Translated by Petar Makara with permission from the author.
Copy edited by Wanda Schindley, PhD.
The Catholic fanatics known as Ustashas converted the entire
"Independent State of Croatia" (ISC) into a slaughterhouse.
Everyone, including children, born as a Serb, a Jew or a Gypsie was marked
for death. Entire Serbian villages and entire regions of Bosnia
and Krajina were slaughtered or machine-gunned.
The Bosnian Serb village of Piskavica (as Bosnia was then part of Hitler-created ISC) was
no exception. The exception was that Danka Milaković survived. She and other survivors
are the voice for all those who did not survive.
The translator's notes, intended to make the text more understandable
for the English reader, are in square brackets. The verb tenses, though
sometimes inconsistent, are maintained when the speaker is telling the
story as if reliving it.
Piskavica massacre survivor:
Mr. Danka Milaković
Photographed by the interviewer-author,
Mr. Lazar Lukajić
"During the slaughter of winter 1942 I was at home with
my grandmother Jovanka and mother Todora and two more children,
my two brothers, Bogoljub who was 6 [years old] and Milenko who
was one [years old]. My mother was 35 then. My father Stojan was
in hiding. Grandmother Jovanka, my father's mother, was saying
that men were on the run. She says that they [the Ustashas] are not
going to do anything to the women and children. There were three
of us, children--Bogoljub, Milenko and myself. That morning, as
we saw many Ustashas coming from down there, from [Croatian majority
village of] Ivanjska, we were petrified.
They were so black [in their Ustasha black, Nazi uniforms] on the
white snow. Grandmother says that we should run, and we ran from our
home to the house of [our uncle] Mladjen Milaković which is right
behind ours. Mladjen was enslaved in Germany. Grandmother told my
mother Todora: 'Let us go, daughter-in-law, to
Mladjen's [wife] Petra. She has Mladjen's letter from Germany.
They will do nothing to us, you know.'
"My mother listened to her mother-in-law. We left. In Mladjen's
house there were five children and his wife Petra. She was close to my
mother’s age--maybe the same age as her. I know her children.
Mira was older than me. I can not remember
now which year she was born. Maybe 1930? Then Dragica. She was
in the neighboring house, which was right next to hers, the house
of the three Milaković brothers: Čeda, Gojko and Veljko.
Ustashas killed her there. She was burried with
Veljko's family, at Veljko's house. Her name is also on the
monument. [Veljko Milaković made a monument to his family in his
back yard.] In the house was also, the smallest one – Gina.
I do not know whether she started to walk. There was also Vitomir
some four years old [boy]. And Ljubica. She was probably of my age.
That's four children down here [at their own house] and Dragica who
perished up there [at her uncle's house].
"The third family [that found refuge in the house] was Vlada's.
His wife was Vukosava. Their two children were [a girl] Mrza
who was probably also of my age and Rajko. He was, I don't know,
a year or two younger. With them was a woman of Catholic faith –
their sister-in-law. She lived in Ivanjska [the neighboring Croat
majority village]. Her husband Gavro worked for the railroads.
He was marched away around [Serbian Saint holiday
of] Ilindan of 1941, and they [Ustashas] killed him in Mišin Han.
Yes, he was a Serb. She was a Croat, Roza. She did not
dare stay alone [as a Croat married to a Serb] in [her Croat
majority village] Ivanjska, so she came here, to her
brother-in-law's house. She tells us (my grandmother, my mother
and us children) as we were approaching the house: 'Go, get in
the house! Don't be afraid. I'll be able to make them go back.
I am Shokica [a Croatian woman].'
"I remember it now as if she said it yesterday, and she
stepped in front of them as they were coming. We could not see
what happened until that [gun] smoke went away. It seemed (it
looked that way) as if some soldier was lying down on the ground.
A long, soldier's coat was on her. They murdered her first.
She came in front of them to try to make them leave but they
killed her instead. I do not know what she told them. She went
alone to meet them, and they killed her. They knew that she was
Croatian as they were Ustashas from [the same village of] Ivanjska.
They knew her. They killed her, perhaps because she was married
to a Serb. We could not see much until they left and the smoke
went away. After that we all went out – whoever could walk.
"In that, Mladjen's, house there was also one more girl,
Nada with us. She was some two years older than me. She was from
[the village of] Dragočaj. Her mother died, so
her late aunt Sena took her. She came up here from Sena's house
to play with the children when the events caught her here and
blasted her legs. She did not last for full two days [after the
incident] when she died.
"Yes, I remember everything as if it happened yesterday. They
[Ustashas] came to our doorstep.
"They yelled at us: 'Go! Go! Get in! Get in!'
"There was a group of them. I do not know how many of them. They have
those helmets. Yes, Ustashas with helmets, not caps. And they carry
rifles and shout, 'Go! Go! Get in! Get in!'
