Zvonimir Gavranovic – Bleiburg: Massacre of the Croatian People 1945

Zvonimir Gavranovic (centre) and part of audience present at the launch of his book “Bleiburg: Massacre of the Croatian People 1945” in Sydney, 11 October 2023 at Parliament House Photo: Ina Vukic

“This is a masterly book that can change lives. Zvonimir Gavranovic has spent a lifetime studying this and meditating on its wider meaning. His research is impressive, his findings are sure, and his application to everyday life is sound. He knows that nurturing hatred for wrongs done in the past is bad for you. Yet if he urges forgiveness, he does not want us to forget our bloody past. It is a nourishing book,” noted by Edmund Campion of Sydney on the back cover of the book “Bleiburg: Massacre of the Croatian People 1945” by Zvonimir Gavranovic.

Zvonimir Gavranovic with his latest book, October 2023. Photo: Ina Vukic

In the author’s words said on 11 October 2023 in The Parliament of New South Wales premises in Sydney, at the book’s launch, it took the best part of ten years to write this book titled “Bleiburg: Massacre of the Croatian People 1945” published by ATF Theology, Adelaide, Australia, 2023. But then, everything it seems points to the conclusion that the author, Father Zvonimir Gavranovic, a Catholic priest of Croatian roots ordained in 1972 and since then serving in various parishes in Sydney, doesn’t do things superficially or “by halves”. He is a thorough, caring, dedicated author who contemplates beyond the times his book is written and published in. It reportedly took him almost 20 years to research for and write his previous sell-out book “In search of Cardinal Stepinac: a complete biography” published 2014 by Kršćanska Sadašnjost, Zagreb Croatia. (As a reminder to readers of this article, in May 1943, Archbishop of Zagreb Alojzije Stepinac openly criticised the Nazis and put his own life in danger to save Jews and other ethnic groups facing peril. At the end of World War Two, on basis of false accusations drummed up by communist Yugoslavia authorities Stepinac was found guilty of Nazi collaboration at a mock trial, by the communist government and was convicted and sentenced sixteen years` hard labour on October 11, 1946. He spent five years in the prison of Lepoglava, and in 1951, Josip Broz Tito`s communist government released him and confined him to his birth village of Krasic in Croatia. Even though he was forbidden by the government to resume his duties as Archbishop or priest for that matter, Stepinac was named Cardinal by Pope Pius XII on January 12, 1953. Due to pain caused by the many illnesses he contracted while imprisoned, Cardinal Stepinac died in Krasic on February 10, 1960. In 1985, his trial prosecutor, high-level communist operator, Jakov Blazevic, admitted publicly that Cardinal Stepinac`s trial was entirely framed, and that Stepinac was tried only because he refused to sever thousand-year-old ties between Croatians and the Roman Catholic Church. On October 3, 1998, in Marija Bistrica, Croatia, Pope John Paul II beatified Cardinal Stepinac, and referred to him as one of the outstanding figures of the Catholic Church. In 2016, a Zagreb court overturned the verdict against Stepinac from 1946. The Canonisation process for Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac is still ongoing in the Vatican.)

Bleiburg: Massacre of Croatian People 1945

“The purpose of this book is to serve as a memorial: it speaks on behalf of all those who had their voices silenced by terror…” writes Zvonimir Gavranovic in the Introduction to his book.

Contrary to what the book’s title may suggest, this book does not wholly focus on 1945 and the events often referred to in historical studies as “The Bleiburg Massacres and Way of the Cross/ Death Marches of Croatian People” but in an ordered presentation lined with historical and historiographical accounts tells the entire history of Croatia, summarising its beginnings – traces within the ancient Roman Empire, the seventh century AD increased emergence of the establishment of Croatian peoples’ settlements, the glory of the Kingdom of Croatia (925 – 1102), centuries under Habsburg including Austro-Hungarian Empires foreign rule, the forced inclusion of Croatia into kingdoms (on the territory of former Yugoslavia) under the thumb of the Serbian Monarchy immediately after the First World War, the start of World War Two where communists fighting for retention of Yugoslavia fought against the Croatian independence movement and army right up to 1945. In all that history in this book the reader is briefly but strongly presented with individual Croatian leaders who throughout centuries of foreign rule and oppression fought for Croatian identity and independence; at times tragically losing their own life in the process and never, due to stronger opposing forces at play, successful to the end.  

