SPANISH MEETINGS by August Cesaric

December 21, 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 to volunteers.


August Cesaric, Spanija, Volume 2, pp 429-452



In Madrid’s Thermopylae of culture, however lively they may be during the day, life dies down early, already in the early evening hours. In earlier times it was different, life on the streets and in bars boiled deep into the night. Thus, performances in the theater regularly started around half past ten in the evening, that is, at a time when they often end elsewhere.

Today in Madrid, shows in theaters start around six and a half or seven o’clock, so they end around nine or ten thirty. The same goes for cinema and other events. In fact, the streets are empty already around eight o’clock, and even earlier. Due to the danger of airplanes, the lighting is more modest, so that when the theaters end, only weak, dimmed lights burn. After many times not even that.

Madrid is black in the night, its old full light for some time only shone underground, in the Metropolitan. At that time, the only thing we can talk about is the “night life” of Madrid. The only one? At night, when everything quiets down, including trams, cars, and the noise of people, you can hear especially well the shooting from the front, explosions, and cannonades. It happens, of course, so you can hear the cannonade much closer, when the shells fall around the city. Then, unfortunately, human groans and cries are often mixed with their screams. But what do the attackers want to achieve with that? Scare the heroes on May 2, July 7, July 19 and so many other dates? They know little about the history of their people.

No pasaran! They won’t pass! Madrid told them on the 7th of November, when they came to its door, and they hoped to hang the flags of their victory in it that same day. We will pass! We will pass! They accepted Madrid’s new role, when with no weapons, but with magnificent elan, with the help of their foreign friends, they resisted all the attacks of powerful enemies and forged their own weapons in accelerated work, created their own army.

After that, who will overcome that living rampart, built from the impetuous, rapturous youth, from which each individual is imbued, like an electric battery, charged with that same belief in misery, which in front of me on Madrid’s Paseo de Prado, through the mouth of an old man, poured passionately into one the only word: Nosotros

Nosotros, yes, and it should be! Since the time of Paris, no city in western Europe has ever faced such a difficult and historical task, as Madrid has to endure today under the siege of its Versailles. The task is even greater, more significant, because this struggle took place at a time when the basic issues of human freedom and justice are in a decisive phase of being resolved, and that on a much larger expanse, involving all countries, the whole world, which was not the case in 1871 with Paris in their struggle with Versailles. Doesn’t the much greater tasks of all other nations, all those who want freedom, justice, progress, and peace, arise from this? In Spain, the second European World War has begun, let’s not be mistaken, it is the beginning of it but there it can be finished very quickly, finished even before it spreads further and really flares up in all other countries as well. It is only necessary: to enable and hasten the victory of the Spanish Republic, to oppose all interventions against it, all instigators of war, the mighty and powerful peace front of the entire world democracy, from Madrid to Canton, from Addis Ababa to London, from Washington to Moscow. The whole question of peace and war speaks in two or three focuses, and one of them is Madrid, Spain. May there be a man, who wants to be considered as such, and to be only a mute, passive observer of the terrible fight, which is led by that city and that country?

He can do that, if he agreed with his own murder, the murder of his people, the murder of all the best that humanity has given and created today.


The nights are black and dark in Madrid. But even in the darkest, one light shines, Puerta del Sol, the Sun Gate. They can be completely dark, but they still shine. The past has seen sunsets on them. The present and the future can only be seen by the sunrise. The sun, which means the victory of truth, justice, progress and peace, the peace of destruction or at least the fear of those who want war, barbarism, backwardness. Madrid is not only the Thermopylae of culture, but also the Sun Gate, through which the freedom and culture of all peoples of all humanity smile in the won peace and justice.


Albacete, where I returned from Madrid, is an old city, founded as Madrid was by the Arabs. But no matter how old it is, it probably never had the significance it has today.

It is the seat of one of the provinces, of which Spain has about fifty. It is somewhat more modern in the direction that leads from the railway station across the main today Soviet Street and a beautiful, oval square towards the city park. The farther from that line, on one side or the other, the more visible the age. She is so old that she prefers to hide herself, so that she cannot be seen. In one place in Albacete, there are still dugouts, where people have been living in rooms dug up in the ground for centuries, since the Moors.

A cynic, and thank God there is no shortage of such in this good world today, I would say: it is better for them in our age of aviation, at least they are safe from bombs.

How safe they are is another matter. But Albacete met the bombs, in a terrible bombardment that lasted several hours. It was still in the month of February, when fascist aviation rarely attacked other Spanish cities except Madrid. Many traces of that bombing are still visible today. And what testifies to the sincere religiosity of Franco’s defenders of religion: two churches suffered in particular.

Where, in the first place, was that bombardment going?

In Albacete, a place conveniently located between Valencia and Madrid, a base of international volunteer brigades was established, which rushed to Spain from all over the world, to help the Spanish people in their fight against domestic and foreign fascism. The bombardment from their side was supposed to hit those Internationals.

It was the first and last bombardment of Albacete, because after that it was constantly protected by its Republican aviation.

The fact that it is the base of the International Brigades is precisely the meaning that Albacete did not have before, and has gained today. But has any city in the world ever spoken in so many languages at the same time, gathered members of so many nationalities, and all with one unique goal, how did it happen in that small town, which until yesterday was a complete, absolute unknown for most of its new citizens?

August Cesarec, Božidar Maslarić and Peter Kurent in Albacete at the beginning of 1937.

The Bible tells about Babylon. A tower was being built there, with which its builders wanted to reach the sky. But God swept away their tongues, the construction failed.

