©Igor M. Djuric
copyright 2010 by ©Igor M. Djuric Upotreba sadržaja ove web stranice
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среда, 19. фебруар 2020.

Igor M. Djuric - CAMP DEČANI (1947 – 1952)


Translated by Djuradj Djuric

A nation that doesn’t remember its scaffold, doesn’t brand its executioners and counts and writes down its victims and pay them their deserved respect – is doomed to be cursed by its ancestors and scorned by its descendants, and will never be ready for a feat through sacrifice in the future. We, Serbs, are probably the only nation that still hasn’t gathered and listed our victims (and each next one catches up to the previous one), marked our scaffolds and called out our executioners, even though we are, percentage-wise, the greatest sufferers in Europe in the last century. They are already preparing new pogroms for us and we have not worthily mourned the old ones.
This story begins on January 26, 1949, when the main hero of a book[1], from a tump near Dečanska Bistrica, looks how the ignited residences of the monastery Visoki Dečani are burning. He arrived in Dečani the night before, in the camp for kulaks, to join the prisoners that are gathered there and imprisoned from all around Serbia.

In the whiteness of January’s dawn and the chilliness that the wind brings down, the wind that united its forces somewhere halfway between Kaluđerovica and Bogdaš and being refreshed and strengthened descends with the river Bistrica towards Dečani, a black smoke whirled from the place where Stefan Dečanski chose to build a monastery on. Last night, on January 25, 1949, the Doctor arrived by transport from Sremska Mitrovica. First, he took the train to Peć, and after that a truck to above Kisela Voda. The Doctor arrived in the camp, for kulaks, in which the new government puts the best Serbian householders, mainly the quiet ones from Srem, Banat and Šumadija. And at this first morning in the camp, January 26, the old acquaintance, Visoki Manastir, is calling out to him with smoke and welcomes.
Visoki Dečani is on fire! The last particle of strength of the former unholy one felt the presence of its medium, after thirty years, and wanted to greet his comrade and let him know that it is not dead and will never be because the unholy force indeed is a “force” because it is inanimate and ulterior. A new time has arrived, but the devil is the same. Everything around is socialistic and communistic: the mineral water, the river, the forest, the beasts, the people, the camp, the crushed stone, the kulaks, the guards, and the Doctor. Only the monastery that is burning this morning: isn’t! Thirty years ago: solely the monastery, throughout Mother Serbia, which was only just liberated and heavily wounded, was a socialist republic. At least for a few days.[2]

