Saturday, May 30, 2015

"FATHERLAND" by Nina Bunjevac - CHETNIKS challenge author on depiction of General Mihailovich and his resistance forces.

Aleksandra's Note: In full disclosure, I have not read this book, FATHERLAND, by Nina Bunjevac. This post is about a challenge to the contents of this book that was first published in 2014, and is now available in several languages. The book includes illustrations by the author who is also a graphic artist.
"Fatherland", which tells the tragic story of a Serbian family's struggle after WWII changed their homeland forever, has received a number of favorable reviews that can be found by searching the internet, as can the summary of the contents. The following brief summary is found on Amazon:
"Standing alongside Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis and Joe Sacco's Palestine, Nina Bunjevac's Fatherland renders the searing history of the Balkans in the twentieth century through the experiences of the author and her family. In 1975, fearing her husband’s growing fanaticism, Nina Bunjevac's mother fled her marriage and adopted country of Canada, taking Nina—then only a toddler—and her older sister back to Yugoslavia to live with her parents. Her husband and Nina's father, Peter, was a die-hard Serbian nationalist who was forced to leave his country in the 1950s. Remaining in Canada, he became involved with a terrorist organization bent on overthrowing the Communist Yugoslav government and attacking its supporters in North America. Then in 1977, while his family was still in Yugoslavia, Peter was killed in an accidental explosion while building a bomb.
"Through exquisite and haunting black-and-white art, Nina Bunjevac documents the immediate circumstances surrounding her father's death and provides a sweeping account of the former Yugoslavia under Fascism and Communism, telling an unforgettable true story of how the scars of history are borne by family and nation alike." [Amazon]
Because I want to highlight the response/challenge to this book that a member of a Chetnik group in Canada has issued, and the response he received from author Nina Bunjevac, I will keep my comments brief.

1. The "terrorist organization" that is referred to in this story is the group "Serbian Homeland Liberation Movement" (SOPO), of which the infamous Nikola Kavaja was a central figure. I strongly feel that the goals and activities of this group, regardless of how you may feel about those goals and activities, should NEVER be conflated with General Draza Mihailovich and the legitimate Chetnik organizations in the Diaspora.
2. General Mihailovich, though a true Serbian patriot, was far more "inclusive" and fair than allegations of chauvinistic "Serbian nationalism" wrongly and unjustly attribute to him.
The effort being made to challenge and address the premises found in and implied by "Fatherland" is a worthy and important effort, and this is what the Chetnik organizations should be doing.
Many thanks to Mr. Momcilo Dobrich, Vice President of the Organization of Serbian Chetniks Ravna Gora, Hamilton (Ontario, Canada) chapter, for following through with this initiative.
The response of the author of "Fatherland", Ms. Nina Bunjevac, will follow Mr. Dobrich's letter. Pay close attention to that response. She says a lot in a few words, and much that is not said is implied. All of it is revealing on a much wider level than just one family's story, as compelling as it is.
In fairness, I recommend that any interested readers whose attention and curiosity is peaked by this posting, go seek out "Fatherland" for themselves, or at the very least, read the reviews and descriptions of the contents. Mr. Dobrich's letter goes a long way in providing balance to what is out there now.
Aleksandra Rebic
April 12, 2015

To:  Ms. Nina Bunjevac
Cc:  Editor/Publisher, Jonathan Cape
Re:  "Fatherland"

Nina, in regards to your recent book [Fatherland], I have been given the responsibility to respond to untruths that you have published through your artistry and commentary. That being said, although I may not appreciate some of the contents of your book, I do appreciate the talent required on your part and I commend you on your gifts as a graphic artist.  I am by no means a critic of these types of novels or a connoisseur, yet it makes me happy that a Canadian of Serbian heritage has become so successful in achieving their goals.

Nevertheless your statements about General Mihailović are totally incorrect and shed a negative light on Serbian people as a whole.  As a Vice-President of the Organization of Serbian Chetniks in Hamilton Ontario, I must try and reach out to you with respect to these types of old smears and outright misinformation about General Mihailović and his resistance forces.

In academia and other historical publications the official Yugoslav Communist Party portrayal of World War II events in Yugoslavia are no longer just being debated, in fact they are being debunked. But then again the Serbian diaspora never required professors or historians to tell us what we had actually witnessed.  In fact the enemies of the Serbian people have expressed the truth for us:

“The basis of every success in Serbia and the entire southeast of Europe lies in the annihilation of Mihailovic. Concentrate all your forces on locating Mihailovic and his headquarters so that he can be destroyed.”   Heinrich Himmler, Reich-Fuhrer SS, July, 17, 1942

We would be willing to meet with you and discuss the reasons for your assertion that General Mihailović (Cica Draža) was a traitor and we would be more than happy to provide you with the proof behind our statements.  I would even try to contact former Royal Canadian Air Force member Norman Leslie Reid who might be willing to speak with you, or you can listen to him recount his experience as presented on Historica Canada’s Memory Project at the following link:

Mr. Reid was saved by General Mihailović’s forces and has seen firsthand the sacrifices the Serbian Chetniks made for the Allied struggle against tyranny.

