Communism As I Know It
Father Vladimir Kozina
The Martyrdom Of My Family
The modern martyr, Aloysius Cardinal Stepinac, Archbishop of Zagreb, declared: “Believe me, I know Communism. It is a satanic totalitarianism of terror!” I dare to say the same after witnessing the martyrdom and destruction of my own family.
We were opposed to Communism and its OF – (Liberation Front) – from its inception. We saw in Communism nothing but evil. As Catholics, we could not have cooperated with this Red plague. My brother, Frank, was among the Catholic lay leaders in our Parish. The Communists knew that and therefore they were trying to persuade him to join the Party. They promised him various worthy positions in the Party. But as soon as they realized that nothing could be achieved in a friendly way, the Communists began to threaten him.
It was April of 1942 when the Communists sent out their henchman, Abi, to visit Frank. Abi threatened him with death as the alternative if Frank refused to join the OF. My brother angrily shouted at Abi, saying, “You dare to tell me that you are fighting for the liberation of our Country? You Communists… if our Nation means something to you why, then, are you murdering our innocent people and plundering our properties?” Frank was fully aware of what he had said. He knew what to expect from this man. So also did Abi know what was going to happen to us. Our firm stand against Communism was considered a “crime against the people.” For our divergent opinions, our strong Catholic faith, the Communist Party sentenced us to death.
Friday, May 29, 1942, a Communist patrol staked out our house at Zapotok. Arti was the commanding officer. He asked for Frank. When my brother arrived, Arti began to beat Frank with a club in front of my poor parents, sisters, and brother. When Arti’s heavy blows broke the club, he continued his “liberation” action by kicking the innocent victim. Some neighbors gathered around the bloody scene. Arti turned to the crowd and said: “Shame on you having had this dung among you for such a long time. Could you not have finished with him yourselves by now? However, one of our informers in the Town was watching this dog and his anti-Communist work and reported everything to us. Now he will get his long deserved reward…”
My poor parents pleaded with Arti to release Frank as he had done no harm to anyone. Arti’s answer was: “Handcuff this devil and take him away!” The Communist patrol brought him to Sodrazica and locked him up. The “Peoples’ Court” was not certain what should be done with Frank. Should they sentence him to death? This would then be the first Communist execution in the Sodrazica Valley. What would people think of this crime? They sent Ludvik Lusin, a Communist, who knew Frank well, in order to persuade him for the last time. Ludvik Lusin later said: “I advised Frank to be reasonable. I told him to say that he was not opposed to Communism and that he was willing to cooperate with the OF. But Frank Kozina steadily affirmed that he would not do that…”
Since Frank did not accept the Communist offer, he was forced then before the torturers. They flogged and tortured him mercilessly. Then they put him into a car and transported him to Boncar, the place of his execution. They were afraid of the people so they decided to do this bloody job during the night of May 30, 1942. Frank was forced to stand on the edge of a grave. A Communist eyewitness declared that at this moment the moon shone on the scene. Frank stood quietly and looked into the place of his “rest.” Then he pulled a prayer book from his pocket and began to pray. Suddenly, a rifle shot broke the silence of the night. From point-blank range the executioner, Joseph Kovacic, from Zigmarice, sent the bullet into Frank’s head… My 33-year-old brother collapsed into the grave. The prayer book fell out of Frank’s hands. Those present threw it on his back before they covered his body with the soil.
We were fortunate to find Frank’s grave in the woods on August 19, 1942. I recognized his body at once. His head was shattered. The prayer book was still lying on his back. I lifted up his jacket and shirt from his back. Signs of terrible torture were obvious. The dorsal side was covered with black marks, signs of flogging and beating. We placed Frank’s corpse in a coffin and transported it to the Cemetery of St. Mark’s. During the funeral procession – a journey of 10 miles from the place of execution to St. Mark’s Cemetery – the good people of the Sodrazica Valley threw flowers on the hearse.
