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

About Melbourne’s The Age Newspaper Picking On Croats In Australia 

Screenshot of Image in The Age, Melbourne Australia, 11 June 2023 – a politically twisted comparison and innuendo

Perusing the pages of the Australian “The Age” on 11 June 2023 an unsuspecting, politically naïve, or historically ignorant reader may get the idea that Croatia’s War of Independence/Homeland War (secession from communist Yugoslavia), fought in defence from brutal and bestial Serb aggression, during 1990’s, was a war led by the Nazi ideology. Why the article’s authors placed an image of the renowned (cleared of mounted war crimes charges at the Hague International Criminal Tribunal in 2012) Croatia’s 1990’s general Ante Gotovina next to the image of Ante Pavelic, Ustasha leader of World War Two Croatian independence fight, can easily be seen as an act of mean spirit, prostitution of history, and provocation for hatred. Definitely insulting to many. It also seems like a last-ditch attempt to give credence to falsified history when the article’s authors write: “… That state, ruled by a movement called the Ustasha, on conservative estimates killed 500,000 Serbs, Jews and Romani people during the war…” Wow! To what journalistic substandard and dark underground has The Age come to? Why regurgitate victim estimates (evidently constructed upon nothing but political pursuits) when there are credible research findings in Croatia (e.g. Blanka Matkovic, Stipo Pilic, Igor Vukic…) that for years have debunked these lies about World War Two Croatia victims, including the Jasenovac camp referred to in this article? Some, maybe even the authors of the article in The Age, guided by some political interests, might say that this latest research is all about attempts to minimise or undermine the Holocaust concept when in fact such research intends to shed a light on facts as they occurred, using historical documents as such w available in various state archives. 

Given WWII Serbia’s pursuits of a Jew-Free state (achieved by May 1942) it is most insulting to read this in the article after referring to celebration of what authors claim was a Nazi state of Croatia (instead of Nazi occupied) in parts of Croatian community: “The open celebration of that past is a source of tension with Serbian and Jewish Australians.” This kind of denial of Serbia’s extermination of 94% of its Jews by May 1942 we find in this The Age article is enough to drive any informed human being to despair! 

According to yesterday’s article in the Australian The Age newspaper, written by Ben Schneiders and Simone Fox Koob, titled “Symbols of hate: The lingering afterlife of Croatian fascism in Australia” it would seem that only World War Two Croatian fight for independence (from the oppressive and dictatorial Serb Monarchy in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, from any kind of Yugoslavia including the Post-WWII communist one) cannot justify the victims of this humanly acclaimed just pursuit! I have not read anything from these two journalists that would label as symbol of hatred anything to do with the terrible victims of British colonisation or imperialistic regime, of pain that preceded the American War of Independence, of the victims of Belgian King Leopold II in Congo, of “successful” WWII Serbia “Jew Free” (Judenfrei) pursuits which, by the way, WWII Croatia never had despite its regretful racial laws (by the by, Serbia also like Croatia was occupied by Nazi Germany but Croatia’s then leadership did not like Serbia lead 94% of its Jews to slaughter), of Joseph Stalin, of Mao Zetong …and all will agree these were the result of genocide, of obvious or written racial and/or politically coloured laws. The First Nations’ Voice in the Australian Parliament may yet give these two journalists plenty of fodder to feed their pens with. I am yet to see these two journalists writing about symbols of WWII Serbia as symbols of hate, and there would be plenty of those in Australia!

The above said is not to justify any crimes or horrors perpetrated by any totalitarian, dictatorial regime but it is an expression of loathing for the practiced double standards when it comes to victims in general. The 21st century should not be a carbon copy of the 20th when crimes of one regime were justified and crimes of another condemned.

