Howard Fast

Tito and His People

Tito Today

After three years of war, Tito is fifty years old. His soft, wavy hair is spotted with grey, a mark of esteem left on many men who languished in Yugoslav jails, their only crimes being that of disagreeing with the tyrants who infested and ruled their country

This shock of grey hair covers a head encasing a brain with a dream. This, the self-same dream that George Washington had, that William Lyon MacKenzie had, that Lenin had, and that all the other freedom fighters of history had — a dream of men free from the tyrant's yoke.

Correspondents who have seen him, describe Tito as being of no more than medium height, with broad shoulders and sturdy legs, his full face strong, determined, like that of a halfback who aims to hold the line. His mouth continually holds a drooping cigarette, for he likes to concentrate that way.

He is married to a lovely Slovenian woman who is leader of the Women's Anti-Fascist Council. She is an intelligent person and is a graduate of the University of Zagreb. She is his second wife, his first wife, a Russian, died some years ago.

His only son is fighting with the Soviet Army, having volunteered for service there at the age of 16. Today he is a People's Hero, the highest of military honors in that country. He was awarded this distinction in the Battle of Moscow, where he lost an arm in the defense of the city.

Marshal Tito wears a simple gray-green uniform with only the golden laurel leaves on the lapels, indicating that he is a Marshal of Yugoslavia.

He speaks English, a somewhat broken, faltering English. Besides his native language, Tito also speaks perfect German, Czech, Khirgisian, which is a central Asia Mongolian tongue. He knows the Russian classic literature well. Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities" is his most popular English work. Every morning he reads despatches and confers with his Chief of Staff, Arsa Yovanovich. He listens to all broadcasts from London and Moscow and correspondents were surprised to find him get up and leave the dinner table in the middle of a course to hear the eight p.m. BBC broadcast to Europe. Tito never stays in his headquarters for any length of time. As a rule he is on the move. There was a time when he had to march everywhere on foot. Now he could ride in automobiles, but he prefers to ride horseback instead.

His favorite steed is Mitsa, which once belonged to the pre-war Governor of Croatia. This horse came to Tito in a strange way.

Apparently a group of Croatian Ustachi fascists plundered the governor's stables. The Partisans later met these bandits in combat and after wiping out the unit, took their horses and equipment away; Mitsa was among them and today has the honor of carrying the Liberator of Yugoslavia on its back. Another favorite form of travel that Tito enjoys is a Jeep, given to him by General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, Allied Commander in Chief in the Mediterranean, as a gift on behalf of all the Allies.

Tito is combating illiteracy as he fights. He has organized state schools for grown-ups and attendance is compulsory when his people are not fighting. A state theatre was started and actors tour the liberated areas to bring moments of relaxation and enjoyment to his fighting men.

Many people are a little worried and uneasy when they hear that men and women fight side by side in the same unit. It is interesting to note therefore, that the Army of Liberation guards morals of the people like it guards ammunition caches. Drinking is strictly taboo. In the early days drunkenness was punishable by death, although today this is no longer a capital offense. In most cases, whole families, husband, wife and children fight side by side.

Tito intends to continue the fight against the Germans even after Yugoslavia is liberated, until the total defeat of Hitler.

Perhaps Tito's greatest success as a military man lies in his political program, a program that is so all-embracing as to include every religious and political group within Yugoslavia.

It is no wonder that everywhere in occupied Yugoslavia, posters appear: Wanted: Tito! Dead or Alive! It is also no wonder that not one Partisan has betrayed him in spite of the huge rewards offered, for they know, these men and women, who fight under his command, that without Tito there can be no life, liberty and pursuit of happiness in their native land.

Next  |  Contents

Yugoslavia Subject Section  |  Howard Fast Archive  |  Marxists Internet Archive