Jasenovac And The Post-War Jasenovac Camps Book Review

Co-authors Blanka Matkovic (L), Stipo Pilic (R)

It isn’t until you start reading the new book written in the Croatian language by Blanka Matkovic and Stipe Pilic “Jasenovac and the post-war Jasenovac camps – Geostrategic point of Greater Serbia politics and the propaganda driver of its spread towards the West” that you realise how much we need a book like this one at this particular time. At this moment, just over thirty years since Croatia seceded from communist Yugoslavia with the aim to transition from that totalitarian regime into democracy, only to still be wrestling with the communist fabrication of Croatian World War II history and various wild concoctions of victim numbers allegedly at the hands of Croats that float in the public space unchallenged by the official Croatia since year 2000 – as former communist operatives cling onto power with widespread corruption and deceit.

Also, this week is marking the 2022 commemorations for victims of World War Two Jasenovac Camps and the Croatian government, the President, the Jewish communities and other organisations cannot get together in one ceremony, but we are seeing, once again, several separate commemorations, clearly showing widespread disagreements regarding this part of Croatian history and how it should be commemorated. Were the truth of the camp being kept opened and operational after the war by communist Yugoslavia these commemorations at Jasenovac would honour all the victims who perished there not just the ones perished by April 1945!

Transition from the totalitarian communist regime into democracy for Croatia (and any other such country) was and is supposed to also be about correcting the history written by oppressive communists to reflect the truth. But this has not occurred yet, not to any noticeable degree as the governments support still the promulgation of communist mentality and the faceless denial of horrendous communist crimes. It is in the latter context that this book represents the long-awaited furthering of evidence of truth that in many ways serves as testimony to more communist crimes that have gone officially uncondemned and unprosecuted. Such efforts of historical research about Jasenovac camps have regretfully been left to private and personal pursuits of credible and renowned scientists and researchers without any government supports.  

Two facts about the World War Two Croatian Jasenovac Camps that cannot be disputed are the wildly fabricated numbers of people that perished in the camp and that the camp was not shut down in May 1945. The latter is a particular focus in the second part of this book, and it seeks not only to point a spotlight on communist purges likely occurring within Jasenovac Camps walls after the war and victims of those murders either not reported or added to the fabricated numbers of victims the Independent State of Croatia was falsely and is still falsely burdened with.       

Based on abundant and thorough historical research this Blanka Makovic and Stipo Pilic book is outstandingly truth revealing and draws significantly with evidence on the communist Yugoslavia hidden truth of the Jasenovac Camp being kept open after World War II ended in May of 1945 until 1952 and even until the 1960’s.  This 640-page book published in 2021 by the Croatian Society of Historians – HPD “Dr. Rudolf Horvat” presents numerous public documents that have never been brought to the public attention, as well as maps and graphs, covering the period from the beginning of the 19th century to the present with emphasis on Jasenovac and Jasenovac camps, their role in Greater Serbia ideology and anti-Croatian propaganda.

And so, the book is based on exhaustive continuous research since 2006 and argumentation of material kept by archives and museums in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the United Kingdom, so that the actual number of victims in Jasenovac could be determined, but also to raise awareness that the Jasenovac Camp was active not only until 1945 but also under the communist Yugoslavia rule when communist purges were rife and utterly vicious against patriotic Croatians, especially.

Given that we have all witnessed historical research results that prove the written or official history wrong referred to as revisionism, in a negative or unwelcome way this book, in its Introduction, aptly begins with the words James McPherson of Princeton once wrote while serving as the president of the American Historical Association: “Revision is the lifeblood of historical scholarship. History is a continuing dialogue between the present and the past. Interpretations of the past are subject to change in response to new evidence, new questions asked of the evidence, new perspectives gained by the passage of time. . . The unending quest of historians for understanding the past – that is, ‘revisionism’ – is what makes history vital and meaningful. Without revisionist historians, who have done research in new sources and asked new and nuanced questions, we would remain mired in one or another of these stereotypes.”

