The village of Zitiste, Serbia, has suffered from years of crime, floods and landslides. But Zitiste's tough residents have a new village hero to look up to when times get rough: Sylvester Stallone's fictional boxer Rocky Balboa.
The village commissioned artist Boris Staparac, a self-taught artist and writer, to create the nearly 10-foot statue of the film icon in February after a local resident came up with the idea. Before construction could begin, the village had to get approval from American sculptor A. Thomas Schomberg, whose original 1983 statue resides at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Some have questioned why the statue isn't of a hero or saint from Serbia's past.
It turns out the Rocky movies, featuring the "Italian Stallion," have been on Serbian TV for years. Younger residents formed "The Rocky Balboa Citizens Association" to lobby for the project.
Staparac says that Schomberg waived half of the royalties to make it easier for the village to finish. Zitiste officials hope the statue will help them turn around the image of their community and highlight its years of struggles.