The Croatian Legend of Mila Gojsalic

Lauren Simmonds

mila gojsalic
Ivan T./Commons

September the 27th, 2023 – Croatia abounds in myths and legends, and one of the most popular is that of Mila Gojsalic, set back during the time of the Ottoman invasion.

Let’s jump into a time machine and head back to the sixteenth century. Life looked a lot different, and the mighty Ottoman Empire was conquering lands across this part of Europe. The marauding Turks had their eyes on the Republic of Poljica for some time, and were right on the verge of capturing it when Mila Gojsalic threw a spanner in the works with her jaw-dropping beauty.

What was the Republic of Poljica, and why did the Turks want it?

The Republic of Poljica was a small republic located between the Dalmatian city of Split and Omis, which lies a stone’s throw further south. It stretched back into the Dalmatian hinterland, through which the ever-important Cetina River snaked. The land owned by the former republic was protected from the weather by the mountains and was extremely fertile. This area was perfect for growing all kinds of crops, and it was only natural that it was named after the fields it ruled over (with the Croatian word for field being polje).

The Ottoman invaders of course wanted to get their hands on every territory they possibly could, but there was a special lure for them when it came to such lands, and so the Republic of Poljica, where the fatal Mila Gojsalic lived, was a deeply desired target for capture and occupation.

Ahmed Pasha, an Ottoman leader at the time, had prepared his army and perfected his plans to invade and capture the autonomous Republic of Poljica. He hadn’t prepared, however, to meet Mila Gojsalic, a stunning local woman who turned heads effortlessly everywhere she went. Realising what was about to happen to the Republic of Poljica at the hands of Pasha and his powerful army, Mila hatched a plan.

Mila Gojsalic enters the lion’s den…

Mila took it upon herself to walk into the invaders’ camp and confronted Ahmed Pasha. He was captivated by her looks and decided to postpone his planned attack on the Poljica Republic in exchange for a night spent with Mila. Mila Gojsalic gritted her teeth and endured the night with Pasha, and after he had fallen asleep, it was her time to sneak out and take revenge against the imperialistic Turkish forces.

Mila quietly left Pasha’s quarters and headed quickly to the area in which the forces had stored all of their gunpowder in preparation for the launch of their attack. Mila lit a fire, set the gunpowder alight and an enormous explosion occurred. This explosion took the lives of many Ottoman soldiers as well as that of the duped Ahmed Pasha himself.

The Croatian forces manage to beat the Ottomans

The Turkish soldiers who remained alive after the explosion were then in a state of complete disarray. Their confusion gave the Croatian forces, now aware of Ottoman plans to invade the Republic of Poljica, a clear advantage. The Croats launched a full-scale attack of their own, sending what was left of the Ottoman forces running for the hills with their tails between their legs.

Mila Gojsalic is still watching over her beloved Omis to this very day

If you head up into the rugged mountains above the town of Omis today, you’ll find a statue made by Ivan Mestrovic of Mila, who still keeps watch over her town and the townspeople. Many believe that the selfless and brave Mila, immortalised in the form of a statue, continues to bring the people of Omis luck, protection and prosperity.


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