Ustasha Survivor, Ljubica Vucic

(Pronounced LyOObeetsa VOOtsets)

Republished from with permission, which republished material from the book “Friars and Ustasha are Slaughtering” by Lazar Lukacic. Published in Belgrade, 2005 by Fund for Genocide Research, Belgrade. Translated by Petar Makara with permission from the author. Copy edited by Wanda Schindley, PhD. Testimonies of survivors of Ustasha (Catholic Nazi Croats) atrocities

[Note: The events recorded in these stories are essentially the same as those documented as having happened to my own Roknic family in VrginMost in 1941 — those who died in their village.  Many others were also lost in death camps, or as Partisans. I have not finished with machine translations, but it appears at least 50 Roknic were lost to this violence, those being the only relatives in the area I currently can identify — Linda Carter.]

Motike slaughter survivor, Ljubica Vucic Photographed by the interviewer-author, Mr. Lazar Lukaji?
Motike slaughter survivor, Ljubica Vucic. Photographed by the interviewer-author, Mr. Lazar Lukacic

“I was born in 1929 in Vasic. That was a pretty hamlet in Donje Motike [village], where Serbs and Croats lived together. Motike [village] is close to Banja Luka and you could easily get to [that] town by foot–in no time–then and now.

“Vasic [hamlet] is close to the road that goes from Banja Luka toward Motike’s school. That road then goes through Motike and connects to the road that goes from Banja Luka to Bronzani Majdan [means “Bronze Mine”] and further to Sanski Most [another town in Bosnia]. The roads join some 12 kilometers [8 miles] from Banja Luka. Our houses were on a hill, a bit elevated and facing the road on the right side when you go from Banja Luka toward the school. At that time, it was a macadam [paved road]; now it is asphalt.

“Our soil is good and fertile. Everything grows well–wheat, fruit and vegetables. There are also–I do not know how many–lots of forests. Nowhere is it steep. All the hills have mild slopes.

“In my village, before the war [WWII], we lived nicely. Vasi?i had no rich people, but there were also no poor ones. Every family lived a decent life–a life of [decent] culture. The town is close, the dirt is fertile, there was plenty of everything both to consume and to sell. Every day you would go to the town to work, to buy or sell something – especially on Tuesdays. That was a market day in Banja Luka–a fair.

“We lived in peace and–I would say–happiness.

“On Sundays and on holidays everyone would dress well, especially the young–young boys and girls. So, they would get together to tell stories, to joke, to sing and dance. That was a common thing to do.

“As a child, I was healthy and happy. Later, when all of that disappeared, I would always remember the happy life in Vasic, in Motike.

“In our village the Serbs and Croats lived in harmony. [Throughout the testimony Ms. Vucic uses a non-derogatory nickname for Croats (Catholics): Šokci].

“The daily life and work was the same for both of us. The only difference was the one relating the faith [to the brand of Christianity]: the Baptism, the church [Croat altar faces West, the Serbian one faces East], [different dates for] Christmas, Easter, [the way] the marriage [ceremony was conducted] and celebration of Saints with Serbs. [The Serbian families would have a Saint protector and celebrate their Saint’s Day as a holiday]. Everything else was the same. The [difference in] faith was respected, and no-one was touching [ridiculing] other people’s customs. No one was even thinking that other [disrespectful] way. Everyone was minding his/her own business. No-one was bothering anyone. The Serbs and Croats did not intermarry, though. A Serbian woman would marry a Serb and a Croatian one a Croat. As far as I know it was always like that. But our hamlets were intertwined and at some places even houses in the same hamlet. The Serbian hamlets in Donje Motike were [all named after family’s last names] Vasici [meaning Vasics], Maleševici, Todic, Brkovici, Kovacevici and Šešici were completely intermixed with Croatian hamlets of Josipovici, Martinovici, Ljevari and Batkovici.

“Intermingled also were their forests, paths, people and cattle. Only right before the war was there any avoidance of one from the other, but I can hardly remember that. I only remember that there was some cooling off [of the relationship] and it was not as happy and open as before. Most of my memories are tied to my family and other families from Vasici.

“In February 1942 before the slaughter, there were nine houses in Vasici. Those were our house ([my father] Milan’s), houses of my uncle Cvijan and uncle Ilija, then the houses of Mikajlo, Lazar, Ilija, Stanko, Djoka and Risto Vasic [for whom the hamlet was named].

“On February 7, 1942, Ustashas slaughtered 77 [seventy seven] members of the Vasic family.

“I am the only survivor of the slaughter in Vasici”

“There were six of us in my [immediate] family: my father Milan, 42 [at the time], my mother Danica ([age] 32), brothers Mladjen (9), Stojic (7) and Miroslav (5), and me. I was 13 [thirteen] years old. Before the war, my father Milan worked as a road worker. With the formation of the Independent State of Croatia, he [lost job and] started working in the Rakovac mine, close to our village. Ustashas killed him there the same day they also slaughtered in our house–on February 7, 1942. So, father was not at home when Ustashas were slaughtering us.

“Actually, when Ustashas came to our house, only my mother Danica and my brothers Mladjen, Stoji? and Miroslav were at home. That morning I was visiting a neighbor’s house, and they stabbed me all over in that other house.

“That February 7 [1942] was a Saturday. I remember it well, and I know it for sure. We all got up round 7 in the morning. Mother started the fire, and we children got dressed, put our shoes on and washed up. I had my breakfast and soon afterwards went to a neighbor’s house–to the house of Mihajlo Vasi?. The house was close to ours, on the right side of the road. My mother sent me to get some flour from them.

