Goli Otok hides many dark secrets and in the best possible way it reflects how Tito held onto his idea of Yugoslavia. About all the crimes that took place on this island on the Adriatic coast testifies for Telegraf, Radovan Hrast (85), the first prisoner who stepped foot on the BLOODIEST PLACE in the Balkans!
On the way to this creepy place, that hides the darkest secrets of Tito and his communist government, which is now in Croatia, my trip lead me to the town of Senja on the Adriatic coast, where I snuck into the ship headed to the Goli Otok with a symbolic name "Little Mary". The trip was long, I sailed for roughly an hour wondering what I would find on this island, what was waiting for me on those rocks?
Precisely on this "Little Mary" which was sailing to the desired destination, I met this ingenious man of 85 years - Radovan Hrast, the first prisoner who went to Goli Otok to "Atone for his sins," or as says Jovo Kapičić - for "re-education".
Although age is taking its toll, Hrast is still fit, his handshake I will remember for as long as I live, the strength, but also because those hands hammered stone for three years in Tito's secret camp, all because his opinions were not like some of the members UDBE!
- My child, I've served time here twice. Twin-engine, how the returnees on this island are called, and I was in the first group of convicts who arrived on the island to revise their positions - begins Hrasta with his story with a smile Oak.
- I was only 17 in 1949 when I set foot on the island of Goli Otok, number 1 was my name in a group of 750 people who were arrived on the island that day on boats and ships. Only we had the "honor" to be greeted by police officers and guards with chains, batons. Later, prisoners were beaten by convicts - he recalls.
- During World War II, when Hitler invaded my homeland, at 11 years old I went to war and joined the partisans, and when the war ended, I enrolled in the maritime school and was in the first post-war generation who attended that institution. It was only later that I learned that UDBA kept a watchful eye on these groups and monitored what was going on, because they suspected that there was the biggest threat to the regime.
You say you were only 17 years old when ended up on Goli Otok. Why were you there for three years?
- It was a difficult time. I was against Tito -replies Hrast with a smile and adds:
- In particular, I criticized the regime itself, wondering why I, as a naval student was not allowed to go to English classes. Another accusation against me was that I said,that the officers' cafeteria's were full, and the students have nothing to eat. That's brought me here (Radovan points at the rocks and stones on Goli Otok barely retaining the tears in his eyes).
- My child, you see this island, there you had a million stones ... millions and millions of tears shed.
How did the days of a sentence look like on Goli Otok? How was the food?
- No kidding, it was not food. We were given a bucket of water and a piece of bread for the whole day, and until tomorrow there was nothing. We worked hard, when we came here there was nothing. Every tree that you see was planted by us, convicts, we made shade plants with our bodies so they would succeed and not have the sun dry them out. Often, many with burns on their bodies came out of that mission. As for the work, I banged the stone until tomorrow and then again. You do not need to know everything, it's not for everyone, horrible things were done here.
Which of the high-ranking officials visited Goli Otok?
- The first and only one who came to see us, the third day of our stay here, was a national hero Jovo Kapičić. He lined us up against the barbed wire and held a speech. "It is a shame that you are here, my comrades. You have betrayed the country, party and Tito. Whoever changed his attitude will be released, and who will will leave his bones here! " That's how Kapičić spoke, who despite everything for me was an honest man, tall and a beautiful Montenegrin, who never tortured prisoners.
Who tortured the prisoners?
- We tortured each other. It was imposed. Older convicts beat the new and welcomed them from a ship by hitting them with chains, it later became a tradition. And in order to survive on Goli Otok, valid rules are: to rat out the other cons, if you hear something, to be a good worker and to admit mistake. I admitted that I was right!
This is only the first part of the confession of this great man, and how Radovan Hrast left Goli Otok, by whose orders and he found himslef here for the second time is a separate story that will be published in the series of exclusive articles Goli Otok.
I only know that after meeting with this man, I looked at the graffiti on one of the ruins on the island by Ante Zemljar, a former convict who
survived all the atrocities on Goli Otok. It reads as follows:
"When you realize meaninglessness as a fact, then you live with that fact," Ante Zemljar.