UPRISING OF THE SERBIAN PEOPLE ON THE BORDER OF LIKA, BOSNIA AND DALMACIA
Note from Vera Dragisich, Secretary of the Movement of Serbian Chetniks Ravne Gore:
The following historical information is compiled from the Dinara Chetnik Division archives and from the Movement of Serbian Chetniks Ravne Gore (MSCRG)’s memorial book (“Spomenica DCD 1941-1945”) and is authorized by the Supreme Board of the MSCRG. This piece is an English translation of a work written in Serbian Cyrillic by Bosko Torbica, who resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.
The Movement of Serbian Chetniks Ravne Gore is the organization that was founded by Voyvoda Momcilo Djujich and has representation all over the world to include America, Canada, England, Australia and other parts of Europe.
UPRISING OF THE SERBIAN PEOPLE ON THE BORDER OF LIKA, BOSNIA AND DALMACIA
Sources used in this text are from the war archives of the Dinara Chetnik Division.
The first call to arms in occupied Europe issued by the future leader of the Third Serbian Uprising, General Dragoljub Draza Mihailovic, quickly spread throughout Serbian lands including Montenegro, Hercegovina, eastern and central Bosnia and the border area of Bosnia, Lika and Dalmacia.
This text will mostly be concerned with the uprising of July 27, 1941, and the subsequent formation of the Dinara Chetnik Division in the village of Crni Potoci. The commander of the Dinara Chetnik Division was Duke Momcilo R. Djujic (born in the village of Topolje near Knin in 1907- died in San Marcos, California in 1999), a famed leader and later one of the bravest Serbian commanders under the authority of General Mihailovic.
After the fall of Yugoslavia, the Nazis created the Independent State of Croatia which included much of the traditional Serbian lands. After its formation, Germans gave nominal control of this creation to the vicious Croatian Nazis called “Ustasha”. The Ustasha put forward a plan that would lead to the complete eradication of the Serbian people west of the river Drina. So, in the first weeks of the existence of the Independent State of Croatia, tens of thousands of Serbs were slaughtered in the most brutal way. This forced the Serbian people to form a spontaneous, unorganized resistance movement. Local leaders spontaneously started organizing people into small fighting units. These units had to individually arm themselves and seek help wherever they could.
In the Serbian lands included in the Independent State of Croatia, Chetnik resistance developed under different circumstances and had a different character from the resistance in Serbia itself. While in Serbia resistance sprang up as a liberation movement, the primary goal of the Serbian resistance in the Independent State of Croatia was physical preservation of the Serbian people from complete genocide conducted by the Ustasha. That is the main difference between the resistance movements in Serbia and Montenegro and those in the Serbian lands incorporated in the Independent State of Croatia.
In the early part of 1942, General Mihailovic accepted all of the Chetnik units in Montenegro, Bosnia and Hercegovina and Dalmacia under his command. These units were desperately trying to protect the Serbian people from complete eradication by the Croats, Muslims and later, the communists.
In the beginning, the Dinara Chetnik Division was made up of several regiments: King Peter The Second Regiment in Lapac, Petar Mrkonjic Regiment in Plavno, Gavrilo Princip Regiment in Grahovo, King Aleksandar The First Regiment in Bosanski Petrovac, Onisim Petrovic Regiment in Dalmatinsko Kosovo and Vozd Karadjordje Regiment in Gracac.
The uprising started in the Bosnian city of Drvar and later spread to hundreds of places on the border area of Bosnia, Lika and Dalmacia. After Drvar, the resistance fighters managed to quickly liberate Bos. Petrovac, Srb, Gracac, Bos. Grahovo, and areas around Knin. The Chetnik resistance fighters liberated most of the western Serbian lands. The liberation brought much needed relief to the suffering Serbian people.
Chetnik fighters showed unprecedented courage during the four years of struggle for the protection of the Serbian people from the vicious attacks of the monstrous Croatian Nazi formations. The heroic Dinara Chetnik Division was made up of the heroic fighters whose ancestors had, for centuries, been living at the crossroad of the East and the West, fighting against the occupiers coming from both directions.
The uprising was carried out in the tradition of the Serbian Chetnik liberation struggle. Serbian Chetniks lived by the code of defending their own and never taking somebody else’s, the code that taught them to lead honorable and honest lives. This code enabled them, with faith in God and victory, to go freely into battle and die in that battle because the freedom of their people was above everything. This code is reflected in a single inscription on the flags they carried: WITH FAITH IN GOD, FOR KING AND COUNTRY! FREEDOM OR DEATH! Under these flags they overcame a great evil and defeated a much stronger enemy.
Communist Plan for the Destruction of the Dinara Chetnik Brigade
The arrival of the Red Army in eastern Serbia on September 22, 1944, brought a twist for all the fighting sides in the former Yugoslavia. This was especially true for the communist forces (“partizans”) whose only goal was the imposing of a Soviet style communist regime in Yugoslavia. With the arrival of the Red Army it became clear that General Mihailovic and the Serbian people were being put in a very difficult position. The last blow came from Churchill, who by rejecting Mihailovic, drastically changed the power balance in Serbia and Yugoslavia.
