brochure “Partizanski spomenik u Mostaru” (1980)
book “Spomenica Mostara 1941-1945.”
another document or proof of the memorial stone (e.g., a photograph).
Ante A. ZUANIĆ
ANTE ZUANIĆ, son of ANTE, born on April 20, 1924, in Rogatica. A student at Mostar Gymnasium, member of SKOJ (Communist Youth of Yugoslavia) since 1941. Joined the Battalion in December 1941, as a fighter and a corporal. He was killed in Janjina near Konjic in April 1942.
After World War II, one street in Mostar was named after Ante Zuanić. Ante’s name was also recorded on the memorial plaque at Mostar Gymnasium. The plaque disappeared without a trace during the war events of 1992-1995. A memorial plaque was also erected at the school in Odžak-Bjelimići, where Ante lost his life. Additionally, a monument was erected in the village of Odžaci/Bjelimići near Konjic after the war, dedicated to Ante Zuanić and his fellow soldiers.
Excerpts from literature – several accounts that provide details of the dramatic death of Ante Zuanić and his unit in hours-long battles against much stronger Ustasha forces.
Vlatko Lazarević, article “Heroic Stand of the Unit in Janjina,” Hercegovina in the National Liberation War, Part 4:
“On April 8, 1942, Ustashas launched an attack on Janjina, overwhelming Ante Zuanić’s unit. Suddenly, they stormed from all sides, emerging from the forest and surrounding the house where the unit was located. It was a single-story rural house covered with planks. The partisans embraced the fight – nine of them against 170 Ustashas. It was an unequal battle. The unit took positions inside the house and bravely unleashed fire on the enemy. A fierce battle ensued. The fighters fired through windows, doors, and from the walls beneath the roof. With the precise fire from the partisans, the enemy, visible outside, couldn’t approach the house. In that battle, the unit killed five Ustashas and wounded several others. However, trouble came with the darkness. As the darkness advanced, the Ustashas approached the house more and more. Additionally, the partisans were running out of ammunition. One of the Ustasha militiamen, who was a local resident and familiar with every inch of the surrounding area, approached the wall under the protection of darkness and set the house on fire. The roof and other materials started burning like a torch. The house turned into an inferno. This led to even greater trouble – the fighters started choking on the thick smoke. It became increasingly hot and unbearable. The air became so scorching that the defenders felt as if they were under hot embers. Burnt planks and beams fell on the fighters’ heads, scorching their flesh. Despite this, they continued to heroically fight off all enemy attacks. There was a danger of being burned alive… Among the nine fighters were Mustafa and Husika Kanja, workers from Mostar. One of them died on that occasion, while the other was wounded. Some of the surviving fighters began contemplating taking their own lives so as not to fall alive into the hands of the enemy. The wounded Kanjo, with only one bullet left in the barrel, turned toward the enemy and exclaimed, ‘Long live the Communist Party of Yugoslavia! Long live the partisans! Long live the Red Army.’ Then he turned the rifle’s barrel towards himself and pulled the trigger. This deeply affected the remaining fighters. They decided to attempt a breakout nonetheless. With no ammunition left, they threw a grenade and jumped out through the window. They couldn’t break through the dense circle of enemy soldiers and were overpowered. Here’s what the mentioned report from the commander of the police station in Bjelimići says: ‘As there was strong resistance from the house where the nine of them had barricaded themselves in Janjina, even when they were called to surrender, they refused to surrender, and even when the house was set on fire, they continued shooting from the house, despite the fire closing in on them. The fight with the partisans in Janjina was one of the most bitter battles fought during this occasion because the partisans, at the cost of their lives, fought until the very last hour, minute, when half of the roof had already collapsed and there was no way out.’”
Enver Ćemalović, Mostar Battalion:
“The column of militiamen and gendarmes, crossing the Neretva River, surrounded the house in Janjina at dawn, where our unit was located. The battle began with the much larger enemy. The gendarmes and militiamen called on our fighters to surrender, and they responded with songs and gunfire whenever an enemy appeared. In that house, the following fighters were killed: HUSNIJA KANJE, gardener, and MUSTAFA KANJE, worker, both from Mostar. Our fighters continued to resist from the burning house until the last bullet.” This is how the commander of the Police Station in Bjelimići described the action in his report sent to the Command of the 6th Police Regiment: “During the fight in the village of Janjina, there was strong resistance from the house where 9 of them had barricaded themselves. Even when called to surrender, they refused until the house was set on fire, and even then, with the fire closing in on them, they fired from the house… The battle with the partisans in Janjina was the most bitter fight that took place on this occasion because the partisans, at the cost of their lives, fought until the last hour, minute when half of the roof of the house had already collapsed, and when there was no other way out, they jumped out of the windows and were captured by our armed forces. When called to surrender, as they had no other way out, it was heard from inside the house: ‘We know why we are dying and why we fight. None of us regrets dying with the salute ‘Death to fascism, freedom to the people’…’ When they were captured, none of them wanted to admit anything…”
“During the battle, our fighters killed 7 militiamen and gendarmes, whose names are listed in the report, and wounded several others. Frustrated by their own losses, the Ustasha gang began beating our captured comrades, then tied them up and took them towards Bjelimići. They managed to break free while still tied up and jumped into the water at the Neretva River: HILMIJA HAKALO and ISMET KRESO. Swimming, even with their hands tied, they managed to reach Glavatičevo and tell the story of the heroic fight of our fighters in Janjina. As soon as Hakalo and Kreso jumped into the Neretva River, the gang immediately executed: FEHIM JAClĆ, a worker from Sarajevo, EKREM JUSUFOVIĆ, a corporal, a worker from Mostar, MEHMED SKOPLJAK, a worker from Visoko, dr. LEO ŠTERN, a lawyer from Sarajevo, MIRKO TOPALOVIĆ, a peasant from Kula, and ANTE ZUANIĆ, a student from Mostar. The fight of our unit against the Ustasha gang in Janjina was always highlighted as an example for the new fighters of our Battalion and served as an inspiration for the heroic deeds of our fighters throughout the war.”
A similar description was also provided by Mensur Seferović in the story “That’s How Battalions Fought”: “In early spring of 1942, the Mostar Battalion destroyed the Ustasha nest in Janjina. As they withdrew to their positions, the battalion left a unit of Ante Zuanić, a former student of Mostar Gymnasium, as an outpost on one side of the Neretva River. Two days later, only two bloodied and exhausted fighters, Hakalo and Kreso, returned from the unit. All others perished a heroic death. (…)
Spomenica Mostara 1941-1945; Ćemalović, Enver (1986): Mostarski bataljon, Mostar; grupa autora (1986): Hercegovina u NOB 4. dio, Beograd, str. 235; https://www.telegram.hr/price/kako-mi-je-herceg-bosna-unistila-grad/; https://poskok.info/mostarke-u-doba-okupacije-sloboda-nije-stigla-iz-bajke/, Seferović, Mensur (1955): Drugovi iz bataljona, str 37., Buturović, Ferid (2016): Kuća mostarskog kadije, sjećanja skojevca – ilegalca i partizana, Sarajevo; Sarajevo.http://www.most.ba/091/015.aspx ;
Photo: Buturović, Ferid (2016): “KUĆA MOSTARSKOG KADIJE, Sjećanja SKOJ-evca – ilegalca i partizana”, Sarajevo
Photo of the memorial plaque: S. Demirović, spomenicinob.info
Do you have more information about this fighter? Share your stories and photographs. Let’s keep the memory alive!