Jakljan, an Island or a Floating Cemetery?

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“People don’t take trips . . . trips take people.” – John Steinbeck 

It’s no secret by now that I love to explore and travel Croatia. Aside from visiting popular sites, I also poke around some off the grid taboo places said to be haunted or cursed. Discovering an abandoned towns past can be difficult if no one wants to answer questions, especially if there may be some dark buried secrets. It’s even harder to unravel stories of curses and ghosts, if the location was never inhabited. Such is the case with Jakljan Island.

Jakljan sits roughly 2 miles from the port of Dubrovnik, with the largest neighboring Island Šipan sitting directly to the West. The water polo cruise often makes stops while sailing to major cities, making Šipan an Island that is often a stop in route to and from Dubrovnik. From 2014-2016 Jakljan was not a swim stop.

So why Šipan and not Jakljan? After all, it would be more intimate and less crowded to stop near an uninhabited smaller island. The short answer, its’ not for the living.

 

The Island of Jakljan was the site of a mass execution in 1945. Sympathetic Croatian Nationalists along with prisoners of war who had surrendered to the Yugoslav Partisians during WW2, were brought to the Island and murdered. Current available data indicates that the prisoners of war were Croatians, and Germans, some having surrendered in the Northern region of Istra and Trieste. This is not surprising considering that a year earlier in 1944, 53 men were murdered on the neighboring island of Daksa. Check out Daksa Island- Locals have a rule- Stay Away, It’s Haunted

 

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Memorial for those murdered on Jakljan.
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Excavation begins.

 

May 1945 captives arrive by boat to the Island of Jakljan where they are executed. The island would continue to receive boats carrying prisoners until 1951. Ok, here is where things get disturbing…. Construction of buildings and bungalows for a summer camp begins on the island around 1974. The camp was primarily for the children from Belgrade (Capitol of then Yugoslavia, and present-day Serbia).

68 years later, 2 witness’ who have since passed, Kuzma Stjepovic (88) and Zvonimir Koporčić (85) came forward to recount the events that ultimately led to the discovery of the mass graves. Zvonimir Koporcic and Kuzma Stjepovic, urged officials by saying “While we are still alive and of sound mind, come, we will show you the place of the terrible crime on the Jakljan”.

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Skeletal remains

According to komunistickizlocini.net,  Kuzma Stjepovic gave his full confession in an interview and admits to being present during the executions from 1945 to 1947. He says the bodies are buried only a half meter below ground. Other bodies were dumped in dried up wells.

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More human remains

Stjepovic, then kicks up the creep factor when he talks about the Children’s summer camp. Workers found bone fragments and three human skulls while building the foundation for a northern bungalow.  The construction was never completed for that bungalow. As for the camp, it opened in the summer of 1974.  This is seriously messed up. Who builds a kid’s camp on a mass grave? 

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Remains Excavated near the children’s camp. Bungalows are seen in the background.

In 2013, the remains of 214 men were exhumed from the island.  Once again, the greatest evil to befall man is man himself. 

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Memorial for the men murdered, in English

In 2016 the Water Polo Cruise started making swim stops at Jakljan. The island, like Daksa became a victim of man’s desire for the unattainable, absolute power. While Jakljan’s past may be grim, and gruesome, it’s no reason to avoid it. Jakljan has a tiny little island called Crkvina that is perfect to swim around in the open sea. I have made plans to return to Jakljan in the Summer of 2019. Check back for future posts and updated pictures.  Until then, you can see more pictures of swim stops and Croatia on https://www.facebook.com/waterpolocruise/ .

jakljan arial with wpc stops

For further reading about Jakljan and to see more pictures visit https://komunistickizlocini.net/2017/09/29/na-otoku-jakljanu-ekshumirano-214-zrtava-komunizma-stravicne-fotografije-sa-iskapanja/

 

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