After the second world war, many political immigrants arrived in the UK from internment camps in Germany and Italy. These immigrants had fled the newly created state of Yugoslavia for various reasons. When the Serbs arrived, they started casual work in mines and farms before settling in numerous areas throughout the UK now known as clusters of Serbian communities.
The Birmingham community settled in southern areas of the city such as Cotteridge, Bournville and Kings Heath. The first place of worship was established in the cellar of 18 Middleton Hall Road, Cotteridge. The first priest was Father Radovan Miljković. In the early 60s, Father Radovan went to the USA to join his new parish and was replaced with Father Milenko Zebić. Along with the parishioners, Father Milenko had one calling and that was to build a dedicated church where the Serbian community and other Orthodox Christians could worship. Click here to read more about Father Milenko’s life.
The Serbs identified a perfect patch of land on the corner of Cob Lane and Griffins Brook Lane in Bournville. At the time, the land was a small wood and was nestled in the heart of Bournville’s distinctive urban area. Father Milkenko along with many other Serbs at the time worked for Cadbury’s. They asked Sir Adrian Cadbury if he would like to donate the land for the purpose of building the church. At first, Sir Adrian was skeptical that the project could proceed however, after witnessing the collective spirit of the community who had raised a sizeable amount of money as a token of inspiration, Sir Adrian and his family decided to help by donating the requested land.
Construction started in 1965 and the church was completed in 1968. All building materials were imported from Serbia because Lazarica is a replica of another Serbian church and is built in a 14th century Byzantine style. The arhcitect was Dr Dragomir Tadić who worked collaboratively with the Bournville Village Trust.
The frescos that decorate the entire interior were hand painted by the renowned Dušan Mihailović over a period of five years. The fresco underneath the central dome is Christ Pantocrator and the hemi-dome of the apse contains the Virgin.
Lazarica is evidence and a reminder of the strength and power of faith. Those who came to Great Britain after the Second World War, who lost all their earthly possessions, their friends, relatives, even their homeland, brought with them their faith and the need to follow the example of Christ, Saint Sava and Saint Lazar.