The internet, with its social networks, is a great means of communication. Several years ago, I could hardly have imagined that I would watch the official opening ceremony of the XXII Olympic Winter Games in a live broadcast by Russian television, discussing online every detail of the long-awaited festivity with my Serbian friends.
German’s troups in Zagreb10.04.1941 .
The greatness of this fascinating event, the excitement, the sincere joy and beauty of strength of spirit, it created a source of common pride for Russia for a few hours, and melted the cold of the February kilometers between Rostov and Belgrade.
For me and my Serbian friends, the athletic performances were not the most important thing. More important to us is that the Olympics gives the world a chance to be fair and honest. After all, according to the ancient tradition, during the Olympic Games people should put aside their differences and suspend all armed conflicts. “The conclusion of the Olympic truce aims to give the opportunity to stop the bloodshed and suffering of the civilian population and to start a political process to overcome the crisis on the basis of the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.”
The parade of Olympic teams in front of the grandstands is not merely a tradition. This is a sacred act in which everything is important. Even seemingly insignificant detail is a stroke in the portrait of their country. The portrait can be small or large, finicky or fun, elegant or academic. “Oh, Sport! You are the world.”
The order of the teams’ appearances in the opening ceremony is strictly determined, and the list of the participating teams is already known well ahead of time. But anyway, with bated breath, we await the appearance of the columns of our Olympians, the fighting and daring team of Serbia, and that of Russia’s all star team.
The world has changed, and Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union remain only on old political maps. But such is the historical memory, that my eyes involuntarily fixed on the new flags in the hands of flag-bearers from new countries of the post-Soviet period, and the expressions of joy on the faces of the present heads of the new states, and of course, on the costumes of the athletes, which in accord with the Olympic charter, are supposed to express team’s national character.
Almost at the end of the parade in Sochi, between the teams of France and the Czech Republic, the Croatian Olympic team appeared.
Their team is small, which is understandable – in a newly formed state preoccupied with its integration into the “European space,” it is difficult to develop a strong winter sports infrastructure. Leading the column, with the national flag in an outstretched arm there is the silver medalist from Turin and Vancouver, Ivica Kostelic. The athletes and sports officials are in black suits and hats, which in their characteristic form and manner of appearance remind one of the Ustashe, from archival photographs of the Second World War. In the general atmosphere of the festivities, my sense of wonderment at this was unnoticed, and my wise Serbian online interlocutors stayed tactfully silent, while the television picture continued to show jubilant grandstands.
It was in just such black hats that the Croatian Ustashe arrived in the Soviet Union during the most difficult period of the Great Patriotic War. Moving towards Stalingrad they arrived in my Rostov Region, entering the Azov steppes, absolutely not unlike tourists who might like to wander around Chekhov’s Taganrog. Powerful and self-confident occupiers, under the red and white checkered flag, the Ustashe came to kill my people. On June 22nd of 1941, Croatia was the only Slavic country that declared war on the Soviet Union.
Some three months earlier, after occupying Zagreb, the Nazis immediately began to create the puppet “Independent State of Croatia,” expressing so well the Third Reich’s hatred towards Orthodox Serbs. For the bloody spectacle, the Ustashe caps, performers and extras were required.
And so they came from Italy, carrying anti-Serb slogans and racist ideology, not forgetting their close relationship with the Abwehr and IV Directorate of the Main Directorate for Security of German Empire, Ante Pavelic had arrived. Newborn Croatia, signing up to the Tripartite Pact, has become a war ally of Germany. And the Ustashe government acceded to the construction of an “ethnically pure state,” the state in whose ideological foundations there were three rules: there is no place for Serbs in the Independent State of Croatia, Serbs are a constant threat for the Croats , Serbs have always played a negative role in the history of the Croatian people.
“The law of the purity of Aryan blood and honor of the Croatian people” began to operate at full power. From the lining of the Ustashe cap, decrees showered: the prohibition of the use of the Cyrillic alphabet and the Julian calendar, the expulsion of Serbs not only from the center of Zagreb, but also from other towns; the ban to leave the apartment after 18 hours and to travel by public transport. Children also were a threat to the “honor of the Croatian people” – the Orthodox schools and kindergartens were closed. Undoubtedly, all Serbs bothered, how else to explain the national humiliation of wearing blue ribbons with the letter ” P” ( for the Pravoslavac, the Orthodox Christian in Serbian) on the sleeves and forcibly changing Serbian names…
A Serb ceases to be a Serb when he loses his Orthodox faith. Therefore, at the beginning they hypocritically replaced the term “Serbian Orthodox faith” with the term ” Greco-Easterners’ [fait],” and then completely banned the religious rituals to be performed in so renamed temples. The parliament of puppet state, rewriting history as it saw fit, secured its spiritual crime announcing that in the country were officially recognized only three religions: Catholic of Western and Eastern rites (Uniates), Muslims and evangelicals. A man wearing an Ustashe cap, Minister of justice and faith in the government of Croatia, Miroslav Puk, as if concentrating the centuries-old hatred of Catholicism towards Orthodoxy, said: “The Serbian Orthodox Church cannot be recognized.” The Roman Catholic Church, supporting the government of Croatia, in fact legitimized the Ustashe power, so laying the foundations of what would be later called ” Serbocide” …
The Vatican has recognized the “Independent State of Croatia, ” Hitler praised the struggle to
“reduce the extraordinary strong Serbian minority in Croatia. ” Thus began a bloody orgy of “srbosek”[a special knife for fast slaughtering of Serbs].
