Croatian Diaspora: Living For and Giving To Croatia

Marko Franovic (L) Dr Ivan Hrvoic (R), Photo: Hrvatski tjednik

 The 23rd June 2022 issue of the revered Hrvatski Tjednik (Croatian Weekly) had published an extensive interview conducted by the Weekly’s Editor in Chief Ivica Marijacic with two prominent Croatian expats who are both successful businessmen, philanthropists of note and profound patriots to Croatia.  I have translated below into the English language much of the said interview primarily because it provides a clear and proud picture and a profile of the Croatian diaspora, of Croats living abroad who were a significant part of the strength in the 1990’s that made it possible for Croatia to leave communist Yugoslavia, defend itself from brutal Serb aggression and establish a democracy in a new independent state.

One of the interviewees is Sydney Australia based Marko Franovic who fled the oppression of communist Yugoslavia from Croatia and his native Boka Kotorska to arrive in Sydney Australia in 1960, embark on a long journey of hard work, business acumen and entrepreneurship coupled with his Croatian patriotic activism, publishing, humanitarian activities and outstanding philanthropy towards the betterment of both his new homeland Australia and his first Homeland Croatia.      

The other interviewee is Toronto Canada based Dr Ivan Hrvoic, a Croatian scientist, innovator, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who in 1972 emigrated to Canada and in 1980 founded his own the company GEM systems Inc. for measuring the earth’s magnetic field for magnetic observatories, searching for minerals, diamonds, and oil, for volcano and earthquake studies, for archaeological research, metrology, etc. His company today rates as a leading company in its specialty and he is considered as one of the leading, probably the best experts in the world when it comes to measuring the Earth’s magnetic field. Hrvoic was very active politically in Canada during the 1990’s having focused on Croatian patriotic activities that would prove invaluable in Croatia’s secession from communist Yugoslavia and the creation of a democratic and independent Croatia.   

Both of you left Croatia a long time ago, you come here often. How do you feel every time you touch Croatian soil?

 Marko Franovic: I have been in Australia for 61 years, but every time I come to Croatia, I am just as happy as if it were my first time. I follow everything that happens in Croatia intensively, I am frustrated with many things and every time I touch, as you say, the Croatian soil, with happiness and pride, I feel hope, I always hope that it will be better in Croatia. It saddens me to see that only a little is moving in the right direction.

 Ivan Hrvoic: I have been in Canada for 50 years, I come often, once, or more every year, but every time I feel like I came home. Of course, not everything in Croatia is happening according to my liking, but we all expect and demand that the situation improve, that there is finally a normal democracy here. But I repeat, the first feeling is always that I have come home and there is nothing that can pay for that.

You both went out into the world fleeing communism. Did you have any ideals that you believed in or didn’t believe would come true? What can you say today about that, have your ideals been realised, not only the political ones but also others?

Marko Franovic: I have always been and remain an optimist. When I say that I am going to Croatia, I always say that I am going home, even though my home is down in the Bay of Kotor, and the Bay of Kotor, as we know, is no longer in Croatia. But I always say, when people ask me, that I go home to Croatia. When they remind me that this is not Croatia, I answer that Boka has always been Croatia for me. If the existing world no longer allows it, it doesn’t matter for me it is always Croatia. Finally, I fled 60 or so years ago because Boka did not stay in Croatia, Josip Broz Tito gave it to Montenegro. I remember in 1954 I was the youngest apprentice in the workshop, I was only 13 years and four months old. It was a repairs unit for the army. One man says he heard that Boka would belong to Croatia. But that was according to what Grandma liked, that’s what she dreamed of. This, unfortunately, did not happen then or today, it will never happen again. We must be aware of this fact: we cannot start a war with the Montenegrins today to get Boka back. In the meantime, we Croats moved out of there, as my brothers and I did. Others began to inhabit the area. But let me answer your question: I never gave up on Croatia, although I said in 1982 that I would not think about Croatia anymore because there were so many UDBA or Yugoslav secret service operatives that it was unbelievable. UDBA supervised everything. While I was initially in Italy, I was a member of HOP (Croatian Liberation Movement), in Australia I didn’t want to join that organisation because I realised that UDBA was overseeing everything. I am proud of everything that is Croatian, but unfortunately there were bad people among us.

