THE YOUTH ORGANIZATIONS PRIOR & DURING WW2 IN CROATIA

Yugoslav King Alexander Karadjordjevic I. proclaimed his dictatorship in 1929, which started prosecutions of Croatian nationalists. I remember the smart beige uniforms of the "Hrvatski Sokol" ("Croatian falcon") which had been a social and gymnastic society in Croatia. I was too young to become a member of this society when it was dissolved. In October 1934 I went to the 4th grade of Primary School in Osijek. Some days after King Alexander's assassination in Marseilles the door burst open and school director entered furiously calling me out in front the class.

Our teacher Knezevic was a Serb and mourned the loss of Serbs' king. I was accused of whistling in a cinema during the newsreel showing the attempt on King's life. I was loudly scolded and cried down and sent home to report my father about my vile behavior. Very frightened and weeping bitterly I explained to father what happened in the school regarding accusations against me. Bad luck for the director because my father a well-known lawyer and president of the Home & School Society. He threatened him bringing my case to the Court because I wasn't in school being sick on the day when they went visiting the cinema. Thus, all ended with few public apologies but I've had my 1st lesson of a prosecution.


Dr. Josip Fulanovic in the uniform of an elder of "Hrvatski Sokol" in Vinkovci (1929).

Firstly I've joined a recognized organization of the "HRVATSKI SOKOL" ("Croatian Falcon"). Their meeting ground was over our garden rear fence made of timber boards some 2-m high and I could get to this field or look at happenings there free of charge. At this sport's fields of "SOKOL" I've started my first training in gymnastics. Few years later I've joined "Hrvatski Krizari" ("Croatian Crusaders") which members met in Franciscan cloisters. The Grey Friars have been known as steadfast Croats and keepers' of religious Faith through many centuries even during medieval Turkish Occupation.

However, father found out that this organization wasn't the right one for a too young teenager so I've joined the "MARIJINA KONGREGACIJA" ("St. Mary's Congregation'). Padre Krist of the Society of Jesus was an excellent organizer of teenagers' students. Soon many students came and joined ST. Mary's Congregation that has achieved a considerable success in public too. Besides some religious duties we've had skating or volleyball grounds, could play table tennis and billiards at basement rooms, had an orchestra and amateur theater group (in which I was an important factotum). I stayed with the Congregation until my graduation in summer 1943. Parallel to my membership in the Congregation I've had some training in light-athletics at the sports club "ZRINSKI" at the sport filed just beyond our house's high wooden fence too.



Group photograph of the "Marijina Kongregacija" (St. Mary's Union) in Osijek (summer 1942).

In 1939 the Croatia Province ("Banovina Hrvatska") got its autonomy within Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The Peasant Party of Croatia established the "HRVATSKI JUNAK" ("Croatian Brave") as their youth's society. They had a uniform for boys and girls too topped up with blue cap. I didn't bother much about the "JUNAK" doings at all. The new-sprung regime of the Independent State of Croatia (known as "NDH") on April 10, 1941 introduced a new youth organization known as the "USTASKA MLADEZ" ("Ustasa Youth") something similar to the "Hitler's Youth". Everybody had to become a member of it and in particular all students going to school as from fall of 1941. So I became a nominal (obligatory) member of it too when the "HRVATSKI JUNAK" was converted into the "USTASKA MLADEZ" soon after 1941. I never went to any congregation held in by this fascistic oriented youth's organization.

My 3 years younger sister couldn't resist such gatherings beyond that fence and joined UM soon after me. She got her uniform and a blue cap on a day and proudly returning home met father at entrance door. Father, a big man of some 120kg (250lb), seeing his beloved daughter in her new attire smacked that cap of her head saying: "NEVER SHOULD your wear this cap here at home!" Why had it happened? On the cap there was a big letter "U" with a bomb in it the badge of Ustasa's regime. My sister couldn't understand what was it all about and why - she would have to learn it by growing up during WW2 and later when father had to smack her again in fall 1945. That's another story!


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Email Zvonko Springer at : zzspri@aon.at