Confessions of a Disgruntled Spy
Introduction by the editor Robert J. Kelder
This short novel was first published in the London based Yugoslavian magazine NASA REC (Our Word) as a feuilleton in ten monthly instalments between August/September 1978 (Vol. XXXI, Nr. 297) and June 1979 (Vol. XXXII, Nr. 306) under the heading ARTS AND CULTURE PROGRAM. It appeared, however, not under the name of the real author Slobodan Mitric, who at that time was still held in confinement in The Hague for his role in the Vlado Dapcevic case as described at the end of this novella, but under a pseudonym Zoran Jovanovic. Mitric was namely advised by Desimir Tosic, the publisher of NASA REC and the Dutch authorities to adopt this pseudonym in order to facilitate the granting of a residence status to him in The Netherlands. This Zoran Jovanovic subsequently appeared to be a real person, namely a co-worker of the magazine NASA REC, who later even rose to political prominence in Yugoslavia partly based on his false claim to being the author of this short novel. In 1981, it was translated into Dutch and as such provided the basis for Mitric’s book GEHEIM-AGENT VAN TITO (Tito’s Secret agent), first published in a circulation of 5000 copies by “Karate Europa” Publishing Co. and reprinted (10.000 copies) in 1982. The promises by the Dutch authorities to grant him a residence status in this country, however, did not materialize in the end, and Mitric was reduced to eke out a meagre existence for himself and his partner/wife below the welfare minimum as an undesirable alien. A Dutch court order in 1986 forbade his extradition to the then Yugoslavia for fear that he would be put to death for high treason, a situation which, contrary to what the Dutch government claims, has not changed since.
Only lately (on October 16, 2008) Mitric was informed to his great surprise and anger that his short novel was republished in 21 instalments between April 14 and May 10, 2004 in the national (at that time still) Yugoslavian newspaper DANAS and again under the same pseudonym Zoran Jovanovic! This at a time when, as mentioned, he was reduced to earn his livelihood for himself and his ailing wife by collecting scrap iron on the streets of Amsterdam! Had he been given the financial remuneration, his wife who died due to lack of proper medical attention and even foul play, might still have been alive!
Now, one may indeed ask, who are Desimir Tosic and Zoran Jovanovic? This is what Mitric wrote and emailed in the original Serbian and in an English translation in January 2007 to answer this question:
“Who are Desimir Tosic and Zoran Jovanovic?
Desimir Tosic said that he was born in 1920 in Bela Palanka and that he [in World War II] was held as a German prisoner. It is true that he emigrated to Paris, that he studied there at the faculty of economy and law and that he used a pseudonym – he was editor-in-chief of NASA REC (Our Word) in London [the leading journal of the Yugoslav Diaspora]. His real surname is not Tosic. Desimir and his brother claimed that they changed their surname when they immigrated, and that they named themselves after the name of their father Tose and that their surname was Tosic.
In the mid seventies, he had a meeting with a chief from the [Yugoslav] state security service UDBA from Novi Sad, who lived at that time in Switzerland. After that meeting, articles taken from the novel “Tito’s Secret Agent” appeared in NASA REC, signed by Zoran Jovanovic as the “author”; after a year that part of the book “Tito’s Secret Agent” was printed separately. The Yugoslav public remain unaware of who the real author of the novel is. Desimir Tosic and the fake author Zoran Jovanovic are still hiding the truth from the Yugoslav and especially Serbian public - as well as a snake hides its legs! We [hereby] inform all the deceived readers of NASA REC that the real author of the novel “Tito’s Spy” published in NASA REC is Slobodan Pivljanin [Mitric] , the Serbian artist-poet-writer and leader of the DPS (Democratic Party of Serbia) - whose [political] program was also stolen by the same gentlemen, who named it the so-called Democratic Party of Serbia.
For all information write to: email@example.com“
Desimir has since then died. The present fate and position of Zoran Jovanovic is not known. May the dramatic background to this story finally become known in Serbia and abroad and may the real author finally achieve the status as a writer he deserves, accompanied by the financial rewards that he is equally entitled to!
* * * * * * *
I - Enrolment in the Yugoslav Secret Service
It was springtime. Everything was teeming with life and clouds were flying overhead!
I was stationed as a soldier at that time at Slavonska Pozega.
For the first three months, life was normal and easy-going.
One day our whole detachment was ordered to line up in front of the army barracks and to empty our pockets and give away everything we had with us at that moment! We did not dare protest, although everybody knew what this farce was about.
We got all our personal belongings back, except our pens. Previously, every one of us had to sign their name with their own pen!
After this weird search, the soldiers said that there were spies among us. They also said that Nazi symbols had been smeared in the toilets and on the walls of the barracks – and that anything was bound to happen. We didn’t know what to expect. My friends and I were scared to death; we were very young, none of us was more than twenty years old. I was only nineteen. I had just started shaving myself for the first time that year. The fear of the spies caused wrinkles in my young face. I was more afraid of spies than death!
It was only two days after the ceremony with the pens that they started searching and hearing us again. Three of my friends, Zorz, Bokan and Misa had escaped from the army barracks. A general alarm was sounded and we all received our gear for a full-scale war. The soldiers were talking among themselves that my friends were spies underway to the Austrian border and that the Secret Service was pursuing them.
Other news was circulating among us, for example, that there were mines planted and that the army barracks could any moment be blown up! That panic was stopped by the rough voice of our battalion commander Major Djura. He ordered us in an angry and very loud voice to return to our barracks immediately, because the escaped soldiers had been caught.
I knew those three men from the time that we were still in Belgrade. We played together as kids, so I couldn’t understand why they were considered spies! Now I had formed a completely new image of spies – a spy could be just anybody.
The next day, before lining up for military training, the corporal ordered me to report to Major Djura, the battalion commander.
Standing in position of him and sweating, I looked like a burning candle dripping with wax.
Major Djura was accompanied by a high-ranking captain. They were talking about something as if I did not exist and paid absolutely no attention to me. I started trembling, for ten minutes had already gone by since I entered their office. Then I stood still and said, “Zoran Jovanovic, soldier of the third battalion, first detachment and third unit, at your service, Comrade Major.”
Since Major Djura did not say ‘dismissed’, I kept standing in the position of the ‘burning candle’, eagerly waiting for that command, but the minutes turned into hours! Finally, the liaison captain looked at me and, faking surprise, shouted loudly as if I were a hundred year old deaf man, “Comrade Zoran, dismissed!”
After bellowing that, he smiled at me cordially, as if we were trueborn brothers! The captain was almost two meters tall. His whole appearance was that of a true soldier; his voice and his face were strong as stone. I felt scared most of all when the slim captain shook hands with me. ”I’m Captain Zarko. I sent for you, Zoran, to help me with a very important matter.”
I couldn’t believe what I heard. Confused, I held his hand in mine while he looked deeply into my eyes and smiled at me. “I just telephoned your father. He sends you his kind regards. He said that he believes you will uphold the honor of your family.”
Listening to these words confused me even more. His whole behavior baffled me, especially when he said that he had called my father! Fear overwhelmed me! I felt something important was happening. I was afraid someone had told them that it was I who had drawn those swastikas. I almost started crying and begged him to believe me that I hadn’t done it, when Zarko’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “Comrade Zoran, please sit down.”
Zarko pointed to a beautifully designed sofa in the corner of the room, took out a cigarette case and handed it to me. “Have a cigarette, comrade Zoran.”
“No thanks, I don’t smoke,” I muttered. I refused the cigarette and could hardly utter a word. Something was choking me and taking my breath away. Sweat was dripping from my face down my shivering chest.
“How nice that you don’t smoke. I’d be happy, if I could stop. And, do you drink alcohol?”
“No,” I said. “I don’t smoke or drink any alcohol.”
“You’re really a tough guy!” He smiled at me and winked at Major Djura, who was blinking all the time and wiping the sweat of his forehead.
“I heard you train karate,” said Captain Zarko, now with a new, more flattering and provocative tone of voice.
“That means you can break a brick with your bare hands.”
“No,” I answered a little more bravely. I was sorry that everyone considered a karate man to be some sort of brick-breaker or bricklayer! Karate is as an art closely related to Zen philosophy. The aim of karate training is to use the stunted, potential energy in the human body. Only ignoramuses connect karate with brick breaking!
“So, you cannot break a brick. Then you are a bad karate man,” said captain Zarko, sneering cheerfully from a pleasure only known to him. The whole scene began to disgust me and out of some kind of obstinacy caused by the captain’s teasing, I insisted that I couldn’t do it, although the truth was that I could break even two bricks. Breaking bricks is only one part of karate called tamashivari.
“Can you break a tile then?” Captain Zarko persisted in his interrogation.
“No, not even a tile,” I replied in a tone of voice that sounded even strange to me.
“What sort karate belt do you have?” the captain asked in a wicked tone of voice.
“A black belt,” I said.
“Black, come on! You mean to say you’re a karate master!”
“Yes,” I said. But this previously nice captain had now become as boring and stupid as an ox to me, and so I said ironically, “A real master and not a bricklayer.”
“Yeah, yeah. Never mind. I didn’t call you because of karate, but to answer some questions.”
Major Djura got up from his chair and started walking up and down his office. He was always strict and spoke little, but the things he did say were always thoughtful. During the war he had been a battalion commander with the famous Dalmatian brigade. He survived the war and was awarded many medals of honor. He was as tall as a highlander and thin as a match. His eyes glittered like owl’s eyes; you couldn’t reach inside them to know what he was up to. The major suddenly opened the door and left, leaving Captain Zarko and myself alone. The captain cleared his throat and after having offered me a cigarette again, which I refused again, started talking peacefully and with a certain kind of dignity.
“You, Zoran, come from a good family. I know your father personally and when I see you I see him. Thus I expect you to be honest and answer all my questions without any fear that somebody will find out about it. You know what’s been happening these days in your battalion. I believe there are many things that I don’t know that you want to tell me about. That is why I called you, so that we can help each other like two honest and friendly human beings. First of all, tell me how long have you known these three men, Zorz, Bokan and Misa?”
I felt his piercing gaze and could hardly gather the strength to answer his question. “I think about a year, maybe more. But I knew them as neighbors. We’re now more like companions here.”
“What were you talking about when you were last together? Were you planning to escape to Austria together?”
“Who was making plans?” I asked instead of answering, although I knew full well that we had been making plans; but it was nothing more than youthful haughtiness. I thought that Zorz was the first to mention something about escaping to Austria. But afterwards, we forgot all about that alleged escape plan. One thing was bothering me. Who was the person that had leaked everything to Captain Zarko?
“So you don’t know anything about that?” inquired the captain.
“Of course I don’t,” I said convincingly.
“Okay, then I’ll help you.”
