At the dawn of World War I, while the war was not even suspected yet, a schoolmistress Nada and a Serbian officer Relja started having deep feelings for each other. They fell in love indeed and made a commitment to each other. It was a love widely talked about, attracting the attention of all the people living at Vrnjačka Banja. But the war did break out with all the horrors it entails. Relja went off to war fought in Greece. He left never to return on account of a beautiful Greek woman he had fallen in love with and therefore broke up the engagement to Nada. The legend does not say anything about his further fate, whereas, on the other hand, every inhabitant of Vrnjačka Banja is familiar with Nada’s destiny. Overwhelmed with sorrow, she faded away day after day and finally died, young and miserable.
Upset by Nada’s destiny and wishing to keep their own romances, girls started writing down their names along with the names of their lovers on padlocks they bound to the railing of the bridge which used to be the favorite meeting place of Nada and Relja. Afterward, they symbolically threw keys into the river. New wars and sufferings came up. The story fell into oblivion, and the girls’ custom to ‘bind’ their love became uncustomary.
It had been the case until Desanka Maksimović, according to the stories of old residents of Vrnjačka Banja, while being on one of her numerous visits to Vrnjačka Banja, learned about the tragic story. Inspired by it, she wrote down one of her most beautiful love poems, ‘Prayer for Love.’ Although we tend to forget things, this story remains to be unforgotten; to preserve it, young couples kept on with the tradition of ‘binding’ their love – hence the bridge name ‘The Bridge of Love.’
Prayer for Love
Brzo kao kratkovečne cveća liske
i ova ljubav staće da se kruni i drobi:
žedan je zaborava tamni vir.
O, bože, drugi ti se mole za sreću i mir,
a ja: sačuvaj u srcu mom, zarobi,
jucerašnjeg dana nestalni pram.
Zaklopi dušu moju sad ko zlatnu
škrinju, načini je ljubavi hram.
O, duša moja ne moli sreću za se –
sve dosadašnje radosti nek se snište –
ali pobožno ona od tebe ište
da dan se ovaj od strašnog brodoloma spase.
Bez pomoći tvoje povenuće sve brzo
kao bulka u zrelome žitu i lanu.
O, bože ne molim za sreću, za radost, za
Da bol ovaj ne umre, mene je strah;
da oganj sveti što u meni planu
ne sagori iznenadno u prah,
ne razbukti se prekonoć u strast.