THE BULJKES EXPERIMENT:

A “Greek Republic” in Yugoslavia

1945–1949

 

The Varkiza Peace Agreement was equal to capitulation for several thousand most radical ELAS members and the new situation was unacceptable. Therefore, they preferred to emigrate. Most chose Yugoslavia as their destination where they joined the already present refugee groups, while the others went to Bulgaria and Albania. Most of them were ELAS members from frontier areas, predominantly Greeks, but also numerous (“Slavic”) Macedonians.

Reception and permanent camps have been organized for emigrants and refugees, primarily in the territory of the People’s Republic of Macedonia. In May 1945 a temporary reception camp for ELAS refugees was organized in Kumanovo. From this camp 1454 persons were transferred to Vojvodina on May 25th. Military authorities, local civilian authorities as well as local “mass organizations” took care of providing initial accommodation, clothing and footwear, as well as medical care for the refugees. These groups, along with the newcomers, were the core from which a “Greek commune” emerged in the vicinity of Novi Sad, in the former German village of Buljkes.

In the propaganda war with neighboring Yugoslavia, Buljkes became the quintessence of “communist evil” for the royal government in Athens. The village and its temporary inhabitants became renowned and attracted the attention of international press, various international commissions, intelligence and diplomacy. Buljkes became particularly important at the time of the outbreak of the Yugoslav-Soviet conflict. Fierce discussion about the fate of its inhabitants was conducted in 1948 and 1949 between the Communist Party of Yugoslavia and the Communist Party of Greece, which ended in late summer of 1949 with the evacuation of the village.

Transfer of refugees to Vojvodina and establishment of the refugee community, according to one claim, was the result of an appeal and request of the Communist Party of Greece from the Yugoslav Communist Party leadership. The whole operation was conducted under the supervision of the State Security Service (UDB). After brief stopover in Novi Sivac, 2,702 refugees were transferred to Buljkes in early June 1945 and provided accommodation in 625 vacant houses. The villagers included primarily ELAS leaders and guerrillas, as well as activists of its political organizations with their families.

The number of village inhabitants varied: for some of the refugees this village was a center from which they went to other places in Vojvodina. The Yugoslav authorities returned 96 (suspicious) persons to Greece. In an official Yugoslav publication about the refugee issue from the beginning of 1949 a number of “about 6,000 Greeks” is mentioned. Documents do not confirm that the number of inhabitants in the village has ever been so high. It mainly ranged between 3,000 and 3,500. Buljkes reached the highest number of inhabitants that can be evidenced in June 1946 – 4,023 persons. However, it is assumed that at the end of the Buljkes “commune” in the summer of 1949 it numbered some 4,500 inhabitants.

A former Buljkes inhabitant, testifying after his return to Greece and arrest, said that refugees have been divided into groups (initially 35), each of 30 to 100 members. A group of Slavic Macedonians of about 250 persons left the village in the spring of 1946. At the beginning of January 1946, groups have been created consisting of intellectuals (Group No. 6) and “agricultural groups” (Group No. 14). Group No. 16 consisted of women who attended nursing courses.

A Yugoslav Red Cross publication stated that “the main law of this community is that (…) anyone capable of working must work”. The Buljkes inhabitants were allocated 3,500 acres of land in 1946 with a hope that the village could produce at least a portion of its necessary food. Until then, the village has been supplied with food from the 3rd Army warehouses in Novi Sad. Agricultural produce from the land allocated to the village have been turned over to the Yugoslav state. Full control of the village was transferred to refugee bodies in August 1946, rationing was abolished and the village was allowed to keep whatever it produced.

The majority of the able-bodied persons (about 2,000) worked in agriculture, which was collectivist from the very beginning. Some of the villagers worked in Novi Sad and Sombor. The Buljkes agricultural estate got its livestock population as well (cattle, pigs, sheep), as well as some farm machinery. Poultry farms as well as rabbit farms have been founded. This has considerably improved the situation in the village compared with the first months, as Veselinka Malinska, deputy in the Assembly of the People’s Republic of Macedonia described in the report to the Yugoslav Government. She had an impression that life in the village was well organized and that the inhabitants were in “good and optimistic mood”.