Zvonimir Gavranovic, October 2023, photo by Ina Vukic

“Reading Chapter One of Croatian history between the seventh century and the beginning of the First World War the reader will come to realise that the Croatian and Serbian people had the best of relations for centuries. Problems started to develop after the two nations came to live together in what eventually became Yugoslavia. The biggest upheaval for the Croatian people as for all the Balkan nations was the Turkish invasions. The Turkish invasions greatly depleted the Croatian nation …” said Zvonimir Gavranovic at the Sydney launch of his book.

The Second Chapter the book deals with the creation of what later became the former Yugoslavia (ceased to exist in early 1990’s) after the First World War. In the first instance it was called the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes under Serbian Monarchy and after the assassination of Croatian leadership in the parliament in Belgrade the chapter shows how tensions between Serbs and Croats grew much stronger and dictatorship from the Serb Monarchy continued ruthlessly, antagonism heightened as Serbian King in 1929 changed the name of the country to Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In this chapter the reader is introduced to how, amidst dictatorship, oppression, denial of human rights to Croats, political instability within the Kingdom of Yugoslavia – amidst the enormous political tensions withing Europe as a whole, during late 1920’s and the 1930’s, the Croatian Ustasha movement was formed (the movement that would in April of 1941 proclaim the Independent State of Croatia).

“It was in Britain’s interests to escalate the war. Its Secret Service worked with the Serbian nationalists headed by air force colonel Dusan Simovic to overthrow (Serbian) Prince Paul and his government; this coup took place at night of 26 March 1941, installing the teenage Peter as the new King with colonel Simovic and his ultra-nationalist Serbs running the country. As a result Germany invaded the country on 6 of April 1941. It was the beginning of enormous sufferings of people of Yugoslavia. It is true that between the 6th and 10th of April of 1941 the Croatian people overwhelmingly supported the creation of a Croatian state, which became known as an independent State of Croatia. The leadership of this puppet state hoped that Croatia like Denmark would be a haven of peace…Sadly it was not. Initially it was peaceful in the country but then disorder developed. There were five different armies roaming Croatia which at that time included Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Zvonimir Gavranovic at the book launch in Sydney.

The reader is then presented with the rise of Communism as well as the persecution of Serbs and Jews in the Nazi-occupied Independent State of Croatia and the work led by Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac in saving these lives and sufferings. It presents the details of Croatian government’s order of withdrawal of its army to southern Austria, close to the town of Beliburg, on 6 May 1945 when civilians went with them, with peace being declared in Europe on 8 May 1945 and on 15 May 1945 Croatian Army surrendered. The British Army handed them all to Josip Broz Tito and his communist Yugoslavia, who slaughtered them, with Chapters Four and Five of the book dealing with the chilling and brutal Croatian Death Marches where hundreds of thousands of Croats perished because they were anti-communism and anti-Yugoslavia, while Chapter Six addresses the suffering of the Slovene people during the Second World War whose thousands of Civil Defense personnel were also returned by the British from Bleiburg and slaughtered by Tito’s communist partisans. In the same chapter the reader will also find the suffering of the German people in former Yugoslavia, of whom barely 60,00 survived from 500,000 being there before the war. Also, the suffering of the Montenegrin peoples of former Yugoslavia can be found here.

