REPLY TO CRITICISM
Deploring the comments of a New Zealand soldier in a letter from Trieste, in which reference was made to "refinements" practised by Marshal Tito's Yugoslav soldiers, a correspondent who signs himself "A New Zealand Yugoslav," writes in defence of his fellow countrymen.
I have read other letters from £ew Zealand soldiers written home," he says. "Some of them have been in favour of Marshal Tito and his Partisans, and some against. Evidently it all depends of what treatment the New Zealand soldier has received at the hands of the Yugoslav Partisan, or perhaps, whether the New Zealand soldier has formed an attachment for the Italians while m Italy. From what one hears today the news emanating from this area is biased—always from the Italian viewpoint."
The Italians, he says, have been our enemies, and he recalls their treatment of New Zealand prisoners of war, while the Yugoslavs are "our sorely-tried and heroic Allies."
The citizen army which arose in Yugoslavia to resist the German and Italian invaders, he continues, possessed no armaments and no air force, but was liberally equipped with "slingshots and clubs." The Yugoslavs, however, had courage to stand forth against the most powerfully equipped militarj' organisation the earth had ever seen. From its ranks of fearless men and women a great leader appeared, Marshal Tito. The courage and daring of these people, their complete disregard for personal safety, their fierce determination to defy and ultimately defeat the enemy or die in the effort gave the world, and: especially Europe, renewed hope and rekindled faith in the cause of democracy and human freedom. This army of Yugoslavia absolutely refused to accept defeat, either through vastly superior armed forces of a brutal enemy or the deadly drain of hunger and frost. Almost from the very day of invasion on April 6, 1941, Yugoslavs tossed a series of monkey wrenches into the Axis plans to conquer the world. Their unexpected and unorthodox resistance was one of the factors which upset Hitler's time-table and delayed his invasion of Russia.
Engaged Twenty Divisions "For over two years," says the correspondent, "the Yugoslavs engaged some 20 Axis divisions, keeping them from the Russian, Italian and Tunisian fronts. Nobody can tell how many New Zealand soldiers (now in Trieste) who fought in Africa and later in Italy, owe their lives to the Yugoslav guerillas, now welded into the national, army of Yugoslavia. Yet, some x)f these brave lads of New Zealand, in Trieste, are given the propaganda of the Italians in that city who lay claim to it. No doubt, the New Zealand boys have not heard of the Italian atrocities committed against the Yugoslavs during this war and since the last Great War. When Trieste was given to Italy, the Italians commenced a reign of terror for the Yugoslavs, suppressing everything Slav.
"Have the New Zealand soldiers heard that the Yugoslavs were not allowed to speak their own language? If they did so, their tongues were cut, or they were thrown into caves. Other atrocities too horrible to repeat occurred in Trieste and Italianoccupied territory during all this time. The children were put in schools taught Italian culture and Fascism, while their Slav parents looked sorrowfully on, powerless to do anything against the Italian tyranny. Even religion was controlled. Our priests could not speak in Slav, but had to preach in Italian.
"Gruesome Happenings" "Can we in New Zealand, this land of freedom, understand such tvranny? Is it any wonder that the reprisals in a few cases by the Partisans against the Italians appears cruel to us? But, have we had our loved ones dragged out of their homes, the homes to be destroyed, our parents drenched in benzine and set alight, their daughters raped, their children's hand chopped off and other gruesome happenings? I wonder what Ave would do in revenge?
"I must say something in defence of the Yugoslav soldier who sees his girl-friend in company with a New Zealand soldier. Remember the series of similar happenings in New Zealand a little over a year ago when our New Zealand girls were in a similar position. What were the New Zealand soldier's reactions? Jealousy. No, we must not forget that all soldiers are human—the Yugoslav Partisan, the same as a New Zealand Kiwi. They all want to keep their own for themselves."
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WAR-TORN NATION, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 178, 30 July 1945
WAR-TORN NATION Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 178, 30 July 1945
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