In 1991, the Croatian state was created. In that sense, I asked if your political ideals had been realised.

Marko Franovic: Of course, they were. I saw another God in Dr Franjo Tudjman. I was happy we got the man who returned the state. For the first 20 years I believed in the realisation of that dream, but later, when I saw how many UDBA operatives were infiltrated into everything, I was suspicious. In 1984 we decided to build a church, we got together and organised in Australia. I got involved with all my heart and when people saw that people like me and I were giving $ 10,000 each to buy land and build a church, everything started like a river, everyone started giving as much as they could. And so, we succeeded and strengthened. We built two churches in a year in Sydney.

Ivan Hrvoić: I left after the Croatian Spring. I have the same attitude today towards Yugoslavia and communism as I had then. At that time, however, I did not believe that there would be an independent Croatian state because it was a communist system and there did not seem to be any force that would realise it, although the Croatian Spring was encouraging in that sense. When Tito broke the resistance of the springers near Zagreb with tanks, my hopes somehow faded. But when Franjo Tudjman appeared at the head of the movement 20 years later, it was phenomenal for me, like a new awakening or birth. I had quite high duties in Canada. I was the vice president of the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ and the president of the AMCA (Alma Mater Croatica). That association was supposed to be cultural, but I turned it into a political one. We lobbied for Croatia, we went to demonstrations, we demanded that the aggression against Croatia be stopped, we helped in all ways and made ourselves available to the Homeland. So, that’s right – in the 90’s my political ideals came true.

Is the Croatian emigration disappointed with the attitude of the Croatian authorities towards it?

 Ivan Hrvoic: I think so. After the first glorious years of the establishment of Croatia and especially the Homeland War, we were told: “We don’t need you anymore, now we have money and don’t interfere … etc.” This greatly disappointed the Croatian emigrants. Later, all bridges to emigration were completely demolished by a shameful electoral law according to which they gave us three seats in parliament, to vote only at diplomatic missions and to many these were a thousand kilometres away, while at the same time they gave three seats in parliament to the practically aggressive Serb minority who are still paid to vote. It is so frustrating and humiliating for us Croats throughout the world. After that, bridges to our emigrants were no longer built. I had the opportunity to talk about this humiliation to former President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic when she was with us. She didn’t change or try to change anything.

Marko Franovic: The Croatian diaspora is very frustrated, it has almost no ties with the Croatian government.

Why, in your opinion, does Croatia fail to free itself from Yugoslavianism and myths like Jasenovac, even though it has been free and independent for more than 30 years? Here, the media and politics still create a pro-Yugoslav atmosphere, every year in the spring we are collectively subjected to the months-long terror of one Milorad Pupovac and Jasenovac myth. Why can’t Croatia slam the door on these relics of Yugoslavian and Greater Serbian politics?

Ivan Hrvoic: That is a very open and complex question. I see that the moves made by our political elite lead more and more in the direction of Yugoslavia, even though it is a failed idea, and, in my opinion, it will never succeed again. But unfortunately, some forces still insist on this, I think because the network of those who lived well in Yugoslavia and terrorised others, especially us Croats, is now being renewed and completed again. That network has become extremely powerful and strong. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic commands it. He and his partner Milorad Pupovac are managing it and we, unfortunately, do not have any movement in Croatia that would give hope that this will stop any time soon. For example, all this right wing – it’s all a collection of big ambitions, everyone thinks they are the new Stjepan Radic or Ante Starcevic, but that’s not the case. They cannot agree and become a force, so there are no changes.

