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Milunka Savić - Serbian Joan of Arc

Milunka Savić (Serbian: Милунка Савић; 1888 - 1973) was a Serbian woman war hero from The First World War, recognized as the most-decorated female combatant in the entire history of warfare. She was wounded no less than nine times during her term-of-service.

She was born in a village known as Koprivnica near Raška, Serbia in 1888. In 1913, her brother received call-up papers for mobilization this, in the war between Serbia and Bulgaria. She elected to go in his place - donning men’s clothes and joining the Serb Army. She quickly saw action and received her first medal and was promoted to Corporal in the battle of Bregalnica. Engaged in battle, she sustained wounds and it was only then, when recovering from her injuries in hospital, that her true gender was revealed - much to the surprise of the attending physicians.


                                Milunka Savić as soldier in Balkan"s war 1913

In 1914, during the height of World War I, she was awarded her first Karađorđe Star with Swords after the [[battle of Kolubara]. She received her second Karađorđe Star (with Swords) after the battle of Crna Reka in 1916 when she captured no less than 23 Bulgarian soldiers single-handedly.

In Thessalonica, as a test of skill, she hit a bottle of cognac at 40 m distance with a hand grenade, thereby winning a wager with French General Maurice Sarrail. The remaining 19 bottles of expensive 1880 cognac she shared amongst the soldiers of her company.

She was awarded the French Légion d’Honneur (Legion of Honour) twice, Russian Cross of St. George, English medal of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael, Serbian Miloš Obilić medal. She is the sole female recipient of the French Croix de Guerre (War Cross) with the palm attribute.

After World War I, she turned down an offer to move to France, where she was eligible to collect a comfortable French army pension. Instead, she choose to live in Belgrade, but people soon forgot her merits, this as the political winds changed with the inauguration of Tito and she effectively was deemed persona non-grata in her own country and was forced into subsistence living - ekeing out an existence as a cleaning lady till her death in 1973.

She died in Belgrade on 5 October 1973.


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