Zdravko Macura

* 1939  

  • "A: and in ’42 right when this tragedy on Kozara happened we were also buried there, hidden and I remember vividly when my mother, to silence my baby brother who was crying, he was 2, 3 months old. She...put his hand on his mouth and was so excited she held it like that. My aunt saw that and told her she would choke him. No. Mom came to her senses then. They were pounding with guns on the leaves that were covering the shelter, felt a board and found us, they dragged us one by one. Q: Who found you? A: Ustaše. Ustaše found us. And since I was...one of the last ones because my mother came out first and my youngest brother, youngest brother Rajko and then Slavko, Slavko helped me out, helped my aunt to pick me up. At that moment I came up and they pushed me to see if anyone else was there. When that Ustaša pushed me I fell on a branch because there was a bomb that knocked over a tree and those branches... I still have a scar from one of the branches. Q: The wound... A: Yes, I was wounded and my mother tried to hold it together with leaves and dirt and wrapped it, and since we were caught we didn’t come back to the village until the end. The house was burned again. But this time it was the Germans and Ustaša because the Kozara attack started from that area. Q: What happened later? So we are talking about ’42, was it winter of ’42 when they... spring? A: No, it was autumn. Q: Autumn, autumn A: It was September, September of ’42 and they took us through hills and valleys to the road and we started to meet our cousins. So, my cousins, aunts and so on...they gathered us and we didn’t know where they were taking us. Eventually we came to Jasenovac. Q: Before that, how long was the journey, it was all on foot? A: On foot, about 40km but we walked day and night, no water or anything. I remember i held my mother’s dress, the older brother held her hand and mother carried the youngest so the mother symbol is very vivid for me, for those events from my childhood. Most direct. We stopped every...i don’t know...every now and then when we got tired or when someone was left behind at the back but we made it to Cerovljeni, first to Cerovljeni and there they put us on this big...big medow and we spent two nights and three days there and they the separated us, sent people off to different camps. Q: They didn’t give you food? A: No, no. I remember I saw my mother, she was strong and determined but I think she fed my little brother all the milk she had."

  • "A: we were surrounded by barbed wire. There was no way we could pass, there was not one, but three rows with ? Q: were there outposts? A: no, I didn’t see that, I don’t remember that, but there were guards, one time my aunt got up and walked a few steps and he hit her with a gun but I didn’t see many uniforms…no guards in uniform patrolling. Q: so the entire time, those three months in Jasenovac… A:Yes. Q: you were on the bare ground? A:Yes, there was a cover and there wasn’t room. But they were in a hurry to get things in order. Later I found out, after I visited Jasenovac a few times, heard things, researched, not just from my mother and cousins…it was lucky that at that time the commission came or…the Red Cross… Q: Red Cross. A: And then they made look like it was a work camp for refugees and some such, but in truth we were just meat. Q: and tell me, what about food, after the Red Cross came you got food. A: yes. Q: do you remember if they even gave you food, if they did how much? A:I know my mother used to bring in that…what do you call it? That military, what do you call it? Q:servings. A: Military servings. It has a name, when we were in the army we know…she used to go and get us warm soup or something cooked, stew or something…they didn’t starve us, they would give us something because we would die, and half the people already died of exhaustion because they couldn’t eat and for other reasons. And the trip to Jasenovac took its toll and they kept us on the verge of life. Q: on the verge of life. A: Yes Q: do you remember while you walked, those who were tired, what did they do to them? A: we would move on, they were left behind, abandoned, let’s move on. People older than me who saw everything know but all I know is what my mother gave me, I am proud my mother lived and saved us. She is a legend for me because she is a testament of human ego growing into a sacrifice for others, no, she lived…"

  • "Q: And tell me, the sanitary condition, what were they like? A: Oh, that’s another story. Q: Could you tell us if you remember? A: it was, look, next to you, they urinate, doing their business, there is no way to…we have already started to walk on Q: Feces. A: yes, like you had to find a corner to hide, take care of yourself. I remember I had a problem, I had a diarrhea the whole time. It was terrible. You have no place to wash yourself or wipe yourself. Q: there was nothing? A: nothing, nothing. Q: you didn’t wash yourself all that time? A: no, no, no. no, no. I only know that a few times, that wound I had, mother ripped her last skirt to hold it together so it wouldn’t Q: become infected A: infected or to stop it from bleeding again. Q: You very lucky, you were lucky your wound didn’t get infected, if it did… A: I don’t know. Q: so no sanitary conditions? A: no, I remember as a child I would walk all over, I couldn’t tell you exactly but I walked all over my own feces and everybody else’s. Q: yours and everybody elses A: It ran down my leg, I had diarrhea. Q: what were the nights like? A: Cold. Q: Cold. A: Terrible. Q: Could you sleep? A: you get tired, and you pray to god you fall sleep so you don’t have to feel everything you see. But my mother’s dress and apron she carried around with her was everything we had so the four of us would used that to cover ourselves up. Q:you never saw a doctor? A: no, men came in those white, what do you call it, overalls. Q: when you entered the camp did you get number or something like that? A: no, I didn’t, my mother had to say her name and then “I have three children”.

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    Pula, 01.11.2012

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Our mother saved us

Zdravko Macura
Zdravko Macura
zdroj: Memory of Nations

  Zdravko was born on 7th July in 1939. in a village Donji Jelovac on the hillside of Kozara in today‘s Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the beginning of World War II, they were ruled by Independent State of Croatia so many people from his home area joined partisans. He remembers houses dug out in dirt in the forests of Kozara where many families hid. He also remembers the day Ustaše took him, his mother, his brothers and relatives out of one of those houses and deported them to Jasenovac camp. Hunger, cold, sleeping out in the open without bare living minimum, being half-naked; Zdravko, then an eight-year-old, remembers all of that as well stepping onto his own faeces while he was sick with dysentery. He is still impressed by his mother‘s courage and the way she kept them together as well as her apron with which she covered them during cold nights in Jasenovac. After a few weeks they were as refugees taken in by a family who helped them get through those hard days. After liberation, they went back to their homeland where his partisan father waited for them. After finishing school and doing military service, the destiny took him to Pula where he remains to this day.