Captain Zarko lit a cigarette, started pacing up and down the room and quietly started telling his story. “I am very sorry, Zoran, that you’ve gotten into this mess. But I hope that when you’ve listened to me you, you will be honest and confess everything. You know very well what it means to prepare to escape out of the country. That is called desertion, a case for which a man can be court-martialled with little mercy. Of course, such an unpleasant thing can be avoided, but a man needs to be honest. I know you’re young, but still, this is the army and that is no joke. Secondly, you messed things up before you enlisted in the army. You will have to appear in Court, because of those burglaries you committed last year. Imagine what the judge will think when we send him our recommendations! You’ll no doubt be sentenced to prison for a long time. I talked to your father about all this. He’s asking you not to embarrass him any more. And, Zoran, you know full well that your father is a very honest man and that it’s not right that, as an old man, he has to suffer because of you. I think you’re not doing the right thing. But still, I promise to help you with everything, just be honest. And then we will try to forget all about your burglaries. Now tell me, who drew those swastikas in your battalion?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know or are you afraid that those guys will beat you up afterwards?”
“No, that’s not it, I really don’t know anything.”
“Okay, Zoran then we have nothing more to talk about. Go back to your unit, and if by any chance you change your mind, tell the soldier on duty that you want to see me. And now get out, march!”
The next day Major Djura sent me to prison for seven days for having caused some kind of riot. I was put in the same prison cell with Zorz , Bokan and Mico. All three were tied in chains. Zorz’s head was bruised. He said that it was a ‘leftover’ from a conversation with Captain Zarko. We got fed at noon. I couldn’t eat. I was feeling sick and vomiting. At about three o’clock, the soldier on duty ordered me to go to Captain Zarko’s office. When I entered his office, Captain Zarko was smiling. “Okay then, Zoran, we have nothing to talk about.” I didn’t say a word and so the captain continued talking. “Olgica is scheduled to come here at five o’clock. I think you’re not going to be so stubborn as to force me to forbid you to see her. With only a little good will on your side, you can get permission to spend a whole twenty four hours with her in town.”
When I heard him talking about Olgica my heart froze! Olgica was my fiancée. I loved her very much and I hadn’t seen her for three months. Suddenly Captain Zarko started to disgust me. Did he have to be so heartless and senseless? He knew very well that I loved Olgica and he chose her in order to make me talk. There were two forces struggling inside me: loyalty to a friend and love for my fiancée. The latter won. My character was too feeble to remain silent. I only succeeded in not revealing everything. I was looking for a way to gain more time. “Okay,” I said, “let me go out with Olgica, and we’ll talk about everything later.”
“On your word of honor?” Zarko asked me, smiling contentedly.
“You have my word, and when I give my word, I intend to keep it.”
“Okay, you have permission for a twenty four hour leave.”
II – Enrolment in the Yugoslav Secret Service
The day off with Olgica passed very quickly. I accompanied her to the station and then went back to the army barracks. Captain Zarko called me into his office immediately. I remember that it was a Thursday. Although it was in the month of May, the days were not sunny. The sun probably has a great influence on people. On that cloudy day, I felt as if heaven was crying for me, crying, because I sold my soul to heartless people!
“So, did you have a good time, Zoran?” Captain Zarko asked me, uttering my name so warmly and softly that one would have thought it was coming from the heart. But I knew Zarko had no heart anymore and that all those nice words were coming from his lungs, where his soul used to be before being sold to the devil a long time ago in the same way I sold mine that day.
“I had a good time, comrade Captain Zarko,” I answered with the same tone of voice. A voice that only wicked hyenas understood and that was only known to wolves disguised as lambs.
“We must go and visit a comrade from the Secret Service. Secondly, you have received a summons to appear before the Belgrade district court. They have to either charge you or set you free within two days. You must keep that in mind. Our help depends on what you do today.”
I didn’t utter a word. I felt disgusted by this apparently nice officer. I couldn’t believe that man to be so evil and still look so naïve! No longer able to restrain myself, I said impudently, “So, you want to make a squealer out of me?”
Captain Zarko placed his hand on my shoulder and patted me in a rather friendly manner. “Nobody is forcing you, Zoran, to say anything. That must be clear to you. We know something, but you must be honest with us and tell us what we don’t know. For example, which one of you four guys drew those swastikas?”
Although I had expected that question, I became very afraid upon hearing it. I felt as if I were a suspect. I knew who had drawn those swastikas, but I also knew that they were drawn as a sign of a youthful rebellion. My friend hated Germans and swastikas more than Captain Zarko did. He drew them, because he liked to brag and to show that he was not afraid of anything. Since I could send him to prison with my confession, I decided not to mention his name and to bury it as a secret deep inside of me. But my resolve didn’t last long. As soon as Captain Zarko began mentioning attractive prospects, such as becoming an important person, a prospect out of reach for most people, I started talking as if I were the biggest gossipmonger alive!
“Imagine, Zoran what great help you could be to your country. I am strongly convinced that you were born to be a secret agent.”
He looked at me with admiration as if I really deserved that. I was weakened and influenced by his flattery.
“For example, you could become a member of our Secret Service in a couple of months. I am convinced that you could become a miracle of a man…”
We interrupted our conversation, because of the appointment we had at the Secret Service headquarters in the military base where I was stationed during my service.
The Secret Service headquarters surprised me; it was in the ambulance station of the army barracks with a temporary hospital on the first floor! There were waiting rooms and offices for the medical staff on the ground floor. The Secret Service headquarters were situated on the top floor with no signs of its existence anywhere so as to avoid arousing any interest!
We entered the office of the officer in charge. I stood straight and as a soldier saluted a major, who was about forty years old. His hair had already turned grey; he seemed somehow strange. His behaviour was so polite and friendly that I really enjoyed listening to him.
“Hello, young man!” He shook hands with me, while I looked at him without saying a word. I had gotten used to uniforms from the time I was born. My father was also a police officer. Wherever we lived, my father’s friends were always military or police officers. I knew many officers, but having become a soldier, I understood that you cannot be honest with them. In my relationship with those men, I always used the clear and concise words ‘I understand’, whether I understood something or not, didn’t matter. And now, since I had gotten in trouble because of my friends, I couldn’t understand the sudden change of attitude and behaviour on the part of those strict and stern officers! Zarko recently allowed me to be with him on a first name basis, and this Major, whom I saw for the first time, started joking with me as if we were old friends, even though I had been in these barracks here for only three months!
“How are you getting on with your karate? You must be a tough guy? I’ve heard a lot about you. But now that I see you, I wouldn’t say you’re that dangerous. They probably praised you more than you deserve. What do you say? Am I right, tough guy?”
He patted me on the shoulder. Zarko had started patting me on the shoulder the day before, which I didn’t like at all. I was afraid of such excessive friendship.
“Well, young man, tell me how do you like it here?”
I looked at the décor of the Secret Service headquarters. The walls were covered with all sorts of maps. I only recognized a map of Yugoslavia.
“Do you want a cup of coffee?” the Major asked.
His secretary, a short twenty year old brunette, smiling cordially, put three cups of Turkish coffee in front of us.
“Who drew those swastikas? Come on, tell us so that we can finish this story for good. It’s not all that important thing for us, but still, let’s get it over with.”
I didn’t know how it happened, but before I could even hear my own voice, I said, “Miso.”
“Okay, Zoran. You will go back to prison again and try to find out why Zorz is pretending to be a lunatic. Just be careful that they don’t discover that we made a deal here and that there is a Secret Service headquarters up here. You will go to Belgrade the day after tomorrow. You will be sentenced there, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll have to go to prison.”
We talked for a long time. He interrogated me on all sorts of things, while I spoke as if I were drugged. In fact, I was drugged, but with a strange sort of spying drug. Suddenly I felt an irresistible urge to spy. I couldn’t believe the enormous strength that gave me and that in such a short time I had become a talented regime spy!
That day I became the happiest man in the world. I whispered to myself: “Zoran Jovanovic: secret agent!” I imagined myself as a dignitary. I saw other people admiring and revering me as I stood before them with lots of medals pinned on my chest, shining bright like a New Year’s tree and an example for others!
I felt enormously happiness and pride. I used to read much about spies and had been afraid of them, but now I was so happy to become a spy myself, of whom many people would be afraid. I was only nineteen years old, but felt as if I were the most powerful man in the world!
As a trueborn optimist I felt as if I finally had a chance to become an important person. I only had to throw away my honesty, my character and to lose my soul, and success would be guaranteed. I couldn’t anticipate what my real future would be.
Almost a week passed by since coming back from Belgrade. I was sentenced to 18 months and ordered to go to prison there after finishing my military service. When I told Zarko and major Djoka that, they only laughed. Major Djoka told me, “Don’t worry. I’ve already arranged a conditional sentence for you.”
The next day Captain Zarko informed me that I would be dismissed from the army as a fully disabled person. After that, I returned to Belgrade for good. My mother was very worried, because I had allegedly been dismissed from the army, because of severe heart problems. My father was the only person who really knew why I had left the army. He told me it was good that I had finally come to my senses by choosing the path that leads to the common good. He was proud of the fact that I had become a secret agent and believed that I would never again embarrass him.
Captain Zarko was also transferred to Belgrade, where we met everyday. After ten days, I met an elderly man whose name was Mico. He lived near the building in which I lived. Mico arranged with the captain to teach me various skills, such as how to use weapons. We often went to a military field in Batajnica to practice shooting with all kinds of weapons, until we became completely exhausted. I was quite a good marksman, capable of hitting a target in the head from a distance of fifty meters. Mico always advised me to aim for the head. “Nobody has a chance to survive that,” he said, smiling like Dracula from the horror movies. Mico was nearly fifty years old. He always wore dark glasses, so that I was never able to see his eyes! In his three room apartment in New Belgrade he had installed many spy training devices. I learned how to counterfeit different kinds of seals and to forge passports and many other documents. I learned how to install hardly visible wiretapping devices and how to take and develop photos myself.
I continued doing karate in a sports club called Partizan. I was in excellent shape. Then, Mico started teaching me other deadly skills. We worked for three months on so-called suicides. I studied various books, mostly criminological textbooks about the work of the public service, of the different police forces in the world, methods of prosecution, investigation and seizure of criminals. Mico constantly repeated how very important it was to learn all these things, before being sent to the West or the East.
One day in his apartment he became very serious, more then he usually was, and addressed me with dignity. “Zoran, you’re still very young. Some of my friends have told me that you’re ready to take on a most difficult task. I tried to convince them that you’re still too young and inexperienced for serious tasks and that it would be best to wait a couple of years until you have gained enough experience. Otherwise, you could easily be caught by the enemy and then everything would fail. I’m thinking about your life as well.”
“Don’t you feel sorry for me,” I yelled angrily, almost punching him with my fist. I couldn’t believe him to be such a bastard. He pretended to be my friend, but still considered me a youngster!
