May 19, 2024

The Spanija series translates select 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 Croatioan 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.




Josip Husinec, Spanija, Volume 4, pp. 236-265



At the end of November 1939, we, the international prisoners, were transported from the San Pedro de Cardeñas Camp to the labor battalion in Belchite about 80 kilometers from Saragossa.

Since the English, Americans, Canadians, French, Belgians, Dutch, Swedes and Norwegians were already repatriated, in the work battalion we were left with about 150 prisoners from the International Brigades and about 50 other foreigners who fled France after the outbreak of the Second World War.

The Camp where we were placed in Belchite was part of only an apartment that was partially preserved after the Republican offensive on Belchite from August 24 to September 6, 1937. We slept there, while during the day we worked in the quarry from morning to night three kilometers away from the Camp.

Even while we were in the San Pedro de Cardeñas Camp, we talked about escaping more than once. Sometime at the end of April 1938, while walking in the yard of the camp, I noticed a German carefully observing the surroundings. I approached him and immediately agreed with him that the next day we would take from the prison the most necessary things for the trip, so that we would hide unnoticed in the surrounding bushes and pretend to be sleeping, and when the guard had retired with the other prisoners that’s when we’d run away. The German, however, did not have the patience to wait, instead he stayed in the bush that day and ran away. Two days after the escape, the patrol caught him in a village where he was asking for food from the peasants and brought him to the Camp.  He was sentenced to 14 days solitary confinement.

The second escape attempt from the San Pedro de Cardeñas Camp was in September 1938. At that time, six Germans, old members of the Party, who came to Spain from the Soviet Union, tried to escape. At night, they tested the bars on the windows of the room where more than 300 of us slept, and with the help of ropes made of tied blankets and sheets, lowered from the second floor and escaped unnoticed. Their disappearance was discovered by the Camp authorities only the second day after the escape. But, after six days, this group was also caught. They were each sentenced to six months of rigorous imprisonment. They were held captive in Burgos, and then they were brought to our Camp, and soon, together with other Germans, they were transported to Germany.

All these failed escapes discouraged us a little and at the same time warned us that we should prepare well for something like this. All the more so, as we were about 400 kilometers away from both the Portuguese and French borders.

Preparing to run away at some point, in the middle of 1939, I first sent a letter to my sister in Maria Bistrica through some repatriated Swedes and asked her to send me an identity card and a cake in a package in which she would have previously hidden a compass. In the middle of January 1940, I wrote a second letter in which I repeated such a request, adding that she should also send me a geographical atlas covering Western Europe in detail. I also sent a third letter to the two Norwegians who were returning to their homeland. Now I asked my sister to give me a compass in addition to my ID card and geographical atlas, send a few dollars in an envelope.

At the end of January 1940, I received the first shipment of a letter and identification, and at the beginning of February a package containing a cake, two kilograms of Gavrilović salami and a kilogram of bacon arrived. All that was simply overgrown with mold, so the package passed through censorship untouched. I state this because what happened was that individuals received a package whose weight corresponded to the customs declaration, but instead of food or shipments from home arrived potatoes or stones

A little later, I also received a package with a geographical atlas, in the cover of which I found 10 US dollars and 10 postal securities that I could cash in or buy postage stamps for.

In the work battalion of the prison camp in Belchite from Yugoslavs at that time were: Birčić, Bajčić, Tomšić, Zlatić, Tomić, Kraksner, Forneci and Andrija Milenković. Other than that, Alecsije Stefanović who worked in the kitchen, Abinun and Žunković in the canteen, Matejak in the shoemaker’s workshop, while Nikolic was the manager of the work company.

Attitudes about the escape from the Camp were divided within the Party organization itself. Some thought that, due to the situation among the people, we should wait patiently in the Camp for the end of the war, while others, including me, were of the opinion that we should do something and escape from the Camp, so that we could find ourselves in Yugoslavia as soon as possible and where we were previously engaged and worked actively.

That’s how it came to be that I formed an escape group on my own initiative. In the group were: Dimitrije Nikoloy Peev who came to Spain from the Soviet Union as a translator and Rudolf Zig, a mechanic. At the beginning of March 1940, we began seriously preparing for escape. The Swiss Rudolf Zig had asked for help from the Swiss Consulate even earlier. At the end of February, he received a large package which contained canned milk, fruit juice, cocoa powder, canned fish and pork.   The Bulgarian Dimitrije Peev was expecting every day a package of 50 dollars that his friends had promised to send him.

It was Sunday, March 10, the date we set as the day of the escape. I asked Nikola Farfalov to return the salami to me, which, as soon as it arrived in the package, I left it with him for safekeeping. Farfalov refused, saying that he knew that I am running away and that he does not want to be an accomplice. Despite Dimitrije, the intervention failed. Farfalov remained persistent and so did we had to give up salami. And postpone the escape for one day.

A little later, that morning, Ivan Matejak and Albert Abinun approached me in the yard. Both of them told me that they knew I was running away from the Camp and that they were aware that they could not stop me. They advised me to escape as soon as possible, because, according to the information, a new Camp Commander will arrive who will probably take such measures that escape will be much more difficult. They promised me that they would help me even if our escape didn’t work and that we could have full confidence in them. Abinun offered me his new shoes. They were small for my foot, so he brought me his rubber slippers. I couldn’t put them on either, so Dimitrije Peev took them. Matejak, again, supplied us with several postal securities, several boxes of tobacco and matches, chocolate and a pair of good trousers.

We used Monday, March 11, the final date set for the escape, to transfer the remaining part of our luggage to the work site. We buried it all in the sand, where two days earlier we had hidden part of the luggage and a 30-meter coil of cordite (a very strong and light wire, which is used to light the dune mine), which we will need to make a raft for the Crossing the Ebro River. After dinner and the counting, we went to the dormitories.

I went to Farfalov and begged him to return my salami. I also brought Dimitri Nikolov, but Farfalov didn’t even want to listen.  When he saw that we were categorical, he started threatening to go to the Officer on duty and tell him that we wanted to escape the camp. In order not to attract the attention of the other prisoners, we had to retreat this time as well. From Farfalov, I went to the Portuguese Antonio Lopez, a prisoner who arrived in our camp a month earlier together with his countryman Alexander Ferreira. Both of them fled from France, where they studied until the outbreak of war. From talking with them, I concluded that they are very advanced and were very sympathetic to us. I asked Lopez to lend me his two military maps so that I could copy something from them.  He just laughed and handed them to me without saying a word.

Everything went according to plan. The darker it got, the cooler it got outside. We put on our “capotes” (a type of winter coat in Spain similar to a blanket with an opening in the middle), adjusted the beds as if someone was lying on them, and quietly got out.

To the guard, ten meters from the door, who asks us where we are going, we answer that we are going to the toilet. He follows us carefully and I, in charge of watching the guard who is illuminated by an electric light bulb from the entrance, signal Dimitri and the Swiss to go back.

The whole day was cloudy, and now, as if out of spite, the wind is starting to blow, breaking the clouds and revealing the moon. I left Dimitrije and Rudolf waiting outside, and I returned to the building. I also observed the other side. There were broken walls and sometimes smugglers managed to sneak in wine through their openings. I notice one of them coming towards me. He tells me that it is impossible to get out today, because a guard has been posted there as well. I called my friends to come back. To worry, we thought in a low voice: we had been considering the surroundings for several weeks, as yesterday there was no guard next to the ruined wall. Did someone betray us?

