Hart House recently learned of the passing of former Hart House Chess Club President, Sanja Vukosavljevic, last March at the very young age of 33. Sanja was the first woman secretary in the long history of the Hart House Chess Club, and made huge progress in expanding the club's membership and community. We send condolences to her family and close friends and wanted to share the words of those who felt the impact of her time at Hart House.
From former Chess Club executive member, Panagiotis Tsialas:
“I was among Sanja’s lucky successors on the Hart House Chess Club's Executive Board and I would like to share some words of praise and memory about her, because of my admiration of her amazing contributions to the club.
When Sanja became the HHCC Secretary, the club was going through its darkest ages. Officially unpopular among U of T students - especially women (with a mere 30 members on its list, only 3 of whom women) - fairly inactive in terms of its events and virtually invisible in the world wide web. Then, in 2013, along came Sanja to become the first-ever female Hart House Chess Club Secretary in over 100 years of club history. Supported by a capable and passionate, female-majority executive board, Sanja and her colleagues took the club by the hand and restored it to its past glory. The number of members grew, and the club's calendar of events was filled with exciting and vivid social and chess events.
Truly committed to fostering a vibrant and inclusive chess community Sanja introduced many popular events: the Welcome Pizza Party, Cake Party and the End of Year Party. She also initiated the Chess Movie Nights, Master Lectures (with Lawrence Day and Raja Panjwani), a Pep Talk by U of T Professor and IM Zvonko Vranesic, as well as a Simul Exhibition with WGM Melissa Greef. Besides the Holidays Open, the Reading Week Open and the HHCC Championship, several casual chess competitions were successfully organized during Sanja's term (with custom medals), creating a loop effect where more and more new members joined the club for its events and more and more club events were hosted to serve the growing membership. I believe that Sanja's greatest passion was promoting female chess, as well as chess among newbies. Sanja was famous for showing up at the club early every Friday, to talk to people at the door, meet them personally and make them feel welcome, regardless of their chess strength.
With the indispensable assistance and creativity of her fellow exec, Sophia Park, Sanja made sure that the Hart House Chess Club would get its own website and social media, and what a sense of club pride all these little things brought to the community! Students and alumni were infected by Sanja's passion and they came together, often proudly wearing their HHCC swag, to support the executive's dream for the club.”
Panagiotis, and the club executive members with which he worked, went on to follow in Sanja’s footsteps: building the community and keeping the Hart House Chess Club going strong.
From Hart House Staff member Day Milman:
“Sanja was an outstanding student leader, and brought so much energy, determination and sheer will power to create positive changes and growth in the Hart House Chess Club. This was no easy task, and there were many obstacles on the path which she met with a characteristic perseverance and commitment. She loved chess and she wanted everyone to participate no matter their gender... she made this more possible at Hart House by working with her colleagues to create a fun, inviting environment to learn and play together.
I’ll miss Sanja’s style, her fierce determination, and her sense of humour. I’m grateful I had the chance to work with her and learn along with her.”
Sanja Vukosavljevic's obituary