June 24th 1981

Ivanka Ivankovic in the early 1980s. She was the first visionary to see the Virgin Mary in Medjugorje

The Virgin Mary first appeared in Medjugorje on June 24th 1981, on the Feast Day of St. John the Baptist, in his day the proclaimer of the coming Messiah. Because it was a Feast Day, the local children were free from school as well as from work in the fields where farmers grew grapes and tobacco.

15 years old Ivanka Ivankovic and 16 years old Mirjana Dragicevic spent their day off together. In the late afternoon they went for a walk. Passing by the local hill called Podbrdo, Ivanka looked toward the hill. Suddenly, about 200 meters up the hill, she saw a luminous figure whom she immediately recognized to be the Virgin Mary.

“Mirjana, look, the Madonna!” Ivanka exclaimed. But Mirjana, a bright city girl from Sarajevo visiting her family in Medjugorje, paid no attention to her friend. She waved her hand and continued to walk.

“Come on! Do you think Our Lady would appear to us?” Mirjana said.

Mirjana’s dismissal was stronger than Ivanka’s belief in what she saw, and so the girls walked on. Next they met 12 years old Milka Pavlovic, a shepherd. She asked the two older girls to join her and bring back the sheep.

When they returned to the foot of the hill, Ivanka again saw the Virgin, this time holding an infant on her arm. Then Milka and Mirjana also looked and saw her. Though they did not know exactly how the Virgin looked, something inside them made them know for sure it was her. The girls felt joy and fear at the same time, a feeling they had never had before.

Before going for their walk by the hill Ivanka and Mirjana had left a note to their friend Vicka Ivankovic, aged 16. Having taken the left exam of the school year that day Vicka was tired when she returned form Mostar, the nearest big city around. When Vicka woke up, she went to look for Ivanka and Mirjana. Vicka soon found the two girls and Milka standing on the road and looking to the hill.

Mirjana Dragicevic in the early 1980s. Her faith was always strong but first she could not believe the Virgin had come

“Look up there: Our Lady” Mirjana proclaimed. Now it was Vicka’s turn not to believe. She did not even bother to look. “What do you mean, Our Lady? What is the matter with you?” Vicka said. She ran away, frightened. On her way back home she lost the slippers she was wearing.

But Vicka never made it all the way home. Instead she met 20 years old Ivan Ivankovic and 16 years old Ivan Dragicevic. They had been picking apples, and the younger Ivan asked Vicka if she wanted some. Yet Vicka had no time to think of apples.

“Ivan, they said Our Lady has appeared up there. Let us go there, you and me – I am afraid” Vicka told the younger Ivan.

When the three returned to the hill, Ivan repeated Vicka’s reaction.

“Do you see anything?” Vicka asked him. But there was no Ivan around to answer her. When Vicka turned, she saw Ivan running away, jumping over a fence and losing all his apples. The other Ivan was still there.

“I see something completely white, turning” he said. “I see Our Lady” Milka exclaimed. Vicka saw a dark hair and a gown. She also saw the Virgin covering and uncovering something, recognized as the others as the Baby Jesus.

The Virgin waved at the youngsters, trying to have them come closer. “She is calling us, but who is going to go?” they asked each other. None of them dared, and they all went home, Vicka first, then the others after her.

Vicka Ivankovic in the early days of the apparitions. Frightened at first, she soon turned into the most fearless witness of the events at Medjugorje

Back home the young people were teased and slightly ridiculed. “You should have caught her”, Milka’s uncle said. “Did they send greetings to your mothers and fathers?”. “Maybe they saw a flying saucer”, one of Vicka’s sisters said.

The visionaries did not pay attention. “Let them talk” was all they thought.

See what happened next

Sources:

Fr. Svetozar Kraljevic: “The Apparitions of Our Lady at Medjugorje”, 3rd edition, Informativni Centar “Mir” Medjugorje 2010, these excerpts based on interviews with Ivanka and Vicka from 1982 and 83.

Fr. René Laurentin: “Learning From Medjugorje”, The Word Among Us Press 1988

Mary Craig: “Spark From Heaven”, Ave Maria Press 1988