“While I was approaching Mihajlo’s house, I saw old Mihajlo, who was around 60 years old, as he climbed to the roof and was taking snow off his house. There was lots of snow on the roof, and it had to be taken off so it [its weight] did not collapse the roof. The snow was some 1.5 meters [about 5 feet] deep. It fell recently, so it was still fluffy.

“I passed by him and entered his house. I took a dish with flour and immediately started to go back toward my house. You could not simply sit when your mother sent you for something and was waiting for you. As I was near a well that was between Mihajlo’s house and ours, someone called me two times.

“‘Ljubo [nickname for Ljubica], come back! Ljubo, come back!’

“I do not know who called me. I looked around, but I did not see anyone. I went back to Mihajlo’s house. Mihajlo was continuing to take the snow off the roof. Outside, around the house, there is no one. As I entered Mihajlo’s house, Mihajlo’s family asked me why did I came back. They see that I am holding the dish with flour in my hands. I told them that someone told me to come back. Who told me to come back? I look through the window to see if there is someone outside.

“They stabbed old Mihajlo all through”

“At that instance, three Ustashas [Croatian Catholic Nazis] appeared in front of the house. They have rifles on their shoulders and bayonets [knives] on the rifles. They have helmets on their heads.

“I did not know those people. They were not from our village. All three were young and dressed in crisp new uniforms. We are looking through the window as they are ordering Mihajlo to get down from the roof. He got down. They ask him:

“‘Do you have any money? Where are your horses?’

“He says: ‘I have no money, and the horses are there – in the stable.’

“An Ustasha says: ‘Take off the jacket!’

“Mihajlo had on a short jacket of thick cloth. Old people had that while the young ones would have coats. He takes it off and puts it next to him on the snow. One Ustasha takes the rifle off his shoulder, comes closer to Mihajlo, and pierces him with that knife that is on the rifle – into the back. Mihajlo drops forward on his face. He is twitching and making a gurgling sound just like a slaughtered lamb. While he is lying down, the Ustasha is stabbing him in the back. Only one is doing the stabbing; the other two Ustashas are just watching. They are not moving at all.

“We in the room pile on the windows and watch all of that in fear and confusion. The one [Ustasha] who was doing the stabbing uses his finger to take the blood off the bayonet and licks it [his finger]. Then, all three of them took Mihajlo by the arms and legs and threw him into the uncleaned [not cleared away] snow, off the path. They threw his jacket on top of him. The blood flows on the snow where Mihajlo was lying.

“We have time to see it all. The Ustashas are not in a hurry. They do not even know that we are watching what they are doing. All of us in the room grow pale from fear. We are moving from wall to wall and watching through the windows.

“The old Vaja, Mihajlo’s wife, was sick. She was lying on a straw mattress that was put on the floor. As she heard that Ustashas are stabbing Mihajlo in front of the house, she got up and joined us at the window to see. She then went back to the mattress, got pale and died. In a second. She was not showing any signs of life. She was lying on her back–calm. Dead. She said nothing.

“Beside dead Vaja there are seven of us – alive: Mihajlo’s daughter-in-law Draginja, wife of his son George, who was 35 years old at the time; her children [son] Boško ([age] 15), [daughter] Ljubica (12), [daughter] Danica (9), [son] Petar (8) and a smaller child, very small child, whose name I do not remember; and me.

“The Ustasha pierces a mother and a child, naked on the snow”

“When I entered Mihajlo’s house, [his daughter-in-law] Draginja was bathing her child. She warmed water in a small pan, and she was holding her child with one hand while with the other she would soap and wash it. She was still washing the child when I returned to the house and when Ustashas came. It all lasted only minutes. As Draginja saw how Ustashas stabbed Mihajlo, she started to walk round the house while holding that naked child in her arms. She was the oldest one present [and still alive] in the house, but she was telling us nothing. She is not trying to console us. She is only walking around the house without aim, and she is sighing – as if she lost her mind. The rest of us are also walking fast around the room – just like sheep would walk in a pen as the wolf runs around it watching and trying to find a way to enter and slaughter them all. Boško [a boy, age 15] is looking through the window as if he would jump out somewhere. There is NO way out! Ustashas are standing next to the window. The doors of the room are opened. We see both doors to the house. One Ustasha is entering one, another the other one.

“The Ustasha who was stabbing Mihajlo is entering the room. The knife on his rifle is covered in blood. He is ordering us all to get out. Draginja is the first to exit – with her child in her arms. Right behind her are Boško, Petar and Ljubica. Draginja’s younger daughter Danica was sleeping all this time in her bed in the room – during the time when I came, as Ustashas came, and now. The Ustasha does not even pay attention to her or to [old] Vaja lying close to the floor. He is only looking at me. He sees that I am not moving. I am not going out with the others. He is ordering me to get out. I will not. He is not addressing me any more. Instead, he went toward those who were already outside. He knows that I am left in the room. Three of us are in the room: myself, Danica–in her bed, still asleep–and dead Vaja. I am waiting for the Ustasha to come back and order me to get out. He is not coming back. I go to the window to see what they will do with the ones who went outside. The Ustashas were standing on the same spot where Mihajlo was stabbed to death. They are standing on the path covered in blood – Mihajlo’s blood. Mihajlo’s corpse is under his jacket a step or two into the untouched snow.

