The 100th anniversary of the end of WWI: unknown stories from Serbia
On the 11/11/2018 Serbia commemorate, with its allies (France, UK, USA, Italy, Belgium etc.), that it was 100 years ago that the First World War (WWI) ended. A lot of events are organised in different countries. France for example will organise a big commemoration in Paris on 11/11 and the UK also announced several events. And Serbia, who lost in terms of percentage, the most people? It will organise a kind of “military drill” show through the country, it has some exhibitions and some commemorations, a big TV show on 11/11, but that’s it. It surprises me that there are no huge commemorations where the public is invited to celebrate 100 years end of WWI.
It is estimated that Serbia lost more than 1.1 million inhabitants during the war, including both army and civilian losses. This represented more than 26 per cent of its then total population and 58 per cent of its adult male population.
Far away from military drills, receptions behind closed doors for politicians and other “VIPS” I think about the Serbian WWI soldiers which were focus of our voluntarily research (see www.secanje.nl). They must have been very happy that they could go back after the years of suffering in the PoW (=Prisoner of War) camps of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires. They were captured in 1914, but most of them in 1915, while their other comrades died on the battlefield or retreated via Albania to the Greek island of Corfu.
Miloš for example from Resnik, a village close to Belgrade, died far away from his family: he was weak after all the PoW camps and the hard labor conditions there. When he got the Spanish flu he could not be saved any more: he died 18th January 1919 in Nijmegen (the Netherlands) while he was waiting to be transported back to Serbia.
With the help of people from Azanja we found another face behind a name: Milovan Milojević who died in Garderen also in the Netherlands and also in January 1919.
When we had contact with the descendants of Đorđe (Đoka) Vukosavljević they told us that they had also letters. These letters (see here) give an inside in the hard PoW life in the camps. He died also in the Netherlands and was later, in 1938, exhumed to the mausoleum Jindřichovice (Czech Republic) , just as the remains of 87 other Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands.
The mausoleum in Jindřichovice contains the remains of 7,469 Serbian soldiers and 189 Russian soldiers: it contains more remains of Serbian WWI soldiers than the, for Serbs so famous, Zeitenlik graveyard in Thessaloniki.
Together with my wife and our friend John, we did this research voluntarily and we are grateful to the people who provide us help. We created a digital space for these Serbian WWI heroes on the website www.secanje.nl. Tomorrow I commemorate without a parade or a TV-show,but I do it in silence: may their sacrifices never be forgotten!