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Joško (1887-1957)

Joško passed his matriculation exam at the high school in Senj in 1906 when he was about 19 and subsequent to that he was then enrolled in a commercial college (Here Kommercial Schule) in Vienna, for a three year degree. There was no direct travel to Vienna, he had to travel via Budapest to get there. During his time in Vienna, he lived on one dukat a month while he perfected the German that he had been taught in school.

Two years into his degree he was conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian army for a year under a forced volunteer program (Einjährig- Freiwillige). Seka said that this was called a volunteer program, but because all men were required to join the army, it wasn’t really volunteering, it was just a quick and easy route to getting an officer commission. Joško (#73322) graduated from the Ludoviki Military School on 1 Jan 1913 when he was 26. His older brothers Mate (#31317) and Ivan (#33321) graduated on 1 Aug 1914 and 1 Mar 1915 respectively.

World War 1 and Russia
He was soon sent to fight the Russians on the Russian Front as an officer. In the nineteenth century officers were considered a social class and to a lesser degree this is still with us today. He was captured pretty soon after being sent to the front as he talked of how much better conditions were in the Russian camp before the Russian Revolution in 1917, so he was probably captured a year or more before the Revolution. Russian POW’s had a tough time in the beginning. For some time he was probably not imprisoned in a traditional camp with barbed wire and guard towers because the Russians hadn’t built such facilities. Prisoners were initially kept in abandoned buildings, warehouses and the like. We know that he ended up and spent a lot of time in a Russian camp near Tashkent in what is now the capital of Uzbekistan. Tashkent is a couple of hundred kilometers north of Afghanistan and west of China. The area around Tashkent was dotted with big POW concentration camps. Hundreds of thousands of Austro-Hungarian and almost all German prisoners were sent there. Overall, the Russians held about 200,000 Slavic people as prisoners of war. Hundreds of mail censors operated out at the Tashkent Post Office.

Joško spent 7 years as a Russian prisoner of war. While Russia was under Czar’s rule he said that the Russians treated the officers quiet well however when the communists took over, their philosophy required that all prisoners be treated equally so officers were sent to work camps with the regular enlisted men. The Russians formally taught the prisoners Russian in classes and tried to “educate” the prisoners in communism. During the years in the camp, Joško learnt to speak fluent Russian and he learnt to speak Italian with the help of an Italian friend. There were a number of Italians in the camp with him. Years later, the Italian he had learnt in prison enabled him to do a lot of business with Italians.

Seka remembers that her father told her that the camp was dry and extremely hot. There were times when they had to soak their bed sheets and hang them on the walls to help cool the camp down. Tashkent has a continental climate with long, hot and dry summers from June to September and short but cold winters from December to February.

The war ended in November 1918, but both Germans and Russians kept each others’ prisoners for years afterward. Regular soldiers were being released first but officers were being kept back for more “education” or probably because they were thought to be a greater danger by bolstering the other side’s forces. The officers feared that they would die in the camps.

One day, a regular soldier from Stajnica who was in the camp with him, offered to swap places (names) with Joško so that Joško could get out on the understanding that if and when the soldier returned to Stajnica, he would be compensated. So, in the early 1920’s, while in his early thirties Joško was released and on arriving home, was told by Vlado that his mother had passed away in 1915, shortly after he had been imprisoned. He took the news very badly.

The enlisted soldier that had enabled Joško’s escape arrived back in Stajnica three or four years later and true to his word, Joško built him a home in Stajnica, gave him some cash and gave him a job in the mill. We don’t know the name of this soldier, but it is possible that he continued his life using the Murkovic surname and is the root of a new, unrelated Murkovic tree.



(1925- )

Igor Kiš
(19??- )


(1927 - 2013)

Endre Harsanyi

Braco (1927-2010)

Malina Stahuljak
(1935 - )


Return to Stajnica
After Janjica (his mother) died, the family had advertised for a housekeeper and took on a woman from Zagreb. He housekeeper moved into the house in Stajnica and soon became romantically involved with Joško’s father who was 55 years old when Janjica died and maybe 60 when Joško returned from Russia. This housekeeper had encouraged the elder Josip (Joso) to drink hard liquor and had stolen from the family in a number of ways. The family was not pleased with the situation.

 On his return, Joško visited old friends and went to see an old friend Milan Prpić in Brinje (turn right when you get through the toll booth off the new highway and it’s 5km down the road). Milan had a niece (his brother Ivan’s daughter) who was in her early 20’s and Joško fell in love with her and started courting her. It must have been about 1923 when Joško and Vjera decided to get married. Joško was about 36 and Vjera was about 22 years old at the time. Joško confronted his father about the situation at home and told him that the housekeeper had to go and that Vjera was going to move into the house in Stajnica and that there would be no room for the housekeeper. Old man Josip was not pleased and may have blamed Vjera for the loss of his drinking, party friend. It seems that he and Vjera never quite got on.

By 1923 Vjera was pregnant with their first child which they unfortunately lost shortly after the birth. Vesna (Boris’ mom) was born in 1925 and a couple of years later they had the twins. In the 1920’s and for most of the 1930’s there was peace in the world, business was good and the family enjoyed a happy prosperous period in their history. Family life centered around the house in Stajnica. Family that married and went away to live in other towns would come back to Stajnica for summer holidays or for hunting expeditions in the fall.

The house, mill and lands were owned by the Zadruga – a familial association. Zadruga’s were cooperatives whose members were related and that included multiple generations. They were introduced after the feudal system, and even though they have largely fallen away the laws around them are still respected today. Mate, Ivica and the three girls had left Stajnica (the Zadruga) and they were paid by the Zadruga for their share. For example,  Joso as head of the Zagruga purchased a mill for Mate when Mate got married to Beata. Some of the daughters were given furniture and gifts for their new homes.

Ivica and Mate used to come back to Stajnica to hunt in the fall. Joško didn’t particularly enjoy hunting, but Mate(confirm?) and the two younger brothers Slave and Vlado enjoyed hunting

Joško concentrated on the business, bought a warehouse for storing timber in Zagreb and one in Senj. He became Treasurer of the Chamber of Commerce [get exact name] and this meant that he had to travel to Zagreb once a month for a Chamber meeting. This involved a buggy trip to Ličke Jesenice from where he could catch a train to Zagreb. He complained about this a little, especially in the winter.

The three kids went to school in Stajnica. Their mother became increasingly disabled by arthritis and had taken on a governess (“au pair”) to walk them to and from  school and to help them with their homework. When Joško put the kids to bed at night, he would sometimes pray for them in Russian.

In 1934, when the kids were 7 and 9, Joško’s father died and there was a large funeral.

The family had a number of horse drawn coaches at this time …. details …. and …they bought a car? What happened to the car? Did they leave it in Brinje? Sell it?

Over time some of the family had left the house (Zadruga) and moved on to start new lives elsewhere. Mate had married and was living in Sušak and working at his mill in Ličke Jesenice, Ivan was married and living in Gospić, Mica (Maria), Franja and Anćića were also married and living with their respective husbands. Still living at the house were Joško (Vjera and three kids), Slave and Vlado.

World War 2
When WW2 broke, Joško was already 52 and was not conscripted. His older brother, Mate was asked to return to the army because he showed great leadership in WW1 and he ultimately served as a General in WW2. Mate’s son Borna (age…) was old enough to go to war and was called up whereas Joško’s son, Braco, was only 12.

The Axis conquered Yugoslavia in ten days in April 1941 and within days an Independent State of Croatia was formed and for a while everything looked like it was going to work out just fine. In dividing up the spoils, the Italians had been given a large part of the Croatian coast and the Germans largely controlled the rest.

In the weeks that followed Joško was approached by Italian timber merchants and they offered him a million dinars (not sure of the current value, but expect about a million dollars) for his entire inventory of timber. Joško had a huge inventory at this time. The offer caused some consternation at home. Vjera wanted him to take the offer but Joško was positive that in the coming months, possibly when the war ended, economic growth would explode and that inflation would take root. If he was right, the timber would be worth a lot more than a million dinars. He believed that the Germans would take strict control of the country and that the family could prosper under that environment. So he declined the Italians’ offer.

As the weeks went on, it seemed clear that the country was not stabilizing. There were out of control gangs of Ustaše, Partizani and Chetniks creating atrocities in flare-ups all over the country. It seemed that the country was going deeper in turmoil and chaos rather than the law and order that Joško had hoped for.

Attack on Stajnica
Then in August 1941, some four months after the fall of Yugoslavia, the house in Stajnica was attacked by Partisans and/or Chetniks. The attackers got into the house and at one point Slave was firing at attackers down the passage. The attackers threw a grenade down the passage towards Slave and in the explosion Slave was killed by shrapnel to the head. His brother Vlado was wounded in the attack but somehow Vlado and Joško managed to repel the attackers and get word out to Vjera’s parents in Brinje about what had happened. Vjera’s brother in law (through Nevenka) Vlado Parac, came to the house in a car and Joško bundled his wife, the kids and their cousin Vera who was staying over at the time into the car and Vlado Parac took them to Brinje. Joško and the youngest brother Vlado (43) stayed behind.

