MY BICYCLE IS GONE TO WAR 1941

I got the first bicycle for my 12th birthday a year after the family moved to a house that father had bought in 1936. Our house was a single standing and two-story structure called a `villa' then. The Krezmina Street was a wide tarmac road lined by Japanese cheery-trees with pedestrian walks at both sides. At one street's side stood detached houses where as the opposite side all were built as attached ones. 

The night before birthday I have crept in parent's bedroom. I heard that something `big' has been brought upstairs to that adjacent room. After I made sure that parents went down to the living room ­ I jumped out of bed and quietly went to their darkened room. There it was MY FIRST BICYCLE. It was covered with colored papers waiting for me to touch it at least. I did it very carefully not making any noise or change position of papers. I could hardly wait to see IT in the day light of next morning mid June 1937.

On March 27, 1941 a military Coup d'etat dismissed the Yugoslav civilian government. Military enthroned the under aged Petar II. Karadjordjevic as the King of Yugoslavia. This has happened in defiance to Hitler's Germany with whom the late government entered in `Three partite pact' few days before on 23rd only. As the consequence of it German Armies bombarded Belgrade on April 6th and subsequently occupied the country by April 10th. The Military Command announced a general mobilization by end of March. My father got a letter from the Municipality Center ordering me to report there with my bicycle immediately.

The Center was at so called TVRDJA - Citadel of Osijek - which was within medieval bastion' fortifications. I took a day of from the school and so luckily I could stay away from a class-work in Latin held by a professor I didn't like at all. On arrival at Center's office I found a crowd there including some youngsters waiting to get some orders. We had to register the bicycles and carry a cipher plate fixed to front and rear mud-breakers. After an hour of waiting I got some dozens of sheets addressed to various persons at a certain city's part. With this bunch of letters I left the Center after I had been ordered to return the undelivered ones next morning.

I have pedaled whole day delivering letters of unknown content to people living in streets or at places I never that they exists in my hometown. The person whom I have delivered this ominous looking letter had to sign a receipt. Otherwise I had to leave a notice at the address for person to call at Center in 24 hours under threat of sever punishment. The next day I have learned what letters' content are all about. Some of these were for person to report to their army units and other were for vehicles of any kind including bicycles to be delivered to certain Municipality's collection places. I worked my ways for two days and picked up my third bunch of letter of calls for that day. I was really fed up with this rather unpleasant and dispirited courier's business returning home dog-tired late afternoon that day.


Zvonko as he was in his fore last school year 1941/42.

After my father has closed his lawyer's office he came to see me looking rather uneasy. He had a rather unhappy mien on his face when handing over to me the letter which form I have learned so well delivering in the past three days. I opened this letter and my heard stopped beating for a moment reading its content. I was ordered to deliver MY BICYCLE at Citadel's Municipality Center the next day. Oh, of all the horrors, I did not want to believe getting this letter at all. 

I couldn't sleep the whole night thinking about how to prevent my bicycle to be dispossessed by the Center. I worked for the Center very hard for three days and I just couldn't believe that it wants my bicycle. Why should the Government need it and for what purpose at all? Who would ride on my bicycle ­ my beautiful black WANDERER touring bicycle? How could a bike be used in defending the State? On the next morning my father took me by his huge arms and pressed me sobbing at his big chest. He said: "Son, that's one of life's hardships. Soon, many more ones would fall upon us. There might be even more dramatic or tragic ones that this one which you feel so unhappy about. You go and deliver your bicycle at the Center now." 

So I gave up my first bicycle one day early in April 1941. I never saw it after. Thus the bicycle went to war just two years before his owner.


In the National Theater of Osijek Zvonko was playing "The Librarian" in like named Moser's comedy in autumn 1942. 


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Email Zvonko Springer at : zzspri@aon.at