Award Winner's Serial
Serial from Serbian Daily Jurnal Vecernje Novosti,
July - August 2002,
From the Award Winner for courage,
Jurnalist Misa Ristovic
Daily Jurnal VECERNJE NOVOSTI, July 31, 2002 / Serbian source
1. Babies without blotch
Is that really possible on our country's territory? Did the doctors at maternity hospitals, during the seventies and the eighties, stole and sold babies formerly proclaimed dead? Has "the baby mafia" peacefully been doing its dirty work in our country for the last couple of decades, buying newborn babies and selling them to other parents, who can't have children, for large amounts of foreign currencies? Is this "business", which the people in white robes take part in, going on, even today, at clinics for gynecology and child birth?
Hard questions and even harder dilemmas which don't give peace to numerous parents in our country. Many of them, whom suspicion didn't let to accept the official version of their babies' death, are still, even after twenty years, trying to prove their children are alive and well, but with some other parents. Various persuasions that these suspicions are hard to prove have made lots of parents hesitate in their intentions while some are persistently searching and trying to obtain real evidence that the baby theft at maternity hospitals is - scandalous reality.
Suffering doesn't grow old
However, many of the parents find support, for their claims that their children have been stolen after birth, only in empty stories, which would, of course, never bring them to what they are searching for - the truth about their loved ones' destiny.
On the other hand, several attempts, in which some couples pointed a finger directly at other parents, claiming it's them who have their child, lived a fiasco. Neither they could prove their claims on court nor they could prosecute anybody because most of "the cases" are officially obsolete.
- We are going to try to realize our right, which can't be denied by anyone. We want to know the truth about our children. And if they really are dead someone will have to take blame for not letting us see them. If a criminal act can grow old, our suffering can't. Nor can the truth - it has been said by members of The Society "Where are our children", founded by the parents whose children allegedly died during the eighties and the nineties at maternity hospital in Nis.
Members of this society have started a united search for their children, but, up to now, none of the parents' suspicions, that their babies didn't die but were stolen, have been confirmed (at least not officially).
In the mean time, since several months ago, when Milutin and Radojka Manojlovic from Sokobanja confirmed that, after 23 years, they found a girl they suspect to be their daughter who "died" after birth, there have been more and more families that believe their newborn babies didn't die, as they were told by the doctors, but were sold to other families in a well organized chain.
Wall of silence
On the list of those who are ready to "search the heaven and the earth" in order to finally reach the truth about their loved ones there are Belgrade families- Ljiljana and Jovica Vuckovic, Dragica and Branislav Dudic, Ljiljana and Dragutin Velickovic, Olivera and Sasa Bogojevic, Renata and Miroslav Svilar, Olivera Nesic and Milka and Pavle Knezevic from Pancevo, Mirjana Gajic from district of Krusevac, Danijela and Zoran Cvetkovic from Mozgov near Aleksinac, Ljiljana and Predrag Petrovic from Prokuplje…
Also, for their children tirelessly are searching the Pesic from Nis, the Milenkovic from Babusnica, Danica Dimitrijevic from Belgrade, Sofijanka Milivojevic from Aleksinac, Slavoljub Milenkovic from Trnjani, the Ivanovic from Prokuplje, the Radisic from Obrenovac, Stana Corbic from the district of Kraljevo, Caslav and Biljana Momirovic from Prokuplje… They all know that feelings sometimes overcome the common sense, but their united suspicions are being confirmed by conflicting documents, the unbreakable wall of silence, no understanding from those who should investigate similar appearances, if they are logical, and get hold of defendants, and the silence of those who refuse any discussion on that matter.
All those unhappy families were present at the gatherings in Sokobanja, in the home of Milutin and Radojka Manojlovic, where they agreed on how to organize themselves, since many of them didn't know what should be done.
Case from Clinic for Gynecology and Childbirth
- A child is dead, but you can't find it in books. Sometimes it happens, like it happened to Stana Corbic from the district of Kraljevo, that after six years of the alleged death parents receive invitation to write their children into books because they have to start school.
All those families are connected with the same destiny-immediately after birth mothers mysteriously lost their newborn babies. A child is born; in most of the cases a mother never sees it again. When the parents are told the baby has died, they are not allowed to see it. For a baby that "dies" like that there is no discharge list and no death certificate, and only after constant claims and after many months, or even years, parents get the postmortem results without the protocol number, signature and with blurred seals which can't be read properly.
This is why those families are convinced there is an organized crime of trading with children and an established system in our country and that the brain of everything are respectable doctors at hospitals across Serbia. However, there have been several attempts lately to justify proved thefts of children from maternity hospitals by the single cases; like it was the case, five years ago, when Dr Veroslav Marinkovic, at the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth "Narodni Front" gave somebody else's child, with a discharge list with false data about birth, condition and gender of the child, signed by himself, to a woman for 100 DEM, pork and a liter of brandy.
During the last few weeks windows of public birth offices of town halls and maternity hospitals in our country have been filled with parents who doubt the official deaths of their babies.
About 300 families from Belgrade, Nis, Aleksinac, Prokuplje, Kraljevo, Krusevac, Kragujevac, Pancevo, Zrenjanin and other towns knocked on the doors of public birth officials and clinics for gynecology and childbirth in order to find the truth about their children who unexpectedly died after birth. These suspicious parents are connected with the same destiny: hardly any of the mothers saw her baby after the delivery and when they were told a child died they weren't allowed to see it. For a baby that "dies" like that there is no discharge list and no death certificate, and only after constant claims and after many months, or even years, parents get the postmortem results without the institution protocol number, signature and with blurred seals which can't be read properly.
Their united doubts are supported by conflicting documentation, the unbreakable wall of silence and, also, by the administrators at public birth offices and maternity hospitals who grab their heads as soon as the parents appear with claim for documentation for their allegedly deceased children. Many of them are named lunatics and paranoids and essential questions are similar to "Why do you need those papers after so many years?"
Shock at Public birth office
Jasna Spasojevic, a commercialist at "Zastava" in Kragujevac, has recently been stunned when, at the Town Hall in Kragujevac, she asked for a birth certificate for a child that allegedly died on May 16, 1985, immediately after birth.
- Birth officials tried to find the document which confirms the birth of my child, but there wasn't any paper that proved his death-says Jasna. -I was, then, given certificates that my son didn't exist neither as living nor as deceased and, according to town hall books, I never gave birth at all.
All the doubtful parents have asked the town hall officials to send them, at their home addresses, reports of their children's birth, photocopies of public birth books, birth certificates as well as the paper based on which child's death was written in and death certificates.
They asked maternity hospitals to send them birth protocol, history of illnesses and a discharge list. Then, they wrote complaints to prosecutions and the police. At the same time, all the accusations were sent to the Town police department and the Second prosecution in Belgrade, where, for seven months now, the investigation on the accusation of Milutin Manojlovic has been led. Milutin Manojlovic, from Sokobanja, claims he has found a girl whom he believes is his daughter Nikoleta who "died" 23 years ago at the Institute for premature babies.
- This is an organized crime of children trading - thinks Milutin Manojlovic from Sokobanja. There is an established system and the brain of everything are respectable doctors at various hospitals in Serbia.
As suspicious parents say, "baby mafia" first selects an unborn child, finds a buyer and seeks a relative to be joined in the act. A child is born, in most of the cases, mother never sees it again nor she breast-feeds it, so it could accept its new parents more easily. During all the time of uncertainty, "bribed" relatives inform the mother and the rest of the relatives and prepare them for allegedly inevitable death. For a baby that "dies" like that there is no discharge list and no death certificate, and only after constant claims and after many months, or even years, parents get the postmortem results without the institution protocol number, signature and with blurred seals which can't be read properly.
Search for - a son
- Doctors who took part in the project of children theft, together with other medical staff and trusting people from public birth offices, made inner documentation, which, later, inexplicably disappeared - says Manojlovic.
As it could be heard at the meetings of doubtful parents in Sokobanja, the price of a stolen child goes from 250,000 to 2,5 million DEM. Large number of our children has been sold in Western Europe and the USA, while female babies end in Albanian families.
Sasa and Olivera Bogojevic suspect their child was stolen in 1993. Olivera gave birth to twin boys and babies were soon transferred to the Institute for neonatology. They were then told that one of the babies died…
Danica Dimitrijevic from Belgrade says she has never doubted the fact that she gave birth to a healthy male child on July 27, 1969 at 14.55 and that he was stolen after a few days!
Why only now ?
- When, this year, I have decided to officially ask for all the papers they told me I was insane to do that after 36 years - says Snezana.
They have also filed a complaint in order to "consent" the authorized to start the investigation about the suspicious death of babies at maternity hospitals. They have been trying to prove what has, up till now, been non provable for many people, certain that no one could deny reaching the real truth about their children who allegedly died at maternity hospital in Nis.
