As a kid of 11 years of age, I had always been working with my dad in the field hearing so many stories from my father related to the beginnings of World War 2, the events during WW2, and the happenings after WW2 from 1945 to the 1950’s. In my young brain in my head, there was a lot of wonderings why all of this has to happen. When I ask my dad some specific questions about the missing Croatians from my village always the answer was “You are too young to understand this, my son. Once you’re a little bit older you will know a lot of those answers. Now I cannot tell you too much because you would not understand.”
On Wednesday, May 31st, 1950, my father and I had been working in a vineyard called “Padina”. Around 6:30pm, with still a couple of hours of daytime left, three policemen came, passing through someone else’s land (trespassing on someone’s land), and walked straight to my father asking, “Are you Comrad Petar Boban?” As soon as my father answered, “Yes, I am Petar Boban”, they pulled out tie-wire from their belt and tied up my father’s hands behind his back. When I asked those 3 policemen where are they taking my father, the answer was “You will find out.”
That evening, a score of Croatians from our village were arrested and were taken to the station of Posušje. From that day on, the men’s job fell on my shoulders as an 11 year old boy. My mom was pregnant. My oldest brother, Jerko, was in school in Zenica while my oldest sister, Jakica, was in school in Sarajevo. My mom did go as many times as it was permitted by the regime to visit my father in jail. He was in jail as a “enemy of the state” and was released on Saturday, July 3rd, 1953. During that time of 3 years, through my teenager’s head, went so many things and why’s; questions that I didn’t have the answer to. During that time, I was working in the field, plowing and hoeing with men who were 25 years of age and on. Maybe those 3 years did help me to sharpen my brain to be determined in my thinking. During that time of 3 years, as a teenager, in my village going to church, going to the field, talking to the people, neighbors and friends, I became a rebel. When I say “a rebel”, I did not mean to say “a rebel” to fight with the rifles against someone. When I say, “a rebel”, with these words I try to say that I was not a “yes sir” man. If I did not like something that is going around me caused by the communist regime of Yugoslavia, then I speak up my mind. I knew very well that all those acts I did intentionally, boycotting the regime and its representatives (in this case, the police), I was not conscious, as a teenager, of the consequences of my behavior. So, when I heard from my mom inside the house with closed doors, telling me about the Croats, our friends, relatives and neighbors, disappeared during WW2 and that we do not know their fate whether they’re alive or dead or missing. And that the regime was particularly against any pronunciation of the word “Croats” and so on. Then when I go out in the street in the evening or during the day when I work with the elders in the field, I feel very equipped and superior of them to talk about Croatia, Croatians, WW2, missing of 23 Croatians from my village of Bobanova Draga, then I start to talk about it.
One man by the name of Ikan Boban (born in 1917) Mišin told me “Milan, I’m going to tell you something. I was a soldier of the Croatian armed forces during WW2 and I know for a fact that Croatians armed forces with the civilians surrendered to the English army in Austria in May 1945. Then, the English army surrendered the Croatians to Tito’s army of Yugoslavia which slaughtered a few hundred thousand Croatians in Slovenia.” Then Ikan Boban (Mišin was his nickname) told me one song which is: Slovenia puna si borića i kostiju hrvastki mladića” which translates to “Slovenia, you are as full of trees as you are of Croatian soldiers bones.” Then again during the dinner, Ikan (Mišin) told me one other song: “Mene moja naučila mati, pjevaj sine živjeli Hrvati” which translates to “My mother taught me to sing long life to Croats”. That song, with my cousin and friend, Ante Grubisic, Lukin we started to sing through the village and through the region without thinking that this song might cause us problems. When I say problems, I have to explain this that Yugoslavian communist regime did not allow to Croats to express their nationalistic feelings through any means whatsoever (cultural, folkloric, historical, singing, talking, etc.). There were some people who did approach us telling us that we shouldn’t sing that; it was forbidden and the police might stop us. Ante and I, as teenagers, we didn’t think that a simple song would hurt someone’s feelings. We were naïve.
So, on Friday, June 29th, 1956, in my village of Bobanova Draga there was a celebration of St. Peter and Paul holiday. As tradition dictates, after the mass which started at 11am, we went home for lunch and after lunch, around 2pm, we go to the main road which is about a few hundred yards away to meet with friends and neighbors at traditional croatian called Dernek (sort of Fair) to walk, talk and sing. We celebrate St. Peter and Paul every year in our village on June 29th. This particular day, my cousin Ante and I, we sang that song “Mene moja naučila mati, pjevaj sine živjeli Hrvati.” Suddenly, here are three policemen came to us and stop us in the middle of the road. One was named Đuro (a typical Serbian name); he was a commander of the station. The other one was Milan Šorman (also a Serb) while the third one was Hassan, a Muslim, from Bugojno. The purpose of stopping us was that we couldn’t sing nationalistic songs because that is a provocation to the Brastvo i Jedinsvo (which means “Fraternity and Unity”).
Then I told those 3 policemen “I think that my song would not hurt anybody and I am just looking for someone who is going to forbid me to sing this song.” As soon as I said this, one of the policemen slapped me. As soon as he slapped me above my forehead, mostly on my hair, I grabbed Milan Šorman and threw him onto the ground by the side of the road. As I was struggling with him, Jerko Boban (nickname: Kebić, 1919-2009) and Franjo Boban (nickname: Tuka) jumped to help us, telling the police, “Do you know through which village you are passing through?” (This comment was meant to highlight the fact that many distinguished WW2 Croatian generals (such as General Ranko Rafael Boban) and other soldiers came from this village and the Yugoslavian communist regime knew this and feared them.) They continued, “This is not 1945 that you can come with your guns pointed to the people, pulling them from bed during the night and executing them behind the walls wherever you find it!”
The next day, Saturday, June 29th, I was working with my father on the field around 10am here two policemen come. One was Milan Šorman, the other was Hassan, from Bugojno, the Muslim. They want to escort me to Sovići, a town 6km away, to the police station. I told them “You will not escort me on this beautiful day in front of our village for 6 km that my neighbors see me going with you as a thief. You go over there and I will be there.” They took my word for it and left and I left too. But, I didn’t leave to follow them. I left to exile.