Marko Franovic: First, we have to understand that we were educated in lies. We are ashamed of our nation and our Croatian past instead of being proud of our past and loving it. If we blush when we say we are Croats, that is terrible. We must know that our past was clean, that our past is not the one we were taught about in the communist system, not the one taught to us in schools by Serbs and communists. My nephew once asked me how I could love the Ustasha, when they, he says, killed children. I told him that he went to school, but he didn’t learn there that two and two are four, but only as a joke that the Ustashas were killing. The Ustashas did not kill. Historian Stjepan Lozo wrote well: Serbs were not killed because they were Serbs, but because they killed Croats, and everything that the Serbs accused the Croats of, they themselves actually did to us Croats. This has been proven in all or much of the most current research, but we don’t seem to believe those researchers. That is why I have now started an association headed by Dr Andrija Hebrang with the aim of promoting the historical truth. For me, Dr Hebrang is another Tudjman; a man who was not in with the communists and is independent and free. Our goal is to spread our true Croatian history. We have been learning a lie for 80 years. Today, schools still interpret that more than 83,000 people were killed in Jasenovac, and it is known that 16,800 people passed through Jasenovac, while the number of victims in various ways (including death) was slightly more than 1,500. And that is true.

Marko Franovic (L) Ivan Hrvoic (R) in Zagreb Croatia June 2022, Photo: Hrvatski Tjednik

Could it happen in another country that it stands accused without evidence by its privileged citizens and people living in it, like Croatia is often slandered by Milorad Pupovac who often flees to the country of aggressors during the biggest holidays and does not want to be in Croatia?

Ivan Hrvoic: That is unthinkable anywhere except in Croatia. Not only do they have no evidence for their allegations, but they are also not trying to find it, and they are preventing any attempt to verify or investigate. This is nowhere to be found in the civilised world. The question is, of course, how to get out of that situation. That’s a big question. The only legal way is elections, and in the elections, people were discouraged because their choice was reduced to HDZ or SDP, and it is not known who is worse between the two of them. We already have some third parties that are not yet unfortunately strong enough to be a real threat those two.

You are successful entrepreneurs, you earn a great deal of money with your businesses, knowledge, and skills, and you spend a lot of money on various charity projects. I know you both shared with others many millions. It is my opinion that today patriotic thought in Croatia would practically die out if it were not for you, because Plenkovic’s government, through Minister Obuljen, suffocated it and preferred to help hostile anti-Croatian projects. Are you sorry for the money you gave for these purposes?

Marko Franovic: I will never be sorry. My plan is to invest for Croatia, not in Croatia, for as long as I live. I have invested in every idea to help Croatia, whether it is the renovation of churches or political campaigns, institutions, films, books, projects. I invested a lot of money for Ivo Sanader. Do you remember his warranty card? Trust me, I wrote him those seven promises. I wouldn’t mention everything – movies, books, associations … I share my surplus. I get up at 4 in the morning and go to work, I come back around 6pm and so on five days a week, and on Saturdays I work until 6pm. Myths about my wealth are being spread, but such stories are not simply true. I have investments that I have achieved by working, saving. Indeed, money comes to me very successfully, but I work constantly just as my 60 employees do.

Ivan Hrvoic: As you yourself said, we do not want self-promotion when we help many and when we just talk about it. I almost never talk about it. I can say that I must have received a message from above at one point: “If you have extra money, you have to share it with your friends, with your people!” The argument for this is that once we leave, we will not be able to take anything with us. Croats, like, for example I think, Jews, do not have this culture of giving and it is only a minority that donates. And I have orientated myself to help many. As a last example, for example, I helped the deaf-mute with a smaller amount, some of our defenders, I helped Ms Zeljka Markic with the referendum, and when there are some more important actions, I give more. I covered all the costs of the Croatian Orthodox Church for symposia, in Zagreb, Osijek, Split, Rijeka … There is no need to talk about films, books, translations of these books in the world with the aim of opposing Serbian propaganda. We founded the Croatian-Canadian Academic Society in Canada with the aim of translating and spreading our truth around the world. I don’t know how much of an impact it has, but I am fighting for Croatia as much as I can.

