Saint Mary's Home in
1911, at Pale near Sarajevo, the sisters of the Daughters of
Divine Charity bought a house with large areas of pine forest.
The convent house was named St. Mary's Home. Next to the Saint
Mary's Home a chapel was built in honour of “Mother Most Admirable”
and close by an elementary school for the children of Pale.
Originally the convent was intended as an oasis for recovering
sick sisters who were teachers at Saint Joseph’s Institute in
Sarajevo. Saint Mary's Home developed into a very fine convalescent
centre known for its good deeds towards anyone in need who knocked
at the door, especially the neighbouring Orthodox residents.
autumn 1941 the war was raging on and the sisters were advised
not to stay in Pale any longer but to retreat to Sarajevo as
a safer place. The Sisters refused to go away from Pale saying
“We have done nothing wrong to these people and we have only
done good to everyone regardless of their faith or nationality
and we have to stay with these people to support them through
this difficult time too”.
The morning of 11th December
1941 dawned and deep snow covered Pale and the surrounding area
and gun fire could be heard all day long. The same morning close
to St. Mary’s Home, Sr. Antonija was almost shot by one of the
Serbian fighters, so-called Chetniks. About four o’clock in
the afternoon the Chetniks surrounded the convent. At the time
Sr. Antonija, Sr. Berchmana, Sr. Bernadeta, Sr. Krizina were
inside, together with a Slovenian Catholic priest Franc Ksaver
Meško who had been expelled from his homeland with many other
Catholic priests in 1941.
Sr. Jula together with Franjo Milišić, the caretaker, was in
the town of Pale buying some groceries. Approaching the convent
Sr. Jula, the superior of the community, realised what was happening
to the sisters and instantly sent Franjo away to safety but
she felt that as the superior of the community she should be
together with her sisters. She entered the convent surrounded
by the Chetniks on her own. When she got inside the Chetniks
were very surprised to see her there as she had had the opportunity
to escape but instead had chosen to share the destiny of her
fellow sisters. The Chetniks pointing their guns at their victims,
ordered that they should leave the house without putting any
warmer clothes on, even though it was freezing cold outside.
They took their hostages to the nearby inn. The owners of the
Inn, a couple of Orthodox faith, bravely, but unsuccessfully
tried to protect the sisters.
as the sisters and priest were taken away, the convent and the
chapel were looted and then burned down. Meanwhile the sisters
together with some other hostages from Pale were taken on a
march over the snowy mountains in freezing temperatures. Their
first stop was the village of Careve Vode, before moving on
to Sjetlina, where the 76 year old Sister Berchmana, exhausted
from the forced march and all the events, was separated from
the group and forced to remain behind.
Sisters Jula, Krizina, Antonija
and Bernadeta were then forced onward to Goražde. Their journey
took four days and four nights from Pale to Goražde over Romanija
to God by shedding blood
reached Goražde on the afternoon of 15th December 1941 and were
placed in a room on the second floor of the military barracks.
On the same evening a group
of Chetniks broke into their room asking the sisters to denounce
their religious vows. They promised to spare their lives and
said they would be given the service of nursing the wounded.
The sisters would gladly have accepted nursing the wounded or
any other job but they had consecrated their lives to Christ
and they did not wish to betray their promises.
The Chetniks then threatened
them and told them that if they did not give in they would be
raped anyway and then slaughtered one by one. After these threats
they left them alone for a while, expecting them to change their
they returned, drunk and violent, they had a need not only to
satisfy their lust, but to insult the sisters so they started
beating them and tearing their clothes off. The Sisters resisted
with all their might but when they realized that they would
be overcome by the soldier’s physical strength, Sr. Jula suddenly
opened the window and invited the sisters to follow her. The
sisters broke loose from the hands of their aggressors and one
by one cried out “Jesus save us” and jumped out through the
window. The Chetniks rushed to the front of the barracks and
seeing that the sisters were still alive but badly hurt, angered
with their failure, they stabbed them with their knives. Their
clothes had been torn off and their bodies afflicted with numerous
wounds. For some time they were left lying on the ground in
front of the barracks.
After this ordeal some of
the Chetniks went to nearby house (not knowing the family were
Catholics) to wash their bloodstained knives (weapons) and clothes.
After they had been served with brandy and some food they started
talking in detail about the ordeal of the sisters. The next
day the same family asked for permission to bury the sisters
but they were not allowed to do so, instead the undertaker was
told to push their bodies into the river Drina where they were
carried downstream some days later with many other victims of
Berchmana remained at Sjetlina for about ten days where she
recovered significantly. She was told that she was to join the
other sisters at Goražde not knowing that they had already been
killed. Two Chetniks put her in their sleigh pretending to take
her to Goražde. Upon their return, the driver told the villagers
that the sister had safely joined the other sisters, but it
was noticed that one of them had her rosary around his neck.
According to a written statement, she was killed on23rd December
Sister Jula, Berchmana,
Krizina, Antonija and Bernadeta, known as 'the Martyrs of Drina',
were missionaries who served their God by assisting the sick
and poor of the suffering population of Eastern Bosnia. They
confirmed their fidelity to God by shedding their blood. The
fame of their martyr's death has been spread far and wide.