Croatian Diaspora Celebrates Philanthropy of Marko Franovic

Tony Abbott (L) Ina Vukic (C) Marko Franovic (R)

It was yesterday, on 8th of May 2021, that the family of Marko, Božo, Marija and Milena Franovic delighted many guests at the Croatian Club Punchbowl in Sydney Australia in celebration of Marko’s 80th birthday. It was an event like no other in my memory. This was not a mere birthday celebration, this was also an opportunity when the Australian community and the Croatian community spread across the world recognised and celebrated the outstanding human being that Marko has been especially through his philanthropy spanning across continents in efforts to better democracy and life for all, awarding him the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac Lifetime Achievement Award. And it so happens that Marko Franovic shares the 8th of May birth date with Blessed Stepinac.

Marko Franovic recipient of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac Lifetime Achievement Award for Philanthropy

Croatia’s Blessed Alojzije Stepinac once said: “Nothing will force me to stop loving justice, nothing will force me to stop hating injustice, and in my love for my people I will not be eclipsed by anyone.”

And today, Marko Franovic shows us how these words when translated into actions can mean so very much to so many people.

Sydney based Marko Franovic had, due to oppression and harsh life fled communist Yugoslavia in 1961 and via refugee camps in Italy he reached the shores of Australia – determined to make life better not just for his family but for his Croatian community and the Australian community. His life is a shining testament of success in all he touched with his hard work and dedication. This quiet, humble man delivered enormous positive impact on the creation of the independent State of Croatia and its 1990’s Homeland War and his philanthropy reached every corner in both Australia and Croatia that needed help. Many distinguished guests celebrated yesterday in Sydney and many sent video greetings from Croatia.

To me this was a proud moment not just to celebrate Marko but also to see Australia’s former Prime Minister Anthony (Tony) Abbott among us, thus reminding us that Australia had indeed been an exemplary host country, a new homeland, to so many refugees and migrants from Croatia who were able to nurture a long-standing desire for Croatia to free itself of communist Yugoslavia. Australia was one of the first countries outside Europe to recognise Croatia’s independence and plight for democracy in January of 1992 and it showed a passion of camaraderie with our plights and efforts to achieve that independence and democracy.

Charles Billich (L) Marko Franovic (second from L) Ina Vukic (second from R) Anita Paulic (R)

I was honoured to have been asked to deliver a speech during the celebration of Marko Franovic’s birthday, when he was named Croat of the Year 2021 and received his Lifetime Achievement Award. And here is my speech, which I hope will bring this amazing human being closer to you:     

“Our families of Croatian origins share a common passion and that is freedom from oppression and love for democracy and national identity. We of Croatian origins living in Australia for many, many decades feel especially lucky because this country had offered us the dignity of nurturing our love and dream for a free Croatia, propping up its plight and fight for independence from the Yugoslav communist regime when it was most needed, while growing and nurturing our love for Australia itself. And Marko is a shining example of how wonderful the synergy of love for two countries can be. It is ultimately a win-win situation for all.

As to how very fortunate we, whose immediate families fled to foreign lands, were at choosing Australia to flee to from communist Yugoslavia, like Marko did, I always like to refer to the speech that Sir Robert Menzies’, the longest serving Prime Minister of Australia in history, delivered in Parliament on 27th August 1964 in which, among other things, he said:

“…It is difficult for people coming to Australia easily to forget their historical backgrounds. Since the war a number of organisations opposed to the present Government of Yugoslavia have developed throughout the world amongst refugees and migrants from that country. It is understandable that some Yugoslav migrants of Croatian origin should continue to hope for the establishment of an independent Croatia and within a democracy like Australia they have right to advocate their views so long as they do so by legitimate means. I wish to make it perfectly clear that the vast majority of the migrants from all parts of Yugoslavia who have settled in Australia have proved to be law abiding, hardworking citizens and a real asset to this country…”

Sir Robert Menzies put wind under the wings of our love for our first homeland, Croatia.

