Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History

Explore the extraordinary past of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through the pages of the book 'Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History.' Uncover political events, economic development, and cultural heritage of these Banat towns through richly documented stories. Follow the evolution from the earliest days to the present, delving into the intricate threads of political intrigues, economic transformations, and cultural ascensions. Experience the past through the eyes of the author as the pages of the book unfold before you, providing a unique perspective on the life and legacy of these significant locales.

Dr. Jene Sentklarai, academic
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Dr. Jene Sentklarai, academic

Dr. Jene Sentklarai was born on January 21, 1843, in Vranjevo. His father, Naum Nedić, was a grain merchant who, after several business failures, had to abandon trading and spent the rest of his life dealing with estate affairs. His mother, of Hungarian descent, Žofija Salaji, was a housewife from Čantavir. They lived in today's Svetdzara Markovića Street No. 24 in Vranjevo. His baptismal name was Evgenije Nedić.

According to tradition, his parents had no children for many years, so his mother, being Hungarian and originally Catholic, swore to Saint Clare, as the Catholic Church in Novi Bečej, which also served the people of Vranjevo at the time, was dedicated to Saint Clare, that she would dedicate her first child to her. Thus, Eugenije was baptized as a Serbian in the Catholic Church in Novi Bečej, where he was given the name Eugen, or in Serbian, Jene. This later became the reason that, when changing his surname, instead of Nedić, he took the surname Sentklarai, and changed his name from Eugene to Jene. After him, his parents had six more children.

He completed elementary school in Novi Bečej, and four grades of high school in Veliki Bečkerek (Zrenjanin). In Bečkerek, he learned German. He completed several more grades of high school and graduated in Szeged, where he "was won over to the Hungarian idea to which he remained faithful until his death".

Even as a high school student in Szeged, he wrote several poems and stories published in the student literary society remenyvirágok (Flowers of Hope).

Difficult financial circumstances in the family, on one hand, and his mother's inclination towards the Catholic faith and her desire for her son to become a Catholic priest, influenced Jene, after completing high school in 1860, to transfer to Timișoara to attend the seminary, where students had free housing, food, and clothing.

His studies and life in the seminary of the Čanad Diocese in Timișoara determined Sentklarai's interests in that direction. Instead of poetry and literature, his preoccupations became philosophy, logic, and aesthetics.

Diligent and ambitious, he founded a literary society in Timișoara, which later translated many foreign works, especially from German and Latin, into Hungarian.

After completing his studies, on July 20, 1866, he was ordained a priest and celebrated his first mass on August 12, the feast day of Saint Clare, 1866, in the church in Novi Bečej. His first priestly position was in Štajerlak, near the town of Oravița in Romania. From the first days of his priesthood, he endeavored to better understand the lives and customs of his parishioners. He compiled a whole study on this: Study of the Life of the South-Hungarian Mountain People, which was published by the Hungarian Catholic Society in 1868. He stayed in Štajerlak for only a year, and by the following year, 1867, he was back in Timișoara.

In Timișoara, he began collaborative, and very fruitful work, with life in Hungary, and he accepted it as the beginning of a new era for Hungary. Then he decided to change his surname from Nedić to Sentklarai. This was for him just a mere formality, or precisely just a change of surname, because his whole life and behavior, even before coming to Timișoara for studies, as well as his feelings, were those of a true Hungarian. All of this is understandable when one considers that he brought much from his family home, and school and society further developed and strengthened those feelings.

He took the surname Sentklarai, as already mentioned, because more and more significant events in his life were connected to Saint Clare. In addition to the above, he was also guided by his desire to dedicate himself to the teaching profession and science, because the Latin word clarus means clear or bright, which for him represented science.

He did not stay long in Timișoara, where in 1868 he passed the teaching exam and, in agreement with the church authorities, was appointed director of the elementary school and professor of the real school in Velika Kikinda. But he did not stay in Kikinda for more than a year, and by 1869, he was back in Timișoara as a professor of Latin language, history, geography, and philosophy.

In Timișoara, he began a collaborative and very fruitful work with an equally diligent and capable colleague from their student days, Tibor Ortvai, editing the Archives of the Čanad Diocese. Sentklarai diligently collected data on various Catholic parishes and wrote the history for more than thirty parishes. Here, he became acquainted with historical sources and the works of the Voivodina Hungarians in the past, to which he later devoted his entire life. He became a historian-researcher, as well as an educator and national educator.

