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Category: WWI

This category contains all the World War I (WWI) related blogs.

WWI monument in Kragujevac

WWI monument in Kragujevac

Many times I passed the WWI monument in Kragujevac, without even noticing it. I am interested in WWI monuments here in Serbia since we started to research the fate of the Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands (see www.secanje.nl). This time I stopped and took a closer look and to my positive surprise: this monument is beautiful!

Unfortunately there are no names on the monument so also not from Đorđe Vukosavljević (more information) who was from Kragujevac and died in the Netherlands in 1919.

More WWI monuments in Serbia you will find on a, far from completed, map I created on Google Maps. If you know more WWI monuments and you want me to add them to the map you can contact me.

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The Dutch “Florence Nightingale”  for the Serbs during WWI

The Dutch “Florence Nightingale”  for the Serbs during WWI

During the First World War (WWI) several medical mission were active in the Balkans. In Serbia they all know about the Scottish women hospitals (link), Flora Sandes, Archibald Reiss and more. Less known are the Dutch Red Cross medical missions with the doctors Arius van Tienhoven and van Dijk and others doctors, nurses and supporting staff.

During our research to the fate of the 91 Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands we found a heart-breaking article from 23rd February 1919 in the “Telegraaf”, a national newspaper in the Netherlands. It was written and sent to the newspaper by  Ludovica Dominica Jeannette Koning, a nurse who served during several Red Cross missions on the Balkans. In July 1913 she served during the Second Balkan War (Serbia) and in July 1915 she served back again in Serbia during the First World War (most possibly in Kragujevac). In 1916 she served in Thessaloniki and Bitola until the summer of 1917 where she helped the wounded Serbs again. In January 1919 she is an active member of the committee who helped the Serbian Prisoners of War in the Netherlands. On behalf of that committee she wrote to the newspaper, here some extracts:

-BIJ DE ZIEKE SERVIËRS- (WITH THE SICK SERBS)

Nurse L. Koning writes to us:
“On behalf of the Serbian envoy in the Hague, I traveled to various cities and hospitals  the where Serbs are being treated so I pay these poor people a visit. When we provided care during the Balkan war to these good soldiers with their great powers of resistance, we could not have imagined that we would see a part of them again in a state in which they are now: exhausted, sick and without energy.

Later in the article she writes about an benefit evening which she helped to organise: In Amsterdam there was an art evening was which was held the 23th January for the benefit of the sick Serbian soldiers in our country and 1000 guilders were collected that evening.

The committee was therefore given the opportunity to provide the Serbs with some refreshments. Through such small acts of sympathy, the sick soldiers forgot their griefs for a moment which consists of ever-recurring melancholy reflections.
“What will Serbia look like? Will my parents still be alive, my wife, my children, my brothers, my sisters? In what condition will I see them again? Does our house still exist? Are we, as we used to be, or did we become poorer? “How many died of hunger? Only a few people live in Serbia somebody told me.

When I asked if somebody wanted to sing the Serbian national anthem or any other song, the answer was: “In 4 years we have not sung, we cannot longer do it; we have had little laugh. We only worked hard, often for little or no food “. 
How Serbia was, I do not remember, said one, I do not know anything about Serbia anymore, but I longing for it.

When I came to bring their lemons, there was a cheer. In Germany there were no lemons or only for 30 Mark each, a Serb informed me, but in Serbia, they were cheap. The Serbs use lemon in tea, in wine, cognac, in sugar water or drink it undiluted. When I told the Serbs that I visited their country several times, their faces were filled with joy and I had to mention in which places and hospitals I worked, which doctors and soldiers I knew.
She ends the article with: I left them with the thought: “How will these undernourished, weak soldiers still come through the long journey? “The Committee for the benefit of the Serbian soldiers in our country – of which the Consul General M. Merens is honorary chairman – is still willing to receive money, cigars, cigarettes, chocolates, chocolates, fruit (lemons), compote and illustrations. Many Serbian soldiers died in our country. Anyone who helps to give the survivors and the sick a few sunny moments do a nice job.

