Unknown history: Chetniks on Split seafront
Commenting on the Ustasha outburst of the Croatian football defender Joe Simunic in my interview for Blic, when I briefly – in half a sentence – mentioned Serbian stadiums, “Knife, wire, Srebrenica“, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, it might have been just an incident. When Blic reprinted my article on the same topic from Slobodna Dalmacija, where I briefly – in half a sentence – mentioned Draza Mihajlovic, it still could have been just a coincidence. However, when the Blic website – “in ekavica and adapted to our readers, especially the younger ones” – published my article from Jutarnji list about the anti-fascist history of Hajduk, at the end of which I briefly, in half of the penultimate sentence, mentioned priest Momcilo Djujic, that was a phenomenon with all its manifestation laws.
Here I am – in all my glory – shitting on Ustasha villains, but somehow, in a typical Latin fashion, I am obsessed with Serbs and I rarely, actually never, miss an opportunity to mention Serbs and, thus, equally divide responsibility for our historic misfortunes between Ustashas and Chetniks.
This at least is the unanimous conclusion of the anonymous and non-anonymous commentators every time Blic carries one of my articles about Ustashas and Mladic, Ustashas and general Draza or Ustashas and priest Djujic.
“Take your priest Momcilo Djujic and his Chetniks, strutting around Split seafront in those same days in 1943, and fuck them!”, I said to young Nazis from Splitska Torcida who raised their fists in the air and screamed “Za dom spremni (Ready for homeland)! ”, causing righteous anger of Serbian readers who unmistakably recognized anti-Serbian and anti-Chetnik communist propaganda that always has to, by whatever means, put in the same sentence the German Nazis, the Italian Fascists, Ustashas and Chetniks.
However, this is my home ground: exactly this – the fact that I always mention Ustashas when I write about Chetniks is why Croatian national-fascistic ignoramuses attack me. Isn’t it wonderful when Ustashas and Chetniks jointly condemn me for equating Ustashas and Chetniks?
And I managed not only to put Chetniks in the same sentence as Ustashas and Nazis, but also to shove them right in the middle of Independent State of Croatia, to freely strut around Split seafront while the Ustasha regime is killing Serbs in Jasenovac!
Since the same comments appear under each one of my articles on this subject, regardless of whether it is carried by Blic or another Serbian portal and since comments are the same both when they are written by benevolent admirers of my work or by those less benevolent, and since, as we already saw, it was not an accident, but a recurring event, the case should be clarified. Really, what do the Serbian Chetniks have in common with ISC, and what do General Draza and priest Djujic have in common with Ustashas, fascists, Hajduk and Split during World War II?
The answer may surprise you: everything.
The episode about Chetniks strutting around Italian-German-Ustasha’s Split wearing shubaras with kokardas on them in the middle of World War II, I suspect, won’t be in one of the 10 episodes of “Ravna Gora” TV series. It is very famous both in Split and Serbia and it would be a waste to miss it. Even if it is “adapted to our readers, especially the younger ones”.
Not only were the Chetniks present in Split during the Independent State of Croatia, but they were also very active. In early October 1941, only a month after establishment of ISC and Roman Agreements that handed Dalmacija to Italy, the Chetnik Duke Ilija Trifunovic-Bircanin, a close associate of Kosta Pecanac, came to Split from Kolasin to negotiate joint war strategy with the Italians. After several months, Duke Bircanin – who would soon be appointed commander of Dalmacija, Hercegovina, Western Bosnia and North-Western Croatia by Draza Mihajlovic – unhappy over the situation in Split, informed General Draza by telegram on May 9th, 1942 that “it seems that 90% of population of Split and the whole of Dalmacija, especially this main seaside town, is communist!”
In those days, in the shaded garden of Hotel Park in Bacvice, the Chetnik Duke Dobrosav Jevdjevic is planning cooperation and organizing joint actions with representatives of the Italian Bergamo division. The active Chetnik organization in Split had already started publishing the newspaper “Slobodna Srbija” (Free Serbia) and the bulletin “Krik iz Jama” (Cry from the pits), which they distributed to homes and schools around Split, with financial support from the Italians. However, they were most active in diligently making execution lists of Split’s anti-fascist, which they would then hand to Italian officials – the majority of anti-fascists killed in Split were exposed with the help of Split’s Chetnik organization.
