Chapter 1-Morning

February 20th 1943 River Neretva

Mišo woke up under a tree while Raphael was searching a dead Chetnik for cigarettes. The two men both who witnessed their small group gunned down by Chetnik rifles only a few hours ago and were determined to meet up with the rest of the Partizans. “Raphael, do you know where the rest went?” asked Mišo “Southeast I think” replied Raphael.

The two had known each other all their lives and were closer than brothers despite their backgrounds, Raphael was the only child of two teachers and was obviously educated by that while Mišo was the illiterate son of a large farming family. Mišo is also a lot more mature than his friend. Though both men had a few natural things in common, one was their Croatian ethnic and two was the will to bring freedom to their people.

The two had joined the Partizans because of their belief in freedom. Though neither men are communists themselves let alone any good knowledge of the concept. “Raphael, do you at all understand communism or socialism?” “Not really my dear friend except the fact your parents wouldn’t have liked it one bit.” Mišo then replied to Raphael’s statement “What do you mean? Doesn’t communism not represent the dirt farmers? ”Yes, but your parents were strongly devoted Catholics?” Mišo then replied again “But isn’t Father Jovan not a Partizan?” Raphael didn’t answer instead he had his eyes on something, a group of Chetnik scouts.

Chapter 2-The Chetniks

“What is it Raphael? Our men?” asked Mišo “No” replied Raphael “Oh no, Germans? Ustashas? Who?” Mišo went nervous “Chetniks” said Raphael. Mišo grabbed his rifle and was ready to fire, Raphael reloaded his Thompson and did the same “On my command Raphael” ordered Mišo and then he pointed his hand in the Chetniks direction and the two men opened fire. All but one Chetnik was killed in the ambush.

Mišo went over to him, the Chetnik pointed his gun at Mišo only to find out it had jammed and before he could do anything else Mišo grabbed him and slammed him up against the wall which he took cover from the gunfire. “Who is your commander?” shouted Mišo “Why should I tell you?” said the Chetnik “WHO?” went Mišo again “Draža Mihailović” joking answered the Chetnik “Shut up and tell the truth” angrily replied Mišo “Pavel…” said the Chetnik “Pavel who?” asked Mišo “Pavel Jevđević” said the Chetnik “where are you based?” asked Mišo “That farm up on the hill” he answered “Thank you” said Mišo before he took out his knife and slit the Chetnik’s throat. “Why did you ask him that?” Raphael asked “I know who he is” replied Mišo “Who then?” asked Raphael again “The man who ordered my wife and daughter to be killed.” “Ok should we move?” replied Raphael “What do you think?” “We should use the uniforms of the two Chetniks we killed last night” recommended Raphael “You can but I’ll take this one” replied Mišo”

The two Partizans in Chetnik uniforms went up to the front of the farm “Hello Vodnik” said the Chetnik at the front of the entrance “Greetings Comrade Serb, any chance of meeting the commander?” responded Mišo “Why of course Vodnik he’s in his office, master bedroom” “Thanks”. Mišo and Raphael went into Jevđević’s office “Sit down Vodnik” said the Chetnik Commander “No thank you” replied Mišo “Why standing is for your solider over there Vodnik you should sit” said Jevđević “Get up” ordered Mišo pointing his gun at Jevđević’s head while picking up his pistol on the desk. “What is the meaning of this Vodnik?” asked Jevđević confusedly “Stop calling me that commander” said Mišo before hitting him in the nose with the gun. Mišo continued to beat the commander to a pulp “who are you and why?” asked Jevđević crying “The name is Mišo Franić and you killed my family” said Mišo before stepped on his neck and started twisting it eventually killing Jevđević. “I understand” said Raphael before being ordered by Mišo to try and contact any Partizans with the radio.

“They’re on their way Mišo” said Raphael “The Partizans?” “Yes” “Good my friend” replied Mišo. But before long a group of armed Chetniks who were ready to take their commander to see the battle came in. Raphael was shot and Mišo dragged him to cover. Mišo took Raphael’s Thompson and started firing at the Chetniks. “Raphael I need another drum” “Don’t have any” Raphael replied “What are you talking about?” asked Mišo “Left them at the tree” answered Raphael “Jesus, hope they get here soon” and Mišo got his rifle and started firing at the Chetniks. “Raphael, play dead” said Mišo and before long a Chetnik shot Mišo, wounding him. The Partizans then came in forcing the Chetniks to go and fight them. A Partizan then came up to the two and asked “Mišo, Raphael?”

Chapter 3-Marija-Elena

“Where am I?” asked Raphael “The Field Hospital” “Nikola, is that you?” “Yes”. “What happened?” asked Raphael again “You were shot up in the farm” answered Nikola. “Relax Raphael, you’ve had it ruff” said a nurse and Raphael lay back “I’ll check on your friend” she said again and left. “Who’s the nurse, Nikola?” asked Raphael “Her name is Marija-Elena, she’s from Dalmatia. Why?” replied Nikola “Oh just wondering you know” remarked Raphael.

Mišo was already awake when Marija-Elena went into the room “You okay?” she asked and Mišo answered “Just a bit sore in the arm”. “You’re going to recover fully from this Mišo” Marija-Elena stated “How do you know my name?” asked Mišo “It’s a nurses right to know a patients name and Nikola told me your names” Marija-Elena replied. “So Raphael made it, anyway you are?” “Marija-Elena” she answered. “You’re from Vukovar aren’t you Mišo?” “Yes and you?” answered and asked Mišo and she replied “Dubrovnik”. “Any family?” asked Mišo again “My father was killed in a boating accident when I was young and my mother became a nun sometime after” answered Marija-Elena “Your mother’s a nun?” said Mišo confused and she replied “Yes, I spent though my childhood in the orphanage but she still loved me as her child and what about you Mišo?” “I had a wife and daughter, Chetniks killed them” he said sorrowfully, “Oh, sorry about that, what age was your daughter” responded Marija-Elena “Three” replied Mišo. Marija-Elena turned to almost crying, hugged Mišo and left the room.