Sofijanka (42) and Miodrag (48) Milojevic, from Mozgov near Aleksinac, are certain their baby died under mysterious circumstances in 1986 at the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth in Nis. Their suspicions were, especially, enlarged by controversial documentation they got for their allegedly deceased child.
Like many other doubtful parents, the Milojevic were not allowed to see their child, or to bury it.
- They played patriots and buried our children at their cost, even though we insisted on doing it ourselves - says Sofijanka Milojevic.
This story about the sad destiny of family Milojevic starts, like many others, at a maternity hospital. Sofijanka gave birth to a baby boy, with grade 9, on May 22, 1986 in the evening hours at the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth in Nis. As she says, the baby cried and she kissed her newborn.
I didn't see the baby
- The next day the baby wasn't brought to me in terms for breast-feeding and when I asked where it was, they said : "We'll see, we don't know" - Sofijanka remembers.
A midwife gave me some papers to sign. My husband and I weren't allowed to see the baby. My husband was preliminary told that the child "went blue, that they couldn't do anything and they were waiting for God to decide what was going to happen".
Sofijanka Milojevic has been dreaming her son, night after night, for sixteen years. When, this year, they started a private investigation about their child, for whom they believe to be alive, they asked, from maternity hospital in Nis, a birth protocol certificate, medical history, discharge list with evaluation and postmortem results.
They received a haggard copy of the discharge list with medical history birth number 1577, with decription "male child 3,100 g/49 cm, born on May 22, 1986", with remark that the information was copied from the birth protocol. There was no word that the child died.
The Milojevic have already had a discharge list from 1986, but with birth number 03718 with evaluation that the child was born and died on May 23, the same year.
In their accusation, the Milojevic state that the postmortem demand and report about the results were signed by the same person, Slavica Jovanovic, but without doctor's facsimile or a seal, and that the documents have the date November 23, 1986. written on.
Father driven away by doctors
When they asked for the documentation at the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth in Nis, the Milojevic were told that that was a respectable institution in which 4,000 babies were born every year and that numerous suspicions are fouling that maternity hospital. - We were told that somebody read our fortune from the coffee cup and that made us doubt in our child's death! - claims Miodrag Milojevic.
Vukadinka Pesic, an electric engineer from Nis, tells a similar story. She says that she remembers well that, 20 years ago, she was examined by a doctor, at maternity hospital in Nis, who said she was going to have a pelvis delivery. She was told to stay at the hospital and that he would deliver her the next morning.
My mother-in-law, Vukosava, came and disbelieved right away. "Give me our child to see it and take it home. It is ours, no matter what it's like. He cried; and if he is dead we want to bury him."
Doctors and nurses ran away from Vukadinka like she had plague. They hardly managed to calm her down, but they didn't let her see the baby.
I demanded a postmortem and only recently received a paper about the authopsy, but without a seal. It was signed by a doctor Xinov two months after the alleged death. When I said there was no seal, they put one and said: "Here it is. You are throwing your money. You can't prove anything." Only recently my husband Slavisa has told me that he tried to see the baby on the day it was born. He reached the third floor, he says, but six doctors pushed him away from there.
Vukadinka, who, after this, gave birth to two healthy children, a daughter Marija and a son Marko, is ready to determine what actually happened to her first-born son. If he is alive, and she believes he is, she has to find him no matter what.
- There are a lot of similar cases and this ensures me that illegal, inhumanly acts are in question. I admit I was naïve, but I am not any more - says this woman from Nis.
Today, the suspicions are increased by the lack of required documentation, personal, human assurances that a tragedy happened, impossibility for a mother or a close relative to see the child's body to ensure it has really died.
Doubt after doubt
A few years ago, when the affair at maternity hospital in Nis arose, hard doubts were expressed by: Lidija and Dragan Brdjovic from Vrnjacka Banja and families from Nis and district of Nis: Zorica and Jovan Micakovic, Olgica and Bogdan Filipovic, Zorica and Zoran Stojanovic, Vukica and Zoran Pancic, Sonja and Stanko Jovanovic, Sladjana and Stanko Jovanovic, Sladjana and Radovan Milenkovic, Zorica and Jovan Kocic, Suzana and Miroslav Zdravkovic, Olivera Milic, Lidija Kesic.
They have decided to file criminal complaints and accusations against all those who, as they say, made them miserable; to make things clear. To make sure if there is truth or not. The fact that everyone is telling them that a lot of time has passed means nothing. They say they will endure untill the end.
Biljana and Caslav Momirovic from the village Dzigolj, near Prokuplje, are determined to prove their child was stolen; if not in front of the court, then in front of God, they say. But, unlike the other parents, the Momirovic are looking for two children, two sons.
- We know we are not the only ones who are looking for their allegedly deceased children. Family Gopic from the village Babotinac, had the same troubles, at about the same time; as well as the Ivankovic from Bozurna. We have decided to do everything, in our possibility, to find our children - says Caslav Momirovic.
A child died
Biljana says that she gave birth to the first child on January 10, 1983; it was 2,200 g heavy. It cried immediately. She saw it and a midwife said: "Look, woman, you have a son!" However, the baby wasn't brought to her for two days.
- On the third day a doctor shortly said that the child had died. There was no explanation, not a single word of comfort. Only that I was still young and I would have more children - says Biljana Momirovic.
A year later, on January 26, Biljana gave birth to a daughter. She left the hospital with her very soon after the delivery. Today, she is a beautiful, healthy girl.
On July 26, 1985 Biljana and Caslav got their third child. Biljana regularly went to examinations and she was told that everything was satisfactory. On Saint Archangel Mihailo, their village celebration gathering, Caslav took her to the same hospital where she was delivered the first time. He was told that she gave birth to a boy and he was happy. According to the words of nurses and doctors, the baby was vital - say the Momirovic.
- The boy was healthy and cried loudly, but, after the first time, he wasn't brought to me again for breast-feeding-continues Biljana.
Caslav adds that he came to the hospital right after Biljana's delivery and that he was told that everything was all right and that he should go home and treat the neighbors because he got a son!
There was no postmortem
- So, I did. And then, right out of the blue, a news that the child got blood surge to the brain. I was also convinced not to see him, that it was better that way. They said the body would be sent to postmortem. I asked when we would know what had happened. "You'll receive the answer by mail", they said - reminds Caslav.
As the time passed Caslav started thinking that Biljana shouldn't give birth anymore, that she maybe had a hidden disease. This is why they went to various examinations in Nis, and then in Belgrade, where doctors determined that she was completely healthy. They hesitated a long time with new pregnancy-eight years. Finally, the Momirovic got another baby, born in Nis on January 27, 1993. That is their nine-year-old son Vlada, a boy cheerful and full of temperament.
- But, we are thinking, how can it be that she carried out only one of three boys. Worm of doubt is biting. For years we both had a dream about the son born on July 26, 1985. It was one, terribly corresponding dream. I dreamt a house and him, fair-haired baby, and a woman in black and another woman who was keeping him. There was a fountain in front of the house and an apple tree above it, big and branched out… And a store in the neighborhood - says Biljana. - We have always doubted in what was said to us at hospital in Prokuplje.
Caslav claims that he has never looked for any links when Biljana gave birth, nor he knew which of the doctors was working in that shift.
Dreams or reality
Momirovic says that, above all, using the parental instinct and will, they have found a boy who could be their son in the district of Aleksinac.
- We are illiterate people, farmers, but we know the children for adoption are taken from the orphanage in Zvecanska Street and not straight from maternity hospital. And we know the adoption is a hard and long lasting procedure. She says that she has the contract about the adoption. It's not a land for sale to need a contract! Mother of the boy is supposedly a doctor from Sokobanja who has left him and hasn't showed for all these years. They don't agree to do the blood analysis to determine whether I am the father or not. I am not that illiterate not to know that the blood is always the same and that it has nothing to do with puberty and other stories.
Biljana says that they went to that house and talked about everything.
The Momirovic are certain that, in the end, the justice will win. It is important that we have found the boy.
What have you been waiting for ?
- We saw in the papers that the Prosecution in Prokuplje asks why we haven't filed the accusation up to now and claim that cases like this get obsolete after three to six years the most. We haven't yet received an official answer. If somebody stole our child, isn't that a crime? I don't understand how it could get obsolete-asks Caslav. Especially if the Prosecution in Prokuplje says that "they don't exclude the possibility that there have been cases, like the case of family from Dzigolj, in the eighties!"
What many parents are trying to do now, Lidija and Dragan Brdjovic from Vrnjacka Banja dared to do several years ago. They publicly, by name and surname, called and accused a couple from Nis for stealing their child at a maternity hospital. The big psychological drama in Nis started on February 1988 when the Brdjovic decided to, somehow, reach the truth after 18 years of silence and searching. To find out whether their daughter Ana died on December 23, 1980 or her death was faked in order to make her a pet child in another family.