However, we have not completely lost hope. From the window of the first floor, we observed the surroundings and waited for the guard to change at the entrance. Sometime after 8:00

p.m., a soldier whom we called Galliego, a native of the province of Galicia, assumed duty at that guard post. He immediately started preparing the fire. He stacked wood in an old bucket and began to sing. Preoccupied with his work, he didn’t even ask us where we were headed. We passed him, entered the toilet and, constantly keeping an eye on the soldier with his back turned towards us, moved behind the toilet. There we were blocked by a wall two meters high on the inside, and about a meter and a half on the outside. First Rudolf and then Dimitrije went over it and by me bending down, they stood on my shoulders and leaned against the wall. And when it was my turn, I quickly pulled out the iron pole that I had hidden there, in the grass, for this occasion since February. The pole was two meters long. I placed it crosswise against the wall and wedged it well so it wouldn’t slip. Holding on to Dimitrije’s hand extended on the other side of the wall with one hand and resisting with my foot against the iron pole, I also move over the wall on the western side of the Camp fence, about thirty meters away from us, behind the wall, there was another guard. It was dimly lit and we couldn’t determine if the guard was watching us from his little house. As, moreover, the steep sandy terrain behind the wall rose just opposite the unlit sentinel, we turned to the east.

Belchite in 1939

Avoiding the road on which, as soon as we left the camp, we found ourselves in front of car headlights, and a little later the railway guard dog discovered us, we slowly approached the work site. We pulled out all our luggage from the sand, shared it with backpacks full of food and one blanket each, and set off on our journey. We agreed to take the road from the construction site to the railway line that leads from Belchite, and to follow the railway line to Zaragoza.

Armed with sticks and separated from each other by 20 to 30 meters, changing every hour, after a break, in the role of leader, visiting railway stations, being especially careful when passing through the tunnel, around 5 o’clock in the morning when it started to dawn, but also to rain, we reached a valley in the hills. There we first had breakfast under a spruce tree, and then lay down on two blankets, huddled together, covered ourselves with coats and one blanket, put our rucksacks under our heads and went to sleep so quickly that we woke up only around 17:00.

The sky was clear then. We had a good meal, carefully determined the route on the map, calculating that we had about 50 kilometers to go to the Ebro River. As soon as it got dark, we started. This night we also moved along the railway line, but much more freely. We even stopped bypassing smaller railway stations, and when we met a railwayman or worker, we would greet him and continue our journey. The next day, like the previous one, we overslept. We calculated that we still have to cover a distance of 15 kilometers to reach Zaragoza. The railway, which was also our guide that night, increasingly left the hilly terrain. The lights of Zaragoza, a city of about 100,000 inhabitants, began to be seen. Then around 3 o’clock at night we left the railway, crossed the highway and went down to the north on paved roads. Suddenly, unexpectedly, we found ourselves on the banks of the Ebro River.

We carefully walked along the coast, towards the city, hoping that a boat might come across with which we could cross the river, which near Zaragoza is somewhat narrower than our Sava near Beograd. A multitude of moored boats and a guard appeared in front of us. So that he would not notice us, we carefully retreated down the river. Since it had already begun to dawn, we decided not to cross to the other coast this night.

After I returned from the city as a scout with the information that all the bridges on the river were under guard and with several pieces of chocolate and two kilos of fresh bread, we started building the raft. We found enough branches nearby that just needed to be tied, so that the raft would be ready. We left that part of the work to be done only then, if we were unable to transfer by boat.

And indeed, sometime before evening, we noticed a fisherman coming with a boy, they sat in a boat and started fishing. Not letting him out of sight, we waited for night to fall and for him to return to the shore. And it was like that. When it got dark, the fisherman jumped out of the boat, followed by the boy. He was right in front of me when I called him good evening. He flinches, and when he sees my friends behind me, he freezes in surprise. I addressed him without any background and said that we were political prisoners, foreigners. We would like to cross to the other bank and we would pay him well if he would take us across the river in his boat. The fisherman agreed to help us without thinking. We quickly became friends. He told us that he was convinced that he was an anarchist, that the Fascists killed his brother, and that he escaped death by accident. Our new friend refused to accept the money we offered him, so we gave him two packs of cigarettes. When he landed us on the other shore, under the pretext that we had a long journey ahead of us, he gave us all the fish he had caught. And we, again, pushed a big chocolate into his little one’s hands.

The night was very tiring: we had to cross a canal five times, treading water up to our waists, in order to get to the road that leads to the town of Huesca.

Around 5 o’clock in the morning, it was already dawning, we meet near the town of Peñaflor. As the road passed through the villages, we turned one way and followed the left bank of the river Gállego, which rises in the Pyrenees and flows into the Ebro near Zaragoza. We descend down the steep bank to the river bed and find a suitable place to sleep among the willow bushes. Tired, we fell asleep before we descended to the ground. We were woken up, somewhere around 10 o’clock, by drops of rain. The water in the trough rose sharply and began to wet our beds, so we moved to a high place. It was not so well hidden from view as was that willow tree from which we were chased away by the coming river, but we continued to sleep, tired anyway.

Around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, when I woke up again and took a look around, I had something to see: there was one gendarme standing on the left bank of the river, and another on the other bank. Both of them are armed with rifles and are watching us. They don’t move even when the three of us, under backpacks that we quickly put on the ice, head towards the path that led the canyon itself to the coast. When we look towards Peñaflor from the shore, we see uniformed people on the church tower watching us with binoculars. Without looking back at the two gendarmes, we hurried along the path towards the road to Zaragoza.

While we were walking along the road, a cyclist passed by us, looked at us and continued on his way. Another cyclist passes behind him very quickly. About 1000 meters away, when we looked back from the corner, we noticed a crowd of people, mixed with gendarmes, coming out of the village and rushing towards us. We had nowhere to go forward, and we had nowhere to go back either, on the right side we were fenced off by the Gállego river. The only space open to us was on the left side, where the field spread. There we saw an abandoned house and ran towards it. We hide in the shed behind the house and watch the road through the reed fence. The heads of hunters soon began to emerge from it. Crouched, with rifles at the ready, they came off the road with a machine gun and headed straight for us, surrounding the house.

A moment later we came out of our hiding place with our hands raised, only to end up in prison again soon after, but no longer in Belchite but in the San Juan de Mozarrifar camp, a huge Torero Camp, 13 kilometers away from Saragosa.



At the beginning of March 1940, after a failed escape from the Belchite labor camp, the Swiss Rudolf Zig, the Bulgarian Dimitrije Nikolov Peev and I arrived at the Spanish prison San Juan de Mozarrifar, which was 13 kilometers away from Saragosa.

In the premises of the former paper factory, which had been turned into a prison, the Franco government crammed something between 5 and 7 thousand former soldiers of the Spanish Republic. Living conditions were very difficult: we slept in halls, 500 to 800 of us in one, on a concrete floor. It was very cold in winter and unbearably hot in summer. Next to the prison flowed the Gállego river, which rises in the Pyrenees and flows into the Ebro near Zaragoza. Regardless of the temperature, except when it wasn’t raining, we spent the day in a fenced yard that was covered with slag. There, in cauldrons, they brought us food. Only seriously ill patients could stay overnight in the halls.

The diet was poor. In the morning we got black coffee made from roasted barley or acorns; for lunch, a ladleful of soup in which there was hardly any oil, some potatoes and allspice, and then a ladleful of stew made from kale, cabbage, swiss chard or other vegetables, in which there would sometimes be a few potatoes. For dinner we would each get a ladleful of stew similar to what they gave us for lunch. The daily ration of bread was 120 grams.

Two days after our arrival in the reception room, at the time of going to lunch, the chef of the kitchen, a prisoner, who controlled the carrying of the cauldron and the distribution of food, came to me, imperceptibly put 20 pesetas in my hand and said: These have been collected for you by members of the new organization. The next day, the deputy head chef, who also controlled the distribution of food, approached me and shoved 15 pesetas into my hand: – This was collected for you by the Socialist and Republican Party. He also brought 18 pesetas to the Swiss Zigo, money that he whispered. On that day, he was on duty at were collected, again for us, by members of the anarchist party in prison. We did not expect such a friendly reception. Comrades who accepted us and simply competed to see who would help us more, give us back our confidence and hope that with the help of the prison organization we will endure. The pesetas they gave us meant a lot to us in those first days, because we ordered bread, some canned fish and oranges from the Camp canteen from the guard at the door.

By the way, the three of us were the center of attention of all the prisoners in the reception hall. Everyone was approaching us, but as soon as some negative guy approached us, our comrades would immediately give us signals to beware.

Shortly after leaving the reception room, which was also a kind of quarantine, because we were not allowed to leave it, I got in touch with the members of the Party Organization Committee. They introduced me to the situation in the prison. We three Internationals were the only foreigners here. Everyone wanted to socialize, make friends, talk with us — Communists, Socialists, Republicans, anarchists, and even guards and soldiers. Yes, by contacting only party members we would not allow the Fascists to find out who among the prisoners were Communists, we insisted on associating with everyone, avoiding only negative or demoralized prisoners whom the party authorities warned us about.

Falangist laws forbade us foreigners to write to our own. That is why, unlike the Spanish prisoners, we could not receive any help from the outside. But what we were deprived of by Franco’s dictatorial laws, we were compensated by the imprisoned Spaniards. They didn’t leave us to live only on that miserable prison ration. All the food that the prisoners in a room would receive from their own in the course of a day, after dinner, they would collect in one place and divide it into as many parts as there are prisoners in that room. It was a so-called supplementary dinner, to which our Spanish friends had to invite the three of us.

After dinner, the prisoners had to line up in the courtyard by halls. There they first counted us, then asked us to take down the camp flag and sing Franco’s anthem. On Sundays before noon, a Catholic priest came to visit us. He celebrated mass in the yard, which all prisoners had to attend.

Franco’s hymn and the Priest’s mass were the reason for me to report to the warden of the prison. I was told about him that he studied in Switzerland and was a supporter of the monarchists, but not the Phalangists. He received me very kindly, he even offered me a seat. I spoke to him quite diplomatically: Peev, Zig and I are the only foreigners in his prison; one day we will be repatriated to our countries; when it comes to that, we wouldn’t want to satisfy our countrymen’s curiosity about Spain with bad memories that bind us to it. When he asked what kind of bad memories we were talking about, I answered that we were wondering how delicate the position of the warden is in a prison like this, that we three foreigners want to respect the regulations and we would like not to cause him difficulties, but that we cannot accept the prison regulations.

“We cannot attend the Catholic mass, because it goes against the rules of our religion, since Peev and I belong to the Orthodox Church, while the Swiss Zig is a Protestant.”  I said that first. The warden of the prison, who knew very well that we were Internationals and that we didn’t believe in anything, laughed a little, but still promised that he would release us from attending mass.

The second request I made to him concerned the singing of the Falangist hymn. We are foreigners, I told him – and it is very difficult for us to pronounce Spanish words, and when we sing the Spanish national anthem, we cause laughter among the prisoners because of the wrong pronunciation of certain words. The warden accepted my second request and released us from singing the national anthem. Both of these concessions raised our reputation in prison. Soldiers and guards, even officers, treated us with respect.

From the days of my imprisonment in the camp of San Juan de Mozarrifar, one trial before Franco’s military court in Zaragoza and the verdict that was handed down to R. Zig, D. Peev and me is also interesting.

Back when we were in the reception hall (March 1940), a court investigator came to the prison to interrogate us about the attempt to escape from the work battalion in Belchite. The investigator appeared before the military court in Zaragoza. He wanted to know in more detail how the escape was made. In order for the statements to be consistent, we agreed that I would be the interpreter for both the Bulgarian and the Swiss.

Having previously taken our general information, the investigator also asked questions: “how did we come up with the idea of running away and everyone in the work battalion was familiar with our plans about the escape?”

“In the San Pedro de Cardeñas Camp near Burgos”, I answered, “there were about eight hundred of us International prisoners. The Internationals, who were of American, English, French, Canadian and Belgian nationality, were repatriated to their countries, because their diplomatic representatives in Spain stood up for them. About 150 prisoners, members of those nations that have reactionary governments and such representatives in Franco’s Spain who did not care about being repatriated, were transferred to the work battalion in Belchite.”

“Based on the regulations of the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War, we were supposed to be released 6 months after the end of the war operations. Due to the fact that that deadline has long passed, and we are still in captivity, we see no other possibility, except to escape, to come to our country.”

“As for your second question,” I continued, “only the three of us knew about our escape and we did not consult anyone in the camp. Finally, even if someone were to know, let it be clear to you that we would not tell you.”

After this, the investigator pulled the revolver out of the holster and placed it on the table.

“Sir”, I continued to the court investigator as if nothing had happened, “you are a lawyer but I am also a lawyer, which means we are colleagues. The difference between us is that you are in a position to defend the current government, which is why it pays you, and I am a prisoner, a former fighter of the International Brigades. We Internationals have come to fight for our ideals, which are well known to you. When we were going to Spain, we were ready to die. We have our morals, our revolutionary ethics, so please don’t treat us like criminals. We are not afraid to die for our ideals, so there is no reason why you put that revolver on the table. We are not fools to attack you, because we are aware that we cannot escape from this prison.”

The investigator looked at me for a while, put the revolver on his belt and for a moment a smile appeared on his face. Afterwards, he changed his tone a lot and asked us to describe to him how we escaped from the work battalion. I described our exit from the Belchite Camp in great detail and he left satisfied.

He reappeared in the prison on April 23, 1940. He called us, handed me an envelope containing a letter from the Chaplain from the Belchite work battalion with 25 pesetas and a cover letter from the Yugoslav Albert Abinun, and then began the official part of the conversation.

He was on the spot in the work battalion of Belchite, checked our statement, looked at the described place through which we escaped from the Camp and came to the conclusion that it was impossible to escape there without the guards noticing us, because one guard post was at 10 meters away from that passage. Looking at me questioningly, he also told me that if we don’t change our testimony, he will be forced to press charges against the guards who were at those guard posts.

I answered him that our first statement is correct, but if it is about rescuing two of their soldiers, I am also ready and my friends, let’s change the statement. We agreed on changes in testimony to such an extent that we now declare that we escaped from the camp over the broken wall on the opposite side of the prison. The investigator was satisfied: now he was freed from both ties to press charges against anyone from the administration or the police service, because that’s why he also had formal cover: our statements and a copy of the act by which the Camp Administration requested additional funds to erect the wall, which the request was rejected. And he has to press charges against us for running away.