However, the Chetniks really made their mark here at the beginning of the fall of 1942, when Italians took 200 members of Drvarsko-Petrovacki Chetnik squad commanded by Mane Rokvic by train from Knin to Split, then transported them by trucks to near-by Omis, from where – escorted by two officials of Ministry of Police of ISC – they left for near-by village Gate, burned down the whole village and brutally raped and slaughtered everyone they could find. Ninety-five corpses of innocent civilians were left in Gate, mainly women, children and old people. After Gate, they moved on to villages under Mosor, ending with the slaughter of 30 people in Dugopolje. Rokvic’s Chetniks slaughtered over 200 people in villages around Split.
After that massacre, a conference of Chetniks leaders of Dalmacija was held in Split, presided by priest Momcilo Djujic, founder of Dinarska Chetniks division. Another meeting of Italians and Split’s Chetniks, led by priest Sergije Urukalo, was held in Hotel Ambasador on Split’s seafront on January 14th, 1944 and details of cooperation in an extensive operation which would later be known as the Fourth Offensive, the one on Neretva, were agreed.
On the same day, illegals wounded two Chetniks in Split and two days later, the 8th issue of bulletin “Krik iz Jama” informed the people of Split: “Split, which in a treacherous attack on the Chetniks cheers its dark heroes, should prepare for a long cry. People of Split, majority of Split, you keep adding new twigs to your own bonfire, at which you will burn to dust and ashes. The Chetniks know Split’s Communists, and everyone in Split who is involved with the Communists, who helps them or applauds them. All of them will be exterminated from Split, without mercy and exception. All of them will be exterminated today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow!”
In those days in Split under Italian occupation, Ustashas in black uniforms and Chetniks with skulls on their shubaras, both carrying Italian arms, were a usual sight on the streets. The first Chetnik parade was held in early February 1943, after the death of Duke Ilija Bircanin, Mihajlovic’s chief representative for Split and Dalmacija. Several hundred Djujic’s Chetniks came to the funeral by train from Knin, singing Chetnik songs hailing the “Serbian Adriatic”.
Only a couple of weeks later, more Chetniks would arrive in Split by train from Knin: almost 3,000 Chetniks, even 5,000 according to some sources, would leave Split together with the Ustashas and the Home Guard troops and head to Neretva. A surreal scene, as if from a movie, could be seen in Split’s harbor in those days, when a steamship set sail for Merkovic on March 6th, 1943, as a part of a great joint offensive: Chetniks at the bow, Italians in the middle and Ustashas at the stern, three merry armies on a drunken ship, each singing its song, even quarreling and teasing one another, then cheering each other and together threatening the Partisans in song.
Central Chetnik Committee was founded in Split in those days, whose members would fly to Montenegro at the end of March and then to Kolasin, for a meeting with General Draza Mihajlovic regarding further activities of the Chetnik organization in Split and Damlacija. And it is already well established in the city, cooperation with the Italians is thriving – their appearance, together with the Ustashas, at the funeral of the notorious Italian officer Giovanni Sava, the terror of Split at the time, didn’t go unnoticed and neither did their help in the execution of six Split’s youths suspected of Sava’s murder – so the regular topic of meetings of Split’s Chetniks is takeover of power in the city after the inevitable departure of the Italians.
This is the reason why shortly after that, a representative of Chetniks Supreme Command, Lieutenant Colonel Mladen Zujovic, the new commander of Bosnia, Lika and Dalmacija, came to Split. He would soon establish the National Committee for Dalmacija in Split and, together with General Umberto Spigo, commander of 18th army corps, negotiate the possibility of a power transfer in August.
The transfer of power, as we know, never happened: the Italians left after capitulation, Ustashas followed them, Partisans entered Split and the worthy Chetniks of Split hurried to offer their assistance to the new master: on September 18th, 1943, German Lieutenant Lippert from Intelligence part of 114th hunters division reported the visit of Milan Cvjeticanin, an officer of Dinarska Chetnik Brigade, who was in Split for medical treatment when Italy capitulated and who, then, hurried to the Germans. “We Chetniks know that only with help of German troops we can efficiently destroy the bandits, because we are too weak to do it alone”, Cvjeticanin told Lieutenant Lippert.
And all of a sudden, believe it or not, here were the Chetniks once again among people of Split, this time with German passes, right in the middle of Independent State of Croatia. Bizarre, isn’t it? History might not remember, but the archives do: a few months later, on January 9th, 1944, in a fight near Split’s café Aeroplan, a drunken Ustasha killed a Chetnic airman, who was a trusted German confidant and Feldkommand Wehrmacht threatened the Ustashas that “they will pay for that”. Right in the middle of Ustashas’ ISC!