True to this quote Matkovic and Pillic have not only provided an abundant wealth of new documentation, new evidence that points out clearly that the history of World War Two Jasenovac Camp was strikingly different to what the world has been repeatedly told since May 1945 but they have offered suggestions and arguments that clearly direct us to the absolute need to further research on this topic especially because the written official history and research results since 1990’s, when state archives opened to the public after the break-up of former communist Yugoslavia, are at significant discord, thus creating incessant social divisions among the people as well as intolerance of the newfound but real truth. The Jasenovac Camp remains to be one of the most controversial topics in contemporary Croatian history and society. This is without doubt because the official Croatia has not dealt with World War Two Jasenovac Camp truth, or any other Croatian truth that fought to break away from Yugoslavia in that War because it suits former communists or their descendants in power not to pursue communist crimes, which also were evidently committed at Jasenovac Camps post-Word War Two until 1952 and into 1960’s.

Written well, with the flow that makes reading it compelling, with solid corroboration by way of events, names of people and detailed happenings the entire book, with its rich content and breadth of coverage, this book brings that period of Croatia’s history alive. When we couple all this then we know that this Matkovic and Pilic book is, so far, the most solid cornerstone upon which the Croatian truth will be revealed even more.

This book is a treasure chest for the Croatian truth that debunks with facts much what the Yugoslav communists have been feeding to their own people as well as the world. For example, there are numerous examples of manipulation of the number of victims that perished at Jasenovac camps and Matkovic emphasised during a book launch in 2021 that she found a file of Ante Pavelic, the head of the WWII Independent State of Croatia, in the Croatian State Archives, which contained a list of persons killed in the Jasenovac and Stara Gradiska camps. According to these data, 7,133 people died in Jasenovac, not counting men between the ages of 14 and 70, who are not listed in that list. In 1964, the Yugoslav authorities conducted research on the number of war victims throughout the former Yugoslavia, not counting those killed by partisans, the Yugoslav Army, the Communist Party and the Yugoslav regime. The number of victims was 597,323, which is much less than the imaginary number of Jasenovac victims fabricated by Yugoslav communists and Serbs and their collaborators in spreading lies and anti-Croatian propaganda.

Matkovic went on to say that it was Germany that forced Yugoslavia to make a list of Jasenovac victims due to reparations, which was declared a secret due to a large deviation from previous figures and remained unknown to the public until 1989, when Danas media outlet reported that about 60,000 people died in Jasenovac. The first unofficial exhumations in the Jasenovac area were carried out in 1961, and an official forensic investigation in 1964, but none of these excavations confirmed the theory of hundreds of thousands of victims of the Jasenovac camp fabricated largely by Serbs even to this day. Matkovic also warned that the remains found could have belonged to refugees, Croatian soldiers and civilians who were withdrawing from the country in May 1945.

The manipulation of the number of war victims, especially those from Jasenovac, was and still is an integral part of the Greater Serbia propaganda. This book demonstrates this so well.

Historian Pilic, co-author of this book , in his 2015 interview for the Croatian Cultural Council/HKV  shed light on the post-war life of the Jasenovac camp and this book presents a more thorough and more detailed continuation of that. “We have already mentioned the name and surname of the manager of the post-war Jasenovac camp Anatoli Avramov in our original scientific article published in 2014, as well as the testimony of detainee Ivan Krizanovic and his ‘magnificent eight’ who escaped from Camp III-C in August 1946. central war camp Jasenovac, where they were housed. We also mentioned the son of the Thessaloniki volunteer Đuro Lavrnja, who ended up in the Jasenovac forced labour camp / prison in June 1946 for three months. There is also Antun Einfried, who escaped from that camp in November 1945 and whose further fate is unknown. In front of the camp, the guards also killed a local Jasenovac Serb, a local pig keeper Vladimir Trivuncic. Pre-war and war gunsmiths were also killed there, as well as detainees of the Jasenovac war camp, Marko Radic and Josip Batarelo. For the latter, there is a document on release from the Ustasha Jasenovac camp, and for the former there are several documents on the liquidation in Jasenovac, and yet, both are still on the falsified victim list of the Memorial Centre Jasenovac. This was, and remains, the main problem of ‘official’ Croatian historiography, which cannot be reconciled with the documents of the party and state Yugoslav communist authorities that they had camps and execution sites and post-war cemeteries in the area after the war, it is no exaggeration to say that there are ‘historiographical bombs’ in the book – documents that speak of the existence of camps and camp sites until the sixties.

When it comes to camps and their existence, operation, and functioning, we found that in Jasenovac area there were two basic types of camps: camps for prisoners of war, captured soldiers of other countries, and camps for convicts, captured and convicted locals, soldiers and civilians as collaborators of the occupiers. As early as 1945, the central camp, i.e., the administrative centre of all domestic convicts, was the Stara Gradiska camp / prison, as was Camp III-C Jasenovac during the war. From that camp, in the future, convicts were assigned to jobs, labour camps, convict work sites throughout Croatia and Yugoslavia.