Entitled “Graves and Burial Places” Chapter Seven of the book brings to us the destinies of those that were slaughtered by the communist Yugoslavia partisans and to this day graves and burial places are still being discovered in Slovenia and Croatia. The Chapter contains names and locations of several mass graves and pits but history so far records several hundreds of thousands slaughtered innocent Croats and just under 2000 mass graves of communist crimes victims so far found in Slovenia and Croatia, and while this book does not delve into numbers it is of interest to insert that detail here in order to gauge the significance of “Graves and Burial Places”

Photo by Ina Vukic/ Zvonimir Gavranovic, Bleiburg: Massacre of the Croatian People 1945

Juxtaposed portraits of Serbian King Alexander Karadjorjevic, Croatian WWII Dr Ante Pavelic and communist Yugoslavia’s Josip Broz Tito on a large screen during the book’s launch in Sydney was an eye-opening and thought-provoking image. It signalled the nature of the content of the book’s Chapter Eight; which one of these three people is at fault for the massacre, for the suffering and slaughter of Croatian people in 1945.  

In Zvonimir Gavranovic’s own words: “King Aleksander headed a brutal regime and was behind the assassination of the Croatian political leadership in Belgrade Parliament in 1928, he suspended the constitution and imposed dictatorship in 1929…he greatly antagonised the non-Serb populations of the country as well as some sections of the Serbian population …his actions caused wounds under various nationalities of the former Yugoslavia that had not been healed yet (as WWII began). Then the British handed these soldiers and civilians to Tito’s partisans one week after peace was declared in Europe in May 1945. No one thought that the British sense of fairness would hand these people to the communist partisans. Dr Ante Pavelic and his government didn’t show leadership that required ordering thousands of soldiers and civilians into Southern Austria, uncertain of what lie ahead, his aim was to withdraw as many soldiers and civilians as possible with the hope that the British would accept them as prisoners of war and to hold onto the Geneva Conventions. Pavelic, therefore, bears enormous responsibility for what happened and that’s something that Croatian people must realise. I place Tito and the communist party that he led as most responsible. Communism has no concept of forgiveness and mercy. Tito was extremely brutal and in this we gain insight into his brutality. Tito was no Nelson Mandela. When Tito was alive, he was regarded as a great statesman, his funeral was watched by millions, but what kind of statesman is that with everything that one fights for, lives for, collapses ten years after one’s death…”

A very striking chapter of this book is its last one – Chapter Nine: Reconciliation, Forgiveness and Peace. Zvonimir Gavranovic says that for this chapter he drew strength from his own personal religious tradition, reconciliation process in Northern Ireland, the reconciliation of the Jewish and German peoples as well as the South African Truth Reconciliation Committee. Bringing the perpetrators and the victims together, the perpetrators acknowledging their crimes and asking for forgiveness is the only way forward according to the author of this book where he provides various examples of true and moving reconciliation across the world.

“The British establishment has not revealed all there is to be revealed, it kept it from the British public. People of Britain are unaware of what happened in Southern Austria one week after peace was declared in Europe in May 1945. My hope is that in 2045 the centenary of the end of Second World War in Europe there’ll be celebration in Europe commemorating the end of the war in Europe but hopefully one week later the Bleiburg field not only presidents of Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro but also Serbia and members of the British Royal Family will be commemorating what happened there a century before.”   

Zvonimir Gavranovic (L), Ina Vukic (R) at the book launch 11 October 2023, Parliament of NSW premises in Sydney, Australia

This 375-page book on Croatian history and wounds that have marked a suffering existence and perishing of the Croatian people particularly under the communist Yugoslavia regime is well worth the read and ownership. It will provide the reader with a wealth of insights into the history of suffering of Croatian people but also with insights into sufferings of other people and how reconciliation becomes the highest and the worthiest pursuit for human history and well-being.  Ina Vukic

Croatia: Yet Another New Mass Grave of Communist Crimes Victims Discovered

Covering up or largely ignoring communist crimes, that were above all – horrendous, is an assault on truth.

Pits and mass graves such as Jazovka in the Zumberak Mountains area (and there are more than 1400 so far discovered in Croatia since its secession from communist Yugoslavia) filled with skeletal remains, rusted wiring they were bound together with when dumped into the pits alive or dying from bullets or knife wounds and rotting attire of thousands of communist Yugoslavia crimes’ victims,  like so many other places where the partisans executed their crimes, was erased from history until the fall of the communist regime soon after Berlin Wall fall in 1989.