He told us that right away. And added that we can expect punishment of 6 months for trying to escape, and that after serving the sentences we will probably be made available to our Embassies to repatriate us, i.e. to expel us from Spain.

A little more than a month after that, on May 27, 1940, they called all three of us to the office, where the Officer on duty told us to be ready to go to the trial in Zaragoza the next day and to bring all our belongings.

The Spaniards quickly gathered together and gave us about 50 pesetas. I hastily briefed my Deputy in the Party Committee on the tasks to be performed and agreed with my comrades on how we would maintain contact in the event that we no longer return to San Juan de Mozarrifar Prison.

On the morning of May 28, 1940, at 6 o’clock, we stood with our luggage in front of the duty officer’s door. We were transported to Zaragoza by truck, handcuffed, with several Spanish prisoners who were also going to court martial. In the waiting room of the military court, we saw several more Spanish prisoners who had arrived from other prisons. From my conversation with them, I learned that at least twenty prisoners are tried here every day, and that there are days when there are even 50 prisoners on trial.

At exactly 9 o’clock, the guards brought us into the courtroom. The seats in the first row were occupied by three of us Internationals, and the seats behind us by seventeen Spaniards. As usual, when the judges, the prosecutor and the defense attorney appeared at the door of the courtroom, we stood up. The President of the Court was a Colonel, and the other judges were also officers. When they took their seats, and the military prosecutor and the defense attorney (who did not even speak during the trial) were seated, the President of the court panel allowed us to sit silently, so that immediately after (opening the court file number 665/1939 on the guilt of R. Zig, D. Peev and J. Husinec) called the first accused Swiss Rudolf Zig and asked for his general information. Zig pretends to be unskilled (as we agreed) so that he doesn’t understand anything that the President of the Council asks him and — he looks at me. I stand up and say: – “Mr. President of the Court, Mr. Zig does not understand Spanish and allow me to be his interpreter”.

After that, he entered into the record information from which the personal description of the accused could be seen (Rudolf Zig was only 155 centimeters tall, long face, blond, without teeth, he lost them in prison, his eyes were large and bulging) and other general information about him, the president of the council addresses him with a question: “Why did you come to Spain?”

I consult with Rudolf Zig in German and I translate: “Mr. Zig declares that he came to Spain to defend its legal government, the Spanish people and the Spanish public.”

The president gets up in a rage and, looking at me strangely, orders me to sit down.

I stand up again and say: “Excuse me for taking the statement of Swiss citizen Rudolf Zig verbatim. Don’t shout at me.”

The President immediately called me to give my general information. After that he asked me the same question as he asked Rudolph.

“Mr. President, I cannot say anything other than what Mr. Rudolf Zig also said, that is, that I came to Spain to defend its legal government.”

The President shouts: “The legal government of Spain was not the Republic, the legal government of Spain was Franco’s Spain against which the Republican mob rose. You came to Spain to kill the Spanish people.”

I interrupt him: “Allow me, Mr. President, to tell you that it is clear to the whole world which government was legal. However, I warn you that you have no right to ask us such questions. We are at this trial not because we participated as fighters on the side of the Republic, but because of our attempt to escape from the work battalion.”

After that, the President called the Bulgarian Dimitrije Nikolova Peeva, who also pretended not to understand Spanish.  “As for the motives for which he came to Spain”,  I translated his answer to the judge’s question “that motive, like his Comrades Zig and Husinec, is the defense of the legal Spanish government, but he protests that he is being asked such questions, because he is not in court for that.”

The President is furious and shouts that we have nothing to protest, orders us to sit down and calls out the next defendant, one of the seventeen Spanish prisoners.

The procedure surrounding his interrogation and the interrogation of the other seventeen compared to ours was much shorter. President dictated to the recorder their general information and acknowledgments that they fought as part of the Republican Army.

At around 12 o’clock, the questioning of the last accused was finished. The court rises and retires to deliberate. An hour later, we are brought back into the courtroom. The President of the court reads the verdicts: Rudolf Zig, Swiss, Josip Husinec, Yugoslav and Dimitrije Nikolov Peev, Bulgarian, are punished for attempting

escape, with a sentence of 4 years in prison; out of 17 Spaniards, five were sentenced to death, three to 30 years, and the rest to 18 and 12 years in prison.

In the prison of San Juan de Mozarrifar, everyone warmly greeted our return, except for a few guards and die-hard Falangists. They placed us in the halls where we had slept before.

Since then, the days have passed in captivity, anticipation has replaced resignation with fate. We lived apart from everyone else. And yet, the news somehow broke through the prison walls that my homeland had been invaded by Hitler’s and Mussolini’s armies.

I did not learn this news from the newspapers, because the Party Organization did not receive them regularly, but soldiers and guards brought it early in the morning of April 6. The news of the day was quickly transmitted from one to another group. All the prisoners looked at me questioningly, and many since they even dared to ask me what I thought. “I think” — I told them that Yugoslavia would not be sold as quickly as Hitler and Mussolini think .

To keep abreast of events, I went to the Prison Manager. I addressed him politely: “rumors spread through the prison that Germany attacked my homeland, which, despite being an International, I love very much.”  “Imagine, Mr. Manager”,  I said,  “ how you would feel in a foreign country if you heard that a country wanted to occupy Spain.” And as soon as I mentioned the newspaper, he took it from the table and took me to an empty room, next to his office. I could not find out many details about the German attack on Yugoslavia from the Spanish newspapers, but I learned the most important thing: my homeland was attacked. When I praised him in the most polite way, and when, apparently, he read the concern on my face, the manager told me that I could come in the following days to read the newspaper. And indeed, when I entered his office the next day, April 7, he without a word handed me, in addition to the Spanish, French and Swiss newspapers that described in detail the bombing of Belgrade and the advance of the German and Italian troops.

My visits to the Prison Warden lasted about as long as the short-lived war between Germany and Italy, on the one hand, and Yugoslavia, on the other. When I read the newspaper, he was happy to comment on the events. He liked to talk to me in French, because he used to speak French even as a student in Switzerland, and he fell in love with that language. Once in these discussions, without touching the internal situation in Spain, I openly expressed my assessment of the war waged by Germany and Italy. He would listen to me carefully, but refrain from making any comments. Just once a little more opened when he told me: “I respect you Internationals very much because you are both determined and consistent in your fight. You have your identity that you are ready to die for and nothing can break you. I love your patriotism, even though the leadership of your country is a corrupt group. Whenever you need something, contact me. I will do what is within my modest capabilities.”

My feeling is that he was true to his word: during the entire time that he was in charge of the San Juan de Mozarrifar prison (until the beginning of 1942), Rudolf Zigo, Dimitrije Peev and I were not beaten or seriously mistreated by the guards. That would be the end of my fragmentary memories of the days of imprisonment in San Juan de Mozarrifar prison from March 16, 1940 to October 1942. I wrote them based on notes from the diary and other documents that I managed preserve. My longtime friend from prison, Dimitrije Nikoloy Peev lives today in Sofia, while about the fate of his other friend from imprisonment, of Rudolf Zig, I have not had any news since 1944.


(Excerpt from “Diary”)

October 24, 1941. My friend Darias was released to parole. I have been feeling very weak for the last three weeks. It seems that my intestines and stomach are affected. I don’t sleep most of the night. I have a headache, and because of pain in my intestines, I just toss and turn in bed at night.

