March 10, 2024

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.


Edo Jardas, Spanija, Volume 3, pp 45-491

The entire first group of Yugoslav fighters from Canada, as well as some subsequent ones, was part of the 15th International Brigade, in the “George Dimitrov” battalion.

Eduard Jardas Edo, company commander (left) and Steve Nelson (Mesaros), political commissar of the” Lincoln battalion” (later political commissar of the XVth brigade) at the position near Mosquito Hill.

Our first fight with the fascists was on the Jarama front, where the 15th International Brigade dug in and fought positional battles, “Life in the trenches went on normally”, as they say in military language. During the day, well-measured shots from hidden snipers followed and before night “trial” bursts of machine gunners from both sides. The land eroded by shells made it possible to post dead guards, which we could set up every night in the olive groves along the entire sector of our brigade, a few meters away from the enemy trenches.

Since the “Georgi Dimitrov” battalion and, in general, experienced a lack of military personnel, a selection of volunteers was made to go to the officers’ school in Pozorubio, not far from Albacete. I was also in that group. After completing the military training, I was assigned again to the battalion, “George Dimitrov” in the rank of lieutenant and assigned as the commander of the machine gun company.

One spring night, during my battalion duty on the Jarama front, I put 14 volunteers on “deadwatch” {sentry duty – rmh}. Stipe Dasović, a Yugoslav from Canada, was among them. Around 11 o’clock at night, the operator told me: “an enemy volley cut down Comrade Dasović on dead watch number four”. I ran there. Comrade Stipe still showed signs of life, but within a few minutes he expired in my arms. The volley caught him lying down and broke his spine in several places. Comrade Dasović’s death caused his comrades to hate the fascists even more, so the next night the battalion duty officer had the difficult task of convincing his comrades that only fourteen of them were needed for the dead watch and not the entire battalion.

A few days later, while visiting the machine gun nest on the far-right wing of the sector, I also came across a sniper’s line of fire. Misjudging the width of the clearing that separated the machine gun nest from the trenches, I took off from the trench thinking I would run across the clearing with ease. I had barely taken a dozen steps, when I felt a blunt blow on the forearm of my left hand, accompanied by a stream of blood. I took a dozen more steps and happily jumped into the machine gun nest. The comrades examined the wound and noted with satisfaction that the bone was not injured – a “clean wound” from an ordinary bullet, from one side of the forearm to the other.2  We bandaged the wound and went to the hospital.

In the hospital, not far from Figueres, there were about 300 wounded, Spaniards and International Brigadists. A few days after arriving at the hospital, they started talking of preparations for a new offensive to liberate Madrid, attacking from the west. Whispers soon became the subject of general discussion, both among the International Brigadists and the Spaniards. The result was a general attack on the head of the hospital and certain doctors, because within two days over a hundred wounded reported for the front. Everyone wants to go back, to their units, in order to participate in the upcoming offensive. Doctors and political workers assured the fighters day and night that they were not yet fit to fight. However, political and professional persuasions did not succeed. Groups of fighters soon began to voluntarily leave the hospital. In those days, it was not uncommon to see uniformed people on the roads and in transports with their hands wrapped, with a bandage around their forehead or with a stick in their hand. Everything that was mobile moved towards Escorial, where the combat units of the XVth and XIIIth International Brigades, the Spanish 16th and 35th Brigades, the Carabinieri were concentrated and artillerymen, preparing for the offensive.

After almost two days of wandering in search of our units, from a small thickly wooded grove we heard the much-loved song “Under the mountains, under the valley” and the loud voice of the patrol: “Stop!” With a happy forehead and a smiling face, we stepped in front of the duty officer. After half an hour, again a pleasant meeting with friends and curious questioning when we go into action. Our curiosity was replaced by a serious concern for the task the very next morning. That morning, I was assigned to the Lincoln-Washington Battalion, also in the XVth Brigade, as the commander of the 4th Company.

On July 5, 1937, at one o’clock in the morning, we set off in the direction Villanueva de la Cañada so that we would start at 5:00 in the morning, and around 7:00 in the evening, after a whole day of fighting, they took that important place. A fierce battle was fought throughout the day.

