Prijedor, Aerodromsko settlement
I was born on 7 January 1937 in the vicinity of the town of Foča. Foča was the interest zone of Italy since 1941. However, while the negotioations around the division of this part of B&H, the Independent State of Croatia considered that Bosnia the river of Drina belonged to Croatia. The Croatian military units came to East Bosnia, i e Foca, and conducted the collecting of the Serbs from Foča, driving them to Croatia in the freighted cars.
I was in one of the freighted cars. I remember the railway station in Foča and the minutes when I heard the scream and moan of those who were staying. As a four-year old child, I was scared and confused. I was observing mutely all of that from the train. That wasn’t the ordinary train, but a train for cattle transportation. Our first exit station was Alipašin Most. We were placed in some barrack. We musntn’t leave this building. A group I belonged to was settled in a greater premise which floor was covered with straw. The food was, soupy, poor and unsuficient. A lot of children were eating from the same bowl. I don’t recall how much time I spent there before we were transported to Croatia. We spent much time in the freighted cars, living in a very difficult conditions. We slept, ate and relieved ourselves. They didn’t leave us outside. I know that we were driven to Zagreb. We were placed in barracks. There were rumours that we were being fed by the human meat.
Later on, we were transported to Jastrebarsko and to some other places in Croatia of which I cannot recall the names. I’ve always remembered the same living conditions: poor food, lying on the straw without proper sanitary conditions. I know that more and more children were coming. The older people were transported to some other concentration camps.
I remember that the children aged from 1 to 10 years were transported to the village of Suho Polje in the vicinity of the town of Virovitica. Maybe, it was the beginning of 1944. Later on, I found out that they were collecting stronger children from the concentration camps, the ones who would be able to endure the all cruelties and misfortunes of the difficult life, in order to create their new generation. I must mention that we, children, were often transfered. It seems to me that I spent more time in the freighted cars than in closed buildings. The life in such conditions was desperate. Closed in the freighted cars, we were releiving ourselves on the crushed up straw. Since we lacked water, we had to drink urine from some cans, thinking taht it was water. There were many exhausted and sick children. Some of them were closing their eyes while few others were opening their mouths. Later on, some older children were telling that those children died. Having no simpathy for them, I was observing them dumbly. It was a kind of normal occurrence. I was thinking in that way then. They were transfering us from the freighted cars to some barracks. A hudred of children were inside. The barracks were pretty bad and were smelling on the preceeders, though we weren’t cleaner than them. All kins of diseases were raging through, such as: dysentery, pox…The children were dying massively. I know that they were often selecting the helthier and stronger children. They were separating us from the sick children, providing us better living conditions. We were supervised by the nuns who were beating us, being bad toward us. But, it was still a better solution.
The children who got sick would usually stand in the hall corner, crouched, bowing their heads. We were passing by them, as if their sickness wasn’t our business.The ones who would be healed were rubbing their noses for a long time, using their sleeves instead of handkerchieves. The crust from the cold secretions was created on their hands. Nobody asked us about our health. Out of fear, we mustn’t complain.
Today, when I am thinking about this kind of happenings from my early childhood, special kind of fear possesses me. I often think what happened to me and what could’ve happened, and how I couldn’t possibly do anything about that.
Vaguely, I remember my living in the concentration camp. At first, they separated the children from their parents, i e from the adults. They were separating the sick children and those with some defects. We, the children who was left for the later selection, were observing this, as if some other children were in question but not ourselves. I remember the often transportations and freighted cars with the straw spreaded over the floor, which we mustn’t leave. We were eating, sleeping and releiving ourselves inside them.
Suvo Polje was the first place where we were settled in a more decent lodging. We got the sleeping bed, tables, special plate and spoon for the first time. Here, in the Catholic church, we were converted to the Catholic religion. The nuns were our tutors. Our lodging was on some hill. Before that, we were settled in the building of some landowners. The building was surrouned by the meadows and forests. We were very poorly dressed. It was snowing. I was clothed in some small shirt, coat and shor pantaloons. I was barefooted. Used to live in fear, I watched how the host behaved. If he was smiling, I felt more certain. If he wasn’t smiling, I would move to the corner and waited what would happen. I got the heavy wooden shoes from the host. We, children, would be going out on the street, feeling more comfortable among the cildren of the same age. Those heavy wooden shoes served us for skiing. So, we used to ski along the road, not caring about the cold weather.
