In happier times, during the 1970s and 1980s, the youth of Socialist Yugoslavia had a peculiar obsession: They absolutely devoured “kung fu” movies from Hong Kong, and their love was fueled by a steady influx of pirated VHS tapes.
Bruce Lee (born Lee Jun Fan) become a cult hero, and thousands kids practiced their moves with homemade nunchaku (a Japanese weapon used in the movies, often called “nunchucks”).
Before the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s, the city of Mostar had a population nearly as large as that of all three Bosnian nations. When the war erupted, the Serbian community was quickly driven out, leaving Muslims and Croats to fight over the city.
Years after the war, Mostar is still a divided city. The Bosniak Muslim population inhabits the eastern side of the Neretva River, while the west bank remains almost exclusively Croat. The love and memory of Bruce Lee, however, is one of the rare things that still unite all its people. To commemorate this, the people erected the world’s first statue of martial arts legend and philosopher Bruce Lee.
The idea for the monument came from the Mostar Urban Movement youth group. And on November 26, 2005, a life-sized bronze statue by Croatian sculptor Ivan Fijolić was unveiled in Zrinjski City Park on the western side of Mostar.
Sadly, not even Bruce Lee could fight off the force of malice. Days after the statue was unveiled, it was vandalized.
The sculpture was then moved to a more secure location. It surfaced once again in Zagreb as part of an arts festival. It has now returned to the park in all its splendor, for all to enjoy.