Serbia alone had lost a third of its entire population in the Great War, almost half its men.
This film talks about those that never returned home from the two biggest Austria-Hungarian prisoner camps on the territory of today’s Czech Republic – Jindřichovice and Broumov.
A film that I owed to my nation.
SEVEN THOUSAND SOULS is a documentary – a feature film about the suffering of Serbian and Russian soldiers and interned civilians in Austro-Hungarian camps on the territory of today’s Czech Republic, Jindrihovice and Broumov. The camps had about 500 facilities where there were about 60,000 prisoners of war.
Extremely difficult working conditions, no food, no shoes and clothes, winter and infectious diseases, all this affected the fact that 7,100 Serbs did not survive the camps. There is a mausoleum in Jindrihovice where the remains are
victims of these camps – 7100 Serbs and 189 Russians. It is the second largest Serbian tomb in the world.
The film also contains memories of soldiers who survived the camps, writen by a Dutch journalist Henri Aber in 1919. The descendants of soldiers from Serbia also speak in the film.
The topic of Serbian prisoners and internees from the First World War is a neglected topic and even today, during the first centenary of the end of the First World War, they are completely forgotten and this injustice has not been corrected. From the time of the war, it seems that they could not fit into that, say, warrior, liberation narrative, where, above all, a soldier with a rifle in his hand was valued. If you look at any Serbian military monument, it is usually a soldier holding a rifle that is raised high. We have only a couple of sculptures of Serb civilians who died … there are no monuments or they are very rare that generally concern the role of civilians, let alone civilians who were in slavery.
But, as defined by the military legislation, a prisoner is someone who, by force of circumstances, ended up in captivity and he continues to perform his military duty. We can say the same for the civilian internees, that they were citizens of the Kingdom of Serbia who remained to be citizens even though they were faced with these completely unexpected and terrible opportunities. It is very unfortunate that, practically, for a whole century, they remain outside the collective memory of the Serbian people, even though it is a very dramatic suffering. I just think that these people were unfairly marginalized and almost thrown out of our general perception of the First World War.
Directed by Sanjin Miric (Czech Republic)