Part 3 in The Remarkable Life of Tomislav*
Huddled in the forest that same night after their village burned, Tomislav’s mother was not surprised when the Partisans found them and took them to another village. A Yugoslav resistance movement during WWII, the Partisans’ guerrilla operations frustrated and hampered Fascist efforts, often helping the suffering populace. Their end goal was to create a Communist state, a goal eventually achieved under their leader—Josip Tito.
Soon, however, German planes began spattering bullets down on the village. Mother grabbed the children and fled back into the forest. Hungry and tired, their wandering was peppered with the baby’s cries—her milk had dried up.
“What to do now, Lord?” she prayed. Soon, they stumbled upon an abandoned army tent next to a spring of water. “Thank you God,” she mumbled with relief as she began to gather some of the food to prepare for a meal. Just as her small fire grew hot enough to begin cooking, the approaching roar of an airplane caused them to hunch motionless, not daring to look up. Their frozen limbs burst into action when the pilot, spotting the fire, began firing on them. Mother grabbed the children and began running through the forest—until the terrifying noise slipped once more into the forest silence. Emerging into a field, she stumbled to her knees and asked her children to do the same.
“Dear God, I don’t have any food for my kids. We are surrendering our lives to your hands…please take care of us.”
Mother decided to risk going to another village where she had some relatives. As they were walking on a path next to the village, they could see the village was full of soldiers. Desperate for help, they continued on despite the villagers’ warnings. They found their relatives’ house empty, but a neighbor took pity on them and fed them for the night. Miraculously, no soldiers came to the house, but Mother knew it was too dangerous to stay there.
Rumor spread that special documents were being issued for some people to leave the village, since the army was surrounding it. The soldier in charge accused her husband of being with the Partisans, but Mother staunchly denied it. The soldier issued the documents and commanded some other soldiers to escort them with their bayonets pointed at their backs. “We were thinking they would probably kill us, ” said Tomislav, but as they continued walking, the soldiers dropped farther and farther behind until they disappeared.
Finally, they came to a river—on the other side they could see forest and they knew it would be safer. Suddenly, Tomislav saw a familiar animal. “Look Momma! There is our Zorka!” Mother was in disbelief that it was indeed their cow—the same cow that had saved Father’s life—but Tomislav, as the cow’s caretaker, knew it was theirs. They crossed the river, reclaimed Zorka, and discovered an abandoned house in a field. All the children were able to regain much-needed nutrition with the help of Zorka’s milk.
Meanwhile, Father had escaped into Bosnia. By chance, he ran into someone traveling through who knew the current whereabouts of his family—he quickly crossed back over the river into Croatia and finally rejoined his family. “God is great,” Tomislav mused. “This is a true story how we experienced God’s providence—in these difficult war situations, he was taking care of us.”
The memory of God’s providence would sustain Tomislav fifteen years later when he began to fulfill the prophecy uttered at his birth—a year that brought an unexpected and radical change to his life.
*Name has been changed