In the small Croatian town of Pula, on the edge of the city centre there sits a large rectangular building of approximately 17,000 square meters covered in graffiti. The full scale of the building isn’t immediately obvious until you enter it’s walls and navigate the long corridors passing any of the 108 NGOs that occupy the building.
The building is called Kulturni centar Karlo Rojc aka The Rojc Social Centre and this is where we met ABOriginals Crew.
Before we talk about ABOriginals and their mentor Milislav, lets take a moment to really consider their home and what it represents.
Originally built as a Naval military school under the Hapsburg Empire, Italy and Yugoslavia, the school was Transformed into army barracks in 1976 until it was abandoned by the Yugoslavian Army in 1991. At one time housing 5,000-10,000 soldiers the barracks were so large in capacity and that if a soldier was able to open and close all the windows in 1 day, they were given permission to go home for 7 days.
In the post war era, after approximately 20 years of being vacant the city decided to offer space to almost anyone wishing to try something new with the space. In the year 2000, groups were given a room to renovate or doctorate at their own cost, as long as they their own paid the electricity bills for the rooms.
Now named after a national WWII hero Karlo Rojc, The Rojc Social Centre is the true definition of a culture centre playing home to associations in culture, sports, psychosocial care and health services, activities for children and young people, care for persons with special needs, environmental protection, technical culture, national minorities etc.). On a weekly basis thousands of Rojc inhabitants and their visitors pass trough its painted hallways and stairways – the “streets” of Rojc.
Artists were invited to decorate the long and winding corridor walls and ceilings with psychedelic images of history, fantasy, politics and modern culture. Now the entire interior and exterior of the building is covered in art broken by unique doors, some wooden, some metal, representing and as designed by each organisation / group inside.
On the 5th Floor, on the tallest side of the building ABoriginal Crew meet to practice and learn from mentor Milisav Katrasnik.
Milislav was a b-boy in the 80s who now mentors and teaches the youth of Aboriginals crew. As we were visiting Pula we contacted local b-boys and were invited to join their training session and take part.
Milislav explained that the group did not get many visitors and were hungry for knowledge and the opportunity to exchange with outsiders so we happily obliged and emptied our brains into the hungry minds who yearned for more.
In our brief time with these talented young dancers we were able to see them rapidly apply new techniques and moves to their throw-downs. Milislav would smile with a humble pride, and his students, who clearly saw him as a wise uncle or something other than merely a teacher would vie for his attention and accolade.
It was the easiest thing in the world to befriend such warm, decent and fun-loving people and we promised to return to Pula again soon.
Kulturni centar Karlo Rojc 5.kat
Pula is a great place to visit. Out of season flights from London to Croatia were approximately £20-£30 through Ryanair and hostels are numerous and cheap.
Pula is surrounded by beaches with clear water, forests and fresh air and the town has the best preserved amphitheater in the world in addition to beautiful winding streets littered with over a thousand years of history and culture.
Everything is affordable and the general population are open, friendly and accommodating. Pula is a great place to visit.
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