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Here is my photograph of the Partisan cenotaph in Tar, Istria, the village my mother was born in. Her family name was Mikatović. They had come up from the south coast in the sixteenth century and lived only in this area.

From the cenotaph and JASENOVAC RESEARCH INSTITUTE – Let the Truth Be Known!, I researched the men from Tar and the surrounding Istrian villages who had died at the notorious Jasenovac concentration camp run by the Ustasha on the northern border of Bosnia and Croatia during World War 2.

Here are their names and places of birth:

Tar today has a population of about 900. Aside from Poreć, the other villages mentioned are smaller. If so many men from such small villages so far away, who were neither Serbian, nor Jewish, nor Gypsies, could be slaughtered at Jasenovac, then how much more would the numbers have been swelled by the real targets of the Ustasha: the Serbs, the Jews and the Roma? The extermination rate must have been enormous.

(I think there were probably more names than this because the search engine turned up names that weren’t on the cenotaph.)

I can’t tell you how very sad this knowledge has made me. Istria during World War 2 was a German operational zone. My mother often mentioned riding their bikes and having to get off the road quickly in order to avoid German tanks. Before this, Istria had a history of poverty and famine, yet here were these farmers (and farmer is the most common profession written in their church books) turning into patriots and fighting for their freedom. There was no food during the war. My mother said that all the food went to feeding the Italian army. Often, all they had to eat was potatoes, she said, and the Germans were very cruel.

The cenotaph in the photograph was established in 1953 to honour the anti-fascist Partisans, both Italian and Croatian, and is inscribed in both languages. The historian at nearby Novigrad told me that Mussolini’s dictatorship polarized the village. One side of the street would consider themselves Italian and the other Croatian. Yet after the collapse of Fascist Italy, they fought the Germans together, only for some to perish in a Croatian death camp.

I have to think of a way to end this post, but I’m too upset.

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