“Calm down. Zoran, don’t be angry with me. I finally agreed that they send you on a mission to France. It’s the beginning of August now. You will go there in a month. I will make a passport for you today with a French tourist visa for ten days. When you arrive in Paris, you can easily extend your visa there.”
I started screaming from happiness and couldn’t get myself together for a long time. I could already sniff the scent of the Seine and enjoy the charms of the Eiffel Tower…
My joy was interrupted by Mico’s words, which really struck me. That day I learned that happiness has its price. Mico’s words brought me back to reality.
“In order to go to Paris, you must totally forget one person. It is necessary that this person no longer finds a place in your heart. The only love you will feel in the future is the love for your service. Your work will help our country a great deal. So, Zoran, from now on, Olgica is dead and gone for you. You simply have to put her out of your mind, otherwise the mission will fail.”
I felt as if this wasn’t real, but somehow managed to stay calm.
Mico made cup of coffee for me. “Coffee will help you calm down and concentrate. You’re expecting a big assignment. Maybe, your entire future depends on that assignment.”
On that same day, I broke up with Olgica and concentrated myself completely on fulfilling the big task in Paris.
III – In the Hands of the ‘French Secret Service’
I travelled by train for forty-eight hours across Italy and Switzerland, finally arriving in the city of my dreams from my youth – Paris!
That was my first trip abroad. I was really thrilled, but at the same time afraid that I wouldn’t be able to complete the assignment awaiting me in Paris. After getting off the train at the station Gare de Lyon, I hardly managed to find my way, although before leaving Belgrade I had learned some French.
All the way to Paris, I remembered the advice Mico had given me many times: when you get to an unknown place, start by looking around the station. He told me to remember the biggest and most visible buildings, monuments and bridges. And never to take a taxi right away.
It was a sunny day. The train arrived in Paris at 10 o’clock on the dot. I shared my compartment with a student coming back from Lausanne. In that group, there was a pretty girl, a law student. She talked about Yugoslavia with great joy and said many wonderful things about the Adriatic coast, where she spent her vacation last year. She asked me why I was going to France. I lied to her that I was going to train karate with a Japanese master. I also told her that I had unfortunately lost his address on my way to Paris and that it would be difficult to find it.
Her name was Lise. She cordially offered to help me in finding that address. She told me that her brother was also doing karate but only as a novice. She lived in Montparnasse. Now I found her even more beautiful. She was only twenty-one years old. I didn’t mind her being older than I was. We agreed to meet at 6 o’clock in the evening at Gare de Lyon. I spent almost all my time waiting for her at the station. I walked slowly to the Bastille and quickly went back to station again. I was afraid of getting lost.
Lise arrived punctually at 6 o’clock, feeling happy and cheerful. She wore a mini skirt and looked irresistible! I couldn’t hide my admiration. She noticed that and was pleased. She asked me where I lived.
“I haven’t found a place to stay yet. I have enough time for that.”
“You’re crazy,” she said smiling, while I could feel her fingers move in my big fist. “You’re going to be my guest tonight,” she then said suddenly. “Would you like to come with me to my flat?
“Why didn’t we do that this morning?” I asked naively.
“We couldn’t this morning, because there was somebody I had to get rid of, but now the place is empty,” said Lise mischievously and lustfully.
Although the street was full of people, I immediately grabbed and I kissed her. After a long trip by train, we finally got to her small apartment where we spent the whole night together. I was bursting with happiness and pleasure until the next day, when she told me in a most cool and collected way that I could no longer stay in her apartment, because it belonged her husband! I was quite disappointed by that, but it also made me come to my senses. We separated in a friendly way.
It was high time to pay a visit to our embassy. I didn’t use the subway, because I was afraid to get lost. So I took a taxi and came to the Embassy very early, before nine o’clock. I drank a cup of tasteless coffee in a bar.
At the embassy, I contacted the man that Mico told me about, a Montenegrin named Bozidar-Boza. He knew my father back from the war. He immediately gave me the address where I was supposed to find the apartment and the other address of the place where I had to ask for work as an electrician. After the conversation with Bozo, I went to Gare de Lyon to pick up my things from the locker and went to the address that I had gotten from Bozo. It was in fact a dormitory called Cité Universitaire. I stayed in the Italian pavilion. The room was very cheap; only seven franks a day. The food wasn’t expensive either.
During the first week of my stay there, I didn’t leave the dormitory and learned as much French as I could. I only went to the police station and extended my visa for another four months. I received a document from the police to which they attached my photograph. I paid 20 franks for it. It was easy to get a visitors visa in Paris at that time.
The following week I waited for an unhappy Thursday to pass and then went to the address of the firm where I was supposed to find a job. I contacted a man from Novi Sad on Bozo’s recommendation and got a job right away.
When still in Belgrade, Mico had told me to call Bozo every fourteen days and that when settled in Paris I would get an order from Bozo for the completion of the assignment for which I was sent to Paris.
Time passed and I received no news from Mico. Soon I moved into the apartment of the man from Novi Sad. There were six of us living in a big room and sleeping in double beds.
After a few days I was fired, because due to my mistake and lack of knowledge an aggregate exploded in flames.
I immediately went to the embassy and told Bozo that I had been sacked. It didn’t bother him the least. He told me that he’d find me another job and that until then I was to go back to the pavilion at the Cité Universitaire again.
During that whole week without a job, I visited museums and did some sightseeing in Paris. One day, I visited the Louvre where I felt pretty bored. I wondered why all the visitors were mobbing in awe in front of the Mona Lisa! I couldn’t understand what kind of fascination they saw in that painting! In my view, everything seemed artificial, silly and very stupid.
One day, about seven o’clock in the evening after parting from Bozo, I started walking to my apartment. It was getting dark and the street lights were not turned on yet. Suddenly two men appeared in front of me. They were about thirty years old. One of them reminded me of a Gestapo officer from the movies. They approached me and addressed me very cordially in French. “Good evening sir,” one of them with an extremely black moustache said to me.
“Good evening,” I replied in French.
“Please show us your ID,” said the other man, who wore glasses with a small diopter. He probably didn’t have to wear them at all. He wore them as a kind of mask.
“We’re from the police.” He showed me his metal badge. I couldn’t read what was written on it, because it was getting dark, and all this surprised and confused me.
“Oh, you are Yugoslav,” said the man with glasses.
“Do you mind coming with us? We need to talk about something,” he said, taking me by the hand in a friendly manner.
I muttered something as a sign of acceptance. What else I could do?
All three of us got into their car, where I sat like a bride in between the two of them. I couldn’t make out the face of the driver. We were all silent. Many things were racing through my mind. I wondered what the police wanted from me. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong yet in this country. I thought it to be some kind of mistake. Maybe they had already discovered that I was a spy. But I immediately rejected that thought as an impossibility.
We drove in silence for a long time. Nobody uttered a word. Finally, the car stopped in front of a gate. I couldn’t make out an inscription ‘Police’ anywhere! A man in plain clothes opened the gate. That surprised me even more. We drove into a spacious backyard, where I noticed a big villa in front of me. We got out of the car and I started walking together with the man with the moustache. We went into the hall of the building, which looked more like a basement, because the room had no windows at all. It was an ordinary room and didn’t look at all like a police station. I saw that at once and became scared. The man with the moustache noticed it and told me not to be afraid. From all the fear and excitement, I forgot all the French words I had learned. I was even unable to ask for a glass of water in French, although I was very thirsty.
They explained to me that they would ask for an interpreter.
IV – Passing the Supreme Test
After waiting an hour, the interpreter finally arrived. He was very kind. I wondered why he wore no glasses. He spoke with an accent as if he came from Zagreb. “My name is Branko. We are compatriots.”
“I’m glad,” I said ironically. “You’re probably an immigrant?”
“Unfortunately not,” he said, smiling.
“I don’t understand what you mean by ‘unfortunately’!”
“Never mind. That word is probably of my own saying.”
“Do you know where you are?” he asked without a smile on his face.
“That’s what I would also like to know.”
“You have been captured by the French Secret Service. That probably surprises you.”
“Why does the Secret Service take such an interest in me!?” I asked. Now I felt overwhelmed by enormous fear. I couldn’t understand what was happening to me!
The man with the moustache told the interpreter to ask me if I wanted something to drink.
“I don’t want anything,” I said without waiting for Branko to translate my words.
“Oh, you understand French very well.” The man with the moustache smiled falsely.
“Not much,” I said insolently. “Ask them why I was arrested.”
“Who said you’ve been arrested?” Branko translated the words of the man with the moustache.
“These gentlemen only want to ask you a few questions. They know why you’ve come to Paris, but they can see that you’re too young for that. You’d be smart to cooperate with them.”
“I don’t know what you mean by that!”
“This gentleman wants to know why you were with consul Bozo in the Louvre today.” Branko translated every word with a sadistic accent that was driving me crazy.
“Tell that gentleman to go to hell! How dare he! I don’t know any consul called Bozo and I’ve never been to the Louvre,” I said quickly and moved one step towards the man with the moustache with my fists clenched ready to punch him on his crooked nose. But at the same moment, I felt a sharp pain on my head and everything became blurred around me.
When I woke up, I found myself tied to a chair. I had a splitting headache and felt a big bump on my head, but I couldn’t touch it. I noticed that the man with a moustache was no longer in the room. I only saw the interpreter and the man with the glasses.
“This gentleman thinks you are a man with a strong temperament.” Branko translated everything that the man with the glasses said.
“Ask the man if he has a beautiful wife,” I said angrily, hardly managing to restrain myself.
“The gentleman is unfortunately not married.”
“Is this word ‘unfortunately’ a saying of yours again?”
“Unfortunately, it isn’t,” Branko said, starting to laugh like crazy!
Although I felt strong pains in my head, I couldn’t resist laughing a little myself.
“The gentleman apologizes for the position you’re in now. He knows it is causing you a lot of inconvenience, but if you’d be a little more cooperative that inconvenience could be eliminated.”
“What exactly do you want from me?”
“I don’t understand your stubbornness. If I were in your shoes, I’d confess everything. You’re still young. I feel sorry for you, and these people would be glad to help you.”
“You tell the gentleman that I have nothing to say and that I don’t understand anything. I find this all very strange and funny.” I said that, although I knew that it was all to no avail.
“The gentleman asks you when the last time was that you were with Mico?”
This hit me like a thunderstorm! It took my breath away. At that moment I understood that they weren’t mistaken. But how, I wondered, did they get to know everything! I was surprised and confused by all this and I didn’t know what to say. I managed to gather some strength and I responded calmly.
“Mico, who?” I asked, still wondering about it.
“Mico, who introduced you to Captain Zarko in Belgrade.”