Not a lot is stated in the literature and known in the public that, within easy reach of the monastery itself, after the war, there was a camp that was established and built by the communist authorities. The place of the camp maybe even coincided with the place where the Holy King built his hospital, which was then a part of the monastery complex, above the wellspring with thermal and mineral water. Even though it coincided with Goli Otok, Bileća, Gradiška – with Informbiro casemates – this camp in Dečani had nothing to do with the Informbiro resolution and the quarrel of Josip Broz with heretics and people that didn’t agree with him in those times. That camp was intended for those who, in some way, resisted the collectivization and the gathering of the so-called “surplus of food” and other products, and was intended for, to speak in the terminology of those times: kulaks (those who have plenty and more). Householders from Vojvodina and Central parts of Serbia were brought to this camp, because they didn’t want to join the agricultural collectives (zadruga) or didn’t gather the demanded amounts, and captured here they were forced to do hard construction labor of building roads and other objects.
How come there was a camp for kulaks (žitari - those who cultivated wheat) in Dečani right beside the monastery which was started by the Holy King (Stefan Dečanski) and finished by Dušan the Mighty (Dušan Silni)?
This was a time of forced repurchase and unseen terror upon the farmers. A war was waged against the so-called kulaks and this implied that the last grain of wheat and their only cow was to be taken away from them in order to feed the people in towns, the army, but also to help the „comrades in Albania“. A kulak was considered every well-standing farmer even though they were often people and households that only settled their needs. The qualification of actions and the methods of fighting were taken over from the Soviet model and even though the fight with kulaks coincided with the breakup with Stalin, the Stalinist method was kept even after that. However, the quarrel with kulaks, those who cultivated wheat, the class enemy, started right after the war and was brutal in every way. Tens of thousands of farmers were imprisoned, mainly from traditionally strong agricultural areas and a lot of them never came back alive to their farms and their homes.
Soon, after the start of the class quarrel and the plundering from hungry mouths, „the liberators“ faced а lack of prison space and the need to build new, temporary and permanent, prisons or camps: Slavnik in Leskovac, Metino Brdo near Kragujevac, Vistad near Valjevo, Banjica near Belgrade, Dečani in Kosovo, Bubanj near Niš.[3] The farmers were still being taken away to the mines Trepča, Bor and Aleksinac, to do heavy slavery labor.
Therefore, right at the time when the archdeacon Gavrilo Dečanski was breathing his last, imprisoned in Sremska Mitrovica and the abbot of Dečani was still Teodosije, the communists decided to build a camp for those who cultivated wheat near every holy area. The place they chose was at about 600 meters from the monastery, on the opposite side of river Bistrica[4], even though some sources state that the place of the camp was on the other side, where later a children resort and a hotel were built (a resort was indeed open in 1952 when the camp was closed, and the hotel a year later, first as a tent and after that as a constructed object).[5]
Considering the fact that the camp barracks were in other places in the vicinity (Kožnjer, towards Prokletije, in the woods of Junik), it is most likely that both of them were right. The communists were, admittedly, attacking the monastery from every side, so on May 25, 1946, they took over the monastery residences and there formed a hospital for those who had chest ache and divided the rest among the settling families. On December 9, 1951, old weapons were taken from the treasury for the needs of the Regional National Museum in Priština.
Dejan Medaković writes in his memoirs how, when he visited Dečani in 1947, “he saw columns of exhausted farmers from Vojvodina. Those people slept in barracks which were, besides the camp in Dečani, built in the forests of Prokletija and Junik, for when they went there to do work, building primarily roads.[6] The first barracks were built in 1947 and on that primary spot there were seven of them in total, even though, by the memory of witnesses, there were other constructed objects as well.[7]
Therefore, “the liberators” started a war against farmers and householders, against “the liberated ones”. In the words of a farmer from that time, when the communists asked him if “he could survive another occupation?”:
-I could survive another occupation, sure, but I don’t think I could survive another liberation![8]
And when Krcun found the poet Sima Pandurović in one of the prisons he asked him “since when he was in prison?” the poet answered:
-Since the liberation.[9]
It is believed that in that "liberation", householders from Vojvodina suffered the most but the truth is, the terror was present in the whole Serbian territory. The fact that Vojvodina was the wealthiest area was the only reason, because they could take more than in other poorer areas.
By the memory of Aca Stevanović from Barajevo, there were around 20.000 kulaks imprisoned only in Zabela. Jovan Davidović, from around Kragujevac, was because of this transferred to one of the seven barracks in Dečani. “The camp was surrounded with barb wires, it could imprison, by his opinion, around 3000 campers and was run by criminals, the food was scarce and it could barely be survived. The prisoners were building the stone roads towards Albania with their bare hands, but because of difficult conditions, a few hundred of them died. They were buried beside the monastery, without any markings. Later, the ones that survived called that camp the farmer's Goli Otok”.[10]
This testimony seems extreme because there couldn't have been that many victims, especially compared with the notorious and larger camp on Goli Otok where, according to some data, around 600 campers died.[11] But, there were definitely victims from of poor conditions, little amounts of food and hard labor, but there were also the ones who died because of the beating and harassing or were killed in attempts to escape. In this manner, two farmers from Vojvodina were slaughtered and buried beside the monastery when they tried to escape.[12] At least for some time, in their graves, they were neighbors with the famous donor of Dečani frescos Đorđe Ostrouš Pećpal.
According to some information, the camp in Dečani was the biggest of its kind, intended exclusively for kulaks, and it indeed kept mostly farmers from Vojvodina, where they were forced to do the hard labor of building roads towards Prokletije and Albania and that a lot of them died because of poor conditions, exhaustion and illness.[13]
The farmer and good householder Sava Mićešević from Irig was abducted with three other countrymen and taken to the Dečani camp. He later said that “it was horribly difficult… hard labor, bad food, even worse accommodation, illnesses and harassment, he survived because he was young but the camp held people who were over 70 years old and they were doomed… they forced them to carry logs and stones… a lot of old people died… they were buried in the entrance of the monastery and later their family excavated them and carried them home… he arrived in Dečani with nearly 100 kilograms and was released with below 50 kilograms.”[14] Brkić Lazar from the village Rivice spent in Dečani 19 months without any conviction or decision. He came back home with his Adam’s apple shattered by a gunstock, from which he later died. „There was a lot of hard labor done there“, he said, „they carried stones for the road in columns long 2-3 kilometers“.[15]
It should be pointed out that the nature of the terror, the ideological approach and torture intensity were different in camps that served for the internal communistic quarrel after the Informbiro resolution (Goli Otok, Gradiška, Mitrovica) compared to the camps that were reserved for the so-called “enemies of the people”.

