We, women, are real soldiers and there is nothing that can destroy the friendship made in the army. Not even war could do that.
This is how Bobica Petković Prvanović from Knjaćevac begins her story. With another 20 women, she was a member of the first female class of soldiers in the Yugoslav People’s Army.
Bobica stepped in the barracks in Sombor exactly 33 years ago.
“I was 21 years old when I read in a newspaper that the army decided to make an experimental program with female soldiers. Since my late grandfathers were soldiers in the Second World War and unfortunately killed then, army was discussed a lot in my family. That newspaper article kept me intrigued and I soon found myself in Niš, where the recruitment was being conducted.
There it was decided that she is to become a radar operator.
“I cannot describe with words the experience I gained there. I learned how to follow the radar, how to shoot. We were a miracle at the time, we were like men. Imagine female soldiers walking on the streets then,” Bobica recalls.
Life in a barracks with another 7.000 soldiers was quite interesting.
“They cared about us when we go out. They were afraid that we might experience some unpleasant situations. There were some crushes, I must admit, but we paid a lot of attention to our behavior. Our relationships were friendly and we knew we were special because we were chosen to represent the female gender,” Bobica says.
Bobica spent three months in the Sombor barracks and friendships she made there remained alive. However, the war that broke out after they ended their service separated them, but only for a while. She received an invitation to the army in 1999.
The fact that they were the first generation of female soldiers made them popular and the photographs of her class often filled the newspaper. Even a film was made about them.
Gordana Milenković, Bobica’s friend from the class, continued working in the army even after the end of her army service.
“She became an Air Force commander in Zemun. The other girls and I continued doing drills in our hometowns until the dispersion of national defense. We life in different countries and meeting in one place requires a lot of time and money, but in 2012 we gathered in Belgrade. I cannot describe the feeling when I saw them again. We will gather again on May 21 next year,” Bobica said.