Dead, Frank was receiving recognition among the people for his unselfish deed and still more, for his martyr’s death. The Communists thought that they had rid themselves of their dangerous opponent. They did not think at that time that his blood would make a hundred more enemies. The Communists wanted to eradicate his Catholic belief but they did not realize that Frank’s spirit would live on. They were convinced that they had won when he was dead. The majestic funeral procession of the martyr was proof of their moral defeat. The Communists saw that the people whom they confidently thought were on their side spoke now, without words, against them. But if they could not keep the minds of the people in check, they would run dangerously on and lose the game. What was to be done?
Night Of Horror
Our family went about its normal business on that fateful evening of August 26, 1942. It was just one week after my brother’s internment. As on any other evening, we said the Family Rosary. Who would have ever thought that this evening’s prayer was going to be the last for us as a family …
I bid my parents, my brother, John, and my three teenage sisters goodnight and went upstairs to my bedroom. I had not been sleeping for an hour when, suddenly, the barking of our watch-dog woke me up. Through the window I saw a group of armed Communists approaching our house. I knew right away the meaning of this night visit. Something horrible was going to happen to us tonight!
I ran to the next room where there was a door into the attic. I grabbed the ladder, opened the door, climbed up, pulled up the ladder after me and shut the door. Meanwhile, the pane in the hall window was broken. The Communist brigands forced their way into the hall through the window. At the same time, mother and father came out from their bedroom. Frightened, they started to call for help. But the Communists silenced them. One of them knocked my mother on the head with the butt of his rifle so that she staggered. Then he pushed her and father into the living room where my lame brother John, and my three sisters were already under the supervision of the Communist guard, Vinko Lusin, from Kot.
Upon the arrival of my parents into the living room, my father began to say loudly the Act of Contrition. But, when the family started with the Rosary, the Communist guard forbade them to pray! Frightened and severely injured from the blow, my mother asked for a glass of water. The brute snubbed her with a shameful remark and refused to allow her to take some water. The Communists were constantly asking my mother for my whereabouts. They knew I was at home; my bed and my clothes in my bedroom were proof of that. They did not see me escape from the house … I must be somewhere in the house … but where?
In the meantime, the Communist mob plundered our property. They actually “freed” us from everything – I mean everything! When the plundering was finished, I heard someone asking: “Ronko, what should we do now?” Ronko, the Commanding Officer, answered: “Just this, and then…” He did not finish his sentence. A Communist then entered the living room and started to berate my parents and lame John in a manner as only the devil could.
When this Red beast finished his speech, he commanded the other guards to separate my father from the rest of the family. My mother, sisters, and John pleaded with the Communists to release our father. But a stone, I think, would have shown more mercy than a Communist! They forced my father to leave the living room. One more glimpse at his beloved wife, one last look at his children, whom he loved so much, and he went to his slaughter.
While he was on his “death march” to the basement, my father prayed loudly. My sisters heard him say: “Jesus, I have lived for Thee, Jesus, I die for Thee. Jesus, alive or dead I am Thine…”
Perhaps father did not finish his prayer when, upon reaching the basement, a Communist knocked him on the head with the butt end of a rifle. My father, 63 years old, a fine Catholic layman, collapsed, dead, on the concrete floor.
Death Of John, My Paralyzed Brother
John was the second one born to our family of 11 children. When still a little child, he caught a severe cold. After a prolonged and costly illness, he became paralyzed for life. In spite of, and perhaps because of this physical defect, John was an extremely gifted young man.
During this night of horror, John was thinking … Father is gone … he must be dead by now. Who was going to be the next victim? And, should he also be numbered among those to be murdered, how would the Communists be able to explain this crime to the people? After all, what damage could a crippled, paralyzed man do to the Communists?
John was soon to find out the Communist logic. The same two henchmen who took father away, returned to the living room. They picked up the bed with lame John and carried him down to the basement. Up in my hiding place, I heard a rattling of dishes and tins coming from the cellar. I could not understand what this meant. I hadn’t the slightest idea that with this rattling the Communist executioners deadened the shot from a pistol which fired a bullet into John’s forehead.
