Svetozar (Toza) P Radakovich Timeline
March 27, 1918 - July 22, 1998
1918: Toza was born and raised in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. His parents were Pavle Radaković (Serbian) and Milica Dmitrievich (Greek); He had one older brother Milorad, b.1916. He attended public schools.
1927: When Toza was nine, his father died. A traveling salesman, he hadn't planned on dying young and left his family without resources. He learned be resourceful and was skilled with his hands. He made his own clothes and shoes and to cooked to help his mother.
1930s: Toza was a natural athlete and enjoyed sports. He became the Yugoslav national freestyle swimming champion.
1937: He became Yugoslavia’s national ski champion in giant slalom. He qualified for the Olympics but his country did not have the funds to send its athletes.
1933 - 1939: He studied painting, drawing and design at the Royal Art Academy in Belgrade. He earned his BFA in 1938 and graduated with an MFA in 1939. Toza’s older brother Milorad worked to help put Toza through art school. Toza loved music and wanted to play the violin. His mother forbid it saying he would never make a living. She was also against art school, but the Dean of the school, aware of Toza’s potential, convinced her that he could always teach. She agreed and he enrolled.
1938 - 1941: Toza’s paintings were being included in exhibitions in Belgrade. He went on a trip to Ochrid, Macedonia to paint.
1940 - 1945 WWII: He completed the mandatory military training required for all male citizens before they can be employed. He worked as a freelance graphic artist. When the war broke he was drafted into the Royal Yugoslav Army as a Cadet. Toza was captured and sent to a German prison camp, and a forced labor camp. He escaped by forging papers for an officer who returned the favor by leaving an opportunity. Toza made his way back to his mother’s apartment and hid out in her attic. He then served in the Yugoslav Partisan’s army - officially the Partisan’s Liberation Army, in charge of demolition squad, until the end of the war. He survived several major illnesses including diphtheria and tetanus as well as near starvation.
1945 - 1947: He worked for United Nation’s Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), an international war relief operation. He was employed in the public relations department as a graphic designer for their international publication. A collection of UNRRA’s publications from all 44 countries were shown in an international exhibition in Geneva and Toza’s work won first prize. He received a personal letter of commendation from New York’s Mayor, Fiorello La Guardia.
1946: Toza met Ruth, an American girl, who had arrived from the US to work for UNRRA as a secretary. They fell madly in love. Toza did not speak English. Ruth did not speak more than a few words of Serbian.
1947: UNRRA’s mission is terminated. No tourists were allowed in Yugoslavia, now an iron curtain country. Ruth along with all foreigners had to leave the country immediately. He maintained a clandestine long distance relationship with Ruth. They began planning his escape from Yugoslavia.
1947 - 1953: He is employed by Jugoslavia, the nation’s premier art magazine, as a graphic artist and in 1949 becomes the magazine’s art editor until 1953.
1951: Yugoslavia opens its boarders. Ruth is makes the trip and is able to visit for five months as one of the first people let into the country as a ‘tourist’. She is deported after naively trying to bribe the Yugoslav Ministry of Interior for an exit visa for him. In doing so, she brought him under suspicion. He was arrested for associating with foreigners and taken to jail.
1952: Being registered as a communist prevented him from getting a visa to leave the country. Once registered - mandatory for military duty - it is permanently on your record. He attempted an escape across the Adriatic by boat, intricately planned with Ruth’s help, but was captured and sent to prison for 4 months until his mother, a formidable woman, threatened to go to Tito and was successful in negotiating his release. Toza returned return to work for Jugoslavia magazine.
1953: Toza is given his first one man show at the 'Little Gallery' in Belgrade for his paintings, drawings and etchings.
1953: The government inexplicably relaxed its vigil and granted a work visa for Toza to travel briefly to Paris as the magazine's art editor. He left everything behind not to alert the authorities to his intentions. He never returned to Yugoslavia. He sent a telegram to Ruth, announcing his freedom. She wired him money and came as quickly as she could. After waiting almost four months to get passage, she arrived. They were joyfully reunited in Paris. After seven years of tireless effort, he was finally out of Yugoslavia; a free man.
1953 - 1954: He and Ruth spent one year and a half in Paris waiting for refugee status so he could marry and emigrate. While there Toza studied with Chinese painter Zao Wou Ki. He worked as a house painter to pay rent on their tiny apartment. After many months of legal frustrations, they moved to Copenhagen because Denmark recognized political refugees. They enjoyed five months relief from the French bureaucracy. During this time they studied metalworking with Mogens Bjorn Anderson in his shop where Ruth introduced Toza to metalwork. They moved briefly to Gilleleje and Torpet Denmark to paint. He was exhibiting in Denmark and his paintings were selling, 'like hot cakes' he said.
1954: Toza and Ruth returned to Paris on scant notice after waiting two years for his visa appointment. They packed up their VW bug and drove straight through. Toza shaved in the metro and went to his appointment. With some coaxing on Ruth’s part, he was finally granted his refugee papers. After 2 years and $22,000 francs for official stamps on 32 documents he got his permit to marry his American girlfriend. He married Ruth Clark in Paris on January 6th on paper and on January 9th they had a church wedding. Ruth’s mother traveled to attend their wedding in Paris but his family could not leave Yugoslavia. By virtue of being married to an American, he was now allowed to emigrate to the US.
1953- 1954: Toza and Ruth are both studying and working as artists and are being exhibited in Paris and Copenhagen.
1954: He is given his first solo show of paintings in Paris and his first solo show in Copenhagen for jewelry. He is written up as a 'New Discovery' in the French publication, Réalités magazine.