After her charity work for the committee for Serbian WWI soldiers in the Netherlands she continued to do good deeds for the Serbs: she started to work for  a  civil mission in Serbian and American service for orphanages in April 1919. Unfortunately it is not known until now what she did exactly, only we know that in November 1921 she moved back from Belgrade to Amsterdam. She died in an elderly house in Amsterdam in 1955, she became 81 years.

It is a pity that we could not find more information yet, but we should not forget those who took care of others and that also the Netherlands, although a neutral country during WWI,  contributed to help the wounded and the sick Serbian population and its soldiers.

The full original article can be found an Delpher (link) and the full translated article can be found here (link).

Meeting of the committee for the benefit of Serbian prisoners of war, Amsterdam, 23rd February 1919. Source: Collectie Stadsarchief Amsterdam: foto-afdrukken.
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Kajmakčalan

Kajmakčalan

Kajmakčalan is a 2528 a.s.m.l. meters high mountain on the Greek-Macedonian border. This is the second time I climbed this mountain, the first time was in 2011 (see here), but this time with my wife and two Dutch friends who are also interested in WWI history (and not only about the Western front). Since 2012 I did read a lot about the First World War and started even a research together with two friends (see www.secanje.nl) of whom one is now my wife (my dear Tanja). Back then it was the end of a tour through former Yugoslavia, just like the famous Yugoslav song “od Vardara do pa Triglava” (from the Vardar river in Macedonia to the Triglav mountain in Slovenia, I did it only the way around). Now it was a climb towards WWI history: on this mountain in September 1916 a battle took place between the Serbian army (part of the Triple Entente) and the Bulgarian army (part of the Triple Alliance) .

The church Sveti Petar (the top is called Profitis Ilias-(Sveti Ilija in Serbian) on the summit of Kajmakčalan.

The battle was eventually won by the Serbs on 30th September 1916, but after huge losses on both sides.  In Serbia this mountain is almost considered holy as it was for the Serbian army the first victory after their losses in 1915 and the retreat of the Serbian army to the Greek island of Corfu via the Albania. It was here, at Kajmakčalan, where the Serbian army resurrected from their ashes and it was here that they started to liberate their country (back then this was the Greek-Serbian border).

Ramonda nathaliae, also known as Natalie’s ramonda. The flower is considered a symbol of the Serbian Army’s struggle during World War and can be found also on Kajmakčalan.

The church was recently restored ( 2016 ?), but unfortunately it was not done properly as the front part of the church is not white any more. It seems the cross on the top was also hit by lightening or a storm. A truly hope that funds will be available to repair the church and to keep it in good shape for further generations seen the historical value of this place.

Front view of the church “Sveti Petar”.

Above the entrance is written in Serbian: 
“Mojim divjunacima

neustrašivim i vernim
koji grudima svojim otvoriše vrata slobodi
i ostaše ovde
kao večni stražari na pragu otadžbine”

Translation in English: 
“To my fearless and faithful

colossal heroes,
who opened the gate of freedom
with their own chests
and who stayed here as permanent guards at the doorway of fatherland”

Inside the church you can light a candle, write in the guestbook and see the urn of Archibald Reiss. Rudolphe Archibald Reiss (8 July 1875 – 7 August 1929) was a German-Swiss criminology-pioneer, forensic scientist, professor and writer. He investigated the Austro-Hungarian war crimes committed in Serbia in 1914 and 1915 together with the Dutch doctor Arius van Tienhoven.  He retreated towards Corfu together with the Serbian army and followed them towards the liberation

After his death, his body was buried in the Topčider cemetery and, at his own request, his heart was buried on Kajmakčalan hill. The urn containing his heart was later demolished as revenge by the Bulgarians in World War II, but there are other stories that the JNA (=Yugoslav army) soldiers took it when they retreated in 1991 when Macedonia became an independent country.

Inside the church “Sveti Petar”, with at the right the urn where the heart of Archibald Reiss was kept.

It is hard to imagine that on this beautiful mountain so many soldiers died. Večna im slava! (=Eternal glory to them !)

Panorama picture of Kajmakčalan (click to enlarge).

*All pictures on this page are made by me on 18/08/2018 when I climbed Kajmakčalan.

