An article titled “About Croatian Deaths” by dr. Slobodan Lang was published Thursday 11 October in Croatia’s
“Hrvatski List” (No. 490, pages 39 – 40).
Its contents encapsulating Croatia’s symbols of pain, memorial area, unique symbols of injustice, agony, suffering, war and post-war crimes into a plea for every person’s right to a grave to be honoured is compelling.
And, on this occasion of General Ante Gotovina’s birthday, it is most fitting that this article be translated into English and shared worldwide. I have done this here.
(Translated from the Croatian language by Ina Vukic)
Boris Sprem, president of Croatian parliament, died at the age of 56.
He died of Plasmacytoma, a grave illness, while undergoing treatment in America and still holding a high position in Croatia. Everything that could be done was done for him as a patient. The main responsibility for the future is to develop new knowledge. Bone marrow transplantation was initiated in Croatia, way back, during late 1980’s.
Wikipedia writes little about him; that he was the main secretary of the Croatian Auto Club and of some political functions. No published works.
As a student of Medicine I learned that when someone younger than 80 dies, one (the doctor) should feel anger, because that person had not fully realised his/her right to life. When a person, a patient, dies after the age of 80, we feel pain, because an irreplaceable person has gone forever. Every death stirs love and responsibility for life, remembrance of the past and work for the future.
Mr Boris Sprem’s death causes anger. He lived too short a life.
We have shown the highest level of advocacy for patient’s rights in the case of illness and dying of General Janko Bobetko. In that time, the coalition held Croatian government just as it does today. The Hague Tribunal had, in spring of 2002, charged him with war crimes perpetrated in 1993, in Operation Medacki Dzep. The General stated that he would not go to the Hague alive and he refused to receive the indictment. War veterans surrounded his home and defended him as they did Vukovar, Osijek, Sibenik, Dobrovnik, Lasva Valley, Posavina …
At the end of September Jadranka Kosor, Vladimir Seks, Andrija Hebrang, Ljubo Cesic Rojs, Bosiljko Misetic, Slobodan Lang and Ante Kotromanovic visited him in his home at Tuskanac. Bosiljko Misetic said that he visited the General as a friend and as a lawyer. Andrija Hebrang did not want to comment, and Lang as a doctor: “The General is a courageous man and knows how to bear a burden, which is also evident in his biography.” General Ljubo Cesic Rojs said: “War veterans do not surrender to anyone, what kind of defenders would we be if we surrender? There’ll be no surrender.” As to the question of what if Bobetko were to be apprehended, Cesic Rojs bespoke: “We will defend him.”
Dr Andro Vlahusic, then minister for health, ensured home based medical services, and the professional team of doctors, headed by Dr. Mijo Bergovec, rejected handing over to The Hague. The international team of doctors accepted Croatian doctors’ opinion and the General was defended from aggression against a patient and a man. He died free, in spring of 2003 in Zagreb. By testamentary he ordered the defense of Croatian truth and dignity. “I have a clean face which allows me to leave behind a written footprint of everything I have done and finished during my military and political life that lasted for more than five decades.”
President Tudjman had shown a captivating strength even as a patient. A part of the so-called left-wing had at the time embarrassed Croatian humanism with disrespect, insults and mockery of the patient, the man and his illness, the treatment and suffering. The diagnosis was confirmed in 1996 at the Walter Reed hospital. He died at the age of 77. His funeral was magnificent, an expression of dignity and gratefulness of the Croatian people to a great man. The absence of international dignitaries demonstrated that the world does not know the truth about him or about Croatia. In the imminent future we see that they did not know the truth about themselves.
The Croatian Dead
For the short time while Mr Sprem was its president, the Kukuriku coalition parliament abolished sponsorship over remembrance at Bleiburg.
Warfare, occupation, persecution, killing, judgments, concealment of graves and persecution of truth mark the Croatia of the twentieth century. During World War II Croatia was one of 35 countries under German occupation. Racist laws were also enacted here, Jasenovac arose, and the victims did not receive a grave.
At the end of the war and during the post-war period, Bleiburg and the Way of the Cross – happened. Again, killing was allowed and graves were not. The whole of Croatia is filled with tomb-less people of that war. A small monument in Bleiburg is a crossroad between West Europe, where several thousand of people have been tried and convicted for war crimes, and East Europe, where several million of people were killed out of revenge and as threat for the future.
One man is convicted in Israel and more than 20,000 people pronounced righteous among the nations because they had exposed their own lives at risk for saving Jews. Neither Yugoslavia nor Europe has shown interest for good people and their deeds.
In Yugoslavia, after World War II, monuments were raised to some while it was forbidden to know about the others. Tito’s brotherhood and unity among various nationalities was based on the duty to hate and division inside every nation. The brotherhood of hatred is Cain’s brotherhood. The Second World War was not a conflict between good and evil, but between the bad and the worse. Allies were marked by racism and imperialism (Western and Eastern) with divisions into superior and inferior people. Axis powers, especially Nazism, also introduced non-humans, those who must not even live. That was the conflict of Constantine’s sword and godlessness. Rare ones defended Jesus: girl and maiden Ana Frank, 20 year old Karol Józef Wojtyla, forty year old Massimiliano Maria Kolbe, Aloysius Stepinac … the righteous who defended all whose life was endangered. Everyone’s life is God’s. We are here to give it, live it and build it, and not to take life.
Asked about how he could erect a monument in Jasenovac if it was banned to know the dead, at the end of nineties in Vienna Bogdan Bogdanovic replied that it was promised that the names of the victims would be made known before the erection of the monument. He considered himself duped. He gave me his drawing and wrote “ To Mr Slobodan Lang and with apology.” Post-war monuments in Croatia did not respect the dead but served as cover-up of truth and suffering. That’s no art.
