Vladimir Vlado Dapčević (1917 – 2001)

Vlado Dapčević was born in 1917 in Ljubotinje, near Cetinje. He attended the Cetinje Grammar School, and was expelled for organising a student strike. As a 16-year-old he became a member of the Communist Youth (SKOJ), and was soon arrested for the first time for spreading communist pamphlets. He became a member of the Yugoslav Communist Party in 1934 and in 1935 he spent time in prison for ‘revolutionary activities’. As punishment, he was forbidden from attending any school in Yugoslavia. During massive communist protests in Montenegro in 1936, he was arrested again and spent four months in a Sarajevo prison. Soon after being released the police took him in for questioning again while he tried to travel to Spain, where his older brother, Petar Peko Drapčević, was already fighting.

The authorities allowed Dapčević to finish high school in 1939, after which he enrolled at the Technical University in Belgrade. He was wounded in the head during clashes with a rival student fascist organization ‘The Yugoslav National Movement’ (ZBOR). During the April war he was in Belgrade but went to Montenegro soon after, where he participated in preparations for the uprising against the Axis Forces. According to some sources, he fired the first shot in the uprising.

He participated in the battle of Pljevlja, where he was wounded. After Rudo and Igman, he was wounded again in 1942. As a commander of several brigades, he participated on the Battles on the Neretva and Sutjeska. During the war he was expelled from the Party on several occasions for disagreeing with the leadership, but was always readmitted for his courage in battle. He left the war as a lieutenant colonel, and was given the job of teacher in the Party High School. In 1947, he became the commander of the Yugoslav National Army Administration, in charge of agitation and propaganda (agitprop), and participated in the Fifth Congress of the Yugoslav Communist Party in 1948.

Supporting the Cominform Resolution in 1948, he tried to escape to Romania together with the Montenegrin Generals Arso Jovanović and Branko Petričević. They pretended to go hunting near Vršac, but were caught, with Jovanović being shot and Petričević arrested. Dapčević managed to escape and reach Belgrade where he hid for some time. He was arrested while trying to cross the border to Hungary.

He spent nearly two years in an investigation prison, after which he was sentenced to 20 years in jail. Between June 1950 and December 1956, he was interned in Stara Gradiška, Bileća and Goli Otok prison camps. He testified that he never gave up his political views, despite torture.

He escaped to Albania in 1958 with a group of like-minded political thinkers, after which he emigrated to the USSR. Dapčević clashed with the Soviet authorities in 1962 for his attempt to gather volunteers for Cuba, and then in 1965 for being prevented from joining the communist struggle in Vietnam. He left the USSR in 1966 and emigrated to Western Europe where in order to survive he did hard manual labour. In the following few years he was arrested and deported on several occasions from France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Switzerland.

During his time in Western Europe he connected with radical Marxist-Leninist parties and remained in contact with the Cominform supporters in Eastern Europe. The Yugoslav secret service attempted to execute Dapčević in 1973. During a gathering of Cominform supporters in Bucharest, following an agreement between Yugoslav and Romanian authorities, the Yugoslav secret service kidnapped Dapčević. Two of his assistants were shot.

‘They broke my teeth, cut up my tongue, ripped up my throat, broke my ribs and hurt all of my internal organs… in the end they put some kind of bandana on my mouth and nose. I completely lost consciousness. I woke up the next evening in Belgrade Central Prison, in a basement cell.’

Dapčević was sentenced to death by the Yugoslav court, after which the sentence was changed to twenty years in prison. He was released from solitary confinement in 1988, and was immediately expelled from the country. He spent the rest of his life in Belgium but travelled often to Yugoslavia, and Montenegro. He was an active member of the anti-war campaign in the 1990s and a great opponent of Slobodan Milošević. He died on 12 July 2001 in Brussels.