“The gentleman must be crazy to ask me such stupid questions about men I’ve never seen or heard about in my whole life.”
I trembled, because I was very tense. I was extremely angry, because I was wholly unprepared for this situation. I now understood that they knew everything. But how did they know all this, who had told them everything? I decided to keep my mouth shut, even if they wanted to take my worthless life.
“The gentleman wants you to answer the question he asked you.”
The man with the glasses drew closer to me, waiting for my response.
“I don’t understand anything, please stop molesting me and leave me alone.”
I begged in vain. I felt afraid and an inexplicable hatred towards these people. If I could only set myself free, I would kill them like dogs. I was desperate and felt weak for falling so stupidly into the enemy’s hands at the very beginning of my spy carrier. I tried comforting myself that my conscience was clear. I wasn’t guilty. Some of the men who had sent me to France must have been traitors. If I could somehow set myself free, I would go back to my country, inform the authorities about everything and stop that traitor from doing his dirty job. I believed they would kill me here for refusing to talk and decided to remain silent.
They started slapping me and punching me with their fists. Even the interpreter was hitting me. I screamed in pain. I swore that I didn’t know anything, that they were most certainly wrong and that they had mistaken me for someone else. It made no difference. I felt totally weak and utterly lost.
After they got tired of hitting me, they both went out and turned off the light. It was dark as hell. I remained tied to the chair in the dark for what seemed an eternity! I was pondering for hours about the whole situation and my thoughts became more and more confused. I had to urinate. I couldn’t hold it back anymore. I didn’t know that urine could smell so bad!
All of a sudden the light bulb flashed on in the room. It shocked me and I suddenly started trembling. My head was swollen like a globe. I wanted to die, but it was impossible to end my suffering or stop the pleasure of my torturers, who didn’t appear although the light was on. I heard voices behind the door and recognized the voice of the man with glasses. He mumbled something in French, but I couldn’t understand anything. I felt that it wasn’t going to do me any good.
Suddenly, the door opened and the three torturers entered the room. The man with the moustache was wearing a white overcoat! He looked like Dracula. He approached and slapped me. The interpreter gave me a sign to keep quiet, because I had started crying like a dog. The blood had dried in my nose, but now started flowing again. I prayed to God that I would bleed to death and He in that way could put an end to my suffering.
Branko, the interpreter was talking quietly to the man with glasses, who showed me Mico’s photograph! “The gentleman asks, if you’re still so stupid in persisting that you don’t know this man.”
“No, I’ve never seen that photograph.”
The photograph was taken in the garden of a restaurant or. But where and when I didn’t know!
I was at a loss for words. I realized that everything was useless, but was resolved not to confess anything.
“I don’t know this gentleman. Maybe we once sat at the same table, but I don’t remember that. There’re plenty of cases of people sitting together in the same café at the same table, who don’t know each other.”
I knew this response wasn’t going to be of much help either, but decided to persist. I didn’t want to succumb to the attacks of those torturers, who thought they could do whatever they pleased.
“So, that’s it,” Branko said. “You’re not only stupid, but also stubborn as a mule. But we have ways to make you talk. You’d better confess everything willingly, because in the end you will have to confess everything anyway.”
Now, even Branko began interrogating me. He wasn’t an interpreter anymore.
“Fuck you Ustasha! Who do you think I am, you bastard…” I stopped talking at that point, because they hit me badly on my head and in my stomach. It felt so painful that I started yelling and screaming.
“This man is crazy,” I heard the man with the moustache comment.
Branko pulled a little knife out of his pocket and started waving it around my neck. “You communist bastard! Start talking now or I’ll cut your throat.”
He stabbed me with his knife in my left leg. I felt a weak pain and the wound started bleeding.
“You miserable son of a bitch,” yelled the man with the moustache. He pulled out his gun and pointed it at my temple. “Start talking or I’ll blow your stupid brains out!”
I spat on his face. Dried blood colored it completely red. He stepped back and pulled the trigger. I heard a loud shot and instinctively drew my head back. I heard more shots. I twisted in the overturned chair. I was aware that the gun was pointed at me, but felt no pain! I thought I was dead already and that only my spirit was thinking now. The pain in my bleeding left leg woke me up from these thoughts.
I heard the door open, loud laughter and familiar voices. They were all speaking Serbo-Croatian! I recognized one of the voices: it was the voice of my teacher Mico! A terrible thought struck me: Was it possible that Mico was a traitor!
“Congratulations, Zoran. You really are a tough guy!”
They cut the ropes on my hands. Now they were all happy and laughing. I couldn’t pull myself together for a long time. Mico was the only one who remained in the room. He comforted me. “It’s all right now. You’ve completed your task excellently. Now you need to go back to Yugoslavia where we will agree to everything. You must completely forget what you went through here. Be happy, because from now on nobody will have any doubts about you. Today you have passed the supreme test.”
Everything around me seemed strangely unreal. The pains were disappearing quickly. I was happy to be alive. At that moment, I understood that it had been a test of my loyalty and resolve. Now I realized why I was sent to Paris. I became immensely proud of myself and boldly looked forward to my future, a future as a famous spy!
V – Preparing for a Trip to Romania
After having ‘passed’ the test in Paris with flying colors, I immediately returned to Belgrade. Mico arranged to have lunch with me in his apartment. We talked about everything that happened in Paris and both parted satisfied, because everything had ended so beautifully.
A few days after our lunch, Mico started teaching me different skills on a daily basis. He talked about various groups working against Yugoslavia and its people. For the first time I heard there were even groups inside the communist party with an unfriendly attitude towards ‘our nation’. He explained to me who the Chetnicks (followers of Tito’s opponent General Mihailovic) and the Ustashas (extreme Croatian nationalists) were. Finally, he explained that I would be working exclusively against ex-military people, admirers of Stalin, who had escaped in 1948 during the ‘Communist Information Bureau’ period and who had now formed into groups to organize a contra-revolution in Yugoslavia. He also told me that the Chinese were helping those expatriates!
My first task would be to go to Romania, but he didn’t know when that would be.
It was already December 1967 and Belgrade was preparing for the New Year celebrations. My mother was desperate, because I wasn’t doing anything and not coming home everyday. She begged me to find a job. I didn’t know what to say to her! I couldn’t explain my real position to her. My father knew what I was doing, but kept quiet even to my mum. All that time, I was getting decent pocket money from Mico.
I trained karate six hours a day. Often, I went with Mico to the Yugoslav National Army stadium and for a long time was a member of a club called Partizan. Everyday Mico showed me an album full of photographs, mostly of younger people, pointing out that all of them were smugglers – members of the Belgrade underworld!
“Why don’t you arrest them?” I asked. I didn’t understand why such people were running around free!
“It’s not our business to arrest criminals. We are a special service, and these people help us a lot in our work. You see this young man here?” He showed me a photograph of a young man. “His name is Tesa. He’s studying law, but also does dirty jobs. Try to make friends with him. Do it gradually and don’t be too obvious. You have enough time. The other man is Paja, who is a little older than Tesa. He’s an engineer. Officially, he works in a Belgrade wholesale and retail trading company not far from Vuk’s monument. You’ll meet him later. But you shouldn’t meet him on your own initiative. Try to be in Tesa’s company, until Paja notices you. You must give the impression of a naïve and trustworthy young man. Paja is also in the smuggling business and often travels to Italy and Romania. If you succeed in becoming his friend and gain his confidence, you will know that it is all right. Just be careful. He’s a very intelligent and interesting person; always try to keep that in mind. I will take you to a restaurant tonight where they usually meet. You’ll have to go there more often in the future and, as I explained to you, do your best to have them notice you, so that in time they become friends with you. Do you understand what is required of you?”
“Yes I have,” I replied, although the game wasn’t completely clear to me! I trusted Mico absolutely and believed that when he did something, it had to succeed. I was curious and couldn’t wait to meet these guys. In the evening, we went to a modern restaurant called Bezistan. I noticed some persons there from Mico’s album. Mico was more than satisfied when I recognized the faces in the restaurant of the persons from his album! Obviously pleased with his and my success, he told me that I was bound to become a great spy!
I met Tesa immediately after New Year, but he soon went to his family in Sarajevo. Upon his return to Belgrade, I went immediately to restaurant Bezistan, after completing my karate training. As soon as Tesa saw me, he greeted me. “Hello, karate man.”
“Would you like a drink?” he asked cheerfully.
“Milk you drink at home, this is a café!” He was slightly drunk and started patting me friendly on my shoulder. At that moment he cheerfully addressed a man entering the restaurant. ”Paja, come and knock out this karate man!”
Paja came slowly to the table, greeted everybody politely and kissed Tesa. We sat together for an hour. That evening I also met a young man, who worked as a gym teacher in Sweden; his nickname was Ringo. Paja was interested in karate and said that even though he knew little about that sport, he wasn’t afraid of any karate man in Yugoslavia. “I can beat any karate man like a cat, although I don’t know the first thing about karate,” Paja boasted, seriously.
“I hope you won’t beat me too. We’re already friends.”
While they were all laughing, Paja continued, “Of course I won’t beat you, but I will surely beat Jorge.”
“Then I’ll introduce you to Jorge so you can try your luck.”
I continued talking, knowing full well that Paja was only joking. Paja was physically too feeble to fight even the weakest young man, let alone beat Jorge, the karate champion of Yugoslavia.
After this joke, we all became somehow more intimate. I liked Paja as a man. He was cheerful and a true gentleman. Everyone wanted to become his friend.
It was my first encounter with Paja. We often met each other after that encounter and in time became close friends. I always kept Mico’s advice in mind. Paja quickly gained confidence in me. He could see that I spoke little, that I was firm and didn’t stick my nose into other people’s business.
Soon I started selling watches and rings with Tosa. That was merchandise that Paja gave to Tosa. Soon I became a master smuggler myself! Many people asked me to work with them. I refused on the advice of Mico any other collaboration than with Tose and Paja,
One day in the beginning of March, Paja asked to speak with me in private. He took me to a little restaurant where he regularly had dinner. As soon as we sat at a table, he addressed me in quiet and serious tone of voice. “Zoran, I like you as a man. How would you like to do some more serious jobs with me?”
Although he looked down on me, I felt that he trusted me. “All right, but may I know what kind of business we’re talking about?” I asked, trying hard to appear disinterested.
“Do you have a passport?”
“Yes, I do. I got one last year in Paris.”
“You’ve already been abroad?” Paja asked me with cheerful curiosity.
“Yes, I went to a karate seminar for about three months.”
“Who do you know in Paris?” he asked suddenly.
“No Yugoslavs. I spent my time with Frenchmen.”
“Do you know any emigrants?”
“Not one, I avoided them. They only talk about politics.”