Beside filing a criminal complaint to the Public prosecution in Nis the Brdjovic have, also, opened their hearts to a local newspaper and hardly accused a respectable couple of stealing their daughter from a maternity hospital. In, up to then, unnoted situation Lidija and Dragan counted, by their names, many people whom they described as contributors of a big theft of their child.
Delivered woman gone
It is interesting that a day before we published the names of the couple the Brdjovic accused for stealing their baby the man, suspected by the Brdjovic, showed, at our local newspaper building, asking us not to publish their names in public. What were the bases of the Brdjovic's hard accusations?
Concerning the claims from their criminal accusation the doubt was, at the beginning, arisen by unusual examinations for a pregnant woman. As they claimed in the accusation, Lidija Brdjovic's blood was taken into ten test tubes, with doctors' persuasion that that is done in order to establish health condition of a mother and a child.
- There was a nurse at the clinic in Nis, who was a close relative to my wife's brother-in-law and a friend of a woman from Nis who, we suspect, stole our daughter-said Brdjovic in the criminal accusation.
On the seventh day after birth, as Brdjovic said, the child was breast-fed in the morning and then three hours later and there were no signs which would point to any kind of anomaly. When, before leaving the maternity hospital, Lidija had to breast-feed her daughter once more, the authorized midwife said that something was wrong with the baby and that Lidija should go see the doctor.
- Coldly, insensitively, and with raised tone of voice the doctor told Lidija that her baby died - said Dragan Brdjovic in the accusation.
The Brdjovic point out that Lidija insisted on seeing the deceased baby, but the nurses gave her an injection and put a gauze under her nose. After that Lidija was given a small piece of paper which she signed on their insistence and in shock and fear.
Responce to the accusation
- At that moment Lidija's former brother-in-law showed up and persuaded her not to see her deceased baby by saying: "Let it go. Think about yourself. You are young, you'll have more children!" says Dragan Brdjovic.
After checking by telephone the unhappy Dragan Brdjovic found out that the baby hadn't been sent to Balgrade for postmortem, as it wasn't a usual thing to do. The only written clue about baby's death is discharge list number 14220, while there is no document from the postmortem. At the same time, the remains of the child weren't given to the Brdjovic so they couldn't even bury their daughter.
- I was told that the child died at 11, but the discharge list says she died at 12 o'clock. We never received the postmortem results - claims Brdjovic.
Lidija and Dragan Brdjovic have doubted all the time in their daughter's death and the main cause to start "the action" of proving their child was stolen was a sudden question through "a third hand". However, one of their relatives asked another relative: "Why don't Lidija and Dragan enquire if their child is alive?"
This affair in Nis ended with the decision of the Public prosecution, which disregarded the Brdjovic's criminal accusation as unfounded. At the same time, the accused couple from Nis sued the Brdjovic.
Lidija and Dragan Brdjovic's public speaking arose the avalanche of doubts of many parents whose children died at the maternity hospital in Nis at that period.
The Brdjovic have even claimed that the child that lives with the accused couple in Nis resembles Lidija very much. They said they would accept to give blood and, by another method, determine whose the child is.
They have publicly stated that they would agree to a maximum possible punshment if they had wrongly accused the couple from Nis. Their goal was to find the truth because, as Dragan says, he has two sons with Lidija, Srdjan and Filip, and he wants their daughter, he knows they are her parents, to have brothers.
- We have told everything to our sons and they look forward to see their sister-claims Dragan.
They are also afflicted parents who are, without reservations, looking for hope they will maybe find their long lost children, who, they suspect, were stolen from maternity hospitals after birth.
A lot of hard questions and even harder dilemmas don't give peace to Ljiljana and Jovica Vuckovic.
Jovica's wife, Ljiljana, gave birth to son Vukasin in 1988. After three years she was pregnant again and on August 27, 1991 went to the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth in Visegradska Street in Belgrade for pregnancy maintenance.
Autopsy without a seal
- I have spent two days lying, with my water broken, completely alone in the room, and they wanted me to go to ultrasound, to do some analyses - says Ljiljana. When, on October 15, she felt pain she went to delivery box literally by herself and everything went fine. She gave birth to a male baby that cried. She was then told that baby had to spend some time in the incubator. However, soon Dr Kostic told her "not to worry, she is still young and the child died". Allegedly, the baby's capillaries broke.
- I came to the hospital only the next day, not knowing what was going on since I didn't receive any information. After three hours I managed to reach the ward where Ljiljana, who I found in tears, was lying - says Jovica Vuckovic.
After a great trauma, the Vuckovic decided to determine, by blood analysis, whether there was a genetic problem that caused the child's death. Nevertheless, at the Institute for blood analyses a doctor told them that everything was all right with them, the delivery was normal and that doctors were guilty for the fatal outcome.
In 1993 Ljiljana gives birth to son Nikola and, four years later to daughter Jelena.
Boy the same as father
She has never doubted that, on July 27, 1969 at 14.55, she gave birth to a healthy male child and that it was stolen after a few days!
- The fact I haven't succeeded until now can only be upon the souls of those who wanted to ruin me with this shameless act-says Danica.
Danica has hired detectives and lawyers, but in vain. They cheated her and took her money so she decided to look for her son by herself.
One day, in 1991, she noticed a boy, in front of the Faculty of engineering, walking towards her. He told her something while passing by and Danica collapsed… The boy was a copy of Danica's boyfriend, her great love, who was strongly built, characteristic and with a nose deviation so he had a specific tone of voice. Danica immediately ran to see the dean of the Faculty of engineering and asked him to see the photos of the students enrolled in 1988, the year her son was supposed to be enrolled. She told the dean about her doubts and he told her shortly and to the point that she was a selfish mother. After that she decided to start everything again… 33 years ago Danica Dimitrijevic fell in love with a young man and got pregnant. She gave birth to a son, 2 kg heavy and 49 cm long, at "Dr Dragisa Misovic" hospital in Belgrade. Three days after the delivery she saw, through a hospital window, a midwife, in the yard, giving her child to somebody in a van. Later, they explained her that the child was transferred to the Center for premature babies in Kralja Milutina Street.
- From August 6-8 I was given medications and I slept continuously. When I woke up, my sister came and I left the hospital, by compulsion and on my own request,. In the mean time they showed the baby to my sister, but she was deceived. Imagine the thieves, they showed her a deformed child, a yellowish baby only 30 cm long-says Danica. - We went straight to the Center for premature babies to see and take the child. And there, in, a very short way, a doctor who presented himself as Cetko Brajovic said my child was dead. My sister took me home. Then, came a neighbor, who received a telegram from the hospital, which said: "Your child died on August 6, 1969 at 13h. The child will be buried on our cost".
Military secret regime
The next day Danica went to the hospital and asked to see the child-dead or alive, but everybody ran away from her. The next six months she spent standing or sitting in front of the hospital, from morning till dark.
- I didn't want to leave. I just kept repeating them to give me my child back. I cursed them and swore, but everybody kept their looks away. They couldn't move me away from the door so they kicked me while passing by. But everything was in vain-says Danica. - Then, my firm sent me to a construction site in Zambia where I spent a year and a half.
In 1994 Danica Dimitrijevic filed a complaint to the Public prosecution in Belgrade in which she stated that children born with 2 kg were not supposed to be sent to a hospital for premature babies, they were not written in birth, but only in death books…
Deputy of the public prosecutor, Milorad Trnanic, quickly answeres her, in a few lines, that complete obsoletenes for criminal prosecution began and that there was no foundation for prosecution. - My child was subsequently written in birth books, in 1993, to cover the track. Chief of birth service at the Town hall Savski Venac, Branko Stefanovic, told me directly in the eyes that the crime has been commited over me - states Danica. Deputy director of, that day's, Institution for premature babies, Vidosav Jovanovic, told me nine years ago, as well as recently, that I could have seen my child if I wanted to. Seven days is a deadline, and I have live witnesses to prove I was thrown out of the hospital entrance and forbidden to go inside. When I asked for medical history they gave me a confirmation of child's death.
- Instead of required papers, at the hospital, I was given a confirmation that the documentation had been destroyed. Even if it hadn't been, one could only see it with court order - says Danica.
- As if it is a military secret. They have invented that in order to cover their crime.
He is one of, just a few, parents who was allowed, by maternity hospital, to bury his child after a sudden death. His relatives were delivered a small coffin, without any paper, and the child was buried. 31 years have passed since then. Slavoljub Milenkovic (57) from the village Trnjane, a teleprintist at a railway station in Aleksinac, for all the long and sad years couldn't bare the fact his son really died.
- My child was stolen! - says Slavoljub. - I also know where my son is. A rich family from Nis bought him.
