New Martyr Vukasin of Klepci16 May 2014
Our father among the saints, Vukašin Mandrapa of Klepci, was a Serbian Orthodox Christian from Herzegovina who was martyred by fascists during World War II for refusing to acknowledge the local nazi leader Ante Pavelic.
Little is known about the life of Saint Vukasin. What is known about him is from the event resulting in his martyrdom, revealed in 1946. Vukasin was born in the village of Klepci, in Herzegovina, at the turn of the twentieth century. At the beginning of World War II, members of the Croatian fascist Ustašas arrested him and transported him, together with other Serbs of that region, into the notorious concentration camp of Jasenovac (the number of victims at this camp have been estimated between 80,000 and 800,000). During the reign of Ante Pavelic in Croatia (1941-5), Ustašas put up a death camp near the town Jasenovac, Croatia. It was practically the mirror-image of Auschwitz, Treblinka etc., except for the fact that a large number of victims were ethnic Serbs. The extermination with Zyklon B was employed at the later stage. Nevertheless, Jasenovac was one of the most cruel death-camps ever, ravaged by random terror, tortures and mass slayings.
Wikipedia relates the following: On the night of 29 August 1942, prison guards made bets among themselves as to who could slaughter the largest number of inmates. One of the guards, Petar Brzica, boasted that he had cut the throats of about 1,360 new arrivals. Other participants who confessed to participating in the bet included Ante Zrinušić, who killed some 600 inmates, and Mile Friganović, who gave a detailed and consistent report of the incident. Friganović admitted to having killed some 1,100 inmates. He specifically recounted his torture of an old man named Vukasin; he attempted to compel the man to bless Ante Pavelić, which the old man refused to do, even after Friganović had cut off his ears, nose and tongue after each refusal. Ultimately, he cut out the old man’s eyes, tore out his heart, and slashed his throat. This incident was witnessed by Dr. Nikola Nikolić.
Below is the story from the perspective of above mentioned guard Mile Friganović, during his later testimony on court (as stated by Wikipedia):
Franciscan Pero Brzica, Ante Zrinusic, Sipka and I waged a bet on who would slaughter more prisoners that night. The killing started and already after an hour I slaughtered much more than they did. […] And already after a few hours I slaughtered 1,100 people, while the others only managed to kill 300 to 400 each. […] I noticed an elderly peasant standing and peacefully and calmly watching me slaughter my victims and them dying in the greatest pain. That look of his shook me: in the midst of the greatest ecstasy I suddenly froze and for some time couldn’t make a single move. And then I walked up to him and found out that he was some Vukasin [Mandrapa] from the village of Klepci near Capljina whose whole family had been killed, and who was sent to Jasenovac after having worked in the forests. He spoke this with incomprehensible peace which affected me more than the terrible cries around us. All at once I felt the wish to disrupt his peace with the most brutal torturing and, through his suffering, to restore my ecstasy and continue to enjoy the inflicting of pain.
In his personal confession to physician Nedo Zets, Friganović revealed the details he remembered of Vukašin’s death, which finally drove him to an unbearable feeling of guilt and consequently to madness.
Old Vukasin, by his conduct and the words he put to his executioner, gave a brilliant example of a Christian sacrifice, making him a symbol of overall Serbian suffering in Jasenovac and a Holy Martyr of the Orthodox Church.
At the regular session of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1998, Vukašin Mandrapa, from the Klepci village, was entered into the List of Names of the Serbian Orthodox Church as a martyr. His feast day is May 16.