The cypress- and cactus-covered island of Daksa is located just 1.5 nautical miles from Dubrovnik, Croatia’s most popular and expensive tourist destination. Earlier this month, Daksa was put up for sale for two million euros, a suspiciously low price by private island standards.
The name Daksa is derived from the Greek word deksios, meaning “right hand”. According to local historians, the tiny island has long offered protection to sailors caught in stormy weather. At just 500 meters long and 200 meters wide, Daksa is the smallest of the 13 islands of the Elaphite archipelago.
But for the bargain price of two million euros, buyers will get much more than a little piece of land within swimming distance of Dubrovnik. The island of Daska, which is also covered in pine, lemon and orange trees, has a spacious villa, its own 19th century lighthouse, a boathouse and dock. At the highest point of the island, there are ruins of a 13th century Franciscan monastery named for St. Sabina, a Roman woman martyred in 126 A.D. for converting to Christianity.
Despite the island’s many attractive qualities, no one has shown any interest in buying it. The Dubrovnik District Council was contacted about a possible purchase but council members were quick to nix the idea.
Soon, local newspapers were running articles with a possible explanation. A few years ago, people started discovering human skeletons on the island, and word got around town: Daksa has ghosts.
According to local records, Partisan forces entered Dubrovnik on October 18, 1944 and proceeded to round up dozens of suspected Nazi collaborators, including priest Petar Perica and the newly appointed mayor, Niko Koprivica. A little over a week later, communist authorities posted a notice in town, explaining that 36 residents of Dubrovnik had been sentenced to be shot by a firing squad.
Suspects were said to have been rowed out to Daksa on boats and executed. Residents of Dubrovnik would later claim that there had been no record of any trial, and that the Partisans had cautioned locals that anyone who went looking for relatives on the Elaphite islands would meet the same fate.
So the bodies of alleged Nazi collaborators sat undisturbed on Daksa for 60 years, until an unnamed individual found a mass grave on the island in 2009. Forensic scientists excavated the site in September of that year, and found the remains of 53 people in two different locations. One site was in the remains of an old farmhouse basement. All of the skeletons were male.
Along with the remains, excavators found crosses, rosaries, and priests’ collars. Forensic scientists concluded that several Catholic priests were among the executed.
Many family members continue to insist that their family members weren’t Nazi collaborators or participants in the atrocities perpetrated by the notoriously brutal Independent State of Croatia, a puppet state of Nazi Germany.
Meanwhile, residents of the medieval city of Dubrovnik say ghosts of the executed men still haunt the island of Daksa, seeking some sort of revenge.