“[Mother] Draginja jumped and started to run down – toward the road. She clutched the naked child on her chest with both hands. She made four or five steps. An Ustasha started running after her. He got to her and stabbed her in the back with the knife on his rifle. He ran after her and got her. She immediately fell on the path, on the side, while the child flew whole into the snow next to the path. The naked child is waving arms and legs in the snow as if in the soap in the house and screeches [screams]. It was only six months old. It was still nursing. I think that [mother] Draginja, quite consciously dropped it on the side so she would not crush the child as she was falling. Maybe she threw him into the snow aside from the path. Who knows? Maybe it was mother’s instinct – a wish to hurl the child away from death.

“The Ustasha goes closer to the baby and stabs it, too, with the bayonet. He carried it on the bayonet and then threw it onto the path. The child immediately stopped crying.

“While the Ustasha was murdering Draginja and the baby, Boško and Ljubica tried to run away behind the house. They ran next to the house where there was no snow because of the roof overhang. The second Ustasha caught up with them though and killed them. I only saw as they started to run–Boško first, followed by Ljubica, and then the Ustasha after them, but I did not see how they were killed as they turned corner to the other side of the house that could not be seen from the window. The next day, I noticed their bodies all stabbed through on that side of the house. Petar [8 years old boy] was stabbed in front of the house at the same spot where Mihajlo was [murdered].

Slaughter in the room

“After that, the three Ustashas entered the house. Two came right into the room, and the third one remained at the room’s entrance door. He is not entering. One of those who entered swung the rifle that had a bayonet covered in blood on it and immediately cut the neck of the old woman Vaja. She was laying with her head twisted backwards so that her neck was completely exposed. The head rolled off the pillow under the bed. Vaja was lying on a straw mattress that was put on the floor next to a bed with her head on a thick pillow. Not even a drop of blood rolled from the severed neck. None. Only the blood vessels and the nerves protruded. They are sticking out of the slashed neck and wiggle. She died not long ago, and her body was not cold yet.

“The second Ustasha approaches the bed. Danica is still sleeping on it. I have no idea how come she did not wake up in the commotion, but those of us who were [at some point] in the room were not talking. There was no noise. It was silent all the time. We were only roaming round the room without a word uttered. The Ustashas were not talking either. Maybe a word or two. By the way, all of this lasted a very short time. It was better for Danica that she was so firmly asleep. She did not see the evil in the house. She did not have to feel fear before her death. She was calmly lying on the bed, on her back with her face turned upwards. She was covered up to her head. I was two or three steps away from her. Everything is happening in front of my very eyes.

“The Ustasha lifts his rifle with the bayonet and lands it suddenly on Danica. The bayonet cuts Danica’s face across the forehead, sideways to the half of the head. The blood spilled across the face and the pillow. Danica did not make a single move or made a single sound. The Ustasha slashed her only once.

“I was voiceless. I am walking through the room away from the two of them. It was as if one was to catch a chicken in a chicken coop. They are coming toward me, after me. They are not in a hurry. They go slowly as if they were just strolling. One comes from the direction of the door, the other from the bed on which Danica lays. The one who holds in his hands the rifle with the blood-covered bayonet turned toward me.

“I jump over grandma Vaja, but I have nowhere to go. I crunch myself in a narrow corner behind the stove. The stove is next to the wall, but its back part — used to make bread — was a bit moved from the other wall. I am barely fitting in the corner. I can not turn. I am only stiff and standing. I watch the Ustashas. Both come in front of me. One says: ‘You are not from this house. I know that. Where are you from? Whose [child] are you?’

“Our neighbors, Croats, as I later learned from many people, knew full well which Serbian family had how many children. They knew the age and sex of the children and also knew where the children would usually be at [this hour] seven in the morning and what they would be doing. The Ustashas that were slaughtering us were not from [the village of] Motike. It was said that they came to our village from somewhere for the first time that day. The Croats from our village would bring them to the Serbian houses and would inform them, in detail, how many children lived in which house. Those [Croat] neighbors would stay outside, in front of the house or hidden behind it. They were not entering the rooms in which the slaughter was perpetrated. That is how the Ustashas knew that I was not from that house and that the house of Mihajlo Stijakovi? does not have two girls with almost the same age — as my name sake Ljubica and I were — but only one – and they killed her next to the house. Probably up next to the house, there was a neighbor Croat who brought the Ustashas – but I did not notice him. He could not see me, but he could know that I was in the house if the Ustashas told him that [there is one more girl in the house] when they were outside. The Ustashas knew, right away, that I do not belong in that house. That is why they were not in a hurry to kill me. They were not clear about something. They did not know whether I was a Serb or Croat. The Croat children were coming to our neighborhood into our houses as we were into theirs. That is what confused them.

“I told them: ‘I do not know where I am from or whose [child] I am – when you are doing this!’

“The nails on both my hands and turned black and blue from fear. What do you think – would I die [of fear] if they did not stab me?

“They tell me: ‘Recite ‘Ave Maria!’

“‘I can not recite or even talk as I see what you are doing.’

“One Ustasha asks: ‘What shall we do with her?’

“The one at the door says: ‘Pierce!’

Seven wounds on Ljubica

“The one in front of me immediately stabs me in the front side, next to the chest bone [sternum]. As he is bringing the bayonet toward my chest, I see that it is covered in blood. I immediately fell on the floor and lost consciousness. Just before I lost conscience, I remembered one stone on our field where I used to play with my brothers Mladjen, Stoji? and Miroslav. That stone just appeared in my mind with the knowledge that I will never, ever again go to it. That is the last I remember.

“The Ustashas then stabbed me six more times – while I was lying unconscious–two times on the left side and three times on the right side – all into the central part of my body. They also stabbed me into the left arm biceps. The biggest wound was the one at chest bone.

