Croatian Woman Veteran Dies Rallying For War-Invalids’ Rights

Nevenka Topalusic Croatian Homeland War Veteran and War-Invalid Held Onto Her Courage To Her Death

Nevenka Topalusic
Croatian Homeland War
Veteran and War-Invalid
Held Onto Her Courage To Her Death

 

What a tragic and sad week it has been for Croatia.

I’m here because this injustice is killing me. I went to war so that my children could have a better future but it turns out life is not better for me or for my children. I’m here today explicitly to fight for myself and for my children and I’m not moving from here, they can only carry my dead body from here, I’m staying here…as I say, only my dead body is leaving this place … if need be for years and years until I die, I will be here,” said the Croatian war veteran and hero Nevenka Topalusic on Monday 21 October 2014 standing proud among her colleagues Homeland War invalids in front of the Croatian War Veterans ministry building in Zagreb, where the veterans had gathered in their wheelchairs, propped on walking sticks and frames, in suffering from other terrible injuries such as the debilitating shell-shock and posttraumatic stress disorder – protesting against injustice towards war veterans, seeking that the Minister Predrag Matic and his closest assistants step down.

Tragically, Nevenka Topalusic died on the evening of the very next day (22 October), surrounded by her war veteran colleagues – right there at the protest site! Despite the fact that the serious and critical wounds sustained defending Croatia from Serb aggression in 1990’s left her “chained” to a wheelchair she came to Zagreb to join her brothers in arms for the protest, that is now as I write this post in it’s seventh day.

Nevenka Topalusic was a mother of four children; she was a heroine whose courage and determination for a better life, away from communist Yugoslavia and within democracy, reflects the profile of all war veterans, men and women.

 

Nevenka Topalusic  Photo: Boris Scitar/Pixsell

Nevenka Topalusic
Photo: Boris Scitar/Pixsell

“When there is talk of the Operation Storm (August 1995) we can rarely hear that women had participated in the hardest and the fiercest of battles,” says on the Croatian War Veterans’ website.
“Although less in number than men, there were women who charged forth in the front lines, with rifles in their hands. Or they carried their head in a bag, and in their hand a bag with medical supplies and First Aid kits. In spite of those who think that wars are not for women, Croatia has its own courageous female veterans who had acquired the veteran status during the war at the battlefields, not in offices away from them. However, no one knows how many women fighters had given their lives for the homeland and how many of them are 100% war invalids.

Why almost none of those who were at the front lines have received an officer’s rank? Why not a single one has been officially pronounced a hero? No one seems able to answer these questions. But women warriors are the proof that patriotism, courage and heroism have no association with gender.

Even 19 years after the Homeland War had ended tears welled-up in Nevenka Topalusic’s eyes as she recalled how, as the front line she fought with advanced against the enemy in central Croatia (Banovina) she came across the wounded soldiers among whom was her 18 year old son, Dubravko.

Topalusic attended to her son’s wounds and said: ‘Mummy must go forth. This is war’.

Topalusic was a senior nurse and followed and accompanied the 2nd Brigade ‘Thunders’ soldiers in battles; she saved countless lives while risking her own.

Her brothers in arms lay around her, dead or critically wounded. There was nobody to help her in the most difficult moments.

When Nevenka Topalusic died last Tuesday in Zagreb she still carried 28 shrapnel and bullet fragments embedded in her body, was confined to a wheelchair and battled with the consequences of her war wounds daily. But all this did not anger her as much as those who belittled her role in the terrible war”.

 

Candles for Nevenka Topalusic at the war-invalids' protest site  in Zagreb ,CroatiaPhoto: Marko Prpic/Pixsell

Candles for Nevenka Topalusic
at the war-invalids’ protest site
in Zagreb ,CroatiaPhoto: Marko Prpic/Pixsell

With the latter sentiment she joined the Croatian war veterans and invalids in the protest in Zagreb, seeking veterans’ rights that are reportedly being systematically taken away, bit by bit. The protest by the veterans and war invalids is showing no sign of winding down and on the sixth day, Saturday, 25th October, the protesting invalids have finalized and formulated their demands:

Besides the replacement/resignation of Veterans’ Affairs Minister Predrag Matic and his closest assistants, they seek the organisation of a public debate regarding the suggested changes and additions to the Croatian Veterans Act as well as the passing of the Homeland War Act and Croatian Veterans’ Act at the constitutional level.

