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Category: WWI

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

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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Brochure “Serbian Soldiers of WWI who died in the Netherlands”

Brochure “Serbian Soldiers of WWI who died in the Netherlands”

Last Thursday we presented here in Belgrade the results of our research to the fate of the Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands. We wrote a brochure published by the Dutch embassy which you can download here: “Serbian Soldiers of WWI who died in the Netherlands”.

We are as a team very proud of the result and very grateful to the Dutch embassy in Belgrade for supporting us. It took us a couple of months of work to have this result. If we count from the beginning we are already 4.5 years busy with our research and we will continue.

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From a name on a WWI monument in the Netherlands to a Serbian gentleman

From a name on a WWI monument in the Netherlands to a Serbian gentleman

In the spring of 2012 I got intrigued by a World War I monument in Garderen, the Netherlands. On the monument there is a text in French written “les soldats serbes décédés au camp de Millingen 1919” with 29 names in French transcription, and on the back in Serbian and Dutch the text “Deceased for Serbia / the grateful Serbian fatherland” (“Умрли за Србију” / “Gestorven voor Serbie”, “Благодарна Отаџбина Србија” / “Het Dankbaar Serbische Vaderland”). Later 14 names were added from Serbian WWI soldiers who died in Enschede and 21 who died in Nijmegen.

Monument in Garderen, May 2014
Monument in Garderen (NL), May 2014

I wanted to know more about the 64 names on this monument and thus asked my friend Tanja Raković from Belgrade (Serbia) for help on the Serbian part and John Stienen from the Hague (NL) (as he had already experience with this kind of research). We first wrote down all the names which are written on the monument and from there we started to research in the Dutch municipal archives for death certificates. We found in total 91 Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands. From just names on a monument we got already more information and we could trace even already the first families back to Serbia: the first soldier who we could trace back was Miloš Gavrović from Miločaj, the village of Tanja, my friend and now also my wife: coincidence does not exist….  Another name was Milovan Milojević, below his Dutch death certificate.

milovan
Dutch death certificate (Apeldoorn 1919 No. 71) of Milovan Milojević.

We continued our research , but at that point we did not yet know where their remains were buried , because there was only the monument in Garderen and no graves. With help and encouragement of the Serbian embassy in the Netherlands we were able to visit Yugoslav and Serbian archives in Belgrade (Serbia). There we found more information and we were able to determine where the remains of those Serbian WWI soldiers are currently: the remains of Milovan, Miloš  and 86 others were transferred in May 1938 to Jindřichovice in Czechoslovakia (nowadays Czech Republic) via the Dutch/German border at Beek-Wyler.

Milovan& Miloš found there last resting place in Jindřichovice, together with 7657 other Serbian soldiers and 189 Russian soldiers (calculated as on 1940).

csm_015_6f8d039026
Inside the mausoleum in Jindřichovice (CZ).

The years passed and we discovered more details about “our 91 soldiers” and we found even more families. At one point I started to search for Milovan Milojević from Azanja ( according his exhumation report from the Serbian archives) and we came in contact with Žarko Talijan and Damir Živković. We were delighted with their enthusiasm and help: we met in March 2016 in Azanja and the showed us the monument for Milovan on the cemetery.

csm_detail-spomenik-milovan_915284a6e4
Detail of the monument for Milovan on the cemetery of Azanja (SRB). On the monument is written: Milovan, a son of Stepan Milojević, a soldier, lived for 30 years, died 6.1.1919. in Miligen in the Netherlands. The monument erected by his bereaved father, brothers, son and wife.

Afterwards they showed us a picture of Milovan which they retrieved from the family.

csm_milovan-miljevic_3ae97d4601
Milovan Milojević from Azanja (SRB).

Millions of men were dragged into the First World War and rough estimations are that some 18 million people died (11 million soldiers and 7 million civilians). It is estimated that the Kingdom of Serbia alone lost more than 1,100,000 inhabitants during the war (both army and civilian losses), which represented over 26% of its overall population and 58% of its male population.

Milovan was one of them and I am satisfied that we could trace him back from just a name on a monument in Garderen (NL) to a true gentleman from Azanja…

Večna mu slava! (=Eternal glory to him!)

220px-NatalijinaRamonda
Ramonda nathaliae, also known as Natalie’s Ramonda, is a species of flower in the genus Ramonda that grows in Serbia and Macedonia. The flower is considered a symbol of the Serbian Army’s struggle during World War I.

 

More information about our voluntarily research can be found on www.secanje.nl or on our Facebook page.

