Ilija Bašičević Bosilj was born in 1895. in Šid. Vojvodina. He worked as a farmer untill he was 62. He produced his first gouaches and drawings in 1957. and from 1958. started working in oil paint. He died in Šid in 1972.

A fragment from an autobiography

A passage of the letter to his doctor and friend

... As I previously spoke about my parents and brothers and sisters I would now like to talk about myself a bit. I told you that I was born as the ninth child of my parents. I was born and I was, already, not very interesting or desirable because my parents already enjoyed in their children who were born, suffered and died. As far as I remember my mother told me when I grew up that she was not glad when I was born and I was very offended, and she said she prayed God to make me dead at once, but such an opinion is changeable at all the other people, so was the case of my mother. She told me when I had been born and had begun to talk she started to love me, not only she but even the others and they even carried me and held me and took for a walk. But still it was not the love of a mother who gave birth to her first child as I have already said I was born as the nineth child and because of that I was less loved and cherished and I grew to be shy and more afraid, but nevertheless the years went by and I grew older and then the day came I should go to school.

Alas, I played with the kids from my street for a while but I knew them very little and I didn't know how I was going be separated from my mother and to be among the unknown children, in school. Despite my fears, there came the day I should go to school. My mother took me by the hand and brought me to school. She gave me to the teacher who said that mothers should go home and that we children should stay at school. So mother went home, just turning to have a last look at me and I almost died of grief and fear, and I felt a kind of choking, actually I felt I could cry .and couldn't wait for it to stop. The teacher read our names again and had a brief look at everybody and then he gave us several advices about our behaviour: how we should greet older people, kiss a hand of our parents when we come home, etc. When I went home I kissed my mother's hand and asked her where Lala was (that was how I called my father). He was helping to dig a well. I went right there and kissed his hand and also the hands of some other people who were there. And so my school days passed, but with a great difficulty. My lessons were very difficult for me, religious science even more difficult - the priest had the beard so he looked more scaring than the teacher. But as days passed there came the end of the school year and our holiday. Our teacher read us the list of the pupils who passed the class and could enroll the next one. My name was among them so my worries lessened a bit.

And so year by year, I finished four classes of elementary school but in a great fear of my teacher and my parents and even of the children at school. My father told me I should go to petovnica, a school where one went two days in a week, and not to go to the fourth class again. So it was done. I still dreamt of my regular school and the teacher and the fearful religious science. Days were better than nights because every night I dreamt of my school, my religious science and the strict priest who beat.

So I started to go to the field with my father to plow and dig and harvest. Then came my older brother and my sisters. For a while I took care of our pigs as well, and so that those few years passed quickly. I was almost eighteen, I went into a several villages around Šid and encouraged myself a bit, so an idea came to me to ask my mother and father to let me enlist the army earlier than was usual. They didn't let me. My mother told me that people, who were forced to go to the army, cry and I wanted to go on my free will, so she told me I was crazy. A bit later I was struck by an idea of going to America, so why shouldn't I go there as well? I applied for the permit to go to America, but they refused me with the same words as when I applied for the army. My mother told me that I was crazy and not aware of the fact how the sea was great. I didn't write this in the right order. First I asked to do the apprenticeship work and my mother told me that the apprentia is given only half a slice of bread a day and so they refused grant my third wish.

Then the First World War broke out in 1914., and I was born in 1895. Everybody who had served the army was called to enlist again. I wanted to go somewhere, but I had an older brother who had never been a soldier; he got the task to go into a row with our horses and carriage. I started to inquire about the carriage with which I would go; my father and brother heard that and prevented me from going, but my brother finally said it was better for me to go as that was my heart's desire. So they decided I should replace my older brother and go into the column. I was particularly happy when I heard we were going to Gallicia.1 We had two horses, actually two mares, one was bought by the state and the other was decided to go to the column together with the horse of our neighbour Milan Davidović. The preparation started: we bought waggon covers, we steamed sticks, bended them into a curved shape and put them into the coach. The next day there were some news again: our mare had a little colt. I insisted to take the colt as well, and they finally let me do it. We set off. They told me we were going to the Carpathi2 and I was delighted. Thank God I was going to see the Carpathi, so that when I come home I can talk about it. It will make me be more courageous. Our column was stopped at Kukujevci3 to make the estimate of horses and coaches. When my turn came, the board saw a litlle colt and ordered me to go home immediately, because the mare with the colt couldn't be in the column. So I returned home without seeing the Carpathi.

