I saw this well done mural on an old building near the Sava River on a bike ride home from Ada Ciganlija earlier this week. The caption reads as follows:
Živ je Draža - umro nije - dok je sprstva i Srbije!
As long as there is Serbia and the Serbian Spirit – Draža lives!
It pictures Serbian military hero Draža Mihailović. Mihailović fought in four wars in his lifetime. He was a young man in the two Balkan Wars and World War I. Especially in World War I, when there was the very real possibility of the loss of the Serbian nation, he fought on the front lines from Corfu, through Albania and back to Belgrade. He is most remembered for World War II, but I feel he shouldn’t be. He was almost 50 when the Nazis invaded in 1941. He fled the Yugoslav army and led the resistance group called the Chetniks. They differed from the more famous Partizans in that they were mostly ethnic Serbian, loosely supported the Yugoslav King in exile, and avoided direct confrontation with the Germans. Draža believed the German reprisals against Serbian civilians were not worth the minor gains in guerilla attacks. I agree with this and he was waiting for the Allies to eventually come and take out the Nazis.
Unfortunately for him, the Partizans won control of the country after the war and Tito had him put on trial and executed. One research study suggests his body is buried close to the mural, on the entrance of Ada Ciganlija. Mihailović and several of his commanders were dumped in a mass grave in a secret site.
He was used as a source of inspiration by Serbian military groups, both formal and informal in the wars of the Secession of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. This has made him unjustly, a controversial figure even today. It is similar to the World War I battle hymn, March on the Drina , which should be the Serbian national anthem, but due to its use in the wars of the 1990s also, is considered too controversial.
Mihailović’s final words were ”I wanted much; I began much; but the gale of the world carried away me and my work.”
He lived a hard life to have it disrupted so violently with four major wars. He deserved a better fate than to be executed by the communists. He should be rightly honored for his resistance against outside major powers trying to take over smaller Serbia. Perhaps his ideas of a looser federation of Yugoslavia with stronger autonomy for the ethnic republics would have resulted in a longer existing Yugsolavia.
On a lighter note, he should be depicted on t-shirts more than Che Guevara, the Argentinian bum turned Cuban Revolutionary hero. The beard, glasses, and Šajkača are a very “cool” look for Draža. I’ll look to see if I can find his image on a t-shirt or make my own.