Various courses, entertainment and cultural events have been organized, but the village lacked fuel for winter and draft animals. She also noted that a group of about 150 refugees were inclined to the Greek Government and supported “the English policy toward it”. She reported affirmatively about the relations between the Greeks and (Slavic) Macedonians. Those who demanded to be transferred to the People’s Republic of Macedonia, where they had relatives, were accused by their peers as “deserters”.

Quite a different impression of relations in Buljkes can be found in the report of Arbadzis Kalikratis of 2 November 1945, written for the Central Committee of the Communist Party of (PR ?)Macedonia, in which he provides a detailed analysis of profound differences in the approach to the settlement of the “Macedonian question” between the Greeks and the Slav- Macedonians, but also among Slav-Macedonians themselves.

Founding of the Buljkes “commune” created conditions for carrying out a radical “social experiment” that could corroborate the correctness of ideological and political argumentation about the advantages of the collectivist model. The closed character of the community and its exclusion from the Yugoslav environment, regardless of very similar processes (collectivization, cooperatives, etc.) allows that it be considered as a separate “Greek communist experiment”.

Buljkes was governed with “strong arm” by the Board, headed until mid-1947 by the Greek Communist Party activist Mihalis Paktasidis. “The President (of the Board) in 1947 was Mihail Terzis (in 1948-49 Lefteros Macukas and in 1949 Mihailos Sustas). The president, other local governing officials and the party committee were appointed by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece. The Board coordinated all economic activities via the administration of the farmers’ cooperative and two directorates (Directorate for Agriculture and Main Directorate for Workshops). The Board had its “chief commercial representative” in Novi Sad.

The authorities in Buljkes had an efficient “executive organ” – their own security service, an instrument of continuous control, repression and arbitrariness. This political “self-government” and non-interference of the Yugoslav authorities (at least not direct) have contributed to the fact that Buljkes was referred to as “the seventh republic” in Yugoslavia.

Idyllic descriptions in reports about the first months in Buljkes and propaganda texts about the “new life” concealed discontent about the way in which this community has been governed from the beginning. In addition, internal cleavages have been continuously present. In a very harsh criticism of the situation (November 1945) with which the Yugoslav authorities have been acquainted, G. Karanikolas reminded that before leaving for Vojvodina the leadership promised that “…living conditions will improve”, that they “will be given apartments and schools will be opened”. But, “quarrelling began as soon as they arrived”. The new villagers were forced to go and work in the fields. Those who did not go, did not get food, with the slogans: “Those who do not work are helping fascism” and “Those who do not work are not fighting for the national cause”. Physical conflicts occurred and some “fractionists” attacked some of the prominent ELAS officers. Karanikolaos accused the leadership that it “immediately prohibited Buljkes inhabitants to communicate with Serbs and with out female comrades”. Escapes started and he fled as well, but the Yugoslav authorities caught him without traveling permit and returned him to the village, where ITO (security service) arrested him. While in prison, he witnessed brutal beating of other prisoners. He also drew attention to different living conditions of officials and of ordinary inhabitants.

In summer and autumn 1945 the Yugoslav authorities allowed foreign journalists to visit Buljkes. Permission for these visits was granted primarily in order to make the West change its opinion that it is in fact a “military camp” closed for the foreigners where its inhabitants are kept under oppression. Soviet, American, French, Swiss and Czech journalists visited the village.

The inhabitants had the opportunity to work in workshops (making clothing and footwear) with the idea to meet part of the demand of the population and offer surplus to the Yugoslav market. The village also had a factory for hemp processing. For then Yugoslav circumstances, the workshops have been well-equipped with machines and tools. A farmers’ cooperative was founded in 1946. The community had its own hospital with 54 employees (physicians and other personnel).

The Greek printing shop with 20 typographers and technicians was of great propaganda importance. It printed the paper Foni tou Boulkes which was published three times a week, Warrior – the paper of the Communist Party of Greece and Ta etoupoula – a monthly for children, as well as schoolbooks, handbooks, propaganda literature and occasionally a literary translation. Buljkes had a primary school and a junior high school with instruction in Greek, a bookstore, a theater, a hospital and a cinema. The village also had an orphanage for children up to three years of age. Voluntary working brigades also went from the village to build Brcko-Banovici and Samac-Sarajevo railways.

