Bosansko Grahovo in Bosnia
Photo: "The Blond Gypsy"
Aleksandra's Note: It would be a challenge to find a better example of the evil that man is capable of in his inhumanity to man than the experience of the Serbian Orthodox, the Jews, and the Gypsies who were victims of the Croatian Ustashe in the NDH, the Nazi Independent State of Croatia between 1941 and 1945. The horrific crimes perpetrated by the Croatian Nazis and their Muslim allies in the Independent State of Croatia, which included the territory of Bosnia and Hercegovina in the former Yugoslavia during WWII, sickened even their German mentors. Still, there are the true stories of those "on the other side" who did the right thing, the humane thing, the Godly thing, toward the people designated as their mortal "enemy" by the people in charge. Such stories are proof that not all "enemy" hearts are black.
Many thanks to Patty Martinovich for sharing this story about what her mother experienced as a child during wartime. It is a tremendous blessing that good people who were witness to the worst of times in their own villages and neighborhoods, lived to tell about it and are willing to share their stories...
A "good man" in the midst of inhumanity in Bosansko Grahovo, Bosnia in WWII's "Independent State of Croatia"
By Patty Martinovich
"Reprising an old story that my mom told me about a childhood experience during the war...
"She was only 3 & 1/2 in 1941, living in Bosansko Grahovo, Bosnia, with her family. The Serbian people there received advanced warning that the Ustashe from Livno were going to attack the area with the intention of wiping out all of the Serb men, women, and children. A Croatian Catholic priest from Knin heard about this, and he told his brother Stanko Maric to warn the Serbians in Grahovo. He was best friends with my grandfather Nikodim Dobrijevic. In fact, they had so much love and respect for each other that they wanted to be kumovi (godfathers) for each others' children. But for whatever reason, either the Catholic priest didn't like the idea, or the Orthodox priest, so they didn't do it. Yet they stayed loyal and good friends always. In fact, Stanko brought to the Dobrijevich household slava every year, grapes and all the wine that was needed!
"The Serbian men mobilized...my grandfather Nikodim, Tetak Markica Cucuz, Milan Cvjeticanin, and others, and they evacuated all of the children to areas higher in the mountains so that they would be out of harms way. "Shator planina" is the area my mom named. My mom and her brothers and sisters (the youngest, my Ujko Vojo, only 1 & 1/2 years old) stayed up there with Marica (great aunt) and her husband Ilija Tica. So many people up in the mountains took in all of the children from the areas below in the valley that were in danger of the Ustasha attack. (Ustashas were Croatians aligned with the Nazis). My mom remembers not being able to sleep on the hay. They put some sheets down on the hay for the kids, and my mom remembers being miserable and itchy and crying for hours. Marica and Ilija finally brought my mom into their bed and she slept so cozy between them. Ilija finally ended up sleeping on the hay with the other kids later on. A month and a half they took care of the kids and didn't let them out of their sight.
"In the mean time, the men laid mines all around the area, as far as Crni Lug and Peulje. They waited for the inevitable onslaught of the Ustashe, but the Ustashe didn't know the Serbs were prepared. As they started toward the Serbian communities, they rode over the mines and were wiped out. Had it not been for for the actions of a few good and righteous men, the Serbs in this area would have been massacred. My grandfather always believed that you can find a good man even in the midst of inhumanity."
If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org