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Croatian Righteous Among the Nations to be Posthumously Honored at Yad Vashem Wednesday

Holocaust Survivor to attend event

28 May 2013

On Wednesday, May 29, 2013 Yad Vashem will hold an event posthumously honoring Zlatan & Milica Uglješić as Righteous Among the Nations from Croatia. The memorial ceremony will take place in the Hall of Remembrance at 11:00, followed by the unveiling of the name of the Righteous in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at 11:30, in the presence of His Excellency Croatian Ambassador to Israel Pjer Simunovic, Dubrauvka and Milan Uglješić, the children of the late Righteous Zlatan & Milica Uglješić who will receive the medal and certificate of honor on their behalf, and Holocaust survivor Vera Uglješić. Members of the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations, family members and friends will also attend the event.

The event is open to the press in coordination with the Media Relations Department: +972 2 644 3412/10.

The Rescue Story

Following the invasion of Yugoslavia by Germany in April 1941, Croatia became, under the leadership of the fascist movement Ustaša, a collaborator with the Nazi regime. In December 1941, a camp was established for 2,000 Jewish women and children in an old mill in Djakovo, near Osijek. In February 1942, an additional 1,200 women and children were brought to Djakovo from another camp by the name of Stara Gradiška, which was eventually liquidated as its inhabitants were sent to Jasenovac.

Vera Papó (born in 1932) was among those that were transferred from Stara Gradiška to Djakovo. In testimony given to Yad Vashem, Vera describes the night in which the Ustaša broke into her house, marking the last time she would see her father who was taken straight to Jasenovac and murdered. The Jewish community in Osijek tried to ease the suffering of those detained in the camp by supplying food, blankets and medical care. In addition, members of the community smuggled some children out of the camp putting them in hiding places, thus saving the lives of a few young boys and girls. “Among the children were my sister and I,” Vera said. “The separation from our mother was hard and painful. We wanted to stay, but Mother comforted us and said that it was better that we leave, telling us that we would have food and a warm place to stay, and soon we would all be together again. That was the last time I saw her.” Vera was separated from her sister and first taken to the house of a Jewish family, but once the deportations of the Jewish community of Osijek began in the summer of 1942 she was moved to the house of a non-Jewish forester by the name of Zlatan Uglješić. A little while after arriving at the house of the Uglješić family in the village of Podgorje, the extermination of the Jewish community in Osijek began. Vera’s family, including her mother and sister Sarah and the Jewish family that had sheltered her, were all murdered.

The risk in hiding a Jewish girl amplified given the fact that Zlatan Uglješić was active in the underground. However, Zlatan and his wife Milica devotedly cared for Vera. During the raids of the village by the Ustaša who were looking for underground fighters or other persecuted people, the rescuers would hide Vera or flee with her to the forest. Vera recalls three instances in which the Uglješić family home was searched.

Following the end of the war Vera had no where to go. She stayed with her rescuer family, and after the death of Milica in 1950, married Zlatan. In 1992, during the civil war in Yugoslavia, the couple fled with their two children Milan and Dubrauvka and immigrated to Israel. On October 23, 2012, the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations recognized Zlatan and Milica Uglješić as Righteous Among the Nations.