Branko Graonić

He was born on 23 November 1939 in the village of Velika Žuljevica,

Bosanski Novi County.

He says:

I was born in a numerous household. As far as the life in the vilage was concerned, we were pretty well-offs. We possessed a house, outbuildings, a lot of acres of cultivated land and domestic animals.

My father worked in the mine of lignite called ''Ljesani'', which was located not far from our house. The other members of the household worked on our property fields and guarded the cattle.

The attack of the Croatian and German Army on the Serbian villages in Potkozarje started in the spring of 1941. That was the reason why our people took refuge on the mountain of Kozara. The following members of our family were there: grandfather, grandmother, two uncles, mother, brother, four sisters and I. The whole members of the Graonić household were there. There were members of other households there too. The Croatian Army cought us there and drove away to Jasenovac concentration camp like other Serbian civilians. The soldiers were pursuing us to walk in columns on foot. A lot of children and adults received the injuries on their legs because their shoes were worn out while they were walking such a long way. The traces, they left behind, were covered in blood.

At that time, the concentration camp was overcrowded with the Serbs. That was why we were placed in the open, where (in spite of all other tortures) we were exposed to elementaries. After a while, the guards separated and, probably, killed immediately the grandfather Petar and uncle Vlado. We were placed in the open further on, where we had no food or water. I was so exhausted and vexed that I couldn't walk. I became very thin and got the scabs all over my body because of dirt.

The rumour that some delegation was coming to the camp was heard one day. Later on, we found out that it was the Red Cross delegation. They wanted to visit the concentration camp. That's was why the concentration camp authorities gathered us (the ones who were in the open). We were mainly consisted of children, women and old people. They drove us away to the railway station and closed in the freighted cars, in which the cattle was transported.

Since I couldn't walk, my brother Rajko was carrying me on the way out of the concentration camp circle. He was 13 then. A Croatian guardian approached us, grabbing and throwing me on the ground. He order my brother to return to the column. When the guardian moved away little bit, my brother lifted me from the ground and ran after my mother and the rest ones. Then, the other two guardians noticed that and caught up with my brother, grabbing me from his arms and throwing into the canal across the road. They were beating my brother with the legs and rifle, returning him back to the camp. Later on, we found out that some oven existed in the camp, where they used to burn the people. We were thinking that our Rajko might've ended his life in the fire of that oven too. My mother returned and took out me from the canal and carried off.

We were kept day and night without food and water in the freighted cars on Jasenovac railway station. They didn't open the doors of the freighted cars, and we had to release ourselves where we could. Some adults and children were dying of stench and suffocation. The cry of children and the scream of the women is reverberating in my ears even now. I will never forget it. The guardians did not return us back to the concentration camp but drove us off to Slavonia. We were landed in Pakrac and disposed to the villages and then to the village households. The women and older children we working on the agricultural properties of the peasants, while the littlenuts were guarding the cattle. My mother, me and my sister Čedanka were placed in the stable of some peasant. The mother was feeding me with the milk. I recovered soon and started to walk again.

We found ourselves in our village in the late fall of 1944 (I think it was that year). Our house and other outbuildings were burnt and probably robbed before the burning. The cattle was driven away. We built the temporary shelter there. The local residents helped us. So, we got throught the winter somehow. Before the very end of the war, my mother got sick and passed away. The most probably, she died of the consequences of sufferings and tortures.

The sisters Desanka, Rosa, Vukosava, Čedanka and me lived with our grandmother. After the end of the war, the new authorities placed us in the war orphanages. In spite all of this, I managed to to complete the secondary school and the college for social workers.

I am a pensioneer now. I live in Prijedor. The consequences of the war sufferings left the deep traces in me.