Life imbued with doubt
As she couldn't breast-feed the baby Milica was transferred to children ward of the hospital in Aleksinac where they spent about 15 days. In that period it was determined that the child wasn't well so Dr Trajkovic suggested that the mother should be relocated to a hospital in Nis with the baby.
- I immediately lost patience because my doubts proved to be justified. How can it be that my son died and his death isn't written anywhere? - says Slavoljub. - I went to see an inspector of the police department in Aleksinac whom I told what was going on. On his recommendation I filed the accusation to the Public prosecution.
Search for Sanja
Mica was called aside and told that the boy was, thank God, alive and holding on, but the girl had died. She had lived for five days and it was over. Heaven turned for him. She was gone, just like that! He wasn't able to ask how, why, where she was… In low spirits and in fear whether his son was going to survive he went home to Obrenovac. For couple of days he didn't want to tell Verica in order not to affect and shock her.
Grana Stefan (40) from Nis claims she has found a boy she thinks is her son who allegedly died 15 years ago at maternity hospital in Nis. For four years now she has been watching a boy in Nis for whom she says looks like his twin sister, her daughter Marija.
- My heart tells me to approach him, but the mind prevails. I look at him, refrain from coming close, my soul hurts, I cry, but I can't go near; and I'm looking at my child - says Grana.
The unhappy mother not only doubts, but she has already filed a private accusation against the medical staff at the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth in Nis, demanding from the police and justice to finally start the investigation about everything that happened to her in 1987.
However, she has recently received a notice, from the deputy Public prosecutor, Tamara Mirovic, which said that her criminal accusation against John Doe for taking an under aged child and alteration of the family status was obsolete for any criminal prosecution! - How can it be obsolete? It should be known that all the terms start from the day of discovery - Grana wonders. - Prosecution brings decisions like that and, at the same time, the police in Nis start the investigation on the same criminal accusation.
Grana's story starts in May 1987 when, the pregnant woman was looking forward to her twins. She was delivered on May 11 at maternity hospital in Nis. She gave birth to a girl and a boy, identical twins. She was delivered by a doctor, who was a foreign citizen and the babies were fine, they both cried…
- The pregnancy and the delivery were normal. The babies were taken to the baby block and put into incubators. A doctor examined them and said everything was all right - says Grana. - The next day, about ten o'clock Dr Zecevic came to my room and, looking at my list, told me the male baby was dead. I was given injections and I fell asleep. When, after that I wanted to see my son's body they said it had already been taken to postmortem. After 40 days I left the hospital, dissatisfied with medical treatment and doubting in the story of medical staff that my child had died. Long and hard years passed and Grana never reconciled with doctors' claims. When she went to church she could never light a candle for her son as for a deceased person. Uncomforted mother's heart told her that her male child was alive and well, but with another family.
Of course, it wasn't just the feelings overcoming the common sense. The complex of various circumstances and situations increased Grana's hard doubts. About six months after the delivery, while she was walking her baby girl in her neighborhood she accidentally came across the doctor who did the delivery.
- I delivered you. Do you remember me? - he asked me. How could I not remember him - says Grana. - Then he asked me where my other child was. When I told him the male twin had died he was first speechless and then he said it was impossible! He said he was sure the other child was alive and promised to examine the whole situation. I know he "dug" and when he was close to the end he was exposed and had to return to his country. He received a letter from the hospital, which said he had to leave Nis and Yugoslavia. Coincidence or the first actual clue about the child that allegedly died at maternity hospital? Grana Stefan could hardly sleep peacefully. She dreamt about her boy every night. After meeting the doctor who delivered her she experienced another shock.
She took her six months old daughter to the sanitary service in Nis for the required hips X-rays where she was met by Dr Momcilovic's question: "Why did you bring your son again? You were here yesterday!" - I explained that it was my daughter, I even undressed her, but the doctor was certain that he had seen the same baby the day before, only male-says Grana. - He told me to come again and, after two weeks he just said he "didn't know anything about the case"! I assume the confusion was arisen by my Marija's twin brother who was brought for examination a day before by somebody else.
Grana Stefan then followed the great affair about babies' deaths at maternity hospital in Nis in 1997 and, also the last one, which started with the claim of family Manojlovic from Sokobanja in which they say they have found a girl whom they think is their daughter Nikoleta who allegedly died 23 years ago. Then she started search for the papers of her allegedly deceased son. She thought that, as the mother, she had the right to get the complete documentation about her son so she went to maternity hospital in Nis. She was, there, told that they couldn't give her the papers because a lot of time has passed and that they didn't keep the archive for such a long time. She was referred to the clerk's office at the Clinic but they wouldn't accept her claim.
This is why she went to the History archive in Nis where she got confirmation, black on white, that the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth has the medical archive documentation from 1954 to 1996 at their disposal! - I went to the maternity hospital again. The chief of the children ward asked me what kind of request I had, because it was similar to others, brought, those days, by other suspicious parents-says Grana. -I got nervous and started to cry. Then, they called a nurse who worked at the documentation office and asked her if they had documents from 1987. She got confused and said that they had had floods and she had to check. I went to the chek-in desk with her where she showed me a notebook and said: "Ah, here it is, 1987, come back in a few days…" I went there again, of course, and the chief showed me three documents, but the two of them I didn't see properly. She asked me if my signature was on one of them and when I said it wasn't she got startled and said she had to go to the legal service. She then told me I couldn't get the papers because the nurse who worked at the documentation office was on vacation. I asked them to send me the documentation by mail and warned them to think about what they were going to write because I had a living son as a proof! Up to these days I never received the promised documentation about my allegedly deceased son.
Grana expects that the investigation on her accusation will soon have the first results. She'll have to wait for the country to do something believing that the authorized people will finally understand that numerous mothers don't suspect for no reason, nor because they are persuaded by somebody to start the investigation about their children, just like they tried to persuade her at maternity hospital in Nis by asking: "Who is behind you?" - I have the right to find out the truth about my child and no one can deny that. It is not our intention to soil medical institutions, as they say it is-says Grana. - My daughter Marija can hardly wait to meet her twin brother and, as she says, fill the emptiness she has been feeling for him for years. Grana Stefan claims she knows which people have the boy she thinks is her "deceased son". She saw him in Nis in 1998 for the first time. She got the name of the woman, who is now "the mother" of her son, in an unusual way. In her hands she held a piece of paper with that person's name, which she got from a woman… For now Grana can't speak about other details.
In her private accusation Grana Stefan claims that she got the postmortem result a year after the delivery, with the date June 23, 1987, without the seal, the signature and facsimile of the person who performed the postmortem. As she claims, she got this strange paper from the same doctor who examined her children at the delivery room.
A lot of mothers were told, while being told their child is dead after the delivery, to go home and that the hospital would bury the child, on their cost.
Stana Corbic from Lopatnica near Kraljevo, who gave birth on December 18, 1979 at the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth in Visegradska Street in Belgrade, wasn't told even this. She gave birth to a son who weighed 2,150 g and was 44 cm long. As she claims, a nurse came and wanted to cut the "wristlet" with child's number with scissors. "Why are you doing that", asked Stana and the woman coldly answered: "You won't need it anymore".
Stana had two daughters from her former marriage and she wanted to give a son to her husband Damjan. - From the moment I was brought to Visegradska everything was suspicious. I was taken there because they assumed they would have to deliver me by Cesarean section. Instead of putting me on delivery table they took me to operating room and delivered me with limited anesthesia. I didn't realize that then - says Stana. - But, later I did. If I had been delivered at maternity hospital, where the protocol book was, everything would have been written in it. They delivered me at the operating room, took the baby, gave it to whoever they planned to and I was just told the sad news. On my persistence I stayed 11 days at the hospital.
9. Call from Belgrade
Stana claims that an elderly professor, as he was introduced to her, said: "For God sake woman, be happy you are alive. You are very ill. Your child is dead and it is better that way. If it had stayed alive, it would have been paralyzed either up or down. Go home and take care of the children you have…"
As a mother she was stunned. She wanted a son… Her husband Damjan comforted her with lots of understanding… Time passed by and, as she says, she would have carried the sorrow in herself if people in the village hadn't started talking. They said that Stana sold her son so that her two daughters could inherit father's property. They even said she murdered him.
- Dull stories that started to insult me, but, also, to bother me. I never believed my child was dead. And then again, how could you not believe doctors? They said so. You could accept the truth but everything was strange, without confirmation - says Stana. - And when I read there were more cases like mine, because the papers wrote about various destinies, thefts… I started to search more persistently.
And, then, something happened, which drove all mothers mad. Stana found a lot of non logical information in the documentation about her child. Nothing agreed with anything. Discharge list says she gave birth to a living child and that the child died a day later, on December 19. This is the only clue. - There is no telegram about death, no death certificate, nothing at all. But, six years later, in 1985, I receive invitation to come to Belgrade and register my child into book of birth because he was supposed to be enrolled into school. It was like a bad dream - says Stana.
