With The Partisans

By Zdenka Novak


When at the beginning of September Italy capitulated, the atmosphere in Susak became very tense. Although this was a good sign because the 'unbeatable' Axis was broken, it was a sign of alarm. The Germans launched large forces into Italy to prevent the opening of a third front. The ardently expected invasion somewhere on the coasts of Italy or France - some even talked of Yugoslavia, a wish that was on everybody's lips - was postponed. The Italian Army was leaving the occupied territories; columns of Italian soldiers passed through Susak. It was obvious that the Germans, Ustasa or both would occupy these territories.

Young Jews who were still in Susak left at once to join the Partisans; Seka was among them. I had not decided what to do until the day the Germans bombarded Fiume. Caught in the panic, I left Susak the same afternoon in Summer dress and sandals. My aim was to join the Partisans. This time the way was much easier than the previous February: first of all the mild Autumn, secondly, the Partisans came nearer to the coast; after the capitulation of Italy they held, for a short period, much of the coastal line. Precisely at that time I succeeded in joining them. The bombardment was not a surprise. Many citizens reserved rooms in neighbouring villages, near Susak, and were leaving the town in the afternoon. Buses were hired for this purpose. I was invited by friends to share their room and the next day I started my journey to reach the Partisans who were stationed near Crikvenica, some thirty kilometers away from Susak. There was no other way to reach them but to walk. In normal circumstances nobody would undertake such a 'Promenade', although it is a beautiful country along the Adriatic coast with the many little bays and curves - but not in times of war! The day seemed endless, no vehicles, no people on the way, only gunfire and from time to time, shells flying over my head.

At dusk when I arrived at Crikvenica, I was tired and exhausted but happy to have reached my destination. Crikvenica, a formerly fashionable resort, was crowded; men and women in uniforms circulated busily in the streets. The Allies delivered all kinds of equipment to the Partisans, mostly by parachute. I was on familiar ground, and lucky to meet many people I knew from the underground activity in Susak. They received me at once as 'one of them' which meant to be among the privileged. Soon I realized that the Communists did not act according to their teaching the way I had understood. The party was the God, party members his envoys, all the others were one degree below them. The higher the rank, the bigger the difference; the more important the institution, the better the living conditions.

Quite accidentally I fell on the top. The head of the local information centre, POC Ing. Babi , knew me from Susak and needed a secretary. He engaged me immediately to work in his office. I knew typing and some other office work. There was a lot of interesting work: many valuable documents captured from the enemy had to be put in order and retyped, people who worked for the Nazis had to be investigated and I had to prepare the protocols. We were placed in a hotel Dr Seidel where I had sometimes come with my parents for vacation. We had plenty of food. I was equipped with everything to fit a decently dressed soldier. I could not complain.

In fact, to look objectively at my stay with the Partisans, I cannot complain at all. The knowledge of languages and perhaps some other qualifications which I acquired during my work increased my competence.

The coastal front was not yet strong enough to hold against the Germans, and Crikvenica was soon abandoned. We moved to the forest. This was my first move or Pokret, a very popular word among the Partisans. I had to experience a few more of this kind and all of them are rather unpleasant recollections. Unexceptionally, the poret came always as a sudden, unwelcome surprise. Everything movable was packed in a hurry, thrown on lorries, cars, motorcycles, carts, whatever vehicles were available, and off we went. There was the entire office apparatus: hundreds of files, kitchen utensils, blankets, reserve supply of uniforms, military array, even some furniture such as desks, tables and chairs.

The Pokret was always a last minute departure. The caravan then hurtled in the direction of the woods until it arrived at a place impassable by vehicles. There everything was abandoned except the things we could carry, mainly secret documents. If the enemy did not reach that far, these things were gradually transported into the forest. The thorny road continued deep, deep into the forest, far away from human habitation. By the time I joined the Partisans, they had built wooden huts amid thickly branched, high trees. These shelters were sometimes furnished and equipped with basic necessities.