A few days later Raphael ran up the Mišo and said “hey Mišo did you see that nurse, Marija-Elena?” he replied “Yes”. “What do you think of her?” asked Raphael and Mišo replied “Good looking, caring…” “Hey Mišo do you think she’ll like these flowers?” asked Raphael eagerly “Do you even know her that well?” “Of course I do” sharply responded Raphael “why would I be giving her the flowers”. Raphael walked into the hospital and handed Marija-Elena the flowers and the two walked out. “Raphael I don’t know about you and me” she said awkwardly “I do like you, but…” “…but what?” Raphael asked cutting her off “It’s just that you’re a bit boyish and I’m looking for a mature man” answered Marija-Elena looking at Mišo “but Mišo is only twenty, don’t let the looks fool you” said Raphael “I know Mišo is only twenty” replied Marija-Elena and she ran over to him and hugged him.

Chapter 4-Sutjeska

May 16th 1943 Vicinity of the Sutjeska River

After the retreat from the Neretva the war raged on at the Sutjeska. Raphael and Mišo still under the command of Nikola were running through a patch of trees carrying an injured partizan. “Come on men were almost to our movement” shouted Nikola”. “Bet you can’t wait to get back with Marija-Elena, can you Mišo?” jokingly asked Raphael to Mišo who replied “Shut up Raphael, just because she rejected you doesn’t change a thing”. The rain was pouring down blocking their view but Nikola knew where he was going and without him his squad would have been lost.

“Here we are men, I’ll report to Tito” marked Nikola. “Are you coming?” Mišo asked Raphael who gladly accepted. “Ivana, she was blonde as well?” asked Raphael forgetfully “War can make you forget can’t it my friend, but I’ll never forget Ivana and Natalija” responded Mišo. “You boys alright?” asked Marija-Elena and both men said yes. “Who’s this?” asked Mišo while he left down another injured partizan “He’s Ivan, he’s a tank commander” answered Marija-Elena “Ivan-Pavel” the man corrected her “and I’m here because I injured my arm”. Raphael asked how and both Marija-Elena and Ivan-Pavel said he was shot “Got out of my tank to have a look, my co-commander brought me back into the tank and brought me here” explained Ivan-Pavel. “We better get some sleep” said Mišo “God knows what will happen tomorrow”. Marija-Elena and Mišo lay together and Marija asked him about his wife, daughter and his farm life. It would have seemed Mišo started to cry, but he didn’t.

The next morning a selection of partizans were told to attack an Ustasha recon squad not that far from the current position, they were also told it would be very easy and the Ustashas were lightly armed. Among the selected was Mišo but not Raphael. “Are you ok with Mišo going out like that?” Raphael asked Marija-Elena “I’m not even worried” she replied “That’s good” stated Raphael. “Anyway how are you?” Raphael asked “fine just feel a bit sick, that’s all really” “Aha the nurse feels a bit sick” jokingly remarked Raphael.

Meanwhile up in the hills Mišo and four others were searching for the small recon squad. They seen them and readied their weapons. “FIRE” the squad leader shouted and the Ustashas were killed in seconds. The group then started to head back to the camp but were confronted by the SS. “Where do you think you’re going?” asked the leader “drop your weapons”

At the camp things were getting anxious. “That’s it I’m going looking for them” stated Raphael “With who?” asked Nikola “You and a few others” responded Raphael. “I’ll leave a note for Marija-Elena” Raphael said and he and Nikola started organising a search party.

Chapter 5-Return

Raphael, Nikola, their squad and a few others including the injured tank commander, Ivan-Pavel. “Are you alright to fight Ivan-Pavel?” asked Raphael sound very concerned “Yes I am, thank you” answered Ivan-Pavel and Nikola followed “Of course he is, it was just pistol bullet”. “Look up on that hill, it’s a camp” stated one of the partizans “We should go up and see” said Raphael.

At the side of the camp the partizans lay looking in, it was an Ustasha camp and they seen their captured allies. “We’ve got to be careful” marked Nikola “but the only way is to make noise” replied Ivan-Pavel “He meant not to shoot ours” said Raphael. The group ran into the camp and started firing at the Ustashas, some managed to attack the partizans in hand-to-hand. At the end though they were defeated and the group freed their captured comrades. “Mišo wear’s Boris?” asked Nicola “He went up with you” and Mišo pointed at a dead partisan “There’s Boris, they killed him”.

The captives were helped down the hill, they had been beaten and tortured. “Raphael, how’s Marija-Elena?” asked Mišo “she’s fine” said Raphael. At the camp they were being expected “Tito” said Raphael “You organised a group to rescue your friend and his task group without any official order from me or a superior officer?” Tito asked “Yes, comrade Tito” Raphael answered nervously “Good work on rescuing them” Tito said cheerfully “Just be carful”. Marija-Elena ran over and embraced Mišo “Were you worried” he said “Yes very worried” Marija-Elena said. “Mišo there’s something I have to tell as well” “What is it babe?” he replied and she answered “I’m pregnant”

Chapter 6-Ivo

“Comrade Stankić” said a partizan to Raphael “Ivo Tomčić will like to talk to you” he issued. Raphael agreed to it and went to Ivo. “Comrade Commander” saluted Raphael “At ease Raphael and please call me Ivo” Ivo responded. “I seen you rescue your comrades from that Bosnian SS encampment on the hill, an exceptional show of courage especially when dealing with them” quoted Ivo “Yes Ivo I know” responded Raphael “Well it just so happens that Comrade Tito needs a Bulgarian encampment wiped out just South of here, except for the intelligence officer” informed Ivo “Why does he want me?” asked Raphael “What about Nikola?” he asked again “One my Croat brother Nikola was injured last night and we hope to have him ready by next week, we need this done now and two Raphael, Tito was impressed by your courage especially with someone so young” replied Ivo “Yes Ivo” accepted Raphael “Head out tonight then so” ordered Ivo

At the medical tent Raphael told Nikola about the mission “So the Slovene has finally given someone a task mission” said Nikola somewhat astonished “What do you mean?” asked Raphael “You know what I mean, he wants us all alive and well” replied Nikola. “You should leave him alone now Raphael” ordered the doctor, Raphael got off his seat and went out where he ran into Marija-Elena. “Oh hello Raphael” she greeted “Hey Marija, how’s the morning sickness?” he greeted back and she laughed “Just got to get over it”. They then went their own ways.

