Đina Markuš

1920 – 2006

Đina Markuš was born in 1920 to a family of traders in Cetinje. While still attending gymnasium, she gravitated towards Communist ideas; much like many other young Montenegrin and Yugoslavian women communists, she followed in the footsteps of the male members of her family. She was preparing to undertake the study of medicine in Belgrade, when in 1941, Montenegro was occupied by the Italians. Her illegal activities and support for the Communists soon landed her in the Fascist prison Bogdanov in Cetinje. Because of her activities in the armed struggle as a Partisan, she was re-arrested and interned in a camp until Italy’s surrender, after which she returned by way of Slovenia, to rejoin the Partisans in the final actions to liberate Montenegro and Yugoslavia. She would leave the war as a young Communist, recognised for her unsparing dedication to the anti-fascist struggle and revolution.

After the war, Đina Markuš received a politically confidential job as a post office clerk in Belgrade. She embarked on the post-war life brimming with enthusiasm, renewal and rebuilding the country, as well as the collective dedication to making revolutionary ideals reality. Đina’s sister’s husband, army officer Vido Đurašković, committed suicide in Belgrade after the 1948 publication of the Cominform Resolution, as he knew that he was at risk of arrest and deportation to Goli Otok. Soon after, Đina herself was arrested, under the allegation that she sent typeset characters from the post office abroad, for anti-Yugoslavian propaganda. She was among the many Communists of the day who protested the “diplomats’ shops”* that presaged the post-war class stratification and formation of a red bourgeoisie.

She was arrested in 1949 and spent some time in the Glavnjača remand prison in Belgrade, after which she was taken to Goli Otok and Sveti Grgur. She was released in 1952. She was unable to adapt to “normal life” for the rest of her life. She suffered long bouts of intense insomnia, often descending into states that resembled catatonia (immobility, rigidness in the body, speechlessness). She received treatment in a number of psychiatric institutions.

In 1989 she wrote the (unpublished) memoirs about her days spent on Goli Otok and Sveti Grgur. She died in 2006, of an overdose of sleeping pills.

 

I halted and stiffened, I was rendered immobile with fear. They pushed me into the gauntlet and the beating started. Fists raining down on me from both sides. Weak as I was, I couldn’t endure two metres before starting to go down, but they lifted me up and continued to beat me, as if competing with each other, who will beat more and better. Beating and spitting, and that was the most distressing, the most horrible, the slimy spittle trickling down my face, my arms, my hair…

 

*We are grateful to our colleague Nataša Nelević, dramaturgist, writer and founder of the digital Montenegrin Women’s Museum (https://www.muzejzena.me/), for her assistance and the materials she sent us.