No rules were established for a Pokret whose nature could never be predicted. This is proved by my own experience, where every Pokret was different. The forest was not always the final destination. Sometimes we settled in villages nearby, sometimes we moved further and located in a bigger place - the centre of a district. It all depended on information received from the military intelligence. The army headquarters cabled to the Main Information Centre and they decided about the future, when and where to leave, of course in co-ordination with the military forces. After the capitulation of Italy the Partisans occupied Lika, a district in Croatia, and were seated in Otocac, Lika's main town, for several months, with their main institutions; Oto ac had then about 10,000 inhabitants. When I was transferred from the District Information Centre in Primorje to the Main Information Centre in Otocac, I learned to decipher the codes of these cables and worked at this job for two or three months. The information was not always accurate. Once when we were warned to leave Otocac immediately two members of our office were killed on the way out, a captain and a young girl who worked with me. While we left earlier on lorries, they had to come after us in a car with important documents, but were delayed by the last minute packing procedures.

In Oto ac, our small group - about a dozen people - occupied a house with several large rooms, kitchen, stockrooms, and other facilities. After leaving Oto ac we were located in nearby villages, Gornji and Donji Babin Potok where our living standards changed abruptly. We were placed in a farmer's hut, it might have been his stable or some other shelter and he had probably got orders from the Partisans to make it ready for our use.

Near the entrance a kitchen was improvised, with a stove which served for cooking, for heating, as 'wash rooms' for the laundry, as 'bathroom'. Outside it was freezing, snow was everywhere, reaching the windows of the little huts around us. Before, I thought of snow blindness as a metaphor but here I realized that it was not. In the evening we were sitting near the stove talking and sometimes even singing, but mostly silent, each one pondering his own thoughts. Here I made the acquaintance' of those hateful little creatures who, during the time I stayed with the Partisans, remained my unwished 'companions'. A girl noticed a louse sliding down my forehead right on to my cheek; it was disgusting indeed. It was also quite an event because among our group I was nicknamed 'fino dete' ('noble child'). With all my 'leftist' ideas I was and remained a 'bourgeois'.

Also, one could never know in advance how long a Pokret would last. So for example, when at the end of February almost the entire territory of Lika was abandoned by the Partisans we travelled for several days. The day before we had to leave I fell sick of paratyphoid, with very high fever and intestinal disorder with great pains. I was fortunate that we did not have to walk. It was a massive movement of all the Partisan institutions: trucks, wagons, lorries, carts, everything with wheels had been used. My group had an armored car where I remained lying more dead than alive during the entire journey. I only remember that when I opened my eyes I saw a most beautiful winter scene, snow hanging in various shapes from the tall, evergreen trees, a thousand forms of ice glittering like the purest crystals over frozen waters: it seemed like a fairy tale. Those were the lakes of Plitvice, one of the most beautiful places in Yugoslavia. I had been there with my parents several times. Now it was only a transit station. Our aim was Kordun and Bania, two districts north of Lika where the main Partisan institutions were to be located. The effort and physical hardship were beyond imagination: all this was bad but not the worst. It was beyond my imagination that people could walk continuously during three days and nights and even sleep while walking. I knew about it from novels, but could it be true? It happened in May 1944, during the general offensive launched by the Nazis and Ustase. I had arrived at my new job in Naprjed (Forward), the leading newspaper of the Partisans in Croatia, when the word Pokret resounded once again. Their seat was a small village near Glina, called Maja.