"They are chasing us into the house, into the room. Some took
the rifles off their shoulders. We children are walking. We hold onto
our mother's skirts. We did not get to Petra's house before they did.
We are going through a path made in the snow, and they are coming down
some hill near Mladjen's house. We go toward each other. They are
forcing us into the house: 'Go! Go!'
"We went into Petra's house. As we crossed the threshold,
she greets us and says, 'Do not worry! I will make them leave.'
"She is whispering that to us. I do not know whether they
[the Ustashas] heard. We went in. I see there is a houseful of people.
There were three rooms. The woman went out through the other door,
and we went into the room. There are two bedrooms and a place where
the stove was. We are in the bedroom and [some] under a table. The
floor was made of wood. The bedroom had a bed and a table. The house
had two entrances. They [Ustashas] put [machine-gun] legs on the
windows and one was set at the door of the room where we were.
I had never seen a machne-gun before. When my father came
later to pick us up he asked: 'What happened here, child?'
"I said: 'They put a goat at the door. The goat said: 'Trrrrr,
"I thought it was some kind of goat, but it was a machine gun
with [thin] legs like a goat would have.
"When Ustashas pushed us into the house they were asking the women,
'Where are your men? Let your King Peter fuck you!'
"Petra put a hand in her blouse and pulled a letter out.
She showed it to him and said: 'Here's where [the husband of] mine is.'
"[Ustasha shouted] 'Back! Let King Peter fuck you.!'
"I know everything as if it all happened yesterday. She [Petra] only
turned from the [house] threshold into the room and immediately fell. As
soon as she turned her back to him [the Ustasha] she fell. I did not
know why, but she just fell [on her face] splash! – as long as she was.
It thundered: trrrrr. It was shooting at all of us. She was only the
first one to fall. And all in the room were being murdered. Only my
mother was not... and me?
"Aoouch! There was that black stove and wood was piled there.
A pile of wood. My mother grabbed the three of us. The little
one she holds on her chest and the two of us next to her. I was
behind the wood pile. They killed her at the door. It [the machine
gun] just did: trrr, trrr. She fell. I saw it. I do not know why
she did not fall right away. The child fell out of her grasp.
You can not see much in the house because of the [gun] smoke.
"When the smoke went away I see that no one is moving
any more. We all fell.
"They thought that they murdered us all. There in the house,
let me see – the six of us who came (Grandma Jovanka, my mother
and four of us children). There were three of Vlada's family –
that is nine [total by now], Roza – tenth and then four of
Mladjen's children and his wife. That is fifteen of us--fourteen
of us in the house and Roza outside, in front of the house.
"It was noon time. I know this as they [the parents] made lunch
for us to eat at eleven o'clock. They [Ustashas] came, and the
lunch remained there.
"Mladjen's little son Vitomir hid under the bed but he was hit
there while we were not hit here, my two brothers Bogoljub and
Milenko and me. Also one of Vlada's daughters, Mrza remained
alive but she died later. She was not even wounded. She was
next to mother. Mladjen's daugter Ljubica was wounded. She died.
The girl Nada, from Dragočaj was also wounded. She just came that
morning to play with the children and this is where her legs got
blasted. She died after a day or two. As I got up,
she was still alive, and she started to cry under the table. She can not
move. The legs were slashed at the knees. In the room, in the middle,
under the window, there was a table. Nada hid under that table. Ljubica
hid there, too. Her shoulder was blown off and little Nada's knees, too.
But Mladjen's daughter Mrza was not even hit.
"That is what happened to us--who was hit. They [Ustshas] did
not check. They left right away. Four of us remained who were not
wounded t all. Those were my two brothers: Bogoljub, six years old,
Milenko, seven-month-old [baby], Mladjen's Mrza, eight years old, my
friend and me. After the war Mrza and Milenko died. Milenko died when he
was seven years old some time in 1949. Mrza got a heart ailment, and she
died after the war sometime close to when my brother did.
"When the smoke went away, I was the first one to gain consciousness. I
look at my brother Milenko. The seven-month-old baby remained alive. I
took the child, and I am calling our mother, 'Get up, Mother! Nurse the
child! My brother is crying.'
"My mother is dead. What can I do? Foam gathered on the baby's mouth as
he cried so hard. But she [Mother] is not getting up. I unbuttoned
Mother [‘s blouse] and put the baby on her breast. I do not know that she is dead.
The little brother is sucking and is quiet and then cries again.
"Then I hear someone talking, and I peek out. They [Ustashas] are
coming back again. I only thought 'If this baby cries again…' and I lie
down among those dead ones. Two times they [Ustashas] came by. It
is all open [the windows and doors]. They look in and say: 'It is
"Finished--but the baby is waving both arms and legs. He started to cry
again. He screams, foam at his mouth. He is screaming so, so... till the
darkness fell. It is cold. No fire and all [windows] opened. The blood
hardened, more than hand deep. It jiggles.