Jadranka (Adriana Rukavina (L) Marko Franovic (C) Ina Vukic (R)

This win-win situation that has its foundations in love and loyalty to the first and second homelands is something to celebrate and tonight we celebrate its personification in the shape of Marko Franovic. It needed to be written into a book and I am honoured to present to you the hot-off-the-press ‘Never Forget Your Past: Marko Franovic Story’. It is a book that, after Mr Petar Mamic from Domovina newspaper contacted me with the idea, I myself undertook to write, to collate, to put together with the input of many people as well as collaborating authors Branko Miletic and Vanda Babic Galic. It is a birthday gift to Marko from all of us. Some of you here tonight who have gladly sent me your statements about Marko for the book, know, that you have brilliantly contributed to this gift for Marko but also a gift for both Australian and Croatian communities. Thank you so very much and I apologise if, at times, my requests for contributions came at a time when you had more pressing things to do. But you delivered for Marko and for that I am deeply grateful. Just like many delivered from Croatia. Thank you all, once again.

Never Forget Your Past: Marko Franovic – book covers

Proudly and with deep admiration we can say that the past four decades, at least, of Marko Franovic’s life have been marked by extraordinary gestures of generosity towards the Australian and Croatian communities. Marko is a philanthropist who, with his generous works, personifies the definition of this very word: a person who feels a deep love for humanity, who shows himself with practical kindness and helpfulness towards humanity. Marko is not only respected through his philanthropy. He has integrated with obvious and extraordinary ease his business, philanthropic and civic commitments and has followed a standard for individual and corporate citizenship that reflects a great measure of what we look for in society and rely upon to maintain the preservation of generosity and kindness to others.

Although he prefers to walk selflessly, quietly, under the radar of a bright stage and spotlights – Marko is a man of immense importance. He does not care about fame or recognition because he is a man who loves to support and give the most he can, rather than receive. His firm strides through the social landscape of his Homeland of Croatia and Australia, his many public roles, his contribution to social, political, and cultural care and the achievements that have often been talked about and analysed throughout the many years, are colossal and thus difficult to list in one place like this.

Marko has lived and lives a life what others like to call a life of a good man.

Never Forget Your Past: Marko Franovic Story’ is a book that wanted to show rather than tell and put on display what an exceptional human being Marko is and has been. On that note, the book shows not only the harsh life’s path Marko had to endure in order to become what he is today, but it also gives examples of his prolific philanthropy and how other people and community leaders see him.

I trust you will all enjoy the book and keep it a testament to how love for the first homeland joined with the love for a second can create miracles.  The miracles that are quiet, often unnoticed, but to many have the significance of well-being that inspires creativity and progress.  

Video birthday greetings for Marko Franovic from Croatia with English subtitles

Thank you, Marko, for all you do! I salute you! Happy 80th Birthday!” Ina Vukic

Croatian Communists Of Today: Hypocrites, Vultures and Yo-Yos

Military Police Operation Flash – Croatia 1995

Yesterday, 1st May 2021 marked the 26th Anniversary of Military-Police Operation Flash! Croatia marked the 26th anniversary of Operation Flash in the town of Okucani today, honouring the Croatian police and army that liberated about 500 square kilometres of territory occupied by Serb aggressors in Western Slavonia. The operation was launched on May 1 and ended on May 3, 1995. In that short time the Croatian troops and police regained control of 500 square kilometres of land, including the main west-east motorway and the railway line leading to Eastern Slavonia. 42 Croatians were killed and 162 wounded.

During the war, Okucani was the centre of the Serb rebellion and a staging area for their terrorist attacks in Western Slavonia. As their defeat progressed, the Serb aggressors organised and ordered the missiles attacks on Zagreb, Karlovac and Jastrebarsko. During the attacks against Zagreb on 2 May 1995, seven civilians were killed and 218 wounded. Serb rebel leader Milan Martic was sentenced by the UN tribunal ICTY to 35 years for war crimes committed during those missile attacks.

