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420 PEJNOVIĆ, Kata (1899–1966) Serbian leader of the Antifašistički front žena (AFŽ, Antifascist Women’s Front), Yugoslavia; co-founder (1942) of the first women’s newspaper on liberated Croatian territory, Žena u borbi (Woman in struggle ); elected to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Croatia (1948). Kata Pejnović (nee Bogić) was born on 21 March 1899, to a peasant family in the village of Smiljan in Lika, a poor rural region of Croatia with an ethnically mixed population consisting of Serbs and Croats. Her father, Dmitar Bogić, worked for the Austro-Hungarian police, retiring early to continue farming. Her mother, Jelena Bogić, was a self-taught dressmaker , whose small earnings, assisted by Dmitar’s retirement income, supported a large family: Kata, her three brothers and two sisters. (Archival data suggests that Jelena may have had nine children instead of six, but this cannot be confirmed with any certainty.) Since their parents could not afford to send them to school, none of the children in the family received any substantial education. Thus, after graduating from the local elementary school in 1911, in spite of her excellent record and her lively interest in study, Kata was not given the opportunity to attend the gymnasium because she had to help feed her family, working in the houses of wealthier peasants in return for food. Kata Bogić married early and assumed the name of her husband, of whom little is known. (In her public appearances and interviews, she took care to avoid speaking of her private affairs, preferring to concentrate upon her services to public life.) Pejnović gave birth to five children: three sons and two daughters. In 1936, Pejnović, a peasant mother and wife who supported her family by selling milk and dairy products from her house in the nearby town of Gospić, came into contact with people who had links to the Communist Party. So began a politically active life and a new intellectual environment that enabled Pejnović to explore literature for the first time. By Pejnović’s own account, the first ‘sophisticated’ book she read was Mother by Maxim Gorky. She became active in the regional communist cell in Smiljan, soliciting financial and other types of logistical support for local fighters participating in the Spanish civil war. Her fierce commitment resulted in her being admitted to the Komunistička partija Jugoslavije (Yugoslav Communist Party) on 10 April 1938, an unusually quick ascent into 421 the ranks of the party (others had to pass through what was called ‘the period of candidacy,’ during which their suitability was tested). This development further motivated her to spread the political line of the Communist Party. According to available testimonies, Pejnović was particularly successful in establishing contacts with women and enlisting their support for her political agenda. Her special fields of interest and work were twofold. She worked on attempts to alleviate increasing ethnic tensions between Serbs and Croats in the Lika region (just three years prior to World War II and the ethnic carnage that would be committed on Yugoslavian territory) and she endeavored to ‘raise consciousness’ among the female population concerning women’s social inequality. In accordance with prevailing communist ideology, Pejnovi ć believed that the emergence of private property had caused women to lose their freedom and equality with men. Within the framework of the Marxist-Leninist theory of revolution, discrimination against women and women’s specific social interests could not be justified as issues in their own right; instead, they were regarded as inequalities that would disappear with the obliteration of private property, achieved through communist revolution. Feminism was a bourgeois relic and ideologically dangerous. These were the ideas that shaped Pejnović’s political agenda. Kata Pejnović’s work soon aroused the suspicions of the Yugoslav police, which treated communist activity as anti-state action. Her house was searched by the police several times but real personal disaster struck during World War II. Following the proclamation of the Independent State of Croatia in April 1941—a fascist puppetstate —Pejnović became a target of police repression not only as a communist, but also as a Serb. In July of that year, during one of the bloody rampages conducted by Croatian fascist forces in the Lika region, her husband and three sons were arrested. Her husband was tortured (presumably to reveal her secret hiding place) and finally killed, together with her three sons, aged nineteen, thirteen and three. It is likely that from this time onwards, Kata Pejnović took to...


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