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.

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
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.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence