Remembering “Bloody Easter” of 1991, Croatia

"Blood on Easter" newspaper photo report by Mario Profaca, 31 March 1991

An incident at the Plitvice Lakes, Croatia, at Easter time in 1991, marked the beginning of the Croatian Homeland War. This incident took the life of the Croatian Police Officer, Josip Jovic, the first Croatian casualty in what was to become a terrible war, a bloody war. Croatian people decided to secede from communist Yugoslavia and Serbians decided to stop the secession by any means.

On 29 March 1991, the Plitvice Lakes management was expelled by rebel Krajina Serb police under the control of Milan Martic (sentenced by ICTY to 35 years prison for war crimes in Croatia) supported by paramilitary volunteers from Serbia proper under the command of Vojislav Seselj (Serb, currently in ICTY on strings of war crimes in Croatia charges).

On Easter Sunday, 31 March 1991, Croatian police entered the national park to expel the rebel Serb forces. Serb paramilitaries ambushed a bus carrying Croatian police into the national park on the road, sparking a day-long gun battle between the two sides. During the fighting, two policemen, one Croat, Josip Jovic and one Rebel Krajina Serb, Rajko Vukadinovic, were killed.

Croatian freelance Jounalist Mario Profaca sent me yesterday a photo (above) of the front page of Slobodna Dalamacija newspaper 1 April 1991 with headline that reads “Blood on Easter”, with the photos he took at Plitvice at the time.

Profaca wrote yesterday: “… At that time, together with Croatian policemen, on 31st March 1991, I went to Plitvice in the early hours of the morning and there we found a large number of barricades from which the Serbian terrorists were shooting at all vehicles that were there. Josip Jovic was hit near the post office building, bullets shot through his bullet-proof vest and soon he was taken to the Ambulance van but died on the way to the helicopter. The same evening, 31 March 1991, in Split, the next day’s edition of the daily newspaper was out with the headline and my photo-report from the location and from that time in Croatian history this day is called the Bloody Easter.”

Saturday 31 March 2012 marked 21 years from that incident and a commemorative service held at Plitvice Lakes.

Croatian President Ivo Josipovic at Plitvice Lakes 31 March 2012 Photo Robert Fajt/cropix

Croatia’s president Ivo Josipovic attended the ceremony, which commemorated the death of Josip Jovic, and said: “Today we celebrate freedom, peace, courage, heroism, patriotism and justice. It was courageous and just to stand here in Plitvice and defend the Croatian homeland, win in Homeland War, protect the values that are part of our constitutional system”.

 We have challenges in our efforts and needs to ensure our citizens a better living standard, prosperity and to stop all those who would want to turn back the wheel of history. As it was courageous and just in the 1990’s to fight against Chetnik ideas just as it was in the 1940’s, so too today, when some want to turn back the wheel of history, we need to say no,” Josipovic said to those Serbs who are attempting to rehabilitate the WWII war criminal Draza Mihailovic.

Today we have to tell them no. Croatia will remain a diligent, just country focused on reconciliation and coexistence, democracy and human rights. We want to clearly say that those values do not go hand in hand with the ideas that fed aggression, death and undermined human rights.”

Your son is our hero,” Josipovic said to the late Josip Jovic’s mother, “your son is our son, your son is all these values we cherish and which we will leave for our children to inherit. Thank you for giving birth and for bringing up your son, thank you, thank you to all war veterans and to all who had taken part in the Homeland War, because you have all contributed immeasurably to our future.”

The 21st anniversary of the first casualty of the Homeland War and the operation known as Bloody Easter was also attended by War Veterans Minister Predrag Matic, many of those who fought in the war, and representatives of the Interior Ministry and the Armed Forces as well as two candidates for the May elections for leadership of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Darko Milinovic and Tomsilav Karamarko.

Lest we forget!

Ina Vukic, Prof.(Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. Remember. Have dignity and pursue justice. Serbia is a nation based on the ideals of a Greater Serbia ideology which is terrorist and undemocratic, seeking the destruction of other peoples for the sake of its fanatical ambitions. As such Serbia should be treated as a terrorist state with all sanctions applied to it. Its ideals and values are incongruent with that of Croatia, the EU and indeed with the UN. It’s time to act with dignity and pursue all legal means against Serbia to ensure justice for all of Croatia.

    • Michael Silovoc says:

      Sunman I agree with your position. I can guarantee you that Serbia still has plans for a greater Serbia.If they are not let into the EU they will be right back at declaring war.This is one of the reasons why the EU has made Serbia easier to obtain entry into the EU to ease them into peace in the region. I am still full of anger after so many years that our country suffered so much at the hands of fools. Such a tragic waste of life of our people that should never be forgotten.Sadly we still suffer the effects of this war by blame and guilt of our heroes.The EU is no friend of ours but only treat us as puppets for their own gain. If we did not have the natural resources that they want so badly for their own gain I am sure we would be part of Serbia.

      • Michael,
        Yes tragic and sad that Croatia is left a beggar. I am not sure Croatia has natural resources in the quantities that would be needed for the EU. We suffer more by what we do to ourselves which is exploited by those around us. We tend to be naive, loving, honest, righteous people believing in the goodness of others and that truth and justice will prevail. Which over time I guess it does, but we need to be wiser to the world and promote and guard our interests. We have nothing to be guilty of, and nothing to fear. If Serbs, who committed some of the worst crimes in history, can go about feeling no guilt, how is it that we Croats who were the victims and who acted justly feel any guilty or should be apologetic? We need strong leadership and vision. Our vision has been a struggle for sovereignty. Now we must create a new vision in a sovereign future. And make no mistake, demographics is key to our future. We need to repopulate Croatia; we need at 10-20million Croats living in Croatia. Otherwise we risk losing Croatia by attrition. Have big families Croatians!

  2. Michael silovic says:

    I agree we need to populate Croatia with our peoples.But our own government makes this very difficult for 3rd generations who’s documents at that time were not properly worded to prove Croat ethnics but only as slavs. I am Croat. I have Croat family in Croatia from 2nd generation but this is still not enough to prove I am Croatian heritage.One would think if you can prove that your ancestors go back to the 18th century that that would be Croat enough.


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