ONE PARTY TASK by Cedo Kapor

December 1, 2023

The “Spanija” series translates selected autobiographical accounts by Yugoslavian and Montenegrin volunteers of their actions in the Spanish Civil War. Dr. Ray Hoff used Google translate from Croatian to English and he edited the selections. As this is a machine translation, the idiomatic features of Croatian or Serbian and the translation of names and places are “best effort”. The full five-volume collection was entitled:
The Participants write Spanija 1936-1939: collection of memories of Yugoslav volunteers in the Spanish War

It was assembled by Editor-in-Chief Cedo Kapor and published by the Initiative Committee of the Association of Spanish Fighters, The War History of our Peoples, Book 130, Military Publishing Institute, Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 1971, 5 volumes.
Chris Brooks posted and provided links.


Cedo Kapor, Spanija, Volume 1, pp 419 – 4 28

. . . It was thirty or more years ago. In 1937, events followed quickly, one after the other, more Important than the more important. Daily newspapers appeared with big headlines. The threats of Fascist dictators excited the world. After the victory of the Home Front in Spain in 1936, after the outbreak of General Franco’s rebellion, a civil war raged there.

In Belgrade, as throughout the country, there was a lot of talk about Spain. Especially among the working class, among advanced people. Calls to the Spanish Republic were heard at many rallies, demonstrations and mass outings, slogans were plastered on the walls of town houses, leaflets often appeared: “All the help to Spain “, “Airplanes for Spain”, “Fascism will not pass – No Pasaran! ” etc. These were slogans that could be heard everywhere. From all over Yugoslavia, as well as from many countries, all the Soviets, a large number of Communists and other anti – fascists, workers, Dacians [from the Carpathian Mountains- rmh], soldiers, young fighting men were looking for ways to go to Spain, to fight on the side of the Republic. There, in Spain, International Brigades were formed… It was a unique opportunity to show, with weapons in hand, loyalty to the cause of the working class and among the people’s proletariat. And many left, through various channels, at the end of 1936 and the beginning of 1937.

Many of them went via Paris, using “Passenger” special trains, which were organized to visit the World Exposition in Paris. Some went from Prague and other places, where they were studying. Many tried to illegally, as s tow aways and the like, cross the border to get to Paris. There was also talk of one group moving across the Austrian border and further – via Switzerland – as skiers. Ski equipment and necessary props were purchased. Many progressive people, among other things, gave their ski equipment as a contribution. People who had never skied were preparing for such a long trip! The main thing was to get to Paris. From there, safe channels led to Spain.​

However, many of those enthusiastic fighters who flocked to the Spanish battlefields did not make it to the finish line. Some were caught at the border, and then they were imprisoned or tried, some had a lot of trouble just beyond the border. One of us Macedonians, sympathizer, non – commissioned officer Majo Ben derac, was caught on the Italian border, court martialed (and convicted!). There is a well – known attempt to transfer a large group of volunteers from the Montenegrin coast by a French boat. The attempt failed due to a burglary that occurred in the meantime. A good number of excellent comrades from Montenegro, Dalmatia, Herzegovina, Bosnia fell into the hands of the police.

About Spain and all those successful and failed cases, we talked a lot between us. People thought and found new ways of leaving, the realization of which was becoming more and more difficult. The police, namely, as a result of a sweeping campaign to help Spain and a large number of volunteers, tightened border and passenger control measures.

It was clear that it would be easy to travel across the border, to Paris, if people had valid passports. But how do you get a passport? Why couldn’t they be falsified? I talked about this with my comrades even before the big burglary, which happened in the fall of 1936. Namely, I was then the Secretary of the Celland at the same time I was in charge of the apparatus of the District Committee of the Fourth District in Belgrade.

