April 25 of every year is a day when Australia and New Zealand commemorate all those who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations the countries have been involved in.
“Anzac Day goes beyond the anniversary of the landing on Gallipoli in 1915. It is the day on which we remember Australians who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations. The spirit of Anzac, with its human qualities of courage, mateship, and sacrifice, continues to have meaning and relevance for our sense of national identity”.
Croatian sailors – particularly from Dalmatia – have sailed on ships owned by other nations forever – most returned home but some stayed in the far lands. Croatia has had a troubled history with powerful armies of kingdoms and empires who had persecuted the small Croatian nation and, often, people have had to leave everything and escape in order to save their lives or to forge a living away from poverty and hopeless existence. But it was the early 1800’s when first records of migrants from Croatia to Australia and New Zealand emerged. And waves of immigrants from Croatia never stopped coming, creating communities that held onto their Croatian traditions and love for Croatia but also embraced Australia and New Zealand as their new (second) homeland…giving rise to new generations members of which would join the ANZAC spirit and fight for freedoms Australian and New Zealand forces contributed to.
Australians and New Zealanders of Croatian descent have left a remarkable legacy in the ANZAC spirit and fight for freedom. The Victoria Cross awarded in 1946 for bravery in the battles of Borneo (…1945) to Leslie Thomas Starcevich and the 2012 death in military operations in Afghanistan of Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic (Australian Active Service Medal with Clasps IRAQ 2003 and ICAT, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Australian Defence Medal, NATO Non Article 5 Medal with Clasp ISAF, Army Combat Badge, Return from Active Service Badge) provide a strong frame within which Australian-Croats have contributed to the battlefields of Australian Defence Forces.
And, indeed, Her Excellency The Hon. Susan Cox, Australian Ambassador to Croatia, had spoken of the many brave Croats who had lived the ANZAC spirit and courage in her speech in the town of Korcula, Island of Korcula, Croatia where about 120 Australian-Croats (some now living on Korcula) gathered for the ANZAC DAY commemoration in Hotel Marco Polo. They were joined by 4 Croatian War Veterans from the Zagreb branch of the Croatian Homeland War Volunteers and Veteran’s Association ( Petar Bajan, Bruno Cavic, Ivan Krupec, Branko Bartolec).
Robyn Vulinovich-Sisaric, whose father was an ANZAC (WWII, died from wounds in Borneo 1945), read at the commemoration in Korcula the words of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which are engraved on the epitaph in Gallipoli:
Those heroes that shed their blood
and lost their lives;
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers,
who sent their sons from far away countries,
wipe away your tears;
your sons are now lying in our bosom
and are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they have
become our sons as well.
Photographs from the commemoration by Antun Kresic were sold for humanitarian and charitable fundraising purposes.
“Lest We Forget” for the ANZACs was how 25 April 2014 ended in the place of my birth – Korcula. Most fitting because so many thousands from that beautiful Croatian island have lived for over two centuries under the ANZAC skies and contributed to the glory of freedom we now enjoy but which was dearly paid for. Lest We Forget. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)