One may think that the authors of this article are trying to justify the move to legislate the banning of Nazi symbols as symbols of hatred. But one cannot accept as well-meaning the singling out of one part of one community in such an endeavour. A biased one at that. The article waffles on about some bombings in Australia allegedly perpetrated by Croats but it gives no direction as to where a reader could find confirmation of those. What a reader could find, though, is a plethora of unsubstantiated finger-pointing at Croats during 1960’s and 1970’s terrorist activities in Australia. Undoubtedly all part of the communist Yugoslavia agenda to blacken the Croatian name in Australia. The article gives almost no due attention to the fact that a judicial review of 1981 criminal convictions for attempted terrorism against the Croatian Six men is currently afoot in Australia.

The authors of this article attempt to pin further credibility to their obviously biased claims about Nazi extremists in the Australian Croatian community by quoting the Croatian Ambassador in Canberra, Betty Pavelich: “there is no place for glorification of totalitarian regimes, extremism, or intolerance. We firmly believe that it behoves us all to ensure that disinformation, glorification and the mainstreaming of criminal, totalitarian ideologies, their symbols, and movements, do not take root in modern societies.” The authors, though, fail to dig into Croatian reality further, which would present and confront them with about 1700 mass graves, remains of more than 500,000 murdered innocents, so far unearthed (since independence from Yugoslavia in 1991) in Croatia and Slovenia – an undeniable horror of communist crimes and communist regime. Whose symbols would also amount to symbols of hate. And yet, no mention of that in the article!

The article’s authors further fail to comment or acknowledge that it was Croatian patriotic members of the Australian Croatian community, that included those they now, evidently tendentiously, implicate as Nazi extremists, who backed the fight against communism in 1990’s to achieve democracy and independence of Croatia. In January 1992 Australia recognised the sovereignty and independence of Croatia that was engulfed in war of defence against communist and Serb onslaught. It was the parts of Australian Croatian community that pride themselves in the true meaning of “For Home Ready” (Za dom spremni) chant, that for them had absolutely nothing to do with Nazism or Ustasheism, who lobbied and fought for this freedom. That should tell us a great deal about the bravery for freedom and democracy the chant had and has as its underlying force. It is now banned by law in Croatia but, then again, there is still a great deal of sacrifice to be had to rid Croatia of communist heritage and its oppressive ways.  The authors of this article in The Age evidently stay blind to the fact that the Croatia which spilled rivers of blood defending itself from Serb aggression in 1990’s is still fighting against the usurpation (via rigged elections) of power by the “camp” of former communist operatives.

Furthermore, the article talks of “For Home Ready” (Za dom spremni) chant heard at soccer games in Australia as the Ustashe or Nazi catchcry! The Ustashes had used that salute in World War Two but it stems from centuries back and Croatian fight for freedom. If one was to pay heed to statements like those found in this article in The Age regarding the chant, it comes to mind that World War Two “For Home and Country” slogans often seen in Britain may also have stemmed from Nazism as well! It needs to be said that any young person of Croatian descent using that chant at soccer games or in public it is above all a symbol of love for one’s ancestors who suffered greatly for freedom. They chanted it in the 17th century against the Habsburg absolute rule, they chanted it even in Australia during 19th century to First World War when Croatia was under the control Austro-Hungarian Empire, they chanted it during and post-World War One when Croatia was controlled by Serbian Monarchy, they chanted it during World War Two when Croatia fought to be free of Serb Monarchy and free of Josip Broz Tito’s communism, they chanted it in 1990’s while fighting off Serb and communist Yugoslavia. They always chanted “For Home Ready” to be free and sovereign people as they once were and were entitled to under self-preservation principles.    

As per a clearly palpable political agenda The Age has with this article coloured the entire Croatian immigration (community) to Australia with the same stroke of what tends to feel like harassment and vilification. The authors here unequivocally state that “Srecko Rover, (was) a man who would play a pivotal role in the emerging Croatian community in Australia.” This is an unforgivable lie and hateful innuendo! Have these journalists taken a good look at the fact and profile of Croatian community in Australia? Obviously not! The purpose of this article seems to me like many from the past in Australian media: serving a political agenda that has nothing to do with the truth or facts when it comes to Croats. For what reason I do not know but I guess many could take a gander and conclude there is an attempt to purposefully paint an ugly picture.

