April 22, 2013

Holy New Martyrs of Jasenovac Concentration Camp

The martyrs are commemorated together on September 13, although a number of them are also commemorated separately, as the dates of their martyrdom are known. This is a particularly poignant icon, because we have still among us survivors of the Ustasha terror of World War II, and many whose loved ones found martyrdom. Moreover, it is an important icon inasmuch as it will witness not only to the faith of these martyrs, but also to the genocide of Serbs itself, which many ignore, forget or deny having occurred.

A vast sea of haloed martyrs stands before a background showing the Jasenovac concentration camp in the upper left corner, with ominous grey walls, barbed wire and watchtowers. The Churches of Jasenovac (destroyed, sadly, twice now by Croats) and Glina (burnt to the ground with 500 Serbs in it) are shown centrally, while the upper right corner shows one of the many caves of Lika, Dalmatia, Bosnia or Hercegovina that became the graves of numerous innocents. In the lower foreground is a river perhaps the Sava, the Una, the Vrbas, or the Drina, all of which carried the tortured bodies. They bear crosses and appear peaceful, as they have accepted their martyrdom. The standing figures in the foreground are identified individually with an inscription in their halo.

What touches many of us when we contemplate this fresco is that these Holy New Martyrs are every man: a peasant, a student, a teacher with her pupils, a nun, an old woman, a priest, a bishop, a child. All of them were killed for the simple fact that they were baptized in and lived by the Orthodox faith. For this, they are crowned with martyrdom; Christ blesses them, while on either side St. John the Baptist (patron of the Jasenovac Church) and St. Sava (patron of the Serbian people) intercede on their people’s behalf.

Source: Fresco Iconography of St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church in Hamilton, Ontario: Nikoljnik Press, 2005. Icon by Fr. Theodore Jurewicz.

April 22 - Anniversary day of the prisoner breakout from Jasenovac Concentration Camp

"For us Orthodox Christians, this is not 'the City of the Dead,' but the City of Alives, as for the Lord all the martyrs - victims of Jasenovac - are alive. The innocent victims of the Great-martyrdom of Jasenovac live in our hearts, as well as in our souls, in the memorial prayer of recollection. All of them, together with us, await for the resurrection of the dead and life of an age to come."