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A World War II Yugoslav Childhood between 1939 and 1950

Updated on January 5, 2016

No Ordinary Childhood

Kosta was born in Serbia in 1939, before the German occupation of Yugoslavia began. His earliest memory was frustration because he wanted to climb a tree that was too wide and too tall for him to climb. His dad gave him a boost to help. He also remembers playing with blocks and being bitten by a German Shepherd. He lived with his parents, a younger brother, and an older sister near the center of Belgrade, across from the War Department Building. He had an infection as a child that delayed his being able to walk as soon as other children did. His sister was an invalid. She had had meningitis, and was half blind. During the German Occupation of Belgrade, one of the German generals sent a messenger to Kosta's parents asking them to shut their windows at night because Kosta's crying was keeping the general awake at night.

In 1942, the Germans invaded Yugoslavia, and they arrested about a hundred prominent men from Belgrade to use rather like hostages in case the city attempted to fight them. If there was an insurrection, those who had been arrested would be executed. Kosta's father was one of those in prison.

The Picture - This picture is the symbol of Kosta's last days in Belgrade

Picture Kosta's Father Drew at Topcider Park
Picture Kosta's Father Drew at Topcider Park | Source

A Bit of Background and Family History

He will tell you the story behind it as this article progresses. For now I will ask you if you remember who was president, prime minister, or ruler of your country when you were six to eleven years of age. What do you remember of politics from that period of your life? As I interviewed Kosta about this period of his life, some sixty years ago, he could not remember the name of the German officers and Russian officers that came and went in his life, and some of the dates were also a bit fuzzy. So, remember, that although this is eyewitness history, it isn't from a book, but from memories of periods that were lived through. Pictures were also hard to come by, and there aren't many in the pubic domain of the places mentioned here as they appeared in the 1940s and in 1950. No one had any idea back then that this bit of family history might be written and need illustrations.

A bit of family history will be important to know as this story progresses. My mother-in-law, Paula Schmidt Radisavlejvic, was Croatian, and her ancestors were German. She spoke German fluently. My father-in-law, Dragoslav Radisavljeivc, was a prominent Serbian architect. He had also owned a factory that made cement blocks that could be used in place of bricks when bricks were too expensive to use. His mother was of Austrian ancestry, and they also spoke German. This makes my husband, Kosta, part Croatian, part Serbian, and part Austrian. His father was Serbian Orthodox, though he did not attend church on Sundays. The family celebrated Slava, an important Serbian Orthodox holiday.

Topcider Park and Planning the Second Escape - The Story Behind the Drawing

This story takes place shortly after Kosta's parents were released from a Communist prison where they had been political prisoners. Kosta, who was about eleven, had also been in the prison in case they needed him to use in order to get his parents to talk (by threatening to torture Kosta). Because his parents had contacts in the media outside the country, they threatened to let those media contacts know the Communists were holding an innocent child in jail and why, and that got Kosta released because it would have made the regime look bad to the rest of the world. Kosta was sent to live with relatives.

This video tells the story of what happened right after the family was united after the prison experience. They had been imprisoned because they tried to escape the country, and Kosta's dad didn't listen to Kosta's mom when she was pretty sure the one who would lead them out was in cahoots with the police. She was right, and they were caught. That's important to know when listening to this video.

Political Prisoners and Refugees

My husband's family came to North America with almost nothing because they were political refugees who had escaped a country that had also put them in prison for purely political reasons.

Please take the poll below so we can see how many others have had a similar experience.

Have you ever personally known, or perhaps yourself been, a political prisoner or refugee from a repressive government?

See results

Understanding World War II - What happened in Yugoslavia did not happen in isolation.

It took place in the context of the period between World War I and 1953. To fully understand what Kosta's family went through, one also needs to understand what was going on in the rest of Europe. Winston Churchill's writing is that of one who was involved, as Prime Minister of England, in actually making the history, and as such, his eyewitness accounts are very valuable.

Could what happened in Yugoslavia ever happen in America? As I write this, radicals are trying to chip away at the Bill of Rights and change our culture. The other books I've recommended will help you understand how they are doing that.

Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals
Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals

This book explains the tactics of those who want to bring about social change in a country.


Second Escape Story, Part 2

In the last video you know Kosta's family had planned to make another escape, but not as a family this time. They had gotten a divorce so his mother could get her maiden name, which was German, back, so that she could legally leave the country with Kosta. This was a divorce in name only. Kosta's father lived with relatives on paper, but stayed home most of the time. And he was home when the police, who were suspicious, came to the door and Kosta answered it.

Rules for Radicals Defeated: A Practical Guide for Defeating Obama/Alinsky Tactics
Rules for Radicals Defeated: A Practical Guide for Defeating Obama/Alinsky Tactics

The emphasis in this book is on helping Americans fight back against the progressive agenda in the United States.


Communism and Personal Freedom Can't Coexist

You might wonder what Kosta's parents did to get on the bad side of the government enough to have been imprisoned. They were recruited for positions of leadership in the new Communist regime and asked to be ambassadors. They refused. When asked why, they explained they saw no difference in the tactics of the Communist secret police and the German Gestapo. That was their crime.

Kosta's parents never thought their country would become what it did. They could have left before the war, but it was difficult for them to believe the political situation could so radically change from what it had been before World War II and the takeover of the Communists. Many Americans believe such things could never happen in America. But it can, and might be already beginning. We need to educate ourselves and find out why the socialist plan we are being nudged toward cannot work without treading on individual liberty and private property rights.

