Vampires – myth or reality?
Legends say that a watermill in the village of Zarozje near the Serbian town of Bajina Basta, which is now abandoned, was once owned by a certain Sava Savanovic, who had the reputation of a vampire. Allegedly, many people, who brought their grain to this mill, found their death there. It is also believed that even after his death, Savanovic sometimes wakes up in search of fresh human blood.
Recently, the old mill turned into ruins, which caused real panic among local residents, if not all over entire Europe. People are afraid that now that the mill is no more, the old vampire has no place to dwell in and roams around the neighborhood without sleep. Some people are buying off garlic (it is believed that vampires are afraid of the smell of garlic). Still, there are quite a few people who love to rattle their own nerves and are eager to visit the village of Zarozje – and the local authorities, of course, try not to miss an opportunity to earn big sums from the onslaught of tourists.
Some people even claim that the existence of vampires has been officially documented. Serbian historian Vesna Marjanovic says:
“The village of Zarozje, where Sava Savanovic is believed to live (if the word “to live” can be applied to vampires, creatures who are half dead, half alive), is in Serbia’s west. But there is another village in Serbia, in the country’s northeast, called Kisiljevo, which can also “boast” of its own vampire. It is believed that a certain Peter Plogojowitz, who lived in this village in the 18th century, became a vampire after his death.”
“At that time, that region, now a part of Serbia, was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Several documents, that were compiled by the Austro-Hungarian police at that time, and that have remained till our days, read: “Cause of death – bitten by a vampire.” This was the first time that the word “vampire,” which is of Serbian origin, appeared in official documents. It is probably because of these documents that the word was acquired by Austrians and, later, came into other languages.”
The common belief that the first vampire people knew of was the well-known Vlad Dracula, who lived in the 15th century in Transylvania, is not true. In reality, the oldest documented mentioning of vampires known to us is a decree released by Serbian king Stephen Dusan in 1342, which bans priests from taking part in digging up corpses of dead people who are suspected of being vampires from their graves and burning them. Thus, some Serbians claim that it is their country, not Transylvania, where vampires first appeared.
Zarozje and Kisiljevo are not the only places in Serbia where vampires are said to exist, and the authorities of quite a few Serbian towns and villages attract tourists by saying that their neighborhoods are linked with vampire stories. In fact, before the mill in Zarozje became abandoned, it belonged to certain private owners. However, they never used it for milling grain – allegedly, being afraid that this would awake the vampire. Instead, they used the legendary mill for attracting tourists.
Well, who knows – maybe, the recent collapse of the mill really awoke the old vampire, and, if one still wants to visit Zarozje, he or she should take a garland of garlic and an aspen stake to be on the safe side. It is said that vampires are very strong, that they can fly, that they cannot be burnt with fire or drawn into water. Or, maybe, European officials should refrain from the recently acquired practice of dismantling road crucifixes everywhere – allegedly, out of tolerance towards other religions? It is believed that vampires are very afraid of crucifixes…
Or, if you don’t believe in vampires or are not afraid of them – welcome to Serbia!
Vera Zherdeva and Olga Zhuravlyova.