This article of mine, of course, is not to justify any actual crimes ever committed in pursuit of independence even though the world has upheld the right to self-determination of any people as a nation while individual crimes perpetrated in the process are detestable and abhorrent. The above said article in The Age does not itself present a clear reason as to why, seemingly out of nowhere, a part of the Croatian community is attacked for its WWII symbols and all others, like the Serbian community, are spared the abuse. I assume, that is, that the reason for writing this article may lie in the Australian recent legislature on banning Nazi memorabilia. Indeed, that is a good move by the government in my book but unless other totalitarian regimes’ symbols are also banned that legislation will not stop intolerance for unfairness and double standards.  I hope that the symbols of all totalitarian regimes, including the communist will be banned. After all, the latter has murdered more than a hundred million innocent people, who also deserve justice, not just the Holocaust victims. But then again, will various trade deals with communist regimes not “permit” such due justice? I, for one, would like to read an article in The Age on communist symbols of hate and how they affect members of Australian communities. There is certainly plenty of Australians who have fled the horrors of communism from various countries, not just Croatia.

The intended banning of the swastika begs the question: why is there no banning of the communist five-pointed red star or the ISIS flag? Both also symbolise hateful ideologies that led to genocide of politically undesirable millions or as in ISIS case the attempted genocide of minority communities – Yazidis and Christians. If we apply the same rationale behind the calls to ban Nazi symbols, then we should apply it to expressions of all violent so-called extremist movements.

Rather than banning only Nazi symbols and salutes, it seems to me that instead of just that, there is a dire need for a strong focus on education about Nazi, fascist and communist movements equally, and their horrible consequences. The generations of victims who lived through these horrors are slowly disappearing, dying, and their lived history is slipping from the grasp of younger generations. If we continue in a biased way, where, mildly said the pot is calling the kettle black, it is having and will have very real consequences for the future generations; this calling one evil – evil, and not the other (evil), will undoubtedly shape future generations into believing that evil can be acceptable. And it is not, no matter who perpetrates it. Ina Vukic

New Film: US Airmen POW’s And Humane Glory Of Independent State Of Croatia 1941 to 1945

Not only should we all watch this thoroughly well-made and fact-based film about the events of the Independent State of Croatia that underpinned the Croatian spirit for independence, but we should secure a copy of this film by purchasing it and gifting it to our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren born in the Croatian diaspora after World War Two as well as those born in Croatia.

The film covers moving stories of the kind and considerate treatment in Croatia of US Airmen shot down over Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina during the Second World War and held as POWs by the Croatian forces and it also tells of the terror and suffering of Croats by the Serbian Monarchy dictatorship in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia that gave Croats no choice but to fight for independence and dear life.

Nikola Knez, Croatian American film maker, director of documentaries on the Croatian Operation Storm (from August 1995) and the Bleiburg Tragedy (from May 1945), has directed and together with Damir O. Rados produced a new film titled:

The “American POW’s in Croatia 1941 – 1945”.

I asked Nikola a couple of days ago what prompted him to direct and produce this documentary film:

Considering that I am a part of the generation born during the communist Yugoslavia, for many years I was exposed to the educational and propaganda intellectual-psychological treatment of Tito’s ideological criminal one-mindedness. Lies and deceptions, turning good into evil were everyday tools aimed at hiding and obscuring the truth, depriving those who want to build the world, especially the Croatian Statehood, of common sense and historically correct facts. When I received materials about American pilots who resided, lived, and survived as prisoners of war in the Independent State of Croatia, I knew that this was not only a great story but also part of the light of truth that would dispel some of the dark deceptions to which the Croatian people were exposed for decades.

