Josip Primožič - Tošo, gymnast and painter, a sports legend of Maribor

Symbols: Painting palette; Olympic circles

Usually modest, kind, fun, full of power and an eternal romantic. His life path is closely intertwined with the love of gymnastics, fine arts and, above all, of his family.

The tomb of Josip Primožič - Tošo is decorated with a painting pallet and the Olympic Circles. The symbol of a painter and a gymnast. The symbol that tells the story of a top athlete who, after completing his career, devoted himself entirely to his great love - painting.

Childhood and youth

Josip Primožič was born in the first months of the 20th century and his youth is full of stories describing the complexity of this period in Slovenian and European society. His mother dies young from tuberculosis. Thus, at the age of seven, Josip must go to live with his uncle and eleven cousins. His difficult childhood is later reflected in many of Josip`s values, in relation to people and in his artistic expression.

Already in his childhood, he is walking around on his arms, watching and mimicking circus artists. He draws images from the Bible and changes them for buns. While driving to the front in a uniform just before the end of World War I, he decides to escape from the train and spend a few months as a servant living on a farm in dolenjska region.

Start of his sports career

Only in the army of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Josip Primožič seriously dedicates himself to gymnastics as a sporting activity. In 1923 he became a member of Ljubljana's Sokol and showed his talent. In performances across Serbia he quickly captures the hearts of spectators as an athlete and at the same time as a comedian on the stage.

He is making so much progress in one year that he is invited to an electoral match to enter the national team for the Olympic Games in Paris. Josip succeeded and in 1924 he attended his first Olympic Games. For the next sixteen years he is one of the best gymnasts in the world.

Moving to Maribor

He moved to Maribor in 1928 after receiving an invitation of Leon Štukelj, who wanted an equivalent gymnast by his side. Primožič's sporting achievements reach the peak in 1930 in Luxembourg, when he became the four times world champion and won 5 gold medals (personally and one in group). Eight years later, he won two bronze medals at the World Cup in Prague (on a beard and in team). Friends enjoy his sporting achievements and cute tricks with which he makes them smile at almost every gathering.

Along all this, his family enjoys his love at all times. His wife Avgusta receives letters from his trips daily, his daughter Maja and son Jože get postcards. When at home, he paints their portraits, encourages them and takes them on walks. He is the example of a perfect husband and father for all generations.

Painting and theater

The year before the Second World War, Primožič's rich sports career ends. He starts working as a drawing artist at a construction company. He is more and more dedicated to his love, that is accompanying him since his youth - painting. Many of Maribor's homes are still full of his works today.

When the war starts, Primožič decides for the resistance movement. First he cooperates with the Liberation Front, then becomes a member of the Communist Party, but soon he leaves. Instead of political career, he chooses art. He becomes a recognizable painter who exhibited in 160 solo and group exhibitions. He maintains his love for comedy and fine arts until his retirement as a stage designer and director of a technical workshop at the Slovene National Theater Maribor. He contributed to the installation of 65 scenes of dramatic, operatic and ballet performances. After retirement, he fully devotes himself to painting, his first and greatest love.

And sometimes during a walk, due to its known abruptness, he approach children at the playgrounds. Without words or explanations, he show them some of the gymnasts tricks they need to learn. For this, they have to practice a lot. And stay modest, dull, loving and respectful. If they want to become a sports legend of Maribor.

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