Kosta Abrašević was born into a poor family on the 29th of May, 1879, in Ohrid, a small city in Macedonia. Because of the family’s difficult life, they moved to Šabac, a city in Serbia where Kosta’s father opened an inn. The Hristić family continued to struggle, especially when not too long after their arrival in Šabac their father died. Naum and Sotira had three sons and a daughter; Sotira gave birth to two more sons but they died very young. Of the three living sons, Kosta was the third. Even though Kosta had finished primary school in Ohrid, his schooling was not recognized in Šabac so he had to start over. And when he enrolled, he used Abraš, his father’s nickname, as his surname which a teacher wrote down as Abrašević. The name stayed with him for the rest of his life.
Kosta was an excellent student and did very well in primary school thanks to the fact that he had already completed those grades in Ohrid. He had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and was an avid reader. At the age of 15, Kosta experienced first love and although he had already been writing poems the verses began to flow more freely. This young love ended, but Kosta’s love for knowledge and writing poems did not.
Very early on, Kosta began to explore socialist ideas and even established a political literary circle in Šabac. This group created and published pamphlets titled “Omirov venac” (Omir’s wreath) and “Grbonja” (a name). His poetry was dominated by revolutionary ideas because of personal interest, but also possibly influenced by his translations of poems of German socialist poets such as Hans Lever. Kosta’s poems carry an essence of rebellion and dissatisfaction towards the government and the upper classes of his time period. He saw poetry as a means of achieving a society in which solidarity and justice are prominent. In his verses he expresses that an uprising is the only way out of a dark and unbearable life and out of the atmosphere which smothers, destroys, and kills. Kosta’s very well-known poems by pure chance contain foreshadowing elements of future events in which the working class played an extraordinary role. Even within the poems that do not directly mention the working class struggle there is an underlying reference to “fighting” which further supports his proletarian revolutionary stance. Kosta felt alone in these aspirations and was thus constantly searching for young, like-minded people with whom he could exchange these thoughts and ideas.
Just as his work was developing and his potential for great literary infamy had just begun to blossom, tuberculosis took Kosta’s life, four months before his 19th birthday. But Kosta Abrašević lives on, not only in his poetry but through a culture and artistic association right here in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina that carries his name; Youth Cultural Center Abrašević. Some of Abrašević’s original poems were published in socialist magazines after his death, translated into Russian, Hungarian, Romanian and Albanian, and even a few were set to music. If we listen carefully maybe we will hear what Kosta Abrašević would say of today’s struggles. Young voices matter and some even leave legacies.
A translation of one of his most famous poems:
The Wind Whistles
The wind whistles on all sides,
Scrapes the wood, breaks the branches!
With all the force of its flight
Sweeping across, rushing over the world.
Whistling a song – to the horizon!
About the courageous fighter who fights
For his whole life
For an idea, for his principles.
May this hope always follow him:
That, when death overcomes him,
New fighters will appear
Take up his flag,
Whistling a song, whistling to all
the wicked and to the tyrants!
A song of anger, a song that rages
A song that brings fear,
A song of pity, a song of poverty,
Let them hear it, let them grow pale!