Voices from Russia

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Stjepan Stevo Filipović (1916-42): His Spirit Will Never Die

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102 years ago, Stjepan Stevo Filipović was born on 27 January 1916. Filipović was a Yugoslav communist, a partisan, and People’s Hero of Yugoslavia, the “Yugoslav Che Guevara”. He was born in Opuzen in Croatia, then part of Austria-Hungary. He was a locksmith by trade. He graduated from primary school, then, his family moved to Mostar (Bosnia-Herzegovina), where he graduated from the second level at the gymnasium. After that, he studied in Sirmii and Kragujevac (Serbia).

He was an active revolutionary since 1937, actively involved in demonstrations and strikes, for which he went to prison for a year in 1939. In 1940, he joined the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. Filipović then did party work on the local level in Kragujevac; after the occupation of Yugoslavia by German troops in April 1941, the Party transferred him to Valjevo. There, he helped to set up clandestine radio stations and trained the first partisan groups. His personal courage and bravery in combat made him the commander of the local unit. On 15 August 1941, in an attack on Lajkovac, Filipović, armed only with a gun and grenades, put to flight a German machine-gun detachment squad. In this battle, his unit killed and wounded around 40 German soldiers. He received a commendation from Tito, the commander of the partisan forces. He received such again for his attack on Krupan.

At the end of September 1941, he was commissar of his unit for a short while. When his unit received reinforcements, he became a battalion commander. On 24 February 1942, the Chetniks ambushed Filipović… they wounded him and took him captive. The Chetniks handed him over to the Germans in Sabac, they transported him to Valjevo and tortured him for two months. A court sentenced him to death, with the execution date set for 22 May 1942. The Germans made all the locals come to the execution. In his last moments, Filipović spoke about the partisan movement, reminding them that the Red Army’s victory was inevitable and that the cruelty and bestiality of the fascist invaders would bring a prompt and just punishment to them. A photographer managed to capture the moment when Filipović spoke the words that became the slogan of the antifascist movement in Yugoslavia… “Death to fascism, freedom to the people!” Unable to stop the “communist propaganda”, the executioner decided not to wait for the appointed time, but to execute Filipović immediately. The execution took place 15 minutes earlier than planned.

On 16 February 1949, Filipović won the highest Yugoslav award, People’s Hero of Yugoslavia. On 28 October 1960, they dedicated a monument to Filipović in Valjevo. In the 1980 s, a monument existed in Filipović’s hometown of Opuzen, but in 1991 Croatian nationalists destroyed it. The modern Yugoslav left respects Stjepan Filipović, “our Che Guevara”, for his bravery, honesty, fearlessness, and internationalism.

27 January 2018

Yevgeny Ivanov

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