Sr. Žarka Julijana Ivasić was born on 18 November 1908 in Krašić, where she lived before entering the Convent of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in Zagreb, Croatia in 1931.
The growth of Julijana’s faith and her choice of a religious vocation were firmly grounded in the faith she witnessed among her parents, family, and parish. In choosing her vocation, Julijana followed the example of her older sister Terezija (Sister Hildeberta) and many other local girls.
Julijana received the religious name of Sister Žarka upon entering the novitiate in 1932 and took her perpetual vows in 1936.
Sister Žarka’s service to God and humanity was primarily expressed in her ministry to the sick. After serving at hospitals in Gračac, Banja Luka and Petrinja, she worked at the hospital in Otočac from 1939 to 1943.
During World War II, the hospital in Otočac was caught in the maelstrom of the military conflict. Its patients came from a variety of backgrounds including combatants from the various warring factions. Sister Žarka strove to treat everyone equally, without prejudice, in accordance with her vocation as a Sister of Charity which involved bearing witness to Jesus Christ by loving every human being. Yet, this was the reason why the communist authorities accused Sister Žarka and sentenced her to death by hanging.
A request from her Order that the conviction be commuted to a lesser sentence only succeeded in altering the method of execution, such that on 16 May 1946 Sister Žarka was executed by firing-squad in Gospić. She lies buried near the chapel of St. Mary Magdalene in the cemetery at Gospić.
Her last days in Gospić prison, and the manner in which she went to her death, left many witnesses with images of a courageous and devoted Christian – a nun who faced death with unswerving faith in the Lord. The voices that bore witness to the martyr’s death of Sister Žarka continue to live on, inspiring Christian faith and love of neighbor.
O Lord, compassionate Father,
who taught us through your Son
that all your law
consists of the commandment
to love you and our neighbour,
and who in your servant Sister Žarka
gave us a model of devoted service
to the poor and sick
unto a martyr’s death,
grant us through her intercession
that we shall merit the joy of eternal life
by loving you above all things
and our neighbour as ourselves,
Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.