And there was a difference, now he knows. He felt everything on his skin. But even though he sees the difference, he still can't understand it. In the former "non-national regime" you were imprisoned if you performed actions (and thought) opposite of the ruling regime. In this new age, his age, people were imprisoned because they didn't think the same as the ruling classes. In the old system, it was enough not to act and think "against", and you would be safe. With him and his folks, besides the fact that you were not allowed to be "against", you had to be "with them". And it was considered a much greater misdeed if you were "not with them" than if you were "against" them. There was no way you could have been "steady". You had to choose and carry the burden of that choice.
No!!! It can't be that, it definitely isn't, he returned to his previous thought about the conditions of his imprisonment, what he has already seen and felt on his skin. Here, in Dečani, the campers were less instructed to one another, but more to the guards and the labor. Here, they do not force them to confront each other as much, because the road needs to be built and these are class and not internal enemies. They do not have to be revised and brought back to the right path because they were never on it. They never even loved the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, they never fought for the five-pointed star, they never dreamed about the world revolution. Their whole world started and ended to where their land and the soil they cultivated reached.
The kulaks are the ideological enemy of this order and they are on the opposite side of the new age ideal. That is why they are privileged and suffer less. The communists run an internal, mutual war, and they know: whoever wins will judge the other one ruthlessly. That is why the battle is ruthless. Subsequently, these people he sees around are owners, not proletarians, they fight for their land and not for ideals, and they are farmers, not workers and honest intelligence. They are, in that manner, themselves, and there where they belong, and will be themselves: both today and tomorrow. With the outlaws from their order, they are, however, more brutal and exclusive. The Doctor felt this on his skin and doesn't mind it. That is the way it should be. He would do the same if he was in their spot. That is how the Revolution is defended. With terror, red terror. That is the basis, that is what Lenin wrote about, and Stalin applied. And he is here because of them, because of loyalty to them. An outlaw from an idea is not forgiven what a kulak or a Ravna Gora Movement member is forgiven. Not to mention Ustašas. Bali members are in the committee, they weren’t even imprisoned.[16]

Paunović Vuica from the village Vuković near Kučevo was arrested because he didn’t have the demanded amount of wheat. Since he knew what awaited him, he looked around to buy the amount he needed but he failed: he was taken with a larger group of farmers to Dečani. According to his grandson Andra he returned from the camp weighing 36 kilograms.[17]
How was this famous and oversized demanded amount calculated?

While he bandaged the cracked and bloody palms of a skinny and pale man from Mačva with a dirty bandage, the man told him how the mandatory amount of wheat he had to surrender was calculated, but he looked at the crowd on the gate with the corner of his eye. The man from Mačva said that one day, a former village hochstapler and a committee secretary at that point, came to his household, and that he stepped in his ploughland, ripped two or three ears of wheat, rubbed them between his palms, looked at how many grains remained on his palms and told the clerk behind him the amount of wheat he had to surrender. Just like that.[18]

To the author of this text, an elderly countryman once said: "The fact that they took the last cow I had, to give it to brotherly and hungry people of Albania I somehow survived, but the hardest part for me was that I had to personally and by foot take it to Đurakovac”. Of course, while speaking about the “brotherly nation” he said it with a lot of bitterness and irony while speaking about the ones that gave him this order and demanded this from him, he spoke with unhidden animosity.
The camp ceased its torture and killing and was closed in 1952. A few years later the families of the ones who suffered came to excavate and carry the remains of their loved ones. A children’s resort was already built in the vicinity and the teachers took the children to play on the remains of torture structures and on the graves of the tortured ones. However, they didn’t take them to the monastery.
The author of this text went, as a pupil in 1979, to visit this resort. He couldn’t hear at that time how the bones from the unmarked graves of unwept campers, cried for justice and screamed because of injustice but he personally heard the screams of little girls that the inhumans were trying to attack. No wonder: because we’ve forgotten the previous suffering, a new one always happened to us. And it will always be like this if we don’t come to our senses.