And for those who want to climb this beautiful mountain themselves, here the route:

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The first victim of WWI: Dušan Đonović

The first victim of WWI: Dušan Đonović

In the night of 28/29th July 1914 the first shots of the First World War were fired by the Austro-Hungarian army (K.u.K. army) on the city of Belgrade, the capital of the Kingdom of Serbia. The afternoon before (on the 28th July) the Austro-Hungarian empire had declared war on Serbia via a telegram (see here). It was during that night that the first military and civilian victims of the First World War fell: the 16 year old Dušan Đonović, a military volunteer fell on Serbian side and on the Austro-Hungarian side the first victims reported were Karl Eberling, the captain of the first tug and his helmsman, Mikhail  Gemsberger[1]. Other (Serbian) sources mention Ištvan Balohi as the first fallen K.u.K. soldier [2].

July 1914:  Serbian soldier on the Kalemegdan fortress in Belgrade overlooking the Sava river which was the border back then with the Austro-Hungarian empire. The first shots of WWI were fired here.

Unfortunately, there are claims that the first victims and soldiers fell on the West front. For example the “Historisch Nieuwblad” (=a Dutch magazine about history)) wrote that André Peugeot (from France) and Albert Mayer (from Germany) were the first victims of the First World War: they died on 2nd August 1914 (see here and the article here). Of course, this is not true as many sources wrote about the first WWI victims which fell during the first days of WWI on the Serbian / Austro-Hungarian front. Not only this Dutch magazine is failing in indicating the first victims of WWI, many others do as well.

The railway bridge between Belgrade (Serbia) and Zemun (then Austria-Hungary) was destroyed during the first hours of WWI.

It is estimated that the Kingdom of Serbia alone lost more than 1.1 million inhabitants during the war (both army and civilian losses), which represented over 26% of its then total population and 58% of its adult male population[3].

Plaquette in remembrance of Dusan . It is hanging on the wall of the First Economic School in Belgrade. From Politika, 16 March 2013 , link 

Seen the above mentioned fact about the first victims (soldiers & civilians) of the First World War mentioned by several sources from several countries it is clear that the first scarifies were made on the Serbian – Austro-Hungarian front during the first days of WWI and not on the West front.

The Austro-Hungarian attack on Serbia seen from another perspective.

 

Footnotes: 
[1]
Serbia and the Balkan front, 1914 -the Outbreak of the Great War-, James Lyon ,
ISBN 978-1-4725-8004-7, page 96-7.
[2] According to the article from Blic (Serbian), 11/11/2016: link
[3] According to the article “Sudnji rat” by Čedomir Antić in the Serbian newspaper Politika, 13/09/2008:  link

Articles: 
-Srbija Danas, 12 October 2017, link (in Serbian).
-Kurir.at, 29 December 2013, link (in German).

My earlier blogs about WWI:
See: http://blog.fabian-vendrig.eu/category/serbia-ww1/

Website:
Site about Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands: www.secanje.nl

Thanks to:
Arjan Kapteijn

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“Hier ruhen Serbischen helden”

“Hier ruhen Serbischen helden”

On a monument in a forgotten corner of Košutnjak park in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, is written in “Hier ruhen Serbischen helden” (German), below it is  written in Serbian “Овде почивају српски јунаци”. The English translation is “Serbian heroes rest here”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures above: 08/06/2018: the monument in the Košutnjak park in Belgrade, Serbia for the fallen Serbian WWI soldiers who defended Belgrade in the autumn of 1915.

This monument was made by the German general Mackensen in 1915 after Belgrade was captured by the Germans & Austro-Hungarians. It is on the Serbian & German military graveyard which is on the hill of Banovo Brdo. Beside the monument for the Serbian WWI soldiers there is also a monument for the German WWI soldiers. Later also German WWII soldiers found their last resting place there, but the graveyard fell into disrepair.

General Mackensen had a huge respect for the Serbian defenders and was so impressed about the defenders of Belgrade that he made this statue for them. To give you an impression, here one of his speeches before he started the battle: “You are not going to the Italian, or Russian, or the French front. You are going into a fight against a new enemy who is dangerous, tough, brave and sharp. You are going to the Serbian front, to Serbia, and Serbs are people who love their freedom and who are willing to fight for it to their last.”