Camps / prisons existed permanently or occasionally in the area until the early 1960s, when all land around Jablanca and Mlaka was handed over to the Jasenovac Agricultural Cooperative. Thus, for example, from September 24, 1956 to September 29, 1958 in Jablanc, Šime Lončar, son of Ivan Lončar and brother of Ivan Lončar, still alive today the well-known Yugoslav diplomat Budimir / Budislav Lončar, which speaks of the continuity of these camps / prisons and what the convicts did in them. And according to the oral testimonies of the inhabitants of Jasenovac Posavina, the older son of Josip Broz Žarko often came to that hunting ground.

We also established on the basis of documents that no later than February 1946, Camp III-C Jasenovac was under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior, and until then it was under the supervision of the Ministry of Industry and Mining. Based on the available documents, we determined the movement of the number of convicts in the Stara Gradiška camp / prison from 1946 to 1950, as well as the movement of the number of deaths in the same camp from 1945 to 1952 according to available camp / prison documentation. These numbers may not be entirely accurate, but they show that the administration was guided by that as well.

We also found studies that were made for the purpose of closing that camp / prison after 1964, which was abandoned due to the famous conflict in 1966 between the two first men and their people at the time…”

At the book launch in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 2021 its co-author Stipo Pilic said that “since the middle of the 19th century, Jasenovac has become the focal point of Serbian conquests to the west and the second part of the book deals with that, as well as how this policy works propaganda to this day and what are the answers of Croatian politics and diplomacy, but also non-transparent and unclear “, while co-author Blanka Matkovic pointed out that this book tries to deepen the scientific work on the post-war Jasenovac camp as well as on Jasenovac as a settlement and camp. In this, besides the significant wealth of historical evidence and interpretations this book feels like the solid steppingstone and foundation for the assertion of truth worldwide about the post- WWII communist Yugoslavia Jasenovac camps. The camps did not close on 22 April 1945 as even the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum claims, but it continued operations for the purposes of implanting the cruel and oppressive communist regime in Yugoslavia. But then, regretfully, Holocaust Memorial Museums, Yad Vashem etc. have “taken as gospel” it seems the words written on Jasenovac history by even Jewish communist collaborators and sympathisers.

A copy of this very valuable book may be obtained by contacting the Croatia Rediviva website http://croatiarediviva.com/kontakt/

Ina Vukic

From the Trail of Communist Crimes Against Croatian Patriots

Đuro Zagajski (Djuro Zagajski) Murdered in Germany as part of Yugoslav communist purges 26/27 March 1983

Former Yugoslavia was the most aggressive among socialist countries in using assassinations, murders, as a means of protecting the communist state and the communist party from its opponents. Over its 45-year existence, the UDBA, the Yugoslav State Security Service, murdered several dozens of its political enemies, mostly Croats, abroad. These do not include mass murders of hundreds of thousands of Croats immediately after World War Two whose remains lie in 1,000 pits and mass graves so far uncovered. To know that children or grandchildren of these murderers still enjoy the perks their ancestors received from the communist regime for participating in these murderous sprees sends shivers down the spines of all who hold justice dear.  To know that some of the descendants of these communist murderers may be holding powerful positions in today’s Croatia is unthinkably cruel. We know, nothing has really been done in systematic processing of communist crimes committed against Croats in Croatia during the existence of former Yugoslavia. This tragedy, for sure, is one of the fundamental reasons why Croatia has not made progress with democracy in which the rule of law and justice are paramount.  

Djuro Zagajski is just one of many Croatian emigrants, Croatian patriots, who fled communist Yugoslavia, who were closely monitored by the Yugoslav Intelligence Services UDBa even after they left Yugoslavia, with the goal of organising assassinations of Croats monitored. According to a report by the Council for the Identification of Post-War Victims of the Communist System Killed Abroad, which operated within the 1991-1999 Commission for the Identification of War and Post-War Victims, the Yugoslav Communist Service murdered 63 Croats abroad, however this number has risen to 74 by research completed in June 2020 (Tomislav Djurasovic). In addition, 25 Croats survived assassination attempts in the diaspora, 5 still considered missing and 5 kidnapped. Djuro Zagajski is one of about 30 Croats assassinated by Yugoslav communist secret services within the borders of Germany and to date nobody has been held responsible for his murder 39 years ago, this weekend.