“I still have scars from all seven wounds. Each scar is easily visible, even though 58 years passed from the time. One of the scars on my left side is 5 centimeters [almost two inches] long. The others are shorter. look at this one on my arm. You can clearly see. That one is reminding me of the slaughter the most as it is on my arm so I can see it all the time.

“Some time late at night I gained consciousness. I became aware. First, I felt great thirst. I crawled along the room in search of water. It was too dark to see. It is night. In crawling from the corner of the room, I got to the middle. I crawled over grandma Veja who was laying on the straw mattress that was on the floor between the stove and the bed. She was cold and stiff. I felt [with my fingers] a small pan with water. That pan was filled with water as Mihajlo’s daughter-in-law stopped washing her child because of the Ustashas’ arrival. It had been filled as the Ustashas arrived at the moment when she started to wash the child. I still remember well that pan. It was blue on the outside and white inside. It was actually a bit deeper, large pot with a handle made of wire so it could be easily hung. We call that kind of handle – “povrazac.” That kind of pot was also used to warm milk or water or to cook food for a few members of the family.

“I drank water from the pan. [Suddenly] a huge heat wave came over me even though the night was cold. I was putting my head into the pan all the time and drinking water in sips until morning. As it dawned, I noticed that both doors and windows are open. But I had no fear. I saw that nothing was left of me.

“Grandma Vaja is [still] lying on the bed but has no head. There is her head under the bed. There is no blood on her. Her pillow is clean. Her neck is short. Gone.

“As it got brighter, I got up a bit by leaning on the wall and the bed. Danica, age 9, is on the bed and is giving no sign of life. Her face is cut. You could see coagulated blood and [inside] the bones that were cut. Her blood was frozen on the pillow. Only now do I notice that I am covered with blood myself.

“As I started school that winter my father bought me new good and heavy-duty shoes. They were all covered in blood. Both my hair braids were in blood. The blood soaked in them and coagulated and froze, so the braids are hard as if they were sticks. Everything was frozen and stiff. I do not remember how cold I felt, but I was stiff myself. Only the wounds were making sound as I breathed. I went into ‘the house’ — that is what we call the top room where a common fire place is. There I found grandpa Mihajlo’s cane, which was bent on the top. I took the cane and started walking home while leaning on the cane. It is hard to walk. I go slowly. I stop at the [snow] path. I somehow manage to get to the first [house], to a neighbors’ house, which was not far. That is the house of Joka [nickname for Jorje – Serbian name for George] Kostic. I enter the house to rest a bit and to see what happened there. I found no one in the house. The Ustashas had chased them all out and murdered them. I can not go on.

“The room has a bed, one made of wood. There is a wooden box next to it. I climbed into the box, and, covered with blood as I am, I lie on the bed. There is some cover on it. I am starting to loose consciousness. The wounds feel cold and hurt a lot. God, do not give anyone [such pain]! I was afraid that they will start slaughtering us again.

“I was lying in the bed. I did not sleep. There is nothing left of me. I am waiting to die.

Saved by Croatian neighbors – the thieves

“Then Sunday came, and they [local Croats] came to pillage. They do not know that I am in the room. I covered all of myself, over the head. My body sank in the straw bed and some clothes that were on top of it. I am quiet, and I wait. I hear them as they talk: ‘Here is this; Here is that; Take this; Carry that; Give me this.’ They are searching for money, and they are collecting things. I do not know who they are. I do not see them. Some one pulled the pillow under my head but is not seeing me still. I peek. There are two of them. I do not know them.

“Not even ten minutes passed before another two came. One says: ‘Is anyone alive!?’

“They lifted the cover as if one would lift a cover on a child. I see who they are. One was Božo Josipovi? and the other one Mirko Josipovi? my school-mate. Both are Croats from the neighboring hamlet. Božo is an adult, a married man. Mirko recognized me. Božo knows me too.

“Mirko says: ‘Ljubo [nickname for Ljubica], is that you?’

“I say: ‘Yes. I am all stabbed through!’

“He asks: ‘Do you want to go with us?’

“Božo is standing quiet.

“I say: ‘I will go if you are not going to kill me. If you want to kill me, kill me here. Do not take me to your side of the brook.’

“Božo says: ‘Do not be afraid! Nothing will happen to you. I’ll carry you.’

“He takes me on his back and starts carrying me. Mirko is watching. As he lifted me, he covered me completely with some old coat. Some old, ripped coat was on the bed. It has holes. I can see through one hole, so I peek. I put my head so I can see better through that little hole. My arms are stretching over Božo’s shoulders. They are hung as if dead. Božo is carrying me to toward the house of my uncle Ilija. That is some fifteen, twenty meters [yards] away from Djoka’s house in which I was lying all stabbed. There is a flat place in front of Ilija’s house. That is the place where we used to gather to sit or play. The Ustashas forced Todi? and Vasi? families onto that flat area and killed them all there. Many of them are lying on the snow. I see it all through that hole in the coat. Some [bodies] are still moving even though 24 hours passed since the slaughter. A body would only twitch or stretch and then be calm again. I hear as someone gurgles [makes death noise]. They fell over each other all different ways as they were chased and murdered. On the snow path and on the uncleaned snow – blood is everywhere. Frozen. Everything looks ripped away. Some have their mouth open; others have their eyes bulging out. Some were pressing the snow with their faces. Bodies are turned in different directions. Clothes on many are covered with blood — as if they were twitching and rolling on the snow before they would pass away and get motionless. There were some 150 souls on that spot. In some houses of Todi? and Vasi? families, there were ten even fifteen children. Here is where two entire hamlets were collected and killed off – Todi?i and Vasi?i. The snow is compressed and red. That’s where they were murdered. Some tried to run, but no one ran away from there. They were all caught. Some [death] sounds are heard – sounds I am not able to describe. Non-dying people can not make such sounds. I do not know how they did not become completely frozen during the night.

