Croatia: International Recognition 30 Years On – The Grim Road Nobody Saw

Croatian Postage Stamp Honouring 30th Anniversary of International Recognition

After the newly inaugurated Parliament of the Republic of Croatia passed the Constitutional Decision on the Sovereignty and Independence of the Republic of Croatia on June 25, 1991, and the Decision on the Termination of State-Legal Relations with communist Yugoslavia on October 8, 1991, Croatia became an international recognised state on January 15, 1992. As at that date some 30 countries had officially recognised its independence. On January 16th, 1992, Australia had recognised Croatia’s independence thus becoming one of the first non-European countries to do this and by May 1992 some 77 countries had followed suit.  International recognition came in wartime conditions after Croatian military and police forces successfully defended much of the state’s territory from Greater Serbia aggression and suffered ethnic cleansing of Croats from one third of Croatia’s territory, mass murder, genocide, rapes, horrific tortures of Croats, with many villages and towns suffering devastation and destruction.

For 30 years, Croatia has established itself internationally, becoming a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the European Union and numerous international organisations, and has made a significant contribution to building world peace by participating in peacekeeping operations. 

On 15 January 2022, we also mark the 24th anniversary of the successful completion of the process of peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region into the constitutional order of the Republic of Croatia.

It must also be noted that for 30 years Croatia has failed miserably at completing its transition from communism into democracy. The central values of the Homeland War that brought its independence have not been upheld to any noticeable degree. It must be noted that Croatian authorities have consistently been pushing Croatian independence activists out of the picture starting with forced retirement of some 18 Army Generals in 2000 and ignoring, or rather, purposefully omitting to give due respect and recognition to all who have contributed in the creation of the independent Republic of Croatia and its diplomatic relations and missions across the world. Croatia’s diplomatic and consular missions have consistently ignored to invite to their stately celebrations and functions in the diaspora the majority of the individuals who sacrificed so very much for Croatia, even the many holding Croatia’s Medals of Honour for taking significant part in the creation of the independence are consistently shunned and ignored and “new” faces brought to functions and celebrations who were never seen at crucial activities for independence but kept a safe distance from it all. This is not to say that “new” faces are not welcome, but it becomes deeply disturbing to a Croatian patriot when the people who sacrificed much even in the establishment of Diplomatic-Consular Missions are not respected as a group and given the respect they deserve. The “fashion” it seems for the last 22 years is that one or two such persons are chosen symbolically and invited to stately functions and rest ignored because they may have criticised the government for inefficiency in the transition from communism! I recently asked a very prominent person in the creation of Croatia’s independence and help for the war effort to defend Croatia if he were invited to a recent function the Croatian Embassy had organised and his response was: “No Ina, I have not towed the Party line, their line, for quite some time so I am not welcome there …”.     

Former communists or their offspring have persistently held power since year 2000. ensuring lustration does not proceed, hence, ensuring corruption and nepotism rooted in communist Yugoslavia thrive – still to this day!

Zeljko Glasnovic

To demonstrate the above persistence in keeping the communist mindset thriving in Croatia I found the best evidence in retired General Zeljko Glasnovic’s Fabebook posting the day before the 30th anniversary of the international recognition of Croatian independence in which he quoted the stark and awful reminder by Don Vinko Puljic about the terrifying facts of the Croatian communist-laced powers in control of the country. The quote goes like this:

Tomorrow, the Croatian state will celebrate the 30th birthday of its international recognition.

Many will remember many great moments and achievements on this occasion, so I decided to make a modest contribution to saving from oblivion at least some of the works (of corruption and grand theft) that have marked and defined modern Croatian society over these three decades:

