In 1948 Tito broke ranks with Stalin which created some instability within the government. In an effort to ferret out any dissension, the secret police anonymously distributed anti-government flyers to monitor the response of the recipients. One of my cousins passed several of these flyers on to me. He was arrested and beaten until he confessed to having distributed the flyers and to whom. The police then proceeded to arrest anyone who had received a flyer from him and had not reported it to the government. While I had not distributed the flyers, I certainly had not turned my cousin in to the authorities either, so in April 1949, I was arrested and questioned. I was handcuffed so tightly that the circulation to my hands was cut off. The cuffs were left on overnight and I suffered some nerve damage that made the tops of my hands tingle for several months They slapped me around a bit to intimidate me then asked me what I had done with the flyers I had received. Though I had shown one to a friend, I dared not reveal his identity for fear he would be arrested too. So I told them I had torn them into small squares and tossed them into the latrine. At that time toilet paper was a nonexistent commodity so my story was entirely plausible, but I was convicted of the crime anyway.
During the first three months of my sentence my mother was allowed to bring parcels to the jail for me. She was permitted to see me only once. We were allowed one hour of daily exercise in the courtyard. After the first three months of my six and a half month incarceration, security was tightened. I was confined to a cell designed for one, with four other fellows. We were allowed no books, no paper, and no contact with the outside world. The barrel that served as our latrine was emptied by other more fortunate inmates. I was not allowed the luxury of a job. As to food, bread was the staple; everything else was poor and not enough of it. There was a thin tepid liquid in the morning, a tin of coffee or tea, a watery vegetable soup at noon, and runny corn mush in the evening. Wednesday was the best day: A few bites of meat, and beans infested with some kind of corn borers that crackled between your teeth.
My fellow prisoners in that filthy place were a broad cross section of society. Some were political prisoners like me, others were thieves or real criminals.
My father and uncle worked tirelessly to obtain my release through the influence of their highly placed friends and relatives. One relative, who shared my name, was a diplomat and later an ambassador to the United States. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Popovi%C4%87_(diplomat) Eventually, they were able to obtain my release. I came out an embittered young man. My mother came to pick me up in a taxi and I told her I was going to leave the country by any means possible. She was brokenhearted and cried knowing the danger I faced and that I would not be dissuaded.
6 thoughts on “Vladimir Imprisoned”
Vladimir gives a good account of his stay in Tito’s geoles. It was awful and we understand that he wanted to leave Yugoslavia after his liberation.
I guess there will be a following about his story, Judy
Considering that Vladimir spoke French fluently, it surprised me that he would opt to move to a country that spoke English, one of the few languages he didn’t already know. It would have been easier than learning a whole new language. But for him, learning a sixth or seventh language wasn’t a deterrent.
A fascinating glimpse into the personal impact on someone living in that time.
For a moment I was shocked and thought the story was about you!
I’m old, but not THAT old!