Picture above: The monument in the past, date unknown. On the monument is written “DAS PREUSS. RES. INF. RGT. 208 – SEINEN GEFALLENEN HELDEN” (=The Prussian reserve infantry regiment 208 – it´s fallen heroes). Source: Gentleman’s Military Interest Club
Picture below:  The same monument as above, but now photographed by me on 08/06/2018.

It is a sad to see that these monuments with an amazing story behind it are in disrepair and forgotten. I did read that there were plans in 2016 plans for restoration, but there are still no signs that the works will start.

Photo above: 08/06/2018: Deutsche helden friedhof 1915.

This is not just a monument for Serbian & German WWI soldiers: it is a monument which shows the bravery of the Serbian WWI soldiers but also the German chivalry which General Mackensen truly showed with ordering to built this monument for his brave & heroic enemy soldiers.

08/06/2018: plaque on the foot of the monument for the Serbian heroes

More information:

http://www.volksbund.de/kriegsgraeberstaette/belgrad-beograd.html

http://www.heritage.gov.rs/latinica/vesti_prezentacija-projekta-obnove-spomen-obelezja-nemackog-vojnog-groblja-na-kosutnjaku.php

 

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02/11/2017: Presentation at the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

02/11/2017: Presentation at the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

On the 2nd November 2017 we were honored to present the results of our research to H.E. Mr. Dačić, the Serbian First Deputy Prime Minister and Serbian Foreign Minister and Serbian ambassador H.E. prof. dr Nikšić & Dutch ambassador H.E. van den Dool.

The event was hosted by the Serbian ministry of Foreign Affairs and co-hosted by the Dutch embassy in Belgrade. The presentation was held in the Diplomatic Museum of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The speech of H.E. Mr. Dačić can be downloaded here: 20171102-Speech_Mr_Dacic-English
The speech of H.E. Mr. van den Dool can be downloaded here: 20171102-Speech_Mr_van_Dool-English

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The Serbian WWI soldiers from the Gornji Milanovac who died in the Netherlands

The Serbian WWI soldiers from the Gornji Milanovac who died in the Netherlands

“This morning, during a solemn ceremony, 4 Serbian Prisoners of War (PoW) were buried with a military escort. Three of them died in the quarantine camp, Milosch Obrabowitz, Stoiam Beoidewitz en Bofibar Rabowanowitz and one died at a hospital, Sretin Rajitschitz. Near t’ Lindenhof Dutch soldiers under command of sergeant Lesman were standing in formation. From there the burial procession departed towards the new cemetery under a sad drum tone, where the commission of reception of foreign PoWs was waiting with 4 wreaths. A Dutch military peloton fired a salvo. In the sad procession two released Serbian PoWs, one of them being the brother of the last named Serb, participated. He threw a hand of earth on his brother’s coffin”(from the Dutch newspaper “Tubantia”, 24-01-1919).

Almost 100 years later we discovered that it was Dragomir V.Rajičić from Gornji Milanovac in Central-Serbia who buried his brother that day in Enschede, a town in the East part of the Netherlands. Dragomir arrived in the Netherlands with his brother just after the end of WWI, with more than 4000 other Serbian WWI PoWs. They were on their way home from the German PoW camps. When the Spanish flu broke out a lot of soldiers, weak due their time in PoW camps, died. In the Netherlands a total of 91 Serbian WWI soldiers died and 4 of them originated from the (current) municipality of Gornji Milanovac.

These soldiers were Tihomir Jovanović (26 years old) who died 17 January 1919 in Enschede; Marjan Marjanović from Kriva Reka, a small village near Gornji Milanovac, died  21 January 1919 in Milligen near Apeldoorn; Božidar Radovanović (35 years old) from Belo Polje, another small village near Gornji Milanovac, and thus Sreten Rajičič (29 years old) both died the 22nd January 1919 in Enschede. Božidar and Sreten were buried on 24 January 1919 in Enschede as described in the Dutch newspaper article.  

In 2013 we already discovered a letter written by Dragomir which he sent in 1919 to the family of another Serbian soldier (Đorđe Vukosaljević from Kragujevac) to inform them about the death of their beloved one. He wrote in that letter that his brother had also died.

