The complex formed around the Austro-Hungarian military fortress built in 1898 in a location marked “Vratca,” which refers to a small door one could use to enter the city.
This fortified structure was built as a massive stone fort, like others being built at that time along major lines of communication.
A city prison camp
During occupation in WWII, when Sarajevo found itself part of the quisling NDH, the fortress was turned into a city prison camp and execution site, where Sarajevans were killed, singly or en masse.
Victims killed here, or at other torture sites in town, were buried around and inside the fortress.
The fortress was abandoned after WWII, but as Vraca became synonymous with resistance and citizens’ struggle against fascism, it was decided that a memorial park would be built and the fortress would be turned into a museum.
Vladimir Dobrović was entrusted with the design of the complex, Aleksandar Maltarić did the landscaping and Alija Kučukalić was asked to do the sculptures.
When Vraca Memorial Park was opened on BiH Statehood Day on November 25, 1981, it had a ceremonial plaza, an overlook, an atrium, a sign indicating the execution site….
An ossuary monument, which had been erected in Veliki Park in 1949 in honor of national heroes, was also brought. The monument had a granite prism in the center of a circle engraved with the names of 26 national heroes who gave their lives, including Vladimir “Valter” Perić, Omer Maslić, Vaso Miskin…, and the old gravestones were moved to the Historical Museum.
In the eastern section there is a monument, Lady Fighter, a statue in honor of the young national heroine, Radojka Lakić, who was tortured and shot by the Ustaše. Her last cry was, “Comrades, don’t give up!”
The names of civilian victims and those who fought for national liberation are engraved here. It is believed that, up until Sarajevo’s liberation on April 6, 1945, fascists killed 9,091 citizens, and another 2,057 fighters and 755 members of the city’s resistance died fighting occupiers and quislings.
During the Siege of Sarajevo (1992-1995), Vraca again played a tragic role, and the flame of antifascism was extinguished.
Given the strategic location and good view of the city, the complex was used as one of the firing positions around Sarajevo, from where the city was shelled and snipers operated. During the war, and even after, the complex was largely devastated.
The Committee for the Preservation of National Monuments of BiH made the Vraca Memorial Park a National Monument of BiH in 2005.
The “eternal flame of anti-fascism” was relit on Vraca after 27 years, as part of V-E Day celebrations on May 9, 2019.