When, before he died, Gavrilo Dečanski was asked in Sremska Mitrovica, why he doesn't acknowledge the current authorities and new age, he answered that: "in this new age the truth will suffer, because it would remain silent and that in the name of the new age, Šiptar hands will slide down the crotches of Serbian girls, not by the right of force but by the law of silence“, they used to tell him that he lost his mind, and beat him up even worse and more.
-I can hear those little girls, how they scream and call out for help, but no one defends them, there, across Metohija, across Kosovo, even up there on the hill, above Visoki Dečani. This will not be surpassed by the sliver of time or the time of human malevolence. I see them piled up there, on wooden planks, curled up, torn up and crying. Father Teodosije Rus told me everything he saw during the war. And, I was a witness myself.
And then they would hit him again. They couldn’t pull on his beard because they already cut his hair and shaved him: all the way.
… And who knows for how long this would have lasted, and how long it lasted in the former generations of students, if someone hadn't told something to their visiting parents and the parents complained where they were supposed to. At that point, something changed. Most often it didn't. Although… The Arbanas employee and villain who the children had to call "comrade teacher": disappeared without a clue. After that it was heard: he was transferred to a different place, where there were no Serbian girls, so that he didn’t get tempted. They teased him, everyone said. It wasn't his fault. Serbian girls are more liberal in their behavior. Albanian girls hide and are more difficult to approach. It is a little bit exaggerated, and it's not exactly how they say. This was stated from the national point of view, to put the Albanian nation in mud, and to show how primitive and ruthless they are. They all said that, to justify the "comrade teacher", the member of the League of Communists and an exemplary Tito's youngster.
The last couple of days, the children were more often taken to the “mineral water”. They would roll up their pants and bathe in the water. The pool was empty. The buildings of the former camp were known only by indications. The monastery stood in its spot. It was entered rarely by the kids or teachers. It was not desirable or suitable according to the ideology. Neither did the monks like the children to run around the residences. The scared, humiliated and hurt children. Children to whom, neither the earthborn nor the heavenly fathers reached out for protection. Therefore the devil-teacher could put his hand where he shouldn’t have, as foretold by Gavrilo Dečanski in prison before he passed away. Because decades after him there were always people who raped Serbian women everywhere around but only the above mentioned monk was declared as crazy in prison. Subsequently, the court medicine diagnosis of those processes, when the monk was already deceased, and the acquittal, that the monk didn't live to see, stated: mad man! Therefore, it remained that monk Gavrilo, predicting what would happen: was crazy. But even though he was “mad” he was also a true “man”.[19]

[1] Игор М. Ђурић, Девети круг Светог краља
[2] Ibid., str. 111
[3] Др. Срђан Цветковић, Између српа и чекића
[5] Велимир Петровић, Како су комунисти опљачкали цркву
[6] Вечерње новости, Пуне казнионе непријатеља народа
[7] Ђашић Александар према казивању свога оца Илије
[8] Бранко Лазаревић, Дневник 1947
[9] Игор М. Ђурић, О писцу и писању
[10] Марко Лопушина, Убиј ближњег свога 2
[11] Wikipedia
[12] Ђашић Александар према казивању свога оца Илије
[13] Др. Радован Пејановић, Војвођанска колонизација и еволуција националне културе, стр. 132
[14] Драгиша Божић, Црвени јарам
[15] Ibid.
[16] Игор М. Ђурић, Девети круг Светог краља, стр. 113/114
[18] Игор М. Ђурић, Девети круг Светог краља, стр. 130
[19] Игор М. Ђурић, Дeвети круг Светог краља, стр.141/144

ЛОГОР ДЕЧАНИ (1947 – 1952)

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