09/08/1919: Letter from Dragomir written in G.Milanovac (click to enlarge).

In 2017 we came in contact with Prof.dr Milan Radovanović who wrote a book about the Dutch help to Serbs who were imprisoned during WWI in German and Austro-Hungarian PoW camps. In his book we found a postcard from “Dragomir Rajitschitsch” which had been addressed to Ljubinka i Militza Rajitschitsch from Gornji Milanovac and sent from the PoW camp Soltau in Germany. The handwriting is identical as the letter we discovered in 2013.

Backside of the postcard which Dragomir sent on 12/04/1918 from the German PoW camp in Soltau to Ljubinka & Milica in G.Milanovac (click to enlarge).

On the front side of this postcard we can see a picture with 8 Serbian soldiers and one German soldier where is also written “Prizonieri 1916-1917”.
We don‘t know if both Dragomir and Sreten are on this picture. Normally they should be as it was the practice that PoWs used to send pictures home with themselves on it, but we can’t confirm it (nothing is written on the back of the postcard).

When we saw this postcard we were of course impressed and encouraged to find out more about the Serbian WWI soldiers from Gornji Milanovac who reached the Netherlands. We have contacted a few people, but we were not able to find more information or family so we hope we can find more and even trace some more families back.

More information on our website www.secanje.nl, our website about our voluntarily research to the fate of the 91 Serbian soldiers who died in the Netherlands.

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On this day (28/07/1914): The first bombs on Belgrade, the start of WWI.

On this day (28/07/1914): The first bombs on Belgrade, the start of WWI.

On this day, 103 years earlier, the Austro-Hungarian government send a telegram(see below)  to the Serbian government with a declaration of war. It was the start of the First World War.

The Austro-Hungarian telegram to the Serbian government with the declaration of war sent on 28th July 1914

Hours later the first bombs felt on Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. The First World took million lives away, it ruined cities and villages and it was the cause for many other conflicts afterwards. Belgrade itself become a city in the front line and the Serbian government already moved towards Niš, a city in the South of Serbia.

The only bridge over the Sava between Serbia and Western-Europe was immediately destroyed int he night of 28/29 July 1914.

Austria-Hungary thought they would defeat Serbia quickly , but it wasn’t the case: the Serbian army actually defeated the Austro-Hungarian army during the battle on mount Cer in August 1914. It was only in the winter of 1915 that the Austro-Hunharian army could defeat the Serbian army with the help of the German&Bulgarian armies. The Serbian army would not return in Belgrade until the autumn of 1918.

It is strange for me that I cross this border now almost everyday and that I can see it even from my office.

28/07/2017, Belgrade: View towards the Sava river, in 1914 the border between the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and the Serbian Kingdom.

And personally I never thought that I would be involved in a historical research related to the First World War. We are researching the fate of the Serbian WWI soldiers who died in my home country the Netherlands and we try to trace their relatives back. So far we are pretty successful in that, but it is far from finished. More information about that research you will find on our website www.secanje.nl

Miloš Jeremić from Resnik who died in Nijmegen , more information on: https://www.secanje.nl/en/results/milos-jeremic/
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“Ja sam ljut” (I am angry)

“Ja sam ljut” (I am angry)

I have been living in Serbia since August 2014 and I have to admit I am loving it: the Serbian people are very friendly and very hospitable. I had small issues with integration and sometimes I still have that, but of course I have my lovely wife who always help me to overcome those small issues, main conclusion ~nema problema~ (no problem).

But today something got my attention which makes me disappointed and sad, one article in English can be found here about that proposed law. Last Monday the Ministry of Defence proposed a new law (see here for pdf) which forbid foreign citizens in Serbia to do research without approval of the Ministry of Defense.  I am quoting the article about this controversial law: One of the issues is the broad definition of research and data related to the defence, which leaves room for almost all research to be defined as significant for the defence. These areas include all sorts of research in the areas of defence, geo science, water supply, electricity and energy, spatial planning and urban planning, transport and electronic communications, application of nuclear energy, biological sciences, as well as social sciences.

