Remembering the Grobnik Milkwomen

Every visitor to Rijeka's Old Town will notice a small monument to a bent woman carrying a heavy load on her back. This is the milkwoman Antonija Reljac from the Grobnik place of Podhum, who served the city with milk. This is not easy to say today, because from the centre of Rijeka to Grobnik can be reached by car in less than 15 minutes, but this was not the case before. The river was built on a series of hills and surrounded by gorges, so agricultural products came to the city from the immediate and distant surroundings.

Producers often arrived on foot, and this was especially true for the diligent women from Grobnik, who diligently supplied Rijeka with milk, crossing heavy walks every day carrying heavy vessels on their backs. Most of them came from the settlements on Grobničko polje, which provided great opportunities for grazing cows. Households in Grobnik used to have twenty cows! The famous Grobnik cheese was made from this milk. Some of the milk was sold to the people of Rijeka, and it was the milkmaids who did it.

Their lives were extremely difficult, at least by our standards today. They got up deep in the night to light the hearth. They made coffee for the housemates who were still asleep, milked the cows, then put the heavy vessels on their backs and went to the city on foot.

This meant about fifteen kilometres in one direction, not only in nice weather but also in the summer heat and winter cold. The load on their back weighed 60-70 kilograms. The vessels were at first carried in a wicker basket, eventually replaced by a backpack. In addition to milk, they used to take a load of wood to the city to sell it as firewood. And then the same way back.

The paved road they took from Hrastenica to lower Orehovica was eventually named Mlikaričin put. Milk stopped coming here in the late 1990s, when the last milkmaid, Darinka Brnja, stopped working. Her daughter Sonja is one of the initiators of the initiative for the reconstruction of this road, which is now used by tourists interested in heritage but also the experience of carrying cargo and lamps. It is a wonderful way to remember these hardworking women and their hard life.

Photos: Rijeka Tourist Board, Lokalpatrioti Rijeka and Novi list

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