"The snow was deep; shiny flakes are falling. They [Ustashas] are
passing by our house. They go through snow paths. They took two [Serbian]
wedding flags and are carrying them on their shoulders as if that was a wedding.
They sing, 'Ooo, ooo!' They are ridiculing our weddings, then they
throw those flags into the deep snow.
"What can I do?
"I took the baby, wrapped it and started carrying it, carrying it around
the house. I was hoping it would fall asleep. Not at all. It was
screaming, moaning as it was hungry and cold.
"The sun started coming up. There is no one anywhere. The other
children, they were older than that baby. I was eight years old, and they were six. At
least they are with me. We are together in the room. Our legs are in
blood. I was wet and sticky from blood. My whole skirt was covered with
blood. I was such among them, like… Those two are peeking [looking as if frightened]. What can they do?
"In the evening, the sun is already at its rest when I heard:
''Aaah-ohhh! Aaah, ohhh!'
"I got scared. Who is it? I see it quit. No one is stopping by. Again
someone shouts 'Ouch!' I took a look, and that is when Sena, Vasa
Milaković's wife entered the house. Her house was there next to ours and
Mladjen's. [Her husband] Vaso ran away. They had three daughters and
they ran away, too. Sena hid behind the pig pen. She also hid two boys, her
brother's sons, who were also from Dragočaj. Oh, my, that's how it was.
""When they [Ustasha] started murdering at Dragočaj, her brother ran
away. People from Dragočaj were running this way – away from Banja Luka.
They [Ustashas] were slaughtering there. Some ran here, to Piskavica, to
[find refuge with] their relatives. Her brother ran away with oxes and
a snow carriage. He put his two children into the carriage. He was chased
by his Croat neighbors all the way. Later,?? Tomo Kovačević told me
that. Sena was saying, 'I got up early in the morning. The sun just
started coming up. I was feeding chickens when [suddenly] I saw a snow
carriage pulled by oxen –, filled with things. There were also two men
from Dragočaj, Dolemovićs. They left the children [with me] and left. I was to
take care of the children.'
"So those two boys remained with Sena, hidden behind the pig pen. Nada
was with us in the room. Her legs were [severely] wounded so she died.
""Sena comes and cries: 'Ohhh! Ohhh! Is there anyone [alive]?'
"A pig is eating Roza. It is tearing her apart. It’s eating her breasts.
Sena had a real hard time to pull her [body] inside the house. She then
locked that part of the house (not the one where we were).
"When we saw Sena, we were so glad as if our own mother got up. So
glad we were! What would we poor children do there alone [another]
night? She brought us down to her house, made a fire. She brought the
four of us who were not wounded and her wounded girl Nada. The other
wounded girl whose shoulder was blown off, Mladjen's Ljubica, came too.
Six of us came. She [Sena] made fire so we could get warm. But there is
nothing to give to the baby. She made a bottle [of cow’s] milk and
tried to give it to the child. It did not want it. What can you do? The
whole night I tried to swing him. Sena found her [old] crib and put the
cover [on it]. So I was swinging [the crib] while she was guarding
the house alone.
"They [Ustashas] are just coming down a brook and sing happily. They
are chasing cattle and sheep from Miloševićs'. The chickens are crying
[hungry]. Sheep and sheeplings were heard. We could not hear it in the
house. She [Sena] heard it so she told us so when she came in.
"We slept that night at her house. Then father came as he
heard that women were murdered and that we children survived.
He and the neighbor Vlado Milaković, whose daughter Mrza was
not wounded, came. The two of them came.
"My father said: 'Aaah, what a disaster! What will I do with
"Oh, yes. Three of us children and no woman [to take care of
"He was not in partisans then. They made him join later. Our
uncle joined, too. He got killed [while in the partisans].
"What could my father do? He gathered us next to our house. He gathered
a few things. He took the little one [the baby] on his back, pulled a
crib on a string behind him. I am walking behind him--so is my brother
Bogoljub--on the deep path in the snow. He was five years old then.
"Three children remained: Mrza, Ljubica and Nada. Nada died the third
day. She was put in the common grave next to Mladjen's house. She was
burried with the women. My uncle Vlada was
carrying of [his niece] Ljubica, whose shoulder was blown off.
He carried her and hid her in
a cattle pen all until St. Peter's Day [beginning of a summer]. We just
returned around that day. Then he brought her here, home. He started to
cut the grass in front of the house so one can enter. The grass grew so
much that it was taller than an adult man. He put her on the cut grass
and gave her a branch to chase away flies not to land on her while he
was cutting the grass. She was left there. When he came back she was
calm. She passed away.
"Our home was burned. It was burned quite a bit but one man
was here who tried to take care and extinguish the fire. Late
"We got home, took a few things that remained, and so.
"I had an aunt and a grandfather. We went to their house to
be with the aunt. Then father got married and this is how
we survived and grew up.