Colonel George Jatras (USAF Ret.) and Stella Jatras
Serbian National Defense Vidovdan Celebration
New Gracanica Serbian Orthodox Monastery
Third Lake, IL June 28, 2009.
Photo by Aleksandra Rebic
The Washington Times
July 6, 1997, Sunday, Final Edition
Revisiting the role of Yugoslavian ‘Chetniks’
The June 21 Letter to the Editor by Mladen J. Udbinac, under the heading “Article condemning Croatia draws angry responses,” is a typical example of revising and twisting historical facts regarding the role of the Chetniks (Yugoslav nationalists) in World War II.
Mr. Udbinac also states that criticism of Croatia today is “without any sort of concrete evidence.” I would like to set the facts straight, as reported in this newspaper.
In a commentary in The Times of June 11, 1985, Milt Copulos wrote that, “Information contained in these documents [previously classified OSS files and Nazi documents] now make it clear that the leader of Yugoslavia’s nationalist forces, [Chetniks], General Draza Mihailovich, was the victim of an active campaign of subversion conducted by James Klugman, a highly placed Communist agent in British intelligence and close associate of master spy Kim Philby.”
Rather than collaborating with the Nazis as claimed by Mr. Udbinac, Serbian forces under Gen. Mihailovich were loyal to the Allies in WW II and rescued over 500 downed American pilots while at the same time Croats and Muslims were turning our airmen over to the Nazis. Due to disgracefull politics (we did not want to offend our Communist friend, Josef Tito – himself a Croat), our State Department denied the efforts by American pilots to have a monument erected to honor those brave Serbians who sacrificed their lives to rescue them. In his account of the rescue, Major Richard Felman, an American Jew from Tucson, Arizona, recalls, “I watched in horror with binoculars as the Germans executed the entire village of Serbians who refused to disclose my hideaway with Draza Mihailovich’s forces.” On June 9, 1994, The Times carried an open letter to President Clinton from Major Felman and his fellow survivors deploring the bombing in Bosnia where Americans were killing “the very Serbian people who saved our lives while at the same time helping some of the people who were shooting at us and turning us over to the Germans.”
Mr. Ubinac’s accusation of Serbian anti-Semitism is even more egregious considering Serbian families took in Jewish children as their own in order to protect them from the horrors of Croatia’s death camps. Upon being discovered protecting these children, entire Serbian families were executed.
John Ranz, Chairman of the Survivors of Buchenwald, USA writes, “In the Serbian mountains Jews were welcomed by the Serbian partisans with open arms, and the 5,000 that survived in Yugoslavia survived among the partisans. The Serbs protected them until the end of the war at the risk of endangering their own lives.”
Regarding Mr. Udbinac’s comment that criticism of Croatia today is “without any sort of evidence,” how does he explain “the photographic and autopsy evidence of 3,200 bodies, mostly elderly Serb village women, their throats cut and their faces smashed in,” as reported by Edward Pearce in The Evening Standard (London), Aug. 7, 1995? A similar fate awaited elderly Serbs who were left behind when Croatian forces, trained by retired U.S. generals (”Retired U.S. brass sell military expertise,” The Washington Times, Nov. 25, 1995) “ethnically cleansed” 200,000 Serbs from their ancestral homes in Krajina and systematically shot or cut the throats of those who remained.
Hatred of the Serbian people, as exemplified by Mr. Udbinac’s misrepresentations and distortions, has shown itself in other ways. On August 9, 1996, St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in Phoenix, Arizona was desecrated. The church was spray-painted with swastikas, along with the dreaded “U” for “Ustashe,” Croatia’s Nazi party. Obscene words were sprayed on the walls in the Croatian and English languages. Signs of urination were evident on the church doors. There have been similar incidents in Chicago, Los Angeles and Toronto, Canada. Not long afterward, there was a series of e-mail messages, which included death threats, as well as a comment about “how do you like what we did to your stinkin [sic] church.” The messages gave the origin and the name of the student from Arizona State University who sent them. Despite numerous letters, telephone calls and messages to congressmen, police, and the university president demanding that the perpetrators be found and punished, the investigation has been closed “for lack of evidence.”
Major Richard Felman and our rescued American airmen are still waiting for the United States government to show its appreciation to those who saved their lives.
Serbian Americans in Phoenix, Chicago and Los Angeles are still waiting for action to find and punish those responsible for cowardly “hate crimes.” No American,including those like me who are not of Serbian descent, should remain silent while a proud people, our allies in two world wars, are vilified and their churches desecrated.
Col. GEORGE JATRAS