Ranko Cosic: SARC is a new milestone for the Serbian community of Australia and Russian-Serbian relations

Ranko Cosic. photo: Maja Letic

In July 2017, the Serbian community of Australia established a new community association called the Serbian Australian Representative Council (SARC).

In July 2017, the Serbian community of Australia established a new community association called the Serbian Australian Representative Council (SARC).

Strong spiritual, cultural and historical ties epitomise Russian-Serbian relations in the modern world. The two countries, located on different sides of Eurasia, have built strong ties throughout the ages and continue to provide one another with strong support despite all of the global challenges that face Russia and Serbia today.

The strong ties that exist between Russians and Serbs have naturally migrated to Australia. Today, these two communities regularly invite each other to their respective cultural, sporting and folkloric events across Australia.

Maslenitsa Slavic Pancake Festival Melbourne 2015

Maslenitsa Slavic Pancake Festival Melbourne 2015

In 2014, the Russian Australian Representative Council was restructured and re-energised to take the organisation to a whole new level. Three years later, the establishment of SARC is having a similar impact on Russian-Serbian relations in Australia.  The head of SARC Mr. Ranko Cosic has played a key role in these developments due to the fact that he is well-known to the Serbian community, Russian community and diplomats.

‘Vremya’ recently contacted Ranko to congratulate him and the Serbian community of Australia on the establishment of SARC and discuss the aims of the organisation and potential benefits for Russian-Serbian relations in Australia. 

Vremya: Dear Ranko, congratulations on the establishment of the Serbian Australian Representative Council, which marks a significant milestone for the Serbian community in Australia. Is it true that the Serbian community has never had an association of this kind in Australia?

Ranko: Thank you very much. Indeed, it is a great moment for all Serbs, and you are right, this is the first association of its kind among the Serbian community in Australia.

 Maslenitsa Slavic Pancake Festival Melbourne 2015

Maslenitsa Slavic Pancake Festival Melbourne 2015

Vremya: As one of the largest communities in Australia, how is it possible that the Serbs have not had an association of this kind to date?

Ranko: In short, the general consensus seems to be local parochialism. Historically, Serbs in Australia have centred around local Churches, community halls and soccer clubs, without regard for the bigger picture.

Vremya: Does the establishment of SARC indicate the Serbian community in Australia is shifting away from the local parochialism that you have described?

Ranko: Yes, increasing numbers of Serbs in professional roles has been instrumental in reducing the level of local parochialism by shifting the focus toward greater integration, networking and cooperation across the Serbian community and wider Australian community.

Vremya: In your opinion, which Serbian community in Australia has been the most instrumental in advancing relations with the wider Australian community?

Ranko: In my opinion, the Serbs in Brisbane have been leading the way. For example, one Serbian Orthodox Church Parish is building an ANZAC memorial and park, whilst another holds an annual festival to share Serbian cuisine, music, dancing, traditions and culture with the wider Australian community in order to promote multiculturalism.

Whilst I applaud these efforts, I would like to see the Serbs take things to the next level by galvanising under a common national umbrella that represents their interests.

Vremya: Since migrating to Australia the Serbs have come a long way. Can you tell us a little more about the history of Serbian migration in Australia?

Ranko: Yes, in the 19th Century only a few Serbs migrated to Australia. For example, by the turn of the 20th Century there were only three people from Serbia living in Victoria.

The 20th Century saw three significant waves of Serbian migration to Australia beginning with the first wave which occurred during and after the Second World War.

The second wave, which occurred between 1960 and 1970, was the result of high unemployment and the worsening economic situation in Yugoslavia.

The third occurred during the 1990s as a result of the break-up of Yugoslavia.

The number of Serbs in Australia has been estimated to be 100 to 350 thousand, and the largest populations are in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

Historically, whilst helping to build Australia, Serbian migrant labourers and tradespeople also built many Churches, community halls and sporting clubs.

Today, there are far more Serbians in professional roles than labourers and tradespeople and this trend is expected to continue as more university graduates continue to migrate from Serbia as a result of high unemployment.

Serbian Immigrants from the 1960's in Brisbane Australia

Serbian Immigrants from the 1960’s in Brisbane Australia

Vremya: Russians and Serbs have a long history of good relations wherever they live. Can you tell us a little bit more about the history of Russian-Serbian relations in Australia?

Ranko: Historically, Russian-Serbian relations in Australia have mainly been fostered through Church, community and diplomatic channels.

Since their inception, the Russian and Serbian Orthodox Churches in Australia have held joint Liturgies to commemorate Feast Days and other mutually significant events. Throughout this time, parishioners from both Churches have visited each other to pray and admire one another’s Holy relics and Iconography.

Two more examples that highlight the deep and special bonds that have developed between the Russian and Serbian Orthodox churches in Australia are as follows.

MORE: ANZAC MEMORIAL STRENGTHENING SERBO-RUSSIAN TIES IN AUSTRALIA

First, in February and March of 2015, the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God ‘of the Sign’ from the 13th Century, which is one of the most Holy and ancient Icons in Russia, visited Russian and Serbian Orthodox Churches in Australia.

Second, on Monday the 27th of September 2015, Leonid Gurevich Kulikovsky, the great grandson of Tsar Alexander III who reigned in Russia in the late 19th Century, was laid to rest in Darwin’s Serbian Orthodox Church.

In Australia, Russian and Serbian community groups have a long history of holding joint celebrations. Tree more recent and prominent examples include the annual Maslenitsa Slavic Pancake Festival held in Melbourne, Slavic Unity Festival in Sydney and the Festival of Slavic Culture in Brisbane.

More importantly for me personally, I am pleased to say that the first time I had the privilege of meeting the Honorary Consul-General of Russia was as a guest at a Serbian community function in Brisbane, and the first time I met the Serbian Ambassador to Australia was as a guest of the Russian Ambassador to Australia at the National Day of Russia in Canberra 2015.

 

Ranko Cosic and the Russian Ambassador Vladimir Morozov

Ranko Cosic and the Russian Ambassador Vladimir Morozov

Ranko Cosic with the Honorary Consul-General of Russia Irina Bruk

Ranko Cosic with the Honorary Consul-General of Russia Irina Bruk

Vremya: What are the main objectives of SARC?

Ranko: The main objectives of SARC are to unite Serbian Australians under a common umbrella at the national level, work with Serbian Orthodox Monasteries and Churches, media outlets, community groups and sporting clubs. Importantly, the organisation also seeks to preserve, share and stimulate interest in Serbian history, language, culture, traditions and Spirituality among Serbian Australians, as well as the wider Australian community.

Vremya: Australia is very diverse in terms of the number and variety of different ethnic groups. Do you have a plan to cooperate with other communities?

Ranko: Yes, SARC has a plan to enhance the level of integration and cooperation between Serbian Australians and the wider Australian community. This plan includes working more closely with Indigenous Australians and Traditional Owners of the land at a national level, as well as liaising with Australian federal and state government politicians, institutions, authorities and professional associations and bodies to bridge the gap between community and government and achieve mutually desirable outcomes.

Vremya:…and what about enhancing the level of cooperation with your Serbian Motherland?

Ranko: Yes, this will be a big part of our job as well.

Vremya: Thank you Ranko and we wish you, SARC and all the Serbs of Australia the very best.

Vremya

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