“Božo and Mirko stopped. They are watching the corpses. This is why I could observe them for a long time. They are not paying attention to me – as if I do not exist. Nothing is hidden from my eyes, and all those dead are not bothering me–as all of it was not horrible. I am not afraid. With exception of the three of us there, is no one alive on this plane. The three of us are silently watching. It seemed to me that it lasted for a long time. Then I said: ‘If you are to kill me – kill me here – where these ones are [killed]. Do not take me to the your side to kill me there!’

“They are telling me not to be afraid and that they will not kill me.

“”Božo tells Mirko to take off the shoes from one of the slaughtered men. It is an adult man, so the shoes would be a good size for Božo. Mirko went to that dead man and started to untie the shoes. They were deep-side shoes. They look good – like new. Mirko is trying to take them off. Božo is just standing and carrying me on his shoulders. We are both watching as Mirko is trying hard and suffering as he is pulling a shoe off the dead, frozen man. Suddenly, he dropped the leg of the dead man got up and said: ‘It can not be taken off. The feet are frozen inside the shoes. It is not going. Let us go!’

“Božo says: ‘OK. Let’s go.’

“We are going toward the brook [that separates Serbian and Croatian hamlets]. As we approached it, I saw on the other side of the brook, from Croatian houses there was a column of people approaching. The column contained all kinds of people – Domobrani [Ustasha “Home Guards”], Ustashas, village militia, guards, civilians. They were coming toward our [Serbian] side, toward our houses. Soldiers are carrying rifles, and they are without mounted bayonets. They are coming to finish off the wounded and to pillage.

“I am telling them [Božo and Mirko]: ‘Do not carry me to them! Don’t you see how many of them there are? They will kill me.’

“‘Do not fear! Just be quiet,’ says Božo.

“He wrapped me even better with the coat. We passed by them. No one is asking anything. Maybe they did not see a child underneath the coat on Božo’s sholders. Maybe they thought the bundle was containing pillaged goods. Maybe to keep killing was already forbidden, as I heard at some point later.

“Mirko is walking behind us. We crossed on their [Croatian] side. Mirko asks whether I want to be taken to Božo’s or to his – Pejo’s house. Pejo was Mirko’s grandfather. Mirko’s father was Marko Josipovi? but the head of the family was the old Pejo. I told him to take me to Pejo’s house. I went with the children from the house to the same school, and I was playing with them. So, Mirko said that we should go to his house.

Croats are curing the wounds

“Božo took me to Pejo’s house. He and Mirko told him how they found Milan’s Ljubica alive. Their house had 70-year-old Pejo, his two daughters-in-law — Janja and Jela. Janja died [by now] and Jela is still alive.

“Pejo told them: ‘Take her and bathe her!’

“They washed me. I do not remember them giving me the bath. As soon as they poured warm water on me, I lost consciousness. They [later] told me that they took me to the school in Motike. The order was that all who survived be brought there. I can not remember any of it. I was not conscience until the next morning. As I woke up the next morning – they say that I said: ‘Mama, give me some water!’

“Janja gave me warm milk. I got conscious. I looked around, and I see that it was not my mama, my mother. Then I remembered that Božo and Mirko brought me in. I am looking around. I see that I am lying in a room on a straw mattress next to a stove.

“They are asking me: ‘Are you in pain Ljubo? Do not be afraid.’

“The wounds were hurting me since they washed me. I said: ‘It hurts.’

“I could not move any different way.

“Peja’s son Ilija went to the town. That is not far away. He bought grease and alcohol. They washed my wounds and put grease on them. After that I was unconscious for 24 hours. They called a neighbor, Anto Martinovi?, a Croat, to be present so no one could say that they killed me. It was already forbidden to kill any more. [Translator’s note: When the German occupiers learned of the massacres at about 2 p.m., they intervened and stopped the massacres. Those who were killed were killed between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m.] He spent the night there. Janja says that I got conscious once: ‘You were to die, Ljubo. You were not giving any sign of life. Only the pulse was visible on your neck.’

“The second day, after [applying] alcohol, they put me in a sitting position. They propped me with pillows. I was sitting like that a bit. There came Ilija Josipovi?. He was a Croatian policeman. He told me: ‘Your sister Bosa is in her house. She is sitting in her bed and is not talking. She does not want to go anywhere. No one is forcing to. Everything is taken from the house. They took the cover under her so she sits on the straws.’

“Bosa was my “sister” on my uncle’s side. [Actually a close first cousin in Serbo-Croatian is called a sister or a brother with a description on what side. Here, Bosa was Ljubica’s father’s brother’s daughter – thus “sister on the uncle’s side”]. She was 5 or 6 years old. Ustashas killed all in her house. Bosa hid under the bed, and that is how she remained alive. Maybe her mother pushed her under the bed. I do not know. She was alone in the room for two days. Before Ilija, no one else found her.

“I told Ilija to bring her to me. Later he told me that he found her on the bed and called her to come with him. She just said: ‘I won’t.’

“Only when he told her that I am also at the other house did she agreed. So he brought her to me. He carried her to the door and then put her down. She started crying and ran to me. She toppled me down. I lost consciousness.