Croatian patriots murdered by Yugoslav Secret Services UDBA by country in which they lived and by year (Source: Tomislav Djurasovic)
Top left: Croats missing in diaspora, Top right Croats kidnapped in diaspora in communist purges, Bottom columns: Croats who survived communist purges’ assassination attempts in the diaspora (Source: Tomislav Djurasovic)

After the quashing of the “Croatian Spring” in late 1971, which was a mass movement that lobbied for greater autonomy of Croatia within communist Yugoslavia, the Yugoslav communist Party headed by Josip Broz Tito admitted that even after hundreds of arrests and imprisonments much still remained to be done “to liquidate all the remaining chauvinist hotbeds in the society.” According to Tanjug, the official Yugoslav press agency, Croatia’s Communist party leaders made an appeal on 15 December 1971 to all organisations and members to join the fight against “nationalist aberrations.” Hence, the communist murderous hands extended to the Croatian patriots living outside Croatia and Yugoslavia with greater frequency and depraved viciousness.

The Croats made up 22 per cent of Yugoslavia’s 20 million inhabitants and had contributed the most towards Yugoslavia’s government revenue. The enormous economic problems of Yugoslavia that evolved had contributed toward reviving Croatian antagonism toward the central Government, which has diverted some of the revenues of Croatia’s highly developed industry for investments in more backward republics. Croatian Spring movement was to bring a better balance, but it caused an acceleration of assassinations, murders, and purges of Croatian patriots.  

Djuro Zagajski, born on October 2, 1939, in Zagreb, attempted to escape from Yugoslavia several times as a minor. Political persecution and oppression by the communist Yugoslavia regime often resulted in murder or assassination of patriotic Croats within Croatia and within the diaspora to where multitudes fled. Djuro once succeeded to flee across the border, but was returned to Yugoslavia by the Austrian authorities, where he first spent two months in prison and was later sent to serve in the compulsory military service. Returning from the obligated service in the Yugoslav People’s Army to Zagreb, he was arrested again and sentenced to two years in prison for “enemy propaganda”. Finally, in July 1967, Zagajski again decided to flee Yugoslavia and went to Germany, where he was granted political asylum. In the following period, he took part in many demonstrations and public rallies against Yugoslavia and followed emigrant publications.

On 22nd January 1982, the State Security Services (SDS) Operational Centre Zagreb initiated and began “Operational processing” of Djuro Zagajski.

The operational treatment of him was proposed by Zdravko Mustač, head of the SDS Zagreb Centre, and Josip Perkovic, head of the Second Department of the SDS Headquarters of the Socialist Republic of Croatia, and was approved by Vinko Bilic, the head of the SDS Socialist Republic of Croatia, while the operational processing had since been led by Milan Munjas, an operational worker of the SDS Zagreb Centre. (As a reminder both above mentioned Zdravko Mustac and Josip Perkovic were in 2016 both sentenced to life imprisonment by the German Court for abetting the murder of Croatian emigrant in Germany, Stjepan Djurekovic, as part of their role in the Yugoslav State Security Services/SDS, which was about purges of Croatian patriots and political opponents of communism.) The SDS Operational Processing of Zagajski as with all similar cases meant the drawing of pathways and information about the movements of the target with the aim of his assassination.

A person of special trust of Đuro Zagajski was Stjepan Mesek, who was an agent of the SDS Zagreb Centre under the code names “Karlo” and “Dubravko”. He was kept in communication pathways from November 1981 to March 1983 by Miso Deveric and Milan Munjas – employees of the Second Department of the SDS Centre Zagreb.

The associate that was known under the code name “Emin” was kept in the loop and operations by the employees of the SDS Varazdin Centre, Milan Tesla and Ilija Dodik, and as instructed by Josip Perkovic.

Dušan Sime Peris was hired on June 12, 1981, and his code name was “Dukat”.

Zlabnik Damir and Roguljic Mladen, employee of the Second Department of the SDS Zagreb Centre at the time when the head of the Centre was Franjo Vugrinec.