Of course, what happened has no resemblance to that in Albacete. Admittedly, on the main Soviet street, between one-story and two-story buildings, an unfinished Albacete skyscraper rose high on it. Many languages can be heard around him on the street. But what are they talking about, what do they want? The people who gathered there did not come to wrestle with God, but with the devil, the devil of fascism. They didn’t really come to build, but to defend one construction, the construction of a new, free Spain.

As far as the construction itself can be helped, they took it upon themselves. Who can disrupt their harmony and cause failure construction? Nobody. Only the Spanish people could do it, if they would have said: I don’t want those buildings, I don’t want you or your help. But they don’t say that.

They accepted that help, that brotherhood in building freedom and happiness for the whole world, from the heart with what rapture, with what kind of heart it was offered to them.

Many of my compatriots, whom I met in Albacete or elsewhere, and who had been in Spain for a long time, told me about this. And I made sure of that myself.

On the day of my arrival in Albacete, a large new transport of volunteers arrived by train. Almost a year after their first appearance, the citizens of Albacete still welcomed such transports with music, cheers and flags.

In the city park, shortly after that, in mid-October, there was a celebration of the anniversary of the foundation of the International Brigades. I wasn’t in Albacete at the time, but eyewitnesses told me about the dedication and enthusiasm with which the people of Albacete participated in the celebration. And before and after that, I could feel her mood in direct contact and conversation with individuals. Even in those poor Moorish cellars, the bell rang “salud” “hello”! of their inhabitants, as if the heart itself had turned into a bell.

And not long after my first arrival in Albacete, I attended a special celebration there. It was in a spacious, neat and well-organized city park. The presentation of the honorary flags, which the Spanish government designated the International Brigades, was celebrated, and then there was the solemn unveiling of the monument, which these brigades themselves erected in memory of their fallen comrades.

The park was also full of civilians. Enthusiasm, approval, sympathy, combativeness were no less than in the assembled armies. The ” International” anthem was listened to with raised fists, as was the “Riego” anthem. The speaker’s tribune was decorated with national Spanish and red flags. And when the parade ended, and the world dispersed, there were still plenty of people around the monument. Under the warm still in the Albacete sky, embroidered from below with the green lace of action, a modest obelisk stood white in a clearing in the park, surrounded by beds of flowers. Among the people, who were watching it, I also noticed an old woman. She turned from monument, wiped away a tear and called a child, probably her granddaughter, “let’s go”. And that grandson was cutting a wooden sword with a knife and another boy sang loudly:

Arriba los de la cuchara,  abajo

los de tenedor,  que mueren

todos los fachistas,  viva

la revolucion!

(Long live those who eat with a spoon, down

with those who eat with a fork, death

to all fascists, long live

the revolution!)

It was an old, slightly modified song of the Spanish commoners and libertarians. Albacete should not have become the headquarters of the International Brigades, to be known by the children of Albacete, those future fighters for an even better, happier Spain.


In the first composition of Kleber’s brigade, there was the “Edgar Andre” battalion, named after one of the victims of the bloody hatchet in Germany. In that battalion there was a Balkan company with about forty members of Yugoslavia. It was led by Karl Anger. But his wartime he first started his career as an associate of Zagreb’s Kopriva. It can perhaps be said that “Glancepoha” “Priva” became numb with it. But what the “Nettles” lost, he gained with him in combative Marxism, in whose ranks he immediately assumed his serious and sober scientific philosophical position. also proved his departure to Spain. And he was, a long time ago, before the First World War, also at the front, promoted to lieutenant on it. The old laéman – at a time when there was such a shortage of officers – it was as if God himself had sent him to stand on the head of one company. Only the commander of the Balkan company in the Edgar Andre Battalion, did not become a priest by the grace of God, but by the will of the people. His comrades themselves wanted him as commander, and he justified that trust.

Sojka, a metal worker, and a bit of a painter from Zagreb were also in his company, as well as Karl Ortega, Oskar Brkić, Zeman and many others: I said, about forty of them. They all told me in unison about the difficulties of the fight, about the miracle in front of Madrid, which they themselves helped to create. Until November 7, the day on which, as if on the anniversary of the Soviet revolution, Franco wanted to enter Madrid for the first time, they were in reserve in Vallecas. Instead of Franco, they arrived in Madrid on November 8. The population welcomed them with the enthusiasm with which a man in danger of drowning welcomes an extended hand. Yesterday, the day before yesterday, the workers, the Regiment of Madrid, the Spanish militia of the mines, even women and children, managed to defend Madrid at the barricades in Carabanchel. But what will happen next? The enemy has already rushed into Casa del Campo, into the University town, they want to penetrate into city across the Manzanares Bridges.

Singing “Internacional”, the first two International Brigades entered Madrid, singing

“Internacional” they passed in its streets right at the front, the front on the periphery of the city itself.

Without fear of the fascist airplanes, which had already begun their murderous work, the streets of Madrid were crowded: women, children, old people, still unarmed youth. Scarcity doesn’t feel like that yet. Men and women came with their hands full and offered the internationals, their brothers, their new veterans, wine, fruit, cakes.

Russians, Russians! he shouts at the same time — “Viva Russia! Viva Russia!” They consider all us as Russians, especially ours, who speak the same Slavic language. And in vain they explain to them that they are not Russians.

“Viva Russia! Viva Russia!” And the international brigades are advancing, with them is Edgar Andre’s squad. We enter, mostly militarily untrained, with old rifles on our shoulder, and with ammunition in our pocket. Like candy. We also have one machine gun. But that’s not enough. More ammunition. Some replacements are supposed to have hand grenades, made from tin cans. It will just be their whim, if they really explode… Nobody even thought of digging shovels, bayonets will be good for that…

So these volunteers went to meet the most well-armed enemy: with machine guns, cannons, aviation, tanks and what is also important, this enemy represented a trained army and had trained officers.

