User:Ehrlich91/Raphael Joseph Batino

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Raphael Joseph Batino ( Bitola, 14th January 1910 – 12tw July 1942) was a communist with Jewish origins from Bitola, participant in the National Liberation Struggle.

Childhood

Raphael came from the Jewish community in Bitola. His parents, Joseph and Rebecca Kolonomos were wealthy, at least in comparison with other Jewish families in Bitola. He finished primary school in the city, and later enrolled at the French lycée, which was the only educational institution. He finished the lycée with the highest mark. Raphael had a great desire to continue his education, however, the financial circumstances of his family prevented this. His father thought that he should learn a craft in order to be financially independent. Raphael was not willing to abandon his wish, so he father agreed to send him to Mexico to stay at relatives, where he was supposed to work as a merchant.

Life in Mexico

After leaving for Mexico, Raphael had to do an extra job to subsist. For a time he worked as a merchant for his relatives, and later worked as an unloader at the port.  Simultaneously, he was studying technical sciences part-time and the Mexican University. Working along with people form the working-class, he witnessed their suffering and the exploitation they faced. This played a crucial part in his decision to join the local labour and communist movement and start studying Marxism. At the faculty of technical sciences he became a member of the Marxist circle. However, his activities were notices by the Mexican police which, in 1934, resulted with his being expelled from the country as a dangerous communist.

After Mexico

After his return home, Raphael continued with revolutionary activities, but in different conditions to the ones in Latin America. He became recognizable and respected very soon by the progressive youth, especially after he gave lectures on various subjects. He moved to Skopje, where he got a job in an insurance firm. At that time, the factories and workshops were under a revolutionary spell: strikes and protests were organized. Strikes lasting for more than ten days were exceptionally significant, as the one at the “Papateodosi” and “Ruchiguy” factories. Raphael participated actively in the creation of party cells as well as in attracting more followers to the movement. In his home illegal meetings and consultations were held with distinguished communists from the city. In 1936 the Skopje Party Organisation was betrayed. The police raided Raphael Batino’s apartement.

Illegal materials were discovered, including a directive of the regional committee of the Yugoslavian Communist Party for Macedonia. Raphael was surrendered to the Court for the Protection of the State. The Interior Ministry sent a warning to its regional units upon the arrest which said:

Few days ago Raphael Batino along with several of his friends was arrested in Skopje who were leading communist organization and tried to organize communist activities on the territory of the Vardar Banate.

Raphael Batino was sentenced to five years in prison.

Prison life in Sremska Mitrovica

The prison in which he was kept was notorious at the time as a closely guarded one, but also for its cruel treatment of its prisoners, where policital prisoners of higher rank were sent. Distinguished directors were sent there: Mosha Pijade, Rodoljub Cholakovich, Pashko Romac, Jovan Veselinov, Bane Andreev, Strahil Gigov etc. Raphael’s political activity in the prison was varied. He made many friends among the prisoners, but also learned from them about the practical aspects of revolutionary struggle. Although relatively young in comparison with other political prisoners, he quickly distinguished himself as theoretically well-versed. He was trusted the task of managing one of the internal circles of the prison as a lecturer. He also helped some of the prisoners to translate Marxist literature, especially “Capital” by Marx.

He continued these activities until his escape from prison. While in prison he dedicated himself to the study of the Macedonian national question. It is known that Mosha Pijade made a portrait of him while there.

Prison Break and joining the National Liberation Struggle

When during the April War in 1941 the Kingdom of Yugoslavia fell apart, the prison in Sremska Mitrovska fell under the jurisdiction of the Independent State Croatia. In certain regions of the country almost all prisoners were released, however, the prisoners in Sremska Mitrovica and Kerestinec weren’t. The intention was to surrender all of the communists to Gestapo.

In the summer 1941 the prisoners began digging tunnels under the walls of the prison fence and on 22nd August, Batino, along with a larger group of prisoners including Bane Andreev, Orce Nikolov, Bogoja Fotev, escaped. Outside, their communist and partisan friends took them immediately to Mountain Frushka Gora. Raphael left prison with a physical ailment, and was moving with difficulty.

Activities in Sandjak

The management of the partisans, knowing Raphael’s handicap, helped him to cross the river Sava and to join the Sava-based partisans. From there he left for the liberated village Uzhice. There he met Tito from whom he demanded to be sent to partisan lines. However, due to his health condition, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (hereafter CPY) decided that although he would  not be allowed to join the Partisans, he could contribute to political work going on in the background. Raphael was thus sent to Sandjak, along with a large crew, and after his arrival in Nova Varosh, he joined the regional committee of the CPY. From then on, he became known under the pseudonym Misha Cvetkovich. He was appointed secretary of the local committee of the Party in Nova Varosh.

At this time the main headquarters of Yugoslavia was in this region, including the Serbian partisan movement, which assigned tasks to Raphael. On the 23th of May 1942 with the decision of the main headquarters of the Yugoslav Partisans (National Liberation Army) of Serbia, Batino was appointed political secretary of the regional committee of the Communist Party in Sandjak.

Last action

As Raphael Batino’s last action is considered his last trip in the vicinity of Plevlje, together with a larger group of activists and collaborators. In this period, the Chetniks of Drazha Mihajlovich, and especially those of Commander Jelovac, actively fought against Partisan organisations in the surroundings of Plevlje. On the 9th of July 1942, the group of activists ran into a trap set up by Jelovac, and clashed with the Chetniks on Ljubishnje Mountain. During this battle, the Chetniks captured Raphael Batino, as well as his cofighter Veljko Kozhich, while the other activists managed to escape. Batino and Kozhich were interrogated the entire night and surrendered to the military authorities of Fascist Italy. On the 12th of July 1942, the Carabinieri took Raphael and one of his cofighters outside, who could barely stand after the beating during the interrogation. His hands in chains, Raphael chanted “Hitler and Musolini go, fascists and their chetnik servants go”. Walking through the main street of Pljevlje towards Senjak, where the fascists executed prisoners, Raphael loudly protested, first in Spanish, then Italian and German. They tied his mouth, hit him with the pistol grip on his face, breaking his teeth, but he continued to shout. He was silenced by the noise of the rifles.

The Pseudonym

Among partisans, Raphael Batino used only his pseudonym. None of his fellow partisans knew his real name or his origin. After the war, partisan pseudonyms were identified, and those who remained alive continued to use their pseudonyms along with their real names. During 1960, the editors of the “Struggle” newspaper opened a special section as a feuilleton entitled “ Who is Misha Cvetkovik”, pleading the public and those who knew something to write them. The editorship of the “Communist” newspaper also joined this initiative, gathering new data about the pseudonym. In the course of July 1975, in the “Politics” newpaper a larger article on Raphael Batino apperead, written by his cofighter and collaborator, Danilo Knezhevich. The title was “From Mexico to Vuchji Klek”. Thus, with the newspaper initiatives, as well as with the published memoirs of National Liberation Struggle fighters, the riddle about Misha Cvetkovich’s identity was solved.