Jazovka pit is the symbol and definition of communist partisan brutality and crimes against patriotic Croats, those who wanted nothing to do with any form of Yugoslavia, just independence. On 15 May 1945, a week after the end of World War II, communist partisans took numerous wounded Croatian soldiers who fought for and independent Croatia from Zagreb’s hospitals and brought them to the psychiatric hospital in Vrapce on the outskirts of the Zagreb, an institution then run by the Sisters of Charity. Once there, all the prisoners were strangled or butchered in the basement of the hospital. After killing them, the partisans loaded the corpses into trucks and transported them to Jazovka and other mass graves. Three nuns, Sisters Geralda Jakob, Konstantina Mesar and Lipharda Horvat, witnessed the massacre. The communists saw the sisters and decided to murder them so that there would be no witnesses to the horrific crime. The three nuns, along with many others, were thrown into the Jazovka pit.

 Until 1989, under the communist Yugoslavia regime, mass graves and pits filled with victims of communist crimes were kept as buried secrets and nobody apart from communist party operatives and the perpetrators of those crimes knew anything about these massacres of Croatian people. In fact, it could be called genocide against a political will for freedom and independence. In 1989 Jazovka mass grave was rediscovered by a speleologist, Mladen Kuka, but the exhumation of the victims’ remains would not take place until July 2020, when the Croatian Veterans Ministry began work and determined that there were at least 814 skeletons at a depth of about 40 metres. The first victims were Croatian soldiers captured in January 1943 and executed by the partisans. In 1945, the partisans used the pit for victims from Zagreb hospitals: wounded prisoners, civilians, doctors, nurses, and Catholic nuns. Most were dead when they were thrown into the pit, but others were thrown in alive to die in terrible agony.

The officials of Gospic, a town in the mountainous and sparsely populated region of Lika in Croatia, announced late last week that the third phase of exhumation of the newly discovered remains of people killed in the Second World War at the Gospic cemetery officially ended on Friday 13 October 2023, and a total of 253 victims of partisan-communist crimes have been found there. This is the date that overlaps with the day of the victims of nearby Siroka Kula, brutally killed by Serb rebels on the ethnic cleansing spree on October 13, 1991 in the midst of Yugoslav Army and Serb aggression against Croatia as it pursued exit from communism and independence.

The mass grave at Ovcara, Vukovar, is also one of the most tragic reminders of the sufferings of the Croatian Homeland War when 200 wounded persons from Vukovar Hospital were taken away by Serbs and executed near the estate of VUPIK (Vukovar Agricultural Industrial Complex) at Ovcara. The first public insights into the occurrences near Ovcara were provided in October 1992 in the article published in Vjesnik entitled “The Wounded were Taken Away Through the Rear Exit” on the basis of the testimony of a survivor, later a prisoner who was exchanged in Nemetin in 1992. Similarities in the manner and cruelty of crimes committed by Yugoslav communists after WWII and Serbs during the 1990’s War are enormous, and I believe not coincidental at all – both hated Croats for asserting their independence and freedom.

The 253 newly found victim of communist crimes in the area of Gospic will, reportedly, be buried in a common grave, i.e. the ossuary where the other exhumed remains of communist partisan crimes were buried before. In agreement with the Ministry of Croatian Veterans, if time permits we will continue the exhumations in Ličko Osik and Musaluk this year, otherwise exhumations are already planned for April and May next year in the area of Gospic and Lika-Senj County, stated the Gospic Town officials last week. And these exhumed finds are one small stone in the mosaic of the Croatian demographic breakdown that is currently happening throughout Croatia, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina. Therefore, we send the message: “May it never happen again!”

Considering the size and complexity of the Gospic mass graves location, test excavations and exhumations were carried out in several phases of work, which were preceded by an extensive investigation of the location. Thus, a series of field surveys and aerial photographs of the location were carried out, as well as test excavations at several likely locations – along the cemetery fence, on the east side of the road and inside the playground, which confirmed the findings of human remains.