And what? The detachment had the task of preventing the enemy from crossing the French Bridge. The squad succeeded on the 9th of November, and it succeeded on the 10th as well. And on November 11, Pasionaria came to them and gave a speech, after which the fight continued even more enthusiastically. The French Bridge was never approached by fascists. On the contrary, on the order of Kleber, who tried to cut off and surround the fascists, the squad went on the offensive, crept under the bridge across the Manzanares River to the other bank, and came there near the radio stations at Casa del Campo.

Unfortunately, the forces were too weak, the detachment had to retreat with considerable losses. But the Bridge still remained ours. It remained under the control of the Republican Army until today.

However, the pressure of the fascists on the University campus increased, and the house where the squad recently celebrated its meeting with Pasionaria also fell into the hands of the Fascists. Having just rested a little in the nearby Pablo Iglesias Hospital, the squad found itself in battle again, now in the University city. There he fell into the heavy fire of machine guns and cannons. Even there some were not as lucky as at the French bridge. Sojka’s ball only slightly moved the cap on his head, but it didn’t even touch his head. Ranjen was there and the subordinate commander of the “Dimitrov” battalion, a Hungarian by nationality, Chapayev, and a hard-working Montenegrin, Milun Božović, also died {sic}.

By chance, at the same time, in mid-November, there was a fight in University City with another Yugoslav group. There were about fifty compatriots in it, still part of the German “Thaelmann Battalion”. They started the fight in the south of Madrid, near Colmenar, where they besieged the Los Angeles fortress. They forced the fascists into it, but they could not conquer it because there was not enough artillery. After all, necessity also called them to the northwest of Madrid, to the University City.

The enemy gathered all available forces to penetrate into Madrid near Palacio. Against this was Casa Velasquez was just the enemy. The squad, with other Thaelmann units, received an order to prepare for an assault. But even before that, in the morning, the Fascists attacked with 22 tanks. The power was terrible. In our group, there was only one submachine gun of the Thaelmans, the others had one old Remington rifle. In addition, the political commissar of the Moisienko detachment brought several hand grenades. Just in a blanket, like pumpkins.

So the enemy is attacking with 22 tanks. The Moors are seen and heard behind the tanks. There was nothing left but to take shelter in the first house that was there, which was a carpentry shop. Somewhat high up, hence its strategic importance.

One tank hit the house. It shook, it seemed it was about to collapse. But it did not collapse. Everyone who was in it was covered with only thick red dust from the ceiling and walls. But something else also reddened in her. Dalmatian Simonovic fired from one machine gun. He did it through an opening in the wall. The terrain was enough to be fatal. The tank caught him, cut off his head, only the body fell back into the carpentry…

But nothing happened to the tank! Moisieienko then ran out of the house, threw a bomb under the tank.

“It’s just like you farted… under him!” – the Zagreb worker Kurt, who participated in all of this and told me about it, expressed himself drastically and vividly.

Under fire from this and other tanks, the squad had to leave the carpentry shop and retreat across the road to a mill. When running over, the road turned red from those who did not run over it, and there were not a few of them. The tanks kept shooting at them, finally running them over, squashing them like flies.

Two, three, who remained in the carpentry shop, were also sentenced to death. Moisiejenko himself was already lying dead among them. After the death of Simonović and his failed attack on the tank with a bomb, he bitterly accepted the machine gun. He shot to make it easier for his comrades to cross the road, he fell in the process, also fatally.

Behind the wall, only the last traces of his legs were visible. His real name was Seifert. In civilian life, he was a commercial assistant, the son of a baker in Sisak. He was soon found dead alone in a furnace, he was burned in the carpentry shop. The empty carpentry shop occupied only by the dead was immediately occupied by the Moroccans. But then the carpenter’s shop was targeted by Republican artillery and set on fire. It became a crematorium for both friend and foe. Both of them became equal in her after death. When that important position was again hijacked by the Fascists, they were all dead, all black, charred, including Seifert’s corpse.

Other compatriots also fell in the fight for this position: Nedic, Mirko Radučić from Split. They fell, but for the victory in that game against Madrid and in the game in general. Tanks and aviation, the unconscious fanaticism of the Moroccans was defeated by consciousness, which is knew the meaning of the whole struggle, breathed in it the breath of a new era.

In Madrid, I saw an advertisement with a propagandistic aim for works on the fortification of Madrid. Simple: several tanks are chasing, and they are blocked by a hand holding a mason’s shovel. That shovel is there to hold the enemy.

Creating a ramparts against fascism with their own breasts, that other group of Yugoslavian fighters was such a living shovel in front of Madrid. The miracle in front of Madrid was also created with their participation. And Croats, and Serbs, and Slovenes, and Montenegrins and Macedonians helped make Puerta del Sol, the sunny gate of the future, not fall into the hands of the barbarians, whose wish was that in Spain, too, and then in the rest of the world, noticing their points of progress, how have seen them in their own country.

At the end of December 1936, a third group of Yugoslavs fought in front of Teruel. There were 38 of them in that group, and they were part of the Polish battalion, “Dombrovski”. The

Republicans undertook an offensive in front of Teruel, to drive away the front before Madrid. The offensive promised great success, because the first companies were already quite close to the city, and some the most daring, with tankmen, appeared already in the city. Unfortunately, there was a betrayal of a Polish officer, underneath a secret fascist, and there was a lack of weapons, cannons, and human reserves. So Teruel had to wait another full year for its release. A Croat, Captain Krušnjak, died heroically in the battles for it.