In 1946, there were 14 professors, 43 teachers, 32 agricultural engineers, 6 physicians, 18 officers, 25 musicians, as much as 300 cooks and waiters, 320 shepherds among the refugees. Regardless of their former occupations, the villagers were primarily (former) ELAS commanders and soldiers, whose significance and combat experience since the beginning of the civil war in Greece in 1946 was of high importance for the rebel Democratic Army of Greece (DAG).

In 1946 there were only 161 women and 30 children in the village, including 22 children born in Yugoslavia. By mid-1946 thirteen persons died of various illnesses, consequences of wounding or torture.

Attempt to make the commune economically self-sufficient and liberate Yugoslav authorities of high maintenance costs soon proved unfeasible. Despite relatively large areas under agricultural crops, the village remained dependent on the food supplied by the Yugoslav Army (formerly 3rd Army Command), Serbian and Vojvodina authorities, UNRR and other sources.

There was an intention to incorporate Buljkes into the planned targets of the Yugoslav economy and the village got its task within the Five-Year Plan. Workshops in the village have been supplied with inputs via the Main Board of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina. Income tax amounting to 5 million dinars was levied on the village in 1948 – but has not been paid. However, supply with clothing, footwear and other necessities remained similar as the situation regarding the supply with food.

Self-isolation of the Greek refugee community, which was hard to get into and hard to get out of, was exacerbated by the fact that the Board, assuming the role of the “autonomous government”, printed its own money. It was in circulation in the “commune” in the total amount of 9,253,255 dinars. The quantity of “Buljkes dinars” was equal to the total sum of monthly wages of all employees and thus helped create a reserve of the Yugoslav currency which was used in shops outside the village.

What has been carefully hidden from the public view, and what despite that was the main issue in protests and accusations that came from Athens and western countries, was the activity of the military school, where officers for command posts in DAG have been trained. By mid-1946 there were 112 students in this school. This “School for General Education”, as it was named, was in fact a system of courses in different military disciplines (at least 4 during a 3-month course). By the beginning of 1947 only, about 600 students passed through it. In addition to this conspirational military school, there was also a party school operating in the village, where 30 to 40 members of the Communist Party of Greece attended courses in semi-annual cycles. There were about 2800 Communist Party members in the village in 1947-1948, of whom about 1000 were youth party members.

After completed training, soldiers and officers have been dispatched from the village to Greece, where they were assigned to DAG units. Thus, two groups of 50 men left Buljkes for Eastern Thrace via Bulgaria, as mentioned in a report from Sofia on 4 November 1946, but Georgi Dimitrov prohibited further transfers via this route. From preserved documents about the change of man count between June 1946 and March 1947, one can deduct the volume of transfers of the military school course graduates to Greece.

In the UDB (State Security Service) report (collonel Biljanović to Ranković) dated 18 November 1946, precise data have been presented about transfer of materiel and personnel from Yugoslavia to Greece, including those from Buljkes. Colonel Biljanović quoted that in early November UDB assumed “… full control over transfer of people to the other side, as well as all messenger connections” and that three channels have been organized (via Gevgelija, Dojran and Bitolj). Also, that from Buljkes “some 20-25 people arrive for transfer every other day”, who are transferred the same night. He also mentioned that transfer of “240 demobilized KNOJ soldiers, who are from the Aegean Macedonia” has started as well.

In a letter to Trygve Lie on 3 December 1946, The Greek delegation to the UN accused neighboring countries of assisting guerrilla actions in Greece. It was mentioned that “in the camp in Buljkes, in Vojvodina … in Yugoslavia, operates a military installation that submits recruited persons to the training for guerrilla activities in Greece. These people, some 2500-3000, have been selected by ELAS members who sought refuge in Yugoslavia after the Varkiza Agreement. Among them are many whose arrest has been ordered because they violated the civil law”. Some of the Buljkes inhabitants who returned to Greece and were arrested or gave themselves up to the Greek authorities testified in several court trials or before the United Nations Special Commission for the Balkans (UNSCOB) about the existence of military training in Buljkes. The Yugoslav representatives on a number of occasions rejected these accusations as untruthful, e.g. J. Djerdja at the session of the Inquiry Commission in Athens on 14 February.