I try all kinds of medicine. I felt dull pains in the area of my kidneys, and Rikena Granadino (a hospitalist from Grañada) put cups on my kidneys. It’s been two weeks that I’ve been laying hot bricks on my intestines and kidneys.

On the twenty-first of October, we were completely reshuffled around the halls. I still stay in the fifth, where petty thieves come and those who have not yet been sentenced.

Verdu, Marcelino, Lopes Campos leave, and Pascual, Cienfuegos, Soldier of Franco, Les and others stay with me.

On the twenty-third of October, I received a medicine for my stomach and started using it.

Winter is getting stronger and this is the first day that we don’t go out. After the new arrangement in the halls, a complete reorganization is created.

We managed to appoint Lucia Garsis as the head of the first hall.

This is our great success, because two anarchists and one socialist aimed for that position. Onorije and Sabroso, our friends who work as prisoners in the office of the Prison Administration, are great. Doctor Varela, doctor in prison infirmaries, as well.

Our Comrade Rodriguez, a few days ago, proposed a union, i.e. the creation of a single bloc in the prison, but the socialists refused.

Yesterday, a Swiss spoke to me about the need to create a unified bloc and about the chaos that threatens us all, if that unity is not achieved.

We were all convinced that the USSR was making a tactical retreat (in connection with the advance of the Germans on the Soviet Union) with the aim of forcing the Western Allies to open a second front. According to the news we are getting, in England the popular masses are protesting against the government and demanding the opening of a second front in the West.

Dimitrije Nikolov Peev has been in the infirmary since June 22. He is now looking quite well and is lying together with the prisoners who have just come from the prison in Torero.

Not a single word about our release.

Since we left the Belchite Camp, 4 months ago, we know nothing about our comrades. Patients who came from Torero, they tell us that our friends are in Valladolid and that he is there with Eisner, Šurek and others. Šurek is a Pole who at the end of 1940 escaped from France and was brought to our prison, where he stayed for several months. When he arrived he was healthy and very strong, and when he was leaving, because of the poor food in prison, they had to carry him on a stretcher.

I smoke a little. The Swiss pulled out all the teeth from his upper jaw. Doctors say that it was scurvy, caused by a lack of vitamins.

Since winter has come, it will be the end of our lectures, which we held in the yard for Party members.

November 30. — It has been more than a month since the large distribution of prisoners was carried out. All prisoners sentenced to 30 years were assigned to the first hall. It is also the largest hall with a capacity of 900 to 1,200 prisoners. We managed to appoint Lucia, who came from the work battalion in Quinto, as the head of the hall. He is not particularly educated, but he is a good friend and is completely at our disposal.

Lucia works very well, and he made friends Moja and Peinada the head of our group. In that hall is Pedro Aguilar, Rikuena Hernandez, Sopena, practitioner (paramedic), my Spanish language teacher Ignacio Fernandez Donsel and many Socialist comrades are very dissatisfied because all the responsible positions are held by our comrades.

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

Among the Socialists there are Romero, Rodriguez, head of a group, Baranes, head of a group in Barrio Chino {Chinatown?}.

The Swiss received a reply from his Embassy in Madrid a week ago. The Ambassador refuses to release the Swiss from prison on the pretext that the Swiss refused to return to Switzerland, saying that he will not leave Spain until he kills all the Fascists and Capitalists.

That’s why we have almost no contact with the Socialists. The prisoners are avoiding them more and more, and they are angry with us.

In addition to the fact that we have occupied almost all the seats in the offices of the Prison Administration, in the third hall, and in other halls as well, we have a lot of our people in positions. Our reputation is growing.

December 8. — A conflict broke out in the first hall.  However, it will end in a satisfactory way. Pedro called Martinez and Molinero to whom he explained the danger that threatens all parties as long as these misunderstandings continue. The Socialist Molinero also talked about this problem with the Secretary of the Committee Verdu.

We invited them to a meeting where our Pedro, a Socialist from Parilla and one of the first hall as a representative of Anarchists, was present. An agreement was reached. Soon there will be another one from the break, during which greater unity will be achieved in the prison.

The fight is very fierce. Reactionary forces attack us with from all sides, but, nevertheless, it seems that we will manage to stop it.

Socialists forbid their own to discuss with us, calling us fanatics. They are against the revolution and credit Sikorski’s arrival in Moscow with saving Moscow from the German clutches. Their supporters are increasingly abandoning them and connecting with our Comrades.

The terror has been easing lately. Freedom seems more and more attainable to us and this raises our morale. According to the news we are getting, Russia has launched an offensive in the south and the Germans have been dealt heavy blows. Likewise, the news reports about the uprising in Serbia, the great battle in Užice[a], as well as about the fact that the Balkans are fighting in general.

Today’s latest news that Japan has attacked the United States of America is all rejoicing, as it predicts the imminent end of the war. {Note: they knew this on December 8, 1941 -rmh}

December 30. On December 22, I received a card from Matejak. They tell me that they are in the Miranda de Ebro Concentration Camp, that they have prepared a package for me and that I should let them know if I can receive it.

I immediately responded with a comprehensive letter, describing to him the conditions under which Dimitrije and I live. Yesterday, the 29th of December, I wrote to Matejak and sent for Sanchez Ereru, ordinance at the door {??}, another very simple card, hoping that he would definitely receive it. After Christmas, the general offensive against us began.

The management decided to dismiss Lucia, Godez and Frades. For they appointed a sergeant who was imprisoned for crime as the deputy head of the fourth hall.

Three months ago, on November 29, a group of 250 convicts came from Torero. These were lighter sentences of one to three years. Many of them have been in this prison before. They were placed in the sixth hall, and some from the sixth hall were moved to the first and fourth.

There is a very strong underground struggle.

We are very weak with the press. The Officer who brought us the newspaper fell ill, and now we are looking for a new connection. With the help of friends who receive food, we organize that each family sends one newspaper each day.

A German attack on Turkey is expected. We learn from the newspapers that Russian troops are attacking, but the name of not a single place where these operations are taking place is published. Rumors are circulating that fighting is already taking place on Polish territory.

February 10, 1942 — So far I have received 47 pesetas, sent to me by my comrades from Miranda de Ebro via Atal {Dr. Mohammed Atal?}. Atal sent me this sum for Les. I gave 5 pesetas to the Swiss, 19 to Dima and 4 to Party, but they returned it to me the next day.

Alois Potočnik, the head of the Yugoslav group in Miranda, wrote to the Director of the Prison, asking for permission to send me a package. The Director shows me the letter and tells me to give him a positive answer.

I wrote a correspondence card, but as I also wrote about some other things in it, the Director refuses to send it, but promises me that he will send a positive answer. Honoré, our fellow Prisoner who worked in the office, wrote the answer and the Director sent it.

By the way, the travel history of that package is quite long. Comrades sent a package on January 16, which they informed me about. I will wait until January 24th, but since the package hasn’t arrived yet, I have an interview with Officer Don Julio, and he also approved me to submit a complaint.

On the second day, I submit a complaint to the Officer on duty, Don Gregorio, but he rejects it and cuts it off.