(Translated and prepared by Ina Vukic)

Another Antisemitism Splotch By Ivo Goldstein Against Croats

If it wasn’t for Croatian historian Ivo Goldstein’s past and perpetual fabrications and malicious lies against the World War Two Independent State of Croatia, such as alleged “bone-crushing machines” to hide the number of killed at Jasenovac camp or that Ante Pavelic’s Ustashe regime towards Serbs (whose enormous toll in exterminating Serbia’s 94% of Jews by mid-May 1942 is perpetually hidden by Goldstein himself) had a policy, even though Goldstein admits and states that such a policy had never been published or printed (!), that translated into “one third of Serbs to be killed, one third to be expelled and one third to be forcibly converted to Catholicism”, for Goldstein’s malicious and tragically categorising of Antisemitism into perpetrating ethnic groups rather than political or religious pursuits directed from authorities above, his new 640-page book on antisemitism in Croatia over the centuries may be taken as a crucial piece of encyclopaedic work. He fails miserably and I would say purposefully to note that while Croatian people had lived on the territory, he writes about for centuries they were, in reality, ruled and dictated to by foreign powers not their own until some thirty years ago.  Then again, it may be encyclopaedic only if one is to look at the hatred against Croats, undeserved imputations against Croats of others’ deeds, that emanate from the pages of Ivo Goldstein’s new book.  All in all, Ivo Goldstein’s as his late father Slavko historical work has always evidently existed to justify and protect Yugoslav communists and their crimes and to rub smears after smears at the fight for independence Croats had engaged in after decades and centuries of oppression.

When in 1918, resulting from World War One, the “Western Allies” tossed Croatia from the Habsburg Monarchy to the rule of cruel Serbian Monarch, creating forcefully the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, this is what Croats picked up as a matter of force as far as antisemitism is concerned but Ivo Goldstein would make you believe it was the Croats that held these views against Jews because they were transferred upon Croatian soil by the ruling Serbian Monarchy regime: “The story of the Jews of today in the Balkan States is chiefly concerned with Rumania, for their numbers in Bulgaria (76,000) and in Serbia (15,780) are but few, and their influence small amid the general population. To grasp at all the intricacies of the Jewish question, and the extent of the prejudice against them, it is needful briefly to review the condition, economic, political, and social … the real control lies in the hands of one class. These are the nobles… King Petar seems outwardly friendly to the Jews, and they enjoy some equality of civil and religious liberty. Yet this freedom does not, in Serbia, extend itself to social intercourse. As yet, the Jews have no share in public life or government. A few are successful in law and medicine…”, “The Conquering Jew”, John Foster Fraser, 1915, pp 232-234.

Immediately after World War Two communist Yugoslavia authorities placed in all key educational, cultural, economic, and political positions its own people including uneducated or barely educated individuals who fought in the war as partisans under the pretence of being antifascists but in fact were murderous communists or covering up those murders.  And so, the stage was set for fake academics, for fake school directors, for fake university professors…the stage was set that gave licence and free hand to writing Croatia’s history regarding its independence fight under the Ustashe regime as it pleased the political goals of mega murderer Josip Broz Tito. Of course, this political appointment trend to key positions in Yugoslav society saw the rise of communist Slavko Goldstein and his son Ivo as some credible historians and, to eternal grief of Croats, they made up wild lies and inserted gruesome fabrications in order to paint the Croatian patriots who fought from freedom from Yugoslavia the darkest of the dark. Ivo Goldstein is still at it, seemingly changing his tactics from publishing wild lies or fabrications to stealthily imputing hateful thins against patriotic Croats! All that was possible during the totalitarian regime of communist Yugoslavia and it left awful stains on innocent Croatian people.

Last couple of weeks have seen in Croatia several launches of the latest book by historian Ivo Goldstein ‘Antisemitism in Croatia – from the Middle Ages to the Present’ published by Fraktura from Zapresic.

