Medjugorje: How the place of mass murder of Serbs became place of Catholic pilgrimage

Posted on February 26, 2014 by

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They say it all started on 24 jun 1981. Sunset over incandescent Herzegovina, haunted rocky space, blood and water. Fifteen-year-old Ivanka Ivankovic,  on the way home to the village Bijakovići, suddenly saw on the hill Crnica a woman in a white robe, with a white scarf over the head and the child in her arms.

From that moment about 45 millions of people around the world have visited the Crnica hill  and the surrounding area called Medjugorje .

What was on the hill is not hard to guess –  it was Our Lady , as Catholics say , or Virgin Mary, according to the Orthodox . Whether it was really the holy woman, we don’t know. But why she’s been seen there – that’s something we ought to know.

Pope Benedict XIV defrocked the Croatian friar Tomislav Vlasic  in 2009; Vlasic was banned from spreading  Catholic faith and  propagating the so-called vision of Mary, mother of Jesus  in the area of Medjugorje,  Bosnia -Herzegovina .
Who is Tomislav Vlasic ? Let’s go  back  to 1981.

The morning after the “apparitions ” , the rural friar Tomislav Vlasic tried to convince the people gathered in front of the local church , that the girl Ivanka saw the Lady in person . For a time being there was a general opinion in the village that behind the appartion lie hidden ambitions of  Vlasic , and that he staged the whole event at Crnica; he hired a nun to play the  Lady, so the police began an investigation;  in the meantime the story spread like fire and spun out of control.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Medjugorje is now sixth place in the world by the number of Catholic pilgrims , Our Lady appeared there so far , according to the “seers ” , about fifty thousand times . Some of them claim that they are constantly in contact with Our Lady and announce the coming of Jesus. They’re not , however , sure about the exact date .

Few weeks ago Vatican announced that the International Commission for the designation of Medjugorje a sacred place, established by Vatican , has completed a multi-year operation and will soon issue their stance on the whole issue. Everything that happened in the line Vatican – the Croatian Catholic Church concerning Medjugorje will give no result, i.e. all remains the same: Medjugorje  remains a place of mass gathering of Catholics ”in search of peace and hope”;  but WITHOUT blessing of the Vatican.

Here’s the main reason for the  ” apparition ” of Our Lady at Crnica hill: at the foot of the hill lies village Šurmanci, where  local Croatian Catholic Nazi – Ustasha –  in early August 1941 , in just two days , brutally , mostly with edged weapons and tools killed more than 800 Serbs  from Prebilovci ,  Serbian Orthodox village in Medjugorje area, close to Crnice.

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Forty years after the massacre, Our Lady appeared on the unpunished  crime scene , but not to encourage survivors and to give them strength and faith,  – as it could be expected in a theological setting of such events –  ON THE CONTRARY! – she came and she keeps on comming ( according to the “seers “) , to give blessings to Croats; in other terms, to bless the descendants of the murderers.

What can be learned from this story?

First, Tomislav Vlasic as an extremely intelligent person and master of deception,  discovered perfect & ingenious way to prevent the place of terrible crimes against the Serbs, to become an Orthodox pilgrimage; therefore he turned it into a Catholic pilgrimage; Not only the murderers descendants, and not only Croats, but for Catholics from all over the world .

Secondly, the theory that good always wins in the end , in this case remains not more than theory , and , thirdly, the Vatican in this case shows unusual restraint and caution, unusual at least when the Serbs and the Balkans concerned.

PREBILOVCI:

Village Prebilovci, 35 km from Mostar, 20 km from the Adriatic sea and 5 km from the town of  Caplina. It’s a meeting place of peoples and religions. The place of their conflict, also.  If there is an earthly version of hell,War Prebilovci and environs have passed through it during the Second World War.  The pogroms during the first months of the self proclaimed, Nazi Independent State of Croatia (NDH) , resulted in disappearance of the entire Serbian villages.  Croats have  brutally destroyed traces of any Serb  presence in these areas.