“You’re right, Zoran. I’ve been travelling abroad for years, but don’t do politics. My only politics is to earn money. That’s all I’m interested in. I’ve planned an excellent job this time. If you’re interested, you can get rich quickly.”
“Okay. What’s it about?”
I was very impatient to find out as soon as possible something about that job, but tried my best not to show it.
“I have to tell you, this job is a bit dangerous. But, if you’re smart you can avoid any danger. We need to transport about a hundred wind jackets in Romania. We can sell them there at the price of 300 lei a piece. It is true the leu isn’t worth much in Yugoslavia, but it’s more valuable than the dinar in Romania. With these lei we get from selling wind jackets, we’ll buy with the help of my Jewish friend about thirty fine Orthodox icons. Icons are sold for a good price in the West and in that way you can make a lot of money. I promise you that you’ll earn three million dinars from one successful haul.”
I almost accepted that attractive offer, but remembering the advice from Mico to be extremely cautious and careful, restrained myself. “Sounds great, but I’m afraid that the police might catch us.”
“There is a risk. But, if we’re careful there is no danger.”
“Okay. I’ll think about it and tell you next time whether I accept your offer.”
“You mustn’t tell anyone about this. Not even to Tesa, no one. Think it about until tomorrow , then let me know and come here at about this time. If you accept, we can leave immediately and buy the merchandize in Trieste on Sunday and then go on to Romania.”
I parted from Paja at about two o’clock. I immediately telephoned Mico and said that I would meet him at his place. There, I told him everything about Paja’s offer. Mico was more than satisfied. “Go over there tomorrow and meet Paja at the same time. Accept everything, but keep saying that you’re afraid of the police. Tell him you’ll accept the job, because you trust him and that you wouldn’t accept going on the same adventure with anyone else but him.”
“But Paja is, as far as I’m concerned, only a common smuggler!”
“No. Paja is no ordinary smuggler. You’ll find that out for yourself very soon. But the important thing for now is that he has bitten our bait and time will do the rest. I must tell you Zoran, you’re making good progress and I hope that lady luck will accompany you in the future.”
Mico gave me a long lecture that day. He said he knew many things about Paja, but also that it still wasn’t the proper time to tell me everything, because maybe then the whole thing would fail. “Remember Zoran, Paja must get the impression that you’re very naïve and that he is the one to always lead and teach you everything. That’s why you must be clever. Remember every word he tells you. Try to make him believe in you as much as you can.”
VI – The First Trips to Romania
My first trips to Romania with Paja went very smoothly. Paja had been there often on the same business, so the sale of the wind jackets and the purchase of the icons proceeded without too many difficulties. I was surprised by Paja’s skilfulness, but also learned the work of a smuggler myself very quickly. We returned to Belgrade with some twenty icons. I immediately submitted a full report to Mico. He couldn’t hide his satisfaction and readily praised me for doing this job so quickly and successfully! “Now, the fish is on the hook, but we must be careful that the hook doesn’t break, because the fish we caught is a very rare one. Because of that, my man, continue simply but safely with what you’re doing,“ Mico philosophized with a smile of satisfaction as never before!
That same week, we brought the icons to Trieste. Paja gave me a million and a half dinars. I was delighted. Paja told me this was just a start and that there would be much more money to come, because he had found another channel in Bucharest with even more valuable icons.
“Those are very old icons for which we can get a much bigger amount of money. But the person offering those icons wants to be paid only in gold. It is easier to transport gold than wind jackets,” Paja said like a true professional.
Upon our return from Trieste to Belgrade, I immediately reported to Mico that we had gold coins and that we intended to go to Bucharest. Mico offered no objection, but advised me once more to be extremely cautious.
We arrived in Bucharest at the beginning of April and booked a room in Hotel Ambassador. After resting up from the trip, we went down to the dining room to have lunch. Paja ordered soup and fish as he always did, while I ordered tartar beef. I loved half-roasted meat. It gave me great strength. I could easily devour three portions. I weighed some 85 kilos, but because of my karate training wasn’t fat at all.
Paja started telling me about a Slobodan Glumac. “Today, at three o’clock we’re going to meet a Yugoslav emigrant in front of Hotel Lido” he said, eating his trout.
“I don’t understand! The other day you told me that you had no contact with emigrants,” I said cunningly.
“Yes, I told you so, but didn’t tell you the truth. Now that we know each other well, I think there is no longer any reason to hide who I am,” Paja said with a serious tone in his voice. He stopped eating his trout, which smelled good.
“Is it some Chetnick or Ustasha?” I asked again cunningly, although I knew that Romania was a communist country and that there were no such emigrants. My intention was to give Paja the impression that I knew nothing about emigrant organizations.
“No, he’s a member of the Information Bureau.”
“Oh, is that so,” I wondered.
“Yes, he’s a member of the Information Bureau. His name is Slobodan Glumac. I’m telling you all this, because you need to be very cautious when we meet him. While I talk to him, just keep quiet and make sure that nobody is observing us.”
“Are you a member of the Information Bureau?” I asked suddenly. I firmly believed he was, and that that was why Mico was always telling me that Paja was a big fish and that, until he had bitten the hook completely, he needed to be dealt with carefully.
“No, I am not a member of the Information Bureau,” Paja said, looking at me strangely and continuing to talk slowly with a solemn tone of voice. “Back in Yugoslavia, I will explain many things to you, but the time is not yet ripe for it. Try to do things the way I told you and everything will be fine.”
“Are we supposed to get those icons from him?”
“No, Zoran. This time we’ve come to Bucharest for politics.”
“I don’t understand anything yet,” I said honestly.
“There are lots of things you don’t understand yet and it’s better so. Don’t ask too many questions. Let me worry about everything.”
“But Paja, I hope you’re not trying to get me involved in something against my country? If that is so, you should know that you’ve chosen the wrong person. For no amount of money would I betray my own country as members of the Information Bureau have done,” I said excitedly.
“I told you not to be afraid. You don’t think I am the traitor to our country, do you? Paja said, looking at me like an enemy. I had never seen him so serious and angry!
“That’s not what I meant!” I began, trying to justify myself. “I only want you to know what kind of person I am and what I think about those people who betrayed our country.” From the expression on his face, I saw that this calmed him down.
Quietly he said, “Don’t be afraid. Zoran, I know a lot about you. I wouldn’t have taken you with me, without first having checked who you are and what kind of family you come from.”
“Where did you check that?” I asked naively.
“That’s none of your business now. I told you, I’ll explain everything when we get back to Yugoslavia. And now, pay for the lunch, because it’s already three o’clock.”
When we arrived at Hotel Lido, a forty year old man was awaiting us. He seemed very afraid. He gave Paja a little parcel. “I must leave immediately. We could be seen here,” mourned the frightened man.
Paja took him aside and they parted quickly.
Paja gave me a sign to approach him and we went back to our hotel.
“Who is that man?” I asked.
“I already told you. Slobodan Glumac.”
“Why is he so afraid?”
“You ask too many questions,” Paja said kindly.
We went to our hotel on foot and continued walking to the institute where, as Paja told me, a certain Dr. Slobodan Kovacevic worked. We also had to meet him.
“This man is also called Slobodan?” I asked, curious.
“Yes. As you can see, only a certain Slobodan today. And now shut up, because it is dangerous to speak our language loudly. We never know if we are being followed.”
We went to the front entrance of that institute, but Dr. Kovacevic wasn’t waiting there for us!
“Dr. Kovacevic is not here,” Paja said. “We must return to our hotel immediately. We mustn’t stay here any longer.”
On the way back to the hotel again, I noticed a man standing alone in front of a bus station holding the newspaper Politika in his hand! “Paja, there is a Yugoslav,” I whispered.
“What!” Paja stepped back as if he got burned. “How do you know he’s a Yugoslav?”
“Because he’s holding Politika in his hands.”
“Oh, yes, wait a second, I’ll approach him.”
Paja did so. The man holding Politika pretended to be surprised. I immediately saw that he was merely acting. I thought it was Dr. Kovacevic, but soon got a very different answer!
The unknown man with the newspaper was about forty years of age. He looked like a sportsman with a very serious character. He introduced himself to me as Vidoje Vukoje. He was reluctant to come to our hotel, but agreed to sit with us in the garden of a little restaurant not far from the hotel. Vidoje told us how he escaped from Yugoslavia twenty years ago. He said that he first spent a few years in Moscow and that he was now working as an electrical engineer at an electric power plant here in Bucharest. Paja asked him if he knew Dr. Kovacevic. Vidoje said that he knew him very well. We parted in the dark after agreeing that Vukoje would come to our hotel at about 10 o’clock in the morning and that he would take us to his house.
When we came to the hotel, Paja warned me to keep my eyes and ears wide open the next day, and to be very cautious, because we didn’t know what to expect!
After dinner, we went to the hotel dancing hall where we met two young Romanian girls. One of them knew Serbian-Croatian very well. Soon we took the Romanian girls up to our rooms.
The next day Vidoje showed up in time for breakfast. He was nicely dressed; he even wore a tie. We went to his apartment where he introduced us to his wife, an extremely beautiful Romanian woman, who worked as a nurse. They also had a daughter.
Soon a Major came. He was also an emigrant. His name was Milan Zuban. Vidoje introduced us as his acquaintances. I noticed that Zuban was extremely interested in finding out who we were! We talked about this and that, until Zuban finally started mentioning Vlado Dapcevic, Mao Tse Tung in connection with a contra-revolution that was supposed to break out in Yugoslavia. This became the main topic of discussion. Zuban was talking fiercely about a large number of officers preparing to start the contra-revolution in Yugoslavia at a certain moment!
There was great tension in Yugoslavia in those months, because of the events in Czechoslovakia. Zuban gave me several badges of Mao Tse Tung and asked me my opinion about Mao.
“He’s a good man,” I said quickly, being unprepared for this sort of question.
“Next time we meet, I will give you some of his quotations in our language for you to read and to give to friends when you get back to Yugoslavia,” Zuban said.
“Very good. I’d really like to read the quotations of Mao Tse Tung,” I said, hoping to get them. Afterwards, I could brag about it to Mico and show him proof that I had gotten in touch with members of the Information Bureau.
After the death of Stalin, the members of the Information Bureau moved away from the Soviet camp to adopt the Chinese party line. Vlado Dapcevic, an ex-colonel of the Yugoslav National Army, became the secretary of that new Communist party. Nobody knew where Vlado Dapcevic was. After he had left Peking, everyone lost track of him. Mico told me that they believed him to be in Romania and that he was a very important person. He added that that was why I had been so thoroughly trained, to jump on him, if I ever got the chance some day. I felt very excited, because after meeting Zuban, I believed that I would soon get meet Vlado Dapcevic as well, but that wasn’t to happen immediately.