The statement of the associate “Jerko” dated December 2, 1982, signed by him says the following: “I, Branko Sklepic, born on January 7, 1947, temporarily working in the Federal Republic of Germany, Munich, voluntarily and without coercion, declare that I will undertake on a voluntary basis, to loyally provide data to Security Services. Since I am moving in the company of extreme emigrants in Munich, such as Zagajski Djuro, etc., I will share all the information, either in writing or in direct contact with the SDS service. ” “Jerko” was led by the employee of the Second Department of the SDS Zagreb Centre Damir Zlabnik, at the time when the head of the Centre was Franjo Vugrinec.

The collaborator “Pjesnik” was Miro Skrinjaric, led by employee of the Second Department of the SDS Zagreb Centre Miso Deveric, at the time when the head of the Centre was Franjo Vugrinec.

In addition to them, a certain Milan Doric also played a big role – under the code names of “Hanzi”, “Milan”, “Flora” and “Pagan”.

In the night between Saturday and Sunday, March 26-27, 1983, emigrant Djuro Zagajski, a native of Zagreb, was killed.

The dead body of Đuro Zagajski was found in the morning in an open field in the Pheasant Garden Park in Munich. Zagajski was a friend and collaborator of Stanko Nizic (killed on August 23, 1981, in Zurich), Stjepan Đurekovic (killed on July 28, 1983 in Wolfratshausen near Munich) and Luka Kraljevic (survived several assassinations).

Months before Zagajski’s murder, an associate of the Zagreb UDBa under the pseudonym “Karlo” submitted reports on the activities of Croatian emigrants in Germany and Switzerland. The main person in these reports was Djuro Zagajski.

Associate of the Varazdin UDBa under the pseudonym “Emin” in a statement dated February 25, 1983, a month before the murder, he claims that Djuro Zagajski has gained complete trust in him and that lately he has been able to mostly come to his apartment and stay longer, while he previously avoided going anywhere outside public places together. Now he is ready to drive alone with “Emina” in his car… preparing patriotic Croats for slaughter was the modus operandi leading to murder… the grotesque character of the communist Yugoslavia still haunts. Ina Vukic

Keepers of Communist and Serb Crimes in Croatia Suffocate Progress

Croatia is surely one of the most fertile grounds in the world for historians, political analysts, social psychologists, and those in fervent pursuits of truth to study and stand back cringing in disgust at the open and palpable tactics utilised by former communists (under the mask of antifascism) in the prostitution of transition from a totalitarian regime into a democratic one. If we adopt the position of labelling the hiding or desecrating the truth about crimes committed as a wicked act (if not criminal), then the coalition of Croatian HDZ and SDP governments in the past decade or so with the SDSS Serb minority in parliament reminds us of a joint wicked enterprise. A kind of a political joint wicked enterprise that strips the dignity off the defender of Croatia from brutal aggression. The joint wicked enterprise whose task manifests itself in the hiding, in the twisting, in the distorting of truth of countless crimes perpetrated by Yugoslav communists/Partisans against the Croatian people seeking independence in both World War II and by Serbs in the Croatian Homeland War of 1990’s as well as in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  

A normal, compassionate government would not even contemplate on forming a coalition with those who attacked its people from inside, like rebel Serbs living in Croatia at the time and their family members, joined in these crimes by Serbs from Serbia. A normal government of Croatia would know what it meant for its democracy-loving people in early 1990’s when the Serbs engaged in relentless and brutal campaigns of ethnic cleansing, expelling Croats (in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina) and other non-Serbs from their homes, wreaking mass murder, rape, torture and devastation.  

This type of government coalition is much about blaming the victim – freedom loving Croat in this case – and justifying or shutting a blind eye at mass crimes perpetrated by communist Yugoslavia partisans during WWII and after it, as well as multitude of those committed by communist Yugoslavia nostalgics during the 1990’s war of Serb aggression. This type of government by participating in and tolerating such distortions and belittling of the historical truth of the territories populated by communist agendas and the agenda of Greater Serbia stifle and suffocate true democracy. It is in their interests to do so, otherwise the acknowledgement of communist crimes for the depravity they represent would sink them utterly and completely into the garbage bin of history, where they belong. The pursuits of secession from communist Yugoslavia in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during 1990’s aimed to achieve exactly that: dump communism and its totalitarian regime into the garbage bin of history. While these pursuits were successful militarily and with heroic gumption of Croatian independence fighters, they encountered monumental failures after the War ended. The communist mindset grew wings in its efforts to redeem the unredeemable monstrosities of Yugoslav communists and their Serb echelons. Anyone attempting to show the truth, to research the truth, to lift Croatia where it should have been decades ago after the Homeland War ended, well rid of the communist mindset and its stinking corrupt heritage, finds himself, or herself, labelled revisionist and still fighting for dignity of the good fight it fought when seceding by the will of the people from communist Yugoslavia.      