1954: They study filagree metal work in Italy and travel to Spain and around France to visit Altamira, Lascaux and as many museums as possible, including Picasso’s residence, during the six months wait for passage to the USA.
1955: They left from Le Harve, France on the SS Liberté and arrived through Ellis Island on February 21st. After a few weeks in New York City, they traveled upstate to Rochester where Ruth had been living, to visit her friends. He is introduced to her world. They settled there and became close friends with the Shop One arts community which included John and Karen Prip, Ronald and Kay Pearson, Franz and Marjorie Wildenhain and Olaf and Judy Skoogfors, Tage Frid, and Barbara and Hobart Cowles among others, and left an influence on some of the younger generation there such as Albert Paley. Toza was still learning to speak English.
1955 Toza is working in the silversmithing shop with Hans Christensen at the School for American Craftsmen (SAC), Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).
1956: He taught painting and design at SAC.
1956: Toza and Ruth have their first child, daughter Jean, in August.
1955 - 1957: Taught metalwork at the Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester where Ruth also taught for three years.
1958: He quit teaching to devote full time to his own business as a painter, sculptor and jeweler.
1957 or 58: Toza and Ruth legally alter their last name Radaković by adding an ‘h’ instead of the accent, to the end making it phonetically correct in English.
1958: Toza and Ruth went on a road trip down the California coast to look for a place to live. Toza wanted to be near the ocean and a warmer climate to so they could work outdoors year round. They found a place in Encinitas and put a down on it with the help of Ruth’s family and returned to Rochester.
1958: Ruth and Toza have their second daughter, Saika Ann, in October.
1958: The Radakoviches move to Encinitas, CA in December. Toza loaded up a trailer and drove to California with his friend from Belgrade, Vladimir (Vova) Pejovic. The two men made the trip in a hurry and arrived to find the house extensively vandalized. They had to make repairs before moving everything in. Ruth and the children flew out and Vova returned to Rochester. They set up a make-shift metal shop in a cramped space in their garage so their work flow would not be interrupted. There were invitations to many exhibitions and they had to keep up with deadlines.
1958: Toza becomes an American citizen. They are exhibiting internationally, both paintings and metal work.
1959: Toza and Ruth designed and built a new studio next to their home to accommodate all the new media they were now exploring. This included wood, stained glass, plastics and fiberglass as well as experimenting with new technologies and techniques.
1960: He and Ruth joined the American Craftsmen’s Council (ACC), the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) and the Allied Craftsmen of San Diego and became very active in the local art community, exhibiting and hosting meetings and legendary parties. They become close friends with many members of the community including James Hubbell who taught Toza how to cast bronze.
1961: Toza taught jewelry at the Southwestern Indian Art Project, University of Arizona, College of Fine Arts, Tucson, AZ through the Rockefeller Foundation. Ruth and the children joined him to live on the Hopi reservation for one month while he was engaged there. He co-taught with Charles Loloma and they became lifelong friends. They continued to visit Hopi many times and Toza was greatly influenced by Charles’ work and by the experience. They formed lasting friendships with Tucson artists including fabric designer Berta Wright, ceramic artist Maurice Grossman and visionary architect Paolo Soleri. They also maintained a lifelong friendship with the Hopi jeweler Charles Loloma who Toza co-taught with, as well as with his niece, jeweler Verma Nequatewa who continues his legacy.
1966: He taught metal sculpture at San Diego State University and established bronze casting as a course of study there.
1967: Once again he gave up teaching to keep up with the demands of his and Ruth’s designer-craftsmen business.
1974 - 1979: He taught evening classes at Palomar College, San Marcos, CA and established a course in lost wax jewelry casting. Some of his students spent time working with him at home. He and Ruth mentored several students, including movie special effects mogul Phil Tippett, who came to live for a while in his studio.
1974: Ruth was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in September. Treatment failed.
1975: Ruth died on January 6th, their 21st wedding anniversary and Serbian Christmas eve (which the family observe).
1977: Toza was invited to teach an Iron Forging workshop at Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti, in Cordes Junction, AZ.
1978: He was invited to teach a jewelry casting workshop at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, ME.
1980: Toza is given a retrospective exhibition at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art.
1985: Toza is designated a ‘Living Treasure of California’ by the California Creative Arts League of Sacramento in conjunction with an exhibition at the Crocker Art museum. During his career, Toza worked as a Designer-Craftsman with Ruth in their home studio, taught metal sculpture and jewelry casting and raised their two daughters. He built boats and traveled to Mexico frequently. He also liked building model boats, sewing, making furniture and fixing things. He was a great cook, loved fishing and whistled songs to his kids at bedtime.
1998: Toza died in his home at age 80 on July 22nd in the middle of a sunny afternoon after a long struggle with strokes and kidney failure. He did not waste a moment of his life. His two daughters were present when he died.
His paintings, sculpture and jewelry were internationally exhibited. He was included in publications nationally and internationally, won many awards and his work is represented in permanent museum collections as well as in many private collections.
Partial list of Toza’s home addresses:
1918 - 1931: Jaksiceva 11, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
1931 - 1936: Chara Urosa (sp?) 32 or Charvrosa
1936 - 1940: Lackovicevo zosoco (sp?)
1941 - 1953: Draze Pavlovica 25
1955 - 1956?: 1077 Kings Highway, Rochester, NY
1956? - 1958: 1992 Monroe Ave, Rochester, NY
1958, November - 1998, July: 1025 Arcadia Rd, Encinitas, CA