Eighteen-year-old Joka put the noose on her neck by herself. Ljubo, ten years older, looked with a smile at the pointed barrels of the Chetniks.
So they went to their deaths. And so they became immortal.
Like many Montenegrin fighters for freedom, 247 Montenegrin women and men were declared national heroes. Thousands and thousands of other Montenegrin heroes, ascetics and martyrs fought in the freedom machine.
“The 13th of July in Montenegro is probably one of the greatest events of the twentieth century”. That’s what Jean-Paul Sartre said. That’s how the whole of Europe talked about Montenegrin antifascism.
Today, some in Montenegro say otherwise.
The first man of Nikšić, Marko “Šubara” Kovačević, did not deign to lay wreaths on the grave of Joka Baletić and Ljubo Čupić yesterday, together with the Association of NOR fighters and antifascists of Montenegro.
Kovačević chose Facebook to tell all of Montenegro that – after the street of the fake assassin, Chetnik criminal Blagoj Jovović – he will propose that next year a street in Nikšić be named after Marshal Zhukov.
Why? Because “The heroic army under his command played a crucial role in liberating the whole of Europe, including Yugoslavia at the time,” says Marko Kovačević.
The first man of Nikšić, the amateur actor and nationalist historian, may not even know that the truly great historical military commander Georgy Zhukov, defender of Moscow and conqueror of Berlin, did not liberate either Yugoslavia or Belgrade.
The Red Army, which, together with the fighters of the People’s Liberation Army of Yugoslavia, participated in the operation to liberate Belgrade, was commanded by another general – Vladimir Zhdanov.
Perhaps it is a problem, precisely at the time of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, that the antifascist general of the Russian Red Army, Vladimir Ivanovich Zhdanov, was a Ukrainian, a native of Kyiv.
Or maybe it bothers Kovačević that a Montenegrin, the antifascist Peko Dapčević, entered Belgrade on a white horse on 20 October 1944.
And in order for the partisan general to triumphantly ride into free Belgrade, in order for fascism to be defeated, many victims, Yugoslav and Montenegrin, were needed.
Would Marko Kovačević really be upset if, on Victory Day, on the 81st anniversary of the heroic death of two partisan heroes, he reached down and laid a wreath on their graves as the first man of freedom-loving Nikšić, a city with 47 national heroes?
Only, Kovačević is a pale shadow of today’s darkness. If you compare him with his party mate, frontman Dario Vraneš!
The first man of Pljevlja was not in Pljevlja on 9 May. It did not occur to him to lay, if not a wreath, then at least one red rose at Stražice, at the place where the remains of 412 partisans, including 214 fallen fighters of the Battle of Pljevlja, are.
No, he had more work to do. As he admitted to a Pobjeda journalist, he was at a more important event – “the laying of wreaths at the monument to the fallen soldiers of the Republika Srpska army in the last patriotic war”.
That “patriotic war”, which Dario Vraneš speaks about without a shred of shame, is a war whose most terrible monument is Srebrenica, where more than eight thousand Bosnian Muslims were executed.
Just because they were people of a different religion and nation; that is why the criminals Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić carried out the order from Belgrade to ethnically cleanse the country and heeded the call to remove people who “smell of tallow”, as the bishop of the Church of Serbia Atanasije Jevtić once blasphemously said.
These were the forerunners of the first man of Pljevlja. If that Vraneš had any sense, if all other Vraneš people who think like that had any sense – they would be silent. But they are not silent. They think their time has come.
Just the time announced by Zdravko Krivokapić; when, as the first prime minister in “liberated” Montenegro, he demanded that Montenegro celebrate 30 August as Victory Day and not 9 May, which is celebrated by antifascist Europe.
“Some new Montenegro that you have to get used to,” is what Krivokapić’s ruthless successor as Prime Minister, Dritan Abazović, would say.
Can we get used to it? Can we agree to that?
This article originally appeared in Pobjeda and is adapted with permission. Photograph courtesy of Natalie Sarkic-Todd. All rights reserved.