 Given that such government coalition in Croatia has also scooped under its wings the mainstream media, the truth and horror of Yugoslav communist crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, of Serb-perpetrated crimes, suffers deeply. It’s difficult to say how long the truth-loving people will need to keep investing their energy in disputing the communist filthy mantra that communists liberated Croatia in 1945 and showing-up Serb denials of depravities they committed against Croats during 1990’s. The strong communist mindset thriving within such government coalition in Croatia has placed often insurmountable barriers on the road of achieving full and functional democracy since the Homeland War ended completely in late 1990’s.

The month of July is as telling as any month of the year where we see examples of such despicable approaches to historical truths.

The historical village of Srb belongs to the Boricevac parish in Croatia that in Spring of 1941 saw, at the hands of communist partisans, great human and property suffering and destruction of Croats. Their houses, church, parish residence, were burned and destroyed. All the Catholic faithful of this parish, about two thousand of them, had to leave their centuries-old homes, and unfortunately, to this day, their descendants have not realised the right of return. The inhabitants of the village of Ivezici, 37 of them, failed to escape and all were murdered and thrown into a pit, near Brotnja, on Dabin peak. In 2017 their exhumation was carried out and they were buried in the Catholic cemetery in Boricevac. And yet, one will not find this historical truth in any Croatian mainstream media. What one will find there in relation to the historical village of Srb is the Serbian National Council of Croatia, supported by the government, holding a commemoration dedicated to the so-called first antifascist uprising (against the fight for independent Croatia). The fact that horrific crimes were committed by anti-fascists against local Croats during the uprising is not mentioned anywhere where the Croatian Serbs in coalition with the government have a say. The pure truth is not a pastime the so-called antifascists of Croatia have any time or will for.

A sad state of affairs in Croatia, indeed!

This day (24 July) in 1992, the village of Brisevo in the municipality of Prijedor, became a torture and hell for the Croatian people, wrote retired General and former Member of Croatian Parliament, Zeljko Glasnovic (pictured above), on his Facebook page last week, 67 Croats were brutally killed. Everyone to the last was a civilian. The Serbs beat the killed Croats to exhaustion, cut the tendons on their arms and legs with knives, cut off their flesh from their bodies, slaughtered them, stabbed them in the body, cut off their noses, ears, genitals, ripped their bellies, broke their ribs, bludgeoned them with clubs and hoes, forced mothers, wives and children to observe the brutality and abuse of men after which women and girls were raped. You will not hear about this monstrous crime in the Croatian media. Brisevo has never existed for the Croatian media! For, the people need to be kept in ignorance, in guilt and obedience of every kind. This is the testimony of one girl (Helena Komljen, from the book on Brisevo victims by Frano Pilipovic and Ivo Atlija) who survived this horrific massacre:

“I was 13 and I remember everything well. I know we couldn’t escape anywhere, we had to stay at home and wait for our fate. As a child, I didn’t understand it all, although I used to hear Mum and Dad talk so I was scared I was also afraid that the infantry would destroy and kill us all, and I had no idea what infantry was. I thought about how we could hide and run away somewhere, although all that when I think about it now was impossible. So, the days passed in fear that some grenade may hit us, because they also shelled us sometimes as well. Then came the worst day of my life, July 24, 1992, when I was left without everything by Serbian soldiers. No family, no friends, no childhood. Only my little brother was left with me. I don’t know what it would be like if he wasn’t with me afterwards. It was morning and we all got up, Nedo Mlinar passed by our house and told us that we had to hang a white sheet on the house and that no one would touch those houses. It was then that all of us with white sheets perished. Everything was the other way around.