Although he developed great activity in studying the past in Timișoara and became the secretary of the South Hungarian Society for History and Antiquities, he abandoned all of this in 1873 and returned to his hometown, assuming the position of parish priest in Novi Bečej.

The desire to contribute to the prosperity of his homeland, as well as the difficult financial circumstances in his parents' family, led him to Novi Bečej, even though he was aware that, due to the lack of access to libraries, archival documents, and experts in the field, he would have to interrupt his scientific work.

Sentklarai's departure from Timișoara not only harmed his further development but also all the institutions and organizations where he had previously worked. The volumes of the Society for History's Adattág became much thinner, and within less than a year, by 1874, with the departure of the second editor Ortvai, they ceased to be published.

In Novi Bečej, in the modest role of parish priest, he engaged in philosophical studies and obtained his doctorate in philosophy in Budapest in 1875. His doctoral thesis was on the philosophy of space and time.

Even in these conditions in Novi Bečej, he did not abandon history. At that time, the centenary of the annexation of the former Temes Banat to Hungary (1779) was approaching, and the Hungarian government and county authorities in Southern Hungary wished to celebrate this jubilee in 1879 with great solemnity. At a meeting of representatives from the counties of Torontal, Temes, and Lugoj in Timișoara, it was decided, among other things, to publish a book depicting the history of these regions for the last hundred years. The task of writing the book was entrusted to Dr. Jene Sentklarai, which was a great honor. He, of course, endeavored not to disappoint those who entrusted him with this task.

The book *One Hundred Years from the History of Southern Hungary*, published in 1882, attracted special attention, not only from the interested three counties, which rewarded Sentklarai for this work with three hundred gold ducats but also from the entire Hungarian scientific community. Soon after that, Sentklarai was admitted as a corresponding member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences on June 1, 1882. The following year, in 1883, he was elected as a private lecturer at the University of Budapest, where he taught the latest history of Hungary.

While serving as a parish priest in Novi Bečej and working on the book that brought him such great recognition, he also edited the Torontal newspaper in Veliki Bečkerek from 1779 to 1880.

Due to the severe economic conditions prevailing in Hungary after 1882, he did not publish the second, third, and fourth books of *One Hundred Years from the History of Southern Hungary*; instead, he published them as a professor, releasing them in parts as shorter essays in the publications of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

As a lecturer at the university, Sentklarai returned to history and wrote: *History of the Danube Raftsmen*, *The Town of Veliki Bečkerek*, *The Migration of Romanians to Southern Hungary*, and others.

The Serbian Learned Society (the forerunner of the Serbian Academy of Sciences) met on January 30, 1885, in Belgrade, and "under item 15, the President reads the names of individuals proposed by certain committees to the Administration for honorary, regular, and corresponding members, and the Administration proposes them to the assembly for election. On that occasion, Dr. Evgenije Sentklarai was proposed and elected as a corresponding member".

Sentklarai was not satisfied with his position as a private lecturer at the University, and even less so with the behavior of the church authorities. As long as Bishop Bonaz was at the helm of the Čanad Diocese in Timișoara, he could not expect promotion. It was only the new Bishop Sándor Dezső who appointed him as a canon of the Timișoara chapter in 1893. Thus, Sentklarai returned to Timișoara, where he remained until his death.

In Timișoara, he continued writing, which was much easier for him than in Novi Bečej because he had access to rich libraries, museum, and archival documents. Here, he wrote *On the National Tasks of Society in Southern Hungary*, *History of the Parishes of the Čanad Diocese*, *Ancient Times of the Krašov County*, *Historical Monuments of Serbian Monasteries in Southern Hungary*. With the latter, he drew the attention of the Literary Department of Matica Srpska in Novi Sad, which elected him as an honorary member in 1910.

His hometown Vranjevo chose Sentklarai as its honorary citizen in 1916.

Even in his old age, Sentklarai worked on studying the past of the regions from which he originated. These include essays and monographs on the counties of Torontal, Temes, and Krašoseverin, and the monograph of Timișoara and the Administration of Claudius Florimund Mercy in the Timiș Banat.

In his old age, he founded a literary society for fine literature and art in Timișoara under the name Arany János, and even as an octogenarian, he collaborated in the newly launched theological and church Catholic magazine in Timișoara, Crkveni pregled.

Until the end of his life, he remained respected and esteemed in Timișoara, and in 1917, in the fifty-first year of his priestly service, he received the highest church decoration and became the great prepositus of Čanad.

Dr. Jene Sentklarai died on October 12, 1925, in Timișoara.

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