The brigade, in which there were many volunteers from Yugoslavia, several dozen new fighters died that day, among them the famous Slovenian anti-fascist Ivan Valenčič, and Josip Miljković and Ivan Rački, Canadian emigrants. The adjutant of the “Washington” battalion, the Belgian Trah, also died there. {Possibly referring to the British Adjutant commander Robert Trail. cb}

After the liberation of Villanueva de la Cañada, the units continued their advance in the direction of the Guadarrama River, but stopped halfway, so that the patrols could find the exact positions and forces of the enemy. After spending the night at the “Bloody Well”, as we called it, because a few hundred steps from it there were about 350 corpses of Moroccans and fascists killed in the battles, the units extended their movement after the enemy. On the way to the Guadarrama, we felt the first the devastating effect of fascist attack planes. Suddenly, about 30 attack planes descended on the “George Washington — Abraham Lincoln” battalion. The result was a devastating 7 dead and 5 wounded, among the dead was Yugoslavian Franc Kozjak, who previously lived in the USA.

On the 8th of July, we encountered strong detachments of Fascists on the left bank of Guadarrama. As soon as we spotted them, we attacked from the southern side of the Brunete-Boadilla del Monte road, in the direction of the Mosquito hill, a dominating position that defends the entrance to Madrid from the western side. After a fight for every hill and every olive tree, which lasted all day, we broke out before evening to the foot of Mosquito Hill. The next day we carried out seven raids, but without success. During the two days of fighting, our ranks were so thinned that all our further efforts were unsuccessful. The absence of artillery contributed considerably to our failure. We had no choice but to dig in at midnight and wait for reinforcements. We stayed there for three days. Admittedly, on the third day, after a small manpower reinforcement arrived, we tried to launch an assault again, but this time also without success.

At night on the thirteenth of July, we were replaced in our positions by the XVIth Mixed Brigade of Spaniards, composed of Spanish anti-fascists and Catalan anarchists. I highlight the anarchists, because they gave us the reason for leaving those positions a few days later. Descending from the first battle lines to the bed of the Guadarama River, we rested for two full days. The leave was used to fill the decimated ranks of our units, and already on the evening of July 16, the order arrived for the “George Washington- Abraham Lincoln” battalion, part of the XVth International Brigade, to provide assistance to the Spanish brigade (Gallego), in the sector of Villanueva del Pardillo, where the enemy had concentrated strong detachments of Italian and Moroccan mercenaries to break through the front. After a forced march, which lasted all night, through ravines and facing dry riverbeds, we arrived on July 17 before noon in the second battle line of the Pardillo sector. The tired and exhausted fighters just stretched out across the ditch, and attack planes appeared overhead again. This time they were flying low, several tens of meters above us. There, a political commissar, once a slaughterhouse worker, otherwise a black man from Chicago, died of a contusion {This was Morris Wickman. cb } we had 18 dead and 27 wounded. After the air attack, we slipped into the battle lines, and at the right time. The enemy attack was in full swing. We stayed with our Spanish comrades until the evening of July 19, when, after the successful suppression of the Fascist offensive, we received the order to move to our old positions, where units of the “Georgi Dimitrov” battalion were waiting for us. After a march that lasted all night, we arrived at our destination. Upon arrival, we were told that we would have two days of rest. However, not even half an hour had passed, and the Fascists had broken through the front on our old positions, which we had captured a few days before and where we had been replaced by the XVIth Mixed Brigade. Without waiting order of the headquarters, because there was none, after a short agreement we went on a counterattack, first the “George Washington Abraham Lincoln” battalion and later the “Dimitrov” battalion on the left flank. We pulled back parts of the retreating XVIth Mixed Brigade and successfully stopped the breakthrough of the front. In that action, the internationalist consciousness of the International Brigadists and the Spanish anti-fascists, on the one hand, and the indiscipline and petty-bourgeois element of the anarchists, on the other, came to full expression. While the true anti- fascists of the XVIth mixed brigade excitedly approached us, hugged and kissed us, some anarchists openly invited them to leave the front (“when we are already powerless”) by openly calling the International Brigadists as mercenary Argonauts fighting for pesetas. That provocation, at such a critical moment, so enraged the Spanish anti-fascists that they were ready to decimate them. That attempt was momentarily prevented, with the promise that the shouters would be court-martialed, which was done. Although the Spanish anti-fascists were heroes in the full sense of the word in their action, they were even greater heroes after this incident, both collectively and individually. This, to a large extent, enabled us to stop the Fascists’ penetration and suppress them to the old positions, despite their superiority in fire and mechanization. In that action, I was wounded again, this time by a dum-dum bullet in the ankle of my left leg and was removed from action until the end of the war.



1 This article was written by Vladimir Segota based on the memories of the named participant.

2 From the ranks of the XVth, Sime Horžić, who rushed to Spain from the United States, was mortally wounded in the same place a few days earlier.



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