“Antisemitism has historically become a paradigm of hatred of the other and the different and paradigms – the ‘ancestor’ of all nationalisms and chauvinisms. But in terms of consequences, it is the most terrible of all because it culminated in the most terrible crime of all time – the Holocaust,” recently said the book’s editor Vuk Perisic. He added that the book describes the process of creating hatred in Croatia, with an extremely rich presentation of archival material, newspaper articles and political speeches. Well, if the severity of a crime is defined by the number of victims and brutality and depravity in the manner of murders then surely communist crimes take the top position! But no use of telling that to either Goldstein or Perisic as both are in the business of denying justice to victims of communist crimes. Weren’t all revolutions in human history, weren’t all wars in history of mankind the result of insufferable oppression, pressure, dictatorships etc!?   

Thankfully, political scientist from the Faculty of Political Science in Zagreb, Dr Mirjana Kasapovic, in her review of the Ivo Goldstein new book, emphasised that it is “embarrassing to read only bad books”, and she put Goldstein’s work in that category.

“Antisemitism in Croatia from the Middle Ages to the Present” by Ivo Goldstein, as Kasapovic states in her review, is a thematically, theoretically and methodologically demanding work.

It should be noted that in the scientific literature, antisemitism is studied “as a political ideology, political and social movement and state policy, either within one state or comparatively in several states.” However, as Kasapovic herself observes, Goldstein writes about only one country in his work. This of course is yet another example of his anti-Croatian and pro-Serbian bias when it comes to World War Two and the Jewish question in both; Serbia not Croatia was the one who declared itself “Jew Free”, having exterminated about 94% of its Jews by mid-1942 and Croatia had never pursued such a goal. 

“I write deliberately about the country, not the state, because most of Croatia’s history since the Middle Ages was not an independent state, but Croatian lands were included in various state formations – the Habsburg Monarchy, the Venetian Republic, the Ottoman Empire, the Dubrovnik Republic, France, Italy, Hungary, Yugoslavia – in which there were more or less recognisable geographical, ethnic, cultural and political entities. One can speak of the state only from 1941 to 1945 (NDH) and after 1991 (Republic of Croatia).

Goldstein solved this problem by tacitly ‘writing’ the modern Republic of Croatia into history and treated Croatian countries that were part of various state formations in the Middle Ages and the New Age, and today are part of the Republic of Croatia, as areas of Croatia,” explains Kasapovic.

This means that, for example, “antisemitism in Austro-Hungarian towns and cities of Varazdin, Sisak and Zagreb was treated as antisemitism in Croatia. Such an approach is pragmatic, but not unproblematic. As antisemitism was and remains state policy, the question is to whom state-produced or sponsored antisemitism in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy should be attributed.

Isn’t that Austrian and Hungarian, not Croatian antisemitism? The opposite is also true: aren’t non-discriminatory state legal acts against Jews, such as the Edict of Tolerance of Emperor Joseph II, Austrian, not Croatian documents? The problem is even more complicated if we keep in mind that state and non-state antisemitism were intertwined: non-state antisemitism was often caused or encouraged by the state, but the state government often banned and suppressed antisemitic incidents in society and punished their perpetrators.

Therefore, Kasapovic believes that “Goldstein did not consistently adhere to this methodological approach, so he included antisemitism in Croatia as phenomena in areas that in the indicated part of history were not, and are not today, parts of Croatia.”

With some caricature, it could be said that only the 17th century Croatian noble families Zrinski and Frankopani are missing in the gallery of characters Ivo Goldstein puts out in his book, especially since it is suggested in one place that the Hungarian-Croatian King Andrew II, who ruled in the 13th century, was an anti-Semite.