All the while, during the entire Croatian Homeland War today’s President Zoran Milanovic and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic hid, away from battle zones, from Croatian lines of defence and liberation, hid outside Croatia, wishing that Croatia never succeeds in its independence plight, in its defence from brutal aggression.

“We do this (passing unique law on veterans’ rights) because we are convinced that the Homeland War is the foundation of the Croatian state, that the freedom given to Croats by Croatian defenders is the most important value that we must nurture and protect and respect their sacrifice. Therefore, in the future we will do everything for the dignity of the Homeland War, for the respect of Croatian veterans and their families,” said Prime Minister Plenkovic in Okucani yesterday.  

“On this day, now many years ago, Croatian heroes liberated this part of Croatia with determination, knowledge, patience and courage, and after the ‘Maslenica’ ’93 action they enabled a few months later in August ’95 that Croatia be finally merged into a whole and liberated. Those were a few good and a few brave people. It was about hundreds, maybe thousands of people. The rest of us were in Zrinjevac, Geneva, personnel services, and here, and on other battlefields in Croatia, a small number of people fought and to them eternally thank and glory to Croatian heroes,”  President Milanovic said in Okucani yesterday.

What a bunch of hypocrites! They could not care less about these Croatian heroes of the 1990’s who sacrificed their lives and many of whom lost their life or limb for democracy, for freedom from communist Yugoslavia. The legislation regarding war-veterans’ rights Plenkovic boasts about is a sham and is still leaving thousands of Croatia’s defenders without a veteran status and access to health and pension services.

The hypocrisy of both the Prime Minister and the President of Croatia lies in many purposeful “omissions” and the most important one is that they have done absolutely nothing in removing from the Historical Foundations (of independent Croatia) of the Constitution of the Republic Croatia this paragraph:

“- the establishment of the foundations of state sovereignty during the course of the Second World War, as expressed in the decision of the Territorial Antifascist Council of the National Liberation of Croatia (1943) in opposition to the proclamation of the Independent State of Croatia (1941), and then in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Croatia (1947) and in all subsequent constitutions of the Socialist Republic of Croatia (1963-1990) …”

In essence the above paragraph that keeps or validates the communist regime and its mindset that prevents responsive legislation. Yugoslav communist regime did not, as they purport, liberate Croatia from Yugoslavia but kept it enslaved and oppressed within it. It murdered hundreds of thousands innocent Croats who actually fought for independence during WWII. It filled over a thousand of mass graves with Croatian patriot bodies. It falsified Croatia’s WWII history in order to promulgate hatred against freedom-loving Croats. Both Plenkovic and Milanovic promulgate the same lies about WWII independence fight in Croatia; they fail to even offer small amounts of funding for new research that is shedding light on the colossal lies their communist predecessors have heaped up against patriot Croats. They do, however, find funds to fund various NGO’s that continue justifying communist crimes and communist Yugoslavia!

In May 1991 almost 94% of Croatian voters voted to secede from communist Yugoslavia, which led to the declaration of independence. This also led to the bloodiest and most brutal escalation of Serb-led Yugoslav onslaught against Croatia. It was only a few years after the Homeland War ended that this war of defence was inserted into the Historical Foundations of independent Croatia of today. But the paragraph relating to Antifascists (communists) was not deleted! And therein lies the main reason why lustration did not occur!

Former communists in high positions, communist Yugoslavia operatives, retained positions to work against the very concept of an independent Croatia during peace time.