Prime Minister: Prison. ✔

Deputy Prime Minister: Prison. ✔

Head of the Prime Minister’s Office: Prison. ✔

Minister of Economy: Prison. ✔

Minister of Agriculture: Community work sentence. ✔

Minister of the Interior: Prison. ✔

Minister of Defence: Prison. ✔

Minister of EU Funds: Prison. ✔

Minister of Culture: Prison. ✔

Minister of Construction: Prison. ✔

Minister of Administration: Awaiting criminal trial. ✔

Secretary of State: Prison. ✔

SOA (Security and Intelligence Agency) Director: Prison. ✔

VSOA (Military Security and Intelligence Agency) Director: Prison. ✔

VSOA Deputy Director: Prison. ✔

Permanent Representative to the UN: Prison. ✔

Mayor of the capital city: Prison. ✔

Mayor, miscellaneous: Prison. ✔

Mayor, miscellaneous: Prison. ✔

Prefect, miscellaneous: Prison. ✔

Deputy Mayor, miscellaneous: Prison. ✔

Member of Parliament, various: Prison. ✔

Party president, miscellaneous: Prison. ✔

Executive President of Dinamo: On the run from prison. ✔

President of Hajduk: Prison. ✔

President of Rijeka: Prison. ✔

President of Osijek: Prison. ✔

President of the largest company in the country: Prison. ✔

Dean of the Faculty of Law: Prison. ✔

Director of City Cemeteries: Prison. ✔

President of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce: Prison. ✔

Director of Croatian Roads: Prison. ✔

Director of Croatian Motorways: Prison. ✔

President of the Board of the Croatian Railways: Prison. ✔

President of the Board of Croatian Forests: Awaiting criminal trial. ✔

Director of Hrvatske vode (Croatian Water): Community labour sentence. ✔

Croatian TV HRT director: Prison. ✔

Director of JANAF (Adriatic Oil Pipeline): Prison. ✔

Director of the Croatian Lottery: Prison. ✔

Director of HEP (Croatian Electricity): Prison. ✔

Director of INA (Croatian Naphtha Industry) : Prison. ✔

Member of the Supervisory Board, various: Prison. ✔

Congratulations to all the others who are not mentioned, and who have also in these 30 years in a similarly selfless and generous way built and shaped the land we have dreamed of for centuries and will leave to our children.”

To compound the problems Croatia has created for itself via its inept governments through these past three decades, heavily laced with communist mindset and corruption, the Late 2021 Census now reveals that Croatia has lost just under 10% of its population within 10 years which loss is mainly reflected in the mass exodus of young or working-aged people to other countries in search of employment and better living standards. True, there have been quite a number of Croats returning to live in Croatia from the diaspora but still about 400,000 have vanished and Croatia’s population now officially stands at 3.88 million.

One may hope that the coming decade will see a move in the right direction designed to eradicate corruption and theft to attract more people back into Croatia. For a multitude of Croatian patriots including those who actively participated in the creation of its independence the past 30 years could easily be described as horrible and gut-wrenching. Perhaps that is the price of abandoning communism and paying in blood for that? In any case this anniversary is the best thing that happens in the lives of Croatians who helped deliver independence! Congratulations and thank you to all involved! Ina Vukic  

Australian-Croatian Bianca Crvelin (born Vidaic) Succeeds in Local Government Elections in Sydney

Bianca Crvelin (née Vidaic) Photo: Private collection

Stretching from Sydney’s Palm Beach to Manly the Local government area of Northern Beaches Council houses over 266,000 people and an Australia born lady of Croatian descent, Bianca Crvelin (born Vidaic) has at the 4 December 2021 as Australian Liberal Party candidate secured a seat as Councillor, thus entering into a very important  hands on role in making a difference to the Australian community living in this vast area. It is clear to me that this young woman, Bianca Crvelin, has approached this journey of public life from citizen to councillor with energy, enthusiasm and a clear view of what she wants to achieve for the community. These are the hallmarks of someone who sees their tasks in life in advocacy and effective representation of the community around them. I wanted to know more and so I interviewed her and this is what she had to say to the questions I asked:

First of all permit me to congratulate you on your victory at the recent Local Government elections in NSW. You have been elected as councillor on Northern Beaches Council in Sydney. How did the electoral success make you feel and why?

Electoral success is unlike anything I have experienced. It is such a great feeling to have the support of my local community. To be the trusted voice for them and their families. I feel very humbled and privileged to have been elected into this position. I am looking forward to learning the ins and outs of Council and how to best represent my community.

Have you ever run for political office before this year?

This is my second time running as a candidate for local government. On my first occasion I ran as a number 2 in the Forest Ward. I knew I had no chance of success, but the experience was great. On this occasion I ran as the lead candidate for my ward, and the odds where slightly better for me to get elected. We ran a good campaign, and I would have loved for my number 2 to get up. Perhaps we can work on this for the next election.

You were a successful candidate at 4 December local government elections for the Australian Liberal Party, how long have you been an active member of that Party?

I have been an active member of the Liberal party for some 12 years. As you can see, I joined the party much later in life. It has been a wonderful experience, and I have made some great friends.

