ROME (EWTN News/CNA)—The prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, presided at the beatification of five Bosnian nuns who were kidnapped and later killed in December 1941.
Maria Jula Ivanišević, Maria Berchmana Leidenix, Maria Krizina Bojanc, Maria Antonija Fabjan and Maria Bernadeta Banja were all members of the Daughters of Divine Charity.
In 1911, the nuns lived in a convent near Sarajevo in the town of Pale. They ran an elementary school until it was closed in 1919. In 1927 they began teaching catechism at the region’s schools. “Their selfless commitment to the people in need was known by all the inhabitants of the region,” earning them the respect of the Orthodox community as well, Sister Maria Ozana Krajacic of the Daughters of Divine Charity recounted in the Sept. 24 edition of L’Osservatore Romano.
On Dec. 11, 1941, a group of Serbian militants attacked the convent where the nuns were living. They were kidnapped together with a Slovenian priest. The convent was sacked and burned.
The militants forced them to walk 40 miles in the freezing snow over four days, without adequate clothing. They were continually insulted and subjected to intense interrogation. “None of them complained; they didn’t ask for any concessions. They were silent and in constant prayer,” Sister Maria Ozana wrote.
Halfway through their journey, the Serbs abandoned 76-year-old Sister Maria Berchmana Leidenix. She was later murdered on Dec. 23.
The other four sisters were taken to an outpost in Gorazde. On Dec. 15, a group of militants attempted to rape them, “but none gave in, despite being threatened with death. According to author Father Anto Bakovic, the sisters shouted, ‘We prefer death over what you want!’” Their story is recounted in his book, The Martyrs of Drina.
The attempted sexual assault continued for over an hour.
“When the Serbs began to get violent, the sisters tried to flee. They prayed to Jesus, and one by one jumped out of a window (on the second floor of the barracks). Injured and exhausted after the jump, they tried to stand up and flee, but they were stabbed and dragged to the banks of the Drina River,” Sister Maria Ozana recounted.
In the spring of 1942, two sisters of the congregation in Sarajevo attempted to locate the tomb of Sister Maria Berchmana, but they were unable to find it.
Sister Maria Ozana recalled, “The news of the deaths of the five sisters spread quickly in Sarajevo. Even though it was a time of war, the people remembered them and prayed to the martyrs of Drina, as they were called, for their intercession.”