By: Vera Dragisich
This drawing of Chetniks “Crossing the Korana” was done by DCD [Dinara Chetnik Division] Chetnik Drasko Prostran – It shows the Chetniks and the women and children refugees forming a human chain in order to cross the frigid and dangerous Korana River on their way to freedom.
This was one of the most significant battles fought by the Dinara Chetnik Division, which occurred at the village of Padjane in Dalmatia. On the night between December 2nd and 3rd 1944 Voyvoda Momcilo Djujich led his greatly outnumbered men against the much better armed communist Partisan army. With immense casualties and numerous wounded, which included Vojvoda, the Chetniks crushed the communist blockade that had been set up in Padjane. This battle was immensely significant since once the communist blockade was broken, the Dinara Chetnik Division never looked back as the surviving Chetniks and thousands of Serbian refugees made their way out of communist Yugoslavia toward freedom. This arduous trek over the rocky Lika terrain during the brutal winter months that began on December 3, 1945 and ended (in one sense) in Palmanova, Italy on St. George’s Day, May 6, 1945 is in many ways the Krajina Serbs “Trail of Tears”. The trek began with the Tromedja Chetniks, but along the way many more Chetniks and Serbian refugees joined the column. The trail not only included numerous battles with the remaining [Croatian] Ustashe and the “conquering” communists, who at this point had support from the Allies, but it also included the dangerous crossing of the Korana River. The Korana’s frigid, swift waters carried away men and women despite having formed a human chain in order to secure a way across. The trail continued through the Mala Kapala mountain range into the Gacka Valley toward the Adriatic Coast and then up into Slovenia, where crossing the Soca River provided yet another difficult obstacle. Once the bridge over the Soca was blown up behind them, stopping the advancing Communist army, the Dinara Chetnik Division was able to reach Italy and the Allies. The Allies promptly disarmed the Chetniks, who had fought tirelessly for the Allied cause, and divided up the Serbs into Displaced Persons camps. As inhumane and unjust as the DP camps were, they were better than the alternative of being sent back to certain death at the hands of the communists, and this fate did befall many Serbian Chetniks. Voyvoda Djujich, with his negotiating skills, convinced the Allies, that since they were not permitting the Chetniks to go back and fight the communists, to at the very least allow them into exile. For this, Voyvoda’s men owed him the gratitude of their lives and they never forgot it. Voyvoda and these same men, later dispersed throughout the world, never forgot the debt of gratitude that they owed their brothers-in-arms, who had fallen at Padjane thereby giving their surviving brothers a chance to rebuild their lives in exile. It is important to remember that, against Geneva Convention standards, the Godless communists never provided marked graves for our Chetniks fallen at Padjane, so that to this day no one knows what happened to the bodies of these men. Another tragedy that befell the Dinara Chetnik Division occurred when the Ustashe intercepted a trainload of wounded Chetniks bound for Slovenia in the village of Kostajnica. Again, against the Geneva Convention, and more importantly, against common human decency, the Ustashe murdered these defenseless Serbs.
In those final, fateful days of WW II, the Dinara Chetnik Division lost many of their brave Serbian brothers, which they have continued to remember and which we, the generation of Serbs born in free lands, must also continue to remember, since without their heroic sacrifices, none of us would be here today.
Movement of Serbian Chetniks Ravne Gore