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Milunka Savić
Sergeant Milunka Savić
Born 1888
Died October 5, 1973(1973-10-05) (age 84)
Place of birth Koprivnica, Kingdom of Serbia
Place of death Belgrade, SFR Yugoslavia
Allegiance Kingdom of Serbia
Years of service 1912 – 1918
Rank Sergeant
Battles/wars Second Balkan War, World War I

Milunka Savić GCMG (Serbian language: Милунка Савић, 1888 – 5 October 1973) was a Serbian war heroine who fought in the Balkan Wars and in the First World War. She is recognised as the most-decorated female combatant in the entire history of warfare.[1] She was wounded no fewer than nine times during her term-of-service.

Military career[edit | edit source]

Sergeant Savitch with long hair.

Savić was born in 1888, in the village of Koprivnica,[2] near Raška, in Serbia. In 1913, her brother received call-up papers for mobilization for the Second Balkan War. She chose to go in his place—cutting her hair and donning men's clothes and joining the Serbian army.[3] She quickly saw action and received her first medal and was promoted to corporal in the Battle of Bregalnica. Engaged in battle, she sustained wounds and it was only then, when recovering from her injuries in hospital, that her true sex was revealed, much to the surprise of the attending physicians.[3]

Mental Floss described the repercussions:

"Savic was called before her commanding officer. They didn't want to punish her, because she had proven a valuable and highly competent soldier. The military deployment that had resulted in her gender being revealed had been her tenth. But neither was it suitable for a young woman to be in combat. She was offered a transfer to the Nursing division. Savic stood at attention and insisted she only wanted to fight for her country as a combatant. The officer said he'd think it over and give her his answer the next day. Still standing at attention, Savic responded, "I will wait." It is said he only made her stand an hour before agreeing to send her back to the infantry."[4]

In 1914, in the early days of World War I, Savić was awarded her first Karađorđe Star with Swords after the Battle of Kolubara. She received her second Karađorđe Star (with Swords) after the Battle of Crna Reka in 1916 when she captured 23 Bulgarian soldiers single-handedly.[5]

Military honours[edit | edit source]

She was awarded the French Légion d’Honneur (Legion of Honour) twice,[3] Russian Cross of St. George,[2] British medal of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael, Serbian Miloš Obilić medal.[5] She was the sole female recipient of the French Croix de Guerre 1914–1918 with the gold palm attribute for service in World War I.

Later life[edit | edit source]

She was demobilised in 1919,[6] and turned down an offer to move to France, where she was eligible to collect a comfortable French army pension. Instead, she chose to live in Belgrade and found work as a postal worker.[6] In 1923, she married Veljko Gligorijević, whom she met in Mostar, and divorced immediately after the birth of their daughter Milena.[7] In the interwar period, Milunka was largely forgotten by the general public. She worked several menial jobs up to 1927, after which she had steady employment as a cleaning lady in the State Mortgage Bank. Eight years later, she was promoted to cleaning the offices of the general manager.[7]

During the German occupation of Serbia of the Second World War, Milunka refused to attend a banquet organised by Milan Nedić, which was to be attended by German generals and officers.[6] She was arrested and taken to Banjica concentration camp,[2] where she was imprisoned for ten months.[8]

After the advent of socialism in 1945, she was given a state pension, and continued to live in her house in Belgrade's Voždovac neighborhood.[7] By the late 1950s her daughter was in hospital, and she was living in a crumbling house in Voždovac with her three adopted children:[9] Milka, a forgotten child from the railway station in Stalac; Radmila-Višnja; and Zorka, a fatherless girl from Dalmatia.[2] Later, when she attended the jubilee celebrations wearing her military medals, other military officers spoke with her and heard of her courageous actions. News spread and at last she gained recognition.[9] In 1972, public pressure and a newspaper article highlighting her difficult housing and financial situation led to her being given a small apartment by the Belgrade City Assembly.[6][8]

She died in Belgrade on 5 October 1973,[5] aged 84, and was buried in Novo groblje.[9] A street in Belgrade is named after her.[2]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Pred Milunkom su i generali salutirali". 2009. http://www.blic.rs/Vesti/Reportaza/201674/Pred-Milunkom-su-i-generali-salutirali. Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Istorija Voždovca". Opština Voždovac. 2010. http://www.vozdovac.rs/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=472&Itemid=173&lang=srl. Retrieved 2010-07-07. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Lepe i umne ponos roda svog". Srpsko Nasleđe – Istorijske Sveske. 1999. http://www.srpsko-nasledje.rs/sr-l/1999/01/article-9.html. Retrieved 2010-07-07. 
  4. http://www.mentalfloss.com/article/52603/5-fiercest-one-liners-history?utm_source=article&utm_medium=website&utm_campaign=nrelate
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Zaboravljeni Srpski Heroji - Milunka Savić". akademedia srbija. 2009. http://www.akademediasrbija.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=337:zaboravljeni-srpski-heroji-milunka-savi&catid=47:ukratko-cat&Itemid=71. Retrieved 2010-07-07. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "Srbija u vrtlogu Prvog Svetskog Rata". index.hr. 2009-06-27. http://www.index.hr/forum/default.aspx?q=t&idf=97&idt=235545&p=12. Retrieved 2010-07-08. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Milunka Savić: Heroina, pa čistačica". Večernje Novosti. http://www.novosti.rs/vesti/naslovna/aktuelno.69.html:322641-Milunka-Savic-Heroina-pa-cistacica. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Милунка Савић". Serbian Wikipedia. http://sr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Милунка_Савић. Retrieved 2010-07-08. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Milunka Savić, jedina žena na svetu nosilac francuskog odlikovanja Ratni krst sa zlatnom palminom granom". Beogradska Ka5anija. 2009-11-04. http://beogradskaka5anija.cyberfreeforum.com/kulturno-istorijska-setnja-f80/da-se-ne-zaborave-t2612.htm. Retrieved 2010-07-08. 

External links[edit | edit source]

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