Obituary: Vane Ivanovic

VANE IVANOVIC devoted most of his life to the idea of Yugoslav unity. A well-known athlete in the 1930s, a leading shipowner, one of the founders of the European Movement and Consul General of Monaco in London, he primarily saw himself as a democratic Yugoslav-in-exile, whose views belonged to a "mini-minority" (as he liked to say), both in Yugoslavia and in the Yugoslav diaspora.

He was born in 1913 in Osijek, present-day Croatia, to a Croat father and a Serb mother. His father, Rikard Ivanovic, was one of the founders of the National Progressive Party (NNS) and a deputy in Croatia's Sabor (Assembly). His mother, Milica, was a sister of Dusan Popovic, a leading Serb politician in the ruling Croato-Serb Coalition, which also included the NNS. Svetozar Pribicevic, the other leading Serb in the Coalition, was the best man at Rikard and Milica's wedding, while Ivan Lorkovic, the NNS leader and the leading Croat in the Coalition, was Vane's godfather.

After his parents' divorce in the early 1920s, Vane moved to London, where his mother's second husband, Bozo Banac, lived and ran a shipping business, which included Yugoslav Lloyd, then Yugoslavia's largest shipping company. Banac, a native of Dubrovnik and a believer in the Yugoslav unity, had in 1914 placed the whole of his mercantile fleet under Serbia's flag and had helped the creation and activities of the Yugoslav Committee, a group of Habsburg Croat, Slovene and Serb politicians and intellectuals based in London.

Because most of his family participated in the creation of the first Yugoslav state, formed on 1 December 1918, Vane Ivanovic was a living proof that Yugoslavia was not artificially created by the Great Powers at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919-20, as it is today tempting to claim. The family background clearly contributed to Ivanovic developing a strong Yugoslav identity, while life in Britain and the education he received in Britain (Westminster School and Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he read Economics) made him a staunch Anglophile.

He was a member of the Yugoslav team at the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin, running the 110-metre and 400-metre hurdles. He was the undisputed Yugoslav champion in both disciplines throughout the 1930s. In 110m he reached the semi-finals in Berlin and in 400m hurdles he held the Yugoslav record for 17 years, from 1936 until 1953.

When the Second World War broke out, Ivanovic had, acting on behalf of his ailing stepfather, placed 10 out of the 22 steamers owned by Yugoslav Lloyd in the service of the British. Thus, Banac and Ivanovic were the first shipowners from a neutral country to join the Allies. After Yugoslavia was invaded by Germany, Italy and their external and internal allies in April 1941, Ivanovic organised other Yugoslav shipowners in the Yugoslav Shipping Committee. Its aim was to prevent the capture of the Yugoslav mercantile fleet still in neutral waters by the Nazis.

In the summer of 1943 Ivanovic joined the Yugoslav section of the Political Warfare Executive (PWE), as most of the Yugoslav Lloyd fleet had either been sunk or captured. In his memoirs (LX: memoirs of a Yugoslav, 1977), which should be a compulsory reading for anyone studying the history of Yugoslavia, Ivanovic explains why he did not return to the occupied country to join Tito's or Mihailovic's resistance movements: "I had no desire to forget the enemy and engage in a fratricidal war among my fellow countrymen, especially as I did not wholly agree with either side."

He spent the rest of the war between London, Bari and Cairo and was demobilised as a Major in the British army. Because of the Communist seizure of power in Yugoslavia, Ivanovic remained in Britain as a political refugee. The irony is that the same country Ivanovic joined in 1939, when Tito was a little-known General Secretary of the small and illegal Communist Party of Yugoslavia and a puppet of Moscow, then allied to Germany, had provided a sustained help to the consolidation the regime which had proclaimed him an "enemy of the people".

After the war Ivanovic resumed a successful career in shipping, despite most of the pre-war fleet being destroyed or nationalised by the new Yugoslav authorities. He was the founder and the first president of the Association of Free Citizens of Yugoslavia, a charity, financed mainly by himself, designed to help other Yugoslav emigres. He continued to help his fellow countrymen until his death, sponsoring a number of postgraduate students who fled the 1990s conflict in Yugoslavia.

Vane Ivanovic was one of the founders of Jean Monnet's European Movement, heading the Yugoslav Committee for the European Movement for more than three decades. In 1967 he was appointed to the post of Consul General of Monaco in London. He also wrote several books on spearfishing, of which the 1975 edition of Modern Spearfishing remains a classic.

Yet he will most likely be remembered by historians for his role in a group of Yugoslav emigres who advocated democracy as the alternative to Tito's Yugoslavia. The Democratic Alternative, founded in 1963, included, besides Ivanovic, well-known inter-war Yugoslav politicians, such as Bozidar Vlajic of the Democratic Party, Ilija Jukic and Branko Peselj, both of the Croatian Peasant Party, as well as a group of younger, pro-Yugoslav emigres, such as Desimir Tosic and Adil Zulfikarpasic.

Ivanovic was the spiritus movens and one of the key members of the group. The final memorandum of the Democratic Alternative, produced in 1982, argues that Yugoslavia can only survive as a democratic community of sovereign nations, and that any other scenario would almost inevitably lead to a civil war. Vane Ivanovic lived long enough to witness the awful fulfilment of this prophecy. Fortunately, he was not conscious during the last two weeks of his life, so he remained unaware of the latest Yugoslav tragedy. It is sad and symbolic that Ivanovic died at the time when the final remnants of his former country are being destroyed in another brutal civil war and by Nato bombs.

His last wish was to donate a large private library and numerous paintings and sculptures to the former Yugoslavs. Yet, neither Zagreb nor Belgrade were particularly interested in what would have been a memorial to Ivanovic's tolerant and democratic Yugoslavism. The Yugoslavia of Vane Ivanovic's ideals never materialised, but it was never given a proper chance. All those who knew him will be immensely saddened by his death. They will remember him as the most charming, generous and tolerant person and will feel honoured to have known him and to have belonged to his "mini-minority".

Ivan Stevan Ivanovic, athlete, shipowner, political activist, diplomat, writer and philanthropist: born Osijek, Austria-Hungary 9 June 1913; married 1939 June Fisher (two sons, one daughter); died London 4 April 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015