Djuro Glogoski, the president of the 100% Croatian military war-invalids association said that the veterans seek that all those rights that have been transferred from the Rights of Croatian Veterans Act to the jurisdiction of other government departments, which include welfare, employment, children’s education etc., be returned to the jurisdiction of the initial veterans’ rights Act.

The veterans have agreed to a meeting with Croatia’s leadership but reject invitations to hold meetings at the government headquarters, at the parliament house or at the office of the country’s president – they seek that the meetings be held at the protest site and invite the Minister of Veterans Affairs to also attend but as a veteran, not as Minister.

It’s heartbreaking that Croatian veterans, war invalids, have a Minister who is incapable of dialog with those citizens for whose welfare his mandate dictates positive action. All I have been able to observe from Minister Matic during the past week is spite against the protesters, stubbornness and utterly repulsive and off-putting stance that tells me he is irritated at the suffering veterans for being loud about their rights and feels contempt for such expressions of freedom.

One would think that one of the basic human rights of those who lost their lives, limbs and/health for everyone’s freedom in a democracy is being able to voice ones complaints and requests without the fear of retribution, without the need to suffer. Not in Croatia, it seems – the Veterans’ Affairs Minister is waging a war against the Veterans! On Friday, 24th October, Minister Matic and his aide Bojan Glavasevic (whose resignation the veterans also seek) entered their office building accompanied by riot police, which – as one can imagine – stirred a great deal of disgust among the protesting veterans and the public. The protest has been peaceful at all times and yet this pathetic excuse for a minister brings riot police with him, saying it was not he but the police risk assessment unit who sent the riot police to accompany him!

 

Well, he could have rejected the accompaniment by riot police – but he did not!

 

Zagreb residents were came to give support to the protesting veterans during their sit-in on the ministry’s premises and the local office of the Red Cross organisation provided them with blankets, food and drink during the week. Minister Matic’s words (pathological boasting) that the man against whom the protest is waged (He) is fair and good because he had paid for the mobile toilets used by the protesters and he is paying for the electricity so the protesters in front of his office building could have heaters running in cold weather!

 

What a nasty piece of work this minister of the current Croatian government is!

 

Minister Matic fails to realise that he paid for nothing to benefit the protesters – Croatian taxpayers have, including the ones among the protesters! Besides, mobile toilets were brought there after his ministry refused to allow the war-invalid veterans to use the toilets inside their ministry building and after the veterans publicly protested against that!

The support for the war-invalid veterans’ protest is growing significantly by the day. The veterans have vowed not to stop protesting even if it means they’d be camped there in the streets till Christmas and beyond. Minister Matic is becoming increasingly stubborn and says that he too is a war veteran and that no one can force him to resign – but that he may resign if 50% of veterans want him gone! Evidently, Matic has learned nothing about democracy in the past twenty years: he holds that the mere fact of being a veteran gives him the right of being a Minister in the government. Well it does not! Every Minister must stand down in the face of protest from those his/her portfolio holds jurisdiction over – and the protesters outside his office are many from the 100% war-invalids population! The veterans are adamant that a number of their crucial rights have been either directly transferred to ‘unsafe’ portfolios in the government, and therefore under threat, or indirectly cut under Matic’s mandate as veterans’ affairs minister and they wish to correct such injustices. They also emphasise that the clause banning those who participated in the aggression against Croatia from entitlements to war veterans’ rights has also been removed from the relevant legislation under Matic’s watch. While Matic has denied this the veterans persist that such moves are another way of equating the victim with the aggressor. If this is proven to be the case Minister Matic not only deserves a forced resignation from the post but a permanent ban from any public office or job in Croatia. Personally, I wish the veterans strength to endure for it is heart-breaking to see that those we owe our gratitude for freedom and democracy must now, under this communist coloured government, fight, suffer and even die for what is rightly theirs. Nevenka Topalusic, may you rest in God’s peace and your courageous soul breathe strength into those who, like you did, must endure so that the values of the Homeland War and the rights earned through spilled blood and lost lives are kept firmly there where they belong – at the top of Croatian nations’ priorities. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Funeral of Nevenka Topalusic in Vrbovec, Croatia - Thursday 23 October 2014 Photo: Slavko Midzor/Pixsell

Funeral of Nevenka Topalusic
in Vrbovec, Croatia – Thursday 23 October 2014
Photo: Slavko Midzor/Pixsell

Comments

  1. It’s sad when veterans have to fight for their rights. To some degree, it seems to happen in every country.

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  2. Condolences to her family and Croatia.