I was transfered from this place (I don’t the name of the place) to Subotica, being settled with some wounded soldiers near the Subotica theatre. I was deported from Subotica to some small village called Paćin. This village was located in the vicinity of Novi Sad. Around hundred of us (children) were placed in some Village Home or bigger houses. They wrote the proclamation for moving of the children, i e if someone wanted to take the children providing them the temporary lodging until the children’s home was opened.
We were transfered from Paćin to Osijek where we were divided in groups. I, fifteen small girls and three boys were placed with some nuns. After some time, the children were settled in the war orphanages which was located next to the railway station. I started to go to school there.
In 1946, I was transfered to Suvo Polje again. Then, the was the order which was saying that all should go to their Republic. I didn’t know what was it about, but someone told me that there are milk and polenta in Bosnia, and I applied that I was from Bosnia. I didn’t know where I was from until that moment. I did know neither my parents names nor who were they. When I was converted to Catholics, I was named I vica Tarović. I didn’t know if that was my real name. Those who told me that I was from Bosnia were set off to Sarajevo. I was transfered from Sarajevo to Kiseljak where I completed the primary school. After the end of the primary school, I went to Kakanj in 1949 in order to complete the lower grammar school. It was the first time that I met the other children who were war orphans from the surrounding places. They were settled with us. They used to go to visit their relatives on Saturdays. We heard the words ”father” and ”mother” for the first time, finding out what they meant. Many of us didn’t know where we were coming from and who we were. The names of our parents weren’t written on our documents. Some of us didn’t know their real names and surnames. I remember that were being brought to the children’s home not knowing our own names. So, we used to name ourselves. I asked myself who I was, who were my parents and where I was coming from. During our children’s talks we used to imagine where were we from and what were the name of my parents. I wrote in few letters that my parents names were Predrag (father) and Mara (mother). I asked people to write if there were people with these names. I sent letters to Novi Sad, Banja Luka, Foča, Doboj… After some time, I got the letter from Foča and found out that my parents’ names were Milica (mother) and Perko (father), and that I was driven off from Foča. They thought that I wasn’t alive.
During the school vacation in 1951, I went to Foča and I found there the mother who remarried. The same year, I was sett of to the dormitory. In 1952, I was told by the dormitory manager that I had the remarried mother whom I could stay with during the school vacation since I wasn’t allowed to spend the vacation time in the dormitory. On the way back from Foča, I set off to the B&H Presidency. Informed by the policeman, I found the Ministry for war orphans. The comrade Zora (I forgot her surname) received. I explained her my life. They settled me in orphanage in Sarajevo. She told me that she would be speaking with me the following day. I came to her. Probably, she didn’t want to speak with me about the case because she believed in my story. She started convincing me that she would like to adopt me, and that I would have good time at her place. She didn’t have her own children. I could not accept that. There were two reasons for that. First of all, I accustomed to live with the children. Secondly, I could not accept to live with the unknown adults. When She realized that I would not accept that, she set me off to the railway station. There, I got the train ticket for Foča.
I was asked in the municipality of Foča, if I wanted to enroll in grammar school or as an apprentice. I decided to enroll as an apprentice. In the September of the same year, I got the ticket for Zenica.I was told to address to the manager. Though there were problems with the students from the other municipalities, because they hat to pay for their tuition, I had no problems until the very end of the schooling.
I wasn’t speaking about my former biography, because the authorities of Tito Yugoslavia forbade us to mention the concentration camps in the Independent State of Croatia. I remember my reception to the Communist Party, when I wrote the biography mentioning my stay in the concentration camp. A man from the Secretariat, who was incharged for my reception, told me not to mention anywhere the concentration camps in Croatia.It was a taboo.
However, some official from Croatia was speaking about the children who were the victims of the concentration camps. The same year (1988), he was speaking about the sufferings those children endured. The childrem were the biggest war victims. They could neither fight nor escape.The were hand over to the enemy’s mercy, and therefore, they should be admitted their length of service they served during their stay in the concentration camps. What a cynicism!