That third Yugoslav group then united with the second, Thaelman’s and the remnants of the first “Edgar Andre” in the Balkan Company. New arrivals from Yugoslavia and the countries of Yugoslav emigration formed a battalion “Dimitrov”. at the beginning of January.

This does not mean that there were all Yugoslavs in it. The “Dimitrov” battalion actually represented a small International group of 14 nationalities at the time. But the Yugoslavs were represented the strongest in it, followed by Czechs, Americans and Canadians.


 I rushed to Benicassim from Valencia on a wonderful asphalt, flower-lined road, on the motorbike of the Benicassim postman. I went further to Aragon in a completely new ambulance, which was one of several sent to the fighters in Spain by Canadian workers. Just as they were sent by a small international group of emigrants there of different nationalities, so a small international group of soldiers, doctors and nurses drove to Aragon in their cars: in all about ten nationalities.

All the way to Benicarlo, and a little further, the sea followed us. Normally blue, in Benicarlo it was as green as a molten emerald. Someone also threw the remains of red pepper into it. It seemed that corals were caressing themselves naked on the shore, or some strange, red crabs crawled out of the sea.

Benicarlo is the famous stop of the Spanish tourist association. Traveling to the front, a person can once again feel all the comfort in it, which otherwise he had to get used to quite a bit in Spain. Lounges, deep soft armchairs, radio, photo albums, a small library with books bound in leather. Lunches – at least – were luxury back then with not many meals, with a tablecloth, a napkin, with several plates, with three types of utensils. One would only want to sing: “abajo los de tenedor…” But it would not be right. Surely not only one such person stopped by here, for whom it was also a farewell to the charms of civilization, and who laid his head on Aragon or somewhere else after that, for such a civilization to win as soon as possible for all people on earth.

A little further from Benikarco, already hit by Italian bombs quite a few times, the road to Aragon separated from the Valencia-Barcelona road and turned into the Aragonese hills. The sea hid itself, and wonderful century-old olive trees remained behind, which were replaced by orange gardens according to the Benicas. The hills, between which the road wound, were covered with forests of scrub and low Spanish oaks. It is a low, gnarled tree, with a small, hard, jagged leaf, just like some bud of our oak leaf. But the acorn is equal to it, maybe bigger. The

Spaniard likes to eat it fried. Acorns yes, but it would be difficult to get him to eat sweet carobs, which his country abounds in. He feeds carobs to pigs, donkeys, cows, mules… When later in a village near Valencia I begged a peasant woman to bring me some carobs, she laughed at me.

“Our burro will be angry about it!” And burro means donkey.

Having crossed the highest peak of the gray-green Pereroles hills{near Morella – rmh}, ambulances repainted in protective colors went out onto the plateau, where the plowed fields with olives appeared again. A small breakdown on the inexperienced car was the reason that we stopped for a moment right in front of the wonderful, mighty, picturesque Morella. Surrounded by walls and towers, we climbed the hill, as if it was inviting us to defy the whole world, who would have the audacity to pass by her.

At the last moment I noticed the house of a peasant a little further down the road. I went down into it, found a fighting peasant family, all of them fighting. Such was an old grandmother, two or three granddaughters, a young peasant with his wife. They were all socialists, full of praise for the Popular Front government, full of curses for Franco. Unfortunately, a longer conversation was impossible, the car was repaired on the road, it was necessary to continue.

In the night we passed Morella and Alcaniz, arrived in Juhar {I think this is Hijar – rmh}. Actually, first to the Polish hospital, where we all slept. It was also in style, because we arrived in an ambulance.

Only on the morning of the second day did I go to the headquarters of the XVth International Brigade, where the “Dimitrov” battalion was located. Hijar, a tangled ball of simple masonry, piled up like a frightened flock of sheep, was packed like a honeycomb with young Republicans formed underneath with weapons. There were soldiers in the fields as well. Especially in the olive groves. Here and there you could see under the branches an improvised tent or a car, camion, also coated with gray-green protective paint, to camouflage itself even better against enemy aviation. Drivers there were freed from the worries of washing the cars entrusted to them if they were dustier, that seemed better…

The Republican aviation itself was quite abundantly represented. At the airport, small, stubby “fly” fighter planes, with a gray-green fuselage and wings, but also with the Spanish tricolor under the wings, huddled together. Arrayed and spaced from each other, they were really similar to flies, which scattered in all directions on a wide flat table.  Two or three times these flies buzzed in the air for practice or preparing for a reconnaissance.

I found the commander of the XVth brigade, Vladimir Copić, in the headquarters of the 35th division, to which that brigade belonged. Chief of Division General Walter, Copic and Chief

Political Commissar of the International Brigades the Italian Gallo were just having some deliberation. Outside in front of the neighboring house, at the end of the slope, which fell abruptly into the streambed, a few peasants were calmly grinding yellow expensive saffron from some kind of fiber, cotton crops. In the house opposite, by the wide-open door, a woman in black was giving lunch to her two little girls: pounded olives in olive oil. Black is often worn by women in Spain, but this woman had another justification. Two young daughters were the only thing left of her large family. Both her husband and two sons fell at her front.

However, she left a calm, composed impression, as if she was already coming to terms with such a sacrifice, which is not common even in the difficult times of war.

Copić had his headquarters in another nearby village {Alcorisa?}. The village consisted of several single-story Spanish masonry buildings arranged in two rows. In one of them, Copić and his private camp struck. He had a room with an old rickety table, a few wooden chairs and a bed so wide that it could have served him quite well as a base, on which he spread out his topographical military maps. They were not normally abundant in the Spanish national army, and he could put all his in one leather officer’s bag.

Only he is a descendant of the famous cliffs from the Senj karsts in Croatia. At a young age, he also started law studies. But the first the world war and the revolution, which was born in it, reminded he was on another right, for which he finally came fight in Spain.

