On Tuesday 29 September, Protopresbyter-Stavrofor Milenko Zebić, who had served Birmngham parish, resposed in the Lord at the age of 91.
Proto Milenko was born on January 27, 1926 in Bjelovar, the son of Dušan, an industrialist and Dragica, a housewife. He attended primary school in Bjelovar and the second boys’ high school in Belgrade. During the Second World War, Proto Milenko joined the Serbian Volunteer Corps but before the end of the war was forced by wartime circumstances to go to Eboli camp in Italy, along with his wartime comrades who he held in lifelong gratitude. From there he was transferred to a German prisoner camp, where in God’s foreknowledge he met his future wife Olga Pavlovna. From the German camp, the pair went two separate ways – one to America and the other to England, Proto followed the Karađorđević family and government in exile. However, he made good on his promise to Olga Pavlovna that they meet one another again in England and their relationship culminated in marriage in 1948.
At the beginning, all who had been interned in Germany, would work the hardest jobs in England, mostly in coal and salt mines and every day Proto would load dozens of tons of salt but was still firmly bound to the mother Church and King. On the 1st August, Olga and Milenko had their first child, a daughter Radmila and on 25 January 1951 a son Aleksander. By day, Proto Milenko worked in the mine but devoted his free time to music and the formation of a Serbian community in the north of England, where he was a great support to Proto Dr. Dimitrije Najdanović. At the invitation of Proto Radovan Miljković, Proto Milenko arrived in Birmingham and remained there for the rest of his life. Proto Radovan had great confidence in Father Milenko and his trust was fully justified because, as academic Dimitrije Stefanović said, PROTO MILENKO WAS A NEW APOSTLE OF ORTHODOXY IN ENGLAND. In 1958 he was ordained into the priesthood, and there begins his real missionary activities. He founded a mixed choir of all nations who lived in England, the formation of an Anglo-Orthodox community, worshiping in different languages: Russian, Greek, Bulgarian. He opened his heart to all who thirsted for faith and Orthodoxy.
At night, Proto would work at Cadbury’s chocolate factory and by day, he exercised his parish duties at the temple in Middleton Hall Road in Birmingham where the Serbian community had a chapel. In 1963 Proto Milenko, together with the faithful, bought a plot of land from the Cadbury family and there was born an amazing idea, they began the construction of the magnificent temple dedicated to Holy Prince Lazar, the Birmingham Lazarica. Work on the construction of the Church began in 1965 and the temple was consecrated in 1968. The architect of Lazarica was Dragomir Tadić, the iconostasis was made by Zarić and iconography was entrusted to Dušan Mihajlović. The Church was built under the auspices and with the blessing of Patriarch Serbian German, as at the time there no West European diocese. All liturgical items, marble, columns, rosette windows was brought in from Serbia, among the major benefactors we should note Dragana Lukic, the godmother of the church, Sir Adrian Cadbury and Sir Alfred Owen who have had a close relationship with the Serbian nation since the First World War.
In 1990, under the leadership of Father Milenko, Lazarica received a beautiful konak and tower dedicated to the great St Evgenija. Proto Milenko has been decorated with every ecclesiastic award for merit from the blue zone to the Pectoral Cross. At the recommendation of Patriarch German he was was awarded the Order of St. Sava of the first degree on 40th anniversary of the construction of the Church and the Karađorđe Star of the first degree by Crown Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević.
Proto Milenko is the founder Lazarica Press which, during the dark days of Communism and atheism that the Serbian people endured, published the works of St. Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović in English and four books of the PROLOGUE and two books of HOLIMIES so that English-speakers could become acquainted with Orthodoxy and lives of the God’s saints from ancient times.
In 1992, Father Aleksandar Zebić arrived at the the Birmingham parish, the son of Proto Milenko, who continues to perform his parochial duties as an elder at the Lazarica church and his duty as the Bishop’s deputy to Great Britain and Scandinavia with the blessing of Bishop-elect Dositeja. Proto served these duties virtuously until 2010 when, for health reasons, he had to retire.
His dormition in the Lord, Proto is survived by Protnica Olga, son Father Aleksander, daughter Radmila and grandchildren Lara, Ana, Filip and Danilo. The parishioners of Birmingham parish and indeed the priests of all the English parishes will remember Proto Milenko as a very good and hardworking priest, occasionally strict but fair and worthy of his name and rank.