It was on June 24, 1981, the Feast of St. John the Baptist, that Our Lady was first seen, on that now famous small mountain, known as Podbrdo, overlooking the parish of Medjugorje. Two young friends, Ivanka Ivankovic, 15 years old, and Mirjana Dragicevic, 16 years old, were the first to see her. Ivanka was born in the small hamlet at the foot of Podbrdo, but was living in Mostar at the time, and Mirjana’s family was from Sarajevo, but was visiting her grandparents who lived in Medjugorje. Ivanka describes the event as it began:
“We were together in my house, Mirjana and myself, and we went for a walk. When we were returning home, for some reason I looked toward the hill and saw a bright figure. I said, ‘Mirjana, look, the Madonna!’ Mirjana waved her hand and said, ‘Come on! You think the Madonna would appear to us!’ And we continued on our way home.”1
Both had been frightened; Ivanka by what she had seen, Mirjana by the look on Ivanka’s face and her claim to have seen the Blessed Mother. As they approached the houses in the village, they ran into Milka Pavlovic, 12 years old, who asked their help in getting her sheep and bringing them home. This meant the girls would have to return to where they had just been.
“The time was about six-fifteen. When they reached the spot where Ivanka had looked up and seen the mysterious figure, the girl again cried, ‘Look, there she is.’ Mirjana and Milka, following her pointing finger to a distance of 656 ft (200 meters) or so, saw a young woman in gray, holding something in her hand which she seemed to be protecting. ‘She was a long way away,’ says Ivanka. ‘We couldn’t see her close … just the outline of her body.’ ‘We couldn’t see her face,’ confirms Mirjana, ‘and anyway, we didn’t know what the Madonna would really look like! But something inside us insisted that it was the Madonna. We knew it was her, but we felt confused, and just stood there looking at her.’ Ivanka agrees: ‘We didn’t know what to do, where to put ourselves. We felt a mixture of joy and fear. So much joy, yet so much fear, it’s impossible to describe it.’”2