Ivan Goran Kovačić

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Ivan Goran Kovačić
Ivan Goran Kovačić.jpg
Ivan Goran Kovačić
Born Ivan Kovačić
(1913-03-21)21 March 1913
Lukovdol, Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, Austria-Hungary
Died 13 July 1943(1943-07-13) (aged 30)
Vrbica, Independent State of Croatia
Pen name Goran
Occupation Writer, poet, soldier
Nationality Croatian
Genre Poetry
Notable works Jama (The Pit)

Ivan "Goran" Kovačić (pronounced [ǐʋan ɡǒran kǒʋatʃitɕ]; 21 March 1913 – 13 July 1943) was a prominent Croatian poet and writer of the 20th century.

Early life and background[edit]

He was born in Lukovdol (part of Vrbovsko), a town in Gorski Kotar, to Croatian father Ivan and Transylvanian Jewish mother Ruža (née Klein).[1][2] His middle name Goran stems from that ("goran" meaning "mountain-man", "man from Gorski kotar", i.e. Mountain District). Kovačić attended the Gymnasium in the city of Karlovac in Croatia. In his honour, the Karlovac city library — the city's oldest cultural institution founded in 1838 — was renamed after him.[3] Many schools in the successor states still bear his name.

During World War II, in the harsh winter of 1942, Kovačić and Vladimir Nazor volunteered for the Partisan forces to set an anti-fascist example for the world. At that time, Goran was already ill with tuberculosis and Nazor was advanced in age, but they were motivated by their consciences. Kovačić was killed by Serbian Chetnik troops in an east-Bosnian village of Vrbica near Foča on July 13, 1943. His death is described as follows: “Like in an ancient tragedy, the one who is most opposed to evil will most cruelly die from evil. The poet who raised his voice against the Ustashan massacre on innocent Serbian people had his throat cut by Chetniks….A few reliable witnesses confirm that Goran survived the hell of the fifth offensive, but when he returned to help his ill, left-behind, friend, Dr. Simo Milošević, the fascists killed both the Croatian poet and the Serbian scholar without distinction. Fascism did not look on poets or scientists anywhere in the world as being of value.”[4]


Ivan Goran Kovačić in partisans.

Death is a central theme in much of Kovačić’s poetry, however this is not a reflection on his life outlook. His melancholy subjects came from outside events—such as his own and his brother’s affliction with tuberculosis—rather than from an internal disposition toward the morose.[5] Jure Kaštelan, one of Kovačić's contemporaries, expressed that Kovačić was inclined both toward romanticism and realism in his poetry, and that Kovačić had an intense perception of life.[6]

His best known work is "Jama" (The Pit), which ranks among the most celebrated Croatian poems ever written.[7][8] He penned it during the war, while in service near the city of Livno, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The poem was written out of intellectual and ethical responsibility that condemns fascist atrocities done by his own nation - The Croatian Ustaše, which somehow corresponds to the genocide of Serbian people in Lika, Herzegovina and elsewhere It has been described as a metaphor about the sufferer, martyr, and victim: “The sufferer is when a person without fault suffers. The martyr is when nonhumans torture a person. The victim is when the whips of injustice extinguish life. That is Goran’s metaphor. And his life.”[9] His work is an example of anti-war poetry with messages against torture, mass murders and war crimes. "Jama" was studied in elementary schools throughout the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.


The poem starts with a striking metaphor of blood replacing both light and darkness as victim's eyes were plucked out with a knife. That common torture was probably a mere sadism, since the victims were mass-murdered after that anyway:

Blood is my daylight and darkness too.
Blessing of night has been gouged from my cheeks
Bearing with it my more lucky sight.
Within those holes, for tears, fierce fire inflamed
The bleeding socket as if for brain a balm –
While my bright eyes died on my own palm

In culture[edit]

  • Paul Éluard wrote a poem called The grave of Goran Kovačić.
  • There is a Yugoslavian film Ivan Goran Kovačić, made in 1979. It was written and directed by Ljubiša Ristić. Rade Šerbedžija portrayed Kovačić.
  • The band Warnament recorded a song titled "Hollow Of The Innocent Victims" inspired by the poem "Jama".
  • Branko Miljković's poem "Goran" is dedicated to Ivan Goran Kovačić.
  • Dragutin Tadijanović's poem "Goran's Epitaph" (1945) is dedicated to Ivan Goran Kovačić.


  1. ^ (in Croatian) Ha-Kol (Glasilo Židovske zajednice u Hrvatskoj); Nataša Maksimović Subašić; Zora Dirnbach – Svjetionik s one strane nacionalizma; stranica 4; broj 110, lipanj / srpanj / kolovoz 2009.
  2. ^ Predrag Matvejević (24 August 2010). "Tko je tko i odakle: strani velikani hrvatske kulture" [Who is who and where from: Giants of Croatian culture] (in Croatian). Nacional. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  3. ^ City Library "Ivan Goran Kovačić" Karlovac, librarybuildings.info. Accessed March 25, 2010.
  4. ^ Matvejević, Predrag, Goranov odlazak u partizane, in: Život i djelo Ivana Gorana Kovačića, ed. Anđelko Novaković (1989), Zagreb: Globus, page 134
  5. ^ Pavletić, Vlatko (1963). "Noćni Vlak". In Uglješa Krstić. Goran: Njim Samim. Beograd. p. 183. 
  6. ^ Pavletić, Vlatko (1963). "U svijesti Drugih". Goran: Njim Samim. Beograd. p. 213. 
  7. ^ A. Kroupa, Sto moderních básníků, p. 158, Prague 1967
  8. ^ Dušan Karpatský, in: Sto moderních básníků, p. 158, Prague 1967
  9. ^ Milačić, Božo (1961). Riječ i Svjetlost. Zagreb: Izdavački zavod Jugoslavenske akademije znanosti i umjetnosti. p. 8. 

External links[edit]