The first phase of test excavations and exhumations was carried out from October 18 to November 5, 2021, when the remains of 84 victims were exhumed. During the second phase of test excavations and exhumation, from June 27 to July 21, 2022, the remains of 69 victims were exhumed. The third and final phase was preceded by the raising of a 678m² asphalt layer of the road, and from September 20 to October 13, 2023, the remains of at least 100 more victims were exhumed. In total, in all phases, the remains of at least 253 victims were exhumed.

As expected, in the surrounds of the government heavily laced with protecting the former communists and Serb aggressor against Croatia, almost nothing of this awful find in Gospic was recorded by Croatia’s government-controlled mainstream media.  Lack of memory, or worse, selective memory, is increasingly common in Europe and in Croatia it has been force-fed to people for decades – since Croatia’s independence from communist Yugoslavia in 1991. It is sometimes enforced by memory laws that determine which victim deserves to be remembered and which to be forgotten. In Croatia no law has been passed to condemn the communist crimes, the symbols of communism. Communist butchery of patriotic Croats still awaits legislative, government and public condemnation.

These remains found in Gospic are victims, like hundreds of thousands of other Croats, of Yugoslav communist-partisan crimes, so we thank God for small mercies by which the bodies of people killed brutally, without court proceedings, human rights or justice, will be buried with dignity after almost 70 years.

The injustices of communism were not limited to mass murder alone. Even those who survived the communist deadly purges still were subjected to severe repression, including violations of freedom, of speech, freedom of religion, loss of property rights, and the criminalisation of ordinary economic activity. No previous tyranny sought such complete control over nearly every aspect of people’s lives as communism did.

Although the communists promised a utopian society in which the working class would enjoy unprecedented prosperity, in reality, they engendered massive poverty. Wherever communist and non-communist states existed in close proximity, it was the communists who used walls, shutting of borders, and the threat of death to keep their people from fleeing to societies with greater opportunities. Many fled nevertheless and they and their descendants are still a threat to the remnants of communist ideology still breathing in Croatia; some holding the reins of power, unfortunately.

The vast power necessary to establish and maintain the communist system after World War Two in Yugoslavia attracted quite a number of unscrupulous people, including many self-seekers who prioritised their own interests over those of the cause. But it is striking that the biggest communist atrocities were not exclusively perpetrated by corrupt party bosses, but by true believers like Josip Broz Tito. Precisely because he was a true believer in communism and socialism, he was willing to do whatever it might take to make his utopian dreams a reality. Ordering mass murders or tortures in political prisons was Tito’s modus operandi. In the end Tito made it to the top ten list of biggest murderers of own people of the twentieth century. Tito created a regime where many people tried to do as little work as possible at their official jobs, where possible reserving their real efforts for black market activity and corruption. As the old Yugoslav saying goes, workers developed the attitude that “no one can pay me as little as I can work!” No wonder that by 1989 the inflation in former Yugoslavia had escalated to about 1100%, shop shelves empty of most products, bead or petrol lines as long as eye could see…

Only with truth can a decent and, above all, a nation with a future be built. The better and the more we learn the painful lessons of the history of communist Yugoslavia, the more likely it is that we can avoid any repetition of its horrors. Hence, the recently discovered victims of communist crimes in Gospic are vital for Croatia’s future and its well-being. Ina Vukic

Legislative Shambles – Croatian Diaspora Yet Again Denied Suffrage

You just can’t make stuff like this up!

In February 2023, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia repealed the Law on Electorates or Constituencies and ordered it invalid or expired as on 30 September 2023, and that on October 1 new law must be enacted by the Croatian Parliament and be in force. The Constitutional Court warned the legislator, i.e., the parliament, of the need to change the regulations governing parliamentary elections back in 2010, because some constituencies were already violating the legal requirement which stipulated that the number of voters should not deviate from the average by more than five percent. But politics did nothing.

On Thursday September 28, 2023, the Croatian Parliament passed a new law on electoral constituencies but as Shakespeare would say: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”.