“We are fighting!”, that was his first word at the meeting at the divisional headquarters. The deep black eyes in his face, which had only been flattened for years, flashed a somewhat youthful, Gamen-like, tone of his voice was such, as if he had in mind not the battles on the Spanish battlefields, but those long ago, in his youth, at Zagreb University in Jelačić Square against Hungary.

In Spain, as I have already said, he led his brigade in battles at Jarama. He had to leave the Battle of Brunete after due to wounds received during an air raid. Although I wasn’t unfaithful to Tomo, he showed them to me. His chest was not pierced with a spear, but as a grandfather he will still have something to show for himself to his grandchildren.

He experienced the greatest success in his warfare in Spain during the last offensives right there in Aragon: Quinto and Belchite were conquered by his brigade. A card was spread out on the table, he explained the course of the battle to me. At that, his topographer, a Yugoslav {John

Gerlach?}, entered the room wreath, and to everything I heard he added that he calculated as an American, that 75% of the occupied terrain was won by the XVth brigade. The American, of course, could not be without statistics. But the statistics were indeed such that the Brigade had something to be proud of.

An hour later I headed with Copic to one of the most famous battalions in that brigade, the “Dimitrov” battalion. We drove through the olive groves and entered an olive grove again. They took their helmets off and handed them over to their friends.

It was clear that they were taking photos. But what do the helmets share? That was also explained. Not all of them had helmets, so those without them borrowed them and now returned them, just to make them look even more fierce in the picture.

But the angry warriors were there even without that. Of all my compatriots in the “Matija Gubec” company, only seven remained there whole. The “Dimitrov” battalion consisted of three companies, the Czech company “Jan Žiška” and two Spanish companies, one composed of volunteers, the other of conscripts. The Political Commissar in one of them was the Jew Bronstein. His surname did not bother him, that it serves the idea of freedom better than the one who today associated his surname with the idea of Hitlerism.

We sat mixed with the Czechs under the olive trees and shared talk about past battles. Only now, on occasions that were much more reminiscent of those battles, than it was in

Benicassim. The front was not close, but not far either; shooting from rifles could also be heard from nearby during the exercise.

Bronstein did not boast of the valor and discipline of early Yugoslav fighters.

“In Quinto, there was an entire street under sniper fire. The Yugoslavs stood at one corner, thirsty, like all of us, very thirsty. The heat was so great that some, even though they were throwing grenades, took off their helmets, which were already so hot on their heads, that they could not stand it any longer. And a depression in front of all of us was a well. Scattering from the fire in front of the well, terrible! But our tank came, and a Spaniard took advantage of that and went to the well behind it. He was behind the tank, and unfortunately a hand grenade fell from his hands, falling right under the tank. As a sign of lack of discipline, our Vukčević then jumped, threw himself under the tank and threw the grenade aside. It exploded a little further, the tank was saved.

Vukčević was also here. He also was at the Belchite hospital, which Dapčevic talked about in Benicassim.

“Oh, how the only nurse cried when we found her there, she saw us! They told her that the Bolsheviks would kill her”.

And when a Czech took out a knife to cut the gauze and tie up a wounded fascist, the latter began to tremble. He thought he would be slaughtered…  And afterwards, shooting was heard outside the hospital. The wounded themselves were afraid that their comrades were coming back and begged us to save them.

In his story, Dujmović also referred to the Battle of Brunete. He was in that small group, which, together with Erdeljec and Georgevich, was besieged under Mosquito hill by extremely powerful Phalangists. And yet they forced the brave man to flee. And what he said about it, everything corresponded to what Erdeljac also said in Benicassim. The only thing he added himself was:

“They escaped us, because our machine gun failed. But however, there are still quite a few left, to laugh under the olive trees!”

I liked the expression. Many laughed there too under the olive trees. Luckily, he’s alive.

There were many reasons to laugh when the Czechs took the floor. It was as if they could not tell about their wartime experiences at all, without all of them expressing humor. It was a tradition that Hašek left behind for all war writers, so the people of Žiškov, the compatriots of that writer, remained faithful to that tradition even here in Aragon.

But time passed, so one of them gave a history class for the entire “Dimitrov battalion”. On that day the battalion was leaving the XVth International Brigade and crossing to the XIIIth International Brigade. This was the wish of a particularly Yugoslav of its members, who so wanted to meet in the same brigade, in which was the “Duro Dakovic” battalion was also the beginning of gathering for a special Slavic-Balkan Brigade.

It was the start of the evening. In a clearing among olive trees, the battalion, which as part of the XVth International Brigade won its most famous battles at Jarama, near Brunete, Quinto, and Belchite, lined up in a large quadrangle. Now they were to leave and unite their fate with another, after all only brotherly and no less famous XIIIth International Brigade.

The farewell was warm, cordial. There was no shortage of something sublime in them, which touched the heart. On the front, partings are more difficult to feel than elsewhere. The speakers lined up, the first among them Copić, then the political commissar and the soldiers themselves. Somewhere far away in the olive groves, gunfire could still be heard as a salvo of honor. They told me that the Americans and Canadians, who were now the only foreign nationals in the XVth Brigade, practiced shooting.

The sun was setting between the darkened silver of the olive trees, and on the horizon beyond that, the first ruddy clouds were visible. Sunset. But the west has not blushed yet, and the east has blushed – the east of youth, the east of rapture, the east of victory. Enraptured, the victorious youth of the “Dimitrov” battalion sang the “International” at the end of their chorus.

August Cesarec (first from the left) visiting the political commissar of the ” Thaelman” Bredel battalion in Belchite, September 1937.

