Julienne (Julie) Busic (maiden name Julienne Eden Schultz) is a successful American writer and a well known political activist (alongside her late husband Zvonko Busic) for the freedom of Croatia at the time (1970’s) when Croatia was still a part of the oppressive communist totalitarian regime of Yugoslavia, who, as well as her late husband, had spent significant time in American prisons in relation to their actions for Croatian freedom. Julie lives in Croatia and I have met with her; here’s my interview with her.
Julie, a great deal of intense happenings, both positive and negative, have marked your life for decades now because of your love for the idea and realization of Croatia’s freedom from communism (Yugoslavia). Your love for your late husband Zvonko Busic has, I dare say, despite high risks to personal freedom and life’s comforts, emboldened you to join him in actions for freedom world-wide. Any regrets?
– First of all, I try to avoid labeling anything as negative or positive because one never knows. Many times I’ve thought something was negative and it turned out to be the opposite. I think we need to simply accept what is, without characterizing it, and use it to our advantage as best we can. Some things we can’t control, but we can control our impressions about things, in order to achieve a greater peace of mind. As far as regrets, I try not to focus on that, either. It’s the past. Of course, I do have one deep regret, that an unintended death occurred during the course of our action, but as for the rest, it’s been an intense, fascinating, compelling, challenging, and interesting life. As Zvonko used to say, „don’t complain, you got a lot of interesting material from it for your books!“ But all kidding aside, it’s personally satisfying that the our idealism and sacrifice in the name of Croatian freedom were rewarded when Croatia became independent! And how many hijackers can brag that their victims came to visit them in prison and wrote letters of support to the sentencing judge? Several passengers and even employees of the airline are still in touch with me today! In fact, I just got a letter from one of them who had testified for the defense during our trial, wanting to know how I was doing.
The “Western world” seems to have adopted a warped and an unsavoury sense of justice when it comes to embracing or rejecting activities of freedom fighters – some have been and are labeled as terrorist while others of same or similar calibre are hailed as courageous and desirable. Many examples spring to mind including activities in the South African anti-apartheid movements and resistance often headed by Neilson Mandela, which had eventually been hailed as great and positive even though, history marks, some horrific crimes had been committed in the name of that freedom from the British imposed apartheid. The other side of that medal that has double-standards when it comes to judging freedom activism and fights, houses activities you yourself have taken an important part in during 1970’s for the freedom of Croatia from the oppressive and largely murderous communist Yugoslavia – and yet, those activities have been and still are seen by the world as terrorist. Do you have any comments on this assessment I make in regards to the world’s double standards revolving around genuine suffering of the people and their efforts in achieving freedom?
– I thought of Orwell’s 1984 as I considered this question. Whoever has control of information can direct how people think about people and events, and we see how it worked in the book which, by the way, has experienced a huge upsurge in sales in recent times. For obvious reasons. Much of the western mainstream media has a liberal bias, so Mandela and others who were idealogically similar enjoyed wide support around the world. Timing has a lot to do with it as well. The civil rights movement was in full swing when Mandela was arrested, so there were countless western organizations and governments supporting him. We shouldn’t forget, though, that until a few years ago, Mandela was on an American terrorist watch list! ( see: www.zvonkobusic.com/dokumenti/mandela.doc) Nonetheless, he was received by all the leaders of the world and has streets, squares, and schools named after him. Croatian dissidents weren’t „modern“, nor did they have the vast network of support the Yugoslav government enjoyed throughout the world as a bulwark, although illusory, against Stalinism. As long as Yugoslavia existed, Croatia wasn’t needed and her dissidents and revolutionaries were branded fascists, extremists, and terrorists not just by Yugoslavia but their allies as well. Once you gain power, as Croatia did after she won the war, things change, although not as quickly as we’d like. Until the non-democratic forces from the Communist era are stripped of political power in Croatia, there will be a continuation of attacks against freedom fighters (terrorists in their vocabulary), and the paradigm will remain the same as in the former Yugoslavia. One glaring example is the case of Ante Barisic, a professor at the U. of Zagreb. In former Yugoslavia, he worked for the secret police and participated in the torture and abuse of Croatian students in the 1980s, one of them Marko Grubisic. (see: http://www.jutarnji.hr/vijesti/celnik-drustva-politickih-zatvorenika-od-851-udbasa-njih-754-preslo-je-u-sluzbe-rh/397933/) Grubisic reported him, and has given both interviews and detailed information to the police about Barisic, but nothing has been done, and he is still teaching students to this day. Why? Because his compatriots are still in positions of power in Croatia and they appear to protect each other. Imagine the reaction in Australia, U.S., Canada, if a political science professor was exposed as a torturer of students in earlier years! It wouldn’t be tolerated. Yet he’s still here in Zagreb, teaching the future leaders of Croatia.