Apparently, immediately after being passed in the parliament the new law was sent to the Office of the President of the Republic of Croatia for the required signature so that the law could become valid, become law by October 1, 2023, and in accordance with the Constitutional Court’s orders from February. The government was in a rush to secure that required signature as it only had less than three days to comply with the Constitutional Court orders. But President Zoran Milanovic did not sign the new law by 1 October, he signed it on October 3. To make matters worse and a total shamble HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) government had published the new law in the Government Gazette Narodne Novine as law four days after the deadline for it to be valid as enacted law! The new law was, therefore, not law when the government published it in the Gazette and, therefore, it now seems that the new law will have to be returned to the parliament for a new procedure to enact it etc.  This shamble meant that there was a legal vacuum between 1 and 3 October with no enacted law on Constituencies, and the one passed in parliament on 28 September could not be made valid retrospectively. The government is shamelessly fumbling around, blaming others for their incompetency, even to the point that no damage was done by this vacuum because there were no elections afoot! Anything to save its face and avoid responsibility for not doing its job, which was making sure that the law was passed in parliament with time left over for president to sign within the 8-day Constitutional rule!  

You just can’t make stuff like this up!  Unbelievable!

If by now you got the feeling that we are in some children’s playground here and not in real law-making surrounds, I don’t blame you. It’s either children’s play enveloped with long-standing tit-for-tat between the Prime Minister and the President, a blaming game playing between them that has no end or half-time pause, or it is pure corruption at play – and it is in the latter that Shakespeare’s famous phrase fits in so aptly. The government could have brought the new law for parliament’s vote sooner, not leaving about less than 3 days within which the president must sign!  Under the Constitution and by law, the President must sign a new law within 8 days of it having been passed by the parliament and delivered to him for signature and, indeed, president Milanovic, albeit too late for the government’s hopes, did do that and commented that “he is not some scribe who will jump at every government’s beck and call in order to correct the political and procedural sloppiness of the ruling majority in the Croatian Parliament. As in this case, the President of the Republic will continue to take care only and exclusively of respecting the letter and spirit of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, regardless of the political and procedural attacks of the HDZ and its partners in the Croatian Parliament.

Generally, the new law on electoral constituencies does not change the existing electoral system in Croatia, but to a certain extent changes the maps of the electoral districts, as a result of which around a fifth of voters (22 percent), change the constituency in which it is now. This is nothing we who live in developed democracies in the “West” are not familiar with; our electorate or constituency boundaries change every so often as dictated my law and as per requirement. The new law in Croatia was passed in the parliament by 77 Yes votes, all of which are HDZ ruling party plus its coalition minor parties, 56 against, from the opposition and 18 either abstained from voting or were not present in the parliament for voting. This essentially means that nobody from the parliamentary opposition crossed the floor to vote with the government.

Not a good sign at all for such an important piece of legislation.

The future members of Croatian Parliament (elections scheduled for 2024), 151 of them, will be elected by Croatian voters according to the existing model, in 10 constituencies with 14 representatives each within the territory of Croatia, eight representatives will be elected by members of national minorities in Croatia, and three by the Croatian diaspora, i.e., Croatian citizens without residence in Croatia.

The HDZ government claims that the new law respects the equal weight of the voter’s vote in each constituency, but the reality and truth are far removed from that.

Ten new constituencies within Croatia were determined in such a way that the number of voters is within the legal framework of +/- 5 percent, that is, in none of the units the deviations are greater than +/- 2.20 percent. The number of voters in each constituency was based on data from the voter register. The constituency for ethnic minorities and the one for the diaspora or eligible voters living outside Croatia were neither touched nor revisited in the drawing up of this new law. What a shame!

