Exhibition “Prebilovci” witnessing the Ustasha crime from 1941. in the Serbian village in Herzegovina by the same name was opened tonight in the Embassy of Serbia in London.
“The idea of a Prebilovci exhibition was born in the souls of the descendants of Serbian victims who died in the Ustasha Independent State of Croatia, gathered around ‘Jadovno’ Association and the Serbian National Society ‘Prebilovci’, said Dušan Bastašić, the President of the “Jadovno 1941” Association from Banja Luka during the opening of the exhibition.
He believes that this exhibition should have been placed in London and other cities already in the 1950-ties.
“The Serbian people suffered a lot in the twentieth century, so it is now no wonder that there are increasingly more organisations gathering descendants of victims who do not wish to wait for political will and the right moment, working as volunteers almost as a rule, writing a lesson on the suffering and the annihilation of their Orthodox brothers”, said Bastašić.
He stressed that it is a devastating fact that in textbooks in the Republic of Srpska schools there is not a single word about Prebilovci, about Jadovno, about camps on Pag, about Garavice, about pits in Livno, Herzegovina and on Velebit, about the churches in Sadilovci and Glina, about the suffering of Serbs in Podrinje.
“There is also nothing in textbooks about Donja Gradina, the largest part of the Jasenovac complex of camps”, said Bastašić.
He believes that this exhibition, opened on St. Sava’s Day, but also on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, serves to reveal the truth about the suffering and resurrection of Prebilovci.
Bastašić stressed that one especially commendable characteristic of the Serbs from Herzegovina is their attitude towards their ancestors and family members that suffered.
“They raised the bodies of their murdered family members from the darkness of the abyss and buried them in a magnificent Temple of the Resurrection of Christ. While struggling with enormous existential and life problems, surrounded by descendants of mostly unpunished criminals, stubbornly surviving in the places where their ancestors had been living for years, in the places of centuries of suffering, falling and rising, they took care for their innocent murdered family members, before they took care of themselves”, said Bastašić.
He stressed that is why we need to help Serbs from Herzegovina, both institutionally and individually, and that this exhibition is the contribution of the Jadovno 1941 Association to that mission.
“The central focus of this exhibition is the victim but also their descendants, because the descendants are victims too. While we do not know even a letter from most of victims’ names, thanks to the dedication, enthusiasm and sacrifice of Milenko Jahura and the Prebilovci Serbian National Society we have so much more for these victims from Prebilovci and surrounding villages”, said Bastašić.
He announced a plan to open a memorial centre in Prebilovci, with help from sponsors, with all facilities that similar centres across the world have.
Nemanja Dević, a historian from Belgrade reminded us that the Serbian people suffered a lot in modern history – by the Turks, Austro-Hungarians, Germans, but the greatest suffering was from 1941 to 1945 in the fascist Independent State of Croatia.
“In that monstrous creation that swallowed hundreds of thousands of innocents, the village of Prebilovci has its place in history, also because only 170 out of 1000 residents survived the war. All others, whether they were women, children or old people, were slaughtered with knives and thrown into a pit in August of 1941″, said Dević.
He stressed that the pits were numerous and deep in all areas where Serbs lived.
“For that genocide that Croatia committed over Serbs nobody in the communist Yugoslavia was held responsible, the victims were never counted, and at the very end of the century, through powerful propaganda, the people who were the victims were presented as the people who were the executioner”, said Dević.
He stressed that Prebilovci resurrected after all, and some of the families returned again to renew their burned houses, renewed the church, and the 1941 victims were proclaimed holy in the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Dević said that Prebilovci today are an unique place on the planet where we can clearly see the victory of good over evil and life over death – twice in one century.
“That is why Prebilovci are today both the symbol of suffering of all Serbs in the 1941 genocide, and the new myth and testament, like the one of Kosovo from 14th century. This exhibition is dedicated to the victims who must never be forgotten. That is why Prebilovci are both the foundation and the mirror – of all of us”, said Dević.
Ambassador of Serbia Ognjen Pribićević also spoke at the opening of the exhibition and he stressed that today’s date – 27 January, is very important for humanity.
Pribićebić reminded us that the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 27 January the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“On this day two years ago we gathered here to shed the light on the history of one of the first death camps in Europe in the Independent State of Croatia in the area Jadovno-Gospić-Pag, something that the public had little knowledge about”, said Pribićević.
Pribićević stressed that, unfortunately, the Second World War left many horror stories, one of which is told with this exhibition.
He thanked Dušan Bastašić from “Jadovno” Association for presenting this exhibition in London, and also the members of the Board of Deputies of British Jews for their help in realising this event.
Aco Dragićević from Prebilovci, a descendant of victims who has been living in Sweden for years, told Srna Agency in a telephone statement that older men from Prebilovci, widowers who had lost their wives and children, remarried to have offspring again, and the children being born got names from their predecessors who had ended up in the abyss of the Šurmanačka Pit, or had been murdered at one of 48 locations on the territory of Prebilovci village.
“I am third of four sons from my father Spasoja and mother Slavka. My two elder brothers have names of the brothers who ended up in the Šurmanačka Pit – Vaso and Momo. It was the same in almost every family in Prebilovci after 1941”, said Dragićević.
Representative of “Jadovno” Association in Great Britain Aleksandar Simić, a Serbian businessman with origins in Velika Plana, told Srna Agency that at the opening of the exhibition there were a lot of diplomats from the world and the region, as well as Serbs from London.
Simić, whose wife is a descendant of the victims of the Ustasha camp Jadovno, said that on 18 boards with photographs we can see the village of Prebilovci before and after the crime, so we can make a comparison of the effect that the slaughter had on the village.
The opening of the exhibition was also attended by representative of the Board of Deputies of British Jews David Walsh who said that he was pleased to be invited to this event and that he feels compassion with all victims of genocide, although this exhibition does not show the suffering of Jews.
“Prebilovci” exhibition testifies of the Ustasha crime from 1941 when they killed 850 out of 1000 residents of this Serbian village in Herzegovina, but also about the resurrection of Prebilovci.
According to a research by Japanese newspaper “Asahi Shimbun”, Prebilovci is the village that suffered the most in the Second World War in Europe.
The exhibition has so far been placed in Novi Sad, Belgrade and Banja Luka, as well as in Prebilovci, where it is placed on a permanent display.
The organizers of the exhibition in London are “Jadovno” Association and the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
The project is being realized with the help from the Administration for Diaspora and Serbs in the Region of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia.