Krunoslav (Stjepan) Draganović, priest, historian and politician, was born on in Brčko on October 30, 1903. He finished primary school in Travnik and secondary school in Sarajevo. He completed five semesters at the Polytechnic in Vienna, but in 1925 he changed colleges and began to study theology in Sarajevo. He was ordained in 1928 as a priest of the Archdiocese of Vrhbosna. From 1932 to 1935, he studied ecclesiastical sciences at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, where he defended his doctoral thesis, which was published in German in 1937 (Draganović, Stjepan. Massenübertritte von zur Katholiken ortodoxiathem kroatischen Sprachgebit zur Zeit der Türkenherrschaft, Rome: Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1937). After his studies, he held various ecclesiastical posts, and since 1940 he was a professor of church history at the Theological Faculty in Zagreb. As a historian, he was an expert in statistics and cartography (See Draganović, Krunoslav, Opći šematizam Katoličke crkve u Jugoslaviji (General Schematism of the Catholic Church in Yugoslavia), Sarajevo: Academy Regina Apostolorum, 1939).
After the establishment of the Ustasha regime and their Independent State of Croatia (NDH), as of May 1941, he became a member of the Colonisation Office. He founded the Committee for Slovenian refugees with the task of organising aid for around 14,500 refugees from Slovenia who fled in fear of the German occupiers. In late 1941, he was appointed a member of the Commission on Religious Conversions to the Catholic Faith. From the end of August 1943, he worked in Rome as a representative of the Church, assisting the Caritas of the Zagreb Archdiocese and the Croatian Red Cross in care for Croatian prisoners and detainees in Italy after that country’s capitulation. In the last two years of World War II, Draganović established contacts with US and British diplomats and military officials in Rome, and he sought the preservation of an independent Croatian state and tried to arrange the withdrawal of the Croatian armed forces and refugees from the NDH. With approval from Vatican, he visited prison camps in Italy and Austria in which Croatian refugees were held and assisted efforts to provide humanitarian aid, but also helped them to emigrate to other countries. In these actions, he also helped many lower officials of the Ustasha regime. At that time, he began collecting valuable documentation and testimonies on the Bleiburg tragedy and crimes committed against the Croatian people at the end of World War II and immediately thereafter.
He stayed in exile and became actively involved in political work. In 1950, he participated in the establishment of the Croatian National Committee in Munich. Since 1953, he mainly worked in the Pontifical Croatian College of St. Jerome in Rome, which he had to leave in 1958 due to the pressure by the Yugoslav authorities on Catholic bishops in Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav state had set a condition that Catholic priests from Yugoslavia could study at the Pontifical Croatian College only if Draganović left it. The Yugoslav communist authorities considered the Croatian clergy one of its main enemies, which influenced the development of church-state relations in Yugoslavia. Since Krunoslav Draganović was particularly active in the anti-communist activism, he was often a point of contention in the church-state relations (Akmadža, Sarajevo 2014). In the first half of the 1960s, negotiations between the Holy See and Yugoslavia on the normalisation of relations were conducted, and in this context in 1963 Draganović was forced to leave Italy. He soon moved to Austria. Negotiations between the Holy See and Yugoslavia on the normalisation of relations were completed by the signing of a special protocol in 1966.
From 1964 Draganović lived in Pressbaum near Vienna, where he intensified his research into the Bleiburg tragedy, and he began to write the post-war history of the Croatian people. During this period, the communist government in Yugoslavia attacked him, claiming that he was not only an Ustasha but even one of that regime’s ideologues, a war criminal and Pavelic's intimate, also accusing him of aiding a number of Ustasha and Nazi war criminals escape justice. Such unsubstantiated claims are present even today (see Aarons and Loftus 1998, Škoro 2000, Levenda 2012, Rašeta, 2014). Miroslav Akmadža (historical controversy, 2016) argues that such claims are not justified, as Draganović himself proved this during his life. The famous Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal (1908-2005) in 1965 called Draganović a war criminal, and in 1967 he accused him of saving Nazi criminals, including the infamous Adolf Eichmann (1906-1962), so that Drganović threatened Wiesenthal with a lawsuit and Wiesenthal withdrew his libel (Akmadža 2010, 40, Jareb 2014, 292, Akmadža 2016). According to Akmadža, Draganović did not save anybody who was subject to prosecution for war crimes by international arrest warrants, especially those who were associated with the trial in Nuremberg. Certainly, he helped some lower officials and officers from various regimes and militaries who came to seek his help. He helped people from countries where communist parties seized power without any special criteria. He did so because he did not believe that these people would be objectively prosecuted by the communist authorities. Mostly these people came from Yugoslavia, but there was also a range of people from various other Eastern Bloc countries (Akmadža 2016). The claims that he organised the escape of Ante Pavelić were never proven (Jareb 2014, Akmadža, 2016).