Prime Minister Plenkovic keeps rubbing salt on the Croatian independence fight wound, keeps insulting the very sacrifice Croatian defenders and people made for Croatian independence during 1990’s by embracing the 1990’s rebel Serb minority representatives in the Croatian Parliament as coalition partners in his government. “Thanks to Plenkovic” these Serbs, whose brothers, sisters, parents etc slaughtered Croatians during 1990’s, ethnically cleansed them from their homes, devastated and destroyed their properties, raped their women and girls…now dictated the political scene and government rudder that still tries to equate the aggressor with the victim!

President Milanovic continues to mimic a yoyo, just as he did when he was the Prime Minister some years ago. He cannot maintain stability of his political views nor his respect for the Homeland War and its true meaning. His statements confuse even the most prominent of political analysts, let alone ordinary citizens. One day he is full of praise of the communist regime and the next day he is full of praise for Croatian Homeland War heroes.

These vultures feed on the corpses of Croatian victims of Serb aggression while dining with the Serb aggressor and all the while their mind is communist red. With this political impasse and mindset, they seemingly retain some 26 to 30 % of voter body. They are the voters who most likely live in apartments and houses stolen by the Yugoslav communist regime from Croatian Jews and from Croatians who in WWII fought for Croatian independence. They are the voters whose families benefitted from the Yugoslav false economy that relied on foreign loans, rather than productivity at work. They are the voters who lift no fingers against widespread corruption and theft. They are the voters who look up to such a government and President for their continued sucking at a foreign purse – this time the EU purse – rather than develop new jobs within Croatia, to sustain independence.

It would be understatement to say that Croatia is now in a political crisis much more than ever in the past twenty years. The roots of this crisis are embedded in the fact that the meaning and values of the Croatia’s Homeland War and secession from communist Yugoslavia are simply not receiving due respect nor the deserved place in this nation of developing democracy. To illustrate this here is a translation of a poem published yesterday by Pater Ike Manduric, a leading Jesuit priest in Croatia in spiritual well-being of the community, a war veteran:

The enemy thought that Croatia was weak,

That there is no strength.

But it didn’t know that there waa love.

And love is strong.

Like death.

The enemy believed it had greater rights than others.

And that the Croatian home is not holy

That it is not important to God

That communism is God.

But it was all a lie.

Then the Flash exposed the lie

The occupier was struck by the truth:

Communism is a fraud and a lie

Croatia is as strong as life

The Croatian home is sacred.

Congratulations on the Flash!

And I want and invoke a new Flash

Which will shed light on the lies again

Because they started going crazy again

Again, some rely on lies.

And there will be a Flash, some new one, for this time, with new weapons, and by all the signs of the times it can be read yes, to the one who loves the Homeland.

I know that!

Congratulations on the FLASH!”

Ina Vukic

Croatia: Except For Homeland Movement, Local Government Elections 2021 Platforms Largely Blind To Diaspora’s Power For Real Progress

Local government elections in Croatia were going to occur in May regardless of the sudden death in March of Zagreb’s long-standing Mayor Milan Bandic. In the local elections, on Sunday, May 16, 2021 (with second round on 30th May), Croatian citizens will elect their representative and executive power for the next four years in 576 local government units. That is how many municipalities, cities and counties Croatia has in which citizens will elect councils and assemblies, as well as mayors, county representatives, prefects and their deputies. And remember, Croatia is a country of just over 4 million people! To say that such atomisation of the country into so many local government units is ridiculous and devastation-prone would be an understatement. But, the bottom line is, and a bitter one at that, is that it keeps the politically suitable in a job! Just as it did in communist Yugoslavia. Full control of a nation under the guise of decentralisation of power and self-government!

With the need to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, which is currently peaking at its third wave with thousands new cases every day, albeit declining, dozens of deaths every day and the visibly crumbling public health care system, and the aftermath of the devastating Zagreb and Banovina earthquakes, it is clear that 2021 local elections will perhaps like never before (in living memory) be all the more demanding. Economic losses from Coronavirus pandemic and the frequent earthquakes that have been serially devastating Zagreb and Banovina around it, since March 2020, have significantly impoverished the country and people.  