Four days after that, Abinun sent a letter to the Director of the Prison threatening to inform the Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In the meantime, a new Director of the Prison arrives. The previous Director was transferred to Torero as a deputy, and a Falangist from Casablanca comes to replace him, who refuses to know anything about this package.

I am writing to Abinun for the second time, explaining to him that I am powerless to do anything about the package, and that they should make a complaint.

A few days later, the Officer on duty informed me that he had found the package and that it was at the railway station in northern Zaragoza. So, after many efforts, I finally received the package and in it all the things that were sent to me.

July 14, 1942 These days we are very amused by following the work of the Socialist Party.

A month and a half ago, we carried out a reorganization in our organization, because there were people in the Office who had recently fallen asleep (like Riken and Verdu). At my request, the Bureau met and, after a discussion, we dismissed Verdu and appointed Pedro as General Secretary. Riken also had to leave the Bureau. We divided the work into three Secretariats: one for information and propaganda (I am in charge of the work), the second for organization and personnel (Comrade Keredia) and the third for staff training and work with the masses (Comrade Pako).

For collaborators I chose: Robert for halls, Peinada for information secretary, Serda for special cases, and for instructors Arelevan, Verdu, Riken, Hernandez, Santos. Work with the masses begins on a fairly large scale.

Relations with the Socialist Party are bad. But they get better with the anarchists. They expect nothing from the English and the Americans. We advise Comrades to avoid conflicts in discussions and to cultivate friendly relations with them.

July 17, 1942 — In order to reach an agreement with the Socialists , we are acting with all available forces. In the seventh hall is Ferrar, who was the President of the Socialist party in his village. He fought in France and South America, in the ranks of the Socialist Party. Because he is contacting us, we believe that the Socialists will not keep him in their fold for much longer. He came from Teruel.

There are two of them in the seventh hall. And they are removed from their Party, because they are friends with our Comrades. Pedro, our Secretary, speaks with Ferrara, explaining to him the need to work actively and putting him in touch with the Swiss. The Swiss participates in various conferences with the opposition and with leadership. They accuse the Swiss of not having the right to interfere into the internal affairs of the Spaniards and call him a Fascist.

There is no agreement between left and right socialists. The relations between them are breaking, and the right-wingers refuse to convey the news about the events to the left-wingers. It is a very favorable situation for us.

August 27, 1942 — The offensive that started against us Internationals is also being extended to our more visible Comrades.

In the seventh hall, a silent event happened these days: during the morning count, Verdu stayed in bed. After the count was finished, the Officer came to Verdu’s bed and kicked him to get up. The excuse that he was sick did not help him, and the officer sentenced him to 8 night shifts in the hall.

I constantly notice that the Officer is watching me, but knowing that they are looking for even the slightest reason for a conflict, I try to escape from him.

Due to the increasing provocations, I am ordering the Swiss to write to my Embassy in Madrid. I send a letter for Honoré, and I myself send another to Abinun, asking him to do everything to get us released from prison.

Dissension is noticeable among the Officers. Racketeers and Phalangists cannot stand each other.

During these days, Falangist Nikolas talked to the other Officers and said that Franco would need the courage to shoot a few capitalists, and the matter would be solved by that.

Another Officer told our friend Angelo (who works in the Officer’s kitchen) that he can’t wait for the time they throw these fascist pigs on the street, so that he can take revenge on them.

Valdavieso, one of the Chief Officers, is a Republican and Socialist. Another Chief Officer is Samuel, who was removed from service once. Otherwise, he is a complete Republican, but he cannot do anything because he is surrounded by Officers who belong to the Falangist party.

According to the news, the Germans on the eastern front are advancing towards the Caucasus, and the English, in order not to be surprised by the approach of German troops in Persia, are hastily creating a special army there; Churchill was in Russia, and the creation of a second front is expected.

September 15, 1942. The most important event for the three of us was receiving a pardon with the clause that we be included in our 75th battalion. We signed this notice 4 days ago and now we are waiting for where to transport us to Palencia or Miranda. We look forward with great joy to leaving this place where we have spent two and a half years, and especially because this work battalion is made up of our comrades who are now in Miranda. I agree with my friends on a writing key to keep in touch.

Torero, September 30, 1942 We are constantly amused by our departure. New difficulties arise, because the Director of the Prison wants to postpone it in every way. He says that the pardon is not valid, because it was not signed by the Minister

of the Army, himself, and that, therefore, we should wait. And when he was told from Zaragoza that the remission of the sentence was legally binding, the Director continued to procrastinate. Inthe meantime, a special release from serving his sentence arrived for Dimitrije, but it did not  mention the transfer to the 75th battalion in Palencia.

I am putting pressure on all three of us to be taken to the working battalion, and from the

Battalion (so I hoped) we will be able to do more. In the end, I managed to get me and the

Swiss included in the transport to Torero, and Dimitrije stayed to wait until the transport to Madrid was formed. (Dimitrije remained in prison for another full month and was only transported to the Miranda de Ebro camp at the end of October, from where he left for San Sebastian and from there to Bulgaria after a few days).

Our parting is very exciting. They look at us from all sides and say goodbye to us. Around 6 o’clock in the afternoon, they take us to the train station with eleven other prisoners. One of them goes to Palmas, two to Teruel. five to the court in Zaragoza, two to Madrid and one to Santander.

We arrived in Zaragoza at night. From the station we are tied up, on foot to Torero. Rudi (Swiss) and I are not tied tightly, and along the way we lost the padlock of our handcuffs.

At the entrance to the Torero prison, we find the Director, his Deputy, several prison Officials and about twenty civilian policemen in formal departments.

Immediately after our arrival, we were quickly sent to solitary confinement, without a search. They put our luggage in the warehouse. In the middle of the night, they took us out of solitary confinement and took our information. On that occasion, we learned that the execution of 31 prisoners who were sentenced to death had just been carried out, and that this was the main reason why they sent us to solitary confinement so soon after entering the prison and that they did not search our belongings. That’s how I managed to save the diary and other documents that would probably have been taken from me if the search had been carried out.

There are fifteen of us in solitary confinement. It is impossible for us to sleep, because there are no windows, so we sit on things and talk.

The young man who is being taken to Palmas was in solitary confinement for several months and is our friend. He was sentenced to death, but on the way to Bilbao he escaped from the train with 4 other prisoners. He returned to his village, but seeing that he was in danger, he went to Zaragoza. He worked there for a year, when he was caught and sentenced to 12 years. These days he should leave for the Canary Islands. His father was killed by the Fascists, and some other members of his family were sentenced to death and shot. His father was part of the 12th International Brigade.

The young man was very much alive, although starving and anemic. All he does is tell jokes and clean the room. We give him bread and 2 postage stamps. He is 22 years old. He is a good friend. He washes our tin portions, stamps for 20 cents each. On the second day he leaves with the transport for Madrid.

The slogan about a unique block, which was inserted among the Socialists, met with a great response. More and more they see that it is impossible to follow the same line and they constantly discuss.

Two days before Molinero left (the Socialists had a meeting with Rudi (Swiss), Monesilic and Molinero). They prepared that meeting very cautiously, telling me that they were discussing some problems and that they would like to clarify some issues.

I accept the invitation. At the meeting, they ask me questions about whether Communism or Socialism is in power in Russia. I answered that Socialism is in power and that the complete realization of the ideas of the Communist Party cannot happen as long as capitalism exists in the world, because it is necessary to have an army, and also that for Communism the people need to be brought up in that spirit.

