Jovial fireworks sparkling across night skies, trumpets sounding cheery elation, rainbow coloured streamers and confetti titillating, balloons hovering dancingly above the heads of reveling crowds in the streets, singing, dancing…the picture scurrying into your mind could easily be that of 4th July celebrations across U.S.A., or other celebrations of Independence across the world, or even of your 21st birthday.
On 8th October Croatia will have its 21st birthday and I wish I could see this picture of unleashed joy in every street, on every square, in every home of Croatia. But it’s not to be – there’s still too much to be done in bringing to justice those who massacred innocent civilians, men, women and children during the reign of terror and horror by the Serb aggressor in the self-proclaimed Serb Republic of Krajina in Croatia, between 1991 and August 1995, when Croatian military Operation Storm liberated the Croatian territory from the intolerable reign of terror.
On 8th October 1991 Croatian parliament declared full independence of the Republic of Croatia from Yugoslavia – this is the day Croatia celebrates its independence, still soaking in blood, still awaiting justice for the victims, still subdued by political forces in its craving to celebrate freedom, still awaiting its rite-of-passage into the free and just world.
“First and foremost, we have the responsibility to build a society of peace, freedom, solidarity, justice, work and respect for human rights, with particular care for children, youth and families,” said, among other things, Croatia’s President Ivo Josipovic in his message to Croatian people, Friday 5 October, ahead of Independence Day holiday.
While that’s all good and nice, it’s simply not enough. It’s more like an aloof lip service when viewed from the point where unresolved crimes against Croatian battles and struggles for independence stand.
Please President Josipovic, do not mention the “care for children” without mentioning what you and the Croatian government has done, are doing in order to bring the murderers of innocent children to justice and to account.
I could write reams if I were to mention every single innocent victim, whether massacred or ethnically cleansed from his/her home by the Serb forces in Croatia’s War of Independence in the early 1990’s. But let me just tell you the story of the area in and around the town of Glina, where soon after 8th October 1991, 400 civilians were massacred, thousands ethnically cleansed, deported forcibly from their homes by the Serb rebels and members of Yugoslav Peoples’ Army from Belgrade, Serbia. The same story was repeated and repeated, over and over again until August 1995 (Operation Storm) when time came and Croatia had to say: enough is enough!
“Croatia’s declaration of independence in 1991 saw the beginning of a bitter war and Captain Dragan Vasiljkovic would train rag tag Serb civilians and lead them on operations against the Croats. The town of Glina still bears its battle scars – hundreds died here in savage fighting…”
“At the time Captain Dragan was clear in his own mind about what constituted a target. When the Croats used police stations and hospitals as fortifications he said, ‘sorry I just have to massacre them’”.
On 29 September 2012 in Gornje Jame near the town of Glina a Remembrance Chapel dedicated to the 14 Croatian civilians massacred and murdered by a Serb terrorist group led by Sinisa Martic between 3rdNovember and 11 December 1991 was unveiled. The Chapel was raised, built by a Croatian war veteran and the son of one of the murdered civilians, Ivica Kustreba. In his speech (as documented in the accompanying video, below) Kustreba (first male speaker in video) said:
“…A crime was committed here for which no one has yet answered. In this place 14 civilians were murdered with 3 children among them, and they are Nikolina Fabac, Zeljka Fabac, and Darko Dvornekovic, who had not even reached the age of 10. Murdered, massacred and burned with the rest of the civilians whose names are engraved on this remembrance plaque.
Our Generals are in the Hague, and some other prisons for command responsibility and those who perpetrated the crimes here stroll freely and laugh into our faces.
Darko, Nikolina and Zeljka dreamt about beautiful, free and rich Croatia and their dream was cut down early. Now, in our media some other Zeljkas and Nikolinas spin about and here they are forgotten, as if nothing had happened here and so I ask you and all in government authority: do they have a heart and do they have children. Could 21 years since this terrible crime have passed for the remembrance plaque to be raised here for the perished civilians among whom are three children … this is the only part that belongs to the town of Glina which has not a single one resident, Gornje Jame and Donje Jame once were the largest by population numbers in Glina region, and today they’re almost erased… “
(Second male speaker in video)Milan Baksic, Mayor of Glina, among other things, said:
“Gornje Jame is now a village without people, a village with dead souls …and today we have come here to bow to those souls … we have raised remembrance plaques to civilian victims of Homeland War in several places in Glina region over the past three years … all these are places of civilian victims of the Homeland War for which no one has been made responsible… 400 civilians were murdered in Glina area …I won’t say who is to blame that for 17 years after the Homeland War one could not even come to this place … let everyone carry that in his or her soul … what can I expect from our government, what can you expect, we can expect that they’ll at least one day remember and begin processes for the criminals to be caught … a long time has passed … let’s believe that one day those who did this will end up where they belong. ”
In its brutality the horror of Gornje Jame near Glina has become the symbol of Croatian unbearable suffering during Croatia’s Homeland War or War of Independence.
During that war, from 1991–95, Glina was a town in the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbiam Krajina within Croatian sovereign territory. Thousands of Croats fled, thousands were forcefully deported and multitudes murdered and massacred in groups or individually. On August 6, 1995 Glina became a fully functioning part of Croatia itself after Operation Storm.
Thank you dr Franjo Tudjman! Thank you General Ante Gotovina and all the brave defenders of Croatian Independence. I celebrate you on 8 October.
I celebrate with humble bows the souls of the innocent victims that now stand as red poppies in my heart for remembrance that Croatian independence came harshly and will be celebrated with all joyous pomp and ceremony once the authorities and politicians bring all the perpetrators of these horrible crimes to justice. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)