This time the transport was carried out partly on farmers' carts drawn by horses and partly by foot. The 'kitchen' went with us; it was an enormous pot filled with meat and beans, though the cook never had the opportunity to serve the meal - whenever we stopped to make a fire to heat the pot Pokret echoed through the air. As usual, we arrived at a place where wheels could not carry us. This time the command was 'disperse, everyone goes on his own; to continue in groups is dangerous'. I went with two girls from our group; the afternoon was pleasant, we heard no shooting. We had no food, but this did not worry me; I was used to starving, but my feet were all lacerated from the heavy shoes - we were dressed from head to toe in British uniforms. Sometimes when we took a half-hour rest, off went my shoes, and I cooled my feet in a rivulet which was always easy to find. Oh, the country was beautiful; nature had recently awakened from its long Winter sleep, the soft green colour everywhere was so refreshing, birds twittered on the trees - but who cared, who had time to enjoy it?

At the end of the day we arrived at the bottom of a steep hill. Our alternative was either to climb or continue straight on. We had to hurry because darkness was approaching. Out of breath, we reached an inhabited area; some buildings emerged dimly on the horizon. A voice shouted 'Stoj!' ('Stop!'). The seconds of uncertainty seemed like hours until we were sure we were on friendly territory. It was Topusko, one of the bigger places where the Partisans concentrated their institutions. Here too, the same alarm, everybody getting ready for the Pokret. Instead of a sound night's rest we had to join the columns. Hundreds of people were walking through the darkness. I was actually among a crowd with no familiar face around me, but I knew I belonged with them. We all had the same aim: to escape from the enemy. Here, what I had read in books happened to me: I closed my eyes and went with the others who probably did the same. At dawn we stopped in a village; somebody was responsible for the lodgings. A school was assigned to me. I fell down on the floor, fast asleep.

Not for long. I was awakened by ear-splitting noises. Squadrons of aircraft were passing over our heads. No bombs were dropped and we thought that this was one of the numerous heavy bombardments of Germany performed daily by the Allies. Later we were informed that the Germans tried to bring to an end the Partisan movement by destroying Tito's headquarters in Drvar. They dropped not only bombs but also parachutists who had to face fierce resistance, which caused them finally to withdraw. It happened on 25 May, a memorable day in the history of Partisan wars.

Though Drvar was many miles away, we were ordered to move. This was my second day of an endless journey. That night, however, I had some sleep. The smell of the stable where I was allotted to lodge overnight did not disturb me, nor was I worried about the next day. Nature, once again, had the upper hand; fatigue was cured by sleep, but only for a few hours. Could it become worse? Yes, it did! From all sides one could hear voices. I could hardly distinguish the main point: 'Brzo, brzo, napustamo selo' ('Quick, quick, we are leaving the village').

To reach the first forest one had to walk quite a distance on the open road. The shooting came nearer, the shells flying over my head until I reached a little grove. So far I had carried with me all the things I had accumulated during my stay with the Partisans: I had a uniform to change, shirts, underwear, more shoes, a warm military coat and a blanket. That day I was not able to continue with all this ballast. I threw away everything except my little red suitcase, which was my bag and baggage from that time until the end of the war.

The Kubizas had taken this bag with them when they left Susak, a short time after me, knowing that it contained some jewelry. They did not know that it also contained the addresses abroad with all the financial resources that my father had given to Fritz and me when he returned from prison. I had copied these addresses on thin transparent paper and had hidden them in my mothers tiny, brilliant wrist-watch. When I was in Crikvenica, the Kubizas had called me to take my bag; they were sheltered in Kraljevica, also a former resort, very near Crivkenica. I went and obtained what I came for, but that was the last time I saw the Kubizas. A few days later the Germans dropped one single bomb in Kraijevica. Nobody was hurt, nothing was destroyed except the Kubizas. The house were they lived was damaged - the couple and a captain who also took refuge in the same house were killed. The poor Kubizas!

Running through the grove, I was soon again on the open road. A cart passed by with horses running so swiftly as if they were having a contest with the wind. I raised my hand; they halted. It was the Komora with four Partisans who escaped at the last minute. They lifted me up and the horses raced on. A Stuka flew in circles above our heads; the cannonade was intensified; shrapnel exploded somewhere in the vicinity. The horses were well trained and reached the woods before the Germans could hurt us. Probably they seized the horses after we had to abandon them. I walked with the Partisans through the dense forest, uphill and down. Another evening approached, the third in a series of calvaries. We were again near the borders of a village. I was nearly collapsing and decided to stay in the village while the Partisans continued to move.

