Montenegro is known as the jewel of the Mediterranean. It takes its name – Black Mountain – from the thick, coniferous forests that carpet its mountains, making them appear almost black from a distance. Oregon State University freshman Stevan Jeknic speaks almost rapturously about the country of his parents’ birth, a place he’s visited many times over the years, and where he holds dual citizenship.
Jeknic, a Corvallis native, got to know Montenegro from his summer trips to visit his family. These visits helped solidify his bond with his parents’ homeland, and because his parents were recent immigrants to the United States when he was born, he learned Montenegrin before he could speak English, and he said they instilled in him traditional Montenegrin values.
“The food was always very good,” he said with a grin, “and we place a lot of value on guests, on treating them well.”
Jeknic, who is studying chemical engineering, and his father, Zoran, a senior faculty research assistant in the department of horticulture, have strong ties to OSU, and after seeing the flags of many countries lining the Memorial Union concourse, they decided it was time to see Montenegro’s red flag flying too.
“We wanted our country to be represented here,” Jeknic said.
The flag is bright red with a two-headed eagle at its center. It’s based on a flag that flew over the kingdom of Montenegro in the late 1800s. After Stevan and Zoran officially presented the flag to MU President Craig Bidiman, Stevan gingerly climbed a ladder to hang the flag in the concourse, placing it between the flags of Rwanda and Tanzania.
Its own kingdom for many years, Montenegro became part of Yugoslavia in 1922, but in 1991, a few years before Jeknic was born, the Bosnian and Croatian War broke out. Years of conflict and upheaval followed, by which time both of Jeknic’s parents had relocated to the United States. In 2006, Montenegro regained its independence.
The Jeknics know that many people are unfamiliar with Montenegro’s history, and hope that the flag provides another opportunity for them to share with the OSU community about the many charms of the land of the black mountain. Stevan even sounds like a tour guide when he talks about his second home.
“There are beautiful seas, great skiing and good food,” he said.
~ Theresa Hogue