FREEDOM Oh dearest, oh sweetest, oh beautiful liberty

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Olja Ljubišić
Photographer(s): Ljetne igre-zatvaranje
Freedom was the result of intelligence, strength, skilfulness, and joint (hard) work. 

For years, on the 10th of July, my family would come together to watch the Opening ceremony of Dubrovnik’s Summer Festival on national television. Wimbledon and the Dubrovnik Summer Festival were all that mattered during those summer days. To be honest, as a young child, neither was that much fun.

But on the very first note of the anthem, those strong, clear, determined and solemn voices gave me goosebumps every single time. Nevertheless, Hymn to freedom was my favourite. 

Oh dearest, oh sweetest, oh beautiful liberty,

Gift crowning all blessings almighty God made be

True source of our ev’ry glory and victory

Brilliant ornament jew’ling our history

No silver, no gold, no men’s lives nor secur’ty

Can equal your priceless your radiant purity!

Later on, learning about the Republic of Dubrovnik, it reminded me of English Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table – the state promoting freedom, serving to its citizens, entrepreneurs and visitors. Dubrovnik was even in a better position than Camelot enjoying safe travelling around the world, smart (read: war-free) diplomacy and had the stunning sea view.

During my travels I met a great deal of people having no idea where (and what) Croatia is, but they certainly did know of Dubrovnik. They knew it was an astonishing, beautiful old city near the sea.   

But nobody mentioned freedom, liberties people enjoyed, progressive minds of that time that abolished slavery, supported the work of the scientists (one of the first pharmacies in Europe was opened in Dubrovnik; its still opened) and artists, free travels of their ships, trade... The idea of freedom.

Once moved to Dubrovnik, not even people born in Dubrovnik were that enthusiastic about the idea of liberty. Yes, they were proud of the past and accomplishments. Yes, it was on the flag but that’s about it. The only relic left was the Hymn to freedom sung at the Opening Ceremony of the Summer Festival. Once a year, everybody would remember. 

Then, one late spring noon, I met Gaella Gottwald, an artist, entrepreneur and activist who said something I was thinking but couldn't really put in words.

For her, the most important symbol of Dubrovnik is – LIBERTAS – the idea that lead people of Dubrovnik to fight with their minds, to invent new diplomatic ways and methods of preserving their independence. To go further, to do the unimaginable, to set an example.  Freedom was the result of intelligence, strength, skilfulness, and joint (hard) work.

What the Republic of Dubrovnik was in terms of politics, Dubrovnik Summer Festival was in culture and art. The Festival brought controversial plays and top performers, fought for public space so the audience can have that unique, unforgettable experience.

Dubrovnik’s mayor announced Festival will ‘return to the right course’. Hopefully, it means the City will do everything to enable new Držić to create and develop masterpieces. Hopefully, it means innovative and incomprehensible artists will be able to describe today’s Dubrovnik. Hopefully, we will see a play written by new Držić along with the actors in traditional costumes portraying colourful Držić’s characters.

Tonight, the choir will repeat ‘No silver, no gold, no men’s lives nor secur’ty, Can equal your priceless your radiant purity! ‘and hopefully, we will start working on that freedom again.