The burglary interrupted my work in a short time. A considerable number of Comrades then ended up in

prison. After one hunger strike in the prison of the State Protection Court in Ada Ciganliji, we were scattered around various prisons (in Subotica, Kikind, Beograd). My group arrived in Subotica. We were there together, we had the opportunity           to talk a lot during the walk, to come to an agreement. The trial was staged – in order for the young comrades to prepare as well as possible for standing in court in front of the class body. Old experienced fighters, ex-prisoners, were the “judges” — they judged how well someone behaved and defended himself, how much he could resist being tried. For me, based on all the information and my behavior, they predicted that I would be sentenced for a maximum of one year, and I had already served that much.

Radovan Vuković, one of the leading comrades from the Belgrade party organization, was with me, among others. With him, too, I insisted on falsifying passports, that is, on the creation of a specialized secret party technique, which would make stamps and passports, because the previous way of sending them illegally, such as “stowaways,” “skiers,” and the like, was obviously not efficient enough to enable safe, fast, and even economical               from a large number of determined and ready people from our country to fight with weapons on Spanish soil against encroaching Fascism.​

My Comrades finally accepted my plan. I was told that immediately, upon release; if I leave soon – I will come back to Belgrade. There I would connect with certain people and receive authorization and instructions from them to organize an illegal stamp – cutting workshop.

And it was like that. After I was sentenced to ten months, which I had already endured, I was exiled to my native county. However, I soon found myself in Belgrade and reconnected with the party organization. My comrades accepted my plan and gave me free rein to hire people and procure necessary materials. I should connect with Dido de Maja, an academic painter, who had already worked on similar jobs.

In the Association of Graphic Workers (Cetinjska  Street No. 3), I met my friends, young graphic workers Srbo Andrejević and Borivoj Pockov. They were young fighters, members of SKOJ. We agreed to do something together (I am unregistered, of course!). We moved to 5 Svetozar Miletić Street. Then I entrusted them with the task I had received from the Party. They enthusiastically agreed to work on it together with me. And we immediately went to work.

I had a lot of friends in various printing houses, booksellers and similar workshops in Belgrade, on whom I could rely on everything. Serbs Andrejević and Pockov also had many friends among graphic artists. Thanks to personal acquaintances and friends, we were able to collect the necessary material and data on the process and control of passport production at the State Printing Office without any particular difficulties. After a detailed check, we found that a large number of printed passports in trays can be extracted from the press, as well as covers, special thread for binding and everything else. My Comrade Nada Dinčić worked there. Unnoticed, she took all the material for about 150 passports, approximately half in Cyrillic, half in Latin. Mihajlo Švabić also procured some material for us from the State Printing Office. We also received several samples of completed passports – only stamps and numbers were missing.

Through other links, we determined which series and which numbers on the passports are used by the administrations of the cities of Belgrade and Zagreb, as well as the counties of the principalities of

Valievo and Čakovec, which we selected as striking for potential users of these documents from the territory of Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.

Although quite a number of colleagues and management were engaged in this work, they could not know exactly or guess what it was about. Each individual had a specific task: to obtain one type of letter, others other letters, the third the national coat of arms, etc. From these letters​ various combinations could certainly be made. Only Nada Dincic knew that a falsified passport was involved. Stevan Sinka was working at the shipyard in Cukarica, with whom I was in prison in Glavnjača and on Ada Ciganlija, obtained a type of mold for making stamps, but he didn’t know what it was for either. He made a special “device” according to my instructions. Thanks to Bora Dordević, who worked at the “Not Valid for Spain” printing house. We hardly found that type of letter even at the “Privredni pregled” [Economic Re view]. He didn’t know what he could make of that small number of letters. Srba and Boro had the task of obtaining a small amount of rubber and plaster. He sold special stamp – cutting rubber, “Hromos” in Ulica Princess Zorka (today Zmaj Jovina), only for proper use. Srba quickly got the hang of it: from the letters we already had at our disposal, he put together a stamp, “Stamparija PROSVETA a.d.”, and printed it as needed. That’s how we got the rubber. In a short time, we got various types of letters, circles, fine lines, coats of arms in various ways. We brought all that material to the house, where we lived temporarily, and hid it in the basement. The press was in the room, by itself, it could not cause any suspicion.

