Žikica Jovanović Španac
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2013)|
Živorad "Žikica" Jovanović (Serbian Cyrillic: Живорад „Жикица" Јовановић; 1914 – 13 March 1942), better known as Španac (Шпанац, meaning "The Spaniard") was a Yugoslav partisan and is credited for starting the anti-fascist struggle in Yugoslavia during World War II.
Before World War II
Jovanović was born in Valjevo, Central Serbia, related to an extended family of landowners and merchants he graduated from high school there, enrolling the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Belgrade. However, before completing his studies, Žikica, like so many other idealists across Europe, volunteered to help the Spanish Republic rebuff a Fascist Coup launched in the Summer of 1936. Whilst in Spain he fought with some distinction in the Spanish Civil War, and became a highly respected guerrilla warfare specialist and combatant of the Madrid University City Battle between the Republican volunteers and the Spanish Army of Africa. He stayed on fighting at the head of the Balkan Volunteer Brigade in a number of campaigns such as Battle of the Ebro and Teruel until the fall of Barcelona in 1939, with the tragic collapse of the Republic.
Among his compatriots and fellow brigadiers, he was later nicknamed Španac (the Spaniard) for this time spent in struggle with the Spanish people with whom he had developed a tremendous affinity. He was one of the few remaining International Brigades volunteers who fled over the frontier to France, only to be interned by the Gestapo as an enemy alien following the Nazi invasion. It is believed that along with others he affected an escape via Marseilles, and walked much of the way home after landing in Italy.
World War II
In April 1941 following the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece, Jovanović wanted to join the army, but was rejected under suspicion of anti-state activities having been a Revolutionary suspect in the so-called White Terror of King Alexander during the 1930s, and later, Prince Regent Pavle.
Three months later, after joining the Partisan movement led by Josip Broz Tito, he is reputed to have started the war against fascist occupiers. On July 7, 1941, he shot two members of the Quisling Serbian State Police, or gendarmerie, at a fair in Bela Crkva. Then, mounting the steps of the Local Town Hall, he fired into the air to summon the crowd with his two trade mark Webley Revolvers, giving a rousing speech that called upon the Proletarian Class of Yugoslavia to destroy the Beasts of Fascism, uttering the legendary words that became the rallying cry of the Yugoslav Communist Party: "Death to Fascism, Freedom for the People". Whether the actual Revolt began in relation to these events, or indeed began as a result of simultaneously localized acts of sabotage organized across many districts cells of the Central Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party is unclear. The official history of the Communist State regards the actions of Jovanović as the beginning of the anti-fascist war in Yugoslavia, and had a National Holiday referred to in all State matters as "Republic Day".[dubious ]
In the days and weeks that followed, a massive provincial revolt grew which is referred to as the Ustanak (Uprising), that coincided with the Yugoslav Communist Parties' instruction from the Comintern to light the fires of revolt across Europe following the Axis invasion of the USSR.
Žikica Jovanović "Španac" died in battle. He died in the village of Radanovci on 13 March 1942, in a battle against the Chetniks, Yugoslav Royalists, and German Police Battalion after having covered the retreat of a group of Partisans whose positions had been betrayed by their fellow countrymen.
He was proclaimed a People's Hero of Yugoslavia on 6 July 1945.
Today Španac is best remembered in popular songs of Yugoslav Rock Group Riblja Čorba, and has a number of schools and a hospital in Valjevo named after him. Before the 1990s, the Yugoslav regime often cited him as a model influence, regularly celebrated his life by dedicating monuments and public venues to the Warrior of the Spanish Revolution.