The truth, which is revealed in this film, not only means exposing the communist-Yugoslav lies to which we have been exposed for 75 years, but it also makes us realise how just our people were, which is yet another foundation for a free and independent Croatian state through the centuries to come. With this film, I also wanted to point out that during the Second World War, the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) found itself under the influence of foreign powers. In the conditions of the struggle for survival, defence, and preservation of its natural territorial territory, it became an incredible host and protector of almost a hundred American pilots who crashed over Croatian territory and were captured by members of the NDH armed forces.

Through the personal testimonies of several prisoners of war and a young American priest who was put at the centre of all these events by faith and war, the film testifies first-hand to the events and gives us an insight into the true state of historical facts. The film relies on the research of Charles Michael McAdams, a historian, US Marine and friend of the Croatian people.

The American pilots survived, not by accident, but thanks to the intervention and protection offered by the political and military leadership of the Independent State of Croatia, as well as religious leaders and the citizens of Croatia themselves. Although all American pilots returned home safely at the end of the war, this was not the case with a large number of Croats who were massacred by Tito’s partisans. Croatian Air Lieutenant Dubai (Dubac), who tried to negotiate with the partisans on the transfer of American pilots to a safe zone, was shot on the spot by the partisans,” replied Knez.

What do you think are the main messages of this film, I also asked Nikola Knez:

 “The main message of this film is a testimony of the truth that breaks the false deceptions about the Independent State of Croatia. At the same time, the film itself is an invitation to people not to give up in search of the truth, to educate themselves about their history, to think for themselves and to reject as ready solutions the worldview ideological postulates to which we are exposed through media services, educational institutions, and political activism.

Although all American pilots were returned home after the war, their story was kept aside in America itself, i.e., it was not used in positive examples that would indicate the human and humane character of Croats and the Independent State of Croatia. Instead, the narrative of the British puppet state of Yugoslavia was accepted, which, although created and founded on crimes, gained legitimacy while its maintenance was possible only with the help of intellectual lobotomy, production of fear, terror and lies. Although this artificial political creation began with the terrible sacrifice of Bleiburg and ended its existence with the sacrifice of Vukovar, its Yugoslav like-minded people are still fighting to prevent the truth from seeing the light of day.

Hence, this unique testimony given in the film is a great example of breaking the cult of communist-Yugoslav structures. Why is this important? Because history is repeating itself again. Today, we are living witnesses of how media-political propaganda are trying to turn the honourable and defensive Homeland War from a just war into the opposite. A media campaign has been intensified in which the victim is found guilty, and the crime committed by the Serb aggressor is placed on the level of a justified act. The right of the Croatian people to freedom and statehood is denied. The same process prevailed during Yugoslavia. We must all be aware that military victory in the Homeland War is a big part of achieving our statehood, but the overall struggle in all fields for the survival of our nation is a present and future determinant whose course we must constantly follow in the light of freedom, unity and building richer, happier, better and a stronger Croatian society.

The right to life, liberty and homeland are postulates shared by all peoples of the civilised world. We Croats have been fighting for the same high ideals for centuries. It is important to keep that awareness alive and not allow other people’s interests to rule with deceit our right to our sovereignty. We should strive to set, speak, and bear witness to the truth about our great people and honourable history with positive examples. As American citizens and as Croats throughout the diaspora, we acknowledge and thank Croatian political, military, and religious participants as well as individual citizens of the time for their determination, courage, and humanity, a full 75 years later,” replied Knez.

