International Women’s Day: A Tribute to the courage of Croatian women victims of mass rapes

“SUNČICA/ SUNNY” – is a recently published book in Croatia, edited by Marija Sliskovic, that contains testimonies of interned (imprisoned) women against whom the war crimes of rape were committed, covered up, and to this day not brought before the criminal courts. It’s about the crime that was part of the war strategy of Serbian and Yugoslav Army aggression against Croatia in the 1990’s.

Sunny was only eight months old when she was taken with her mother in occupied Vukovar (1991). Her mother was locked in a flat like a slave for rape. Sunny did not know what they were doing to her mother, she cried because she needed her mother for herself. Serbian soldiers raping her mother were annoyed by Sunny’s cries so they threw heavy army coats over her. By some miracle Sunny did not suffocate under the heavy coats, she survived. Sunny is strong, she survived the occupiers’ heavy attire and survives the cover-up of crimes against her and her mother today. Croatia is woven from the strength of many Sunnys.”

Victim of war crimes Ružica Erdelji:

Transcript from video testimony September 2011 above (Ruzica’s testimony starts at 0.31 sec on video:

“I am Ruzica Erdelji, maiden name Barbaric, Croatian – Herzegovinian. I was born 11 January 1951 in Grabovo near Vukovar.

I spent the war in Vukovar, at Olajnica, building 15, in the corridor of third floor, without any living conditions, without water, food, in fear. Hungry in 21st Century. We waited for freedom. With the arrival Chetnik occupator, for me and many Croatians the Way of the Cross commenced, and many have never returned from that Way of the Cross.

We had to surrender to the Chetniks, they led us through the city, on the bridge Jelica Jankovic was kissing with the Chetniks, she tells them by name and surname who needs to be killed. Those people are no longer alive, and she proudly strolls through Vukovar.

They transport us on buses to Velepromet.  As soon as I got out of the bus, they separated Serbs to one and Croatians to the other side. Branka Janjetovic comes and writes me in under number 477. My neighbor comes soon, Pero Krtinic, points to me as a Croatian and hands me over to the Chetniks, while I hoped he would help me. They take me into the carpentry building. Sladjana Korda is at the door, takes by force everything I had, and I had about 30,000 German Marks and gold jewelery. She ripped my leather jacket looking for money, she took everything and pushed me into the carpentry room.

There Hell, at nine thirty at night a Chetnik nicknamed Topola from Velepromet takes me out and drags me through streets of Vukovar. He says he’s taking me to interrogation. It’s night, I don’t know where I am, he forces me into a house and then into a room, Chetnik headquarters are in that house. He, armed, ripped everything off my body and raped me all night while gunfire went on outside. A man was crying in the next room.

In the morning he takes me to another room, several of them there, rape again. Then a Chetnik comes and he takes me upstairs, to a children’s room. Rape again, torment. After he had finished tormenting me, he takes me to the ground floor, where another Chetnik named Zmigo awaits. Holding batons and rifle he takes me to the next room, Arkan’s men are there. Again rape, one after the other, I felt humiliation, I felt repulsed at myself, dirty, unkempt. They chased me out, and there Zmigo waited, takes me away as war trophy, me as if a little Ustashe. Along the way we meet Ilija Macura, I thought he’ll help me, but he pretended he did not know me. He was in army uniform, today he works as delivery man for the police.

Zmigo takes me to the cellar of a house across the street from Textile school, he too rapes me all night. In the morning he takes me to a Chetnik leader, Lancizanin from Vukovar, nicknamed Kameni. He sends me to Velepromet, to judge me there. And again carpentry building with Sladjana Korda. She kicked me into a room, it was the room of death. I, the only woman among men. Vukovar men dressed in Chetnik uniforms came there all the time, they beat us and dragged people out who never returned. Next night they take us out in buses to army barracks. They beat us there and force us to sleep on concrete.

If we needed to go to the toilet there had to be 10 of us. When we finally reach the toilet, you cannot relax from fear, as armed Chetnik stands beside us. One day we had to clean the army barracks, we were humiliated, shamed, dirty. Come Stanimirovic, Dokmanovic and Hadzic, spit on us and ask what we are doing on holy Serbian ground. Stanimirovic now receives a parliamentary wage, while I live on 1, 775 Kunas pension after 35 years of work.

After all those tortures and torments, 29th November 1991 we are transported to Sremska Mitrovica, and on 12th December we were exchanged. Never had anyone asked how I am, do I need help. I’ve been treated at psychiatric wards in Cakovec, Zagreb and Vukovar. Noone lent me a hand of consolation.

Thank you to everyone who supports us in this painful journey of truth, because the truth must be known. “

“Sunny” has become a strong movement in Croatia during recent months with courageous women finally breaking the social and intimate barriers that occur in cases of rape, and have come out: speaking of their suffering, pointing their fingers at and naming the Serb war criminals, perpetrators of mass rapes over Croatian women during Croatia’s war of Independence. To take their courage further they have begun arriving at the office of the State Prosecutor, giving their testimonies, providing evidence of war crimes – with great expectations that the perpetrators be finally brought to justice.