I entered the first house bordering the woods. A large family was sitting at the table eating dinner. They invited me to join them and, listening to my story, agreed to my staying with them and sharing their fate. They told me that these territories often exchanged 'rulers'- one time the Ustase, another time the Partisans. During the fighting the children went to hide in the vineyards, and it was decided that I should go with them. They also told me that many Jewish refugees were actually hidden in the village.

The next morning, walking through the village, I encountered many familiar faces, among them my parents-in-law. Our reunion was an event of great joy. Three years had passed since this word could be fitted into my vocabulary. My parents-in-law had left Zagreb in Spring 1942 and for more than eighteen months they lived in two Italian concentration camps in Kraljevica and Rab. After the capitulation of Italy they had lived a nomadic life, like the many Jewish families who succeeded in escaping from concentration camps, they were moving from place to place in territories captured by the Partisans.

In comparison with them I had been much better off, as I discerned from what they told me. They had to struggle for their existence, worry about lodgings, food and clothing. In the case of a Pokret, their transportation was never secure. Some had means to hire a peasant to drive them to the next forest, but most people had to walk endlessly, lodging in the open air in the forest. As for myself, being part of the Partisans I had everything free: I had never had nor needed money during my stay with them.

At the time I met my parents-in-law the Pokret was over. They intended to return to the village Vorkapi , a small place near Topusko, which they left when the Pokret had started. That territory was once again cleansed by the Partisans. I decided to join them. Remembering that summer, 1944, spent with my parents-in-law in Vorkapi , I must repeat what I said earlier that, for the first time after three years, I was happy. It was a mutual happiness, a substitute for both sides: the parents who lost their son and me without my beloved Fritz.

Fritzel's parents lived in a farmers' house and the living conditions were of such a primitive nature that I can hardly describe them. The Partisans had palaces compared with this, at least where I worked. The primitive folks of Lika, Kordun and Banija lived no better than pigs; their living standards were so low that this comparison is not overstated. The level of hygiene was miserable: they had no toilets, no bathrooms, old and young slept together, often in one bed and the domestic animals, such as sheep, calves and lambs were kept inside the house. I shared one bed with my mother-in-law while her husband slept near to us on a wooden board which every evening was placed between two chairs to support it; a blanket of rough material was spread over the board, their coats were used as covers. A small table stood near our bed. This was our corner in a room that we shared with the owners of the house. In fact the house had two rooms, of which one was inhabited and the other served for storage. Two corners were occupied by the farmers' family; in one the grandmother slept with her grandson, in the other, the young couple. The kitchen was in the fourth comer; the sheep slept in the narrow entrance. The toilet was outside - a hole in the earth closed in from four sides by planks with a wooden square board above. The whole construction was so shaky that a strong gust could blow it down.

We had one pan in which my mother-in-law cooked, fried, boiled water, and one vessel which served as our 'bathroom' - face, body, hands and feet were all washed in it. She kept everything neat and clean, which was not an easy task; in fact it was a miracle to be clean with all the dirt around us! Throngs of lice pestered us daily. These contemptible little parasites crawled everywhere, infesting our hair and bodies. Petroleum was the only means of getting rid of them. This detestable, bad, smelling liquid often oiled our hair.

That Summer the resources of my parents-in-law were coming to an end and I was glad to help them by selling a ring, one of mother's presents. I went with Feyo (his name was Felix, my father-in-law, Margit or Mara, my mother in law) 'shopping' at the nearby Topusko where villagers from the neighborhood came to the weekly fair to sell their fresh produce - vegetables, fruit, dairy products and meat. Mara cooked for us, repaired torn things (she even made a skirt for me), she enjoyed her housewifely tasks; we kept a small, modest, but tidy household and it was comforting to be together!