Bianca Crvelin and her husband Ante (back row), their two sons (front row) Photo: Family album

What specifically drew you to lead a life of politics or government? How did you decide to pursue such involvement in life and what attracted you to the Australian Liberal Party?

I joined the party to get active and to be heard. I realised that I wanted to be part of the solution and not simply stay on the sidelines and see issues. I wanted to get involved. I felt that I was not represented in politics at that time (being a young mother) and so by joining I was able to get involved.

I have been a Liberal voter since I was 18 years of age. My values are very much aligned to the party. I reached out to my local State Member (MP Jonathan O’Dea) and he connected me with my then branch president. I started attending meetings and became very active in the branch, helping out on election days and eventually holding numerous positions in the various Conferences within the Party. Over the years I gained the trust of many supporters within the party which gave me the confidence to run for local government.

Can you tell us about your electoral platform for the last local government elections please.

Main concerns for Narrabeen Ward:

  1. Rates – There was a promise upon amalgamation (of Councils) that rates would drop. I am yet to see this occur. I would hope that we would see these promises achieved. Accountability is very important, and when a promise is made it must be delivered.
  2. Waste – Council has to-date spent funds on unnecessary changes to bins and approved funds for a COVID memorial (I like many, do not want to walk along our fore-shore a remember the events which transpired in 2020/21 where families and business were put under huge stresses and the world as we know it changed, not for the better).
  3. Narrabeen Lagoon Entrance Management – I would like to see the lagoon entrance managed in a more future proof fashion. We have had several weather occurrences which have made it difficult for residents of Narrabeen Ward, Council needs to stop talking about solutions and start delivering. 
  4. Flood proofing the Wakehurst Parkway – Being a mum of two who utilised the Oxford Falls Early Learning Centre for some 4 years I was heavily affected by the flooding when it occurred on Wakehurst Parkway. I would like to see the road flood proofed, so that others do not suffer as I did.
  5. Narrabeen State Park needs to be maintained and kept in pristine conditions. I and my family have been to the park on many occasions, as have many (especially during lockdown), we need to make sure we look after the area so all can enjoy it now and in the future.

How do those main concerns or needs for improvement or strengthening on the Northern Beaches compare to those of Sydney as a whole and then the State of New South Wales?

Councils on the whole need to be focused on efficiency, accountability and community involvement. As elected officials our constituents have trusted us to be their voice.

Councils need to reduce the amount of waste be it in their processes and their profit and losses.

I believe that these concerns resonate throughout all councils. This is why we need active representation from the community. Locals need to get involved. I will be seeking community engagement within Narrabeen with the hope that we can make some real differences in our area. 

In your local government community, are there any specific projects or needs that you are particularly passionate about and would like to highlight and advocate for?

I have grown up in the Northern Beaches and I feel that I am so lucky to have had this experience. I would like to see all our parks upgraded. I would like to see clean areas for families and friends to connect. I want to see our beaches and parks in pristine conditions.

I want to ensure that we protect our area so that future generations can enjoy our area as much as we have.

Perhaps I am reaching to far, but I have much work ahead and I want to make an impact in our area.

Your local government area attracts a large number of tourists but this industry has suffered significantly due to Covid-19 pandemic restriction measures and lockdowns. Do you see a light at the end of this business downturn tunnel and what do you think, in general terms, needs to be done to help business recovery at a greater pace than what is already occurring? How can local governments help?

Small businesses have been hit the hardest by the COVID events. In the short-term Councils need to help out as much as possible. We need to have engagement with them to understand their specific pain points. During my time out and about so far in the community the biggest issue many are facing is the lack of staff. Many cafés simply do not have staff to be able to open their doors to full capacity. Council needs to be the voice so that State and Federal Governments are aware of this issue.

Council can offer some discounts to use of open areas (it is my understanding we are already doing this).

In your opinion, what sort of role should local councils be playing in terms of assisting new migrants, refugees and asylum seekers?

Local Council can help ensure any new migrants, refugees, asylum seekers are well assimilated to the local area. Council can reach out to the new residents and make sure they feel welcome and know about the events in their local community, so they feel connected to their new home.

Your local government area is often described as paradise, with its beaches, coastal spreads, green areas. What about Climate Change and carbon emissions reductions program, what sort of things do you think the local government could influence? What changes or reforms to environmental protection would you like to see?

It is my understanding that overall concerns on climate are considered by Federal Government. However Local Council can ensure that local projects take into account the latest guidance by the Federal Government.