“Viva Copic!” it was heard unanimously from everyone after that, mostly the Spaniards, who made up the majority in the battalion.

Everyone was actually sorry to be parting: the Commander, for parting with his soldiers, and the soldiers for parting with their Commander.

I went with Copic on the second day to go around so much already the mentioned Belchite.

“A space as smooth as the sea” is how Dapčević described the area in front of that place in Benicassim. It was really like that. There were such flat fields that it was quite likely, as was said, that they were once there, when it was still un-Spanish to fight at night and on Sundays, and indiscipline was considered a prerequisite for victory, then the anarchist troops turned the front into a playground and play football even with Fascists on the other side of the front.  But if I can’t testify to what I heard, I can go to the front and say what I saw.

In front of the former trenches of the front line, one leads to Vinaceite, the other to Belchite. The anarchists erected and placed a board with the instruction:


That column is still standing, fortunately representing only a memory of something that was already going further into the past during my stay in Spain.

The trenches themselves, which could be seen further, were weak, how it corresponded to the whole way in which – after all fought for a little less than a whole year. But that’s why they are stronger. The forts, which were at the end of the fields, were exemplary rather, it descended into the valley where Belchite was, lifted up fascists. They were forts, built in the ground and above the ground made of concrete and iron and arranged in such a way that nothing could be objected to them from a professional point of view. This is what General Walter, who was also there with us, said about it.

“It is strange at all”, he said, “that the fascists withdrew from here so quickly. They could have caused us a lot of trouble from here!”

In fact, the Fascists retreated from here to the city almost immediately when they saw that they were being attacked. This one came for them apparently unexpectedly, so they retreated to the city in the hope that it would be easier to endure there, until possible help arrived. The guard, who was standing at the entrance to the place, let us pass only a pile of ruins.

Not far from that entrance, under a shed, among a multitude of stacked, somewhat better- preserved furniture, there stood, as if miraculously saved, a whole chattering old harmonium. Copić, who once thought he would find his career on the opera boards, approached it and ran his hand over his keys. A few tones wept sadly, so that not even Jeremiah had done it more sadly over Jerusalem. Or, on the contrary, their sound was cheerful, joyful. I imagined the war and everything that was going on here: the roar of cannons, the chattering of muskets, the screams of fighters, the moans of the wounded, the screams of women, the cries of children, and those few tones after all seemed like a smile, at least a sad smile through tears…

But who else did it help? I passed through the main street, along which the whole of it was mostly gathered with broken down or at least hollowed out walls; house to house the whole place was rubble after rubble full of holes that would not even be found on a sponge. The windows were regularly smashed open, as were the doors. Through them and through the holes, a terrible mess could be seen in the apartments: traces of the soldiers’ struggle and the sudden departure of the civilian population. I went into some apartments. According to ancient custom, they were small labyrinths of rooms and spaces. Holes cut in many walls were turning black, through which the Fascists had slipped, followed by the Internationals.

Instinctively, as if a hyena was waking up in a man, my eyes looked around to see if, somewhere among the overturned furniture, scattered books, pictures, they might still see lukewarm blood, maybe even some forgotten corpse. But everything was already cleaned and dried. Only in the local town hall, among the mountains of scattered documents and other papers, was a starved ox thigh left as a remnant of food in the cave of the prehistoric man.

The war was terrible even when viewed from the enemy’s side.

In one place I also found the famous Belchite hospital. It was still just an empty hall, where no one’s moans could be heard anymore. Among other trinkets lay on the concrete floor, a small, yellowed handcuff with songs to the blessed Virgin Mary. There were also two churches in the village. Fascists defended themselves from their bell towers with machine guns and cannons. Among the ruins, I came across a gilded wooden angel in a church. It was a Baroque decoration torn from a broken altar. And now he would be a wonderful doll for a child. But where were the children there? Only on the pile of ruins of a house, at the very top, was a small children’s wicker pram sticking out, the kind that little girls play with. They remained whole. And what happened to the little girl? Elsewhere again everything was broken, there were twisted iron ties among the collapsed walls; only one whole mirror remained high above everything on a piece of preserved wall. Only the sun and clouds were reflected in it…

The population was no longer there. In addition to the guard and in the place itself, I saw two more women in black, with a large fresh head. They obviously scrawled in the ruins of their house, what they still considered valuable, and left with those excavations, who knows where, to whom, if even to anyone, whom they could call their own. On the street itself, next to a pile of things taken out and left behind, an old black tunic, the kind worn by the Civil Guard, lay spread out under a lot of broken things. Three gray kittens huddled on it and sunbathed. They were the only remaining residents of Belchite. Those three kittens and billions of flies. There are a lot of flies in Spain, but here it’s as if they had their own congress of flies of Spain. Thick black swarms covered street; a cloud was rising in front of us like a cloud.

Through those clouds there was something to see on the street house walls as well. Propaganda posters of Franco’s Falangists racketeers were also arranged there. Carlists were also represented: among others, the will of Carlos, the late pretender to the Spanish throne, could be read there. Even with the help of him dead, his supporters wanted to capture something in the dark for themselves. They had not had enough of the civil wars in which Spain bled in the last century because of those rivals for the throne. One religion, one homeland, one army, that was the roll of His Eminence Francisco Paulino Hermenegildo Teódulo Franco, as the full name read, a record of the mass of all Ephialtes {demons} and Jews in human history. The slogans were the voices of forces and others: one leader, Franco. In another ad, that great and undying national trade unionist (what transparent speculations with traditional socialism there) — in another ad, Franco promised the workers everything. Nothing more and nothing less than that after the victory it will be a part of the national wealth of Spain. What a participant, that’s what Franco showed the Spanish workers not once but before with his fellow generals. Batons, prisons, bullets from rifles on the execution ground, this was a national treasure, which in 1934 could be enjoyed by around 30,000 people sentenced to imprisonment, exile and death, and certainly not a smaller number of such in 1936 in Badajoz, Seville, Granada and elsewhere. In Badajoz, the poor Estremaduras peasants were taken to the Plaza del Toros arena and shot there in front of the delighted fascists, who enjoyed the human blood spilled in the arena from the audience. The re-enactment of the terrible scenes, which Nero, Caligula and other emperors of ancient Rome staged in circuses with the first Christians, was the source of some “national wealth”, which the stakeholders, according to Franco’s Christian love for their fellow man, were supposed to get, and already had and became Spanish peasants and workers.