- A mistake, confusion - I thought. Damjan told me not to bother and that Dusko, a man my daughter Sanja lived with while she was studing in Belgrade, would go and correct the mistake. And that is exactly what happened. Time passed by and my husband and I went to Italy to work. Time cures everything and even my sorrow. But, every year, on Saint Nicola, the day my son was born, I dreamt him. Alive, running, calling me. And all those black stories and diagnoses that I was so ill - meant nothing. I was healthy, but, as they wrote in my discharge list, I shouldn't be among the living.
Stepfather suddenly died
In situations like that, when mother doubts, something happened, which was maybe hard to understand immediately.
- My daughter's friend showed up and said, knowing our trouble, that there was a young man, near us, who resembled my husband-says Stana. - You know, Damjan is tall and blond and everybody calls him the German. He has characteristic look and there are only few people like him in the neighborhood. The young man knows he was adopted and that he was born at maternity hospital in Belgrade. By his years he corresponded to my son.
Stana hesitated because she didn't have the strength to go right away. It was too big turning point for her to meet the young man unprepared:
For the last couple of months, in Belgrade, Stana has been trying to solve numerous soils in documentation. - It turns out that the child was registered into birth book on December 19, 1979, which means that he first died and then was born. There is no information in the book of dead, only in the book of birth stands a remark, added in hand writing, that the child died. And it happened when we received the invitation to register him in the birth book. So, it has been added on our observation because we gave them the information about death - says Stana.
Books for crying
- I asked for the birth certificate at the birth office. The chief asked me what I was looking for after a hundred years. I told her I was looking for my son. "Well, do you know that he is now a grown man?" - she asked angrily. She didn't say that he would have been a grown man. That meant something. She also said: "I know you are "instigated" and sent by that maniac Manojlovic from Sokobanja. It has been heard that we were "digging", searching. She wouldn't accept our demand for issuing birth and death certificates, as a nameless child was in question. And we had birth certificates for nameless children, issued by other birth offices. Which meant, some could get it and some couldn't. The law is supposed to be the same on the whole territory of Serbia.
Stana Corbic claims that she got the confirmation from the hospital that she was accepted to that institution, that she gave birth to a living male child, but it doesn't say the child died. - On one side there is confirmation that he died but he wasn't born and, on the other side, that he was born but it doesn't say he died. Information is missing from the book of dead - there is no name and surname, hour and minute of death and no date of the report of death - says Stana. - How can I know it is my child? It says, further on, that the child was registered in as dead on January 3, 1980 and on January 19 as alive. God help us.
Like many other mothers Stana is convinced that hard deception is behind all this. She announces that, together with her husband, she will prosecute everyone until they prove who stole their child. - We will find him. He hasn't disappeared from the face of the earth. I believe that, when somebody sees Damjan's photo from the youth, they will recognize a young man who is his son. Or he will do it himself. If he knows he was adopted, and we have heard that his father admitted that to him when he was dying, he will start the search himself. It only takes a little effort to encounter.
Inexplicable act of sacrilage
According to the Orthodox Church not giving a deceased child to its mother, who carried it in her womb, is an act of inexplicable sacrilege of everything a human is supposed to be by God's conception. - Every human being that comes to this world alive has the right to be baptized and buried decently and has the right to have a grave to rest in - said a priest father Rasa regarding the affair of suddenly died babies, which shook up Nis several years ago. - Modern age conditions deliveries at specialized institutions, maternity hospitals. Most of the staff that help women deliver their children to this world know that when there is, even the slightest, risk, which brings the survival of the child in question a, so called, "shortened" or "clinical" baptism can be performed. That ceremony is done over a living child and it takes only a few seconds.
However, if the baptism isn't done, even beside that, deceased child has to be given back to its parents, before all to its mother, who carried it and brought it to this world. - A deceased newborn has to be buried as a deceased human being, since every newborn is human, which means the icon of God - said father Rasa. - Postmortem is done with mother's consent and after that a child is given to parents to decently bury it and to know the grave where it is going to rest after being in this world, no matter how short that stay may be. Not to bury a dead child means to sacrilege everything holy and human in this world. No body has the right and no body is allowed to deny that to deceased human being or to parents.
She is also one of the mothers who suspect that doctors played with destiny of her family and the child, who was born and who suddenly died under mysterious circumstances. Jasna Spasojevic (42), a commercialist at "Zastava" in Kragujevac, was delivered, by Dr Nikolov, on May 16, 1985 at the town maternity hospital. She gave birth to a male child by Cesarean section.
When Jasna's husband Milan wanted to see the baby a doctor told him the child died by saying "you're young, you'll have more children". He said the child died from hard anomalies and that it was better he didn't see it.
- I thought it was my fault the child had died because I bore with hard pain until the delivery. However, my husband still suspected the doctor's words. The fact I was being given sleeping medications for 12 days at the hospital also brings us to suspicion. I didn't remember anything; I was like drugged. I wasn't able to react and ask the doctor to show me the baby - says Jasna.
A month ago, when the avalanche of many parents' suspicions, that their children were taken, started, Jasna experienced another shock at the Town hall Kragujevac when she asked for the birth certificate.
- The employees at the birth service have unsuccessfully tried to find the document that confirms my child's birth. Also, there wasn't any paper that would confirm his death. According to Town hall books I wasn't even delivered. I was given confirmations, at the Town hall, black on white, that my son existed neither among the living nor among the deceased - says Jasna Spasojevic.
- And when I asked for the documentation at the hospital I was told: "It is obsolete, you can't get anything without the court order!" They demand a request for my son's documentation, as if I come from the street to ask for any child's papers.
According to her words, the hospital documentation she has already had is incomplete. The discharge list first said that the child was born alive and then, over that word, it was typed - dead. - The discharge list shows that it has subsequently occurred to somebody to announce the baby dead. Also, the information from the discharge list do not agree with the information from the postmortem result, which we received by consequent involvement of my husband and which didn't have doctor's facsimile. The first document says that the child weighed 2,920 g and the second 2,870g - says Jasna Spasojevic who can't understand the incongruities in the documentation even today.
Spasojevic family believe that the doctor who delivered Jasna and who now has a private practice in Kragujevac can maybe help them find the real truth about what happened to their newborn, after 17 years.
Similar suspicions were expressed by Milka (47) and Zivan (55) Agatonovic from Kragujevac, employees at the Factory of assignation products at "Zastava" who have a 27-year-old son Sasa and, two years younger, daughter Sonja. They have grandchildren, but, even today, they can't sleep peacefully because of what happened to their first-born son, a premature baby born on September 26, 1974 at maternity hospital in Kragujevac.
- The baby weighed 1,630 g and was 46 cm long. They wrapped up the baby and said it had to be taken to Nis, to the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth due to an infection - says Milka Agatonovic. - I wasn't taken there; I stayed at the hospital in Kragujevac. My husband was given a telephone number on which he could ask about the baby's condition, but that number was always busy. Seeing that something was wrong Zivan went to the Clinic in Nis on the morning of October 5.
Logic trail of hope
- I enter the ward, they show me boxes with the babies and explain that everything is all right with my child - says Zivko Agatonovic. - They say there is no more artificial milk for the babies and that I should bring my wife right away to breast-feed our son. On the morning of October 7 may wife and I arrive in Nis.
Milka explains that immediately after they had arrived she asked to see her baby. However, a midwife went from box to box, but there was no Agatonovic child.
Revolted, Zivan went from door to door searching for the explanation. Nevertheless, all the doors were locked. Only a cleaning lady addressed him. - She said: "They knew you were coming. Everything's locked. You'd better go home" - says Zivan. - After a few days we received a letter from a doctor from the Clinic for gynecology in Nis in which he wrote that the staff couldn't inform us about the death because they knew neither our address nor the telephone number.
- Everything becomes clear when you compare the dates. On October 5 I went to the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth in Nis. I was taken among the boxes with babies, I was told that our baby was alive and well and then they distracted us with claims our baby died on September 30?! - says embittered Zivan - Doctors in Nis claim they informed the chief nurse at maternity hospital in Kragujevac about our child's death right away. How come she didn't inform my wife, who was lying there, but waited for us to go to Nis again?
On account of all these strange events, after 26 years, the Agatonovic filed a demand to maternity hospital in Nis for issuing all the documents about their son's death. They point out that it is interesting that at that time there were two babies, at the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth in Nis, referred from maternity hospital in Kragujevac. That fact gave hope to the Agatonovic that they would, at least, anticipate the lead they were supposed to follow in the search for their possibly alive son.