One would think that local government election platforms should have some consistency with the needs of the whole nation rather than appearing like some individual flickering lights in the skies that glitter individually but together form no contours that would appease the fears for a safe and working future for most if not all. So far, the election platforms seeping out into the media are very much about local issues and, indeed, perhaps this time more than ever before in the history of local government elections we might see votes go to those who are likely to achieve most for the local community. This, of course, is a desired effect in a democratic world but it can be a disaster if local needs fall by wayside of national pursuits and/or priorities that ensure the continuance of projects kick-started by some EU Funds or any funds that have no permanent maintenance or growth. It’s like sticking a band aid on a wound that will not cease festering without proper treatment.

So, it’s like: let’s fix the broken pieces and not worry about the durability of the fix!   

With an enormous number of candidates, political parties and independents, running at these elections it is easy to see that the political national cohesiveness towards a national solidarity and togetherness the Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic/HDZ Party is airing as a most essential component that will save Croatia is falling on deaf ears when it comes to gathering forces in order to fix Croatia as a whole. This is not surprising. Both HDZ and SDP Parties, as largest political parties in the land are losing support and ground by landslides and the smaller parties and independents have seemingly also incorporated into their election promise the use of EU and other funds serving as temporary solution band aids. Not many delve into how to use these funds in order to become independent of them at the other end.

The much-needed job-creation is not surfacing so far as a common thread in election campaigns. For those areas that depend on tourism much of the election campaign energy is being invested in measures to combat the spread of Covid-19 so that the coming tourist season could bear some solid results. This of course, in the current pandemic climate is a “no-brainer”! “You just do what you’ve been doing, and you should be alright” type of a thing!    

Of course, for the areas devastated by the earthquakes it is a given that re-building of housing and infrastructure will be a priority. However, apart from political rhetoric and declarations it is at this stage unclear as to how all this will occur outside disaster-relief funds from the EU, which is not a bottomless pit.

What strikes me as indicative of “more of the same”, lame or no real progress in the economy for the next 4 years, is that most candidates and/or political parties vying for local government positions have avoided plans that capitalise on the enormous potential that the Croatian diaspora has in contributing to local economies and job-creation. For decades now those in government in Croatia have persistently spoken of the great potential the Croatian diaspora has for real growth and progress, economic, demographic and overall. But as I have written here many times before, this rhetoric is nothing more than a tool for vote-gathering at parliamentary elections. Nothing much gets done and the laws passed in parliament do not reflect the need for Croatia to truly turn itself towards its diaspora, which is rich in knowledge and financial power.  Where better than on the local level to act in order to make come to fruitful life the contribution that Croatian returnees or Croatians investing from the diaspora!

But this is not happening at the 2021 local government elections. Not as far as it can now be seen. Perhaps the coming weeks will prove me wrong (?) It’s turning into a race of largely left-wing, communist Yugoslavia nostalgic political parties used to milking somebody else’s purses (this time the EU’s and the IMF’s) instead of setting up own industry that would ensure prosperous ongoing survival.

The only political party that to my knowledge has accentuated in its official election program the need to involve the Croatian diaspora in the building up of local economic strength is the Homeland Movement Party (stranka Domovinski pokret), headed by Miroslav Skoro. Its election platform has a dedicated chapter on the role of the Croatian diaspora and how to harness its invaluable contribution for the betterment of local economies and demography.

This chapter is titled:
“The Return of Emigrated Croats and Their Families”:

  • Contribution to demographic and economic recovery
  • Identification of deficient occupations
  • Assistance in socialization, especially of children
  • Cooperation with consular services and Catholic missions around the world
  • Systematic assistance to young people and young families in housing independence through the launch of a pilot project through EU funds
  • Systematic assistance in resolving administrative documentation
  • Through an active immigration policy towards people whose body is abroad and whose heart is in Croatia, let us preserve our identity

Ina Vukic

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