After making certain that John and his father were no longer among the living, the Communists rushed back to the living room. Their bloody job was not yet finished. There was one more person on their death roll call tonight… Who? My mother.
Days Of Tears And Mourning
The two hands of the big clock hanging on the wall in the living room were slowly approaching the midnight point. The whole atmosphere in the room was wrapped in a dead silence. Even the Communist guard’s face seemed to be disturbed. No one was talking. My mother and my three little sisters, clinging to her body, were waiting for the grand finale of this bloody drama. Before the clock hammered the last strike, the two Communist murderers returned from the basement. They had to use force in order to separate my sisters from the embrace of their mother.
On the threshold, mother slipped her Rosary beads into my sister’s hand. By this, I am sure, my mother wanted to say: “Take these rosary beads from me. The rosary will help you as it helped me on my way to Calvary … May the Blessed Mother, Mary, be watching over you as I used to while with you …”
And mother, the dearest a child could have in this world, went heroine-like to her martyr death. While my mother was led to her death in the basement, my three sisters were taken away from the living room and locked up in one of the storerooms. It remains a mystery why the Communists spared their lives. The original plan, I found out later, was to liquidate the whole family that night.
Shortly after the rattling of the tins, I heard my mother’s shrill weeping. Then everything became dead silent except for the three strong blows which sounded as if someone were beating a door with a hard club. I got the impression that the Communist bandits had left the house and taken the rest of my family with them.
At last, the long hours of the terrible night were finally over. Through the little windows in the attic, I saw some of our neighbors walking around the house. Since I did not see any Communist guard, I ventured to step down from the place of my agony. In the door of the storeroom outside the house, I spotted the key in the keyhole. I quickly turned the key, opened the door and, after the frightful night, a faint gleam of hope and happiness shone in my eyes: I saw my three little sisters – alive! They could not understand how I stood before them alive…
But where were John, and father, and mother…? Suddenly a neighbor came running from the house and said that there was a frightful scene in the basement. We hurried into the cellar. A most horrifying sight met our eyes! Father, mother, John … all dead! There was blood, a lot of blood, on the basement floor. Father was lying behind the door, his body stretched out. There were two large wounds on his head. His skull was split in two above the right ear. The cheekbone on the right side was wide open.
John’s bed, in which he was resting, was placed beside father. His eyes were open and his mouth as well. His face looked as if he were smiling. Coagulated blood was on his forehead, nose and ears.
The body of my mother was lying on the cement floor about a pace away. She was in a prostrate position, her face much swollen. The crown of her skull was broken. From the posture, it could be seen that mother must have been battling with death for a long time and that she had died only after much suffering. Kneeling at my mother’s body, I then understood the crying which I had heard up in the attic. When she entered the basement, she saw a most terrifying picture: husband killed, her paralyzed child perhaps breathing his last, and the same fate awaiting her…
At least one of her life-wishes was fulfilled in this night of horror. My mother always feared for her crippled son, John. What would happen to him when she died? Who would take care of him? Often, I remember having heard my mother say: “If John could die at least one minute before I go, my heart would be at peace.”
What a mysterious answer to her prayer! Her dream came true on the very night of horror. And I am sure that this made her death agony a little bit easier …
Two of our neighbors were courageous enough to help my sisters and me with the washing of the corpses, dressing them, and placing them in the coffins.
On the following day, August 28, 1942, at about 10:00 in the morning, three coffins were slowly moving up to St. Mark’s Cemetery. After the Requiem Mass, two men and I had to carry the coffins from the Church and lower them into the graves. The people were afraid to show sympathy. They read the sign which the Communist murderers posted on the front of our house: “Thus shall happen to everyone who is against us! Death to the traitors! Long live the Communist Party!”
Of course, the Communists did not forget to engrave the sign of death on the wall of our house – sickle and hammer.