Chapter 7-Tzarists

“Okay Raphael this is your squad” said Ivo, Raphael looked puzzled “Yes your squad, you’re a Vodnik now” explained Ivo “A Vodnik, how?” Raphael asked very confusedly “That little heroic action 2 weeks ago, well we decided to promote you, say goodbye to Nikola and Mišo when you come back” Ivo explained again. Raphael and his squad then went into the forest towards the location of the Tzarist camp.

Outside the encampment the squad took cover “Tomislav ready your sniper” ordered Raphael “wait until the planes fly over” When the planes flew over the sniper took out two Bulgarians. The group’s leader pointed out towards their position and a solider went out to scout and when he came over to the partizans position he was ambushed. Raphael disguised himself as the Bulgarian and went over to the camp “So Ivan you find anything” asked the sergeant “No” answered Raphael. Raphael only knew some Bulgarian and was lucky that it had some similarities with Croatian. Raphael noticed an ammunition pile and if he had a match or lighter he would be able to cause some trouble so he took out a cigarette and started asking the soldiers for one. “Lighter, match” he asked around the camp, then a solider gave him a match “Thank you, long live Boris” he said, the Bulgarian just looked at Raphael and walked away and after Raphael lit up his cigarette he through the match at the TNT next do it ammunition pile. There was an explosion followed by the sound of gunfire and the partizans at the trees started firing at the Bulgarians. Raphael took cover and grabbed the intelligence officer, still wearing his earphones. If it wasn’t the partizans that killed the Tzar’s finest it was the bullets from the explosion and vice-versa. At the end of the chaos Raphael pulled the intelligence officer up and shouted “It’s me Raphael”. They headed back to camp.

“How do you like my uniform Ivo?” was the first thing Raphael said when he got back. “My God, Raphael, my God” Ivo kept nodding “how did you do it, just how?” he kept asking “I’ll tell you later” Raphael said with a grin on his face.

Chapter 8-The March Continues

Mišo and Marija-Elena we’re talking about what to call their child “If it’s a boy Mišo, what should we call him?” asked Marija-Elena “I don’t know? Boris, Ivan, Jovan, Vladimir, Pavel? What?” he replied “How about Raphael?” said Marija-Elena “Why Raphael?” asked Mišo “Well because of the man who painted the Madonna and a lot more” she replied. “Marija, you’re forgetting that Mišo isn’t educated” remarked Raphael walking beside them. “You want us to name our child after that idiot?” asked Mišo sniggering “Raphael’s no idiot and you should be grateful, he saved your life” answered Marija-Elena in an unusual angry manner “He tried to win you from me” said Mišo and she again said “so what” and Mišo just gave in.

“You alright Nikola?” Raphael asked “Yes thank you Raphael” he said back. “How are the wife and kids?” Raphael asked again “Little Ivan is sick and Anđela and my wife are okay” replied Nikola. “Nikola” said the doctor coming up to him “Ivan has to rest for the night, we’ll be stopping not that far from here” issued the doctor “Ok doctor” replied Nikola.

“I think I could live with Raphael, I suppose” Mišo said to Marija-Elena. “Ah Mišo, Marija-Elena we’ll be stopping not that far from here” Tito told the couple “Why are we stopping here sir?” asked Marija-Elena “We need the rest, you especially dear. Stay with Ivo will you as well” Tito explained. “Mišo, how does he know our names?” asked Marija-Elena “Well likely from Ivo, Raphael or Nikola” answered Mišo.

“I haven’t seen you around” Tito said to Ivan-Pavel “Well yes I lost my tank group after I was shot”. “What is your name comrade?” Tito asked “Ivan-Pavel” he answered “And we’re you from Ivan-Pavel?” Tito asked again “I am from Skopje” answered Ivan-Pavel”. “And just out of curiosity Ivan-Pavel can you speak Bulgarian?” Tito asked again “No I have a man with me, in the tank obviously who helps us get the direct speech into Macedonian” answered and explained Ivan-Pavel “That’s ok, go on my friend” Tito said afterwards.

“Marija-Elena you shouldn’t be here, you’re having a baby” said Nikola in the hospital “Oh Nikola I was just leaving anyway, the doctor wants to talk to you”. “Is he going to be alright Muhammad?” asked Nikola “I’m sorry Nikola” said the doctor “What’s wrong, what is wrong with him?” shouted Nikola “I’m afraid that Ivan has pneumonia” the doctor answered “Would he make it?” asked Nikola who was turning to cry when Tito and Ivo walked in “Muhammad” said Tito “Commander Tomčić and I have granted that Vodnik Vidić be aloud to stay with his son until he recovers from his illness” he continued. “What is the illness anyway doctor?” asked Ivo “Pneumonia” and Tito said “in the summer months it wouldn’t take that long to recover” “But who will medicate the kid?” asked the doctor “Nikola is my solider Muhammad and out of the guards I place I’ll pick my best medic as well” added Ivo. “Good luck” the four men said to each other.