“Bosa was not even wounded.

“I was lying in Pejo’s house for two months. I was lying on my knees and my forehead until my wounds closed. I could not lie on any side of my body. My wounds would hurt. During a day, they would lift me to sit as long as I could endure. I lost consciousness every time they dressed my wounds. Janja and Jela would dress my wounds.

“I started to eat. For a whole month, I could only drink milk – one glass three times a day. I could not have anything else. They would always offer to me [other food] – but how could I eat?

“Both of us [girls] were with them [the Croat neighbors]. The old one told [the rest of his family] that no one should mention us [to other Croats] until an order came that we should not be killed, that is, that those who survived should not be killed. Some say that such an order came a few days later [when it was clear that almost no-one survived]: ‘Those who survived should not be killed.’ The old man did not trust that. He kept hiding us for a long time.

“We were in the house of Pejo Josipovi? from February 8, 1942. Bosa stayed until June [1942], and I stayed until St. Peter’s Day – July 12, 1942. Peja’s family were taking care of us as if we were their own family. I have only good, only pleasant memories about them.

“Some two weeks before me, Bosa was taken by her aunt Milica Savi? to the nearby village of Rami?i. That is where she remained until the end of the war [WWII]. She then got married into the Todi? family. She has a family of her own and she lives in Todi?i [hamlet].

“On Sunday, St. Peter’s day, July 12, 1942 my aunt Vida, sister of my father Milan, took me to her house in Macanovi?i, a village next to ?okore village. She sent a message to the Josipovi? family to bring me to [the town of] Banja Luka, supposedly so I can identify our cow, so the Josipovi? family could take the cow to their house. In Banja Luka the aunt and I sneaked out and ran to [her village] Macanovi?i. I lived there until the end of the war and a bit afterwards. After the war I married Gojko Vu?i?, a young man from the nearby [hamlet] of Vu?i?i (which is also a part of ?okore [village]). With him, I went back to my father’s property in [the village of] Motike, where we had children and grandchildren. Even today, I live on my father’s property, in Donje Motike…

Lived to see Freedom

“Our [aunt’s] place, after the slaughter, was frequented by Domobrani [Ustasha Home Guards] and village militia. Many of those were Croats from Motike. They were snooping on us. They would come to binge [at our expense]. We would give them the best we had – just to keep them happy. After they ate and drank enough, they would tell us that we have nothing to fear.

“They would always ask where the men are. Did they leave somewhere? They feared that they [the Serbian men] would leave for the forests and join the [anti-Nazi] resistance. Before the slaughter no one from our village was in the resistance. Everyone [was a peaceful citizen and] stayed at home. The [Croat] policemen and [Croat] village militia were always checking us. They knew exactly how many family members each Serbian family had, and they would check whether everyone was present. If someone was absent, they would search until they found that person – no matter how young or old the person was. That is how, on February 7 [1942, on the day of the massacre] they could take the Ustashas [the Croatian Catholic Nazi elite] to every single Serbian house and help them so that every single Serbian soul could be found and – be murdered. They [the local Croats] were guarding the Serbian houses – so no one ran away. Later, they would go from house to house to finish off those Serbs who survived and to pillage the Serbian property. But they were not the only ones who participated in the pillaging. All other Croats joined – our neighbors but also those who were not. They took everything away. They took wheat from our silos.

“The family of Pejo Josipovi?, the one that took care of me and Bosa, took some of the wheat. Other [Croats] gathered everything before they could. All cattle was also stolen. I do not know who [did it]. I could not find out who even though I went back to Motike after the war and I lived there with Croats ever since. I only learned, later on, that my brothers Mladjen ([age] 9), Stoji? (7) and Miroslav were slashed in front of [our] house. My mother was murdered inside the house. My father was murdered the same day in the Rakovac mine [the other mass slaughter of the Serbs done by the Ustashas – on the same day], not too far from our home. In the springtime, when I felt better, I would leave Peja’s house and visit our home often. The walls in our home had traces of blood. That is where they murdered my mother Danica. I heard that our boys tried to run away, but our Croat neighbors would ambush them and kill them with knives, axes and wooden spears. There was very little [rifle] fire. Just a few [shots].

“Later, I heard what happened to my aunt Dosta Todi?. She was about to give birth. Ustashas toppled her on her back and then put a plank on her belly, using it as a pivot for a see-saw. They [the Ustashas] were then riding the “see saw” and watched as Dosta was “giving birth” – until they pushed baby out of her. They did not pierce her or slaughter her. They tortured her as [described] above and then finished her off with an axe.

“My sister [cousin] on my father’s side, Bosa, Ilija’s daughter, the one who survived the slaughter and who was brought to the house of Peja Josipovi? where we were together for a while, told us how she went out of the house after the Ustashas left. On the snow, in front of the house, she found her mother Cvijeta. She was pregnant. She was about to give birth. Bosa tells: ‘My mother is lying and stares. I call her – ‘Mama, mama!’ – She only stares.’

“She left her mother and returned to the room, to bed. She covered herself and stayed. From time to time, she would get up and try to find something to eat. She remembers how policeman Ilija Josipovi? asked her to come with him and that she did not want to. She said that she would stay at home and wait for [her] dad. Her father was also murdered at Rakovac mine.

