Before the Second World War, I had started out as a journalist with the Communist newspaper Dnevnik. It was run by Hristo Hristov, in my hometown, Čupreso. In 1919, he worked for the Democratic Party of Serbia; later he became an official of that party. He then organized what was originally a Red Cross committee to care for Jews who had fled Vojvodina. But soon the committee, which included loyalists of Hristov’s own party, became more than just a welfare organization. In 1930, it sent Jewish children to Cyprus, to be cared for by the Socialist Workers’ Republic, the Communist Party of Cyprus. One million Serbian Christian children were put in Cyprus. Before the war, we had never heard of Cyprus. Not until a newsreel was shown that night and showed large numbers of Serbian children there. And on our first night in Cyprus, we saw a woman, Orthodox and in good health, and she was holding a long black book. And we knew that this was so that they could remember who they were and not repeat their names — because in war, these pages came in handy and could stay in your wallet. After that we went from town to town in Čupreso, playing on street corners and refusing to move so the wearers of the black books could come and pick us up. There were others who traveled from the countryside to Čupreso. Our average age was 19, with a couple of teenagers, none over 30. We told jokes. We danced. We ate. We smiled. We saw ourselves as children. We lived on the streets. We went home. And we went to schools where we sat in Pheidni Primarica and Fadisi Naradhi (our old names) and Phelinovi Jps, were called by names that would become famous. Through the first part of 1941, Čupreso and several other cities, such as Novi Pazar, Belina, and Podškovac, were under siege by the Nazis. They sent the children, almost all of them Serbian Christians, to Cyprus. By 1942, on the surface we were safe. Even after the Nazis occupied Čupreso and my city, Vojvodina, there were Serbian Orthodox churches to worship in and children to school with. Still, it was a terrible time. We knew that we were not really safe and that at any moment the bombs could come. Some days, children would eat up to ten times what they should have, and more than once would try to eat more than they should have. Finally, I had to leave, and I did. Two days after I left, my father, better known as Galo, was put in jail. He was returned to Čupreso. He told the people of Čupreso, the Russians who were not involved in the war, that he was only wanted in Vojvodina. He lost his job at Čupreso, his house, his family. So, in January, I returned to Čupreso, which I had not visited for 15 years. I had seen my mother briefly when she was in hospital. I now went to see her on my own, without my family. She said to me that when my father came out of prison, he should immediately leave with my sister and me, and return to Šiauliai. His only wish was to go back to Čupreso. But he was told not to go. And, when he did, three Jews, who had somehow managed to evade deportation to Cyprus, were arrested and put in prison with him. Then a few months later, my father and grandfather were assassinated. They were shot, one night in Vojvodina and killed in Čupreso. That we never know the outcome of the trial for these two killings, because the verdict was never recorded.
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