Howard Fast

Tito and His People

Medecine and Religion Fight and Plan

Not only were the Partisans holding political conventions and laying the foundations for the machinery of government, but there was a congress of doctors and medical workers of the Yugoslav guerrilla and volunteer army held on liberated soil as early as September 25, 1942.

The chairman was the famous Serbian, Dr. Simo Miloshevich, one time professor of medicine: at the University of Belgrade. Fifty doctors and many nurses as well as ambulance field drivers, came in spite of the hazards of travel.

Here they discussed army surgery, ambulance service of the guerrilla army, first aid to the sick and wounded and health protection of the population in liberated areas. Surgeons reported how wounds had been treated and operations performed without proper medicine and hospital facilities.

Louis Adamic, in his authoritative book, "My Native Land," tells of yet another interesting conference that took place.

"In September, 1942, Serbian Orthodox priests and seminary students serving in the various Partisan brigades, men who fought as well as prayed, held a conference in Bosanaska Krayana and sent a message to 'the people in the occupied and liberated territories and over free Yugoslavia to the outside world: '. . . Through many centuries there have not been witnessed such crimes as the (recent) slaughter of Serbians . . . by the advocates of the New Order in Europe, such crimes as those committed by the Fascists in the sixteen months of their occupation of Yugoslavia. There is no possible justification for the collaboration with occupationists of any Orthodox bishop or priest or any other Serbian.

" 'Collaboration with the Axis, now practised by some bishops and priests, is a crime; it is treachery to the people, and we disown them for it.... We likewise dissociate ourselves from the White Guard emigre, the self-styled Metropolitan Hermogenus, Pavelich's head of the Croatian Orthodox Church, who sows confusion and belittles the Orthodox faith. Such is the point of view of our congress — the only point of view that conforms with our Church's traditions.

" '. . . We express deep esteem for those priests who died, arms in hand, fighting against the occupationists and their lackeys, the traitors to the people, the Ustashi and Chetniks. We similarly express appreciation for those martyrs of the church, the metropolitans, bishops and priests who have been tortured to death by the Germans, Italians, Ustashi and Chetniks.

" 'The priests serving with the guerrilla units, accompanying the victorious brigades in liberated parts of Yugoslavia, have regenerated the religious life of the Serbian people. Wrecked and desecrated churches have been restored, cleansed and sanctified. Tens of thousands of children have been baptized. Tens of thousands who were killed in battle or tortured to death have been accorded Christian burial. Hundreds of new homes have been blessed. Many thousands have received Holy Communion.

" 'Never before have Serbian priests been closer to the people and the people to them than they are today in liberated territory. The people and the clergy pledge themselves to do all in their power to prevent religious differences from being the apple of discord among south Slavic nations.

" '(We) appeal to the Catholic and Moslem clergy to join their peoples who are swelling the ranks of the guerrillas.... In this sacred liberation war our peoples have forged their brotherhood with the peoples of the Soviet Union and with all who are enslaved and freedom-loving.

" 'We reject and condemn the fratricidal war being conducted by the Chetniks of Drazha Mik hailovich jointly with the occupationists against the sons and daughters of the Yugoslav people . . . against the guerrillas.

" '. . . God and the people are with us. Death to Fascism! Liberty to the people'!"

And while on the home front, statesmen, churchmen and others were laying the basis for a fuller democracy, Tito and his forces were clearing the land of the invader and helping to make this democracy a reality.

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