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Milovan Milojević from Azanja

Milovan Milojević from Azanja

Milovan Milojević was born in 1889 in Azanja, a village in the Podunavlje district approximately 80 kilometres South-East of Serbia’s capital Belgrade.When the First World broke out he served his country in 4th company, 1st battalion in the 8th regiment infantry. When he left his village he would not know that he would never return and that he would die in a flat country far away. Maybe the Netherlands could remind him to Vojvodina (a province in Serbia), because there it is also flat as the Netherlands.

milovan-miljevic
Milovan Milojević (photo courtesy Žarko Talijan & Damir Živković)

He died the 21st January 1919 in Nieuw-Milligen (near Apeldoorn), the Netherlands, because of the Spanish flu. Later in 1938 his grave was exhumed and his remains were transported to the mausoleum in Jindřichovice (in nowadays the Czech Republic). On the monument in Garderen (the Netherlands) his name is written.

csm_DSC_5444_a81060fb9b
Monument in Garderen (the Netherlands) with the name of Milovan Milojević written.

We discovered with the great help of Žarko Talijan &Damir Živković and Bojan Stojadinović from Azanja that there is also a monument for Milovan on the cemetery of Azanja. It is actually the first monument we discovered in Serbia where it is written that the soldier died in the Netherlands. Their family knew at least that he died in the Netherlands. We got a picture of Milovan (see above) and we are grateful for that so Milovan is not longer just a name in our excel sheet or a name on monuments in the Netherlands & Serbia, but a person with a face after 97 years.

azanja-milovan
Monument for Milovan in Azanja (click to enlarge).

The search continues of course, because of many other Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands we did not find a trace yet…

More information available on www.secanje.nl and the full story about Milovan can be read on: http://www.secanje.nl/en/findings/milovan-milojevic/

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“Oh poor lonely Gavrilo”

“Oh poor lonely Gavrilo”

On 28th of June, Vidovdan in Serbia, a statue was unveiled for Gavrilo Princip in Belgrade, Serbia. It was a gift from Republika Srpska, which is the Serb entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

DSC_9741
Monument Gavrilo Princip in Finansijski park, Belgrade-Serbia

101 years ago he killed, on that day, the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand who visited Sarajevo. Many believe that this was the first shot of the First World War. Actually it is not true, because this was just an excuse for a war on Serbia which was already planned before.

The first shots were actually fired on the 28th of July when the Austrian-Hungarian army started shelling Kalemegdan , the fortress in Belgrade, without a declaration of war. Was Gavrilo a hero, a freedom fighter or a terrorist?

That same question is asked in a recently published book, written in Dutch, with the title “Wat kwam eruit het schot?” (==What came out of the shot) from Jelica Novakovic and Sven Peeters, ISBN 9789460013461. (more information on Balkanboeken). I got it from Jelica and read it and I have to admit it is a very nice book , easy to read and written in an entertaining style.

In the preface, the authors thanks us also, as team secanje.nl for our efforts to research the story about the Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands.
image001
Back to Gavrilo’s statue in Belgrade. I wonder why the statue was not placed on Kalemegdan, the beautiful fortress here in Belgrade. His statue is standing now in  Finansijski park, between buildings and he is standing lonely there, just as lonely as he died on the 28th of April 1918 in Theresienstadt (nowadays in the Czech Republic).

“Oh poor Gavrilo ”

DSC_9743
Close up of the monument of Gavrilo.

 

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WWI Monuments in Serbia

WWI Monuments in Serbia

secanje-fbDutch people like to complain , Serbian people as well, but they complain less I have to admit.  I try to do the best for Serbia as much as I can, because I love my (soon to be) wife who is a Serb and her country (where I live) and its people. So I love Serbia and I am really glad I am living here, a dream came true for me.

BUT, I am Dutch, so I complain still now and then, so here it goes….

For our research about Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands (more info on www.secanje.nl) I want to know if there are WWI monuments in the places where those soldiers came from (see our Google maps here). Last weekend we went to Đerdap National Park, which is truly beautiful. I wanted to know if there is a WWI monument in Golubac (which is on the route to Đerdap) so I wrote the Tourist Organisation of Golubac (www.togolubac.rs) on 24/04/2015 with the question if they have such monument and where it is. My aim is to visit such monuments in the places where those soldiers came from so to honor those forgotten Serbian WWI heroes who died in my country far away.

I wrote the email in (my bad) Serbian and I am still waiting a reply… I sent a friendly reminder on 02/05/2015, but still no reply. Then I became impatient and sent a mail to the “Opština” (=Community) of Golubac on 05/05/2015 (www.golubac.org.rs) and again I am still waiting a reply…. When I sent a Twitter message to the National Tourist Organisation of Serbia a day later I became hopeful: they tweeted me back: for sure you will get a reply, but I am still waiting.

Serbia needs tourism (especially the beautiful area around Golubac), Serbia needs investments, but with this attitude not a lot of progress will be made. My advice to you: reply within 24 hours, because foreigners will loose quickly attention. If you do your work properly it will be much more appreciated and you will earn even money. A positive example was our host in Donji Milanovac who had everything perfectly arranged with all the papers and everything (chapeau!): so it is possible!

This is not a story about me or my stupid complaints, no in contrary.