In September 1967, Draganović appeared in Yugoslavia under mysterious circumstances. For some time he was in police custody and interrogated, but soon thereafter he was released and not prosecuted. War crimes charges were dropped. He spent several years in a monastery near Sarajevo, then he was in Zagreb briefly, and then in the Vrhbosna Theological Seminary in Sarajevo, where he lived and worked as a professor (under constant police surveillance) also engaging in research into church history at the Faculty of Theology until his death on July 5, 1983.
Draganović’s political actions and the rescue of people who were persecuted by the communist government in Yugoslavia were not the only reason why he was considered an enemy of the regime. As a historian, he was collecting information and documentation in order to write a book on the mass crimes of the Yugoslav Army in 1945. He deliberately accumulated his private archive, which is today scattered across multiple locations (Rome, Sarajevo, Zagreb). Copies of this part of his archive are today held as a collection at the Croatian State Archives.
- Brčko, Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Metropolitan City of Rome, Rome, Italy
- Pressbaum, Austria
- Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Zagreb, Croatia
In 1946, the Dragila couple were sent to Washington, D.C., to work in the Yugoslav diplomatic mission. When the Cominform Resolution was made in 1948, Dušanka and Pero Dragila took a pro-Soviet stance and thus were forced to resign their diplomatic positions. Soon after, they emigrated to Prague together with other Yugoslav diplomats who supported the resolution.
Dušanka Dragila was active from the very beginning of the formation of the Yugoslav Cominformist emigrant group in Prague. While her husband Pero had more organisational role within the group, Dušanka was involved in its propaganda activities. Dušanka Dragila was a member of editorial staff of the emigrant newspaper Nova Borba until 1954 and worked for a Yugoslav emigrant radio in Prague until 1953.
When the Yugoslav Cominformist emigrants from across Europe became more active again in the 1970s, leading to the formation of the new illegal Communist Party of Yugoslavia in 1974, Dušanka and Pero Dragila, together with Ivan Sinanovič, operated the party’s Prague cell. Their small group became a centre for the production and distribution of illegal propagandistic leaflets sent to Yugoslavia. Dušanka and Pero Dragila were the main authors of these leaflets, which were illegally printed and sent to Yugoslavia up until 1976. These leaflets now form the Yugoslav Cominformists in Prague collection.Dušanka Dragila never renounced her radical leftist attitudes. Since the Cominform Resolution in 1948, she has acted as a principled and steadfast anti-Titoist and was never apprehended by the Yugoslav regime. She spent her remaining years in Prague.
- Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
In 1946, the Dragila couple was sent to Washington, D.C., to work within the Yugoslav diplomatic mission. Pero Dragila officially worked as the secretary of the Yugoslav Embassy in Washington. Unofficially, he was involved in espionage as Deputy Chief of the State Security Service (in Serbo-Croatian Uprava državne bezbednosti or UDBA) in order to monitor organisations of Yugoslav emigrants in the USA and Canada.
The Cominform Resolution of 1948 came as a surprise for Dragila. However, he decided to support the Internationalists and their policy in line with the Cominform and the Soviet Union. Since his position in the Yugoslav state administration was political, he was forced to resign. In August 1948, he arrived in Prague together with other Yugoslav diplomats who had taken a pro-Soviet stance.