– You have been a permanent resident in Croatia for a number of years now, because of your activities for the freedom of Croatia during the life of the oppressive communist Yugoslavia, which have been marked as unlawful, to say the least, your access to your first homeland – the USA – has been made very difficult and probably at times a logistical nightmare. How do you cope with that reality of not being free to to choose your preferred route or “normal” way of going about visiting the place of your birth? What would you say is the hardest part of that reality?
– Yes, I’ve been a citizen of Croatia, not just permanent resident, since 1994. In fact, President Tudjman himself gave me my Croatian passport during one of his visits to Washington, D.C. while I was there. That was exciting!
As for my access to the United States, I have been a victim of the war against terrorism through no actions of my own; that is, since I was released from prison. Year after year, the security regime is tightened as a response to events in the U.S. and outside. In 2009, I found myself on the no fly list after a Nigerian man was caught concealing explosives in his underwear on a U.S. flight. He almost succeeded in detonating them! President Obama was furious, and after that, thousands of people found themselves on the no fly list. There are over 41,000 now, and 500 of them are American citizens. In order to get to America, I have to take a circuitous route which does not fly over American airspace. In recent years, I have had to go through Caracas, Venezuela, Bogota, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico City, and then by foot over the Tijuana border in to California. It’s absolutely surreal and absurd. Imagine arriving at midnight in Tijuana, a woman alone, and having to get to the border through one of the most dangerous areas in the world. Not to mention Caracas! It’s even more ridiculous considering that I had flown over 60 times prior to that into, out of, and within America with no problems whatseover. The ACLU has been working on the case for several years now, but the wheels of justice move very slowly. Meanwhile, we wait.
How has Croatia embraced you as one of its own after it fought and achieved the independence you, your late husband Zvonko Busic and other Croatian freedom fighters had fought for decades before? What was or is the best aspect of that welcoming into Croatia?
– Everyone who welcomed Croatian independence was welcoming to me, regardless of how they felt about our action, and that was wonderful. Of course, those who hadn’t were not, and that is also to be expected. What means the most to me is when total strangers write or come up to me on the street and tell me how much my books have meant to them, how much they were moved by our story, how much they admire our ideals, and so forth. Especially younger people, since they are our future.
You continue being involved in and working on things that emphasise the importance of Croatia’s 1990’s Homeland War and the value of independence. Can you please tall us about some of these undertakings and activities you are involved in or lead?
Our Foundation, (on Facebook: Zaklada Zvonko Busic Taik) which was established in honor of Zvonko, is doing a project on translations of books into English about the Homeland War. So far, Ante Nazor’s „The Croatian War of Independence“ and Ante Gugo’s „In the Eye of the Storm“ have come out in English. Zvonko’s memoirs, „All Visible Things“, which also deal with the Croatian struggle for independence, have also been published. All are available through Amazon. I’d also like to mention that the project was financed in part by a fantastic action from the Australian Croatian community, a radiothon during which a substantial amount was raised! We would welcome a second one, too!
Such books are critical, because still today, non-Croatians do not understand what happened here, and that is because the information is not out there. We must have excellent translations in English and other major languages, and they must be available around the world on Amazon so that everyone can order and read them. This has not been happening, and it is a criticism we have to direct to all the governments we have had here in Croatia. Culture is politics, we have to understand that, and culture is an area that has been neglected. We need books, books, and more books. And that is just the beginning. We also need films, documentaries, podcasts…
The way that I see it, you fall into the category of people who have returned from the diaspora to live in Croatia. Putting aside numerous invitations Croatian leaders have over the years made to the diaspora to return and/or invest, do you think Croatia’s address and dealing with the needs of the diaspora are adequate or do you think Croatia could do better in its pursuits for a unity in Croatian identity across the diaspora? How would you assess Croatia’s efforts in ensuring that homeland Croatia and the diaspora become one body?
– I really don’t know much about the specifics of this issue, and what has been done in the previous governments, but I know the return of Croatians was a priority for President Tudjman. From what I’ve heard from some who have returned, there must be substantial changes in our bureaucracy to draw people back. It’s so complex that most people just give up, and it could be so much easier. People wait months and even years for simple documents, and most could be totally dispensed with or combined, or completed over the internet. And there is still a lot of corruption, a continuation of the mindset from former Yugoslavia, that unless you pay bribes, nothing gets done. At any rate, Croatia’s demographics are a cause for great concern. We need the diaspora, we want them to return with their families, share their expertise and knowledge, contribute their skills, but there has to be a better strategy.
Are there things that you would like to add here or any message you would like to convey?
– Once again, I’d like to thank the Croatian-Australian community for the support they’ve given us and our Foundation so that we are able to finance the books in English on the Homeland War. There’s such a sense of involvement in the community; they haven’t become apathetic and are always ready to help and contribute to good projects. That means a lot, because together we can get the truth out.
Prepared and written by: Ina Vukic