By Saima Bacicanin
Novi Pazar (Serbia) ̶ At the heart of downtown Novi Pazar stands a tattered building that defies the ravage of time. It stands in stark contrast to the modern buildings all around it, just as it did more than 100 years ago when it was built in the midst of Oriental-style houses.
The house has not been entered for years—its windows broken and its orange-and-yellow façade peeling away to reveal the underlying bricks. The only thing happening there now is traffic from cars driving in and out of a parking lot out front.
“It is one of the old houses whose architecture differs from other old houses with Oriental architecture, as it has some distinct features,” said Muradija Kahrovic-Jarebicanin, ethnologist and curator of “Ras” museum.
Once the biggest and most beautiful house in Novi Pazar, it was built in 1911 by two of the city’s richest people at the time, the Cavic brothers. Some of the town’s older inhabitants say the brothers were willing to pay in gold to those who would design the house based on the ones they saw on their merchant travels in the Greek city of Thessaloniki.
However, they never had a chance to live in the house.
“It was the most beautiful house at that time, but it tells a sad story: as a consequence of the Balkan Wars and World War I, the Cavic brothers never set foot there,” said Hivzo Golos, a local historian.
After the wars, the premises of the house were used by the municipality’s administrative staff; during the 1950s it housed classrooms for primary and secondary schools students.
The house was nationalized after World War II, when the Communist Yugoslav government confiscated many private properties and used them for its own purposes. In 1964, it became the headquarters of Uniprom Trade Company and still has some of their offices in the house.
According to the municipal official gazette, it was declared a cultural heritage site on December 31, 1986.
After almost a century since their property was taken, the Cavic family and their cousins, the Imamovic family, decided it was time to take back what legally belongs to them.
Seeking the return of their property lasted for more than 20 years. The process was finished in 2011, as per the law of restitution and denationalization, which mandates the return of private property confiscated during the Communist Yugoslav period to its previous owners.
“It is a matter of days until the house will be returned to us,” said Aladin Imamovic.
After the completion of the legal process, Uniprom will no longer have the right to use the premises, nor will the parking lot continue to work there.
“When we, as legal owners, receive our property back, those activities will finally be put to an end,” Imamovic said.
Though it served many purposes throughout its history, the house was never upgraded or adequately maintained by its caretakers. Disrepair of the house catches the eye of people who pass by and many are afraid that it will eventually tumble down as a result of neglect.
On the other hand, some townspeople hope that the house will be renovated and given her old glam back again.
“We hope that the house will be restored so it can adorn our town again… We also hope that it will not be demolished as it is a beautiful building and it should not be changed,” Kahrovic-Jarebicanin said.
Like their predecessors, many current members of the owning families have never entered the house and do not know what it looks like inside.
“Considering the fact that the house was taken away from our grandfathers before they moved in, and that a lot of effort was invested in its construction, it can be said that it has emotional significance for our families,” Imamovic said.