WW II: Meet Lepa Radić, The Badass 17-year-Old Girl That Died Fighting Nazis
The Spark that began WW1 and literally changed the world was struck by the “Black Hand,” a secret society dedicated to the liberation of Serbia, no matter what.
The dream of sovereignty took form and shape in the wake of World War 1, the 6 constituent republics of the Socialist Republic (SR) of Bosnia and Herzegovina, SR Croatia, SR Macedonia, SR Montenegro, SR Serbia, and SR Slovenia merging to form the “Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes”.
Creation of the treaty ending the Great War, the place was referred to as the “Versailles State“, for the 1st 10 years. The name was officially changed to Yugoslavia in 1929, literally translating as the “Land of all South Slavic peoples“.
Lepa Svetozara Radić was born on December 19, 1925, in this world. From her earliest days as a student, Lepa Radić was known for dedication and hard work, a smart and serious girl, dedicated and well above grade level reading.
Radić developed strong left-of-center political views, taking influence from uncle Vladeta Radić, a strong proponent of the labor movement. By that age when young teenage girls are thinking of other things, Radić had joined the League of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia (SKOJ). By the time she turned 15 in 1941, she was a member of the Yugoslavian Communist Party.
As World War 2 enveloped the continent, a group of disaffected Yugoslav Army Air Force officers plotted to overthrow the government in Belgrade. The Cvetković government signed the Vienna protocol on March 25, 1941, signaling its intention to join the Tri-Partite pact of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan.
The bloodless coup d’état of 2 days later overthrew the Prince Regency of Paul Karađorđević, installing the pro-western, 17-year-old King Peter II, with encouragement and support from the British Special Operations Executive (SOE).
Adolf Hitler was apoplectic, taking personal offense at the coup d’état. Der Fuhrer had no interest in waiting to see if the new government would declare loyalty.
Hitler summoned his military advisers the same day, determined “to destroy Yugoslavia militarily and as a state” and to do so “with pitiless harshness.”The Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia was overwhelming, simultaneously launched from bases in Germany, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. The Yugoslav state never had a chance. It was all over, in 11 days.
The invasion was over in April, but not the Resistance.
With the German stranglehold in tight control of the towns and roadways, a Serbian resistance was quick to form in the wild mountains of the war-torn nation.
Two of them really: the Chetniks, dedicated to supporting of the Royal government in exile and the ferociously pro-Communist Partisans, under the leadership of Josip Broz “Tito.”For the Radić family, there was no question of loyalty.
Lepa’s father Svetor and uncles Voja and Vladeta joined the Partisans in July, leading to the arrest of the entire family by the Ustashe, the fascist Nazi-puppet government of Yugoslavia.
The Radić family was released in weeks by resistance fighters. Lepa and her sister Dara officially joined the Partisans.
Though only 15 year age, Lepa Radić was as fierce in her opposition to the Nazis, as any Partisan. She volunteered for the front lines, joining the Seventh Partisan company of the Second Krajiski Detachment, transporting wounded and defenseless from the battlefield. Did I mention, she was 15 years old.
Lepa was found out in February 1943, coordinating the rescue of 150 women and children attempting to flee the Nazis. She fired everything she had at attacking SS forces but never had a chance.
Lepa Radić was captured and sentenced to death by hanging, tortured for three days to extract information on Yugoslavian Resistance. She gave up the cube root of zero.
She was brought to a hastily constructed gallows on February 8, 1943, and hanged in full view of the public.
Moments before her execution with the rope around her neck, Radić was offered a pardon. All she had to do, was give up the names of her Partisan comrades.
“I am not a traitor of my people”, she said. “Those whom you are asking about will reveal themselves when they have succeeded in wiping out all you evildoers, to the last man.”
Those were her last words.
The Swedish-American poet Carl Sandburg once wrote “Valor is a gift. Those having it never know for sure whether they have it until the test comes.”Were I ever to be half so egregiously tested, I hope I would prove myself half the man, as that seventeen-year-old girl.