From the first days of its existence, the new Croatian government, blended various Austro-Hungarian regulations into the “Law on the conversion from one faith to another,” forcing the Serbs to accept Catholicism. And here the Ustashe cap was necessary again: for the Serbs opposing the new armed crusaders, there was only one path – to the concentration camp and confiscation of entire property. The Ustashe are “zealous proprietors” and Serbian property is not going to be lost…
The cunning Croatian law specified one detail: do not convert the Serbs who have secondary and higher education, as well as professors, teachers, traders, wealthy artisans, rich peasants and Orthodox priests. For them, the bearers of Serbian consciousness, unable to transform themselves into real Croats, there was no alternative.
In the history of the “Independent State of Croatia” there were the mass repressions and deportations of Serbs, and the death camps, and violence against Orthodox priests, and rivers of blood, and pathological cruelty. In the entire territory of occupied Europe, only in Croatia, there were concentration camps for children. Thousands of thousands of suffering Orthodox Christian souls…
There are too many in the new Croatia of those who want to rewrite history. They will never know the exact number of victims, no one can measure the sea of Serbian tears, no one can say how many of little Teslas disappeared in the Ustashe cap … Nobody is going to extinguish the fire the Ustashe burned on the chest of Bishop Platon, a martyr for the faith, who graduated from Moscow Theological Academy, and carried to us the Russians so kin last name Jovanović …
A great pillar of Christian Orthodoxy, Bishop Nikolai, Nikola Velemirovic in laity, who himself endured the horrors of Dachau, he wrote in the church calendar all these known and unknown martyrs as “these who suffered for the Orthodox faith at the hands of Roman crusaders and Ustashas during WWII. These are New Serbian Martyrs.” And the Catholic church, anyway, did not raise its voice against the genocide of Serbs.
Life in the “Independent State of Croatia” went bad for the Russians too. Many secular and religious activists from Russian emigrants’ circles were subjected to arrest and sent to prison or internment. You can see that our peoples share a common destiny. So we are going into history together…
During a meeting with Ante Pavelic, Adolf Hitler gave him a lot of advice. One recommendation is working even today: ” If the Croatian state really wants to be a long lasting one, it must pursue a policy of ethnic intolerance during the next 50 years.” The Fuhrer was wrong only in regard of timing…
Since that black day when the West began to tear apart Yugoslavia, one question wouldn’t leave me alone: how was it possible that yesterday’s neighbors could lay hands on one another? Not in a political dispute, not in the sports arena, but in the real monstrous war that destroyed the life of what was once the most beautiful country in Europe? What could be the motive of teachers, engineers, farmers and workers, who took out of the dark corners of their souls, the same terrible ideology of Serbocide, together with the black cap of 1941?
I asked my Serbs this question. To those who experienced the horrors of the last war on the front line, and to those who carried out their professional duty of journalists, and to those who in lonely nights were waiting for their loved ones. Each of them had his/her own history and his/her own answer. They have only a pain in common, because in every Serbian family there is sorrow caused by the knife called the “Serbocut”…
I have asked the Russians the same question … My younger friend Katya, a correspondent for one of Rostov TV stations, an honest and talented journalist, gave me her own answer and her own history.
Her grandmother lived as a six-year girl in the suburb of Taganrog, a beautiful coastal city in which the small house with Chekhovian Cherry Orchards became an attractive accommodation for fascist invaders, who were waiting there for the arrival of their death squads. Among the Nazis there were the Germans, Romanians, and Croats. All of them were unwanted guests, but the Croats are remembered for their particular cruelty. In one of the bitter days of the occupation, the Croatian soldier, seeing in the fragile girl of Taganrog a personal enemy, swung with all his strength and struck a little girl with whip, just passing by, unprovoked.
In Valjushka’s wartime childhood there was Petrushinska Balka too, where once she had to help her neighbors to find their loved ones among the executed locals. There was a terrible cry of an unknown woman screaming about a green dress, which should help her to find her daughter shot [by Nazi death squad]…
“Balka of Death”, in its clay remained forever the Russians and Jews, Gypsies and Armenians, prisoners and hostages, communists and non-partisan personalities, sick and disabled, members of Red Army and Partisans. All those who were a hindrance for the Nazi idea of world domination. Nobody knows today how many of them are there … executions were carried out three times a week…
By the way, I have got some different Russian answers to my question — something about the prestigious summer holidays in the country with the architectural beauty and the largest nudist beaches in Europe.
The crimes of German fascism received their Nuremberg Trials. Germany, sincere or not too much sincere, condemned war criminals, and repented for what they committed, in some cases through deeds, sometimes in words only. Yugoslavia forgave Croatians so much, giving to the children and grandchildren of those people in black hats the opportunity to live, to love and to dream.
God will not allow that my doubts sew new national discord. Croatia will cope with its destiny and its Ustashe. But, if the Croatian historian ever would count Serbian victims, let them think a bit about the frightened Russian little girl from occupied Taganrog, in whose life has remained forever a green dress and Croatian whip.
By Natalya Pitchurina
Translated by Nada Ljubic
Izvor: FEJSBUK REPORTER