Next we talk about the realization of the revolution. I tell them yes, the unity of the working class is always important for the success of the revolution, that in Russia the revolution was not carried out only by Party members, but all men, honorable and honest, and also those who accepted the Second International, and those who did not want to participate in revolution that they were declared capitalist elements.

I tell them that everyone in the Soviet Union in power are not members of the Communist Party and that there is a big number of those in power who previously belonged to the anarchists or Socialists.

We are talking about the general situation. I tell them that we can expect a cooling of relations between England and the USSR, if the Western powers do not open another front, and in England and America, if there is a liquidation of the advanced working class, that is, until the dictatorship, the difference between democratic capitalism and Fascism would disappear. If such a development were to occur, the eyes of all socialist parties would be opened, because then it would become clear that the USSR is the only force that honestly represents the interests of the working class.

The participants in this conference completely agree with what I said and come to the conclusion that the personal differences that exist between us must be removed. That’s why we decided to take all measures to eliminate differences and to establish cooperation.

In the afternoon they give me information, that is, news of events, since we have been unable these last days to get any news from the city through our illegal channels.

I informed the bureau about the result of our meeting and was tasked to continue working in this sense. But after two days, Molinero goes to Belchite to work, and the curtain falls again. Molinero discussed a lot with his people who did not fully agree with the conclusions of our meeting. Romero, who was against any kind of cooperation, stood out among them.

A few days before the conversation with Molinero, three Socialists came from the first hall looking for Peinada (our friend). We told them that we would like them to join our party. Peinadu gives them instructions, explaining to them that we will consider them as our sympathizers, but that their work is in the ranks of socialists.

We appoint Peinada as their instructor. Padilla, Rodilla and Bustamante found a cell that works in their ranks. They declare themselves to be Socialists (formally), but declare that they do not agree with the leadership of their party and seek cooperation with the Communist Party in the discussions. They gathered all honest Socialists in their cell and after five days they have seventeen members.

In the same way, a cell is created in the fourth hall, where Gregorio (our comrade) works with an Asturian, who has been in the Socialist party for more than 40 years and who, together with the other Socialists of the fourth hall, made himself available to our Party. Although they don’t work with such enthusiasm in the fourth hall as in the first, we still have success. These cells, created within the Socialist party, were supposed to serve as a guarantee that the party would not deviate from the line and to gradually remove negative elements from the leadership.

After the departure of Molinero, several socialists declare that they expect our proposals for cooperation. That’s why the Bureau delegates me ordering me to speak with Parilla, and authorizing me to offer him cooperation with the fact that they have two people and we have two, to create a unified block in the prison.

Parilla agrees. He promises to inform his people about it and inform me of the result. However, one day passes, another passes, and the meeting does not take place. Monecillo tells me that Parilla is for unity, but that Romero won’t even hear of it. They will put pressure on him little by little to come to that.

When leaving prison, I say goodbye to Parilla, but we he mentions us from an earlier conversation, nor does he give me any explanation.


October 1, 1942. From our cell in Torero they took two more prisoners to Teruel, but the next day they brought us three new ones who came from the island of San Simon.

They tell us that there are prisoners on that island, about 800 of them, mostly old people. Their living conditions are very difficult and the food is very poor, so they die every day. To cook certain dishes (eggs, potatoes or beans) you have to pay 25 centimos. Packages rarely arrive because it is far away, and so do the parcels. Last year, 20 to 30 people died every day on that island with several thousand prisoners.

For food, they get some green vegetables, and sometimes garbanzos (beans). The island is small, there is only one village whose inhabitants are fishermen, but the fish is very expensive, 2-5 pesetas per kilogram. Also fruits. The new comrades also tell us that there is a single front on the island and that they are more or less familiar with the news. They tell us that they are going to Lleida, where their families are. That prison was entrusted to the nuns.

Several comrades left during the day and in the evening. There were eight of us left in the room. We prepared the beds and fell asleep peacefully convinced that we will continue our journey the next day, as a scribe told us that evening in the office.

They woke Rudi, me and another friend at 5 o’clock in the morning, took us out and joined a group of 60 foreigners who were going to Miranda de Ebro.

Rudi and I were tied up and quickly taken to the railway station. The things we carry are very heavy for us, because our hands are tied, but no one will offer to help us, although there are individuals who do not carry anything. The Civil Guard (Gendarmes), seeing that we were carrying heavy suitcases and blankets, ordered two of them to take mine, and the other two to take Rudi’s suitcase.

On the way to the train station we talk to some Englishmen, Canadians and Dutchmen.

In the train, people talk in different languages and exchange impressions. I show cigarettes and the offer seems to open everyone’s mouth.

Some Englishmen traveling with us were captured near Benghazi and brought to Germany.

They fled from there. The Dutch tell us the hardships they went through until they reached Spain. A Dutchman tells me that two of his comrades were caught by firing squad while crossing the German-French border, and he watched it happen.

There are a lot of Jews fleeing France in the transport, as well as Poles, Czechs, and Germans. After learning that I am a Yugoslav, they introduced me to a Serbian from Užice, Sergeant Marianovich. For the first time after two and a half years I am talking in our language.

Marianovich tells me that the Germans captured him and took him to Germany, where he worked in a labor battalion and then in the countryside. From there he fled to France, to Marseille. He sought contact with the Yugoslav consulate, but was caught by the French police and taken to the work battalion in Solano, from where he escaped again.

Marianovich talks about the difficult situation in France and about life in Germany. He says that in France, the first escape is punishable by 7 days in prison, the second by 14, and the third escape by one month in prison. In Berlin, every house has machine guns in case of an uprising, and in Munich there is a policeman every five meters.

Then he tells me about the situation in Yugoslavia. He says that all Senior Officers were bribed, that they were the fifth column. They were the ones who ordered the weapons to be dropped. Supporters of the Germans and Fascists made a big mess. The Germans sent all the prisoners to their homes except the Serbians, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina they allowed the Ustasha to do whatever they wanted with the Serbs for six days. That was the reason for the people to get up and go to the forest. Then since Bosnia and Herzegovina formally belongs to Croatia, but that all the people in the hills are under the leadership of Mihajlović, the royal Colonel, or under the leadership of the Communist Party. War is already a commodity. In Mačva, the people rose up twice, so the Germans afterwards set fire to and killed many people. Niš, Užice, Skopje have changed hands more than once; that Montenegro is a separate principality and that there was an uprising in Montenegro; that the Germans had sent Bulgarian divisions, but that they were going over to the side of the revolution.

He went on to tell me that the Chetniks were fighting on the side of the Germans, that Kosta Pećanac, the head of the Chetniks, had been poisoned; that the Yugoslav Royal Government is in Cairo, and King Petar is in England, that Mihailović receives help from Russia, which unloads material in Bulgaria with submarines, and transports it over the mountains to Yugoslavia at night. He goes on to tell me that many prisoners and revolutionaries are fleeing to Bosnia, where the uprising is strongest, that they are fleeing from Hungary, Germany, Romania and Greece, that there are Croatian units on the eastern front and in Africa.

Around 11 o’clock we arrive at the Logroño train station, where our escort changes. Since they don’t have enough guards for us, they separate the two of us and take us to Logroño Prison.

The prison is in a very nice place, a quarter of an hour from the railway station. It is small, there are only about 120 prisoners, of which there are hundreds of petty thieves and 20 political prisoners. The food is quite good and so is the procedure.