Chapter 9-A Long Day: Battle

“Okay Nikola’s squad you’re with me” ordered Raphael. “We are to defeat the fascist no matter the cost, remember just to fight for the freedom of your people and families and last but not least yourselves, FOR THE REPUBLIC” quoted Raphael as his squad and Nikola’s squad went out to fight the Wermacht. They were deafened by machine gun firing and were forced to fire back at the never ending breath.

A badly injured partizan came up to the nurses, he said his entire squad at been gunned down. “Are you okay yourself” asked Marija-Elena “I feel very light headed and weak” the partizan replied before dropping to the ground and dyeing.

“From the sound of things at least we are not out there huh Nikola” said Ivan-Pavel “How’s your son?” he asked Nikola “He seems better, hopefully he’ll get better” answered Nikola “He will” added the medic.

Back at the battlefield the partizans were trying desperate to break through German lines. “MIŠO COVER DOES MEN WITH THE MACHINE GUN” shouted Raphael. Mišo aimed his rifle and started firing at nearby German positions while Raphael used his SMG. The machine gunners started firing. Bombs and grenades were thrown at the lines from both. “MIŠO TAKE COVER” Raphael kept shouting but Mišo eventually heard something “COVER WHO?” he shouted, Raphael ran towards him. A mortar hit near them wounding both of them. Raphael was bleeding but was able to get up he then grasped Mišo by the collar and pulled him to a rock. There he lifted his arm over his shoulder and ran.

Chapter 10-A Long Day:Battle End

Raphael ran carrying Mišo on the shoulder towards cover. “Don’t worry my friend you’re going to make it” Raphael said “I know I am, I always do” Mišo replied. It seemed the partizans began gaining the upper hand and the Germans began loosing. Raphael started carrying Mišo again it seemed to become more quite. “Raphael…” said Mišo “What my friend?” asked Raphael “Do you think I should give up?” Mišo responded. “Why should you?” asked Raphael “You’re right I shouldn’t” replied Mišo followed by Raphael “That’s the spirit”.

“Come on Mišo, you have a beautiful girlfriend waiting for you and…” marked Raphael before Mišo interrupted him and said in a quit weak voice “Marija-Elena” “That’s right and you’re going to have a baby with her in eight months” finished Raphael. “Hey Raphael look after them will you” said Mišo “Of course Mišo, we’ll be like family. ‘Uncle’ Raphael huh” replied Raphael. They kept walking until they finally seen some partizan officers. The partizans also had broken through the lines. “Are they alright?” wondered Tito “Jesus that’s the two Vukovar boys, Raphael and Mišo” exclaimed Ivo. “We made it Ivo” shouted Raphael “Comrade Tito, we did it” he said again before collapsing to the ground.

“You lost a lot of blood Raphael, take it easy” said Ivo at the bedside of Raphael. “Where’s Mišo? Where is he?” Raphael kept saying. Ivo looked as he didn’t want to say anything. “Where is he Ivo?” he asked again. “I’m sorry Raphael, Mišo died” Ivo said sad himself “He was dead when you came down from that hill, you did loose a lot of blood” said Tito. “Ivo where’s Marija-Elena?” asked Raphael “Outside” said Ivo. Raphael walked he turned to cry when he seen Marija-Elena’s face “He’s dead” cried Raphael. They walked over to each other and cried. “He told me to look after you and the baby, he would have wanted it like this” cried Raphael “It’s okay” cried Marija-Elena “I love you Raphael Stankić” she said “and I love you too Marija-Elena Modrić” followed Raphael

Chapter 11-We Must Continue

December 1943, Dalmatia “I’m sorry about Mišo, Raphael” Raphael looked up and he seen Father Jovan “I know he was your best friend and it’s also sad that his child will never see their father” the priest said again. “You aren’t concerned about the child being illligament are you Father?” asked Raphael “Of course not, you know I’m not conservative, why do you think I’m fighting a war for communists” replied Jovan. “Ah comrade priest” Nikola came up “A partizan was killed, we need you to give him the last rights” he said “I’ll speak to you later Raphael” Jovan said.

“Here Raphael” said Marija-Elena handing Raphael a bag “What is it?” he asked “Just some salted pork, Ivo’s wife is making them” answered Marija-Elena. “Tastes good, you had some?” said Raphael “I had a little” replied Marija-Elena. “So how does it feel to be in your native Dalmatia?” asked Raphael “This isn’t by native place baby, you know I’m from Split” replied Marija-Elena laughing “But it is in Dalmatia, regardless” said Raphael trying to deny her but she just smiled at him. “After the war, Raphael do you think we should get married?” wondered Marija-Elena “Of course, the child is going to need a father. Even if he was only their father’s best friend” responded Raphael “Anyway, goodnight Marija” said Raphael.

Raphael woke up and got some breakfast, he sat beside Nikola. “Cold isn’t it Nikola?” asked Raphael “Not as cold as Belgrade at this time” replied Nikola “You’ve never been to Vukovar at this time then” said Raphael. “When is Marija-Elena due?” asked Nikola “Next month” answered Raphael. “Anyway” said Nikola “We must continue, we need to expel the fascists from our lands and bring freedom to our people” he continued. They sat a minute or two eating before Raphael spoke “War is a terrible thing isn’t it Nikola? It took so many; Mišo, Boris, Viktor, Ante…” Nikola continued Raphael with his own words “My brother, my wife’s brother, your cousin and two of mine’s. It really needs to end Raphael”. “I remember how things were, bad but not this bad. I remember though times were similar. My mother would tell Marija-Elena everyday of me and my father…” Raphael ended “Is there something wrong?” asked Nikola “Just my father” answered Raphael “What about your father?” responded Nikola “My father was killed by a Serbian nationalist in front of our house when I was boy, only nine years ago” answered Raphael “I’m sorry” condoled Nikola. “Papa, papa” Nikola’s son ran up to him “Look” and he pointed a group of German SS in the distance

