The Circle of Serbian Sisters “Princess Jelena”
During the 1930’s many Serbs were moving to Windsor to apply for jobs in the growing auto related industries. They settled in Ford City. With its growing population the Serbs were anxious to build a Serbian Orthodox Church, to serve the religious and cultural needs of the community.
In 1938 fourteen women decided to form a circle of Serbian sisters. With no church or hall at that time, the women were content to hold the meetings in their private homes.
The fourteen founders were: Zagorka Popov, Aziljka Popovic, Ljubica Skeusan, Julka Karacun, Andja Radjenović, Andjelija Bjelic, Mara Dragic, Milica Draganov, Djurdjina Grujicic, Grozda Tomic, Saveta Maler, Marica Emic, Jelena Jaksic and Ruza Rogulja. The first elected president of the Kolo was Ljubica Skeusan.
The name chosen for the Windsor chapter was “Princess Helen” (“Princess Jelena”). Princess Helen was the eldest daughter of the Serbian King Peter I and Princess Zorka. Princess Jelena was married to the Russian Prince Konstantin.
The Windsor Kolo chose St. Constantine and St. Jelena as their Patron Saint Day (Slava), which is celebrated yearly on Jun 3rd.
Constantine was born in Naisus, today’s Niš, in Serbia in 274, his mother was a Christian woman and his father was a Roman official, Caeser Constantius. Constantine succeeded his father as Caesar and proved to be a great general, politician and emperor. His vision of the Christian cross in his dream was the turning point in the rule of the Roman Empire. Emperor Constantine ended the persecution of Christians, and declared Christianity to be the official religion of the empire. He was the first emperor to become Christian. He moved the capital of the empire to the city of Byzantium, which was renamed Constantinople in his honour. The empire became known as the Byzantine empire. He proclaimed his mother, a devout Christian, as Empress, and sent her to the Holy Land where she found the cross of the crucifixion of Christ. As a devout Christian, she built the Church of Resurrection on the spot where Jesus was buried, as well the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and the Church of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives.
Both Emperor Constantine and Empress Jelena were canonized.
The Circle of Serbian Sisters is a humanitarian organization with a mission to maintain and promote the Serbian Orthodox religion and culture, its values and identity, and to provide financial and moral support to worthy causes and projects.
Over the course of many years the fulfillment of their mission was made possible due to the Kolo’s many fundraising efforts. The very first events held by the newly formed Kolo were a picnic and a dance ‘berba grozdja’. The picnic had a deficit of $ 0.15 due to unfavorable weather, and the dance had a profit of $ 0.25.
Kolo income was derived from sales of baked goods, noodles, flowers, raffle tickets, cook books, garage sales, bazaars, fashion shows, coffee hours, luncheons, banquets, picnics, concerts, dances and catering of weddings and events. The sisters used their culinary skills as a means to achieve their aims and goals; this was a major source of income for the organization.
The idea of building a church was always a priority of the circle of Serbian sisters.
At a meeting in 1942, President Mara Tosic appealed to the sisters to set aside funds for the building of the church. The Kolo has made significant contributions towards all of the various building projects in the Serbian community. Gračanica Church was constructed in 1952, on Meldrum and Tecumseh Rd. The first phase of the Serbian Centre occurred in 1966, on property donated by Nikola and Steve Budimir, and Milan Dobric, on Tecumseh Rd. The expansion of the centre took place in 1987. A new clergy home was built next to the church in 1978.
The sisters gave their full support right from the start. They made monetary donations, purchased furnishings and equipment which were needed for the church and priests’ residence as well as the kitchens in the church and the halls. Over time as needed replacements and maintenance were required at church properties, the ladies came forward with assistance.
The copper dome of the church was paid for by the Kolo. The stained glass windows of the Holy Mother of God and St. Petka were purchased by the sisters. The mosaic section and flooring by the altar was financed by the sisters. One of the most significant endeavors of the Kolo was the funding of the iconography or the frescoes, done in the byzantine style, befitting its Byzantine church architecture. The idea was inspired by Fr. Stefan Lastavica in 1961. With the passing of Bishop Stefan, the project was completed in consultation and with the approval of Bishop Sava, who contracted iconographers from Athens, Greece. The work was completed in just over a year. Upon completion of the project the blessing and dedication took place on February 26 1979. The “kumovi” for the occasion were Larisa Budimir Toskovic, Steve Budimir and Milan Dobric, who donated so generously toward the fresco project. The Kolo raised $ 100,000.00 in ten years for this magnificent project. These examples are by no means a completed list of the Kolo’s donations. There were a countless number of contributions made by the sisters over the years.
The chapters of the Kolo Srpskih Sestara operate within the diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Windsor chapter of the KSS has always fulfilled its obligation to the diocese. Up until 1984 there was a Central American and Canadian Diocese in Libertyville IL.
In 1984 the Canadian Serbian Orthodox Diocese was established. Some of the major contributions made to the newly formed diocese were the furnishings of two rooms in the bishop’s residence, and two frescoes in the monastery. One fresco is of St. Constantine and St. Jelena, and the other is Nemanjic Loza. Several other contributions were made over the years.
During WWII the circle of Serbian Sisters worked closely with the Canadian Red Cross and contributed to the humanitarian war effort. They helped collect and prepare packages of badly needed supplies. They used their skills to knit hats, scarfs, socks and gloves for the armed forces. They purchased war bonds or victory bonds. After the war they helped the Chetniks and Serbian refugees adapt to their new land. They supplied them with some of the bare necessities of life, helped them find lodging and jobs, and tried to support them in whatever way they were able.
During the wars of 1990’s, similar action was taken, to provide financial support and aid to those in need. Clothing and household items were donated to charitable distributions centers, such as the Diabetes Society. The Sisters have often helped the sick, elderly, and bereaved families with financial support. Some of the causes the Kolo has supported financially were the following: orphanages in Serbia, children’s camps such as St. Sava in Shadeland PA and Stefaneum in Doylestown OH, children’s books for religious studies in Serbia, boys entering theological studies, The Windsor Children’s Safety Village, The Canadian Cancer Foundation, Metropolitan Hospital Cancer Fund Dream Weaver Campaign, The Red Cross, Car Lazar Humanitarian Fund, refugee camps, other churches and Kolo chapters.
The sisters have participated in community and civic events such as The International Detroit Windsor Freedom Festival, Carrousel of the Nations, Sljivo Fest, SNF golf and bowling tournaments, SSF Choir Festivals, Veterans Day banquets, helped to host the visits of Serbian Patriarchs, bishops, Serbian members of the Royal Family and government officials, Badnje Vece, Slava (Patron Saint Day celebrations).
Even though the Sisters have had their own personal challenges and obligations, they have persevered and managed to keep the Kolo functioning as a vibrant and thriving organization for the past 85 years. The Circle of Serbian Sisters always welcomes Serbian women of all ages and all walks of life to come and join the organization to be part of our Serbian history.
Become a Member of The Circle of Serbian Sisters
|2024 Executive Board||Member|
|Honorary President||Stana Loncar|
|First Vice – President||Dubravka Jurjevic|
|Second Vice – President||Jelka Supic|
|Audit Board||Lily Ciganovic, Ankica Urukalo, Ljilja Sikman, Helen Vasilic|
|Working Committee||Zorka Brujic, Ljuba Stankovic|
Connect With Us!