In Brinje, Vjera and the two girls, Vesna and Seka, slept at Vjera’s brother Milan’s house and Braco and Vera were tucked in at Vjera’s sister Nevenka’s house. Braco’s best friend at the time was Maco Parac, Nevenka and Vlado Parac’s son. They lived with their mother’s family for about a week to ten days.

Joško and Vlado spent a couple of worrisome days at the house. They buried Slave in the cemetery in Stajnica and spent the rest of the time trying to sell everything that they owned. Joško contacted the Italian timber merchants, but they were no longer interested at that price as it had become a buyer’s market, prices were dropping and there were willing sellers in other towns. We’re not sure who he sold it to but he received a fraction of what they had previously offered. Joško and Vlado tried to sell  the furniture, but no-one was buying. They packed some personal effects and asked Marko Vukovic to supervise the mill, all the machinery in it and house in Stajnica. Dede told me that they had recently bought a huge new saw from Austria. The sawmill was ultimately pillaged and the equipment was transported to another mill in Jezerane (3 km from Stajnica) where it was used for decades during communist rule.

About ten days after the attack, Joško and Vlado arrived in Brinje to re-unite with the family and to prepare for their flight to the safety of Zagreb.

Safety of Zagreb
Joško had arranged to join a convoy led by the Italian Army to a train station over the Kapela Mountains (today we speed right through the mountains in gloriously long tunnels). Joško, Vjera, their three kids and Ivek Tominac travelled with the Italians in an army truck(?). From the station, they caught the train to Zagreb where they took a taxi to Čedo Tominać’s house at Tuškan 81. They lived with Čedo for a month or so while Joško looked for a house or rooms to rent. Finding a place to live in Zagreb at that time was difficult. The city was full of refugees much like themselves. Joško eventually found a place to stay at Amruševa 7. The family lived there for next two and a half years (the rest of the war).

During this time the kids went to school (Internat)…. More… names
In the summer, they rented a house just outside Zagreb () where Vjera was more comfortable. One summer day they borrowed national dresses from …. and they spent a few hours taking photos in an around this summer home.

Safety of Austria
By January 1944 the Russians were at the Croatian border and memories of his imprisonment years 30 years earlier came flooding back to Joško. He swore that he would never again have to live with the Russians or be imprisoned by them. This fear drove him to leave Zagreb before many others and it gave them a head start in Austria. His wife, Vjera, had been writing to René, the governess that they had employed 10 years ago, and had arranged for them to share some space in her parents’ home in Althof in Austria. The name of the house was Helenenhof. They had two rooms to share between them and this included the kitchen.

One day he tried to sell a two karat diamond that he had taken with him from Stajnica and was swindled by ... a Croatian?

Vjera gets rejected by Canada because of her health condition. Seka gets accepted and decides with a couple of friends at school, to go to Canada. His daughter, Seka, leaves for Canada.

They decided to go to Argentina, they hear that a lot of Croatians went there and that there is a vibrant Croatian community there. His oldest daughter and son leave for Argentina. In any event, their options are limited.

He gets letters from the kids …   Braco writes, says that he should buy some knitting machines and bring them with his personal effects.

Joško and Vjera leave for Argentina.


When Joško came to Argentina at age … , he refused to learn another language and never learnt to speak Spanish. He would often spend time in an Italian market, talking Italian. He didn’t talk much Russian anymore.

In …. he wasn’t feeling well and went to see a doctor. Ultimately diagnosed with lung cancer and died in hospital on ….

He was buried (cremated and ashes kept) in a cemetery in Buenos Aires. In …., when Braco went back to Croatia, Braco had his ashes brought back to Croatia, but he never found the right moment to take them to Lika. This was done by his grand-daughter, Dunia who he had never met and his daughter-in-law, Malina.

Dunia and Malina laid his ashes in the family plot in Stajnica in 2006.


Records for Officers There are records for all officers in the Austrian and subsequent Austro-Hungarian Army at the Kreigs Archive in Vienna.  They cover the years from 1761 to 1918 and are comprehensive for all units.  Note, about 10% of all soldiers were officers.  Their service records are indexed alphabetically by surname.   The information provided lists the service record of the officer and events and duties that he preformed.   They also list the units in which he served.  In addition, these records sometimes provide information about the soldiers parents.  Officer records can be found in the Dienstbeschreibungen und Qualifikationslisten der Offiziere.  These records are arranged alphabetically by last name.  They are available on 3,408 films from the FHL.   


{Paragraph – hunting – Josip was not a hunter…}
 {Paragraph – business, travel to Zagreb as treasurer of Chamber of commerce}