“Little Pioneers, we are a proper army. Like the green grass, we grow daily. Death to fascism, freedom to the people. My mum will call me her little Pioneer.” ― Song lyrics featured in Little Pioneers textbooks
During Yugoslavia’s Communist era from 1945 to 1992, many forms of samoupravljanje (self-governing) were defined by the constitution and encouraged by the state. A widely used option was SIZ, or Samoupravne Interesne Zajednice (Self-governed Interest Communities), which were founded and run by a group of self-organized people.
The SIZ would decide how they want to channel the money they obtained (mostly through collective work efforts and direct donations from its members). Often the money would be used to fund something useful for the whole community.
Many hotels, summer camps, and holiday resorts were built through the SIZ system. The Socialist Federal Republic of Macedonia alone, while being one of the smaller Yugoslav republics, had five resorts dedicated to children’s activities. Tito’s Pioneers, named for Josip Broz Tito, a communist revolutionary and later president of Yugoslavia, was the largest among them. It covered an area of almost four square miles on the shore of Dojran Lake, near Николиќ (Nikolikj), a small village right next to Greece (without an official border crossing).
The main town of Дојран (Dojran) is about 15 kilometers away, so Nikolikj stays relatively calm and unfrequented. Children from all over Yugoslavia were given the chance to stay for free in the avant-garde buildings of the idyllic resort. The complex rises out of the uncontaminated nature with harsh lines and raw material design typical for the architecture of that period. The facade clearly reveals the functions of the interior space, alternating between solid and transparent surfaces. The only decorations are the concrete monocle-shaped windows that offer each room a slightly different view from the round frames. Five identical arrow-shaped buildings that almost touch each other comprise the compound. Each unit has two wings of rooms and a central communal area.
The camp was abandoned in the 1990s during the wars in Yugoslavia, but the locals of Nikolikj village still remember the period they call the “golden era,” when more than 300 locals were employed by the camp. Today it sits in ruins, nature slowly covering the place up.
The complex is not guarded or secured in any way, so it is free and easy to access, but also potentially dangerous. Most of the windows are broken, which gives entrance to explore the interior. Everything that could be taken is already gone, with only the basic structure remaining. The Republic of Macedonia tried to auction off all the SIZ resorts in 2015, but the Little Pioneers Youth Camp didn’t have any takers.