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Ćetko Ognjenov Dragičević (1928-2001), as a soldier, 1945

He'd talk vividly. Convincingly and confidently. Briefly and clearly. Insisting on details in a few short sentences. "When you rip a big rag into smaller ones, you must rip it completely."  The same goes for stories. His favorite saying were, “Man!“ and, “Listen to me, you little one!”, as was Pavle’s (Pavle Ekmečić), “My dear brother, pass me that gusle”, or Ćačin’s (Anđelko Dragićević), “I take on a responsibility, but I don’t believe it” when someone told him something that was hard to believe, or Karimanov’s (Milan Bulut), “So you understand me...”
He always did what he decided to do. And he did it as he decided. His everyday conversations were always meaningful, never stupid, chit chat. There was no here and there for him; he replied precisely and expected the same kind of reply in return. If he went to the fields, he'd say that he was going to the fields; his reply was never a vague one, here or there.
Ćetko Dragićević Ognjenov was a man who experienced many hard temptations during his lifetime.
Ćetko was friendly with young people and easily fit into their groups. During the numerous young people's gatherings and performances of the inhabitants of Prebilovci held in Baćevići, Ortiješ, on Benkovići, Ljubinje, Ćetko joined a group of young people. What was he looking for in their company? elderly people pondered. "Searching for his lost childhood" was the only true answer. Ćetko had no childhood. The war took it away from him. He was a survivor.
Hundreds of fellow peasants were killed in 1941, before his eyes. He was taken to the place of execution feverishly holding his mother's hand.  His mother was killed by machine gun fire.  Fate or God's will would have it that the child was saved and left in the field of horror, in the place of execution in Orahov Do. Later on, those who survived, gathered around the boy whose coat was drilled with the killers' bullets. A priest asked him if his mother told him about the shirt he was born with? There was no shirt, but the boy survived by the will of some higher powers, to bear witness to and talk to others about the pestilence. Throughout his life, he called it "The Terrible Day." He spoke about that "Terrible Day" on special occasions. When the story poured out from him, one got the impression of a man reading aloud from a book whose contents made one's hair stand on end. Listeners would imagine pictures created by his words.  Moving pictures.
"On Do, Оrahov Do, right behind the ravine confined by the riffle barrel of an Ustasha the schoolboy (he wore a cap with number four on it), Janja Boškova cried out, ‘Is there anybody here to save us?’ At the same time a salvo rang out... A salvo rang out... Out of fear, I threw my coat on my head. Shots rang out. I looked around and saw everyone lying on the ground. I was petrified and fell on my stomach with the coat still over my head. Then Ustasha asked in a sharp voice, ‘Anybody alive?’ I’d just opened my mouth to answer when a rifle fired. I recognized the scream of  Molorad Ilijin, who was standing a few feet away from me. I heard the Ustashas strutting, laughing and giggling. One of them says he’s only sure when he shoots the box. My heart beat wildly, lifting me, so it seemed, from the ground so everyone could see I was alive. I’d bury myself if I could. They’d left.  I could tell by their voices that they were moving away. I  laid motionless until they disappeared across Nokac. I lifted my coat with my right upper arm and I saw that it was drilled with bullets. Terror seizes me again. I looked under my coat and I saw a figure on top Pogledni Kuk. I lowered my head. Shortly after, I carefully looked to see if anyone had survived. No one moved. To my horror, my mother lay next to me, dead. I’m surrounded by death, silence and fear... from all sides. I remember my mother telling me to take my purse and run away. I didn’t want to. Now I have to! I jumped on my feet, took my coat on, and ran as fast as I could to some nearby shrubbery behind the ravine.  From there I went to Košćela."
Ćetko survived that terrible day. People used to say, “The little one, Ognjen’s son, is the only one who survived!“ After that, Ćetko joined the partisans and stayed with them until the war’d ended. In peacetime, after he’d finished his military service, he became a tractor driver, one of the best. And so the tractor became his fate. Once he fell into a chasm, finding himself under the tractor, but he survived. Ćetko survived for the second time. “It was destined to be that way,” he explained. 
He was seventy years old when another war began. Ćetko survived this one too, but the stench of gunpowder began to fill him with smoke inside. Or did it ever stop? War after war, again and again! He fired at himself to conquer his demons.  Ironically he survived even then. Then he put the barrel under his chin and... once more survived. For the fourth time. In the hospital his inner war never left him. He was constantly in search of a victory. Finally he achieved it with a noose. Fucking war!
Why?! People never stopped wondering why a man such as Ćetko would attempt suicide? Memories were aroused and countless stories began to flow. In Prebilovci, where only two suicides were recorded during the course of one century, as far as it is known, people said, "Dead men tell no tales!" when the subject of Ćetko moved into the story. Common people seek answers to the suicide syndrome, but none of those who decide between war and peace, those who produce chains of wars and suicides, and if they happen to seek answers, they do that casually, declaratively. 
The boy who had survived two wars attempted suicide; because of the war raging in him even when the war had ended. But it hadn’t. Even today, while it may seem that Bosnia-Herzegovina is peaceful, war is raging in the hearts and minds of many quiet, innocent souls: The Bosnian Syndrome. And instead of searching for a "remedy" to cure the many hundreds of suicides their inhabitants commit yearly, current politicians, a whole decade after the war, still spread hatred and deepen the gap among people and nations.  
Аleksa Dragić
Originally published (in Serbian) at  http://www.prebilovci.net/cirilica/legende/cetko.htm in March 2007.

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