When we left Vidoje, it was already six o’clock in the morning. Paja told me that he would arrange a meeting with the man, who would bring us Russian icons. He gave me gold coins to take to Vidoje’s apartment and then told me to get back to the hotel immediately. He was afraid to keep the gold coins with him, because he mistrusted the Jew who had promised to bring the icons.
I came back from Vidoje’s place at around midnight! Paja grew very angry and asked me what had kept me so long. With the voice a gangster, I said that while Vidoje was away from home, I had slept with his beautiful wife! Paja was dumbfounded! He started yelling and screaming and tried to convince me that my behaviour was extremely dangerous and could ruin all their plans and spoil their success. He added that I didn’t seem realize who these people were.
“It’s true that I don’t know who these people are, but you should open your cards and tell me who the people playing this game are!” I said in one breath, looking at him very seriously.
“We cannot talk about it here, Zoran. We are in the hotel and somebody can hear us. Now, take a shower and go to bed, because we must get a good night sleep and rest up for tomorrow,” Paja said quietly.
The next day the Jew, whom we expected to bring the icons, brought the police instead! They checked all our things and documents, but couldn’t find anything! Paja said calmly that he didn’t know the Jew at all and that he also knew nothing about the gold coins and icons! The policemen had to leave us alone, but we knew that they would keep an eye on us. That was why we didn’t go to Vidoje’s place at once to collect the gold coins, but to a nearby café instead. Afterwards, we took a taxi to a lake where we spent a few hours, successfully avoiding the inquisitive looks of an inexperienced policeman, who was persistently trailing us. We agreed to part here and to meet again at the railway station in Temisvar and from there to return to Belgrade. I did exactly what Paja ordered me to do. Since I couldn’t find Paja at the Temisvar railway station, I went back to Belgrade alone, worried about what had happened to him!
As soon as I arrived in Belgrade, I telephoned Mico. I went to his house and told him everything. Mico was very angry about the course of events. “I hope that fool didn’t fall into the hands of the police!”
“I really don’t understand, uncle Mico! Paja is an ordinary conman, and you’re afraid of him falling into the hands of the police!”
“I hope that lady luck is with us and that now, when everything is going so well, that fool won’t spoil everything.”
I left Mico and went home. I wanted to go to bed; I was exhausted and needed to sleep. As soon as I got home, my father told me that a young man had called me on the phone and that the next day, without exception, I ought to come to restaurant Domovina. I knew that it was Paja and was glad that he hadn’t been arrested.
The next day I went to the agreed place in restaurant Domovina. As soon as I came inside, I saw Paja sitting at the table reading the latest edition of Politika Express. I approached him.
“A great misfortune befell us, Zoran,” Paja said, without explaining to me what had happened.
VII – A Rude Awakening
The waiter brought me a cup of coffee. Drinking it slowly, I secretively glanced at Paja. He seemed very anxious. I suspected his anxiousness was just an act. Since starting to work as a spy, I had completely changed my attitude. I suspected everyone and hated everybody a little. I trusted nobody and thought that everybody lied. I only believed Mico. Mico was a legend to me, or better said, my God or devil, to whom I had sold my soul!
“My boss was arrested today. Here, read this,” Paja said. He handed me a newspaper with an article describing how a police official named Pera Peric hit a pedestrian with his car on the highway from Belgrade to Novi Sad near Fruska Gora, and how he left the scene of the accident. An accidental passer-by remembered the license plate of the car and Pera Peric was arrested.
“What a bastard! A policeman killing a pedestrian and then driving away!” I said angrily.
“Zoran, he’s not a bastard. He’s a good man. But still, it happened and can cause us a lot of trouble now,” Paja said in serious and dejected tone of voice.
“What’s our connection with that case?”
“We have a lot to do with this case, because I told you, Peric is my boss.”
“My boss. He was supposed to become your boss soon. I arranged everything for us to meet him together upon our return from Romania and now look what has happened.”
“Paja, I don’t understand you at all. Please try to be clearer and explain to me what is happening here.”
“I told you in Romania that once back in Belgrade I would explain who I am. I am not the criminal that you, and all those bastards you met, consider me to be. I’m a policeman,” Paja said, looking at me with his blue eyes shining in some strange way.
“You, a policeman! What’s the matter with you today Paja, have you gone completely mad?”
“I’m completely sane,” Paja said seriously. “I’m a policeman and not the smuggler you had the occasion to meet. I’m a police officer with the Secret Service called UDBA.”
I already fancied how Mico would smile sweetly upon me telling him what this smuggler was fantasizing about.
“Yes, I’m an UDBA official. I would never confess this to you if I hadn’t realized that you can help us. I noticed that Milan Zuban believes strongly in you, because you seemed naïve. Before I asked you to come with me to Romania, I informed myself about you. I discovered everything about you and your family and then with the permission of my boss, started working with you. I do this kind of work to give emigrants in Romania the impression that I am a smuggler so that they won’t suspect me. My boss, to whom I report, is from Zrenjanin. His name is Grkovic Obrad. I will introduce you to him this week. And the other one, who was arrested today, is my district boss. We still don’t know who our new boss will be. I will take you to my office today.”
“To the police station?” I asked curiously.
“No, I work for a wholesale company dealing in cereals, but that is only a front. It is in fact the office of the Secret Service. Come and see where I work.”
Paja’s Secret Service bureau was no more than a hundred meters away from Café Domovina. The building was not much different from the others in the surrounding area. A few pensioners lived on the ground floor. I barely noticed a glass partition on the first floor with the inscription ZITOPROMET Sarajevo – Business Office in Belgrade. We entered the big premises of ZIOPROMET where we were welcomed by an attractive brunette. Paja introduced me as his relative. There was a sign on the door with the inscription: Paja Zelenkovic, Engineer. Everything was very confusing and beyond my understanding. Different thoughts popped into my mind. I couldn’t figure out whether this was true or whether Paja was lying! Was this really a Secret Service bureau or the bureau of some foreign Secret Service? I was afraid. How would this end? Paja introduced me to a man as his boss. A thought flashed through my mind, Paja has a lot of bosses!
“Miso,” said the short man, who was about forty years of age. After a short pause, he added that his surname was Vukoje.
Paja winked at me in such a way that Miso Vukoje didn’t notice. I understood Paja’s intention and I didn’t show that I was interested in the surname Vukoje. When we were alone again, Paja praised me, because had I understood his sign to keep quiet and did not show that I knew Vidoje’s brother in Bucharest, about whom his family knew nothing since his escape from Yugoslavia. He added that when meeting Vidoje again in Romania, I had to be careful not to show that I knew his brother in Belgrade.
We stayed about half an hour in Paja’s office and agreed to meet again the next day at about ten o’clock in the evening. As soon as I parted from Paja, I took a taxi to Mico’s house and informed him about what Paja had told me and about the place we had visited. To my great surprise Mico told me, “It’s all true, Zoran. Everything that Paja Zelenovic told you is true – and now you need to be much more cautious. You are now in the middle of a big game. You can help us a lot, and I’m pleased, because everything is going exactly as it should. I have completed my assignment. We’re not going to see each other often from now on. I’ve been assigned another task. You will soon be asked for an interview with comrades in Zrenjanin and Novi Sad. I gave them the best of recommendations, ones you can only dream about. You’ll see that these comrades with whom you will work are very good and honest people. I believe you won’t make a fool of yourself.”
“Mico, why didn’t you tell me before that Paja is one of us? How can I look him in the eyes now that he knows I was spying on him?”
“Don’t worry about that, Zoran. Paja is a good man. He told us the most wonderful things about you. You should have met that comrade from the district, but that hit-and-run accident occurred. This week you will be called to go to Zrenjanin. It is a matter is the greatest importance and mustn’t be delayed.”
“Uncle Mico, I don’t know what to say. You made a complete fool out of me! I don’t know who is who in this game!”
“My dear Zoran, that’s the way it is in our spying profession,; you will soon get used to it. The work of a spy is very difficult, but men like us prefer this line of work. I don’t know what I would do, if I had to stop working for the Secret Service some day. My life would probably be without any purpose at all.”
Mico related a lot about his life and career in the Secret Service to me that day. I couldn’t concentrate and hardly listened. Something was bothering me. I felt like crying and tried to get rid of the nightmare inside me. The thing that bothered me most was the fact that I would not be able to meet Mico anymore, for I loved him very much. I lost someone whom I loved since embarking on this road full of ambiguities. Mico was dear to me; sometimes I hated him, but always considered him a friend I could rely on. I was so sad that I couldn’t say a word. For a moment, I felt utterly lost and abandoned.
Although I was delighted with the work as a secret service agent, I felt at the very beginning that this job was repulsive. But I was already drowned in deceit and there was no turning back.
The sudden and unexpected parting with Mico and the loss of his support frightened me for a while. But it stirred the belief in my own self and I soon felt enormous strength. I admired myself for becoming more and more independent in this work and for getting the opportunity to fulfil the dream of my youth – to become a famous spy. I already imagined myself as the most famous of spies, admired by everybody, a hero bravely eliminating some of the most dangerous enemies of our people, who were plotting against Yugoslavia from abroad…
Full of dreams about my future success and great fame, I set off bravely and recklessly on this slippery and dangerous path of a secret service agent, without suspecting that this deceitful path would quickly lead to a total breakdown of all the dreams of my youth – into a ghastly and endless life tragedy.
VIII – A New Assignment in Sweden
Paja took me to Zrenjanin to introduce me to his new bosses. We met each other in the police station near Begej. Those present were Stanic, a man who introduced himself only as Mikica and a third man named Obrad Grkovic. Grkovic told me that he would be my boss, that I would receive orders from him and that I should submit my reports to him.
The three men asked me to describe in details what had I seen in Bucharest and whom I had met there. I told them everything I knew. They were most interested in Vukoje and Milan Zuban. They explained to me that together with Paja Zelenkovic, I would soon go to Romania again to try to get close to Vukoje and Milan Zuban and become friends with them by relating that my father was a retired member of Inform Bureau.
They told me that I would receive enough money for the trip to Romania, but not to spend too much, so as not to arouse any suspicion. I should try to get close to Zuban, because he trusted me more than Paja.
Milan Zuban was a Serb from Bosnia. He was a pre-war communist and within the partisans was given the rank of a major. He was a great idealist and completely devoted to the Soviet Union. He spoke about it with delight and excitement. “Zoran, I have devoted my entire life to communism. But not to the communism we have in our country today. Tito is a big bastard, an evil and cunning man, who suffers from his own fame. He’s become a revisionist out of his desire for personal fame and glory. He killed Arsa Jovanovic (chief of staff in the Partisan war), destroyed the work of Zujovic (a leading member of the Communist Party) and sent numerous other communists to Goli Otok (Jugoslavian concentration camp). Many people were killed and many more suffered from that fat capitalist pig that has crept underneath our communist skin and is now sucking our blood. That fat ‘Onasis’ from Kumrovec is living today more lavishly than any king ever did! And so that he and his toadies can live in luxury, they sent more than a million of workers to labor in capitalist countries, most of them to Germany.”
