Žikica Jovanović Španac
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Živorad "Žikica" Jovanović (Serbian Cyrillic: Живорад „Жикица" Јовановић; 17 March 1914 – 13 March 1942), better known as Španac (Шпанац; "The Spaniard") was a Yugoslav partisan, Spanish-trained commando and republican volunteer in the Spanish Civil War and is credited for initiating the anti-fascist struggle in Yugoslavia during World War II. He was a skilled guerilla fighter and organizer of guerilla units in Serbia, largely tied to his intense wartime activities in Spain. Sometimes he is depicted as a man with PTSD like many Spanish international volunteers. He enjoyed enormous prestige in Yugoslav communist ranks, and in 1941 he even disobeyed direct orders of comrade Josip Broz Tito to leave from Serbia to Bosnia with his units. There are controversies about his death, tightly related to his conflict with Supreme Command during the war. History remembers him as a young idealist and a man who loved Spain.
Before World War II
Jovanović was born in 1914 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 (El Espanol) 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 the village of Radanovci (Serbia) on 13 March 1942, in a battle against the Chetniks, Yugoslav Royalists, and a German Police Battalion after having covered the retreat of a group of Partisans whose positions had been betrayed by their fellow countrymen. There still are controversies surrounding his death - some insinuating that he was assassinated by the communists for insubordination.
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 (comparing anti-Milosevic revolt with the revolt Španac expressed in 1941 ), 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. Even in 21st century he is remembered as a warrior, guerilla fighter and impulsive young idealist and not as a politically engaged person. He has universal appeal to most of political options in Serbia, and also to all the other ex-Yugoslav countries.
His two victims shot on July the 7th 1941. were rehabilitated by the district court in Sabac in 2009. and were proclaimed to have been innocent. Both policemen killed now have monuments in Bela Crkva.
- Jovanović Milana Živorad Žikica Španac at www.znaci.net (in Croatian)
- "Narodni heroji Jugoslavije", Mladost, Beograd, 1975 (in Serbian)