Barack Obama's Rules for Revolution: The Alinsky Model
Barack Obama's Rules for Revolution: The Alinsky Model

David Horowitz was raised by Communists and saw firsthand how they strove to take power. He later rejected Communism and now alerts Americans as to what is happening in their own country.


Socialism and Liberty

According to Karl Marx, socialism is a transitional state between capitalism and communism. Its purpose is to prepare the way for communism, which in theory will be a society in which government has vanished and everyone lives happily as each gives according to his ability and gets according to his need. Unfortunately, this never really happens. So the transitional stage in which the government controls the means of production and the people under a dictatorship which executes central planning of the economy, supposedly for the good of all the people, remains.

Capitalism, on the other hand, emphasizes free trade and limited government. It respects the individual's right to his life, liberty, and property. It was the system that prevailed in the early history of the United States as a Constitutional Republic.

Second Escape Part 3 - Kosta's Dad is Questioned by Police

Second Escape Part 4 - Crossing the Bridge Across the Border without a Passport

This video shows me clearly that God had his hand on Kosta's family and wanted them to be back together. Listen to this incredible story and see if you don't agree.

More About Kosta's Family under Communist Rule

This is the second article I have written about events that occurred in Kosta's childhood. The first one I shared here was "An Enemy of the People?" This story told by Kosta is about a time his father was arrested as an "enemy of the people," and how he got cleared of the charges. It illustrates to me the principle that we will reap what we sow. You never know when the person you treat respectfully and fairly will be the one who saves you later on.

Thank you for stopping by. - Please let me know you were here by leaving a comment.

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    • BarbRad profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      4 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Mel, There may be an even worse one coming. We must remain vigilant to all threats.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      4 years ago from San Diego California

      Fascinating story. Let us not allow this cancerous evil to grow in the world again. Great hub!

    • julescorriere profile image

      Jules Corriere 

      6 years ago from Jonesborough TN

      Happy New Year! Congratulations on your lens being chosen as a top 100 Community Favorite for 2011! I wish more of these stories were filtered into the community, so people can appreciate how lucky they are.

    • norma-holt profile image


      6 years ago

      Good interview and commentary here. *Blessed* and featured on Blessings by Skiesgreen 2012

    • mowug1776 profile image


      6 years ago

      thank you, sometimes I wonder if my own generation that has live life United States of America will ever see what they are missing. It seems as though they would rather go through an incident like this then be free to choose what they want to do without being afraid of what the government is going to do to them. Excellent lens

    • Auntiekatkat profile image


      6 years ago

      Congrats on being nominated for Community Favorite Lenses of 2011. A wonderful lens. Fortunately we both share one thing it was easier to vote than for most as mine was my "why-I-am a- vegetarian was nominated as well. A proud moment for all of us. Good luck in the voting.

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image


      6 years ago

      Nicely done ... thanks for sharing the story. And congratulations on being one of the final 100 favorite Squidoo lenses of 2011!

    • MCB2011 profile image


      6 years ago

      Very nice lens and very timely. Very well done.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Back to this great lens to congratulate you on being in the Top 100 Community Favorites

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Great job.

    • BarbRad profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      @jseven lm: jseven, I hope it's a lesson that's not too late. Thanks for coming by.

    • BarbRad profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      @jptanabe: Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on it.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 

      6 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      What a powerful story! Thank you for sharing this and doing it so beautifully. What can I say but ... *blessed" (whole-heartedly)

    • BarbRad profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      @Ramkitten2000: Ramkitten, thank you very much for your blessing. It makes me feel welcomed home.

    • BarbRad profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      @mariaamoroso: Irenemarie, thanks for coming by to read and comment. I appreciate it.

    • BarbRad profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      @Heather426: Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, Heather.

    • BarbRad profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      @Virginia Allain: vallain, you are right. The time to tell them is when we are still here to tell them. Part of the problem is that often the younger generation doesn't get interested until it's too late to get the information and the stories they want.

    • BarbRad profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      @Coreena Jolene: FlaminCat,I pray everyday that this trend can be turned back before it's too late. I felt I had to get my husband's story out while he was still around to tell it himself. Thank you for your comment.

    • profile image

      jseven lm 

      6 years ago

      Great story, sad and hopefully a lesson for America!

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 

      6 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Thanks for doing such a good job of sharing this story.

    • mariaamoroso profile image


      6 years ago from Sweden

      Thanks for sharing the story. I live in Sweden and have met quite a few of these refugies.

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      6 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Totally amazing story and lens! Happy Thanksgiving Barbara! Thank you for sharing such an important story.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      I applaud your sharing of this family story. It is so important to preserve these ancestral memories for our children/grandchildren and historical purposes. Well done.

    • Coreena Jolene profile image

      Coreena Jolene 

      6 years ago

      Excellent!! I enjoyed this tremendously! What a wonderful story that the whole family was able to escape. It is wonderful that you are documenting a story of life that would otherwise be lost. These kind of stories should always be remembered. We do take for granted our freedom here in America. I pray it never comes to this here.

    • BarbRad profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      @OhMe: Thanks, OhMe. I hope you will be able to hear them, because the heart of the lens is in those video interviews. But I know what you mean. While I was reviewing one, it stalled when Kosta's tongue was showing and that little circle kept going around and it looked as though Kosta was sticking his tongue out until the video got going again. It was kind of funny.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      You have done such a wonderful job telling your husband's story. I will have to come back when I can hear the videos. Having computer problems. His story is so important for us Americans to hear so that we can guard against Communism. Thank you for sharing.


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