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  3. What a heartbreak this is, for the woman, her family, the vets, Croatia. So sorry to read this.

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  4. The heart is heavy with sorrow for the family and all war veterans. Their sacrifice has been great and we Croatians especially our political elite have squandered the golden opportunity created by our brave homeland defenders. We did not demand enough of ourselves or our government. Yes, the war traumatized all of us, but our victory was stolen by deceit and criminal mismanagement by the elites. But things are changing. The time to has come again for the Croatian people to rise up and reclaim their future. As for this government and especially Matic you must know that the Veterans did not cause outrage in the EU – the yugo-nostalgic and communist SDP government caused outrage in the EU. What caused outrage was shielding UDBA criminals, mismanaging the economy, and the incompetent Milanovic government. The War Veterans made it possible for Croatia to be in the EU; they made it possible for Croatia to finally be free. Which if you remember the Communist party of Croatian never even wanted or supported an independent Croatia. It is the left wing/communist party of Croatia called the SDP and their parasite support parties that threatens not only EU membership but Croatian identity and sovereignty. Lustration is the answer to the communist plague infecting Croatia. It’s time to clean house – Yugosipovic, Milanovic, Pusic must go.

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    • Yes Sunman, Matic’s “threats” that Croatia would be turfed out of EU because of these protests is truly pathetic and tragic. There seems to be no end of his and his governments threats and intimidation. That is why I pray for the veterans’ strength to endure,

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  5. She will be remembered, Ina.

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  6. Very sad. I pray that God will intervene.

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  7. I’m in disbelief….just read newsfeed that a veteran doused himself with petrol, lit himself on fire and uttered the words “All for Croatia” and to his brothers in arms…”Stay strong”! Witnesses say that afterwards he stated that his intention was to kill himself as a protest to the Milanovic govt. And this just days after the death of Nevenka Topalusic! How desperate are the conditions in the country when someone would choose this form of protest?

    And now the big question…. CITIZENS OF CROATIA WHERE ARE YOU??? Why are you not protesting en masse in support of those who risked everything for you? Is it possible that the veteran’s fears are justified and that you as citizens are at the very least, apathetic to their plight? Shame on you! If this were to happen in any other democratic country, I would wager that the capital would be shut down – closed for business!

    And secondly and maybe even more importantly I ask ……General Gotovina WHERE ARE YOU??? Conspicuous by his absence, general Gotovina was fiercely supported by his brothers in arms throughout his ICTY trial/ imprisonment and eventual release and indeed, it seemed that not only they, but the whole of Croatia, was in Ban Jelacic Trg when both he and Gen. Markac arrived in Zagreb from the Hague. I remember hearing people shouting joyfully “Gotovina za Predsjednik!” and certainly speculation was running high that perhaps he would run for political office. How misguided that speculation was! I can understand the man’s unwillingness to get involved in politics, but Veteran’s issues should be a-political. Veterans and their families should be honored and their service to their country should be recognized. and respected. Their causes should be supported by all citizens and especially by their former military commanders but unfortunately, the inaction of Gotovina in particular, speaks volumes!

    And lastly, a comment about what I believe contributed to this state of affairs in the country today. When the Constitution of Croatia(enacted 1990) states that modern day Croatia would not exist today if it were not for Tito’s and his Partisans and their establishment of Communist Yugoslavia then that begs the question….Who were the veterans of the Homeland War 1991-95 fighting against? Were they not fighting the Yugoslavian National Army and those Yugoslavs who were resistant to the idea of Croatian secession and sovereignty? The veterans have a huge banner that reads “1991 fight against Yugoslavia…2014 fight against Yugoslavs” ….enough said.