I didn’t feel comfortable listening to such disparaging remarks about our famous marshal, but nevertheless succeeded in not arousing Zuban’s suspicions. I had to act as if and didn’t reveal myself.
Zuban grew even fiercer in his tirade against Tito. “That false champion for workers’ rights, putting on marshal uniforms, wearing golden rings, medals and diamond pins! Dressed like Hitler’s big-headed marshal Goering! Betrayed every principle that we were fighting and dying for in the horrible war against the Nazi dragon! And now he dares qualify us, true communists and fighters, as traitors, while he himself is the biggest traitor to the communist ideology and the public defender of capitalist agents from the West. He will, Zoran, one day stand trial before the Supreme Court – the People’s Court.”
When I met Zuban again, he gave me several leaflets and pamphlets to deliver to my comrades upon my return to Yugoslavia, all attacking the regime in our country and glorifying Chinese communism,
Vukoje spoke less and was by nature more restrained than Zuban. I succeeded in becoming his friend, and he often invited me to his house. One day, when I was sure that Vukoje would be out with his wife, I decided to go to his house without informing Paja. I opened the front door with a jemmy and looked all around the premises. I knew the plan of the house. The big padlock on the door to the attic I found to be very suspicious! I opened it easily with the jemmy and carefully inspected the attic. I saw a paper lying in front of a big trunk. When I bent down to pick it up, I noticed that the trunk was very light. Instinctively, I pushed it away and was very surprised to see a trapdoor on the floor. My surprise was even bigger when I lifted the simple hatch on the floor and found a clandestine radio transmitter inside! I trembled from excitement! I quickly took a good look at the radio station and the rest of the attic, put everything very carefully back in place and succeeded in getting out of Vukoje’s house without being noticed.
I couldn’t wait to return to Yugoslavia and brag in front of my chiefs, in front of Obrad Grkovic about what I had discovered in Vukoje’s attic.
Grkovic was delighted with my success, praised me and foresaw much fame and fortune for me. I was extremely happy and proud of my first independent accomplishment.
After reporting this to Grkovic, he introduced me to an UDBA secret service agent from Sweden. His name was Vukasin Milicevic, nicknamed Ringo. Ringo told me on that occasion that he lived in Sweden as a God, and that living there was very beautiful. I expected Grkovic to send me to work in Sweden after this achievement, but that wasn’t to happen immediately.
Grkovic kept me a whole week in Belgrade and gave me many papers and photographs to study in the meantime. By the end of the week, I went to visit him again in Zrenjanin.
On May 1, 1969, exactly on my birthday, instead of celebrating it at home, I had to go to Paris with the assignment to get as close as I could to Vlado Dapcevic and if possible get in touch with him personally. I went to Paris, but failed in my attempts to get close to Dapcevic. He probably left Paris at that time, and so I returned to Belgrade.
After I came back from Paris, Obrad Grkovic gave me another task. He told me to prepare myself for a trip to Sweden. I was to go to Sweden as an ordinary worker so as not to arouse any suspicion by the Swedish police. If there were any difficulties with my work in Sweden, I was allowed to marry a Swedish girl and automatically become a Swedish citizen.
Grkovic told me that my first assignment in Sweden would be to eliminate the Serbian and Croatian emigrants, who were working against our country. My final objective was to gather information about the whereabouts of Vlado Dapcevic and to get close to him, cautiously and without arousing any interest; later, upon receiving the order to do so, I should eliminate him. Grkovic told me that I would work in Sweden on my own, which was very flattering. I was even more proud of myself, because they had given me the task of locating and finally eliminating such an important ‘enemy of the state’ as Vlado Dapcevic. I believed that if I succeeded in this achievement, it would bring me fame as a secret agent. I was eagerly awaiting for this encounter to occur and fervently wished to be the one to kill this major enemy of our people.
I was sent to Sweden to contact a secret service agent in Sweden called Vukasin Milicevic – ‘Ringo’ as his backup in the struggle with Croatian and Serbian agents in Sweden. Not even Ringo was supposed to know the real objective of my arrival: the elimination of Peko Dapcevic.
I arrived in Sweden in October 1969 with the 5000 dollars that Grkovic had given me. Obrad ordered me to give a half of it to Ringo and to keep the other half myself.
I quickly managed to survive in Sweden. My knowledge of karate also helped considerably. During the first days of my stay in Sweden, I stayed at Ringo’s, who he had a little club with a casino. After that I moved to Zdravko Pecanac’s house. Ringo found a job for me in a karate club. There, I met a Swedish girl, who became my wife and who gave birth to our son. Grkovic was against this marriage. He thought that I had married that Swedish girl too quickly and without permission, but in fact he was afraid that through this marriage I would come too close, more than I should, to the Swedish people and fall under their influence.
In the beginning, my activities in Sweden went well. I learned Swedish quickly and became more and more popular in karate clubs, but still hadn’t discovered my true identity. Yugoslav emigrants and Yugoslav workers in Sweden appreciated me and considered me a great ‘Serbian nationalist’. They probably thought so, because I had beaten up some Croatian nationalists, who were bragging too much.
I started a new and more complicated spying career with many events, surprises and excitement in Sweden, but things weren’t going as well as I had expected. I trusted too much in myself and sometimes was unable to make the most appropriate decisions. After my marriage in 1970, I felt more certain of myself and continued my spying career. I was proud of my beginner’s success and felt the irresistible urge to go further and further with new adventures, which I bravely undertook without anyone’s order, completely on my own. After every success, I always had the biggest decoy in front of me, which was to apprehend Vlado Dapcevic and to empty my gun in him. That action looked so easy to me at that time and I never suspected that I would not be able to complete it.
IX – On the Trail of Vlado Dapcevic
Two months after the murder of the Yugoslav ambassador Rolovic in Sweden, I received a telegram from my boss Grkovic to return to Yugoslavia immediately. Upon my return, I had to solve many problems. When everything was resolved, I was ordered to return to Sweden and pay Vladimir Bacvic a visit. I was told to tell him that I was Dapcevic’s agent, that I had worked for a long time within that group and to record the entire conversation.
I arrived in Stockholm at the beginning of September 1971. I was ordered to investigate the emigrants, who were coming from England to Sweden to open casinos here. I soon found out that the head of that group was a certain Obrad, born in Nis, with the nickname Bata. Bata had been an emigrant for a long time. He helped many Serbian national organizations and nobody suspected that he and his men were secret service agents. Together with one of them, a man named Dusan Sekulic, and with Ringo and his brother Rajko we opened ‘a casino’ called Montenegro.
I met Vladimir Bacvic as ordered. He told me he knew about the connection that the leadership of the communist party in Croatia had with Croatian emigrants. He asked me to pay him thousands of kronen in order to give me the names of the people from Yugoslavia who were connected with emigration. I recorded everything he said and immediately sent it to headquarters.
In October of that same year, there was an attempt to murder Dusan Sekulic in the Montenegro club. I disarmed the assassin at once and I locked him up in a room of the basement of the club that we used for our meetings. The assassin’s name was Tomislav Rebrina. He admitted his guilt at once. I hardly managed to save him from Dusko Sekulic, who wanted to kill him right away. Dusko didn’t know what I knew. Rebrina confessed that he was working on orders from the Secret Service from Osijek and that it wasn’t the first time that he had tried to commit a murder. He also confessed to me that he worked for many years as a secret service agent from Osijek and that all that time he was a member of the Croatian extremist organizations abroad! He added that the Swedish Secret Service had a connection to that group in Osijek and that Igram von Olsen was at that moment present in Osijek. I recorded Rebrina’s entire speech, while Ringo was standing guard at the door of the basement to bar Sekulic from entering, who was furious and tried to kill Rebrina again. At about 5 o’clock in the morning, I took Rebrina to the Swedish police and accused him of attempting to kill Dusko Sekulic in the Montenegro club. The next day, I was asked to come to the Swedish secret police called SEPO. They were most of all interested in what I did with a letter I had found on Rebrina’s person. I pretended not to know anything about it. A month later, I was present at Rebrina’s trial, but didn’t testify against him on orders of my boss. Rebrina was sentenced to two months in prison!
The Swedish secret police started investigating me more and more and tried in all possible ways to get me to work for them. They said they wanted me to be their karate trainer and tried all sorts of tricks to get me on their side. One of their tricks was to accuse me of breaking the law, because I had slept with a girl, who was a minor! Later on, I found out that for more than a year that girl had been out on the streets and sleeping with many men before me. My relationship with that teenage Swedish girl was considered rape and I was forced appear in court! Instead of rape, I was sentenced to prison on account of the 18 fights I had been involved in at the clubs, where I worked as a security guard! It was a form of coercion against me to join the Swedish police and work for them.
While in prison I wrote two books: The Belgrade Underworld and Bible for a Man Without Faith. This last book dealt with my generation, which was left to its own destiny and no longer believed in anything!
Ringo did his military service in Yugoslavia. I received a letter from him to get in touch with my uncle. That was our secret code, ‘uncle’ being Marko Milunovic from Sweden, Vlado Dapcevic we always called ‘wizard’.
I wrote to Marko Milunovic and I sent him a recording of Serbian songs. Milunovic wrote me back, thanking me for the record. He didn’t suspect that I would soon be preparing to kill him. I was ordered by Grkovic to lure him to Upsala. I wondered why I should go to Upsala, when I could just as easily eliminate him in Vesteras! I wrote Milunovic a letter from Upsala, signing as Radoje Kovacevic. My boss Grkovic had sent me a passport under that name. Milunovic answered my letter, but as a cautious emigrant refused to come to Upsala. My bosses in Yugoslavia considered that to be my failure and punished me severely. I was ordered to destroy all the material I had with me and to immediately return to Yugoslavia. When I got back to my country, Obrad Grkovic welcomed me in a most unfriendly manner, not even wanting to shake hands with me! Instead of greeting me, he said, “You have come, traitor!”
It wasn’t the same Grkovic anymore, who flattered me and glorified my spying prowess. He ordered me strictly not to leave Belgrade and to await further orders there. While I was thus waiting in Belgrade, he slyly organized a cowardly attack on me. A group of his men beat me up one night in Skadarlija, hitting me from behind on the head with a brick and causing a wound that bled profusely!
Maybe his revenge on me would have even been more severe, had my father not personally approached our cousin Rados Nedic, a high official of the Secret Service from Novi Sad. Rados Nedic inquired extensively about my work and finally, as my cousin, decided to help me by giving me one more chance to go back to Sweden and to correct my mistakes there. They would first send me to Holland and then again to Sweden to kill Stipe Mikulic and another Croatian. For that purpose he gave me a passport under the new name Djuric Obrad. He also told me that Marko Milunovic was no longer considered dangerous, that the information about him was not true and that he even knew what Milunovic was having for breakfast!