Around 12 o’clock, exactly what we were all afraid of – happened; the infantry entered the village. We were in the house when they threw a Zolja rocket on the roof, I was in the bathroom, I could only feel the pieces of the ceiling falling on me and the dust and hissing in my ears. We all ran outside in panic to hide in our grandparents’ basement because we didn’t have a basement in our house. My brother managed to run to my grandparents, my mum and dad managed to hide under our house, and I stayed in the middle, neither here nor there. They started firing at me in bursts, I saw bullets near my feet crashing into the ground and raising dust, cutting down plum branches and then suddenly, I fell. As I fell bullets flew over me. God was with me and saved me, that’s what I felt then. Dad thought I was hit, he called me from the side and when he saw me looking at him, he told me to get up abruptly and run to them as fast as I could. That’s what I did, and they didn’t shoot then. Then they called from above from the hill that we should all come to them otherwise they would come and kill us all, even the children they emphasised. Then my dad said, there’s no life here anymore. And of course, to save ourselves since we couldn’t escape anywhere, we went to them.

My dad immediately recognised a man who went to school with him, told him you could have killed my daughter. The same man and a few others took my dad, my grandpa and my uncle somewhere. My grandmother, mum, brother and I stayed there with the others. There were about 20 of them on that road. Grandma told them she would bring them food and water and they told her she was talking too much and that she wanted to poison them. Then one completely young man, maybe 16 years old, came to me and played with a knife in front of my face. Grandma said nothing more, she was afraid he might kill me. I was in shock, I no longer felt or feared, I didn’t care, like in a movie, in fog and I don’t know where. We were all silent, mum was holding my brother and me and grandma were sitting next to each other on the ground. Then again one of the Serb soldiers started shooting near my ear in the direction of the forest. Mum and grandma begged him, don’t, then one came to mum and said, ‘how about we kill your son, he will kill us when he grows up.’ She told them in a sad voice, don’t please, he won’t kill anyone. At that moment, 4 or 5 of them were returning, taking my dad, grandad and uncle, bloodied pants, and shoes. When grandma saw that she just cried and told her my kids are dead. They came and showed us their legs how they were wounded, how the Ustashas wounded them and that the blood on them was from the Ustashas. I will never forget my grandmother’s and mother’s face, that fear and that sadness, and they kept silent because every word could mean death for them.

Memorial to victims of Serb crimes in Brisevo

They told us to go to the weekend cottage nearby. As we were going up the one that killed my dad, grandpa and uncle said grandma stays because she talked a lot. We went on and entered the cottage. After 5 minutes two shots were heard. At that moment, I felt that my grandmother was dead. Mum looked at me and that look of hers full of fear confirmed once again that grandma was dead. She was holding my brother in front of her, and I was about 2 meters away from her. They told my brother to come to me and my brother came to me. Then, a Serbian soldier slapped my mother across the face and told her that she was a whore and that she was giving birth to Ustashas. Then, I noticed right across from me one person I knew, it was M.I., and I was hoping he could help us. I begged him with my eyes to do something or say something, but he just kept quiet. Even in his eyes there was fear. He later told me that he tried to tell a soldier, but he told him to keep quiet, otherwise he would kill him if he tried to save someone. Then they told my brother and me that we had to get out of the cottage because a soldier was waiting for us on the main road to take us to the command. We went out and I thought it was our turn now. The one who said that to us came out with us, drew his gun, and told us to run. We did that, we ran lightly, waiting for the bullet to pierce our backs, but it didn’t fire. Good luck again and God’s help. As we moved running like that, we passed our grandmother lying dead on her back, her arms folded beside her head as if praying to God. Blood was still dripping from her forehead, her eyes closed as if asleep. My grandmother, whom I loved the most in the world and without whom I could not sleep a single night, now I look at her dead in that worst way. We passed by that too and down the road a man was waiting for us. He told us sadly, oh dear children this is a war, and I will take you to safety to the command. I don’t know who that man was, I never saw him again. We went that way and then he left us with Dule in the command. So, it was a command for them.

They kept us in the attic for a few days to survive somehow, gave us food and water. There were, I don’t know anymore, exactly, maybe about 15 people. I just cried and cried day and night. In order for a group of Serb soldiers to pass, they would enter the house near Dule, and they wanted to inspect the whole house in case anyone hid. As for my mother, she was left alone in the cottage, she was taken back with 4 soldiers to the house, they raped her, bit her, tore pieces of flesh from her chest and then took her out from under the house and shot her in the head. Everyone heard her cries and moans. A few days later, my mum was buried by her brother himself and he confirmed it all. Later, my brother and I were in Ljubija with Ned Dimac and Nada and their children. They helped us a lot, they fed us and took care of us for 2 months, for sure. After that, my brother and I went to Croatia by bus. It was very difficult, years of fear and bad dreams, a big black hole in my heart and a broken childhood.”

Ina Vukic

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