Worst of all, to Ivo Goldstein, they all appear to be the forerunners of the Holocaust. For many great European thinkers and artists – from St. Augustine to Luther, from Kant to Voltaire, from Balzac to T. S. Eliot – binds some form of antisemitism, but it is difficult if not evil to claim that they prepared the Holocaust. When it comes to unfairly portraying Croats rather than their rulers over the centuries as antisemitic Ivo Goldstein does not appear truthful or fair or ethical for that matter. Ivo Goldstein’s bias against the Croatian people who fought against any form of Yugoslavia during World War Two and those who fought against communist Yugoslavia in 1990’s is an enormous burden for history to cleanse in the service of justice and truth. To talk of antisemitism as the only precursor to the concept of Holocaust as defined in its Greek origins “sacrifice by fire” would also appear for many as blasphemous. What of the much larger “sacrifice by fire” entailed in communist purges and mass murders whose body counts are much, much, higher than those of the World War Two Holocaust. Ivo Goldstein should abstain from writing about either if for nothing else then because of the portrait of communist Yugoslavia mega murderer Josip Broz Tito whose portrait still to this day reportedly hangs in prominent places in Goldstein’s home and visibly in the public offices he had until recently occupied. Ina Vukic

New Film About Croatia’s Blessed Alojzije Stepinac USA Tour

The Interfilm and Catholic University of Croatia documentary by Croatia’s renowned journalist, book author, publicist and documentary film author and director Visnja Staresina “Stepinac – Cardinal and his conscience” (Stepinac – Kardinal i njegova savjest) was last week making its grand and premiere tour across the United States of America. The tour had a positive thread of Croatia’s Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs finally making a concerted effort to showcase in the outside world the truth about Cardinal Stepinac that had so violently been suppresed, fabricated and rigged for decades by communist Yugoslavia. This event would be much more positive and effective had the tour not been organised in manner and places that point to the more or less “preaching to the choir” rather than being placed mostly among those who do not know the truth and whose sense of history had been corrupted by the former communist regime. I personally would have loved seeing  more foreigners at these events than Croats, but am pleased at the promise of a better future for truth-promotion this government auspiced tour offers.

With whole-hearted and generous hospitality from members of the Croatian community in New York and a stellar cast from the Croatian diplomatic and government corps last week’s 14 June premiere screening under the organisation the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Croatia in New York at the Croatian Catholic Parish St Cyril and Methodius and Raphael in New York’s Manhattan met with overwhelming love of truth and loud applause from the Croats and friends who attended the event and came to the big Parish hall despite it being a week night.

Primarily in the Croatian language but with a good balance laden with the English language as well, this documentary Stepinac – Cardinal and His Conscience is a story about the life of Alojzije Stepinac, about how as a man and the Archbishop of Zagreb coped with the greatest challenges of the 20th century, the global and universal significance of his work, the root of controversy that undeservedly follows him to this day, about the relevance of his example and the universality of his messages today. It is also a story about Croatian and European history of the 20th century, as an indispensable context of action. 

Hence, this film largely focuses on Cardinal Stepinac’s attitude towards Ante Pavelic, Head of World War Two Independent State of Croatia, Head of communist Yugoslavia Josip Broz Tito, Tito’s right hand man and Deputy Prime Minister of communist Yugoslavia Edvard Kardelj and Stepinac’s rescue of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia and his faith in God for whom he died honorably.

As a reminder, Tito as Head of totalitarian communist Yugoslavia, after Stepinac refused to separate the Croatian Catholic Church from the Vatican, mounted trumped-up charges against Stepinac in 1946 falsely alleging collaboration with the Ustashi regime that was allied then with Nazi Germany even though the latter was the military occupier etc., put him through a show trial without being permitted a defence, convicted him for treason, sentenced him to 16 years prison of which he served 5 at the notorious communist prison Lepoglava and then was moved to house imprisonment in Krasic, Croatia, where he died in 1960. 

Among most honoured attendees and guests in New York last week were HE Pjer Simunovic, Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia to the USA, dr Esther Gitman, acclaimed historian and author of big body of historical and scientific research and of books about Alojzije Stepinac’s significant role during World War II in rescuing Jews and other ethnic groups caught in the winds of the Holocaust across Europe. The Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia to the UN, Mr. Ivan Simunovic, the Consul General of the Republic of Croatia in NY Nikica Kopacevic,  the staff of the Embassy and the Consulate General and, of course, the Minister of Tourism and Sports of the Republic of Croatia, Nikolina Brnjac, Ane Strazicic Rodriguez (Ane Mljecka) on behalf of the American-Croatian Congress along with the film’s author Visnja Staresina herself were also at the premiere screening as special and honored guests among other attendees.