Pero Dragila was one of the organisers of the Yugoslav Cominformist emigrant group in Prague. Up until 1954, Dragila was one of the leading and most influential members of this group, as well as the editor of the newspaper Nova Borba and directed Yugoslav emigrant radio broadcasting in Prague. However, given his previous work in UDBA, his main role among the Yugoslav Cominformists became intelligence activities, ensuring that spies did not infiltrate the organisation.
When the activities of the Yugoslav Cominformist emigrants restarted in the 1970s, leading to the formation of the new illegal Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY), Dragila became a member of the party’s Central Committee. Together with his wife Dušanka and Ivan Sinanovič, Dragila operated the so-called Prague cell of the new CPY, which became the centre for the production and distribution of illegal propaganda intended for Yugoslavia. Pero and Dušanka Dragila were the main authors of such leaflets, which were illegally printed and sent to Yugoslavia up until 1976. These leaflets now make up the Yugoslav Cominformists in Prague collection.Pero Dragila never renounced his radical leftist attitudes. Starting from the Cominform Resolution of 1948, he acted as principled and steadfast anti-Titoist. He was never apprehended by the Yugoslav regime. He spent the rest of his life in Prague.
- Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
Nicolae Dragoş (b. October 26, 1932, Leipzig, Cetatea Albă district, Romania, currently Serpnevo, Tarutino district, Odessa region, Ukraine) was the main founder and the most prominent activist of the opposition political group known as the Democratic Union of Socialists (DSS). At the time of his arrest, on 16 May 1964, he was the headmaster of an evening school in his native town. Despite his Romanian-sounding name, he thought of himself as belonging to the Russian nationality. Dragoș attended four grades of a Romanian-language school in his native town (from 1939 to 1940 and from 1941 to 1944), which explains his good command of Romanian. However, his political socialisation took place in the last years of Stalinism and, more significantly, during Khrushchev’s thaw. His family background also seems to have played a role in the crystallisation of his anti-communist convictions. As he later confessed in an interview, his father was a staunch anti-communist and heavily influenced his early world-view. Apparently, by the age of 20 he had already read Marx’s Das Kapital and formulated his first critical thoughts about the nature of Marxism-Leninism and the essence of the Soviet regime. After graduating from high-school, he enrolled in the Chişinău State University’s Faculty of Physics and Mathematics. After the second year of study, he transferred to the Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics of Odessa State University, from which he graduated. For several years after graduation, he taught mathematics in Bulboaca, in the Anenii Noi district of the Moldavian SSR, which proves that he spoke Romanian quite well, since it was a Romanian-language educational establishment. During this time, around 1955, his opposition to the regime grew more systematic, as he started listening to the broadcasts of foreign radio stations, notably Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. After engaging in a series of temporary jobs in the late 1950s (including a position of librarian, which allowed him to read extensively), he became a teacher of mathematics in the village of Tuzla, Odessa region, not far from his native town. While in Tuzla, he made the acquaintance of Nikolai Tarnavskii, who was to become his main collaborator and supporter. In 1962 Dragoș returned to his native village, Serpnevo, where he became headmaster of an evening school for working-class youth a year later. As in other similar cases, his university education was crucial for his later critical stance toward the communist party. Dragoș later testified that he had read many works of philosophy during his student years, mainly focusing on the evolution of human consciousness. According to his own confession at the trial, he created his own philosophical worldview (mirovozzrenie) concerning the USSR as early as 1959. He displayed a systematic interest in political matters, especially in issues related to the living conditions of the working class, and became aware of a number of phenomena that undermined Soviet official discourse. Gradually, his critical views led Dragoș to the idea that the political regime in the Soviet Union needed significant changes and improvements. He believed that, in order to reach that goal, it was necessary to create a new political party which would stimulate social life and serve as an impetus for the development of consciousness among the peoples of the USSR. In an interesting twist of the arguments he used to defend himself during the trial, Dragoș displayed a solid knowledge of the Soviet Criminal Code and claimed that he did not use any “anti-Soviet literature,” limiting himself to “the history of the CPSU, freely accessible brochures, and Lenin’s writings.” His condemnation of the party’s “dictatorship” and his pleas for a more democratic structure of the Soviets, which should be restored to their full status as decision-making bodies, seem to have derived from a genuine belief in the possibility of a democratisation of the Soviet system that was indebted to the general atmosphere of the thaw. Dragoș himself admitted this when stating, in a later interview, that “our movement was linked to Khrushchev’s thaw and we had the impression that something had started to move [in the country].” However, Dragoș’s challenge to the Soviet regime was deeper than might be suggested by his defence strategy at the trial. He also spoke about the “illogical” character of the Marxist doctrine and about the deep contradictions that the existence of a party “dictatorship” entailed, thus infringing on working people’s rights. His views were not free of a certain amount of political naiveté; since he believed that the communist party might accept a political challenge from the DSS without undermining the system as such. Another remarkable element of Dragoș’s views is the absence of any national or ethnic elements in his platform. On the contrary, the core group of his supporters included not only Moldavians or Romanian-speakers, but also Russians and Ukrainians, which indicates a certain degree of “blindness” toward the national question and a corresponding emphasis on social issues. Dragoș was arrested, jointly with the other members of the group, in May 1964. The trial was held at the Supreme Court of Justice in Chişinău from 28 August to 19 September. As a result, Dragoș was sentenced to seven years of hard labour in a high-security labour correction colony in Mordoviia. He was found guilty under to art. 67, part I and art. 69 of the Penal Code of the MSSR: anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda / participation in an anti-Soviet organisation aiming at committing dangerous state crimes. After his release in 1971, Dragoș spent another year under house arrest in his native village. In 1972, he moved to Chișinău, where he worked during the next two years on an assembly line at a local mechanical factory. Due to his involvement in an attempt to assist one of his acquaintances to escape from forced residence in the MSSR and return to Moscow, Dragoș began to be harassed by the KGB in 1974. He managed to secure an official invitation to Germany and was allowed to emigrate to the Federal Republic of Germany later in 1974. After an initial period of adaptation and integration, Dragoș was hired as a high-school teacher of mathematics in Frankfurt am Main, where he taught for over eighteen years. After his emigration, he remained active in anti-communist circles in exile. Thus, in 1981 he co-founded the Democratic Union of Political Emigrants from the USSR, numbering around one hundred members. In 1983, he published a book in which he predicted the collapse of the Soviet state during the next decade in the absence of structural reforms. He also wrote several other books (mainly in Russian) on various contemporary political and economic issues. Following a petition by one of the group members, Vasile Postolachi, the Supreme Court of the Moldavian SSR annulled the sentence in late December 1988. Dragoș was fully rehabilitated in February 1989. He maintained his anti-communist convictions and gave several interviews to the Moldovan press during the brief de-communisation campaign of the early 2010s, in which he shared his experience as a dissident.” At present, Dragoș and his family reside in Germany.
- Serpneve, Ukraine
Jaroslav Drábek Jr was a lawyer, journalist and participant in the resistance movement against Nazism. He graduated from Charles University’s Law Faculty in 1923. During the Second World War, Jaroslav Drábek was a member of the resistance organization Politické ústředí (Political Headquarters). In addition, he was a close associate of Professor Vladimír Krajina, one of the leading figures of the then illegal resistance organization Ústřední vedení odboje domácího – ÚVOD (Central Leadership of the Home Resistance Movement). For his activities, he was imprisoned in the concentration camp at Auschwitz. After the Second World War, he was appointed Chief Public Prosecutor of the Special People's Court for Punishing German War Criminals and Collaborators. In Warsaw and Krakow, Drábek Jr appeared as a witness in the trials of the commander and guards at Auschwitz. Following the coup in February 1948, Jaroslav Drábek Jr emigrated with his family. They first lived in the US occupied zone in Bavaria for several months before settling in the United States. There he worked as an editor at Voice of America, and was also a member of the Holocaust Memorial Commission set up by President Carter.
- Chrudim, Czech Republic
- Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
- Washington, United States