I look forward to hearing back from you and having a chance to discuss this matter further.  I can be reached at


Momcilo Dobrich
Vice President
Hamilton Chapter
Organization of Serbian Chetniks Ravna Gora

Mane Srdic
Hamilton Chapter
Organization of Serbian Chetniks Ravna Gora



Momcilo Dobric
Vice President
“Organization of Serbian Chetniks Ravna Gora” Hamilton Chapter

April 2015

Re: Your letter

Dear Momcilo,

I must start this letter with an anecdote – it will give you a general idea of where I come from.

As a Serb, you are most likely familiar with Vuk Karadzic, the great reformer of the Serbian language. Back in the 19th century – at which time Serbia began striving for independence from the Ottomans, and Croatia was still under Austria-Hungary rule – Karadzic sought medical treatment for his ailing leg in a Zagreb hospital. The story goes that he was greatly pleased with the way hospital staff had treated him; so pleased, in fact, that once he got to Serbia, he lovingly composed and sent them a letter of gratitude, written not only in Latin alphabet, but in the dialect specific to the region of Zagreb. The hospital staff reacted to this gesture by sending him a letter of gratitude in return, written in Cyrillic, and of course, in Karadzic’s native Serbian dialect. That, my dear Sir, is where I am stuck where the history of Serbia is concerned – not the World War Two – but back there, in that precise moment when Vuk Karadzic opens this letter….That sentiment, my dear Sir, is at the core of my being. You, Sir, seem to be stuck in the WWII. But that’s alright; we all cope with displacement and nostalgia differently.

I belong to only one tribe, and one group of people: the displaced children of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. There are hundreds of thousands of us, scattered across the globe. We do not have an organization, or a leader, or a hero. But we do have something that is the most precious and irreplaceable – love and respect for each other, regardless of nationality or religion. That love fills me, Sir. The same type of love Vuk Karadzic must have felt back in the day, opening letters, travelling, collecting stories and cultural treasures from his people, and then sharing it with his friends in Germany, Austria, France…My dear Sir, the politics of “them” versus “us” is not where I come from. Neither is the sweeping generalization of what constitutes Serbian, Croatian, etc.

In regards to your letter, I must say that I am perplexed by two things. First thing is your statement that I “shed a negative light on Serbian people as a whole”. This might be of news to you, Sir, but nine out of ten Serbian people do not associate being Serbian with Draza Mihailovic. However, ten out of ten would associate with Vuk Karadzic. This proves to me that your entire being resides in a universe called Draza Mihailovic. In my universe, however, Mihailovic plays a very minor role, as a piece of a complex historical background that has shaped the destiny of my family. Whether or not he is a traitor makes no difference to me, as it plays a minute role in my book. The sole purpose of my book is to show the destructive influences of politics and radicalism on individuals and families. I am sorry that this point has escaped you.

I am also quite perplexed as to why you feel the need to clear Mihailovic’s name. Your ideology and the ideology of Croatian nationalist have swept the Balkans in the 90s, torn our country apart, displaced hundreds of thousands of us, created weaker countries where life has become nothing but misery, where the return is impossible, even futile. You have managed to get Mihailovic’s story on TV, I hear “Ravna Gora” TV serial is all the rage in Serbia. Serbian school children are learning religion instead of civics, they have no idea about who the partisans were. Sir, your ideology is by far not endangered; you have nothing to worry about. Your special interest groups are quite active in Serbia. Soccer games have become virtually unbearable to attend. Best of the best are leaving the country.

The sad thing is, my love for humanity, and your love for Draza mean nothing in the larger scheme of things. Money takes precedent over love, duty, devotion; money’s at the core of political opportunism, not ideals. You and I, Sir, are the beasts of yesterday, sentimentalists. And that’s why I respect you. Because you love something. Like, truly love, enough to devote your precious time to defending it. Some people go through life without ever loving anything. You are certainly entitled to your opinion, as am I. Lets agree to disagree on Mihailovic, and show Serbia and the world that we can both exist peacefully and respectfully. At least we can both agree that my book can be seen as a contribution to the Canadian cultural scene, by an artist of Serbian descent. But most importantly, perhaps there are bigger, more important lessons to be learned in this book than whether or not Draza was a traitor.

I thank you for your letter and I do appreciate the effort but I must respectfully decline your request to broaden the discussion. I wish you the best of luck.

Sincerely yours,

Nina Bunjevac

[Author of "Fatherland"]


If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at


1 comment:

  1. I think it should be pointed out that neither Nina's father nor grandfather ever fought with the Chetnik forces and was never genuinely associated with them.

    She says her grandfather was killed in Jasenovac - nothing about how he was ever a soldier or even had a chance to fight.
    Her father was just a small child who wasn't involved in fighting in the war.

    That her father, decades later, joined a radical group in Canada does not mean he was a Chetnik at all.
    He did not fight with their cause; her grandfather did not fight with their cause.

    A radical diaspora group working decades later in foreign countries are not Chetniks and I don't think it had any real former Chetnik fighters, did it?

    So Serbs should continue to emphasize that none of her family were legitimate Chetnik fighters and were only a part of a foreign-country based political group, long after Draza was dead and had no say or influence.