Chapter 12-Attack

The Germans started firing at a number of partizans before they got attacked themselves. It was a complete ambush. Raphael seen his mother and dragged her to cover. “Why son, what was that for?” she asked “Mama I need you to take cover, I’ll get someone to cover you but for the mean time head to the hut were me and Marija-Elena are” Raphael explained and his mother just ran towards the hut. “You guard my hut will you” commanded Raphael and the partizan he ordered obliged. Nikola and his squad were taking cover behind some barrels. “Ivan I want you to use my pistol and fight” Nikola ordered his son. The boy lifted the pistol and started firing. “If the Germans get too close run just run please” Nikola told Ivan”. Soon enough a storm trooper started firing his gun, Nikola was hit but be managed to kill him. “Run Ivan, please” Nikola said to his son but when he ran a storm trooper ran “IVAN” shouted Nikola who then grabbed a hatchet and ran towards the German “Die you child murdering scumbag, die” cried Nikola hitting the trooper. Eventfully he died and Nikola ran towards Ivan and lifted him up and ran. “IVO” he shouted “Where’s Muhammad?” “There” answered Ivo pointing at a badly injured man. “Muhammad could you help Ivan?” asked Nikola crying “I can’t help my self, get another” Muhammad replied “What about you comrade?” asked Nikola again “Just give me that pistol”. Nikola knew the doctor was in no state to be left alive and gave him the gun. Muhammad said thanks and Nikola ran towards Raphael and Marija-Elena’s hut and a bang was heard from Muhammad’s area. “He needs help” Nikola told the partizan “Yes vodnik” and Nikola ran in. “What’s wrong Nikola?” Tito asked him “He was shot, I knew Ma…” but before he could finish Marija-Elena took Ivan from his arms “I’ll try my best till a doctor gets here” she said.

Outside the Germans were beginning to pull back. Ivo lit a Molotov cocktail and threw it at the remaining SS and does who weren’t hit ran. “Good job commander” said Raphael before he headed back to his hut. “Comrade Tito” he greeted “Comrade Vodnik” Tito greeted back “It’s over” he told him. “Nikola are you ok” Raphael asked “Ivan was shot” Nikola told him. A doctor came through the door “Don’t worry Nikola I’ll try my best and hopefully he’ll make it” he told. A few hours passed and the doctor came out “Good new and bad Nikola, the good he’s going to live and the bad he’s going to need to walk with a crutch for some time” “How long?” asked Nikola “Don’t know” answered the doctor.

Chapter 13-Luck and Hope

One month later, January 1944 The battle was showing signs of end but signs of heating up again. Raphael was dug into a hole fighting Bulgarian forces. “Throw the grenade” he commanded and the ordered partizan threw it though being shot. “MEDIC” shouted Raphael and one came over to the injured partizan. “Oh Vodnik Stankić…” said the medic “they want you back at camp”. “Ratko you’re in command for now” ordered Raphael as he went towards the camp.

On the way he encountered a small number of Bulgarian elite troopers. He tried to steer away from them but one of them seen them and ordered the others to fire at Raphael. He then had no other option but to open fire on them. He just jumped out of his cover and started firing upon the Bulgarians killing all four of them. He then ran towards the road again presuming it would be safer. He then seen the car the group came in and got in. Luckily the keys were still in it and he drove off towards the camp. “It’s me Raphael” he shouted at then got out.

“Where to?” he asked the front guard “Tito’s hut” the partizan answered. He was greeted by Ivo at front door who then opened it. In the front room he met a doctor wearing a blood soaked apron and Tito. “You have a very brave wife Raphael” said the doctor and Tito got up and told Raphael to follow him. Tito then opened the door to a room where they seen Marija-Elena holding a baby in her hands. “Congratulations” said Tito “Thank you Tito” acknowledged Raphael while he walked over to his lover and her child. “It’s a boy” told Marija-Elena “what do you want to call him?” she asked then and straight away Raphael said “Mišo, in honour and memory of the father he’ll never know”.

Chapter 14-Flashback

One year ago, just after the Battle of the Neretva “Raphael, we found him” said Mišo. “Ante can you hear me?” asked Raphael but there was no reply, the partizan was dead. “Come on we’ve got to find a metre of dirt” marked Mišo and Raphael grabbed his shovel and started digging. “Poor Ante, he would have been happy to know he had a daughter born today” Mišo stated while lifting the body into the ground. “This war is a waste of life isn’t it Raphael?” said Mišo “Yes an awful waste” replied Raphael putting the dirt over the body before leaving.

“Marija-Elena you are the moonlight of a Dalmatian night…” sang Raphael “Just why are you singing about my girlfriend?” asked Mišo “She still likes me brother” answered Raphael. Mišo then pushed Raphael “come on then, who wins gets her” he said “I was only joking Mišo” Raphael replied. “You’re a lucky man Mišo” said Raphael “Marija-Elena is a good girl and I wish you many happy years”. To Mišo this was one of the most mature things Raphael had ever said.

Back at the camp they met Nikola “He’s dead isn’t he?” he asked and his two squad members nodded their heads. “Sad, he had a baby daughter today, I’ll tell his wife he died later, when she is more capable” Nikola remarked “Anyway, Mišo and Raphael I need you two to kill a Hungarian officer, not far from here. It will be easy, just do it at night and run after he’s shot, with a sniper rifle of course” he explained and the two partizans agreed. Later before they set out, Marija-Elena kissed both of them. After she kissed Raphael he woke up, he seen Marija-Elena moving back and handing him his step-son, Mišo. “You want to hold him?” she asked him and he held him.