Our talk was mainly about politics; the Russian front, the positions of the Allies in Italy, the sea battles against German submarines- the U-boats - and above all when, where and how should the second front open? We knew that this would mean the beginning of the end. However, when it happened, on 6 June 1944, we thought that peace was nearer than it really was. We had to face another year of bloodshed and suffering.

My 'Summer vacation' in the pleasant, loving company of Fritzel's parents lasted only a few weeks. During these weeks we had an unusual episode, a hopeful excitement at the start, the more disappointing at the end. News usually spread quickly under such circumstances, reported by rumour, who can better tell it than Shakespeare?

Open your ears; for which of you will stop
The vent of hearing when loud Rumour speaks?
I, from the orient to the drooping west,
Making the wind my post-horse, still unfold
The acts commenced on this ball of earth:
—King Henry IV, Pt. 2 Induction

One day we heard that the Allies were to send an aircraft to Topusko and carry us to Bari. I cannot remember who brought the news but I do remember the crowd coming from all the neighbouring villages, flocking down the hills to gather in Topusko and wait for 'the saviour' from heaven. I also remember that my parents-in-law and myself were assigned a room, a kind of a hall in a building with many others, people standing around, sitting or lying on the floor, each of us with a few belongings, nervous, impatient, expecting to end the never-ending endurance: Bari seemed then to us a quiet asylum where one could move around without fear to face another Pokret. I don't remember how long we endured this state of expectation, was it one, two, three days? The aeroplane never arrived. It is affirmed by documents that Tito urged the British to pass through Topusko with the empty aeroplanes on their way back from bombardments in Germany and take the Jewish refugees to Italy, Bari. The request was not granted.

These were unpredictable times. The Partisans needed working people and I had to return to duty. When I was transferred from the General Information Centre to Naprjed the last Pokret caravan prevented me from starting my new job. Now they called me back. As much as I regretted leaving my parents in law I also missed my work, although not knowing what task awaited me. I could not have dreamt of a more interesting job.

The editorial board of Naprjed had acquired an apparatus called 'Hell', a kind of teleprinter, transmitting messages, speeches and all kinds of oral information. It was in fact like an automatic telegraph. A perforated fillet of paper was inserted in the transmitting apparatus, receiving and recording whatever was considered important. It was not transmitted by code, but by regular language. My duty was to translate, for example, Churchill's speeches delivered in the British Parliament. I used to translate into Serbo-Croat directly on the typewriter while the printer worked-it was usually a live transmission.

Since the war had begun, Churchill had been the most competent source of information. He never exaggerated, his promises never disappointed, his realism never failed and his command of the English language was perfect. This was not my first job during my stay with the Partisans but certainly the most interesting one. I had the opportunity to receive first-hand news about 'the greatest amphibious operation in history' as Churchill called it and all the political and military events followed by this memorable day.

My living conditions were not easy. Since the experience of Drvar the Partisans were more cautious. Their main institutions were hidden better than before. Naprjed was located somewhere in the centre of the big forest, the Petrova Gora: we lived in wooden huts. Our spirits were higher than ever before and we all had reasons for it. Since D-Day the Allies daily improved their positions, German cities and industrial centers were heavily bombed night after night, the Southern and Central parts of Italy were liberated by the Allies, the African front was cleansed of the German troops, the Russians succeeded in throwing back the German armies on all three fronts (South, Central and North).

Notwithstanding these facts, even the strongest Partisans were affected by physical exhaustion. The main institutions had therefore established a kind of rest-home in Glina, the main district town of Banija, which was now continuously in the Partisans' hands. An apartment with several rooms was occupied and a cook was engaged to cook for the 'comrades' who came in succession, each for a fortnight of vacation. In my state of health I had some priority. I arrived in Glina at Christmas and to my great surprise again met Fritz's parents, who in the meantime had moved to Glina where the living conditions were much better. I spent more time with them than at the rest-home.