“In the room where Bosa was remained a crib with a 24-hour-old baby in it. It was the newborn child of my and Bosa’s aunt Stana, wife of our uncle Ilija. Stana was from the nearby village of Pavlovci, from the Štrbac family. The Ustashas ordered her out [of the house] and the baby remained in the crib in the room. Alive. No one noticed it. When, after the slaughter, the baby started to cry, [5 or 6 years old] Bosa tried to feed it by putting bread in its mouth. She saw how her mother was feeding other children. The baby died.

“Right after the war, a policeman from SUP [Ministry of Internal Affairs] came to see me and asked me couple of questions. He ordered me to keep silent: ‘Do not tell anyone about the slaughter. Do not tell anyone that I talked to you. What happened – happened. Do not tell to anyone!’

“I told almost no one about the slaughter of my family. If I did, it was in secrecy. I was afraid. I am still afraid that [new] Ustashas or Turks [Bosnian Muslims] will slaughter us all. What do you think? Can it happen? God forbid!

[End of Ljubica Vucic’s testimony. The Author continues with aunt Vida Macanovic’s testimony.]


Aunt Vida found Ljubicaplum-blossom

[Author’s note:] Vida Macanovic was born in Motike in 1912 and died in Cokori in 1999. In 1932 she married my uncle Gavro Macanovic from Cokori. Despite her advanced age of 87, she could see and hear quite well and she was regularly performing her daily house chores. Until her death she vividly remembered the events of the war [WWII] to the last detail. She told me how, during the war, she brought to Macanovici her thirteen-years-old niece Ljubica from Motike.

[Beginnig of Vida Macanovic’s testimony:]

“I was born before World War One in Motike, in the house of Vasa Vasic. I do not remember my father Vasa. He left for the First World War, and he perished in the war. My mother Stoja died close to the end of the war in 1918. There were four of us children [siblings] – my three brothers and I. The brothers partitioned [father’s] property before WWII, and I married in 1932.

“The oldest brother’s name was Milan. His wife Danica was from Gornje Motike. Before the slaughter they had four children – three sons (Mladjen, Stojic and Miroslav) and daughter Ljubica. [The second brother] Cvijan’s wife Ljubica was from Ramici [hamlet]. They had two children, Nikola and Bosa. [The third brother] Ilija and [his wife] Stana (who was from Štrbac’s in Pavlovac) also had two children – [a girl] Gospava and newborn son in the crib.

“All of them were slaughtered on Saturday, February 7, 1942, with the exception of Milan’s [daughter] Ljubica, Ilija’s [daughter] Bosa and that newborn son in the crib that they barely saw and who–being abandoned–perished.

“We, living in Macanovi? [hamlet] knew – the same day – about the slaughter [perpetrated by Ustashas] in Motike. We immediately ran to [the hamlet of] Mati?i, in [the village of] Bistrica. With us were [Serbs] from Pavlovcani near Banja Luka who ran to [the village of] ?okori when Ustashas burned Ninkovic’s house in Pavlovac. Families of Vasilije and Simo Štrbac found refuge at our house in Macanovici. We were related. Their sister, Stana married my brother Ilija in Motike.

“A few days after [the mass slaughter], I heard that in my hamlet of Vasici two children survived. My brother-in-law Nikola who was a miner in the Rakovac mine told me that. He did not go to work that Saturday, so he remained alive. I do not know how he heard about it [the surviving children]. I immediatelly thought that the surviving children could be my brothers’ children. And it was so. The two that remained alive were [my brother] Milan’s [daughter] Ljubica, age 13 and [my brother] Cvijan’s [daughter] Bosa, age 5.

“It was forbidden to enter Motike until summer 1942. After that you could risk it. They were not killing women and children [there] any more. Adult males would not dare go. I dared. I went to Motike. I was avoiding the main road. I knew quite well all paths and short-cuts. I was born and I grew up in Motike. At Dvori [hamlet], one Croat woman noticed me. She knew me. She asked: ‘Where are you going? Why are you in black?’ [Black is the traditional color of sorrow for the Serbs.]

“I answered her: ‘Well, I just came.’

“‘Okay, then,’ [she said].

“Even Croatian God is slaughtered.

“I did not meet anyone until I got to the house of Pejo Josipovi?. There were no [Croatian] guards on the road. I was alone in the Ustasha village. I was the first [Serbian soul] to walk through their village after the slaughter. I am afraid but I am walking.

“I got to Peja’s house. It was Sunday. They left for the church. I found Ljubica and Peja’s wife Ruža alone at home. Ruža was a bit silly even before [the war]. She would carry a load of stones on her chest. She knows me. Immediately she started crying about my slaughtered family. Ljubica was alone at home with her and with Marko’s child. Marko was Peja’s son. Ljubica started screaming and crying: ‘Oh, aaauch, aunt! Are you alive? They told me that you were killed.’

“I did not dare cry [myself], so they would not kill me. [As a Serb, she did not want to make noise to draw attention to herself in the Croat village].

“We are both shivering [in fear].

“‘Dear aunt, run. Run to your children. They will come from church any moment.’

“I was not afraid being with Ljubica. She was stiff from fear. It was Sunday morning. The old lady [Pejo’s wife] was crazy and was outside. She was much older than me.

“I spent two hours with Ljubica. We were alone. I had nothing to eat or drink. Bosa was already taken by her [other] aunt to Rami?i. She [that aunt] converted to Catholicism, so she dared come earlier and take Bosa. I did not dare do it earlier. Ljubica told me how she survived in the house of Mihajlo Vasi?. She was just there to borrow some flour from them. As soon as she got there, the [Ustasha] soldiers came. They slaughtered Mihajlo and chopped off the head of his wife Vaja in the room. They stabbed Ljubica in seven places and left her. They thought that she was [already] dead. After that, Croats took her to their house and adopted her. Pejo’s son Marko wanted to adopt her as his daughter so e could take possession of her property. Vasi? family was wealthy. They had lots of fertile lands. The other of Pejo’s son wanted to adopt Bosa so he can take her property. Those were good, large properties. Fertile lands.