Dynamic communication Buljkes–Greece is also illustrated by cablegrams of I. Ioanidis-“Denisov”, representative of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece in Belgrade. On 4 September 1947 he demanded from V. Chervenkov permission for passage through Bulgaria of a group of 50 persons from Buljkes (“like the previous time”) via Petrich. On 5 November 1947 in a letter to “Alkibiad” Denisov drew attention to the fact that “a group of 400 should soon be dispatched from Buljkes” and that a group of 35 persons was expected after completion of a medical course and should urgently be dispatched via Albania.

Aggravation of conflict concerning the endorsement of the Information Bureau Resolution resulted in problems and ceasing of further sending to Greece of soldiers from refugee camps in Yugoslavia because of the objection by the Yugoslav authorities. At the meeting in Skoplje on 9 February 1949 with M. Porfirogenis, minister in the “Provisional Government”, Ilija Dimovski-Goce accused the representatives of the Greek community in Buljkes and representatives of the Communist Party of Greece – DAG in Skoplje of sabotaging his effort to recruit 300 Macedonians for their units in DAG.

The Yugoslav authorities did not allow activists in Buljkes to recruit refugees in refugee camps in Macedonia, nor permitted recruitment of deserters from the Greek Royal Army. They prohibited anyone who wanted to be transferred to Buljkes to go there and even arrested those who were suspected of having connections with Buljkes. In addition, distribution of Foni tu Bulkes and Nepokoreni was prohibited.

On 15 March 1949 the Yugoslav authorities informed the Commune in Buljkes that prohibition of movement outside the village boundaries had been introduced for its inhabitants and that only the president, vice-president and suppliers could be allowed to go out of the village – after they elaborate the reasons and obtain permission from the authorities. Any contact with the neighboring refugee villages, Gakovo and Kruševlje, where Macedonians had been transferred from Buljkes in 1948, was prohibited.

The UN Secretariat released and distributed to all delegations the memorandum of the Greek government, that was handed over to UNSCOB on 4 February 1949. It contained reiterated accusations about the existence of liaison centers, hospitals, supply camps and evacuation centers in neighboring countries, mentioning that in Yugoslavia only there were 3,500 well-trained partisans who were reserve for providing assistance to DAG – by which allusion was made to the number of refugees in Buljkes.

A “dialogue of the deaf” about the situation in Buljkes and accusations that it was a training camp where ELAS members also brought a certain number of “hostages” against their will was conducted during the work of the Inquiry Commission of the UN Security Council in the first half of 1947. At the Commission meeting in Athens on 5 February 1947 the Greek delegate claimed that “ELAS members who came to Yugoslavia after Varkiza brought with them hostages, … who are (probably) to be found in the Buljkes camp. One Barišić (State Security Service officer), a member of the Yugoslav delegation, drew attention to Belgrade that the Commission was particularly interested in Buljkes and that they should get ready for the visit of the Commission to the village. He proposed that “… refugees should be advised to report in large numbers to the Commission and to submit memoranda, protests and petitions in order to … outnumber possible reactionaries who might try to approach the Commission.”

One document of this kind, The Memorandum of Greek Political Refugees in Yugoslavia to the UN Security Council Inquiry Commission, was completed on 11 February. In it, in addition to presenting reasons for their fleeing from Greece (war, persecution, torture and terror of “monarcho-fascist authorities”) they stress living conditions in Yugoslavia and establishment of “refugee communities” (Buljkes, Skoplje, Bitolj and elsewhere). It was particularly emphasized that refugees founded “… working cooperatives, such as e.g. in Buljkes, which contribute toward peaceful development in democratic Yugoslavia”. They denied accusations of the Greek government that Buljkes is a “partisans’ war base”, “military academy” and that “there are Greek hostages in Buljkes”. The refugee community in Buljkes sent on 14 February 1946 a memorandum concerning their position to the UN Refugee Commission, demanding assistance for their repatriation and material aid, but their request remained without an answer.