There I also met many 'comrades' who worked in various institutions again established in Glina. Everybody talked about leaving the place soon - this time not pursued by the enemy but voluntarily. The defeat of the Nazis was noticeable everywhere. Along with the considerable progress of the Allied Forces, the Partisans also gained territories, so that at the end of 1944 the entire coastline of Yugoslavia was firmly held by the Partisans. This time it could be presumed that the stay was final, whereas for the territories in central Croatia - Lika, Kordun, Banija - one could not be sure of the enemy's possibilities to attack, which meant another Pokret, maybe two or three!

When, where, how the decision fell to move down to the central coast of Dalmatia with the main institutions, I cannot tell. The fact is that at the time I was in Glina everyone was getting ready for the journey. It felt like it did before a Pokret; frantic packing, excited shouting, vehicles standing in front of houses occupied by Partisans, only this time on a much larger scale, much better equipped. 'Why not join them?' I was asking myself. I also heard that the editorial board of Naprjed also intended to leave Petrova Gora and move in the same direction.

In the style of the past to make quick decisions I asked for a permit to leave which I obtained without difficulty and with the largest convoy I have ever seen during a Pokret we departed for the south.

The only obstacle were my parents-in-law who were against my leaving. They did not believe in the safety of the journey. The enemy still had strongholds everywhere; besides, we were in the middle of the winter season and had to pass through high mountains before reaching the seashore. They were partly right, but they could not persuade me to stay. Later they admitted that they were wrong because Glina was again attacked and they had to move several times into the woods.

We were not attacked but the place where we stayed the first night was surrounded by enemy troops and it was a miracle that we passed a quiet night. Our convoy moved southwards. This time I travelled in a sort of van with a long wooden bench at each side - we were packed like sardines, but this did not matter! At the end of the second day we arrived at the bottom of Velebit, a huge mountain that divided the coastal part from the inner part of Croatia. To reach the coast we had to cross the Velebit, this time safely, on wheels. But not at once, as we so impatiently wished; the snowstorms hindered us and the massive accumulation of snow showering down every night and covering the road that was cleaned up the previous day. This phenomenon was repeated three days and nights until we could make the passage through. This was an extremely beautiful part of the world: while the mountain was wrapped in its shining, white winter coat, the Adriatic stretched its deep blue waters glittering in the golden rays of the sun. After a couple of hours we reached the coast. There I saw for the first time German prisoners of war, pale, hungry, thin, miserable soldiers. They worked and carried things for the Partisans; as much as I hated the Germans I felt pity for these men.

Here the convoy was dispersed; everyone knew one's own destination. I had a letter for the Information Centre in Split upon whose recommendation I had to be transferred to a 'resort' in Dalmatia. Vehicles circulated in considerable numbers on the road to Split and I had no difficulty reaching the town. Split was crowded with Partisans, hundreds of uniforms milled around. Again I came upon familiar faces. Many had returned from Italy to join the Partisans.

My stay in Split was very short - my destination was Bra , one of those beautiful, quiet islands around Split, not far from Hvar where I once spent an unforgettable Summer. There were merely dim recollections of a 'glorious past'. I arrived in Bra at the end of January 1945, and left the Island at the end of April, only a short time before the end of the war. I lived in a monastery occupied by the Partisans and transformed into both, a hospital and a rest-home. Nuns remained in charge of the building and functioned as nurses. I was completely on my own and was free to do whatever pleased me, I had my own room, good food and good care. I took long walks, admired the awakening nature. Spring comes very early to these regions. Almonds are in full blossom at the end of January.