- There was a woman from Malosevac, near Kragujevac, on the ward. She was told that they brought her a baby for breast-feeding until October 5. We will have to find that woman because she might know more about our son's destiny - Milka and Zivko Agatonovic hope.
A list getting longer
Families from Belgrade also express their suspicions that their babies were stolen after birth - Nada and Dragoljub Malovic, Vida and Miroslav Gajic, Danijela and Radmilo Stojanovic, Milena and Nenad Jankovic, Mirjana and Vlada Novokmet, Snezana and Stojan Vukmirovic, Stana and Djordje Nikolic, Sladjana and Stevan Pantic, as well as Mirjana and Mladen Milankovic.
For their allegedly deceased babies are searching Jasmina and Radovan Todorovic from Pristina, Radojka and Zoran Delibasic from Kosovska Mitrovica, Mirjana and Jovica Ilic from Pozarevac, Jelka and Drago Draskovic from Vrbas, Katarina Zivkovic from Zrenjanin, Zaga and Caslav Jankovic, and Vukica and Aleksandar Stankovic from Nis, Stana Milojevic from Mozgov, near Aleksinac, Zoran Trajkovic from Bujanovac.
A German woman from Vienna, Jolanda Prokop, who gave birth to male twins in 1962 in Becej also doubts. One of the babies allegedly died after moving to the Institution for premature babies in Belgrade. Recently, the survived twin had to look for his birth certificate in Becej, but there was nothing except the note that Jolanda gave birth to two sons. All the families said that nobody had the right to deny them their right to suspect and search the truth about their allegedly deceased children, pointing out that they would have never thought that somebody stole their children if the doctors at maternity hospitals and administrations at town halls hadn't "made an effort".
Their doubts are heated up with various mistakes on required documentation. This is why Sasa (33) and Olivera (30) Bogojevic from Belgrade decided to reach the end and finally solve what had really happened with one of their male twins, for whom they were told, died.
Olivera Bogojevic carried twins and she gave birth on August 25, 1993 at the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth in Visegradska Street in Belgrade. She was told the boys were fine and there was no need to worry. They were then transferred to the neonatology ward. The next day Dr Kostic told Olivera that one of the babies died and comforted her by saying: "You are young, you will have more children…" Her husband Sasa wasn't allowed to enter the hospital and they received negative answers on their demands to see the deceased baby.
- The next morning I was discharged from the hospital while the other baby stayed for a treatment. During the next month we could only inform about our child by telephone. They discharged him without any paper - says Olivera Bogojevic. - We managed to, somehow, obtain the postmortem report, which had neither our baby's personal number nor the information about me. There were only name and surname. As the cause of death they stated mass bleeding into brain chambers. It wasn't even written who the responsible accoucheur was.
- While, for a short time, I lay at the neonatology ward I entered the ward where my son was supposed to be in an incubator. There, I found a woman in green uniform, holding my child. I managed to take a photo of her - says Olivera. - Who was that woman holding a child that was, supposedly, in such bad condition it had to be in the incubator?
Threats with cremation
Isidor, the second male child of the Bogojevic, who allegedly lost his brother after birth, is now nine years old. Olivera and Sasa are persistent - they know it is hard, but they will continue the search for their son because they don't believe he died at the neonatology ward of the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth in Visegradska Street. As well as the Bogojevic, Olivera Nesic (37), employee at the Town hall Pancevo, has no peace because of contradictory documentation about supposedly deceased children. This woman from Pancevo gave birth to two male twins, in the seventh month of pregnancy, on October 10, 1994.
The babies were transferred to the Institute for premature babies in Belgrade and she stayed at the hospital in Pancevo. On October 12 she received a telegram, which said that her first twin died with a message "unless you come to take the child, we will cremate it".
Olivera left the hospital in Pancevo on October 13 and, the next day, in the morning hours, she went to Belgrade to see her second child. However, she was then told that the other child had also died! - When we wanted to take over the bodies we were told that they had already been cremated. After returning to Pancevo we received a telegram identical to the first one "Receive our condolences, your second child has died. Unless you take the baby for funeral, we will bury it by cremation …" - says Olivera.
When she started her search, a few months ago, Olivera obtained a confirmation from the Public communal service "Funeral" that her babies were cremated on October 21, 1994!
Katarina Zivkovic, who now lives in Zrenjanin, started the search for her supposedly deceased son, who was born on May 6, 1979 in Sokobanja and who suddenly died after three days at maternity hospital in Nis.
- Immediately after the delivery I was relocated to maternity hospital in Nis where the baby was put in an incubator - says Katarina. - As I wasn't allowed to see my son I secretly managed to look at him. He looked all right to me, but doctors kept saying that he was generally in bad condition. On May 9, they told me he died.
- I have recently turned to the birth service of the Town hall Sokobanja with request for issuing a birth certificate for my child. A birth official, Milena, told me that the baby wasn't registered as alive, but they had confirmation by which her service was notified about the child's death.
Don't fall for fortune-tellers
When I asked for that document I got a surprising answer that the document was at the police department in Sokobanja! It has remained unclear how can a birth official remember an information like that for 23 years and to suddenly state it from the head? - asks Katarina Zivkovic. - I was received by an inspector at the premises of the Police department and then his "colleague", who didn't introduce himself, appeared and advised me, with good intentions, not to fall for the stories of some "old fortune-tellers" and not to use the numbers, codes by which Milutin Manojlovic from Sokobanja is trying to locate the children.
At the police station Katarina was "advised" not to be paranoid. She was also told that mistakes in leading the documents were possible, but they were not supposed to be "held on to". - The same inspector, whose name was, I found out later, Boban Trifunovic and who was from Kosovo asked me, in the end, "what will I accomplish if I prove everything?!" - says Katarina.
It is interesting that the first reaction came after the Katarina Zivkovic's public statement. Milena Milic, a birth official at the Town hall Sokobanja, reacted although she has been mentioned only by her name in Katarina's statements.
- Mrs. Zivkovic's statement is clean untrue. Conversation about the mentioned documents has been led at the office of the secretary of the Town hall management and, beside me, the secretary and Mrs Zivkovic's cousin were present - states, among other things, birth official Milic. - She was told that the child was registered in the birth book in Sokobanja, that the registration was done subsequently by the decision of the police department after the expiration of the closing date, and that the information about the death was written according to the report, which is the death certificate from the birth service of the Town hall Nis.
However, Katarina Zivkovic holds on to her statements mentioning that she has already written all this in her criminal accusation filed against John Doe perpetrator for taking the under aged child and alteration of family status. And while she is trying to prove, according to many people, the improvable her daughter Aneta has successfully defended her seminary work on the subject "Baby thefts at maternity hospitals"! For her work she has used newspaper articles about this subject, but also her mother Katarina's criminal accusation.
The mere fact that a doctor is capable of selling a baby is sufficient enough to make some people in this country wonder. This was said by Radmila Smiljanic, an opera singer, who has, after the series of newspaper articles about mysterious baby deaths at maternity hospitals, publicly declared her suspicions that her daughter died after 33 years ago after birth.
The prima donna said that every child, if it was born alive and cried, has the right to be buried. - Has anybody ever wondered what happens to those babies? Are they burnt, thrown into plaster, sold for pork and 200-300 EU and parents' eyes are soiled. If a mother gives a part of her womb to a doctor it is regularity to get her baby back, even if it is dead. To have the right for a coffin and a grave she could visit! No matter how painful that could be - pointed out prima donna Radmila Smiljanic in her confession. - Who knows in how many cases the mothers were told their children were dead when they were alive, healthy and sold somewhere. Someone is obligated to tell where the diagnoses and postmortem results are. When families had the right to bury their deceased babies there wouldn't be all those sales and indolence that cost families dearly. Mothers would then be without dilemmas.
This year's Easter in Sokobanja was marked with a special event. In the local church a girl Nikoleta was baptized as a member of Manojlovic family from Sokobanja. The Manojlovic claim this is their daughter, whom they've been seeking for 23 years, from the moment they were told the girl died, 11 days after the twins had been born, at the Hospital for premature babies in Belgrade (today's Institute for neonatology).
Was it a faith or coincidence, the Easter was on May 5, the day the Manojlovic girl was born. So the girl, they thought to be Nikoleta, celebrated, at the same time, her birthday with her brother Ljubomir Manojlovic, who should be her twin, five minutes older.
- We searched and found our child that was stolen from us after birth, but this isn't the end. We filed criminal complaint against actual people whom we believe, with reason, organized and performed the act of theft, but we see that the authorized are dealing with that without a special eagerness - says Milutin Manojlovic. - As for us, we have found our child. Many other families, who experienced similar things, have turned to us.
Te;egram about girl's death
Convinced they have discovered the truth of life Radojka (44) and Milutin (44) Manojlovic from Sokobanja, the owners of a small café "M", filed a private complaint to the Public prosecution in Sokobanja on December 12, last year, against John Doe perpetrator of criminal act of the section 117/1 from the Criminal law of Republic of Serbia.