Chapter 15-Moving on forward

“Raphael over here” shouted Tito, Raphael listened “Sit down son”. “So what’s the baby’s name?” asked Tito “Mišo, after his father” answered Raphael. “Imagine, born to a step-father” Tito quoted “Weird, though it doesn’t make a difference does it, other than Mišo will never know his father” followed Raphael. “Anyway I better be going” said Raphael. When he was walking around he seen Nikola’s wife helping her son to walk, Raphael asked her where was Nikola and she pointed at armoury. “Congrats Raphael, she made it” Nikola said to Raphael “Thanks, do you know when we are moving?” acknowledged and asked Raphael “Don’t know comrade, don’t know” replied Nikola. Marija-Elena was lying in bed holding Mišo in her arms when she heard a knock on the door. “Come in” she said “How are you keeping?” asked Tito when he came in “I’m fine” she replied “and the baby” Tito asked again replied by Marija-Elena “Fine”. “He looks like his father, doesn’t he…” said Tito “except I’ll think he’ll be blonde like you” he continued, Marija-Elena smiled at him. “We’re going to be moving forward in two weeks, you and Raphael can stay in this room until so” Tito marked “Thank you” appreciated Marija-Elena.

“Raphael” said Father Jovan “How’s Marija-Elena?” he asked “She’s good” replied Raphael. “You coming in?” asked and Jovan agreed. “Hello Marija-Elena and what’s the baby’s name?” Jovan asked Marija-Elena “Mišo, same as his father” she answered. “Are you thinking of baptising him?” Jovan asked again “When we find a Church” replied Raphael getting into bed next to Marija-Elena “Ok, none near here anyway I think” said Jovan. “He’s too young yet anyway” said Raphael “I know” responded Jovan “I’ll be going” he said again. Raphael put his arm over Marija-Elena and helped her hold Mišo.

Chapter 16-More Blood

May 1944-Drvar, Bosnia

Raphael and Nikola took cover from continuous Chetnik bombardment in a cave. “When will Ivo stop making these ridicules orders?” asked Nikola angrily “I don’t know? When will he stopping making task groups?” replied Raphael. “Anyway Raphael you know our mission, place this TNT on that cliff, wipes out Chetnik mortars and we head back” said Nikola responded by Raphael “Seems easy enough, since we’re so close”. The two went over to the cliff side “Ok Raphael this has a long fuse, but you wouldn’t want to just walk away” said Nikola lighting the fuse “Run now” he said again. The two men ran down the side and took cover behind a rock and watched the cliff fall with the mortar group on top. “Okay lets back” Raphael said with sort of a sign of relief.

“Look no more attacks Živa, they did their work” Ivo said trying to explain to his wife about the mission “Nikola has a family, bigger than ours and in fact his children are younger” Živa said worrying about Nikola “Bigger? Not the right word, he only has the two” replied Ivo “Still one more than ours and what Raphael, what will happen to poor Marija-Elena if she found out he died, they have a…” she was interrupted when the two came in “All done Ivo” proudly said Raphael “Good work men, at ease” Ivo replied. “You were saying?” he said to his wife. Outside Marija-Elena ran over to Raphael and hugged and kissed him. “We missed you she said, little Mišo will be happy to see his step-father again, life and well” she said happily. The two then sat down next to Mišo’s crib “Raphael I want you to be very careful” Marija-Elena told Raphael “I know and I will baby” he replied.

“What a day huh Nikola, you know they say rain makes the best camouflage if you don’t count snow” Ivo stated “Yeah, about the task…” but before Nikola could finish a mortar bomb fell from the sky and hit near both of them. Nikola got up and dragged Ivo to cover. “Nikola the bombs only came from nearby” said a partizan “Get Raphael to fight them and a doctor for Ivo” replied Nikola. More bombs fell and Raphael ran out after telling Marija-Elena to take cover with Mišo. “Raphael…” tried to order the partizan but Raphael had already acknowledged. Ivo was brought to a room and was being operated on by the doctor who Nikola had ordered. Raphael ordered his squad to attack the mortar positions it turned out they were Chetniks who survived the cliff attack. They were killed in an ambush and a small gunfight. The camp was safe.

A few hours passed, the doctors had finished operating on Ivo. “Živa, we did our best said the doctor, do you want to go in” said the doctor “Your husband was very brave Živa, hopefully he makes it” assured Marija-Elena who helped in the operation. Marija-Elena went over to Raphael who was holding Mišo. “Is he going to make it?” asked Raphael “God only knows baby” Marija-Elena replied. “Živa” said Ivo coughing “How are you feeling?” Živa asked “Very weak” answered Ivo. “Don’t worry Ivo you’re going to make it” Živa tried to insure. “Živa, can you please look after Cecilija and raise her well?” asked Ivo handing his ring to his wife “Yes she’s our daughter, of course” Živa said crying. She left the hut “Doesn’t look good” said Nikola “I’ll make the Chetniks pay, for Živa, Cecilija and for the memory of Ivo” Raphael marked angrily.

Chapter 17-A Partizan’s Promise

“Raphael where are you going?” asked Nikola “Making a promise” Raphael replied. Nikola seemed to know well what Raphael was talking about. “I’m going to take does Chetnik cockroaches even if it’s the last thing I do Nikola” continued Raphael “But you’re going to get killed and you have a wife and step-son to look after” replied Nikola. “I’ll make it my Serbian friend, just like Sutjeska” Raphael told Nikola “What happened in Sutjeska was by sheer luck and what about Mišo? He was like your brother, just like what I see you only you’re a Croat and I’m a Serb and the seven year age difference” and Raphael responded to Nikola “My revenge for Mišo is to remove the German invader from Yugoslavia as a whole” Nikola just nodded his head in acknowledgment “Any Raphael I’m going to go with you”.