Aptly, before the matters covered in the film it begins with reminding us of George Orwell’s renowned saying: “In an age of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

And then the film contains these well articulated statements of facts pertaining to the history of Independent State of Croatia (NDH 1941-1945) that clearly delineate what occurred prior, during and after World War Two for freedom-loving Croatians and include the following quotations from the film:

In 1941 as Word War Two raged the city of Zagreb was the capital of the Independent State of Croatia. For centuries Croatia had sought unsuccessfully to realise its destiny as a fully independent nation embodying the fundamental principles of freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Although Croatia had achieved independence World War Two was a complex time of domestic and foreign aggression, dubious allegiances, and conflicting interests. The Independent State of Croatia (NDH) found itself under the influence of both the German and the Italian military and police formations. The well-financed Serbian paramilitary Chetniks and Tito’s Stalin-backed communists the young Croatian state faced those challenges at the military, political and diplomatic levels. One could argue that no other nation drawn into World War Two experienced as many conflicts of competing interests within the confines of its borders as did the tiny nation of Croatia; that beautiful piece of real estate nestled along the Adriatic coast.  

Over the course if the War Croatia became the unlikely host and protector of nearly a hundred of US Airmen who had crash-landed there and had been taken prisoner by the Croatian Armed Forces. The fate of the American POW’s lay in the uncertainties of military and political drama that was unfolding. Through the personal accounts of the several of the POW’s as well as that of a young American priest fate and war placed in their midst, we follow the advance that transpired…”

… Under one name or another for 23 years the most brutal methods of the times were sanctioned, financed, and imposed on the Croatian people by the Serbian King Alexander and Peter II governments in Belgrade involving the dissolution of the centuries old Croatian Parliament and the abolition of municipalities, provinces, schools, and judicial systems. The arbitrary and capricious military imposition of taxes, the nationalisation of state properties including forests, mines, public buildings, and monetary fund.  Systematic denial of Croatian language and the arrogant theft of Croatian culture.  Sanctioned and financed the Serbian paramilitary terrorism on Croatian soil, violation of human rights, denial of free speech, due process, assembly, and suffrage. The list of grievances was long and real. By any definition this is genocide in progress…”

Proudly – on 10 April 1941 the birth of the Independent State of Croatia was proclaimed with Dr Ante Pavelic, the exiled revolutionary leader of the Croatian Uprisers (Ustashe), at its helm. The proclamation was received with enthusiasm by the Croatian people and was seen as a victory after 23 years of Serbian genocidal policies towards the Croatian people. The call for liberation was clear and seen as just.

After the proclamation of the Independent State o Croatia the loosely organised students, workers and intelligencia deposed the Yugoslav government with minimal casualties before the arrival of the first contingents of German and Italian armies, their political attaches and diplomatic core. Croatia was de facto and de jure recognised by 25 states and legations in Europe, Asia, and the Americas… 

Croatia wanted its independence, Italy wanted Croatia to become its colony, Germany accepted Croatia’s independence with the expectation that Croatia will be incorporated into the domain of the Reich to counteract Italian expansion. Croatia’s thirteen-hundred-year dream of independence was shattered.

Occupied and facing the domestic rise of Tito’s communists the country became a killing ground. With American entry into the war American planes joined the air war, bombing German sites. Many US bombers hit by German flag were suffering heavy damage in aerial combat with German air force flew over Croatia as they attempted to return to Italy from their bombing missions. American bombers crash-landed all across the Croatian territory. Those airmen who survived were picked up by the regular Croatian Army and treated as prisoners of war/POW’s.”

“… All of the American POW airmen remained safe and protected until the end of the war when they were safely repatriated to their units. Their protectors did not fare as well. The war and its aftermath were costly; Croatian population was decimated, their political system scarred deeply…”

Many of Croatian airmen were killed by Tito’s partisans after the war ended. Croatian air commander Vladimir Dubai who tried to negotiate with the partisans for the transfer of US airmen to a safe zone was shot on the spot. May he and other Croatians who gave our American pilots safe shelter during those harsh times forever be remembered for their bravery and their kindness.”   Ina Vukic

Click on the Red Button to watch the film or on the Yellow to purchase a copy.


Click on this link for the film version with Croatian subtitles as well as to purchase a copy. http://hfi.mobi/page-3.html

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