- On December 29, 1977 Radojka and I were married in Belgrade and on May 5, 1979 she gave birth to twins at the Hospital "Narodni front". Male child was born at 22h and female at 22.05 - Manojlovic points out in his accusation. - As premature babies, on May 7, the same year, they were transferred to the Hospital for premature babies in 26 Haile Selassie Street. My wife was then at my parents' house, with my mother Darinka and, now late, father Ljubomir Manojlovic and my half sister Zora Nesovic-Cizmas, who lived with them at the time. On May 16 my mother informed my wife that her daughter had died.
- At the same time, as the Manojlovic state in their accusation, male child was, according to doctors, in very critical condition. However, on June 25, 1979 the boy was discharged from the hospital weighing 2,800 g and with Dr Stevan Dudic's recommendation to leave Belgrade and live with the child in a spa or at the seaside - writes Manojlovic in the accusation.
In their accusation the Manojlovic state that, in the mean time, after many years, their son Ljubomir started a professional career in sport so, recently, they had to take his medical history from the hospital.
- Gathering the documentation for Ljubomir we got to the information that female child named Nikoleta, alive, healthy and weighing 3,200 g, was discharged from the hospital the same day as Ljubomir, i.e. on June 25, 1979! - claim the Manojlovic in their accusation.
In the mean time, a deputy of the Public prosecutor in Sokobanja, Branislava Andjelkovic, presented the Manojlivic's accusation for further competence to the Public prosecution in Belgrade "with regard to the fact the accusation states that the marked criminal act of the alteration of family status, section 117/1, from the Criminal law of the Republic of Serbia was committed on Belgrade territory." After "walking about" the accusation finally reached the Second prosecution in Belgrade and the Manojlovic specified it with actual names.
Discharged alive and well
How could this great deception, which has now grown into an unseen scandal, happen?
There is only one more, very strange, sentence in the mentioned confirmation: "Due to technical reasons we are not in possibility to give you more detailed information."
After obtaining this confirmation there was no peace at the home of the Manojlovic. Radojka and Milutin couldn't sleep for nights. Ljubomir Manojlovic (22), a twin brother of the deceased (or missing) Nikoleta, who is, with all his strength, helping his parents find the truth about the lost sister, claims, with bitterness, that they never received the medical history for Nikoleta so they didn't have the document about what had happened to her before she supposedly died.
- But, in the medical book of the Institute for neonatology, I have seen that beside "female child Manojlovic" there is a specific mark, which means the baby was fine, with the note that she was discharged weighing 3,200 g - claims Ljubomir.
The beginning of this, almost unbelievable story, dates from the time when Radojka, a hand ball player from Benkovac and Milutin, who played football for Galenika, met, fell in love with each other, got married and continued to live in Belgrade. While he was in the army she was expecting a baby. The main trouble was they had the most unfavorable combination of Rh-factors: Radojka had Rh negative and Milutin had Rh positive. The additional problem was there was no examining by ultrasound at that time so Radojka didn't know she was carrying twins.
She didn't see yhe children
- Only when the boy was born, at the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth "Narodni front", Dr Dusan Stanojevic realized there was another child - says Radojka. - He shouted: "Push woman, one more time!" and soon the girl was born. I wanted to see who the boy and who the girl was, but they said: "Kiss them, kiss them quickly, they are small, they have to be put into incubators!" That was my only meeting with the girl.
In the birth protocol of "Narodnog fronta" it is written that the delivery was on May 5, 1979. The boy was born at 22.00, weighing 1,750 g. The girl was born at 22.05, weighing 1,650 g. The delivery was normal, in the 34th week of pregnancy.
Two days later the children were transferred to the Special hospital for premature babies. The mother was kept at "Narodnog fronta" for a few days and then she hurried to the birth official at the Town hall Savski venac to register her children. She needed birth certificates so her husband, as the supporter of the family, could leave the army earlier.
She couldn't see her children and she received the information about them through her husband's parents. It was crude and unfavorable. The information said the boy's condition was bad. The girl wasn't mentioned. On May 14 she was addressed to the Hospital for premature babies to, as a nursing mother, give milk for lactation, but she had no contact with her children.
Then her mother-in-law presented a telegram, which said the girl died on May 16. She lost consciousness and she lost her milk. - I came home from the army two weeks later. In the mean time my father went to speak to Dr Stevan Dudic about the circumstances of girl's death - says Milutin Manojlovic. - Just passing by in the corridor the doctor said she died from blood outflow to the brain. On father's request to take over the body for the funeral Dr Dudic said the body was in bad condition and the scene would be painful. He emphasized that postmortem should be done and that the Hospital would bury the child in the usual way.
The way to the truth was hard. Radojka and Milutin Manojlovic from Sokobanja, who claim their daughter Nikoleta is alive and that she was stolen from the hospital after birth, were aware of that. This is why they have been carefully and in details reminding themselves what was happening in distant 1979 when Radojka gave birth to twins. According to the official version the girl died on May 16.
Father Milutin, who was serving the army during his wife's delivery and who took off the uniform two weeks after the tragic event, immediately went to the Special hospital for premature babies to see Dr Stevan Dudic, who, as he claims, comforted him by saying that he and his wife were young and they would have more children.
- He explained that the children were in incubators and that their bilirubin, which can go up at any time, was regularly controlled - says Milutin Manojlovic. - He claimed that that was exactly what happened to the girl in the moment when nurses changed their shifts and there was no control during that short interval. He repeated that it wouldn't be good to see the body and explained: "When bilirubin goes up it is like when the soup melts in the bath. In the moment of the nurses' shift change bilirubin went up and ate the brain!" To be honest, I didn't react, as I should at that moment. If I had been able to think I would have asked him to write that down. The second thing is that we all know what the time was like back then because if I had suspected anything, I would have surely ended in prison.
Birth or death certificte
When they accepted the harsh fact the Manojlovic concentrated their parental attention on the boy. They asked doctors how to nurse him because they claimed he was in very hard condition. They were told that there were no guarantees, at least not before the puberty. At the same time, they were suggested to change the environment and go to the seaside or a spa.
It was then that Radojka and Milutin brought very important decision to change their lives and leave Belgrade. Milutin remembered he had a legacy in Sokobanja so they became inhabitants of this tourist resort.
Little Ljubomir grew up in Sokobanja and, only in 1998, got his new birth certificate he needed in order to obtain his ID, passport and driver's license. However, the birth certificate was very unusual to the parents because there were no parents' birth numbers and father's year of birth was altered so he was made ten years older.
In the autumn of 2001 Ljubomir decided to start a professional career in football for what he needed a detailed documentation about his health condition. After so many years it was a chance for the Manojlovic to peek into the documentation of their deceased daughter Nikoleta.
At the Town hall Savski venac mother asked for birth certificates for both her children. She got the document for Ljubomir on November 21, while for the other she had to come the next day.
- However, the next day, the young woman at the desk said she couldn't issue the girl's birth certificate. There was a mark, on the computer screen, which said that the certificate couldn't be issued without a court order! - says Radojka Manojlovic. - Then I asked for the death certificate, but they said I couldn't get that either! An argument started, the others interfered, so, in the end, they decided to give me the birth certificate.
Two suspecious details
In that birth certificate the Manojlovic spotted two, for them unusual and suspicious details. First, that Nikoleta was born at 22.51, although the protocol at "Narodnog fronta" said 22.05, while Radojka claims that she would surely remember if the delivery lasted the whole hour. Second, even more drastic detail is additional mark that Nikoleta died and that her death was registered at the book of dead for 1979, under the number 2,222.
However, they have determined, by checking, that, under the same number, a grown man was registered, who died at "Narodnog fronta" and not at the Hospital for premature babies!
Number 2,222 is the birth protocol number at "Narodnog fronta" and the number of the confirmation of death from the Hospital for premature babies was 2,156, signed by Dr Aleksandar Marjanovic, with the seal of registration ambulance and without any information about, so many times mentioned, postmortem. Under this number in the book of death there is information about nameless female child of Radojka and Milutin Manojlovic.
Of course, these discoveries have additionally disturbed the Manojlovic so they went to the Hospital for premature babies, today's Institute for neonatology and required the document about their girl, in the way it is done for any other child. They received the mentioned confirmation that the girl was discharged on June 25, 1979, the same day as the boy. The possibility that an unhappy permutation was in question is small because the boy was registered under number 599 and the girl under number 600, as the confirmation says.
This is why the Manojlovic now have two documents from the same institution - the old confirmation that the child died at the Hospital for premature babies and the new one, which says the child was discharged from the hospital in 1979. They have considered the possibility that an administrative mistake was in question, but Milutin Manojlovic says that it isn't only one, but series of small and big mistakes, which is too much for a newborn.