Up in the hills where a Chetnik company was located Raphael stationed the machine gun he was carrying and placed it up against a rock. “Can you whistle?” asked Raphael “Yes, why?” answered Nikola “I think I see some Chetniks yonder” replied Raphael. Nikola whistled and it caught the Chetniks attention and when they were in clear visibility Raphael opened fire and more Chetniks came out and started to open fire. Raphael kept firing until it went click. “COME OUT YOU COWARDS” shouted Raphael “COME OUT AND FIGHT ME, COME ON SHOW ME HOW YOU GOT THOSE MEDALS DOWN IN MACEDONIA” he shouted again, a rifle fired but hit nowhere near Raphael and Nikola. “Aha, CHETNIK COWARD COME ON” Raphael shouted and the Chetnik started to run away until Raphael shot him and Nikola told him they were all dead.

Back down at the camp Raphael and Nikola met their wives talking to Ivo’s widow. “Where did you go at night Raphael?” asked Marija-Elena hugging him “Just something we needed to take care of” Raphael answered her. “We heard gunshots up in the hills” Živa said and Raphael responded to her by telling them it was him and Nikola “…it was for your husband Živa, hopefully now he can rest” Nikola told her. Živa almost started crying with happiness “Thank you, it means a lot that you would do that” she said. Raphael followed Marija-Elena “So where’s the big man?” he asked her “He’s still asleep” she answered “…and you should get to sleep” she continued.

Chapter 18-Escape

Raphael woke up wrecked “what time is it?” he asked Marija-Elena “Half three” she said. “Do you mind if you could look after Mišo?” Marija-Elena asked Raphael. Raphael just froze and said “Mišo…” “Yeah he’s your step-son” Marija-Elena responded “Mišo Franić, why?” cried Raphael “It was my fault, I should have known you were dying” “It wasn’t your fault Raphael now just sit down with Mi… am Junior and take a rest, I’ll be back shortly baby”. When she got out of the tent she met Nikola “Is Raphael awake?” he asked “Yeah, but he isn’t himself, he’s blaming himself for Mišo’s death” Marija-Elena told him. “Okay Raphael?” asked Nikola “Mišo why?” Raphael cried to himself “You had that dream again didn’t you?” Nikola asked “It’s been almost a year you have to put Mišo’s death behind you kid” Nikola continued “Speak to you later” and he left.

Later that day Raphael was called to a meeting “…make sure they cover commander” “Yes I will comrade Tito” said the column’s new leader. “Aha Drago I thought I’ll never see the day you’ll be column leader” exclaimed Raphael “Funny enough you too are a Slovene” “Haha Raphael how’s the baby?” Drago asked “He’s fine and so is his mother” answered Raphael “In both ways ain’t I right” Drago said again “You’ve got that right” said Raphael obviously agreeing. “What was Tito saying?” Raphael asked “We have to defend an escape of him, the wounded and the civilians and then ourselves” answered Drago. “Raphael there is an entire movement of Germans heading this way and I want you to take that hillside” Drago ordered “There have been fascists attacking us all week and this is the first time I’ve been ordered to do something?” asked Raphael “Didn’t Ivo order you to take out some Chetniks before he died?” replied Drago and Raphael just went to fetch his squad.

“So Raphael why don’t you move with your hot wife, accompany her?” “Viktor all you talk about is my dear Marija-Elena, I’d advise you to get your own woman” Raphael replied to the partizan “Do you think a woman would go out with a man with a face such as mine?” Viktor laughed “Most women go for a man with standards and good character we go for both looks and standards and character” responded Raphael. “Germans up ahead” said a partizan “Ready your weapons” Raphael ordered “When they get close enough fire” and surely enough they did. “We’re going to have a fire fight on our hands so brace yourselves partizans” Raphael told his squad. The Germans were charging at the partizans in full force but the partizans managed to hold ground.

“Remember to place explosives on those mortars when we leave” Nikola told two mortar squads. “Nikola we’ve been ordered to withdrawal” a partizan told him “Very well, EVERYONE WE’RE HEADING OUT, mortars place those explosives” Nikola ordered “Radio contact Raphael now”. There was no reply from Raphael’s squad “Goddamn it, I am not leaving a friend to die” said Nikola angrily “But Nikola…” “No buts we’re going to get them”. Nikola’s squad eventually met with Raphael’s. “RAPAHEL” shouted Nikola “Yes” responded Raphael “Thank God, come on we’re going”. Raphael and his squad went down from the hill and started following Nikola’s. When they were heading towards their column a sniper fired and hit Viktor. Raphael ran to pick him up “Go on Raphael leave me” he said “I’m not leaving you for dead”. They eventually got back to the column. “Get him medical attention” ordered Raphael. Marija-Elena ran over and hugged him “Were you alright?” she asked him “I was babe and Mišo, did the noise disturb him?” replied Raphael “He wasn’t bothered by it I think” she said.

Chapter 19-Drawing near

May 13 1945 Near the Austro-Slovenian border

“Isn’t this where Živa’s from, where we’re heading?” asked Nikola “I thought she was from Ljubljana” Raphael replied “No that was Ivo” Nikola said knowingly. “I think this is the end Nikola” Raphael said “The end of what?” Nikola replied and Raphael answered him “Of the war”. “Why do you think we still have to fight Raphael? Why didn’t the Russians help us after Belgrade?” Nikola asked “I don’t think they really care about us, why what do you think replied Raphael and Nikola answered “The same or that Tito and Stalin didn’t get on, I mean we used American and British weapons and vehicles in front of his army”. “Raphael, Nikola…” “Every day Mišo gets better at walking doesn’t he?” said Nikola cutting off Marija-Elena but she continued “…we need you two to scout ahead and look for a place to set up camp”. The two agreed and went on “Hey Raphael can he say my name properly yet or does he still call me, what does he call me again?” asked Nikola “I think it’s Nika or Nikla or something, ask Marija-Elena” replied Raphael.