Besides, when the Ustasha government in Split arrested Chetnik leaders in the spring of 1944 for unprecedented massacre in Sinjska Krajina – although more than a thousand civilians, women, children and old people in villages on Kamesnica were killed by members of notorious SS division Prince Eugen – regiment commander of 264th division in Split, Lieutenant Colonel Müller, ordered officials of ISC to immediately release their Chetnik allies. And the officials immediately obliged. They also readily obliged when on May 12th an order came from Zagreb to deport 2,000 “unreliable persons”, mainly Italians, Serbs, Chetniks, Yugoslavians and communist sympathizers, and only 3 days later, on May 15th, a warning from German headquarters said that “the Chetniks in Split are not to be touched”.
The German needed Chetniks in Split, among other things, for the same reasons the Italians did: infiltrating anti-fascist ranks and denunciating them. They were organized by the well-known German trustee Mihajlo Zaklanovic who, by orders of priest Djujic, traveled to the Chetnik Supreme Command in May that year to issue a report to General Draza on the state of Chetniks organization in Split and their cooperation with the Germans.
It is already summer of 1944 and Chetniks are now openly allied with the Germans. Ministry of Armed Forces of ISC informed field unites on July 17th, 1944 that the Führer prohibited the use of the name “Partisans”, who should be referred to as “Communists” or “Communist bandits” in communication with the Germans, while “Chetnik allies” should be called “Croatian armed forces”. Priest Momcilo Djujic arrived once again in Split that summer and in August the Germans allowed 300 of his Chetniks to stay in their barracks and wear their uniforms and, as a precaution, while Djujic’s Chetniks were in town, banned the newspaper “Novo Doba” because of extremely anti-Serbian articles!
Do you find this bizarre? In early fall, on September 25th, 1944, Germans arrested the Ustasha Major Bednjanac in Split, because his men beat up two Chetniks. They threatened, according to the report of the Ustasha monitoring service from September 25th, 1944, to shoot 5 Ustashas for each Chetnik killed! Right in the middle of ISC!
However, there was no time for that: a month later Partisans entered Split and the city was finally free. Epilogue of this episode? When the Army Tribunal of the People’s Liberation Army of Yugoslavia’s Eight corpus, several days after entering Split, announced that a group of citizens of Split were executed for cooperation with the enemy, out of the 24 executed 8 were collaborators of German occupiers, 8 were Ustashas and – 8 Chetniks.
If “our readers, especially the young” still wonder what do Chetniks have in common with Split, ISC and Ustashas, here is the answer: everything.
I grew up on Gripe, right beside the stairs of old Austrian fortress where the high school student Zarko Pejkovic was killed on April 29th, 1943 for the assassination of Giovanni Sava. He was denunciated to Italians – innocent, as he was – by Split’s Chetniks: furthermore, in the sixties I attended a local kindergarten named after him. After that, I attended the elementary school in Lucac, named after Bruno Ivanovic, a young man from Split who was brutally killed by priest Djujic’s Chetniks in 1942 in Strmica near Knin, and then the secondary school named after Ante Jonic, the first national hero from Dalmacija who was killed by Italians and Chetniks in 1942 in Livno.
I don’t know, maybe it was different in Serbia, maybe the Chetniks fought the Italians, Germans and Ustashas on Ravna Gora, but, as you can see, in Split, we don’t remember them as good guys.
The TV series “Ravna Gora” won’t show any of that, of course. You also can’t learn about that from contemporary Croatian movies or historiography. The fact that priest Djujic’ Chetniks strutted around Ustashas’ Split during the World War II, is, for some reason, embarrassing to the Croats.
So, dear viewers, here are your Italian Blackshirts and their trusted friends from Prince Eugen SS division to watch “Ravna Gora” with. Here’s your Independent State of Croatia, the Führer’s “Croatian armed forces” and their closest enemies the Ustashas, strutting around Split seafront in those days – go fuck them.
Translated by Marijana Simic
- One of three standardized pronunciations of Serbian language. ↑
- Fan Club of football team “Hajduk”, founded in 1950. ↑
- A controversial Croatian salute, used during WWII by Ustasha movement, as their equivalent of the fascist salute. ↑
- A type of traditional male winter hat used by the Serbs in folk attire and by Macedonians. It is in a conical or cylindrical shape predominantly in black color, because of the black lamb/sheep fur (woolen). ↑
- A symbol worn by Chetnics on their hats, as part of the uniform ↑