Council has the ability to try to ensure that the local take up Federal Initiatives is achieved.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am Northern Beaches born and bred. The beaches have been my home for over 40 years. I am a wife, and mother of two boys, I have a career in Financial Services which spans over 20 years. Being a qualified accountant, I bring with me a wealth of knowledge from the corporate sector. Over the years I have been active in both my son’s schools and sports activities. I am a Rotarian and I am excited about the opportunity to be a voice for my community and represent them and their families on Northern Beaches Council.

Bianca Crvelin (back row R) and her sister Simone Magas Front row: Mile and Jenny Vidaic (Bianca’s parents) Photo: Family album

Both of your parents are of Croatian origins (your father Mile from Zrnovo on the Island of Korcula and your mother Jenny from Nin near the northern coast city of Zadar). What does your Croatian heritage mean to you personally in terms of your bringing up as an Australian in a multicultural society? How do you think your Croatian cultural heritage may have contributed to developing awareness of needs of others and living as active member of the community?

Being a daughter to two wonderful Croatian parents I am very privileged to have had this cultural upbringing. My parents have instilled in me a strong sense of family, community and work. I believe I have a unique ability to understand many groups of people because of this. Australia is full of people from varying backgrounds and being able to connect with them is a wonderful feeling. Whilst I was campaigning, I had the opportunity to speak to many different people and I was overjoyed to tell people of my Croatian heritage and speak to them in Croatian. Some people of ethnic decent told me they felt that I am a great representation of them, and that I would get their vote. Croatians by our nature are very welcoming and kind-hearted, I believe this is what carried me through my campaign, and will allow me to work well with my fellow Councillors.

Ina Vukic

Part of Northern Beaches Council Area Sydney Australia PHOTO: northernbeaches.gov.nsw.au
Zrnovo Beach Island of Korcula Croatia
Zrnovo Island of Korcula Croatia
Nin Croatia

Croatian New Year’s Day Traditions, Beliefs and Superstitions

Gingerbread, a colourfully decorated confection traditionally produced in northern Croatia, usually in the shape of a heart. LICITAR HEART. Gingerbread-makers also make mead and beeswax products. Their craft is inscribed in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Gingerbread, a colourfully decorated confection
traditionally produced in northern Croatia,
usually in the shape of a heart.
LICITAR HEART.
Gingerbread-makers
also make mead and beeswax products.
Their craft is inscribed in
the UNESCO List of
Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Traditions told us in Croatia that whatever one did on New Year’s Day he/she will do that all year round. Hence, both adults and children behaved well on that day. When I was young I was told not to work hard or do any heavy work on New Year’s Day because if I did I’d be working hard all year. One wouldn’t want that, would one? In olden times in Croatia everyone was told to be good and honest on New Year’s Day and if one got drunk on that day he/she would drink all year! That traditional advice was passed down from generation to generation.

Bunjevci Croats in Backa especially tend to these traditions: on New Year’s Day everything must be neat and quiet and people well behaved. The belief prevails that a person will be all year as he/she was on the first day of the year. On that day men don’t bowl or play cards; children try to be good; money is not given away from home on that day and women do not do any hard work such as scrub floors, do the laundry etc. Everyone is happy on that day.
Whip cracking, making loud and lots of noises with rattles or anything else in order to banish evil spirits.
Wider traditional belief is that what one does on New Year’s Day he/she will see repeated all year round. So, in many places in Croatia, in accordance with this traditional belief, people will get up early in the morning, eat a rich meal, be happy and avoid quarrels with others. If the person one met first on that day was a male – that meant luck! Similarly, it is quite frequent at New Year’s party to see a female making sure the first person she kisses at midnight (in New Year) is a male, otherwise – bad luck all year will follow.
In some parts of Croatia it’s traditionally believed that some types of food bring particular fertility and rich harvest. A whole bread loaf is laid on the table, pork is particularly advisable as meat because the pig digs the soil in forward motion – dig up heaps of good luck. Chicken meat was never prepared for New Year’s Eve meal because chicken scratch with their feet backwards, which symbolises the folk belief that if chicken was eaten on that day then the whole coming new year would be bad. Rabbits are also not to be eaten on New Year’s Day because rabbits run forward and they take the luck away from the house; fish are not to be eaten on that day either because all prosperity floats/swims away from the house like the fish.