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    • The constitution does talk of antifascism, Velebit, but that’s not the same as the communist Yugoslavia lovers who did not lift a finger for Croatia. I am very heartened by the fact that the protesting veterans are being supported by many citizens and known personalities, food, drink etc are brought there for them in large quantities, so large they cannot consume it so are donating it to charities etc – lovely to watch – and yes I too am wondering why Gotovina has not visited them, Markac has…. protest now in its ninth day …

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    • Well said Velebit.
      I have seen Generals Rojs, Glasnovic, Krsticevic, Markac, and other high-ranking military personnel. Bosnian-Croatian Dario Kordic, who spent years in jail carrying the burden of crimes he did not commit, came out to the men and women protesting. Where is Croatian General Ante Gotovina?
      Some speculate he is not coming because the government has loaned him a large amount of money for his new business.
      Who knows the reasons why?
      From 1995 to 2013 more than 4,000 former Croatian soldiers from both the HV and HVO have taken their own lives in despair. They did not fight for another Communist regime to vilify their great military gains and their suffering for free and democratic Croatia.
      These are shocking statistics. I agree Velebit – where are the people of Croatia? What keeps them at home? Fear for losing their jobs, privileges? Apathy? Disdain for these soldiers? Ignorance? Selfishness? Cowardice?
      When we were kids in Canada we would travel across the country and to the US to attend demonstrations. What is wrong with the people of today?
      Were it not for these brave soldiers, the residents of Croatia would still be lining up for a kg of meat and wearing matching hats and outfits while singing songs to and about Tito (much like what we see in North Korea.)

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  8. Ante Saric says:

    Before I was so proud to tell everybody that I am Croatian. After hearing the news of Nevenka Topalusic’s death I think I may just hand my Croatian passport in.
    What is the point in dealing with a country that has clearly lost its mind. No self-respecting nation would treat its veterans this why. No respecting nation would use loaded, manipulated phrases such as “Antifascism” in its constitution.
    No self respecting nation would vote for people who played no role in its defence during war.
    No self-respecting nation would vote for a man whose father was a member of a communist death squad during WW2 (ie Josipovic).
    The same man whose “advisor” is the son of a man who organised the murder of Croats abroad.
    The same man who praised the symbol of a totalitarian system responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of innocent people in China, Russia and Yugoslavia.
    I am sorry but Croatia is a very sick society indeed.

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    • Much sickness around indeed, Ante Saric – but there’s also much good and the latter will prevail – eventually. The protest is in its ninth day and the veterans ar showing the strength and determination I admire.

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  9. She certainly will be remembered, and I thank you for such a beautiful tribute to her here.

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  10. My deepest condolences to her family and children. This woman is a heroine and a role model for all young people. She was brave and selfless. Hugs, Barbara

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  11. “The constitution does talk of antifascism, Velebit, but that’s not the same as the communist Yugoslavia lovers who did not lift a finger for Croatia.” Well, Ina, the “talk of antifascism” in the Croatian Constitution was not mere talk, it was a deliberate, purposeful statement of fact(?) and can not be merely glossed over as something insignificant. :(Preamble)
    “The millenary identity of the Croatia nation and the continuity of its statehood, confirmed by the course of its entire historical experience within different forms of states and by the preservation and growth of the idea of a national state, founded on the historical right of the Croatian nation to full sovereignty, manifested in…..” and it goes on to mark and recognize every time period in Croatian history from the seventh century to ….”establishing the foundations of state sovereignty during the course of the Second World War, by the decisions of the Antifascist Council of National Liberation of Croatia (1943), as opposed to the proclamation of the Independent State of Croatia (1941), and subsequently in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Croatia (1947) and all later constitutions of the Socialist Republic of Croatia (1963-1990), on the threshold of the historical changes, marked by the collapse of the communist system and changes in the European international order, the Croatian nation by its freely expressed will at the first democratic elections (1990) reaffirmed its millenniary statehood. By the new Constitution of the Republic of Croatia (1990) and the victory in the Homeland War (1991-1995), the Croatian nation demonstrated its will and determination to establish and defend the Republic of Croatia as a free, independent, sovereign and democratic state.”
    Yes, antifacsists (read Partizans)are mentioned, the Constituion of the people’s Republic of Croatia (read Constitution of the People’s Republic of Yugoslavia (1947) and all later permutations of the Socialist Republic of Croatia (1963-1990) are purposely, deliberately, stated to affirm to the world that Croatia’s line of successive sovereignty was documented throughout all known time EXCEPT for the INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA (1941-45). I should say, NDH was mentioned by only to state unequivocally that that period and only that period in our centuries old time-line was to be excluded from our minds, our hearts, our consciousness. “As opposed to the proclamation of the Independent State of Croatia” So, by inference, all those victims of Tito and his Partisans after the end of WWII are not worthy of mention or rememberance – be they civilian or military casualties – because according to the constitution they and their cause was one that the Tudjman govt. deemed unacceptable, indeed not merely unacceptable, but the antithesis of what modern day Croatia was based on. The reasons for why this historical document was so worded is an area for the world’s historians to research and investigate. Excuses and opinions are like …….. everyone has one. My purpose here is to air my interpretation of the above words because I believe it is important to understand what this vital document is verifying to not only the world but to us as Croatians throughout the world….these words are heavy, momentous words….these are the words that our Presidents, Vice Presidents and all our parliamentary ministers are swearing a solemn oath to uphold…???? Yes, it is not a leap of logic with all this being said to draw a line to present day and that banner the Branitelji have chosen to rally around in Zagreb ….1990 protiv Jugoslavije,,2014 protiv Jugoslavena….in the war they knew who the enemy was and today they are still fighting the same enemy, two decades later…..the same enemy so deliberately noted in our Constitution as a precursor to modern day Croatia . Is it any wonder that we are in such a miserable state as a people, and as a country today? You’re right Veronika those brave soldiers weren’t going into battle singing songs about Tito and his Partisans, they were singing “Evo zore, evo dana, evo Jure i Bobana” .

