Stronger than wars

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Photo: Vecernje Novosti

As Norway marks the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the first Yugoslav prisoners of war, Dragan Rodic recalls memories of his ancestor who survived and returned to Serbia.

Ozren Zenar was among the first officers of the Yugoslav army who had been transported from Belgrade to a German Nazi camp in Norway in 1942.

He was placed with officers from other European armies and they had mostly worked on farms. Camps for officers were somewhat more humane than those for ordinary soldiers but still with very harsh conditions.

According to Dragan Rodic, one of the things Ozren had always been mentioning was the Norwegian support. Norwegians reportedly had a list of all the arrested officers and took care of them often sending them packages with most necessary things. Ozren would always stress that he would have never survived unless there had been Norwegian assistance.

However, the officers would often try to escape. One of Ozren’s numerous attempts was somewhat funny. Namely he managed to escape the prison building and jumped off a fence but then found himself in a dense Norwegian forest. As he was trying to find the way out, he crossed what he thought was another fence and then ended up in the same German Nazi concentration camp he escaped from.

However, when his fellow prisoners would ask him when he was planning to stop trying to escape, Ozren’s answer was that he would be trying until the end of his life. He remained in the camp until the war ended.

Upon his return to Serbia, Ozren completed studies at the Belgrade University’s Faculty of Engineering, got married and became a well-known Yugoslav expert for cables.

He passed his WWII story to his ancestors and also left them photos from the camp to keep this story alive.