Other popular beliefs include sneezing first thing in the morning on New Year’s Day before eating breakfast is a good sign – whichever gender of person who sneezed that will be the gender of new livestock. Need to spit on any money received on that day and mustn’t leave the house empty or unattended. Money was especially guarded on that day because it’s believed that as one spent money on that day do the money would be spent all year. Entering the New Year with debts means one will owe money all year.
Rubbish wasn’t taken out of the house between Christmas and New Year, not even the breadcrumbs left on tablecloth because it was believed that luck would get out as well. Homes not to be swept during this time so not to disturb the souls of the ancestors that may have lived among their family during the twelve days passed. If the washing is hanging on a rope to dry it must be taken down before New Year’s Day otherwise traditional beliefs told that livestock would die and its skin hang on ropes in similar way.

It’s good fortune if the first person walking into a home on New Year’s Day is a male and if a female walks in first that signifies bad luck.

Croatian jam doughnuts KRAFNE

Croatian jam doughnuts
KRAFNE

On the first morning of the new year, the family would wash themselves in a basin of clean water with an apple in which a coin would be placed, symbolising health and wealth. Among the congratulators, a man had to enter the house first, followed by a women.

Coin in apple
Making doughnuts on New Year’s Day was a must as that signified that the year ahead would rise just like a cake so too will fortune. Continental parts of Croatia traditionally make large jam doughnuts – KRAFNE – while the Dalmatian region make smaller sultana doughnuts – FRITULE or PRIKLE.

Croatian sultana doughnuts FRITULE or PRIKLE

Croatian sultana doughnuts
FRITULE or PRIKLE

In summary:

New Year’s Eve dinner is often accompanied by the saying: As you meet the new year, so will the rest of it be. Entering the new year symbolizes the renewal of life and a new beginning, so always close attention was paid in Croatia to rituals associated with the beginning of a new era. Traditions differ from country to country, but most have the same goals: to drive away evil spirits and bring health and happiness. In different regions, especially in rural areas, the Croats have a number of small ceremonies which seek to better mark a new beginning, and some of the rituals and still followed to this day.

“Heralding”

On the night before the New Year’s Day some of the Croatian islands, such as Vis and Korcula cherished old custom “heralding” or “carolling.” In the late afternoon the children in small small groups go to the houses of friends and relatives, and they sing carols or special songs and congratulate the upcoming “young year.” It is customary to first knock on the door and the host asks whether they can sing, after which the children are treated with sweets. These days children receive money as reward for their heralding, as well.

Daily rituals

Calling, beckoning for happiness was the most important thing for a houisehold on the first morning of New Year. Wash face in a basin of clean water with an apple in which a coin is inserted – for health and wealth all year round. The first well-wisher to enter the house must be a male otherwise bad luck will follow all year round; is several places today it’s not unusual to see young boys go from house to house wishing a happy new year to the households. Also it is important who you see on that day, because the holder is that you will be so healthy the whole year, as the one you saw in the new year for the first time.

On the first day of the year special attention was paid to the behavior. Bunjevac Croats in Backa believed that a person would be the whole year the way he/she was on New Year’s Day. So good behaviour, cleanliness and happiness; no one borrowed money on New Year’s Day to steer away debt; cracking whips, making loud noises to keep bad ghosts away as well as to help the ghosts of ancestors who had been among the household over the twelve days leave the household.

Watch what you eat on New Year’s Day

New Year’s table was a reflection of fertility and prosperity, and associated with belief a great deal of care was taken about which dishes to serve. Pork definitely for they signify accumulation of wealth; chicken, rabbit or fish not to be served on New Year’s day for they signify dispersion of wealth or loss of it. Lentils you can have on that day as lentils symbolise coins – the more lentils you eat the more money you will have in the year. Avoid sour foods on New Year’s Day for you risk a sour new year ahead. Doughnuts, definitely, for the New Year will surely keep rising just like a cake dough.

Tradition says you would do best to eat pork on New Year's Day If vegetarian then - lentils

Croatian tradition says you
would do best to eat
pork on New Year’s Day
If vegetarian then – lentils

Do not take the rubbish out

No rubbish or garbage to be taken out of home between Christmas and New Year – doing so is believed to take good luck/ good fortune out of the home. Similarly, sweeping the home not recommended by tradition in this period so as not to disturb the souls of the family ancestors who may have visited the home and stayed there during the twelve days. Ina Vukic

Happy New Year everyone! Sretna Nova Godina svima!

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