“I left before they came back from the church.

“When I returned to Macanovi?i, I sent a message to Marko Josipovi? to give me back the child. He did not want to. I did not dare come back to Motike, but I dared go to [the town of] Banja Luka. I sent Marko a note that I found Ljibica’s cow in [the hamlet of] Pavlovac and that I will bring it to Banja Luka. He should send Ljubica to identify the cow. They can then take the cow to [their family at] Josipovi?i. He replied that they will come.

“Krsta Mirnic, wife of Lazar Mirnicc and I then went to Banja Luka on St. Peter’s Day, July 12, 1942. Mirni?i [hamlet] is close by. We take water from the same well. Krsta was also born in Motike as I was. Marko’s wife, Janja brought Ljubica. We met at [Muslim] Imza Kaduni?’s, close to Feradija. That was a place where the villagers would usually gather. We gave Imza some gift and we stayed in his store and we waited there. That is the first time after the slaughter that I saw my neighbor Janja. She waited at Imza’s while Ljubica left with Krsta and me, supposedly to identify her cow and to take it to the Josipovi? family.

“It is good that [Josipovi? family] were so greedy to get the cow.

“Krsta and I took Ljubica and instead of going toward Pavlovci and Motike [as expected] we went the opposite direction, next to the Vrbas [river], then toward Gornji Šer, through Krcma, Gaji?i and Surtelija to Macanovi?i. While walking I told Ljubica: ‘My dear child, I am taking you to my place.’

“She was silent. Only when we were to enter Macanovi?i, she said: ‘My dear aunt! What the evil people have done! They slaughtered our entire family!’

“She was dressed in some common clothes, but still quite a bit better than our children. They [Josipovic’s] were closer to the town. Ljubica was third grade of the school then.

“We notified Josipovi?’s that we took the child. They were not angry as they knew that the child is more important to me. Later, after the child [Ljubica] was with us for a while, Krsta and I went to Motike. First we entered the house of Krsta’s parents. The house was closed. We opened it. It was empty. On the walls, we saw traces of dry blood next to the bed. We were crying. Her old parents were slaughtered in their bed. We went to Vasici [hamlet]. All of the houses were standing. People were killed in houses or in the yards; some were burned in stables. We were passing by Maleševici [hamlet]. Pejo Maleševic had seven sons and seven daughter-in-laws who had lots of children. All slaughtered. The only remaining survivor was Pejo’s youngest daughter-in-law Ljubica. She was washing clothes at the brook. When everything was calm again, she went back to the Maleševi? household. She cleaned one of the rooms, and she lived there. She opened a store. She would give us anything we needed. We would not eat or drink at her place though – she was always dressed in black. [She was always in mourning.] She carried a pistol. She was ready to shoot.

“‘Do not worry, Dear’ [we would tell her]. ‘There will be no more slaughtering.’

“It was my brother Milan’s wife… After some time when it was [supposedly] calm again, they killed her one night – most probably – Ustashas. They butchered her. They cut off her breasts.

“After we saw Ljubica Maleševi? the two of us returned to ?okori. We would bring Ljubica to Josipovi? family so they could see her. I took nothing from them but Ljubica’s clothes. She even got married from our house. She married into Vu?i? family, also from ?okori. She is living now on her father’s property in Vasi?i [hamlet] of Motike.

[End of Vida Macanovic’s testimony.]


Here the author adds his own recollections.

I remember when Ljubica came to Jokori in the summer of 1942. Her aunt Vida brought her to Macanovici [hamlet]. Her aunt [on her father’s side] was my aunt [on my mother’s side]. She was the wife of my uncle Gavro Macanovic, brother of my mother Jovanka. Macanovici was close to Lukaji?ci. Our fields and our forests were intermingled as well as our cattle on the grazing grounds and the children who were guarding the cattle. Our field “Brdo” was some 100 meters [yards] away from the house of uncle Gavro and aunt Vida. Other than them I had three other uncles in Macanovi?i – Nikola, Mladjen and Drago. Nikola was a miner in the Rakovac mine but, on the day of the slaughter [at the mine, also], he did not go to work because of all the snow that fell. We loved our uncles and they loved us, [their sister] Jovanka’s children, even more. They had lots of children of their own, so we frequently spent time together and socialized. Aunt Vida died in 1999. She was always such a smart and noble woman and she was always good to us, Jovanka’s children.

As Ljubica appeared at her aunt Vida’s place in Macanovici – everyone in the entire area knew it immediately. Everyone came to see her or to ask her something. I remember it well. I was fully eight years old then. Mom and I would go to visit Ljubica and to hear her tell us how she survived. The slaughter in Motike and the survivors were our constant subjects. Ljubica already recovered when she came to Macanovici. As I saw her then, she seemed to me to be the prettiest girl in our village. She was clean, with combed hair, dressed like a town girl, blonde and serious. She somehow looked to be above us.

That summer, she was guarding cattle with us in Brdo, Brankovac, Metaljci, Viškovac, Korita and other places. We played together. We all had a special respect and took special care of her as her entire family was killed.

Ljubica lived at my uncle Gavra’s place until 1946 when she married Gojko Vucic and left for Motike to live on her father’s property.

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