Finally, it was possible to move on to the main part of the work. Making a seal is not as simple as it might seem at first glance. This job requires skill and precision, which is acquired primarily through experience. We didn’t have that experience at all. I had somewhat neglected the graphic craft, dealing with minor work. Srba was a bookbinder, and Pock was a typist: both were also active fighters. And it was necessary to carefully assemble the seal, modeled after the original, to make a matrix in plaster, which is baked at a certain temperature, to melt the rubber and pour it into the matrix, squeeze under the press, clean the resulting positive, etc.

In our cramped apartment, we could not start with the tests. Various friends visited us during the day and late at night. We had to find another place. We spoke to Stevan Gleda 1, from Ličan, a notary, who had just acquired his shop in Garašaninova street (Svetozara Markovića) number 87! He gave us his apartment for the workshop without question. He was a solid and reliable Communist, a revolutionary. While he went to look for a place to stay at night, we made the first attempts. Behind the curtained windows, they were tense and excited classes. Just carefully, conscientiously, patiently! From night to night.

However, the apartment of the Communist-writer was not isolated from the overpopulated yard. Various workshops, shops, and apartments were located there. People wandered both day and night. Someone could look for Gleda himself, even at night. And then, one day, there was an unpleasant encounter, on the street, near the Military Hospital. I met one agent, but fortunately without any consequences… But we immediately decided: He has to move from here. I remembered my friend and comrade Filip Fića Kljajić,2 a driver. At that time, he was not compromised in the eyes of the police. He immediately agreed to give us his apartments in the attic, u Tlici Dositejeva number 59. For more than a month, neither Fića nor his roommate Milovanović would not come to their apartment. Appeared they only go out occasionally at night and in the morning so that the landlady can see them and other tenants. We were sneaking in late at night. We worked, mostly, from 1 to 3 in the morning. Fica was not interested at all about what we were doing there, he assumed it was someone an important party task. Work continued at full speed. Will plaster get a certain strength by firing it? Will it withstand the pressure afterwards? Will the melted rubber fill all the microscopic cavities? Such questions occupied us, while we raised our heads and spoke in whispers, in the too narrow little room in the attic. Finally, we made the first matrices. They were correct. We poured the rubber. We have reached the first seal. Good, completely faithful to the original! Without experience, without all the prescribed equipment, with an emphasis on spirits and primitive “equipment”. We hugged each other with joy. The party task will be completed, the new volunteers will be able, unhindered, to go to Spain… In the meantime, we also acquired a dry stamp, which is also required for passports. Those stamps were made for us by a good sympathetic engraver, in Čika Ljubina Street. Zincographer Andrejević, brother of Kunov, also did somethings. Some things were done by Dida de Majo. Among other things, we brought to him for proofreading stamps with French text on them. Despite the greatest attention, the speller often makes mistakes, even when it comes to not so many words. And Dida knew French and was knowledgeable about the whole thing. A lot of care and caution was needed in this work. All three of us knew very well how dangerous this kind of work was and what it would mean if the police tracked us down or accidentally raided us. More often we looked at the deserted and semi-dark Dositejeva Street, listened to voices and noises in the house.

The technique of the illegal workshop in Belgrade for the production of stamps and passports.

We often searched our impressions of individual people with whom we came into contact during the day. . .

One night, sometime before midnight, while we were engrossed in the freshly finished seals suddenly footsteps were heard coming up the stairs. Here, in the attic, there was only one small room — Footsteps, no doubt, were heading straight for our door. We suddenly stopped our work and looked at each other. Our breath stopped.

“Turn off the light”, one of us remembered.

There was a knock at the door. Then a female voice:

“Fico! Fico!” called the landlady. “What went wrong? What’s burning there?”

“Snore”, I hoarsely whispered to my friends. Louder!

All three of us agreed, in one voice, as if we were sleeping in the deepest sleep. The landlady waited a little longer and then left, grunting. Yes, she smelled the sharp and strong smell of burning rubber down below us. In addition, every night she could also hear the pounding of our press. The concrete floor, obviously conducted well every loud noise… We concluded that same night:

“We have to get out of here now. Things can get complicated.”