This is about Bogdan Lazić (info here) and Velizar Vuković (info here) two Serbian WWI soldiers who died both on the 21st January 1919 in Apeldoorn -the Netherlands-  and who both were from Golubac. Is anybody going to reply me so I can pay respect to them?
GolubacIf they will reply me and come with helpful answers I promise I will write a praising post about them all, let’s hope soon I can write that post….

 

Update 23h57 : got a Twitter message from @serbiatourism so that sounds promising 🙂 My cheers to you already!

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The First shot of the First World War

The First shot of the First World War

The first actual shots of the war were fired just after 1am on 29 July when Austro-Hungarian naval vessels on the river Sava opened fire on the Serbian sappers who had blown up the bridge and on Belgrade itself. Remarkably, the gunboat, the Bodrog, from which the first shots were fired still survives today, largely forgotten, moored at the side of the river Danube in Belgrade (Source: Independent.co.uk).

Today I saw this ship and indeed it is totally forgotten, you can see the picture below which I took. Serbia suffered a lot during the First World War and paid a very high price (see our website www.secanje.nl for example) , it is unbelievable that this ship is now in this state on the bank of the Danube near Ada Huja.

The ship hundred years ago:

Bodrog

The ship now, on the bank of the Danube on Ada Huja:

bodrog
26/04/2015, Beograd (Serbia) : Bodrog, the Austrian-Hungarian ship which fired the first shot of WWI

 

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Serbian azbuka -part 2

Serbian azbuka -part 2

blic 18 09 2014
18/09/2014: Article from the Blic website.

My friend wrote on my facebook wall: you are famous ! I was pretty surprised that 24 Sata (the Serbian Metro) and Blic, two major newspapers in Serbia, took over my previous blog post on their websites.

The link from the website of 24 Sata: Kajmak, šalter, promaja i je*i ga: Stranac opisao Srbiju azbukom od A do Ш
The link from the website of Blic: Kajmak, šalter, promaja i je*i ga: Stranac opisao Srbiju azbukom od A do Ш

It was nice to read all the comments and now I feel even more welcome in Serbia!

Oh and if I may to use the freedom to just make little corrections :

Replace the “B” from ” busplus”  by ” brak”: brak means marriage in Serbian, but in Dutch it means you have a hangover…

The “V” from “Vojovodina” caused too much discussions I saw and I do not feel that it is up to me to have an opinion about that so I would replace it by “Vojnik”.

Why ” vojnik” ?
Two and half years ago I started, with the help of two friends and many others (Serbian/Dutch community in NL), a research about Serbian soldiers from the First World War who died in the Netherlands, my home country. Our website www.secanje.nl  (srpski) shows all the results we have found so far. There are many other words I can replace, like “Pivo” from “p”  (yes a good one, I am from a beer drinking country) or “Kafana” from “K” (oh I love kafanas), but in honor of your Serbian heroes I find this the most important one.

Večna im slava!

srpski vojnici
More information: www.secanje.nl

 

 

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Memorial service in Garderen

Memorial service in Garderen

The 5th October there was a memorial service for the Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands by the monument for them in Garderen . This year the 29 white crosses which were placed  last year got name plates with the soldiers who died in the Prisoners of War camp in Nieuw-Milligen, near Garderen.DSC_3832There was a Serbian Orthodox memorial service by the monument and all the names were read and the crosses got the blessings. “Father Vojo”, the priest of the Rotterdam Serbian-Orthodox community did the service.  After the service there was a reception.DSC_3829For me this memorial service was very personal since we (me, Tanja and  John) did a lot of research to the faith of those 92 soldiers. It became just more than a little research  to their remains and their fate: we spent hours with creating exel files, creating and updating our website www.secanje.nl  etc. etc. 

Beside that, and this is the most grateful part of our research,  is that we have found family from the soldiers who died in the Netherlands. Lately my friend Tanja from Serbia found again family from a WWI soldier who died here in the Netherlands. Through a friend of her, family of Stanislav Marinković now know that he died in Nieuw-Milligen, near Garderen,  and that he is not forgotten.

For us it is not any more a simple cross with a name: it is for Stanislav Marinković who was from Tavnik (Raška) who died in Garderen the 20th January 1919. He was a soldier from the 4th company, 6th battalion from the infantry.  Actually he got his name on a cross in Garderen the 5th October, although his remains were transported on the 18th May 1938 to  Jindřichovice (nowadays Czech Republic).

We did not forgot him, just like all the others: ВечнаимСлава (Eternal glory to them)!DSC_3819

More info on www.secanje.nl

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Proud and grateful :-)

Proud and grateful :-)

Last Saturday we (Tanja, John and I)  got a “thank you” certificate (see below) from the consul of Serbia in the Netherlands and personally I am proud and grateful that I got it. Of course we worked all hard for it and the results of our 1 one year research can be found on  www.secanje.nl . The main question we had is answered, but there are still many interesting questions which are unanswered, so we continue  just for those Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands.

An article appeared again in Politika, the main Serbian newspaper, the article can be found here.

Certificate

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