Saints and Martyrs

Blessed Martyrs of Drina

During the Second World War, or to be more precise in 1941, in Mary's home at (the) Pale convent lived its superior Sr. Jula Ivanišević (Croatian, 40), Sr. M. Berchmana Leidenix (Austrian, 76), Sr.M. Krizina Bojanc (Slovenian, 56), Sr. M. Antonija Fabjan (Slovenian, 34) and Sr. M. Bernadeta Banja  (Hungarian from Croatia, 29). Although they were on good terms with all of their neighbors and Orthodox locals. In the late afternoon of December 11, 1941 Chetniks surrounded the convent and made them walk in the direction of Goražde.

After that, they robbed and burned the convent down. That evening, the sisters and several other prisoners began their four-day way of the cross-over hills and through the forests of Romania in extreme cold and deep snow. On their way to Sjetlina, they were interrogated, threatened, and insulted. The seventy-six-year-old Sr. M. Berchmana was exhausted so she was isolated from the other sisters and left there. Other sisters were taken to Goražde and left in a room on the second floor in one of the barracks.

That evening, on December 15, 1941, the Chetniks broke into the sisters' room and attacked them demanding they leave their consecrated way of life. Wanting to defend their dignity and vows of purity, the nurses jumped out of the window but were soon captured and stabbed to death with knives and thrown into River Drina.

Sister Berchmana was in captivity in Sjetlina for about ten days when she was told that she would join her sisters in Goražde but they had already been killed. Upon their return, the Chetniks who drove her there said that she had safely joined her sisters. However, on December 23, 1941, Sr. M. Berchmana was killed near the Pračana Bridge.

The story of the martyrdom of these five sisters, known as the martyrs of Drina, quickly spread. In December of 1999 in Sarajevo, the archdiocese began the beatification process which was continued at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome.

After a positive outcome and conclusion of theologians and other experts, in January 2011, Pope Benedict XVI approved their beatification.

Sr. M. Ozana Krajačić, FDC, Vice Postulator of the Cause of the Martyrs of Drina

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