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Danica Praštalo

She was born on 14 March in 1933 in the village of Aginci, Bosanska Dubica.

She testifies:

I was born on 14 March in the ancient 1933 in the village of Aginci, the town of Kozarska Dubica. The family property of Budmir has been there, where my father Mološ was occupied with agriculture. He was born in 1900. My mother Anđa was born in the village of Vlaškovci in 1908. Being farmers, we used to breed different kins of cattle: horses, cows, pigs, sheep, geese, ducks and hens. We possessed a great house with a shop inside it, a stable, a depot where we kept threshing machine (for the threshing of wheat, on the ground floor) and grain (on the second floor). A great orchard and land used for cultivation was behind the house. Besides, we possessed the forest too.

There were ten of us in the same household: two grandmothers (father’s mother Joka and mother’s mother Marica), brother Milorad (1934), sisters: Milica (1938) and Ljubica (1940); half-brother Sreto (1918) and half-sister Persa (1924).

In June of 1942, the former authority of the Independent State of Croatia, that was located in Kozarska Dubica, expelled us from the village of Kosic, then to Mlječanicu, and from there to Elezovaca. The property was robbed and burnt, the cattle was taken away.

We could not return to our property until August 1945. The ex authority of the Independent State of Croatia formed the Croats and Muslims from Kozarska Dubica. Since our village consisted of the Serbian population exclusively, nobody wanted to joined that authority.

In the war 1942, the Germans and Croatians cought us on the mountain of Kozara and took to Cerovljani concentration camp nearby Hrvatska Dubica. This village was distanced ten kilometres from the mountain of Kozara, where we were in the open, having no food, water and good living conditions. After a few days, they took us to Jasenovac concentration camp, where we stayed for a month. I was nine years old then. My brother, aged 8 and sisters, aged 18, 4 and 2 were with the mother. The oldest brother of ours was killed in the war. After a month, some unknown men and women came and separated us, placing all of us in the train, including our mother who was with her children. The father and grandmothers stayed in Jasenovac, where all of them died in great tortures.

We were shut in the railroad car for a whole day and night. Finally, we got to the town of Sisak. They led us into the hall where they shaved and bathed together women and children. They disinfected and, then, returned our clothes. No one had any shoes. There were four barracks not far from the hall, where they took the children. Me, my sisters and brother were in them. The older sister and mother were separated from us and placed in the barbed wire, which was in front of the barracks. The barracks, where we were settled in, had the straw we were sleeping on. We had a window that was turned to the concentration camp. Our mothers were placed there, but we mustn’t look toward them. Otherwise, we would be abused by the nuns who were guarding us. I remember that there were the railroad tracks and a lot of freighted cars. The nuns were coming once a day, bringing some bread and broth that were so badly prepared. We were throwing and had diarrhea because of such prepared meal. After meal, they used to take us out of barracks to reveal ourselves. We were doing that in the holes digged in the ground and covered with the planks. If it used to happen that some child pissed in the straw, the older child, sleeping beside him, had to chew that straw. After a few days, the children were placed in the railroad cars, where they were crying and calling for their mothers. The greatest punishment for us was the separation from our mothers. On that occasion, they drove us off to Zagreb. All the women stayed for a few days in the barbed wire. Afterwards, they were deported in the freighted cars to Germany. In Zagreb, the nuns, who had Red Cross tapes on their arms, welcomed us, taking us to the barracks where we would get one bed which was for four of us. All fifteen days we were getting regular meals and new clothes and shoes. Once, late at night, some unknown men with torches came (the lights were turned off deliberately that night) and called the older children by name. They called me and my younger brother by name, while our two youner sisters stayed in bed. We were driven off to Koprivnica by trucks, where we stayed for a day in the railway station. Late at night, we were put in the train and taken to the village of Drnje, where they settled us in the house of some priest. We slept in his stable. After breakfast, they brought the horse-driven vehicle which was driving the children across the village, shouting: “The Bosnians, the lousy ones, arrived!“ Every house in the village had to accept one child. That was humiliating because they were offering us to the households and could do what they wanted with us. We were abused in that way. Ignac Verhuci took my younger brother Milorad, who stayed at his home until the end of the war. He had a small place in the stable, where he was cleaning and guarding various kind of cattle. There, I was transfered to the village of Sigetac, where some Franjo Kalavarić took me. They welcomed me nicely. I worked on the field with the owner’s wife. I had to go to the Catholic church every Sunday.

After half a year, I found out that my younger brother was in the village of Drnja. I found the way to visit him. Our meeting was very touchy. I was so happy to see him, because I thought that I would never see any relative of mine again. Our younger sisters, who stayed in the barracks in Zagreb, were transfered to Jastrebarsko concentration camp. They stayed there until we found our younger sister Ljubica, who was three years old. Ater that, our mother put a great effort to find our sister across the Red Cross, but she couldn’t be found. We never found out anything about her destiny.

After the end of the war, our mother came from the concentration camp from Germany and asked for us. Since our property was burnt, she brought me and my brother to the village of Aginci. She took us to her sister’s (Milja Bijelić) place (the village of Međuvođe). Then, she came back for Milica to Zagreb. We stayed at our aunt’s plave for a year. In the year of 1945, three of us (brother, sister and I) enrolled in school. As soon as my brother Milorad and sister Milica completed the primary school. Then, they established their own families in the village of Aginci, where they lived and still live. The oldest sister of our, Persa, lives in the village of Lebane nearby Leskovac (Serbia).

After the end of the primary school in Dubica, I went to Laktaši and completed the secondary school there. I employed in Sarajevo Health Center, where I worked a year and a half. Then, I was attending the military course for liasion and started to work in the switchboard in the State Hospital in the settlement of Koševo. After two years, I got married for Praštalo Milan, who was a JNA captain. Since he was wounded in the war, he had consequences from that and had to demobilized. Then, two of us moved to Sanski Mast, where we built a house. I gave a birth to two children, who are grown-ups now: son Duško (1955), who lives with his family in the city of Ljubljana and has son Danijel (1980); and daughter Dušica (1957), who has two children – son Aleksandar (1980) and daughter Bojana (1983), both born in Sanski Most. We left Sanski Most in 1995 because of the las war. Then, we started to live Banja Luka, where we live today too. At the beginning of 2000, my husband Milan passed away. Since then, I live with my daughter and her family.

I am a loser in both wars. The one that happened in 1942 took away my chilhood, and the other, in 1992, killed my old age.

< Miloš Ćirić                                                                      Up                                                                              Branko Graonić >

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