As you maybe know I, my wife and a friend from the Netherlands, are researching the fate of the Serbian World War I soldiers who died in the Netherlands.  If this law (which is a proposal) is getting through the parliament what does it mean for me? That I need to ask the Ministry of Defense permission to continue with this research ? I understand that researching hyper sensitive things (nuclear, defense etc) needs to be regulated, but this draft text (coming directly from a nineties text from the Milosevic area) gives far too much space to restrictions.

When I apply for permission to research the Serbian heroes of WWI who died in my old home country maybe I can ask them immediately as well  to start financing us: we have dedicated a lot of free time and money to do the research and to get results (which you can find on our website www.secanje.nl, which is made and paid by us).

The monument in Garderen (NL) for the Serbian WWI heroes who died in the Netherlands.

The second question would be why they did not do the research themselves and why they totally forgot about their WWI heroes who died for the freedom of Serbia. Our voluntarily research is just an example, but let it be a clear example. We will continue, law or not, because we believe that those heroes who were fighting for Serbia should be remembered. Those who want to demolish Serbia now (with such a ridiculous law) should take those WWI heroes as an example as those heroes were fighting for their country & its democracy and its freedom: are you going to destroy that now ?

Živela Srbija (=Long live Serbia)! 

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An unknown Slovak&Czech WWI mass grave in Serbia ?

An unknown Slovak&Czech WWI mass grave in Serbia ?

In December 2016 we published, with the help of the Dutch embassy in Belgrade, a brochure about the “Serbian Soldiers of WWI who died in the Netherlands” (link). After that our research did not stop, because we continue to search for families of those soldiers and more information. A week ago we contacted the webmaster of the website www.velikiborak.com for more help / information, because one of 91 Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands was from Veliki Borak.

Radosav Jovičić died the 26th January 1919 in Dordrecht ( the Netherlands) and the webmaster Saša got us immediately in touch with the family of this soldier. The same afternoon we were in the car heading towards Veliki Borak to meet them. When we visited the church of the nearby village of Leskovac ( Kolubari) we found the memorial plate in the church with his name on it together with his comrades who died as well during the period 1912-1919 ( Balkan Wars & First World War).

Memorial plate inside the curch of Leskovac (Kolubari), Serbia. Radosav Jovičić’ s name is on it as well.

While we were guided around the church we were informed about a mass grave with Slovak and Czech soldiers buried together with Serbian solders next to church. The names of the Serbian soldiers and from where they were are on the monument , but no trace of those Slovak & Czech soldiers. Somehow it intrigued me how those soldiers arrived here in Serbia and how found their death, just like those Serbian soldiers we are investigating who died in my home country the Netherlands.

The mass grave with the remains of Serbian & Slovak& Czech WWI soldiers in Leskovac (Kolubari), Serbia (click on the picture to enlarge).

The story is nevertheless much more complicated, because Slovakia and the Czech Republic were part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. At the end of 1914 the battle of the Kolubara was fought between the Serbian and Austro-Hungarian armies in this area. Meanwhile back home in Slovakia and the Czech Republic the Austro-Hungarian empire wasn’t that popular any more and “pan-slavism” gained popularity. Without the names of those unfortunate Czech & Slovak soldiers or a death certificate, or a report about this grave it is difficult to understand what happened here and why they died. Where they killed during the battle ? Were they wounded and died ? Were they Prisoners of War who died in captivity? Did they defected to the Serbian side ?

The church in Leskovac, with at the right of the church the mentioned mass grave (between the church and the tree).

We contacted the local priest who has unfortunately no records about the graves. Meanwhile I contacted several friends who have expertise in different fields regarding WWI history and I also informed of course my friend from the Slovakian embassy here in Belgrade. They gave me valuable pieces of information and they confirmed me that there are many of those kind of graves, mostly they are known, but this one did not appear on a Slovakian list we found.

Without names, official records / acts about those unfortunate Slovakian and Czech soldiers it is difficult to understand why they ended up here and why they were buried together with their Slavic brothers in the Serbian soil. Nevertheless I will continue the search so that they will not be forgotten.

The Slovak/Czech/Serbian mass grave in Leskovac (Kolubari), Serbia, 04/03/2017.
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