And in the morning, at dawn, we moved out all the “inventory” of the secret party seal cutter, together with the obtained passports and other things.

Yes, the work was mostly done. We already had almost all the necessary seals. We found a new refuge not far from Fica’s apartment at Gospodar Jevremova no. 19. It was an old, historical building, the former Dositej High School. During our time there are several well-known Belgrade painters and sympathizers had their own studios in that atelier. The young sculptor Vladeta Piperski,3 gave us his studio for the workshop. We did the last works there. However, we could not stay there for long either. The house was very busy, a true meeting place of the artistic world and the Bohemians. People came both day and night. Pierre Križanić, Jevta Perić, Steva Bodnarov and other artists who worked and lived there at the time had no idea what was happening in their immediate neighborhood. We immediately assessed that the smell of melted rubber was spreading throughout the spacious, ground-floor house and that someone would pay attention to it. This is why the work was brought to an end.

Through Mihajlo Svabić and his friend Nada Dinčić, we checked whether the authorities or someone in the State Printing Office suspected something. But there were no signs anywhere that would call our anxiety. We took the passport sheets of the Serbs to Zivko Madžarević’s printing office, above “Slavia”, to be trimmed. Despite the police agents, who were constantly snooping around this compromised printing office, we managed to complete the task properly. On that occasion, we almost encountered an unpleasant situation. There was an agent and who asked him what he was cutting.

“Deposit books for Poštanska štedionica,” he answered readily.

The passports were completely finished, packed. The party organization received valuable documents and was able to send new, more numerous groups of volunteers to travel “legally” to Spain unhindered via Paris. Not dozens, not hundreds, but thousands and thousands of excellent working-class fighters were ready to go to war. In a distant country, to fight there, with weapons in hand, against the Fascist danger that was creeping in. Hence, it is completely understandable how satisfied and proud the three of us were to have successfully completed this important party task.

The material and all the traces of this first illegal party organization-technique for making stamps and passports, we put away in secure places. Something is stored in the attic of the “Vojislav Ilic” school, where Dorde Andrejević Kun and Mirko Kujačić had their studios. Undoubtedly, the need for new stamps and new documents could have arisen, on which important party tasks often depended. Dida de Majo handed over passports, which were intended for the party organization in Belgrade and Serbia. It was up to me to choose that along with Pockov’s photos intended for Zagreb and Croatia… Understandably, with the passport, the dry stamps necessary for photography also went.

There was another purely subjective factor that influenced the that the three of us to hurry with this work and that we perform it with maximum effort and attention. Like all the other Communists and Slovaks, we too were burning with the desire to go to the Spanish front in the armed struggle against Fascism. After all, I was waiting for military service, so I wanted to go to Spain before I was called to the army.

For the trip to Zagreb, we have prepared suitcases with a double bottom. Bora Pockov was carrying some laundry and personal belongings in his suitcase, and passports underneath. In my suitcase, I carried personal belongings and a few boxes of “Pelicanov’s” onions. The original box, the original packaging, only under the onions were the stamps needed for passports. We traveled as if we didn’t know each other. Somewhere in Slavonski Brod, the gendarmes came by and searched. They asked me what I have it in my suitcase. I showed.

“You seem to like Ratlukas” joked the gendarme.

“They are great”, I said “Do you want to try it?” And the Policeman took a ratluk. He didn’t even think about looking a little deeper.

In Zagreb, we reported to “Nova knjigu”, where Paja Gregorić and Zvonko Tkalec were. I had already received permission to go to Spain. That was the highest award which a Communist could wish for at that time. Through Tkalec I connected with Trilnik. My passport is also filled in there. I was supposed to travel to Paris for the World’s Fair as exporter of medicinal plants. Borivoje Pockov also went over Paris, only in the other direction. It went smoothly, I had no visa difficulty at the French consulate. Pockov too. We would have to meet in Paris at the “Horizona” bookstore — that was our arrangement.