What was worse, my older brother wasn't a soldier, either, and I returned home. The complaint came: they had three men at home and as my father was very ill, they ordered my older brother to go into the column to take the oxens with cannons because it was a rainy autumn. The previous periods were dry, so the cannons had been drawn by horses, and then it became impossible because of mud. So among many other people my brother was selected to go into the row with the master's oxes. Fortunately, they were not far away from Šid. The cannons were across the Sava, right near one large village. Then they crossed a litlle wood to this side, somewhere between Bosut and Kuzmin4 and there they stayed, i.e. masked themselves. My brother Nedeljko wrote a little note telling that he missed his children very much. He had a daughter and a son. My mother and father read the letter, got very sad and decided to send their nineth child in exchange. That was me, the writer of this book. They proposed me to go, I accepted it in high spirit, and as it was not far away from Šid although it had its own feldpost I started the same day. In two days I reached the feldpost. As soon my brother saw me and I told him I came to replace him, he left immediately without asking for permission. When the officers found out, they were not really angry. It seemed they were satisfied with me.

I was afraid when I heard the artillery, but I was glad to be at the front. Several days passed and my brother came back. I asked him for the reason of his return. He told me that it was going to be a recruitation so he thought it was better to be a soldier and be paid four kreutzers a day and at that place they gave us only three crowns. He told me: ,,Go home, but it seems that you'll go to recruitation larlier than ussal to recruitation.

I went on; I returned home. Everything continued: home, troubles. We went to kuluk5 frequently; I ran away from home, hid myself, lied; I was full of fears and troubles. Not a month passed and my brother came home. All the civils were dischar-get, the oxens were given to soldiers and more harm was done. While brother and I were at home they asked for men to go into the column. People were needed for work. They called my brother, so we hurried into the field and vineyard, running away from the war They came there too and they behaved a bit more strictly - they put bayonets on the rifles and said: "Nedeljko, hands up, in the name of the law". My brother Nedeljko was breathless. He was quite yellow in the face, one could say, but when somebody scared him he looked like a dead man. I was also very afraid, but I asked them if I might replace him. "Do you want that by your own free will"? - "Yes, I do". - "Let's go, then". We went to Šid, they brought me to the chief by the name Miheli and he asked me if I was healthy. I answered I wasn't. When he asked what was wrong with me I showed him a gland on my neck and he sent me home telling me they needed healthy men. I went home and told them I was sent off because of the gland on my neck. After few days they came to take away my brother Nedeljko and once more I succeeded to save him. They took me to the command that was situated in the house of the church community in Šid. Not to repeat - because of my gland the commander discharget me from the column for I was incapable of every work.

In 1915. everything repeated and I still fought not to go. Then later they called me to the municipality and suggested me to become a policeman, as they called it then. Unfortunately, that was only for three days ...

... And so with more or less troubles the First World War ended, and neither Ilija nor his brother took the gun in their hands.


My dear doctor you asked me about my life and how I lived. Great many things happened. I was born as the ninsth child of my mother. Much later my mother Ruža told me she was not glad at all when I was born, and at the end, such was her destiny, she spent her whole life with me and died very old at the age of 85. My life is a great struggle from the moment I was born till today. It seems to me that the old people were right when they said that there is a constant battle between the good and the evil, only one never knows what is good and what is bad. For all I used to love, I hate now, and all I used to hate I love now, so who can be clever? In my life I heard some words, and I remember the that a man is a scarf with two faces. You are an educated man, so you'll understand the presence of two-faced people on my paintings. Nor the animals are without hypocrisy because they are created by. the same Lord, and he created the man as well according to his own image. Have you ever seen a bloodthirsty beast in its lair in the wood while defending its youngs and killing everyone around it? During my life I frequently asked myself was it really God's will for what was happening? However, today it is very modern to negate the existence of God, but if people could be so sure of that, they would certainly be much worse than they are I wondered and I still wonder who taught my late aunt Dafina not to pick up every grain but to leave something for an ant, and a worm. It's hard to comprehend life and it's easy to paint. One shall only start, then it goes all by itself pieces gather together and when the painting is finished one can see that everything is full of colours as life is and one realizes that every truth has two faces. Perhaps it is the most important thing, for you must dig, plow, mow and sow every day anyway. There you see how my life looks like and I know that your isn 't different, either. That Holy Martyr George7 is sent for you.
In 1962.
Greetings from Ilija.

1. Gallicia is famous for the battles in the First World War.
2. Well-known battle field in the First World War.
3. Kukujevci, village near Šid.
4. Villages on the southern border of Austria-Hungary toward Serbia.
5. kuluk - hard obligatory work done under the pressure of the authority.
6. Prim. Dr Vasa Dražić, a surgeon, Ilijas friend and a doctor, and my brother's and mine school friend. He operated Ilija in Niš and Prokuplje.
7. Doctor's Patron Saint's Day; Ilija painted the icon of Holy Martyr George for him.

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