Equal rights in voting are denied to the Croatian citizens living abroad, to the diaspora, in several ways and repeatedly over the years. The most obvious way of denial of rights relates to the fact that all eligible voters living outside Croatia are placed in one constituency and, going by the eligible voter numbers published in February 2023 by the Constitutional Court, at the end of 2022 there were 948,032 eligible voters (Croatian citizens) living outside Croatia, and 3,655,057 eligible voters living within the territory of the Republic Croatia. The former having increased by significant numbers and the latter decreased since the end of 2019 due to large exodus or emigration of Croatians from Croatia in the past couple of years. Hence, about 365,505 voters live in each of the 10 constituencies in Croatia and 948,032 in the constituency comprising of voters living abroad! Seems the government needs a refresher course in basic mathematics!

No equality in votes there, despite what the government’s claim of equality!

Then, polling places in the diaspora constituency are restricted by law to be held only at the Croatian diplomatic-consular missions, which in effect means that, depending in which country outside Croatia an eligible voter lives, he/she is up for anything between 10 to 5,000 kilometres travel just to cast his/her vote, to which he/she is entitled or has suffrage under human rights conventions.

No equality in votes there, despite the government’s claims of equality!

Then, each constituency within the territory of Croatia can elect 14 representatives into the parliament and the constituency for diaspora, which is at least three times larger in eligible voter numbers, can only vote for three representatives (diaspora up until 2010 had 12 representatives in the Croatian Parliament but this was cut to three by no other than, you guessed it – former communist Yugoslavia operatives)! This is the diaspora that was crucial in creating and defending from brutal Serb aggression the independent state of Croatia during the 1990’s War of Independence!

No equality there, despite the government’s claim of equality!

It has been mentioned in some Croatian media during the past month that some members of the opposition recommended in parliament, at the time of submissions regarding this new law, that the diaspora be afforded postal and electronic voting. However, this among other proposals from the opposition quarters was rejected by the government, and then by the parliament as well.  It’s been more than twenty years during which individuals and groups from the Croatian diaspora have unsuccessfully lobbied and worked to achieve their human right of the right to vote and equal suffrage. Ethnic minorities living in Croatia are entitled to eight seats in the Croatian parliament and each representative can secure a seat with only few dozen votes! The diaspora is much much larger and is entitled to only three seats!

The picture one gets from this is that of a mini-Yugoslavia held together by puppet threads within the Croatian Parliament and, as it is well known, communist Yugoslavia loathed the Croatian diaspora – because it was overwhelmingly against communism and fled from it into democracies of the” West”. The so-called democratic government and the parliament in Croatia is evidently filled with communist Yugoslavia sympathisers, if it were not the case then the diaspora would receive the recognition it deserves, the rights it is entitled to and Croatian democracy and economy would benefot enormously as a result.

While the largely leftist parliamentary opposition threatens to seek court’s ruling on the Constitutionality of this new law, as far as that move benefitting diaspora is concerned – I will not be holding my breath. Much of the opposition, SDP/Social Democratic Party that is, were the ones who in 2010 embarked upon further reduction of voting rights for Croatian citizens living in the diaspora (there had never been postal or electronic voting for diaspora). Croatian citizens, emigrants in Western and Northern Europe and overseas countries have been suffering constant degradation of their human and democratic right to vote for almost twenty years, which consequently results in lower and lower voter turnout. The representatives they currently have in the parliament all come from Bosnia and Herzegovina, undoubtedly chosen by the ruling party, and placed there via electoral engineering and fraud to ensure that Croats living in the diaspora do not get their voice in the parliament. Currently, even the names and identities of parliamentary representatives of the Croatian diaspora are overwhelmingly unknown throughout the diaspora and there are no dialogues transpiring between them!  

A most unnatural and sinister situation for Croatians living in the diaspora, for which they took no part in creating.

Diaspora can fix this injustice. Diaspora can assert its voting right. The Croatian diaspora cannot sit complacently and do nothing. Elections are coming in 2024 and the diaspora should secure its voice and vote, if for nothing else then for the future generations. By participating in elections there is a much better chance in Croatia becoming a democracy it fought for during the War of Independence. In this the diaspora may sound like a broken record (with its incessant lobbying for change and complaints and criticisms over the decades) but, oh yes, the music it puts out is, without a doubt – the best. Keeping Croatian identity alive. Nurturing it! Ina Vukic

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