On 2 April 1947 the Sub-Commission (of the UN Inquiry Commission) arrived to Buljkes where it interviewed witnesses – 6 proposed by the Yugoslav delegate Djerdja and 5 chosen by the Greek delegate. In its statement, president of the community Mihail Terzis said that he was “… speaking on behalf of 3200 men, women and children, refugees from Greece, who are now in Buljkes and (that he was) the head of (their) delegation; that “the inhabitants authorized him to once for all, before the Inquiry Commission, … deny and refute false information about Buljkes fabricated by Greek representatives”. He confirmed that Zahariades came into village and that he “only talked about the situation in Greece”. Other witnesses did not hide that Nikos Zahariadis visited Buljkes and delivered a speech in which he invited them to get ready to go back to their fatherland when it was necessary. Terzis refuted claims that Buljkes was a military camp where military training was conducted, and confirmed that “Buljkes inhabitants have never received any help from the Yugoslav Army, either in clothing or in food”. He said that there were only refugee families in the village and that 3,200 inhabitants include also 205 children, mainly orphans.

The Commission “did not find any trace of military activity” and it was concluded “that military training has been ceased”. In the proposal of Commission conclusions American representatives claimed that refugees have been “subjected to political preparation and propaganda” with the aim of “toppling the Greek government”. Investigating the role of Albania in providing assistance to DAG, the Commission discovered that a camp for Greek refugees existed from autumn 1945 to October 1946 in the village of Rubig, 50 miles north of Tirana, where military training was also conducted. It was ceased in October 1946 when the inhabitants of the Rubig camp have been transferred to Buljkes.

Some inhabitants of Buljkes came there after wondering in other countries. This was the case with two former ELAS members from Athens and Piraeus. They left Greece in 1945 and went to Soviet Union and from there, via Romania, came to Buljkes. A group of 30 Greek sailors, expelled from Argentina because of their political convictions, got asylum in Yugoslavia and were placed in Buljkes.

Certain former inhabitants of Buljkes testified tt the trial to 135 arrested DAG members in Thessaloniki in the spring of 1948. Thus, witness “captain” Theodoros Pilatos came to Yugoslavia and Buljkes in March 1947. He said that in Buljkes prevails dictatorship and that military missions went there and groups of partisans went from there to Greece.

By mid-August 1947 numerous articles appeared in the Greek press with allegations about the transfer of a large number of “leaders” from Yugoslavia to Greece. Thus, Athens paper Katimerini wrote on 12 August about the “invasion of leaders” who entered Greek territory in July “…coming from Buljkes”. The paper mentioned that this referred to a large group of 355 persons appointed to the headquarters of certain sectors.

The end of the “Buljkes commune” began with the outbreak of the conflict between the Communist Party of Yugoslavia and Cominform. Leaders of the Communist Party of Greece and DAG, after some hesitation, largely supported the latter, and those in Buljkes followed suit. In June 1948 Zahariadis went to Moscow and on 15 June before the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union presented his view of relations between the Communist Party of Greece and the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, accusing the Yugoslav party and state leadership for interference into the internal affairs of the Greek Party. Zahariadis particularly accused Aleksandar Ranković of receiving “a high-ranking official of the Communist Party of Greece” Mihalis Pektasidis (until mid-1947 he was the president of the Board in Buljkes, and then head of the 2nd Bureau for Military Security of the DAG Headquarters). Paktasidis was accused of maintaining close relations with “Yugoslav comrades”, that he “deserted from DAG” and went to Ranković. That was a sign of profound cleavage among the leadership and members of the Buljkes “commune”.

Aleksandar Ranković urgently informed Tito on 7 June 1948 of the problems with the Greek party leadership and the situation at the border. He thought that “Greeks … in Buljkes should be allowed to leave if they wish so. Their departure would be actually beneficial to us, because leadership in Buljkes is in the hands of thieves and enemies of our country”, who have inflicted great “material and economic” harm to us and the report about that would follow. He stressed that “Macedonians and Macedonian children do not want to leave Yugoslavia, which the Greek leadership is well aware of” but that there are indications that “they will start a campaign against us on this issue as well”.