Documentary about Serbian sufferings in Međugorje area is desribed in the following words of saint Nikolai of Zica:

“Terrified  Heavens observed in this century  fear and shame ,
as the armed Christian ‘knights’  without fear and shame
cut slaughtering with kinives children in the craddle, digging their eyes out for fun;
burn babies alive on fire and force their mother to eat…
Tell me, Heaven and Earth, what good or hope can pprimitive people see in such Europe,
And what such a Europe can expect from God?”                                                                                                                                                                                          

Prebilovci  documentary:   http://youtbe/XaIbXPUjL9M

Mass slaughter of the population in the lower Herzegovina began on St. Vitus Day 1941.   About 170 men managed to break through and survive the massacre – those who remained, without distinction of age or gender,  were thrown under the knife.  After the beating, torture and rape some were killed on the doorstep, one per district of the village, some on the green Bregava rows. Most of them were thrown into the pit. Many were  still alive.

For a few days, during the hot August nights,  over 80 percent of the prewar population in Prebilovci has been massacred.  By 1994 full names were  known for the 606 victims, though the number was much  higher. Survivors were marrying again.  Long time after the war there has been  no funerals,  nor school bell  sound. The Orthodox inhabitants of neighboring villages Klepac, Loznice, Tasovčići,  Opličić  had the same faith –  majority have been brutally killed, and  their villages  deserted. They passed through the same hell.

Prebilovci

An overage person with basic common sense, regardless religion or nationality would certainly  fail to understand what happened in Prebilovci. The Orthodox were tortured, tied and in chains  taken by foot through the debris to the cave, as lambs to the slaughter. The civilians, peasants, women and babies  were executed in the cruelest manner by  Roman Catholics Croats, just because they were Orthodox. The Calvary and numerous mass graves  are close to Medjugorje,  Croatian Catholic religious center  where crowds of tourists flocking annually.    Those tourists, however, do not come running endowed to pay tribute to the victims of the religious war, but for the pilgrimage to the holly Virgin, that happen to appear to descendants  of the executioners on the 40th anniversary of the massacre. Pits are numerous and deep, and they can be found throughout Adriatic coast (what’s today Croatia) and Herzegovina,  where Serbs used to live.

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In the spirit of ‘brotherhood and unity’, during Croat Tito dictatorship it was strictly prohibited to even mention what happened in the area.  It is scary that the Prebilovci, the place where the man today can meet almost monastic peace, shed so much blood and was boiling of such strong  hatred, that there was such fear, almost like on the Judgement day.

Uninformed could say that it’s all past,  that we ought to look toward a common future. However, the pogroms of the 1941.  forever marked the consciousness, and the past and future of Serbs from Herzegovina.  And the pits and the rivers of blood became the unreachable boundary.

Each house in Prebilovci  has its own agonizing story.  One terrible novel could be woven, and Serbian martyred verticals could be drawn. The most compelling story bears an uncanny resemblance to the novel “The Knife”.     Village Grlic, a mile away from the center Prebilovci, on the hill is now deserted.

There are still remains of  Lazar Banđur household. . Him and his wife were executed by Croats,  Ustashe.  Vukasin was their  son who was believed to survive  the first Great massacre. But nobody ever saw him alive.  Some said that he had been eaten by wild bears, another that was taken somewhere and forcibly converted to Catholicism.  There are still old fences standing near what once was  Tripko Ciric household.

Thorns and branches bent and grown together, or force the visitor to bend down, as if some divine force says – to your knees!  The meadow smells  like a bouquet of wild flowers that formed a carpet path. Suddenly, as in a fairy tale, behind the thorns appeared a  house of stone. No roof, doors and windows.  There are the cows  that are still grazing. And their bell echoes.   The Ciric home is one of a hundreds that have been eliminated,  extinguished in 1941.
Tripko Ciric, his wife, nine daughters and youngest son  Slobodan were murdered in August 1941.  Nine sisters Ciric  were martyred for their Orthodox faith, the same way as nine brothers JUGOVIĆ in Kosovo myth. Is it not a historical basis for a new Serbian epic poetry cycle, myth and pledge as a part of our national identity?

The villages on the Šurlamci hill,  in whose pit Golubink hundreds of Serbs were thrown is visible from Prebilovac  hills.  Under every living  village there’s an entire underground village of the dead.  So close to each other and yet so far. By the order of Croatian  Mason  Tito all the pits full of bones were concreted in 1961, with a desire to petrify all the ghosts of the past and erase forbidden memories. When the Golubink pit was opened 1991, one of the few Suhić family members who survived Croatian fanatic massacre half a century later, when asked whether he had some victims among his family members in the pit, replied  in the present tense:

– I have a mother, a sister, daughter-in-law, sister – in – law,  children, uncles …

Another inhabitant,  Ekmečić, whose two daughters and four sons were slaughtered and thrown into pit, was  secretly coming there. When Zdravko Sotra  shoot  a documentary about the suffering of Serbs in Herzegovina, he said that he heard the voice of his martyred children whispering:

Dad, get us out, we cannot stand it any longer. Get us out of the pit!