But when it was so easy to appropriate others, to take from Nero his method of reckoning with the opponent, from the trade unions to their name of syndicalism, it was not surprising that Franco appropriated to himself a famous slogan of the Republicans themselves. Pasionaria will have a special reason to deal with them. Franco became her plagiarist by stealing her password: “No pasaran”. Indeed, this slogan was also seen on the Fascist poster. Only that it read differently on it: Marxism will not pass, freemasonry will not pass, separatism will not pass”

Nevertheless, because it wasn’t really about separatism, but about the united forces of antifascists, these passed, the Belchites were mute, but a terrible testimony, terrible because of the guilt of those who caused destruction and death.

But we have come to the end of the place. This ended in a small square, to which a door resembling a brick triumphal arch led. The square was called Plaza del Goya. Goya was an Aragonese by birth, and his birthplace Fuentetodos was not that far from here. Even at the beginning of the war, it was freed from the yoke of the fascists, so the Republicans erected a monument there. Here, unfortunately, they had to demolish his square. He was destroyed left and right. If the famous master “The Misfortune of War” had been our contemporary here, in his own square, he would have had a topic for several new pages in the eerie cycle of his war and anti-war visions.

Below, to the left, in front of the completely demolished house, there were still the remains of the Fascist barricades. On the right was an oil factory. That was the side through which my compatriots from the Dimitrovs penetrated Belchite. They fought for this barricade, conquered that oil factory, and then defended themselves from it, until they continued to attack again. Even now, there were so many cartridge cases in front of her that they could be scooped up with shovels.

But even the biggest shower of bullets could no longer drive back those who stood there once. The people of Dimitrov won Belchite for the Republic, they remained under the rule of the Republic, without the enemy even attempting a counter-offensive.

“And how was the evacuation of the population?” I asked Čopić , when we had already left the place and were going around it on the road from the other side.

Copić was reliving former struggles in himself. There in the meadow he pointed with his hand – there were his cannons, there again was his headquarters. And evacuation? Grudgingly he answered about it:

“I am poorly informed about this. That was the division’s concern.”

And he didn’t say anything about what I already knew from Čukulić, how he advocated for old, infirm women during the evacuation, that they get the first place in the trucks. However, General Walter was no longer with us, so that he could turn to him in this matter. He left us at the beginning of Belchite.

Copic told me that he went to the headquarters of the XIth German Brigade, which at that time was further on the road to Zaragoza. Copic wanted to go there, so we went.


On the very day of my final departure from Valencia, the National Conference of the

Association of Women of Spain began in the conservatory of that city. In it, as well as in the Alliance itself, they took the participation of women of all political or non-political orientations: pacifists, Catholics, civil Republicans, socialists, anarchists.

The small hall of the conservatory was all decorated with flags and flowers.  At the back, above the podium, pictures of Rosa Luxemburg were hung in the middle, with pictures of Mariana Pineda and Lina Odena on either side. In addition, there was also a list of women killed by enemy bullets, on the front lines or elsewhere.

On the side of the presidential table and the lectern, closer to the table are stenographers. On one of the chairs, which were lined up from the back wall under the pictures, she sat, like a living picture, the third here the historical woman of Spain, the third chronologically but certainly the first in meaning, Dolores Ibaruri Passionaria.

In a building of the Ministry of Education in Ulica de la Paz, I had already seen a statue made by perhaps the greatest sculptor of Spain, Victor Maco. In that statue, Maco presented Pasionaria in a peaceful pose, with her head slightly raised, with her hands resting calmly on her hips. But that peace is deceptive, you can see it in the eyes and the whole facial expression. In them there is a strong focus, subdued passion, unspoken resentment. Her lips are half-open, her fists are clenched, it seems, now that mouth will open, now those fists will rise, and all that still silent, embodied will, energy, urge and aspiration of the Spanish people will speak out, click, be what they named that woman: Pasionaria. Passionate. Flaming.

Now, however, in nature, it seemed to me that I could read some sadness, at least fatigue, in the face and look of the Pasionaria. Her eyelids somehow got too heavy, reddened, her dark circles sunken in too much. Along with a strong, distinct nose, the furrows were somewhat too deep. Sitting, she gazed somewhere before herself, pensive, absent in spirit, as if she were completely alone and saw no one in front of her. No one, and the hall was full of beautiful women and children, right next to her sat the stenographers, in front of her there was a large string orchestra under the podium. But some women with children entered the hall. Pasionaria saw them, stood up suddenly and broke through the audience. Her black, big and deep eyes lit up, she came alive. She hugs, greets the sojourners and their children, takes them for a dance. There, she soon turns to the stenographers, joking with them. Then she turns to the orchestra and encourages him to play something. Finally, he comes down from the podium, right towards me, who is sitting in the front rows with a country nurse.

A few hours ago, I expressed my wish to Gusti Jirko, who is here as a delegate, that I would like to meet Pasionaria. He told her, and there she was, stopping in front of me, offering me her hand.