In the room for the passer-by, we find four Catalans who came from the French Camps, waiting to be taken to Madrid or Lleida. They say that they have good characteristics and that they have nothing to fear.


Palensia, Soldier’s Cell, October 3, 1942. On October 2, around 10 a.m., we were informed to prepare for the trip. In the canteen, we buy a kilogram of grapes, a box of sardines for 90 centimos, cigarettes-paper and matches (which were very rare to find).

We buy a newspaper at the train station and it is the first time in many years that we are allowed to read it freely. We also bought a bottle of wine. While waiting for the train, which arrives around 11 o’clock, we looked around.

The guards treat us very well. I am talking to a Corporal who is from Malaga. Rudi entertains us almost the entire way.

A small accident happened on the way. Namely, the train hit a car load of grapes, but no one was hurt. The driver, thinking he had collided with another train, jumped out of the locomotive and fell into the mud, smearing his face all over. The stoker stopped the train.

The peasants are shouting, pulling the wagons from the locomotive, and the passengers are gathered around a pile of scattered grapes, eating them and laughing. This event is commented on throughout the journey, because each passenger recounts what he experienced during this railway “accident”.

I am especially happy to be able to observe nature because the landscape changes: sometimes hills, sometimes valleys, then fields, vineyards…  After two and a half years spent in prison, always in rooms, with the same faces, this is a big change, movement, life which flows. In Miranda de Ebro we change trains and continue our journey towards Burgos. We arrive there around 19:00.

In Burgos, the escort leaves us and we get into another car where we find comrades from the prison in Burgos, who are going to the work battalion in Oviedo. Almost all of them from Andalusia, young men, have already moved. After learning that we are International, they gladly accept us and offer us cigarettes. This is the first time on our trip that someone has offered us cigarettes. They tell us about the prison in Burgos, where the food is very poor, but morale is at an enviable level. They say that all the members of the Basque government are there, some doctors and several prominent comrades. They estimate that there are about 4 thousand prisoners, mostly those sentenced to 30 years. The nuns run the kitchen and the infirmary. In the past, prisoners were beaten, but recently the regime is somewhat lenient, they are provided with regular news. They get a little more bread than we do in Zaragoza, and those who have reported duties receive half as much bread.

The Civil Guard following us focuses their attention on us. One of them looks very mean to me.

An older guard asks me if I know his brother-in-law, who is an Officer in San Juan de Mazarrifar. We continue to talk about everything. I control what I say with great care. The guard expresses himself on principle and says that clericalism and capitalism must be destroyed, because these two prevent progress. I replied that I agreed with him, saying that this was also our desire, and that in order to achieve this, the unity of the working class was necessary. Clearly, he sees unity under the Falange, and we under the control of the Third International.  The Guard highly appreciates Germany, but says that Germany made a big mistake by attacking Russia, because they should have looked at England and America first.

Discussing in this way, we reach the Ventos de Baños junction, where we change trains, and arrive in Palencia around three o’clock at night.

They take us all to the insane asylum building, but the director won’t admit me and Rudi, and they take us to the Command of work battalion No. 75. After many trips, we were allowed to sleep in the soldiers’ room first.

We are talking to the soldiers. Almost all of them were in the Republic and they behave and speak like anti-fascists in front of us. Some of these soldiers they stay longer in the Battalion and remember our comrades International Comrades: Nikolić, Abinun, Carlos Kormes and others.

Polvorin {powder room}[b], labor battalion 75. Palencia, October 7, 1942. Around 11 a.m ., on October 3, we were called to the office of the labor battalion , and after taking the usual information for the personal card, escorted by two soldiers, we were taken to Polvorin, the place where there is a powder magazine. Polvorin is located in the hills 5 kilometers southeast of Palencia.

On the way we drink wine, eat soup and beans with meat in the inn where we leave our suitcases, which will be delivered to Polvorln in the evening.

At the inn, we meet a Portuguese man who speaks English and Spanish well. I talk to him in English and find out that he is involved in smuggling from Portugal.

We arrive in Polvorin in a good mood, where everyone looks at us curiously, because they can see from our faces that we are foreigners. They are just besieging us from all sides, asking who we are and where we are from, how it is in prison, why they are bringing us to a Battalion where there are normally no foreigners.

The Battalion consists of 4 companies. The two companies are composed of of the

Montenegrans, and the other two from the emboscados {bandits?}, i.e. faces that stated that they fought neither on the side of the Republic nor on foreign nationalists. There are about 800 of them together.  There are many among the emboskadosimas, almost more than half, who were in the Republican army, but fearing the consequences, they deny it.Individuals should spend 32 months in the battalion, others 24 some 18, already according to age. There are some who speak French, or Portuguese, English, and some German. Most lived abroad for several years. There are also very good comrades among them.

The party does not work here. They say that people are not ready to organize party work and that they cannot do anything. Life in the Battalion is quite good. Officers do not beat their soldiers. except for small exceptions. The food is tolerable. There is very little work, and there are Comrades who manage not to pick up a pickaxe for several weeks at a time.

Everything is completely rotten, without will and everyone is sabotaging. I saw the same thing a few years ago in the Yugoslav army. During the re-arrangement, many people stay in the hall.

We didn’t get a suit, because we are leaving soon. It is clear that we refuse to work in civilian clothes. The company sergeant told us to disappear when the battalion leaves for work and stay in the barracks.

We are constantly under surveillance, and everyone starts moving when they don’t see us for a while. When we are in the ranks, they look for us with their eyes and follow us everywhere with their eyes. Everyone knows that we are Internationals: soldiers, sergeants, officers.

Yesterday after dinner we went to the botikin (small pharmacy) to read newspapers, play chess, and at the same time to treat my tooth. The Corporal of the guard comes and says that the news has spread throughout the Camp that we escaped.

Among the Black Bersians are the biggest scum: criminals corisos (petty thieves, i.e. that’s what they called those who

stole others bread, meat or anything in prison), punished Falangists or racketeers (royal supporters). Most of them are sentenced to three months, but there are also those who serve a sentence of one year. Those who pay the fine do not go to the labor battalion. which means that all these, who are here, are so poor that they could not pay it.

Before, you could freely go to Palencia on Sundays, but for the last month it has been forbidden. Namely, the entire battalion was punished because one Montenegrin sold his freedom to another, so it was revealed . The black market is flourishing in all parts of Spain. Today, a pack of 60-centimo cigarettes are sold on the black market for 4-5 pesetas.

They also sell food from the Battalion kitchen. Every prisoner who peels potatoes, fills his pockets, and then bakes them. The Chefs sell oil, food and all the foodstuffs intended for our nutrition.

One Captain has 8 dogs, which are fed from the Battalion fund. If he finds out that among the soldiers there is someone who likes hunting, he spares him from work and puts him in his group, which goes hunting. In this way, a dozen soldiers do nothing else.

The second Captain is an avid shoe collector.  The cobblers have made 28 pairs of shoes for him in the workshops so far.  Shoemakers take the shoes that are designated for the Battalion from the warehouse and use them for new ones, and throw away the rest. Then they deliver them to officers and sergeants, who sell them in Palencia.





1 It is obvious that Sergeant Marianovićh was not well informed about the situation in Yugoslavia.

[a] Reference in translation: {}

[b] See





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