Saved by the confusion of a retreat

by | Feb 24, 2021 | challenges, Family, Memories

An explosion, a loud shake, and the screeching of iron on iron interrupted the conversations and led to an ominous silence.

The shooting began immediately. The train had derailed after colliding with a bomb on the track planted by the guerrillas. People, including my father Luka, fell to the ground as the bullets pierced the carriages’ wooden walls.

Soon the guerrillas arrived and made the occupants of the train leave at gunpoint. Once out, the civilians found themselves in a crossfire. Many died.

Luka managed to save his life but ended as a prisoner of the communist guerrillas. They took him walking up the mountain for three days and three nights with other survivors without giving them food or drink. He was sure he was going to die. In his mind, he said goodby to his parents, his brothers, and sisters, and above all to Anna, his love.

When they finally stopped in a town devastated by war and abandoned by its dwellers, the commando leaders who had discovered that Luka was a journalist wanted to force him to join them and engage in agitation and propaganda. He refused because he did not want to act against his conscience. Then they sentenced him to death.

That very night, he dug his own grave. They tied him up to other prisoners. A firing squad was already forming when a guerrilla fighter came out of the house that served as the command headquarters and said: Comrade journalist, get out!

They untied him and pushed him away. Moments later, he heard five rounds of shots. His companions were dead.

He was ready to die, but not to what could happen to him in captivity. He was afraid of tortures and privations. The communists wanted to send him to their main headquarters in the mount Pljesivica to “convince” him to work for them. They knew he was anti-fascist; at the beginning of the war, the Italians arrested him for sending him to a concentration camp in Italy, but he escaped. He was known as a Catholic journalist, and what they asked him was to say that he willingly had joined the communist guerrilla.

They tortured him, interrogated him, tried to bribe him. Finally, they sent him to a “popular prison” in a place called Kamensko.

Months after that, the prisoners began to hear the sound of battle. The communists were losing land and had to retreat.

In the prison evacuation confusion, my father and another companion who knew the region managed to escape. They made a dangerous journey by foot through the forest infested with guerrillas from different sides: very violent far-right ultranationalists and the communists.

Luka’s companion went home. But he was very far away from his city. He went walking to a town named Karlovac and called his newspaper because he needed someone to identified him before the authorities. He had a pitiful and suspicious appearance: long hair and beard, 85 pounds, only skin and bones, rags, no shoes.

The man who picked up the phone in the newsroom dropped the receiver. He thought Luka was dead. Immediately, he reacted and did what the authorities needed. So, Luka took a train to go home.
He wrote in his diary that when he saw the train, his heart dropped to his feet, remembering what happened on his last trip, until he saw Anna, the love of his life, waiting for him on the platform at the end of the journey.

Foto by Molany of Mount Pljesivica



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