very active in cultural institutions. Between 1933 1939 he was a member of the Board of Directors of Matica Srpska, long-time president of the Supervisory Board of the Society for Serbian National Theater and a member of the Patron of the Great Serbian Orthodox Gymnasium (today’s Gymnasium “Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj”). He also launched the “Rad” newspaper.

During the World War II he provided assistance to Serbian detainees in the Hungarian camp “Šarvar”, which gave him the nickname “Šarvar’s father” after the war.

With the help of his friend Bishop Irinej Ćirić, he organized help for about 3,000 children and about 800 adults, who sought refuge from fascists in households and improvised hospitals in Novi Sad. He was very attached to the Serbian Orthodox Church and on several occasions he assisted the Diocese of Bačka.

After World War II, he became secretary of the Survey Commission for the determination of crimes committed by the occupiers and their supporters in Vojvodina.

Players and Board members of Vojvodina in 1930

He was the legal representative of the Vojvodina couriers, who lost their property, due to the decision of the communist authorities to confiscate their property. For this reason, the regime accused him of being a helper of “national enemies,”. He ended up in prison, but his reputation was never damaged. He was released from prison thanks to President of the Presidium of the National Assembly of Yugoslavia Ivan Ribar.

Kosta Hadži may have best been described by the advocate’ s historian Milorad Boltić:

A national revolutionary (in youth), an athlete and a sports worker (for the rest of his life), a cultural worker (when circumstances required), a political champion (opposition), a social worker (during the war) and a reputation of law firms (after the war)”

Dr Kosta Hadži never left his beloved Vojvodina, and was happy to see his club become champion of Yugoslavia for the first time in 1966.

He died on October 6, 1971, and was buried at Almaško Cemetery in Novi Sad.
In 2014, a monument was placed in his honor, in front of the stadium “Karadjordje”.