At the same time, Milutin Manojlovic today believes that somebody at the Special hospital for premature babies intended to also take his son Ljubomir.
Boy however better
Since the very beginning we received information that the male child wasn't well. Dr Dudic kept repeating that even after I left the army and after we were told the girl had died - claims Milutin. - On our second meeting he said the boy was disfigured, that he had lymph in his head and that he didn't have half of his brain! He suggested an injection to "shorten our misery". Milutin said that he refused that by saying that, since one of his children is dead he would take care of the other one "in the way God gave it to him". Father believes that his persistence was in connection with more favorable information about the boy's condition, which started arriving the following days.
This is why he today looks with special eyes on the medical history, below which there are names of Dr Dudic and Dr Slobodanka Ilic, that day's chief of the ward and today's director of the Institute.
In the first part of medical history it is claimed that the child was accepted in hard condition and that was corroborated with information about baby's humble grade, lowered temperature, slackness, shaking, swollen blue skin, accelerated breathing and, what is the most important, lowered calcium and increased bilirubin, which could bring to encephalopathy. Also, the presence of blood and albumin in brain liquid referred to that. This is why the child received transfusion on the first day, on the fourth day its blood was changed; it had phototherapy and received oxygen. The other results were fine.
Parental doubts are arisen by the second part of medical history for which the Manojlovic believe has been written subsequently. It is said that the recovery phase was noticed in the fourth week, before the father came back from the army, so it is unclear why he was suggested to give up on the child in the moments of recovery. The Manojlovic are also uncertain about why and based on which results the child received another transfusion at the end of the stay at the hospital if it had 4,5 million blood cells, which was in the limits of normal.
It is unclear to Radojka and Milutin Manojlovic why it was said that the mother "kept lactation" and "should continue breast-feeding", when she lost milk 40 days earlier, after the news of her daughter's death. Doubts were arisen by the therapy, advised at the discharge, which was deduced to milk, vitamins and iron- for the patient who was "written off".
This is why the Manojlovic think that the second part of medical history, rhymed in this way, should justify drastic suggestions of Dr Dudic and to, somehow, conciliate them with the child's health condition, which turned to be much better. "The written off boy" is now a strong young man, 185cm tall, a student of physical education and an active footballer. He has a younger brother Dragan (21).
On the Manojlovic's public accusations quick reaction came from the Institute for neonatology, that day's Special hospital for premature babies in Belgrade, which says there was a mistake, that is, in the debatable confirmation deceased baby was by mistake declared alive.
Radojka and Milutin Manojlovic from Sokobanja claim their newborn daughter, born in 1979, was stolen. Before they found their Nikoleta they openly asked how could it happen that her birth certificate, issued at the end of 2001, contained drastic "mistakes".
It was those "soils" that made them start searching for their daughter. The Manojlovic pointed out to the additional note in the birth certificate that their Nikoleta died and that her death was registered in the book of dead for 1979 under number 2,222.
- How can it then be that a grown man is registered under that number in the book of dead? - asked Milutin. - Why has the time of child's birth been altered? Why is there no date on children registrations at the Town hall Savski venac? Why aren't my wife's signatures on children registrations identical? Why have some officials at the Town hall Savski venac shaken and got nervous when we asked for our children's documentation? What right do these officials have to try to, in front of us, change the birth books after 22 years? What did they want to change: time of birth, birth registration, death registration, a number in the book of dead and which number…?
Instead of many answers and explanations the Section for general management of the Town hall Savski venac brings a decision on January 11, 2002, with the signature of the chief Snezana Tomasevic, which revolted the Manojlovic since it approved the alteration of the registered death in the book of birth in the section "additional registrations and notes", page 43 under number 2,334 for 1979, at the birth registration of Nikoleta Manojlovic, born on May 5, 1979 in Belgrade, 62 Narodnog fronta Street, and of number 2,222 to 2,156 in the book of dead. In the explanation of this decision it is pointed out that the procedure has been started on the birth official's suggestion, on the official duty for alterations of the fact of death.
- According to performed seeing of the books of birth and death and official papers of the birth office it is determined that the death book number is 2,156 and not 2,222 as it has been done in the death registration into the book of dead and what is proved by the book of dead of the Town hall Savski venac number 2,156/130 for year 1979 and by other evidence - it is pointed out in the explanation of the decision of the Section for general management of the Town hall Savski venac.
To this decision the Manojlovic reacted by complaint in which they point out they started the accusation to Public prosecution in Sokobanja, which was carried to the Public prosecution in Belgrade on December 14, last year. - In the meantime, they persuaded both the public and us that they hadn't made mistakes - claims Milutin Manojlovic. - In the presence of a witness, in the premises of the Town hall Savski venac on December 21, last year, we saw the following on the computer "Birth certificate for Nikoleta Manojlovic can't be obtained without a court order". That day we also couldn't receive the death certificate and one of the officials even tried to, in front of us, make certain corrections! The next day we insisted on issuing any kind of document for Nikoleta so we received the birth certificate in which we immediately noticed numerous irregularities - different time of birth for Nikoleta and in comparison with birth certificate of son Ljubomir different age of the father and different protocol numbers of death for the daughter.
Acquaintance from school
The Manojlovic say that they, then, turned to Gordana Milanovic, deputy chief of the Section for general management of the Town hall Savski venac, who explained that their information is precise and that it was useless to exhaust themselves in the court dispute. As they claim, Gordana Milanovic didn't have the answers to many of their questions so, instead of death certificate, she gave them the confirmation of Nikoleta's death number 256.
- That was a clear sign that we should start the search from the hospital, where all the "mistakes" in the documentation began by our children's birth - points Milutin out. - Beside received delivery protocol certificate from the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth "Narodni front" we asked for medical history for both Ljubomir and Nikoleta from the Institute for neonatology. After about ten days we experienced the following situation at the Institute - there was no medical history for female child, accept that she was discharged on June 25, 1979. After the resulting fuss and consulting with her superior, an official Marjenka Lipovaca gave us the only document for which she had officially accessible information. Instead of demanded medical history she issued our daughter's discharge certificate.
- We were precise and clear. In the mentioned demand number 626 we asked for medical history and not some kind of certificates - points Milutin out. - Then it turned out that the official made "a mistake" so she gave us the certificate instead of the demanded document and still, for the boy we received medical history. If the same official had had medical history for our daughter she would have surely issued it, and not something we didn't ask for.
When they started to compare the numbers from disposable documentation for such children it seemed they discovered a code which baby mafia used to mark where the children were.
The Manojlovic organized a search in the town under Bagdal and reached the information about a family that got children very hard. First, the mother of that family had a miscarriage and then, officially in July 1979 got a girl by Caesarean section and in August 1980 another girl, again by Caesarean section.
Further research for that family brought them to Belgrade. It turned out that the girl, called Nikoleta, went to the same high school as their son, her possible twin brother Ljubomir, who was educated there as a scholar for the Football club Zemun. They knew each other superficially, but that was enough to establish a friendly contact.
The Manojlovic carried their assumptions to Nikoleta during the time and "in doses", and advised her to look for the information about herself in birth books in Krusevac.
- In Nikoleta's birth certificate it was written that the father was born in 1957 and the mother in 1956, which isn't true - says Milutin Manojlovic. - Her sister's birth certificate contained the correct information (father 1948;mother 1960) saying that the father was born in Ratkovac near Orahovac in Kosovo and the mother in Krusevac, which didn't exist in Nikoleta's birth certificate.
- In Nikoleta's birth registration there are dates and places of birth for the parents (both in Krusevac, which isn't true), but the birth certificate doesn't have that information - says Milutin Manojlovic. - The registration says the parents live in Krusevac (without the address), but the birth certificate has the correct address.
As it is well known that first, the birth registration is written and then the birth certificate, the Manojlovic believe that the original birth certificate was made first and that the parents' address was copied from it to the birth certificate. Then, according to their words, the original registration was destroyed and recently the false one has been made, which doesn't have the address, but it has a forged mother's signature. By seeing all that Nikoleta decided to go to Sokobanja for Easter, to be baptized and to celebrate her birthday with Ljubomir as with a twin brother.
"Belgrade mother" and "parents from Sokobanja" met on May 20 on Nikoleta's demand. The Manojlovic say they came to the meeting with bundles of papers and documentation while "Belgrade mother" didn't have anything. She said she was supposedly taken to maternity hospital two weeks earlier, she didn't remember the delivery as she was under narcosis and she didn't know when the child was brought to her because she was "asleep for three days".
In their conversation she said: "We took good care of Nikoleta." On our remark that there are no data about her delivery at the hospital in Krusevac she said: "What's going to happen to the doctors?" When we said that brother and sister could have fallen in love with each other she said: "Well, now they know each other so they won't!"