On April 10, 1941 the INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA (known under abbreviation `NDH') has been proclaimed. Six days later the new state's ruler Dr. Ante Pavelic nominated his government that had to be fully cooperative with the new USTASA (read: ustasha) regime. This autocratic regime was allied to Hitler's NAZI and Mussolini's FASCIST regimes as such. During next few months the regime started eliminating its enemies - assumed or prospective - and anybody opposing regime's intentions in general. Persons' pursue started being either of a race say Gypsy or of a religion like Jewish or Orthodox faith or of Serb nationality or just because being opponents to the regime. My father, a known lawyer in Osijek, has learned soon about many cases of police arrests, lawless abductions of many people and about disappearing of persons without any trace.

By end of June 1941 we have received the Memorial Certificates of the passed school year. I was student at the Male Real-Gymnasium School in Osijek and just completed the 6th grade (which is K9 of a Secondary school). We couldn't have any summer holidays under prevailing circumstances in summer 1941. All students aged above 15 years had to become members of Ustasa Youth Organization (named "Ustaska Mladez"). We were supposed to dedicate all our efforts in building the new State. We could either start with a paramilitary training or voluntarily join a works group. Father has decided for me to join some kind of a builder's works group. I was the youngest (just 16) in that group which counted some 40 students when we left Osijek Railway Station early in July 1941.              

Planting a tree as the voluntary work to help building the new Independent State of Croatia.

My father Zlatko dressed for his summer holidays he spent in mountaineering.

At the Mikleus Railway Station we had changed into trucks and arrived at Vocin (read as Vochin) village. Our group moved into Primary School's few classrooms where the benches were pushed to walls. We got hay and dry maize leaves for make the bedding. We spread on it a bed-sheet and blanket everybody had to bring with him from home. After we got something to eat at the school's yard where a provisional kitchen has been started in a disused room. Outside of it were placed several crude benches and few rather dirty tables. The whole day as such and the new surrounding were too strange and dishearten as I never before stayed in such an environment. I grew up in burgher's family comfortable, cared after and favorable surroundings. Now, I was hungry and tired just wanting to sleep. Instantly I fell asleep on straw without washing and cleaning teeth.

Suddenly I was awakened by whistles and shouting. It was morning 6 o'clock. I never had to get up so early before. I went out dressed the same as on arrival and had learned what a roll call is about. We had breakfast of fresh-warm white bread and milk before we left our new domicile going to pick up tools and equipment needed for our day's assignment at 7 a.m. River Vocinka's source is at Papuk mountain's northern slope not so far away from Vocin village. River has a mountainous character here and its riverbed had plenty of good gravel with mixed grain sizes. Our group had to sieve gravel into 3 sizes: largest grain went for road construction and the two smaller sizes would be used for concrete works. We put three sieves of different mesh gauge in a row at riverbed's leveled place. Distance between sieves was about 3 m enabling a pair of us with shovels throwing gravel on next sieve. Others brought excavated gravel in wheelbarrows forming a hip in front of the largest gauged sieve. From there onwards we shoveled it through sieves one by one until hips formed in between to be driven up the river bank for final dispatch. This was a rather hard work lasting 7 full hours with a half-an-hour break for lunch as well as for comings and goings each way. In total day's work lasted 8 hours - very long hours, believe I, for somebody not used to it at all.

A week or so of this muscle-tearing hard works I had an accident. The pair with shovels had to synchronize their actions avoiding any accidental contact with his opposite. Suddenly, I still don't know how it had happened my opposite's shovel hit me straight into face. Blood run over my lips like me being a slaughtered hog. My nose bone was hit at its route by one stroke. Blood streamed down to mouth and I felt unconscious for a moment. Rushing in came our first-aid man (a student of medicine) Zagar who pressed gently a gauze on my nose and could stop bleeding after-a-while. Zagar carried me blood stained out the riverbed and placed me on a waiting peasant's wagon used for gravel transport. Thus ended the hard work ended for me but I had to stay in Vocin until the end. My parents were not informed about this accident either.

Several days later I felt no pain as the wound healed without any complications besides a rather visible scar there. Zagar got me in his heart and looked after me like a dear older brother. He told me also that camp's commander didn't dare to send me home earlier for some unknown reasons. He proposed me taking a duty that wouldn't ask for too much effort from me so I became camp's caterer soon after. The night guard woke me up each morning at 02.45 and by 3 o'clock a peasant with his one-horse cart arrived at gate. The horse pulled at a steady pace for about an hour with two us dozing until it stopped - we had arrived at the turning point. I never discovered where we went but coach driver woke instantly asking me to show the list of items supposed to collect on our way back. We returned stopping at one house from where a woman with candle in hand arrived carrying some milk and/or other goods ordered day before. I put milk in a 50litre can dotting down its quantity for payment later or paid other goods instantly. We were back by 5 o'clock with dawn lighting up eastern skies. Never later did I see dawn coming up so often!

After breakfast I was free for rest of the day. Some times I climbed to Vocin's ruin spending several hours talking to or listening to Zagar's lecturing. His hobby was hypnotism but he couldn't get me hypnotized. On my suggestion Zagar made an experiment of mass hypnosis one evening and some mates bit into onions `assuming' that these were apples. After our last evening meal we organized a farewell fete and Zagar performed a real show of mass hypnosis making us cheering and laughing for hours. We didn't go to sleep at all, cleared up our domicile for 6 long weeks and with our packed belongings left Vocin in an old truck. I was back at home by mid morning dirty and smelling awfully. After thorough bathing and too good mother's meal I fell asleep like a hog but woke up of some horrible odor some time later. I dirtied my clean and soft bed by vomiting all over it and myself too. I was so ashamed of myself. Nevertheless I learned something important for life: NEVER DRINK OR EAT MUCH AT ONCE after you dried out and/or starved for a longer period of time.

Notes: Many things changed during my 6 weeks absence. My mother wouldn't go out of house without wearing a yellow armband with a star. Thus, I learned about regime's persecution of Jews and of my parents a mixed marriage. Those colleagues who went for paramilitary training reported how they were helping police or Ustasa secret police arresting, abducting and transporting unfortunates to prisons or camps from which few returned alive. Father's foresight sending me working hard was too accurate.]

DISCLAIMER : On URL: published pages are originals and authorized by copyright of Zvonko Z. Springer, Salzburg 1999.