Marija Sliskovic

Marija Sliskovic, also the president of the “Women in Homeland War” Association said last month in Croatia: “Those who had perpetrated those crimes must face their evi deeds,” adding that in the opposite case the criminals will think they’ve done something that’s not punishable”.

It’s a known fact that there were even camps for the implementation of mass rapes into which fertile women of non-Serbian origins were broughtvand raped. They would be released only when they were highly pregnant, too risky for termination of pregnancy. There is no doubt that this approach to women contributed to ethnic cleansing of the areas as women who experienced this most often did not want to remain in these areas in order to avoid seeing their rapists (and these were often their first neighbours) and to be constantly reminded of the horrible memories.

Women of Vukovar also experienced hell on earth when in 1991 Chetnik paramilitary units together with Yugoslav Peoples Army occupied the city. In that they kept many non-Serb women in Vukovar, imprisoned them in houses and committed over them pathological perversions that only sick minds can imagine. It’s enough to mention that the youngest female person whom these maniacs tormented was six, and the oldest eighty years old.”

The courageous women of Croatia are pursuing war criminals that have escaped justice up until now. Their plights for justice had in the past fell on deaf ears; rapes were covered up, rapists set free, some fled Croatia after the war only to be returned to Croatia under the EU push to repatriate Serb “refugees” back into Vukovar/Croatia.

No more cover-ups if these women, victims, get their way. Besides approaching the State Prosecutor’s office they are spreading their intention to reap justice to the Croatian foreign minister, EU Ambassador to Croatia, Members of Croatian Parliament for Serb Minorities…

As a woman, I stand in awe and admiration before such courage.

There is no doubt in my mind that many these heinous rape crimes have been covered-up and “overlooked” for political reasons that point to external pressures against Croatia not to “ruffle too many feathers against Serbs” if it wants to be in EU! Well, it’s about time that Croatian government and institutions step up and shout out loudly in securing justice for it’s women victims of mass rapes. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A.,M.A,Ps.(Syd)

Comments

  1. Tears.

    Like

  2. Shared!

    Like

  3. shared! The truth must be said. No matter how hard, how bad. Nothing´s changed, unfortunately. As a woman i can feel the humiliation, pain of these women and i know how helpless they were and at mercy of people who didn´t know what mercy is.

    Like

  4. It seems almost sacriligious to mark “LIKE” on an article with such profoundly important content, but that is the only option we are given on these platforms. I am humbled by the strength and courage women have shown in the face of such egregious oppression and applaud the untiring work of activists such as Ms. Sliskovic who bear witness and give a voice and a sense of agency to the voiceless and vulnerable victims of such obscene violence. It is far too easy to separate ourselves from the horrors of these egregious crimes; the media can be a buffer, removing itself and us, from presence, and giving a sense of unreality to those all too real experiences. Ms. Vukic, I have just read your wonderful, most recent article on “Croatia: a face of beautiful people,” (Nov. 3, 2013). Looking at those women, stylish, confident and engaged with life, the horrendous nature of violence against women poured to the foreground and I was struck by disbelief– how can such horrendous crimes be perpetrated BY ANYONE on women such as these–our daughters, our sisters, our mothers?
    And yet, they have.

    Like

    • So sad, so anger provoking to even think that rape war crimes have not yet come even close to being prosecuted throughout…just a case or two badly done and hundreds still remain unprocessed. Absolutely shocking, jas

      Like

  5. Dear Ina – We’re in post production on a documentary film about systematic rape in wartime, taking a particular look at Bosnia and Croatia, with Bakira Hasecic being our main thread. I couldn’t live with myself without mentioning the women of Vukovar. Would you permit us to read from some of the letters above? – Ivana

    Like

    • Good one Ivana, never enough of such documentary. You are welcome to read the “letters”from my post as the Transcript from the video is actually my own translation into English of the original. And I am perfectly bi-lingual 🙂 … Perhaps the women of homeland war association in Croatia would love to hear od your project if they already haven’t – they might have other material – cheers

      Like

Trackbacks

  1. […] Nothing has changed; nothing has improved for the victims of rape in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. So it’s high time the victims call the authorities to account, demand justice, demand protection. If it means taking the Government to court – so be it! No mercy should be afforded to any such obviously rotten and irresponsible actions or omissions by the authorities (be it only local ones in Vukovar, if not higher ones in the country’s governmental headquarters) who let the brutal beasts walk. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd) Share this:TwitterStumbleUponFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Filed Under: Uncategorized Tagged With: Croatia, Marija Sliskovic, rape, Serb rape camps, Vukovar, Women in Homeland War Association « Fragments of War […]

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  2. […] The editor of the book “Sunny”, Marija Sliskovic (President of Women in Homeland War Association…, on which the film is based, has for years been collecting rape victim statements and testimonies about the horrors of the war. […]

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