On behalf of the Croatian Catholic Parish Fr. Nikola Pasalic greeted the parishioners and guests present, thanked them for this praiseworthy event which is very important for the Parish particularly because, he said, the Croatian School and the folklore group that are part of the Parish both carry the name of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac.      

The Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia to the USA, Pjer Simunovic, praised Visnja Staresina for her enormous efforts and commitment to discovering the real truth about Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, about Croatia and the creation of Croatian independent state in general. He especially thanked Dr. Esther Gitman, who has been fighting much of her life to prove through thorough historical research the truth and innocence of Cardinal Stepinac of all the misdeeds that the former regime had falsely charged him and persecuted him with.

I contacted Dr Esther Gitman after this event in New York and she said: “Visnja’s film is a serious work covering the work of Blessed Stepinac in various periods presented by serious and credible historians like Ivo Banac, Robin Harris, Jure Kristo and Michal Naida Brandel. 

Then there are testimonies of Holocaust survivors like myself and a few others. I regret that the promotion of the film tour was particularly poor and, hence, the attendance was just mediocre when it should have deservedly been much higher. I was truly sad to see in NY that not many people were informed anout the screenings afterwards l called Ella Miche, (I probably misspelled this) and she and her mother would’ve come if they knew about the event! I also heard that in Cleveland there were many people playing games in the venue but they didn’t come to view the film being screened  at same premises.

I really shouldn’t be involved with this side of the tour and yet knowing the continued and universal message of Stepinac I was saddened that the publicity and the advertising was poor and attendance minimal! Promoting the truth anout Blessed Cardinal Stepinac must be an all-encompassing effort by all of us, especially those whose life has been so profoundly affected by his deeds. I am most grateful though that this tour provided yet anther opportunity for truth to shine.”

I also caught up with the film’s author and director Visnja Staresina as she waited to board her plane back to Croatia in New York who said that “the American tour of Stepinac: The Cardinal and His Conscience was held in several cities: from LA, through Washington, Chicago and Pittsburgh to New York. I see this as a first step, not only in presenting the film, but also in recalling the universal relevance of Stepinac’s legacy, which in his day was better known and recognised than it is today. It seems very important to me that the tour was held as part of cultural activities funded by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, and organised by the Croatian Embassy in Washington and Croatian consular offices in the United States.

It also seems important to me that the film, for example in Washington, was seen by some people who are not from Croatia, and they are very important for Croatian international relations. It is important that they understand the so-called Stepinac case …

Particularly touching was the reaction of the renowned Chicago artist and gallerist John David Mooney, the last student of Ivan Mestrovic, who as a student at a Catholic High School in the United States, along with his classmates, once prayed for the release of Archbishop Stepinac even though they did not know about the whole Stepinac case. He, deeply moved, literally shed tears and weeped at the screening.

Several of our emigrants, who work with young people and not only with Croats, have expressed a desire to show them the film.”

It saddens me personally to have noticed, for instance in the case of New York screening, that among all those Croatian diplomatic dignitaries and even a government Minister not one of them it seems brought along a foreign colleague, a foreign diplomat or envoy and show off the beautiful Croatian truth in the good deeds of Alojzije Stepinac. This would have added another needed notch in the path to Stepinac’s canonisation that is stumbling upon many hurdles fabricated by former communists, Serbian Orthodox Church and their friends. How wonderful it would have been to see many more foreign and American people at this film’s screenings and some solid international mingling with the truth of Alojzije Stepinac and his remarkable human, benevolent and courageous conscience in times of peril and World War Two battlegrounds. 

When it comes to fighting for the truth in Alojzije Stepinac case, in taking strong, courageous and decisive steps then Dr Esther Gitman fortunately beats all while the Croatian government is still making baby steps. Film author and director Visnja Staresina deserves our gratitude and her great work for Croatian truth is noticed far and wide. Well done! Ina Vukic

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