Personally, I had nothing to complain about, the Partisans had always been kind to me, I had interesting jobs, here I had the best rest they could offer. However, I felt all the time that I was not 'one of them'. I had now sufficient time to meditate. My first 'clash' with the communists was back in Zagreb when I preferred to visit Fritz in the barracks instead of attending a rally at the University. Then I was only sympathizer. The SKOJ made much stricter demands on their members. I had a more serious conflict with my boss when I worked in the Main Information Centre.

From the first day he gave orders to our cook to prepare for me lighter food, a kind of diet and to serve me whenever I wished. The cook, a simple village girl, Bariza, fulfilled her duty faithfully; apparently she felt some pity for me. I was very grateful for her thoughtfulness and we became very much attached. I started to teach her reading and writing which she learned with great zeal. One day I thought of giving her a gift as a token of my affection. From my jewelry I chose a golden chain with a little medallion of which she was very pleased and showed it around.

When my boss heard about this he became very angry, telling me that these were 'bourgeois' habits; a real Communist does not reward favors, this is called bribery and leads to corruption. Bariza had at once to return the gift, and concerning me... At that time I was transferred to Noprjed and my boss had already written a letter of recommendation to my new boss. Such letters were usually accompanied with a short description characterizing the person concerned. He asked me to return the letter and apparently changed its contents. Against the rules I opened the letter, though it was strictly forbidden to open it, the text was flattering but... I was diligent, devoted, reliable and responsible, gifted, intelligent, but due to some 'bourgeois' remnants in my background and education I had to be 're-educated'. To me this seemed nonsense, and nobody ever could have convinced me that he was right.

Such attitudes certainly gave reason to my 'comrades' to hesitate in recommending me as a party member. I had passed the age to be a Skoj member and many younger people were already party members, which was the normal procedure. Actually, I also avoided every opportunity by which such a proposal could be considered. I always carried the feeling that everyone was suspicious, the party members more than all the others. They trusted nobody and suspected each other.

The Allies, for example, whose aid to the Partisans was considerable, were treated with disgust! It was almost a crime to talk to parachutists! As typical representatives of bourgeois capitalism, the Jews were regarded with contempt. The remnants of the Jewish families who tried to save their lives by escaping to the territories held by the Partisans were accepted with distrust. The majority were older people and families with babies and small children; how could one expect them to work or fight after so much suffering? And yet, they were called 'cowards', 'anti-social types', a 'strange body' in a 'homogeneous community'. During the Pokrets they wandered through the forests, getting little information from the Partisans who did not care. Was this not anti-Semitism in the full meaning of the word?

People who returned from Italy to join the Partisans complained about unfair treatment. On one side, Communist propaganda had tried to lure them back; on the other they were suspected of fraternizing with the Allies. Many stories of Communist falseness circulated in Split; in the short time I was there I heard enough. The Communists mobilized young people, sending them from Italy to fight with the Partisans. They used all kinds of tricks to gain people for their cause. One of them was my only cousin Zdravko who was mobilized by the Partisans against his will and killed in a battle on Yugoslav territory. His grave was never found. Here I had sufficient time to occupy my mind with such familiar thoughts, although I still believed that Communism was the best solution to assure a better future to the world. My 'great expectations' proved to be illusory.

For the time being nothing mattered but news from the fronts. The end of hostilities seemed very near. Towards the end of April I left Brac and returned to Split where I stayed until the end of the war; ... all hostilities ceased at midnight on May 8.' Transpotation or lodgings were no longer a problem; for us, wearing the Partisan uniforms, everything was open and free. I must confess that I used this privilege on many occasions. I returned to Zagreb in the second half of May, joining one of the first transports, being again lucky to belong to one of the 'select' groups. We travelled for three days and nights on big, open trucks. The road was so dusty that when we reached Zagreb, it seemed that the dust on my body weighed more than the body itself. However, this journey was easy compared to the ones I experienced before.


Sources: When Heaven's Vault Cracked—Zagreb Memories, from the book of the same name by Zdenka Novak.