The Yugoslav Communists, who received an infusion of fresh forces by accepting fleeing Croatian Nazis, started to move considerable forces into the region around Knin and on the border of Bosnia, Lika and Dalmatia. Their goal was to surround the Dinara Chetnik Division and destroy it completely.
Meeting In The Village Of Topolje By Knin
These were hard and trying days for the Dinara Chetnik Division, filled with heavy fighting and efforts to find a way out. The Communists were bringing fresh troops equipped with heavy weaponry given to them by the ex-Chetnik allies, the British.
In the midst of heavy fighting, the commander of the Dinara Chetnik Division, Duke Momcilo Djujich, called in all of his commanders for a meeting in the village of Topolje by Knin. At this historic meeting, everybody agreed on a course of action that involved penetration through the communist lines and a strategic retreat toward the northwest.
Penetration Of The Communist Blockade
The final battle for the penetration through the communist blockade took place in the village of Padjene. On the night between December 2 and 3, 1944, Chetnik forces made the final attack. In the titanic struggle that lasted more then seven hours and took numerous casualties on both sides, Chetnik forces smashed through the communist blockade and opened a safe passage for a tactical retreat. In this battle, the outnumbered Chetnik forces defeated the far superior communist forces under the command of Tito’s elite generals-Bosko Siljegovic and Petar Drapsin.
Many chetniks from the Dinara Chetnik Division gave their lives in this battle as a guarantee for the freedom of their posterity. They died in the same location in which they started the uprising in 1941. Their posterity will not forget their love and sacrifice for the Serbian people.
Exile And Suffering
After breaking through the communist blockade, the Dinara Chetnik Division continued marching, following the route of Otric-Srb-Mala Kapela-valley of Gacko, towards the northern Adriatic coast. In these areas the Croatian Nazis, the Ustashe, committed horrendous crimes against the Serbian civilians. Not even women, children or the elderly were spared. Together with the fighters of the Dinara Chetnik Divisions, a great number of women, children and elderly took up this voyage, not wanting to stay under the coming communist tyranny. People in the columns were hungry and exhausted which made the troops move very slowly along this treacherous route. There were many challenges along the way that had to be overcome. The greatest challenge was the crossing of the river Korana. In order for the civilians to cross safely, improvised bridges had to be constructed out of horse carriages and carts. This took a lot of effort and skill. The cold river took its own toll, drowning several fighters and their horses. Those who safely crossed the river were greeted by enemy ambushes on the opposite shore.
The retreat to Slovenia was undertaken because of the widespread belief that the allies would not give Yugoslavia up to the absolute power of the communists. From some unofficial remarks made by Colonel Robert H. McDowell (an American officer sent to establish communications with the Chetniks), one could conclude that the Western Allies would quickly shift their policy toward Tito and his communist regime.
The Road Without Return
After conquering the eastern parts of Yugoslavia, the communists sent strong forces to Slovenia in order to destroy the Dinara Chetnik Division and other Serbian National Forces stationed in the area. All the anti-communist forces gathered in the Vipava Valley in northern Slovenia. Their intention was to cross the Soca River and go to Italy where they would meet English and American forces. In order to achieve this goal, the Chetniks had to stop the advances of the communists and destroy the remains of the Italian fascists stationed in Gorica. The Chetniks succeeded in capturing the key bridge on the Soca River. This ensured a safe passage for the soldiers and civilian population alike. After the crossing, the bridge was destroyed in order to stop communist advances. From this moment the Dinara Chetnik Division found itself in exile.
March To Palma Novi
After crossing into Italy, Chetnik forces were directed to march to Palma Novi where they were temporarily placed in a newly constructed camp. On the Feast of St. George’s Day (May 6) the Chetniks stationed in Palma Novi received a direct order to turn over all of their weaponry. Throughout Serbian history, the Feast of St. George marks the time of year when the patriots, whenever under occupation, gathered and armed themselves. This time they were forced to give up the weaponry they had paid for with their own blood. This tragic day brought several suicides among the fighters who could not stand this grave injustice.
Palma Novi marks the end of the war road for the heroic Dinara Chetnik Division.
A Few Words In The End
Serbian fighters used their own blood and bones to mark the borders of the Serbian lands. Bravery is the characteristic of all Serbian fighters from all Serbian lands in their struggle for the cross and freedom. This is the road that Serbian fighters will continue to follow until all of the occupied Serbian lands are liberated and the Serbian people can return to their ancestral dwellings. All of the suffering and injustices from the past are reminders for the coming generations.
Toward the end of his long life journey, the late Duke Momcilo Djujich said, “We are proud of all the Serbian fighters who gave their lives for the cross and the freedom of our people, and of those innocent civilians who died simply because they were Serbian and Orthodox Christians. Let God have mercy on their souls in the Kingdom of God and let their memory live eternally among the Serbian people.”
In the end, we would like to dedicate these lines to the memory of the commander of the Dinara Chetnik Division, Duke Momcilo Djujich and all of his fallen heroes who gave their lives in the defense of the Serbian lands. Dinara stands proud of its mountain king and his heroes, and as long one can hear a cry from the Serbian people, DINARA WILL NOT REST UNTIL THEY ARE FREE.