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    • There’s no arguing against you, Velebit, because you are right and the essence of the constitution and antifascism in the constitution should be changed as veterans are trying to include the rights of veterans from 19990’s into constitutional laws. Pursuit to deal with communist crimes should result in a different meaning of antifascism – ie exclude the communist murderers from the constitution… much work to be done indeed… recognition of WWII independence battles and striving are also overdue

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  12. The saddest part about all this, is not that this heroic woman is dead. Death is inescapable, even for the most brave and heroic of us. What is truly sad (as others have pointed out) is that our war veterans and invalids have to fight for their most basic rights and privileges that should have been afforded to them because they risked their lives for the country. Sadly, we live in a sick, sick world and unfortunately, many Croats are increasingly apathetic. Everyone is struggling to get by, with the biggest focus simply being on putting food on the table for another day. Lack of understanding the bigger political problems is yet another reason why we are not seeing more upheaval. People have lost their will and their hope. That, coupled with so many people’s understanding of politics/economy being shaped by communism (and the lie that we were better off in Yugoslavia) causes the situation we are in today – lots of talk, no action.

    May Nevenka rest in peace and to all the protestors: stay strong. Don’t lose your will because this world still needs you.

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    • Thank you, Kat, on the comment – another post by me coming regarding the veterans’ battles. So distressing to see that those most deserving of our respect need to fight so hard for it.

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  13. Thank you very much for your visit and like ! 🙂
    Regards,
    Aliosa.

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  14. omg. what a tragedy.

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Trackbacks

  1. […] free and democratic world, sacrificing life and limb. Monday, 3 November 2014 will mark the end of full two weeks since Croatian war invalids, Homeland War veterans took to the street in front of the War Veterans ministry building in Zagreb, setting up camp, staying determined in […]

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  2. […] visiting again the protest-camp site outside Veterans’ Affairs ministry building in Zagreb where 100% war-invalids have been rallying for changes and rights since October 2014! I.e., aloof faced, Josipovic has visited the protesting veterans on 24 October and has done not a […]

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  3. […] visiting again the protest-camp site outside Veterans’ Affairs ministry building in Zagreb where 100% war-invalids have been rallying for changes and rights since October 2014! I.e., aloof faced, Josipovic has visited the protesting veterans on 24 October and has done not a […]

    Like

  4. […] been over three months of continued protest by Croatian war veterans in which they are camped out in front of the War Veterans Ministry building in Savska street, […]

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  5. […] been over three months of continued protest by Croatian war veterans in which they are camped out in front of the War Veterans Ministry building in Savska street, […]

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  6. […] Affordable and subsidised loans to Croatian defenders entrepreneurs and business owners who employ Croatian defenders; Support for projects to businesses that employ Croatian defenders; start-up assistance for entrepreneurs veterans (favorable lease office space, require professional assistance and advice, technical assistance, professional training or retraining and available sources of financing in the years of new business start-up cycles); The use of EU funds – expert working groups (veterans, war veterans’ children), apply to programs for the Croatian defenders. In reality, this program largely reflects the demands of the veteran protesters that had camped in a tent for more than a year in front of the min…. […]

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