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Life on the Farm

Tree-planting in honor of Radovan and Rosa Djonovic (Photo: Yad Vashem)

Radovan and Rosa Djonovic

As World War II broke out across Europe, Radovan and Rosa Djonovic lived their lives as simple farmers south of Belgrade. But in December of 1941, a young man arrived in their village, and like many European Jews, he needed help.

Daniel Semnic was 16 years old. His sister, from the same village as the Djonovics, was married to a Gentile, but Daniel was not so safe. Daniel's sister asked the farm family to take her brother in and they agreed, despite the danger that sheltering a Jew could pose to them.

On the Djonovic farm, Daniel helped with the chores, picking fruit and pasturing cows. When word would arrive of approaching Nazis, the lad would hide in the family's tool shed, stable, or cellar.

In 1943, the Nazis grew suspicious of the young man on the farm. But Radovan explained to them that Daniel was a Bosnian Muslim who had lost his papers. Because of this, Daniel was able to register as a village resident and received a false identity which allowed him to travel as he wished.

Nonetheless, the young Jewish man continued to stay with the Djonovic family until the area was liberated in October of 1944. Sadly, when Daniel returned to his hometown of Belgrade, he found that his father and brother had been murdered. In 1948, Daniel Semnic made aliyah (immigrated) to the newly established state of Israel, his biblical and historic homeland. But he never forgot the family who had risked their own lives to save his, visiting the Djonovics on their farm whenever he could. And in 1983, Radovan and Rosa Djonovic were named Righteous Among the Nations for the life they had so selflessly saved.

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