And the trip went without any complications. The passports were perfectly faithful to the originals, every stamp, every letter, everything in its place. True, I was young for an exporter, but my impeccable suit suggested that I could be, at the very least, the son of a wholesaler. When I showed my travel document at the Austrian-Yugoslav border, the German policeman just looked at it and returned it with a polite greeting.

In Paris, at that time Labud Kusovac was the liaison for the Spanish volunteers. After the first meeting with him, he told me that the next day I should meet with an official. I found myself with this middleaged fellow, with striking features and a penetrating look. After a short conversation, he told me:

“You, Comrade, should come to Australia for work emigrants.”

“I’m going to Spain”, I said decisively,

“But” – the unknown friend from Australia continued, “in Australia you won’t play billiards either. You are a typographer, and there we will start a paper for emigrants…”

However, I stood my ground, I went to Spain.

Many comrades, whose names are known or forgotten, fell on that fighting, revolutionary path. Serbs Andrajević and Borivoj Pockov, who worked with me on this important project party task, they survived. Pockov was also in Spain. Srba did not manage to leave, because in the meantime, the break-in happened, so he, along with a larger number of his friends, were imprisoned. With the passports that we made, many left, from which I well remember Jaric, a shoemaker from Belgrade, Branko Spasić, a student from Zagreb, Veljko Koljenšić, worker from Belgrade, Ben Fiser from Novi Sad, Ljuba Zivkovica, shoemaker from Belgrade, Mesud Mujkić, party worker Nik from Belgrade, Grga Ugarković, a worker from Zagreb.

Passports were also prepared for many, such as: Pavlo Pavožević, known as the Boxer from Belgrade, Maksim Milić and Milié Rakic, graphic workers from Belgrade, Sveta Milin, a shoemaker from Belgrade, and Mića Aleksić, a worker from Trebinje.

A group of students with whom I was in prison on Ada Ciganlija and with whom I maintained contact showed great enthusiasm for going to Spain. Among them were Nikola Todorović Nidzo, Slobodan Tuzlic Butum, Rade Kusic and others. They were so excited that they were going to Spain that they forgot about the conspiratorial nature, so as a precaution they did not receive the passports of “our production”.

Many of those who cooperated with us and gave us valuable services, disappeared forever at different times, and on various ways, Only memories of them remain. There are still places with memories of this and similar party tasks. In Belgrade there are those houses in which we hid – it runs a secret seal-cutting workshop, and some of the accessories and some of those seals that we made then are kept in the Museum. And in some pictures.

Spain is long behind us. And yet, always present. I led the delegation that came to congratulate Comrade Tito on his Sixtieth birthday. Comrades who were with me, obviously, they experienced such moments for the first time. Everyone was excited. The atmosphere was too solemn and somewhat official. However, Comrado Tito quickly established cordial contact with the guests with his usual immediacy and simple manner. In the conversation, he also addressed me:

“Do you remember, Cedo, what it was like in Foča?”

How could I not remember! It was the beginning of forty-two I was supposed to report to Foča, where the Supreme Headquarters was located, to contact Comrade Tito. And when I saw Comrade Tito, I had a huge surprise. Well, it was that unknown friend from Paris whose directive I was to go on a party assignment in Australia so categorically refused!

“I remember, Comrade Tito, how could I not? And Foča, and Paris when I refused to go to Australia, not Spain.”

“Yes, and Srda Prica went to the United States, although he also wanted to go to Spain.”

“The only difference is that Srda knew that you were at the helm of the Party, and I did not.” And the license for Spain alone received from my party organization, which is for me and for everyone then was the greatest reward for us: to fight with a rifle in hand for our ideals.

With a rifle in hand… Yeah, that’s what I thought. But I soon realized that at that time the conscientious performance of every party task was, in fact, Spain in miniature.




1 Stevan Gleda fell at the beginning of 1942 in the Student Park in Belgrade, when police agents recognized him while performing a party task and tried to arrest him.

2 Fića Kljajić died in the fall of 1943 in Zvornik on the Drina, as Commissar of the 1st Proletarian Division, he was declared a national hero

3 In Serbia, they drove him to a concentration camp in Germany and there he was captured by the Germans as a partisan after the first offensive.


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