In the murmur that reigns in the hall, I manage to give her audibly and clearly the greeting of all the anti-fascist intellectuals and writers of Yugoslavia. She says thank you. But seeing her Spanish friend from abroad in front of her, she immediately thinks of International Brigades. She remembers the sacrifices they have already made for the freedom of Spain, points out that they did it without any material benefit, out of pure idealism, and expresses, on behalf of all Spanish women, her admiration and gratitude for all the help that International Brigades have pointed out to the Spanish people. “Salud!”, she says at the end and shakes my hand.

There is an unusual amount of warmth and kindness in her eyes, earnestness and warmth in her voice. It seems that she slipped her heart into that word. And she is on the podium again. There she attracted a little girl to her and she is loved for her hair. The girl came here with a very gray-haired old woman. I am interested and find out that these are the mother and daughter of the famous Fermin Galian, who was shot in Saragoza in 1930 with one other for Republican propaganda in the army.

Soon after, the conference was opened. An orchestra played the national anthem “Riego”, the presidential election took place. In addition to the representatives of various groups and parties, they were elected as honorary members of the presidency, all the mothers of fallen heroes of the abandoned Asturias, all female heroes, shot by Fascists, and the mother of the shot Galan was also present.

The entire hall rose to its feet, the orchestra played the funeral march, and the mother of the deceased also stood up. Her face was red with excitement, her eyes were struggling with tears, she hugged her little granddaughter Carmen with her right hand, as if in fear, lest she be left without her, as she was without her son.

After that, Pasionaria got the first word.  No pasaran, it is better to be the widow of a hero than the wife of a coward, better is to die standing than to live on your knees, that’s for sure just an unconscious paraphrase of a line from “The Cid”: it’s better to die honestly than to live dishonestly — all those slogans of hers, which up to that point in the war were already worth as one whole artillery for myself, they rose in my memory and I was interested, what kind of impression that much-proclaimed female Demosthenes will do to Spain’s fight for independence, waged against contemporary Philip {of Macedon} in Rome and Berlin.

She came out in front of the lectern. She is dressed simply in black, her hair is black and shiny, side-combed, close-fitting hair, which covers her eyes, ears, and a red rose is attached to her chest as the only decoration. All around her on the podium are flowers, both those that were already there in pots, and those that were ceremoniously handed over to her by many women’s organizations, in particular youth and workers’ organizations.

The ovations died down, and so did the song, which everyone sang standing up. It’s up to her. The very first sound of her voice falls into the hall like a metal bell, that voice is metallic, just a little bit tired perhaps from a lot of wear and tear, which from time to time can be noticed by a vaguer, rough undertone. But the further it goes, the clearer it is, the louder it sounds. It’s as if she’s being purified, hardened in the fire, which more and more emerges from her words, everything from her. Her eyes are wide open as if hypnotized. Her whole gesture is that she waves straight in front of him, now with one clenched fist, now with the other, or both together. But when she does it by raising them to her chest, then she is already all on fire, her voice rises, flares up, blazes like a fire. But it also rings as an alarm, rings, trembles, as in an alarm, trembles and blazes. There is a click of swearing in it, with which she seems to be in a terrible state the spasm rips out the heart itself, it contains pain, despair, rapture, the transformation of a magician, to whom all weapons and tools are miraculous the power of words, the power, which is really great here.

But didn’t she suddenly lose weight? Will the fire not be extinguished, and instead of the raging flame, only ashes will appear? The voice quieted down, the wave of words receded, only a light murmur, almost a whisper, could be heard. But it’s only for a few moments. She rises again, blazes, rings, she is raptured and carried away, she is transformed and transformed, she is convinced and convinced; the suggestion is irresistible, the enchantment complete. I understood the influence that former laundress and maid, servant of the gentlemen, could have on the masses. I understood why the masses responded with so much love for this faithful woman of today, one of the most faithful servants of the people. I understood why they called her Pasionaria.

Spain gave two great women already in the distant past to her history, Saint Teresa and Maria Pacheco. In the 16th Century, under Charles I, there was a movement of Comuneros, defenders of people’s rights, suppressed by the king, whom I mentioned. When the leaders of the movement, Juan de Padilla and others, were executed, Padilla’s wife, Maria Pacheco, took up the fight. She locked herself in Toledo, defended herself as long as she could, and then retreated to Portugal.

Dorde Andrejević Kun: From the “For Freedom” folder, 1939.

Much more than with Saint Teresa, the appearance of the Pasionaria shows a similarity with Maria Pacheco. No Catholic regime would certainly include her among its saints. On the contrary. Yes, if she was a woman living in the era of the omnipotence of the Inquisition, she would surely be burned at the stake as a witch because of the magic of words. Fortunately, the nations have become so powerful that they can resist those who, under the false pretext of defending morality and culture, would like to introduce a new inquisition, as they did where they still retained power. In this resistance of the people for a just cause, for a real and true culture and morality, the Pasionaria represents a greatness that certainly goes beyond the scope of only Spanish today or even history. She is a phenomenon of world history and in the gallery of that history, dedicated to its female heroines, it is certain that the name of Pasionaria will remain forever, being written in it perhaps right after the related heroine of our epoch, Roza Luxemburg. On leaving Valencia, and Spain in general, there could not have been a more beautiful farewell to that city and country than this: knowing and hearing the Pasionaria, the Demosthenes of the Spanish struggle for independence, the immortal maternal symbol of the struggle to cleanse humanity of the last remnants, today swollen atrocities.



1 From the book of Augusto Cesarico, Spanish Encounters”; izdanje Zora”, Zagreb, 1961.




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