During the Homeland War, inspired by the painful inheritance, we watched over every grave. Nevertheless, it took many years to tidy up the memorial centre in the Hangar on Ovcara (Vukovar).
Bleiburg, Jasenovac and Hangar Ovcara, are an inseparable Croatian trinity of pain, memorial area, unique symbols of injustice, agony, suffering, war and post-war crimes. The families of victims, religious rites and scientific understandings are the most important elements of remembrance. Unfortunately, even during this very week in Zagreb a gathering was held about who has and who does not have the right to a grave.
Based on my personal painful experience I, as a man, as a believer and as a representative of President Tudjman proposed to the Parliament more than ten years ago that all people should be given the right to a grave. Majority rejected my proposal. Instead, President Tudjman was accused of wanting to agitate bones. The proposal of a right to a grave was twisted into agitating bones. I have been proposing that Victims of Fascism Square be renamed to Victims’ Square for many years. Do not divide the dead.
Mr Boris Sprem, as Speaker of Parliament, took upon himself the responsibility of paying tribute to victims, with the following words: “We will pay tribute to the victims of the Way of the Cross in places where the number of such victims was the greatest, in an appropriate and dignified way.” Let’s do this with a joint memorial area for the Croatian trinity of pain by renaming Victims of Fascism Square into Victims’ Square, by the right of every dead person to a grave and brotherhood inside the nation, and peace and cooperation between nations.
Mr Sprem died during the week of Palliative medicine. When I headed Zagreb’s health care, I spent two hours by the side of a dying child every month. In the last war an intellectually disabled girl from Croatia, whom we found in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said: “Let them know in Croatia that we will love them even if they don’t ask about us.” My friend, a communist, a gentleman, colleague Mirko Kralj recently died from melanoma, in his home, surrounded by love of his wife and daughter, giving dignity to all. At Mirko’s funeral no one from SDP gave a speech. He, his beautiful wife and daughter achieved the act of Jesus’ love. Young nurse in Dubrovnik helps the patients, studies and establishes the palliative, and wants to create a family and become a mother. My daughter’s looking after her baby, for whom I pray, and my dear gypsy is pregnant again, in twelfth pregnancy but still came to work, collects that which we throw away. Support Palliative medicine.
Since the year 2000, more than 2000 Croatian war veterans have committed suicide due to rejection, lies, persecution.
After the year 2000, Croatia is being judged, robbed, thieved, doesn’t allow the young to form a family, to give birth to children nor to work.
That is structural genocide. Croatia is dying.
To a very large extent the world had neglected the truth about Polish suffering in World War II. We know of the Holocaust, of the Warsaw ghetto and uprising, of the Katyn forest, but not of Poland. Himmler decided that “the only aim of education was to teach them simple arithmetic, nothing above the number 500, writing of own name and that God’s law was to obey the Germans … Reading is not desirable.” It was planned to ethnically deport 30 million of Poles, 200 000 Polish children of Aryan appearance were kidnapped and given to German parents. Majority was never returned. It was only in 2012 that a book was published of the whole truth about Poland’s suffering and the magnitude of it.
We do not know the truth of Croatian suffering, persecution, patriotism, courage, wisdom, adaptability, universality. President Tudjman was persecuted as a historian for telling the truth, before 1990 and after his death. The would be intellectuals began, from 1993, talking about the need to de-Ustashesise. Then, with discretion, people from outside told them to rather talk about de-Tudjmanisation.
Croatia does not know the truth about itself. We are not allowed to know it, our children are not allowed to learn it, and it is not allowed for world to be informed. I’m ashamed of Croatian historians. Let’s permit Croatian truth.
The Mayor of Zagreb, Minister Mrsic and only a few parliamentarians – Gordana Sabol, Jozo Rados, Zeljko Reiner … – were at the Mass held for Mr Sprem. Politics are more important to the parliamentarians than faith. I’m a believer; of course I attend a Mass for Ante Pavelic.
Is there a God?
Pervading all and everywhere and always beckons us to continue God’s work with human responsibility and care for the family, care for the environment and development of society.
Believe in Croatia, in the young, in having children, in work, in truth, in creating Croatia, in respect of suffering, in President Tudjman, in the innocence of Gotovina and Markac, in future, in Jesus.
Goodbye Mr Boris Sprem. As a citizen, I’ve proposed to today’s members of parliament, regardless of which party they belong to, how they should pay tribute to you. Has Croatia got even one single representative of the people?
We need a Croatian National assembly!
Happy birthday General Ante Gotovina!
Dr. Slobodan Lang”
About dr. Slobodan Lang. Born to Jewish family 8 October 1945 in Zagreb, Croatia. Physician, author, writer, politician and former personal adviser to the first Croatian President dr. Franjo Tudjman. His paternal grandfather Ignjat was the president of the Jewish community in Vinkovci (Croatia) and his grandmother Terezija was a housewife. In 1941 Catholic priest Hijacint Bošković, distinguished Dubrovnik and Croatian Dominican, was engaged in an extraordinary attempt to rescue the Langs from Nazi persecution. Bošković traveled from Dubrovnik to Vinkovci with a special permit that allowed him to relocate the Langs to Dubrovnik. Langs grandfather refused to leave, saying that he “was the president of Jews in peace and he will stay one in the war”. Both of his grandparents were killed in the concentration camp during the Holocaust. He graduated at the University of Zagreb School of Medicine and is a specialist in social medicine. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slobodan_Lang)