The Boy Behind The Trigger: Who Was Gavrilo Princip?

more than a year ago

On July 25th 1894 (July 13th in ye olde style), Gavrilo Princip entered the world in the tiny Bosnian hamlet of Obljaj, which if you say out loud sounds slightly Welsh. Gavrilo was one of nine children, but six of these managed to not survive infancy. It’s something of a miracle that our Gavrilo did, as when he was born he was so desperately weak that his father all but gave up on him. A Serbian Orthodox priest knew better however, and told the family that if they named their beaming baby boy are the Archangel Gabriel then he would be sure to survive. It worked, but in hindsight maybe not.
The family name wasn’t always Princip. It was originally  Čeka, which is a form of the verb ‘to wait’ in Serbian/Bosnian/Croatian/Montenegrin. This all changed with the giant figure of Todor Čeka, a hulk of a man with a particularly sparkly coat. Todor was respected/feared by all in the village, and the local Muslim boys took to calling him ‘Princip’ (Prince). Being named Prince is much better than being named ‘Wait’, so the change was made. Todor would sire many children presumably, one of who would go on to marry a lady from Herzegovina and settle in the Dinaric Alps. He never swore and he never drank, became a postman and had many children, although most of them died young. Three survived however. One would go on to become a doctor, another would be a tradesman and politician, and the third would go on to be Gavrilo Princip.
Desperately poor, Obljaj wasn’t the place to be during the late 19th century social upheaval spreading through Europe. Or maybe it was? The area was full of young chaps sensing a different world just over those hills, a world of fresh ideas, excitement and change. Gavrilo was in primary school at the age of 9, and despite initial troubles was a good student. The best in class actually, leading to him receiving a book of Serbian poetry as a prize. Still, the Princips were a peasant family, and being a peasant in Obljaj wasn’t much fun.
His father didn’t want him to leave this barren wasteland however. Papa Princip needed a shepherd not a scholar, a herdsman not an intellectual. Mother and Uncle Princip insisted though, and Gavrilo was allowed to leave. At the age of 13, he and his father walked across one third of Bosnian territory then jumped a few trains in order to get our young chap to Sarajevo, where his brother Jovan was studying. The rocky highlands had been left behind, and Gavrilo Princip had experienced first hand the green wonder of Central Bosnia. The plan was for Gavrilo to enrol at the Austro-Hungarian military school, but this was changed after some chap convinced Jovan that his brother would basically be learning to slaughter his own people, which obviously wouldn't be great It’s also a little ironic, in hindsight. Gavrilo Princip went to Merchant School instead.


Connect via social media
Leave a comment using your email This e-mail address is not valid
Please enter your name*

Please share your location

Enter your message*
City Essentials

Download our new City Essentials app

download 4.5