A Sliver of Family History From Serbia’s Military History

Janko Mitric
Mitric's relatives

From top: Janko Mitric and his third wife, Katerina, pre-WWI; Dobrivoj Mitric before leaving for WWII, 1940; Desanka Mitric (left) with Ina Djordjevic, daughter of Gen. Josif Djordjevic, circa 1939.

By Joan McQueeney Mitric

When my turn came to try the search engine at Serbia’s new military archive in Zarkovo, I knew exactly what name I would type in: Janko Mitric, my husband’s grandfather.

He served in WWI as a mounted cavalry officer, was evacuated to the Greek island of Corfu and then, alongside the Brits, pushed the Germans and Bulgarians north from Thesalonika and out of the Balkans. After the war, Janko returned to Lipolist, his village near Sabac, where he was a successful farmer, a village mayor and briefly a member of Parliament as a representative of the Farmers’ Party.

Janko’s only son, Dobrivoj, was killed in the early days of WWII when the ferry he and his platoon were on went down crossing the Drina River. He left behind a 20-year-old pregnant wife, Desanka Mitric, my husband’s mother. Six months later, the Germans seized the family farm during a reprisal raid, stole the smoked hams and then torched the house and outbuildings after finding the medical bag of a fleeing Jewish doctor under a bed. The family had befriended her, not knowing a Star of David had been sewn in her things.

Then the Germans rounded up all the men, including Janko, and shot them dead in the yard. My mother-in-law, now 92, spent days hiding in ditches and fleeing for her life, along with her newborn son, my husband. Every other family in Serbia has a story like this.

I couldn’t find anything on either Janko or Dobrivoj Mitric, so I typed in “General Josif Djordjevic,” the father of my husband’s aunt, now 90. Bingo. In a matter of seconds, the database pulled up a 1913 letter sent to then-Capt. Djordjevic from the king of Serbia, ordering him to return to Belgrade from the Montenegro front to take up service in the military’s geographic and mapping division, located in, you guessed it: Zarkovo. Next Article: A Unique Digital Archive