Zahariadis was warned from Belgrade on 28 August that A. Macukas and his supporters in Buljkes “act hostile toward Yugoslavia recently”. The Yugoslav leadership stressed that they did not want to interfere into “internal affairs in Buljkes” and had nothing “against their choice to support the Cominform Resolution”, but that they would not be allowed to “harangue against our party and country, to slander and insult them before our citizens, nor to take down and throw away Marshall Tito’s pictures in protest”. They warned that the consequences of such relationship are also exhibited in “improper and careless transfer of your people from Buljkes to your country” and that “… joint business cannot be properly developed without mutual understanding and confidence, nor without the necessary coordination”. In his answer on 31 August Zahariadis promised that effort will be made to bring Macukas (Barba Leks), president of the Buljkes municipality, “into the framework of our line”.

The behavior of Lefteros Macukas toward Yugoslav authorities and particularly demonstrative removal of Josip Broz’s photograph from official premises, was one of the items on the agenda of the talk on 1 October 1948 between the member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece and foreign minister of the Provisional Government Petros Rousos and Aleksandar Ranković. Macukas openly stated his support to the Cominform before Yugoslav officers, gave statements against the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, organized a rally in memory of Andrei Zhdanov without the knowledge or presence of the Yugoslav authorities. Due to this, the Yugoslav authorities removed this president of the municipality and expelled him.

Mihalis Pektasidis became the most renowned victim of mutual relentless confrontation among the divided Buljkes leaders. As P. Rousos claimed at the meeting with Ranković on 8 November 1948, Pektasidis was a “deserter” from DAG since April 1948, expelled from the Communist Party of Greece, “in Buljkes rallied around him anti-party elements” and with a “narrow circle” (of supporters) opted in favor of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia”. Pektasidis was missing from Buljkes since early November 1948. According to one interpretation, he was liquidated on an island in Danube or dumped into a well in Buljkes. Some other members of the pro-Yugoslav group disappeared from the village in the same way. Prompted by Pektasidis’s disappearance, the Yugoslav authorities arrested six Buljkes inhabitants on the night between the 6th and 7th November, whose release was demanded in vain by the Communist Party of Greece and DAG leaderships.

Ranković has also shown great interest in mysterious departure from Buljkes in October 1948 of the former Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece member and ELAS delegate in Yugoslavia Andras Džimas. Rousos informed Ranković that Džimas – for whom it was “unknown how he crossed the border” and who had many times left Buljkes without permission – was in the hands of the Hungarian authorities. Zachariadis interpreted his behavior with mental illness.

The “Provisional Democratic Government of Greece” sent a verbal note to the Government of the Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia on 1 October 1949 abounding in grave accusations about the conduct toward refugees, particularly in Buljkes. Thus, it was mentioned that the Yugoslav authorities “…using several corrupt elements, even former British Intelligence Service agents, organized an attack on the community with the intention of none the less than to liquidate the community in Buljkes, which until then … represented the model of application of work, peace, collective spirit, dedication to struggle”.

In the summer of 1949, just prior to disbandment of the “Buljkes Commune”, the Yugoslav authorities conducted an audit of their operation. On the report on the financial and treasury operation in Buljkes, Aleksandar Ranković left a note: “All these and other unlawful actions have been established by our special state control commission and we have already undertaken measures to restore order and respect of our regulations and laws there”. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia informed the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece on 4 July 1949 that the bodies of the State Control Commission in Buljkes found out many irregularities and abuses regarding economic-material and financial operation of the Board, by which damage to the Yugoslav economy has been systematically inflicted. This was confirmed in the separate statement by the commercial representative of Buljkes in Novi Sad, F. Kosmidis, as well as by numerous village inhabitants. It was demanded from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece to send their representative with whom matters would be cleared. According to the decision of the “Provisional Government” it was decided that its minister of health, Dr. Petros Kokalis, should come to Yugoslavia and talk about the problems of Buljkes. In a cablegram of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece dated 8 July it was warned that “… regarding the announced arrival of Kokalis concerning Buljkes, we draw your attention to the fact that up until now we have been resolving issues of this kind solely along the party lines, and we still maintain that position”. Unfortunately, there are no documents in the archives concerning the discussion with Kokalis.

