Miloš Gavrović was born in 1896 in Miločaj, a village near Kraljevo in Central-Serbia, as a son of Leka Gavrović. When the First World War broke out he was just 18. He left his village, we do not know when exactly, to serve his country.
He never returned, because he died at the age of 23 on the 23th January 1919 in Usselo, a village near Enschede in the Netherlands. Until December 2012 his relatives did not know Miloš died in the Netherlands, they were thinking he died in captivity in Germany, until we discovered the story which you can read here.
Below the location of Miločaj and Usselo (from Google Earth, click to enlarge).
All locations can be found on Google Maps (link). which was especially created
Arrival in the Netherlands
We think that Miloš arrived in the Netherlands after the First World ended, with many of his comrades, from a Prisoners of War (POW) camp in Germany. He ended up in Usselo, a little village near Enschede in the Netherlands.
Enschede was scene of massive arrivals of prisoners of war from different countries. From November 1918 till February 1919 around 80.000 POW’s passed Enschede. There is still a monument in Enschede remembering this, which is now on the “Cort van der Lindenlaan” (Cort van der Linden was the prime minister of NL during WWI) and there is written in Dutch, English, French and Italian that : 32.690 French, 26.960 English, 6930 Belgium, 6650 Italian, 1160 Serbian, 50 Russian and 18 Japanese POW ‘s passed Enschede during that period.
Below: postcard of the monument on its original location, the “Hoedemakers plein” in Enschede. Kindly supplied by “Enschede in ansichten”.
It is still unknown why Miloš ended up in Usselo, because most POW’s where hosted in the textile factories in Enschede after they first passed the quarantine camp, but it is not confirmed if Miloš passed there.
Picture below:quarantine camp in Enschede (kindly supplied by “Enschede in ansichten”).
We know he died the 23th January 1919 around 15h00, according to his death certificate. His death was registered by the Johannes Bernardus Konings a civil servant from Lonneker municipality (Usselo was part of this municipality) and reported by Jan Dirk ten Beek (a 36-year-old undertaker) and Dionysfus Niesfen (a 29- year-old custom’s officer) both living in Enschede.
Most probably Miloš died because of Spanish flu. During that period there was a massive outbreak of Spanish flu and a lot of people died. Miloš was not the only Serbian WWI soldier who died in Usselo: a total of 10 Serbian WW1 soldiers died in Usselo between 17th and 24th January 1919. The 23th January 3 Serbian soldiers died in Usselo. In nearby Enschede 6 Serbian soldiers died in the same period and 1 soldier earlier, on 11th August 1918, he, most possibly escaped from Germany.
Below:postcard with a view of Enschede and surroundings around that time (kindly supplied by “Enschede in ansichten”).
Burial and exhumation
Miloš was buried in Lonneker (Oosterbegraafplaats in Enschede). His grave was exhumed in May 1938 and transported to Nijmegen, together with the other Serbian graves.
Even though the newspaper articles in 1938 mentioned that the remains of the 89 Serbian soldiers were repatriated to ‘Yugoslavia’, the official documents of the time mention ‘Czechoslovakia’ as the destination. The remains of Miloš had been transferred to Jindřichovice in Czechoslovakia (nowadays Czech Republic) via the Dutch/German border at Wyler/Kranenburg.
1939: Monument in Miločaj
As written in the introduction, his relatives did not know where Miloš died: they only knew he never returned home, so in 1939 the brother of Miloš, Milovan Gavrović, made a monument in Miločaj to honor him. This monument is until today still on the graveyard in Miločaj.
His name was also engraved on a remembrance plate in Miločaj, with the names of the soldiers who died in WWI and WWII.
Picture below: remembrance plate in Miločaj, 10.12.2012, by Aleksandar Raković.
In December 2012 Tanja Raković, together with Fabian Vendrig and John Stienen, was translating the official Dutch death certificates for all the Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands and they discovered “Milosch Gavrowits” from “Milotschaila (Oprotsatsinski)”.
Tanja is from Miločaj and she recognized her village. A contact was quickly made with Miodrag Gavrović, a cousin of Miloš Gavrović and son of Milovan Gavrović who made the monument for Miloš.
On the 3rd of January 2013 Tanja and Fabian visited the monument in Miločaj and met Miodrag who was surprised about the news he had got less then a month before about his uncle Miloš Gavrović who became from “an unknown Serbian WWI prisoner of war who died in the Netherlands” a man with his own family roots.
Picture below: laying flowers by the monument for Miloš, 03.01.2013, photo by Andrija Raković.
We traced Miloš Gavrović from his official Dutch death certificate from the municipality of Lonneker back to his relatives in Miločaj and we were lucky here. The name of Miloš is also on the monument for the Serbian WWI soldiers who died in Garderen in the Netherlands.
In Belgrade in May 2013 we found out, in the documents at the Archives of Yugoslavija, that the remains of Miloš had been transported in Jindřichovice in Czechoslovakia (nowadays Czech Republic).
When we visited the monument in Serbia we were interviewed by a journalist from Politika, one of Serbia’s biggest newspapers and the article appeared in Politika, which you can find here. Later our findings about Miloš were also reported in a Dutch newspaper (Reformatorisch Dagblad).
The Netherlands and Serbia did not forgot Miloš Gavrović……
Story by Tanja Raković and Fabian Vendrig 22.02.2013.
Sources / more information
The following sources were used (they are all in Dutch):
Archives of the municpality of Enschede
Stichting Historische Sociëteit Enschede-Lonneker
Civil registration Gemeente Lonneker January 1919