As sacks full of human  bones extracted from the bottom of the pit  went from hand to hand, the present through tears moaned :

Here’s  our cousin… here, our children. Our poor children! Fifty years in the pit…

This sentence shaked up film director Sotra, so he the titled the film, “Here’s our children.”  Trifko Ekmečić’s heart literally broke in his chest as he waited for the bones of his wife who was slaughtered when she was expecting.  He passed the same road where they lived for the last time and died.

And other numerous pits in Herzegovina were opened, because  descendants wanted to settle the bones of martyrs in peace.  Kukausa gornja i Donja, Bivolje brdo,  Hutovo pits, Vidonje,  Poplat … All the bones of thousands victims that left after the Croatian Ustashas  were collected for the memorial whose construction began in  Prebilovci, in order to rise a mausoleum.

The Prebilovci memorial has been consecrated by the then Serbian Patriarch Pavle. The same year neo Ustasha rose in Croatia, the same symbols came to power again. Serbs were put out of the constitution, and for the second time in 20th century were outlawed.  The war in Yugoslavia started.

“Lock carefully our bones in the white marble fortress,   because dead Ustasha could drink from us for his health,  no! don’t trust the silence that around expands.”

The verses engraved on the monument of Prince Ornjen  Ždrakanović, the very first victims in Prebilovci in 1941, proved to be prophetic.  Under the merciless Croatian units in massacre (‘operation’) Čagalj 1992,  Serbian nation is expelled from the Neretva valley.  The homes in Prebilovac were exposed to looting and arson, so the Serbs could  never  return. The memorial temple is blown with explosives, and the bones of the martyrs mostly destroyed.  Their orgies took place in the graveyard, where Croatian soldiers fired into the monument erected to victims of the massacre.  They even burnt bones in some thombs. .

There were  also the descendants of the executioner in 1941. among the attackers …

Prebilovci is dead. Deserted. Smoldering ruins are overgrown with weeds, and the place of the temple is desecrated and turned into a landfill.

Seemed that the twice killed Prebilovci will remain forgotten.  However, some Serbian families  decided to come and organize life at the place where the remains of beloved lie. Despite all the difficulties and hostile environment continue to live on their heavily cultivated turf.  Until now about 70 Orthodox Serbs  have returned  in Prebilovci, mostly elderly people. They came to die there.  There are few  Serbian homes with children. The works on restoration of the  Prebilovci Memorial, with tens of thousands names of those killed by Croats in Neretva valley engraved,  are slowly advancing.

Thus  Prebilovci  cannot fade away from the collective memory of the Serbs.  Prebilovci and Neretva are becoming one of the anchor points of Serbian identity.  A place where, despite all the hardships,  life of Serbs stubbornly continues, where Serbian people persists. In Herzegovina, in Neretva valley, life triumphs over death and love over hatred.   And that’s where  Serbhood symbolically resurrects. )

Forty years after the massacre, Our Lady appeared on the unpunished  crime scene , but not to encourage survivors and to give them strength and faith,  – as it could be expected in a theological setting of such events –  ON THE CONTRARY! – she came and she keeps on comming ( according to the “seers “) , to give blessings to Croats; in other terms, to bless the descendants of the murderers.

What can be learned from this story?

First, Tomislav Vlasic as an extremely intelligent person and master of deception,  discovered perfect & ingenious way to prevent the place of terrible crimes against the Serbs, to become an Orthodox pilgrimage; therefore he turned it into a Catholic pilgrimage; Not only the murderers descendants, and not only Croats, but for Catholics from all over the world .

Secondly, the theory that good always wins in the end , in this case remains not more than theory , and , thirdly, the Vatican in this case shows unusual restraint and caution, unusual at least when the Serbs and the Balkans concerned.

http://www.frontal.rs/index.php?option=btg_novosti&catnovosti=12&idnovost=40624

http://www.novosti.rs/vesti/planeta.300.html:449507-Kako-je-Medjugorje-postalo-hrvatsko-svetiliste

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