The report on Buljkes, with detailed financial situation, was submitted already in July 1948. Tito was warned of the oppressive behavior of the Buljkes leadership, which did not allow anyone to move out of the village, as documented in 85 testimonies presented to the Yugoslav investigating committee. The leadership “created around them a circle of privileged persons who enjoyed various benefits” and through which they implemented repressive measures, including beating; they forced sick, old people and children to work, those who wanted to leave the village have been harassed; people from the Board have been accused of appropriating money orders and not giving them to the recipients, “thus creating among the refugees an impression that the money has been held by our post”. They “persecute parents who did not allow their children to be sent to the countries of peoples democracies”. In the end it was concluded that the “leadership is basically maintaining hostile attitude toward the FPRY. Every step of the way and in every opportunity they slander our party and state leadership.… They try to minimize the importance and assistance our government provided to the struggle of the Greek people, they call us various pejorative names and compare with fascist countries”.

The Board made huge profits by purchasing production inputs for workshops at (limited) state prices and minimum labor costs. High savings and earnings have been obtained by inflated presentation of necessary inputs. Filoklis Kozmidis, the chief commercial representative of the Board, mentioned in his statement that increased number of the population was presented to the Yugoslav authorities for 1948 and that due to this they obtained between 1,000 and 1,500 more ration cards. In the same way they created large stocks of textile and food, which did not improve the living standard of most of the population.

Through issue of their own money for paying workers’ wages, they compelled workers to work in Buljkes. In this way, the worker was “…forced to spend all his money in Buljkes, on goods imposed on him and at very high prices”. The Board had a large sum of 12,527,757 dinars in its bank account.

Ranković concluded that “all these and other irregularities have been determined by our special State Control Commission and we have already undertaken specific measures to restore order there and respect of our regulations and laws”. The note, decisive for the further fate of Buljkes, was added by Josip Broz: “Buljkes to be disbanded and camp for refugees to be organized. Refugees to be allowed to get employment. They may possess no immovable property.”

The Yugoslav authorities turned down the request of the representatives of the Czechoslovakian and Hungarian embassies to visit Buljkes at the end of July 1949 with a justification that they would like to determine the “population’s health condition” and agree with the Board members about their moving to Czechoslovakia. In a protest telegram sent on behalf of the Board to Tito by the Board’s new president Nikolaos Sustes on 29 July 1949, he mentioned that the representative of the Yugoslav authorities (State Security Service) Krstić “described the Buljkes Board as a concentration camp”, although it is well-known that the Board was established in 1946 and was formally recognized by the Yugoslav authorities. Protests have been voiced against the violation of the written promise and procrastination in solving conflicting issues and restricted finances. Also, that the Yugoslav Government “permitted relocation of only 2,400 inhabitants”, while the Board requested permission for over 3,500 persons.

On 8 August Sustas sent a memorandum to Tito and Kardelj. Since Yugoslavia closed its border toward Greece and entered into conflict with the “Provisional Government”, the refugee community in Buljkes “…no longer has the possibility to help the fight of our people. At the same time, your authorities have recently created such a situation in our village that can be described as all but friendly”. Such a situation urged us to make “…an irrevocable decision to ask from you … to permit us to move to Czechoslovakia, which is ready to accept us”. The Hungarian Government undertook to arrange for the transfer across its territory. Underlying this decision was Zachariadis’ directive to the Buljkes leadership about evacuation from Yugoslavia.

Ranković’s handwritten note on the document reads: “We will arrange everything for their departure from Yug.(oslavia)”. They did not have to wait long for their request to be fulfilled: at the end of August the first group of inhabitants (1200 persons) was transferred from Buljkes to the Hungarian border. During the first half of September the remaining members of the former Greek “red commune” moved to Czechoslovakia via Hungary in three subsequent transports.

The official explanation about the extinguishing of the Buljkes “commune” was provided in the editorial article in Belgrade Borba on 5 September 1949. It presented the “history” of the emergence of this community, with embarassing details referring to the fraud by its leadership, discovered after the inspection of the state commission, testimonies of dissatisfied and harassed inhabitants who disagreed with the “line” pursued by Zachariadis and his followers. At Bulkes remained about 800 members of “Bulkes commune”. But dissolution of the “commune” (this) put an end to the “Buljkes case”.