From my early youth I have been active in my hometown of Opuzen. From the Pedagogy Academy (Arts), PIK Neretva’s marketing section, Opuzen TV station and the Homeland war to “Opuzensko lito” (“Opuzen Summer”), I’ve been running around with a camera in my hand and I fell in love with the Neretva region’s beauty, from Ploče and Staševica to Vidonje and Trebižat.
Thanks to the Neretvanian ladja this Marathon idea that came to life in my head and exited through my mouth reached Damir, Denis… And all the other enthusiasts that helped me see it through. Many considered me a nutjob. They asked me where did I get the idea that someone’s going to row for twenty kilometres, and above all in a ladja, which there were but a few of in the entire Neretva valley. They sit in silt, they just need to be taken out and restored, I used to answer. There were many that accepted my idea, “recognized” the Marathon and so we saved the ladja.
And so, from village to village, persuading, assuring… And eventually: a team in Rogotin, two teams in Opuzen, three in Podgradina-Slivno, two Torcida Ploče teams, Vidonje, Krvavac, Kula Norinska, Šarić Struga, Metković-Male Bare, Baćina, Spilice-Crpala, Peračko Blato, Banja Sagena and, finally, the Komin Pirates. You should have seen these wonderful guys preparing, searching for a ladja, for oars, rudder and a drum. Every team has its own story and it would be interesting to write a book on them. I remember how the Komin “Gusari” applied just a day before the Marathon and only because we spoke of them in an article in the Slobodna Dalmacija newspaper, which read. “What would the Marathon look like without guys from Komin?” They pulled their ladja from the silt that very day, repaired what could be repaired and, would you believe it, came second in the race, behind the Rogotin crew and ahead of Banja-Sagena and the other ones.
I shall never forget than Sunday, 13th of September, 1998. It was raining all day, up to the Marathon start. The first Marathon ever and the weather is like this, can it be? In Hotel “Narona” in Metković there was no one but us organizers and team captains. We needed to decide what to do if the bad weather should last longer. All of them univocally shared the same stance: “The Marathon must go on! What kind of pirates would we be if the weather bothered us? Let’s row and sing: “I neka grmi i neka siva, Neretvom se pisma piva” (“Even when there’s thunder and lightning, the entire Neretva iz singing”). And mind you, after the conclusion has been reached, the rain stopped and the sun showed, shining its light on 18 ladjas, some 200 rowers and more than twenty thousand spectators that came to se this “Marathon wonder”. That moment I was sure we got a manifestation in the Neretva river valley that the “whole world” will some day know of. Great benefactor of that first edition of the Marathon were mr. Dragiša Deak and mr. Mišo Glavinić.
Today, more than twenty years late, after more than ninety teams took part in the Marathon, after more than 4000 people rowed in ladjas, I can say I’m truly happy. I’m happy my idea came to life, I’m happy we have the Neretva Day here in Croatia, I’m happy the Ladja Marathon became a brand in Croatia and beyond. The ladja is saved and I hope Neretvanians will know how to preserve it as our pride.
Miljenko Milojko Glasović