end it was our aim to surrender to British Army units but the Croatian
Army was stopped by the British at Bleiburg on May 13, 1945 and they turned
over all their prisoners to Tito's Army.
the nightmare. Here are some notes - but the full story can be found here.
During darkness of the night lead Battery's servicemen back on road towards
Slovenjgradec. Some time after the midnight have surrendered to an unknown
unit of the Yugoslav Army (JA). I was ordered to stop, disarm and turn
of road onto a meadow to rest later.
with anybody from Battery since my surrender. Changed into civilian clothes
and wear but kept my riding boots. At morning started forced "exchange"(brutal
pillage and stripping of) by marauding soldiers of unknown JA's unit.
Many personal items were taken away as well as all military items and
my spare pair of boots. Some hours later all Prisoners of War (POW) were
gathered into a fenced orchard situated on a hill south of Slovenjgradec
POWs' number at this rally place amounted to some 40.000 persons. Did
not get any food or water since enslaved. Moved around camp some 2 km.
At early morning first POWs moved out of camp. Soon after leaving rally
camp noticed ill treatment of all fatigued, weaker or elder ones. POWs
were tortured and indiscriminately murdered whenever leaving marching
column for any moment. Constant shooting devastated POW's marching column.
Walked through night some 40 km.
A soldier forcibly took away my boots on bridge of Drava River near Celje.
From here onwards had to march BAREFOOTED. Short rest near Celje's center
accounting for missing and dying ones. Marched that day about 50 km of
which my first barefooted 45 km.
At sunrise POWs' column moved out of Zidani Most onto road leading to
Radece Toplice and Hotemez. Near Vrhovo without any notice accompanying
watchmen disappeared after which marching column broke down. POWs from
Osijek M.D. gathered at nearby river Sava's Right Bank to rest and quench
thirst. Around midday more guards arrived and led POWs without any stops
through the night arriving at Samobor at dawn. At times I was deranged
and lost mind for a while but companions cared and saved me to next short
stop. Day's march until next day's dawn amounted to some barefooted 68
POWs' gather to their respective Military Districts at park of Samobor.
One estimated an accumulation of some 10.000 captives. Forced pillages
continued between POWs by marauding JA's soldiers. Received first food:
a handful of maize flour-grit. Ate it raw. Moved around looking for some
wrappings for my bare feet: 3 km.
In the years
that followed I learned mortal fears, experienced the instincts
of survival, felt death's scythe swish over my body - but somehow
survived the intended massacre of croatians. (Did you believe that
'ethnic cleansing' was new? We had it in 1945 already.)
When I was
finally rescued from a marching column on my 20th birthday I had lost
more than half of my weight and was a human wreck.