“Why are we doing this?” Raphael asked “Why doesn’t your mother feed you?” Nikola responded “Why do you say that?” Raphael replied “I can clearly see your ribs Raphael, just put back on your shirt" Nikola answered. “Nikola, is that you?” a man called “Ivan-Pavel is that you?” asked Nikola “Yes and this is my crew, I found them in Belgrade if you’re wondering” answered Ivan-Pavel and he then asked “What are you digging?” “Oh it’s an ‘ultra-mortar cover’” answered Nikola “Looks more of a mass grave, see you” responded Ivan-Pavel. “Hey where did Viktor go?” wondered Nikola. Viktor had followed the Macedonians as he seen a young woman among them. “Hey” he said to the woman “Hello” she said “You know Ivan-Pavel?” he asked “He’s my commander” she answered “Yeah he fought with us in Sutjeska” Viktor told her “He told us of Sutjeska, I didn’t believe it until now”. “The names Viktor by the way” he told her “Gorcia” she said back. “You are Croatian? Serbian…” “Croatian, I’m from Pulva in Istria” Viktor told her. “So what’s a fine young girl like you doing on a tank?” He asked her and she replied “I’m an engineer” “That’s good, I’m a sniper” he responded “I think I like you Viktor” she told him.

“I think we’re done now” Raphael said. “Raphael, Raphael, Raphael” Viktor called “What is it Viktor?” he asked “I think I got a girl, her name is Gorcia, she’s the tank engineer over there” Viktor told him “Very good”. “Hey Nikola what do we do now?” asked Raphael “We wait” answered. A partizan came up “Nikola, Raphael can you help us with these cannons”. “Maybe you were wrong Nikola, maybe you were wrong” Raphael said laughing.

Chapter 20-Battle of Poljana

An officer stood in front of the division and started speaking “Attention partizans of the 2nd Proletarian division, today marks the beginning of the end. The Germans, the Ustashas and the Slovene Home Guard as well as Chetnik remnants are cornered between us and our allies of the United Kingdom, Italy and the United States. You might think we are outnumbered like Sutjeska but don’t be worried. We have reports that they are running low on ammunition and fuel. Their dash to the Austrian border has left them hopeless. They are now beginning to think twice as well about entering Austria now that Germany has lost control of it. We are to make sure that they surrender to us or flee north and be handled by the Americans and British. The fascist scourge is dying my dear comrades and the birth of our republic helps kill them quicker. Forward and for the republic” the partizans then shouted “The Republic forever” as they ran toward German machine gun positions.

“They can’t keep firing on us forever, they’re bound to lose their ammo” said Nikola. “I think I see an area where we can get the Germans from behind” Raphael told Nikola who told him to go and that he’ll follow him. The two then made it to the German positions and the fired into the machine nest. “Go Nikola” Raphael ordered. They then met a German solider. “Schießen Sie nicht, bitte” the solider begged “Ich habe eine Frau und Kind” “Sprechen du Kroatisch oder Serbisch?” asked Raphael “Ja, yes a little” the solider replied. “You’re a sergeant right?” Nikola asked “Yes I’m a sergeant” he replied. “Here if you want to get back to Germany alive take my jacket and hat” said Nikola offering them to him “Danke partisan, here you take my jacket and helmet” the solider said offering Nikola the said items. “Remember if anyone talks to you don’t speak German unless they’re on your side” Nikola told the German. “Good luck Vodnik” Nikola farewelled the solider “Viel Glück Sergeant” the solider farewelled him and Nikola gave him the Wehrmacht salute while the German gave him the partizan salute. “They’re just people like us” said Raphael “Just soldiers like us” Nikola continued. The two partizans then ran up to their squad again. “Nikola when did you change sides?” asked Viktor laughing “When did you become an American and a captain?” replied Nikola questioning Viktor’s jacket.

“Do we have them on the run Drago?” Živa asked Drago “We have them squirming if that’s what you mean lieutenant” he told her. “Go check with the civilians Živa” Drago ordered. “What happened here?” Živa asked an injured partizan “Oh lieutenant Tomčić, a grenade exploded and it took two of my fingers” the partizan told her “It’s lieutenant Jež as I never took Ivo’s name and just call me Živa please, that’s what everyone calls me partizan. Look after him Marija-Elena” Živa replied.

The battle continued throughout the night, most of the partizans had settled down as the enemy had stopped firing but they were cautious. This was a risk Ivan-Pavel wasn’t going to take. “I see Panzers straight ahead, next to a fuel truck as well” he said “Fire Dušan!” he ordered his canon gunner. “I’m so tired Ivan-Pavel” Gorcia complained “Whoa did you see that explosion? There’s no rest for the wicked girl and you know that” Ivan-Pavel responded to her. “But I’m so tired” again Gorcia said again “You’ve slept in the tank before, I think all you want is to see Viktor. The sooner the better sister, sooner the better. “Tank three o’clock, fire Dušan” replied Ivan-Pavel.

In the morning the partizans charged at their remaining enemy who were giving up and pulled back. “They’re retreating Nikola look” said Raphael and surely he was right. “I think we won kid, I think we won” cried Nikola. At the village the partizans were celebrated like heroes. Živa was surrounded by her fellow townspeople as they knew her. The German solider was still around, Nikola knew him on first sight “Du noch hier Soldat?” he asked the solider who replied “Ja”. Raphael waited for Marija-Elena and Mišo who ran up to him. “How about next year?” asked Raphael handing her a ring. She accepted it and kissed him. They then watched the parade. It was official now that the war in Yugoslavia was over the Germans had either fled to Austria or are still hiding in Yugoslavia. “Are you still going to be a nurse when we get to Split?” asked Raphael “I was one before the war and how about you Raphael?” Marija-Elena replied “Maybe a teacher” he answered her question “It will just be us three, living in Split while we forget about the war” “Marija, I don’t think Mišo will remember the war, are you forgetting your own son’s age?” Raphael told her but like usual she laughed. Raphael put his hat on Mišo and the three continued to watch the parade.

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