Nedic later changed his plan a little. He gave me 3000 German marks and ordered me to travel immediately to Holland and then to Oslo in Norway, where he would wait for me in Hotel De Ribo. I arrived in Holland in the middle of September 1973. From there, I went on to Norway where I met Nedic with some delay, because my car had broken down. Nedic ordered me to return to Holland to try again to become friends with his agent Sasa Colakovic, and arranged a new meeting for us in Holland.
While waiting for Rados Nedic, I went one day to Restaurant Boomerang in Amsterdam where I met two young men by accident. One of them was called Batke and the other one Marko; both of them were Macedonian. They revealed a secret to me, namely that they were there as tourists, which meant that they were criminals. We became friends and they started working for me.
By accident, these two men were to be with me when the powerful UDBA Secret Service attempted to kill me!
Finally, my new boss Rados Nedic arrived. He took me to a secluded restaurant and solemnly declared that they had decided that I should go to Brussels to kill Vlado Dapcevic!
Hearing that I had been chosen to kill Vlado Dapcevic made me tremendously happy! Melting with pride, I thought that if I were to succeed in this, all the wishes for my future would be fulfilled.
He told me to find Bora Blagojevic in Brussels, who owned a café called Sarajevo, and that this man would connect me with Vlado Dapcevic. I even received Vlado Dapcevic’s phone number.
When I phoned Dapcevic for the first time, I told him, as was agreed with Nedic, that my name was Zoran Jovanovic and that I was sending him greetings from Slobodan Kovacevic and Milan Zuban from Romania. That was sufficient for Dapcevic. He immediately made an appointment with me to visit him at his apartment.
Nedic sent me his courier with a gun (a Colt revolver). Everything was ready and the fulfilment of a great dream was within reach.
The courier who had brought me the gun also said that Nedic ordered me to go to Brussels alone, on December 16, 1973. He also ordered me to visit Dapcevic and to shoot him when he opened the door, and not to escape to Holland, as planned earlier, but to Munich. He would wait for me at an appointed place. This change rendered me very suspicious! Why was I supposed to go to Brussels alone? I began to suspect that maybe Nedic wanted to have me killed there together with Dapcevic. It made me extremely angry, but hid it from Nedic’s courier. Reluctantly managing to overcome my emotions, I decided to go to Brussels to commit that murder, to eliminate all suspicion and to prove to them that I was no traitor.
X – The Confrontation with Vlado Dapcevic
and the Bloody Aftermath
I arrived in Brussels on December 16, 1973. I had taken Marko, the Macedonian with me and left him in a restaurant to wait for me. The restaurant owner was a woman from our country with the name Zora. I told Marko to wait for me while I was finishing some errands downtown. He asked me why I looked so pale and if ‘I was ill!’ I explained that it was probably due to a little cold. Marko knew nothing about the real reason for my trip to Brussels.
At about one o’clock in the evening I telephoned Dapcevic from Zora’s restaurant and told him that I had arrived in Brussels. He gave me his address: Avenue George Bergman.
I took a taxi to Dapcevic’s apartment. Random thoughts were entering my mind on the way over. I started wavering for a moment and asked myself all sorts of weird questions! I managed to get rid of those notions and decided that when Dapcevic appeared at his door, I would shoot him immediately. I already imagined him falling to the floor with a deadly shot from my revolver.
Then again, something whispered to me asking whether it was proper to kill a feeble old man in this way. I took courage again, soothed my restless conscience and convinced myself that Dapcevic was an enemy of our country. I kept telling myself that he wanted to heap misfortune on my father, grandfathers and uncles by destroying everything they had ever fought for. He also wanted to make my brother, sister and our whole nation miserable. That gave me the strength again to kill him without mercy.
I woke up from those reflections when the taxi stopped in front of the three-storey house where Dapcevic lived. I pressed the speaker and immediately heard his voice. “Come upstairs, please. I’m on the second floor. I will wait for you at the door.”
Quickly I went upstairs. I needed no elevator. I came to Dapcevic’s door, but he hadn’t come out yet. I rang the bell, put my hand in my pocket and held my loaded revolver ready to shoot.
Suddenly the door opened, and amazed I looked at Dapcevic, smiling at me and cordially saying, “Hello comrade!”
My free hand shook his hand unconsciously. “Hello uncle Vlado,” I yelled happily, also smiling cordially at him!
Earlier during similar encounters, I had been as cold as ice and managed to stay calm. The cordial smile and the warmth in Vlado’s eyes, however, completely enchanted me and probably awoke certain human features hidden deeply somewhere inside my subconscious. His face reminded me of the face of our great national hero Sava Kovacevic. Dapcevic’s hair was grey. He was about sixty years old, but looked even older. His countenance showed traces of a difficult life in war and in prison. His eyes shone like bright candles and, even though beholding me for the first time, expressed endless trust! He shook my hand as I were his trueborn son, invited me into his house and offered me a drink. We were alone. We started a conversation. I wondered what was happening to me!
“Shoot! What are you waiting for?” The other Zoran, the bloodthirsty UDBA trainee, who yearned for fame, said inside me.
The other Zoran told me to stop and talk a little with this noble old man.
I made a mistake by listening to this other Zoran. That was my great weakness and mistake, but today I’m proud of it.
I felt at once as if I were the accused one and heard the voice of my conscience, “Zoran, you are the killer! Your victims are not killers. You are the killer and those who pay you to kill.” We talked for almost an hour. Vlado’s gaze became even warmer and his smile happier. He told me about his wife and child.
I gathered all my strength, looked him right into his eyes and told him who I was and why I had come.
Probably my face assumed that horrible expression when preparing to eliminate an innocent victim. But this amiable old man neither yelled nor moved and his gaze told me, “Okay, go ahead and shoot this old man.”
I looked down at the floor, my whole body felt weak. Becoming soft as a lamb, I began to confess everything to that old man, whom I had never seen in my life and for whom I had been so bloodthirsty!
He was surprised that the UDBA knew everything about him. I did not reveal the names of my bosses. I was unprepared for this whole situation. I promised to call him again.
Suddenly, a strange feeling came over my body and soul. Everything around me appeared in new, beautiful and unknown light! Vlado escorted me down to the street. I took a taxi and soon got back to Marko. At 6 o’clock, we boarded a train for Holland. Vlado Dapcevic stayed safe and sound behind in Brussels and I wasn’t too interested in what was in store for me. I felt a kind of freedom that I had never experienced before and wanted to savour that as long as I could. I was happily singing a song! Marko looked at me in surprise, because that horribly pale face had vanished. I had broken the chains that I had put on myself!
I thought about my wife and son for whom I wanted to live in the future.
The train was getting closer and closer to the free country of tulips – Holland – sweet and beautiful freedom.
Zoran, the killer, who was sadly mourning in me, had been overcome for good. At least, so I believed at that moment. I couldn’t never have dreamt that my long-awaited freedom would be so short and my imprisonment so endless!
I threw the gun, which Rados Nedic sent me, away in the water, burned the passport with the name of Djuric Obrad and fashioned a new one for myself with the name Jan Cerv. I intended to go with it to Sweden to see my wife. But I did not hurry with my trip to Sweden, for I wanted to enjoy my new-found freedom as much as possible. Freedom was smiling at me after so many years of serving the heartless UDBA Secret Service.
While enjoying my precious freedom in Holland, UDBA did not remain idle. By the law of their dreadful moral code, there was only one punishment in store for disobedient members: death at the hand of one of their hit men. Radoje Maric went to work at once. The punishment had to be meted out immediately and efficiently. He had insufficient time to engage a more professional hit man.
One night, I went with Batke and Marko to a café called Boomerang where three completely unknown young men approached us. One of them, the leader of the gang, was called Misa. Looking at me with his bloody eyes, he challenged me without any apparent reason to a fight get outside the restaurant! I thought they only wanted to fight, but something told me that they were preparing to shoot me on somebody’s order.
We walked to the exit. I let all three of them go in front of me. Misa went out first, while the last one to leave was the third member of the gang, whose name was Buca. Misa went to his car, took out a machinegun and pointed it at me. Just before he pulled the trigger, I quickly grabbed Buca and held him in front of me as a cover. At the entrance to the restaurant, I robustly pushed Buca away from me and went back inside. Bullets were flying all over the place! After the shooting had stopped, I cautiously left the restaurant, took a revolver from my car and together with Batko started to pursue our attackers. We searched every café, but without success. In one of the cafés, I noticed Rados Nedic with another man. I intended to empty my revolver into his chest, but left the restaurant before he even noticed it. I wanted to catch the attackers alive, so that they could tell me who had ordered them to shoot me.
The next evening, around 8 o’clock, I went with Batke and Marko into a restaurant called Mostar. There we saw Radmila Krivokapic, Sasa’s friend. When she noticed us, she turned pale as death. I didn’t want to approach her. Batke went to talk to her. I moved to the other side of the hall and started putting some coins in a slot machine. Suddenly, the door opened. Buca stood squarely before me! I quickly grabbed Buca’s hand and hit him so hard with my revolver on his head that he fell to the floor. Misa and Djoka were standing at the door. When I pointed my gun at them, they started running. I went in pursuit of them. Batke and Marko ran after me. The attackers escaped in their car. I got into Batke’s car. He said that Radmila Krivokapic had told Misa that his gang had three machineguns with them. This frightened me and we started to pursue them. On a square in front of restaurant Boomerang, I noticed a white Volkswagen and recognized Misa in it. Sasa was standing in front of the car, ready to get in. I got out of our car and started shooting like a madman. I saw Sasa getting hit and falling down by the car, but didn’t know whether I had hit the other two men. At that moment, Batke drove his car up. I got in and noticed that also Marko was inside.
Agitated and furious, I ordered Batke to drive as fast as he could to get us out of there.
We heard police sirens all around. A white car stood in front of us on the semaphore. I fired several bullets and then noticed that it was a police car!
I told Batke to surrender. While getting out of the car with my hands up, I saw that my mouth and one arm were bleeding. Armed police officers encircled us. One of them bandaged my arm with my scarf. They took me to a hospital, where I was immediately operated on. After that, I was transferred to prison.
Instead of that much-wanted freedom, which I enjoyed for such a short period, I was put in prison, where I still am today. I was sentenced to 18 years for shooting three men in selfdefense and seriously injuring secret service agent Sasa (Andrija Grizelj) and his friend Radmila Krivokapic.
The Yugoslav press called this horrible tragedy staged by the powerful Secret Service UDBA: “A Bloody Encounter among Emigrants”!