Not so far away from the main tourist routes, treasures and stories of the past are slowly fading into the oblivion. Our heritage and past is disappearing without our children ever hearing about the stories that were once told by the fires… Last time we did that was during the war in the 90s when, without the electricity for 90 days, we spent most of the winter evenings by the fire listening to the adults telling stories of their youth, stories of our families… Once the electricity came back, we returned to television. One of the places mentioned in the news a lot, in those days, were Rupe near Skradin. Under heavy artillery fire for months, that tiny village became one of the symbols of struggle in the Northern Dalmatia.
But several centuries back, some other invaders were here making life miserable for all the people in Dalmatia.
Few years back I bought a lovely antique book “Kula od uzdaha” or “The Tower of Sighs” telling a story of one tower located near Plastovo, just few kilometers from Skradin. The book, originally published in 1900, also has a re-print published in 1989. that I also got a few years back.
The book tells a story of a very pretty girl from Rupe, Stana, who was engaged to a local youth named Pavle Mandusic. But one of the Turkish soldiers, Usejin, also noticed beautiful Stana and could not raise his eyes off her. The trouble was that he was the dearest soldier of the local Turkish ruler, terrible Mehmed Beg – fear of all the Christians in the region from Knin to Skradin that he ruled. His seat was in the old Croatian fortress of Čučevo
As Usejin did not give up on his intention to take Stana, either by her own will or by force, he kept praying on her waiting for the right moment. On one occasion, he hid high in the almond tree in Rupe spying on the villagers and Stana. Unfortunately, the branch under him broke and Usejin fell to the ground injuring himself badly!
Knowing what would happen if a Turkish soldier dies in their village, the people of Rupe took him immediately to Čučevo where Mehmed Beg was furious for this! He did not believe the villagers and imprisoned them.
Luckily, the Beg’s wife Mejrima, was an aunt of a Franciscan monk Miho who was, like all the Franciscans of Visovac Monstery, the only shield on many occasions between the Christians and the Turks!
Mehmed beg used all his powers to get rid of the villagers of Rupe but with the help of his wife and son Alija, the villagers were freed for a while. While all of them left home, only the brave Pavle Mandusic was still imprisoned. He was held at the tower of Čulišić where Stana was coming every day to hear his sighs from the cold cell… From that day the tower got it’s name: The Tower of Sighs or Uzdah kula.
Mehmed beg used local officials to bring false accusations against the villagers of Rupe, they were imprisoned again. Miho, the brave monk, arranged for their escape with the help of Mehmed’s own son Alija.
The villagers escaped from Čučevo, fled down the Krka river canyon in the night and freed Pavle from Uzdah kula by force!
The villagers of Rupe fled to Sibenik knowing what will happen to them when Mehemed finds out about the escape as his favorite punishments were hanging and impaling… But, hearing of their escape and destruction of Uzdah kula, Mehmed died instantly!
The story tells that his son Alija, asked the Franciscans to bring back people of Rupe and neighboring areas as there was no one left to work in the fields. He promised not to take any actions against them and, apparently, he kept his word. Stana and Pavle got married and lived happily ever after.
This story, from the early 17th century is now preserved only by few locals and in these small booklets. The last remains of the tower are now barely visible from the road from Plastovo to Skradin and there is almost nothing left to see.
In this region of Croatia, towers from the medieval times and later centuries, still stand and remember hardships of life and invaders of all flags…
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