Commemorating Victims of Communist Crimes: If Only They Would Honour Victims By Seating A Few Victim Families In Front Rows

Croatia, Macelj, 13 May 2023 – Commemorating victims of communist crimes, victim families without due honouring as seated away from front rows (Photo: Screenshot)

It seems to me that I have spent half my life wondering “What and who does the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon association serve” (Počasni bleiburški vod) since the organisation of the commemoration of the victims of communist crimes of Bleiburg and the Way of the Cross was stolen from the Croatian diaspora and planted in Zagreb, riddled with former communist operatives. I see, namely, that these commemorations are organised in such a way that they induce the effect of diminishing the significance and horror of the victimhood, of several hundred thousand post World War Two victims!

At the commemoration of these victims of Yugoslav communism held in Donji Macelj on Saturday, May 13, 2023, I finally realised, with a heavy heart, that the most important thing in this commemoration to the organisers and sponsors are not the victims and their descendants (who are also victims) but the descendants of Yugoslav communist murderers or their ideology, for they sat in first rows, not the victims. They, not the descendants of the victims, sat in the first rows, closest to the altar from which Holy Mass in memory of the victims was said! So, in the first rows, on the chairs that signify honouring, not a single victim of that terrible genocide of the innocent Croatian people sat, not a single descendant of theirs! Most of the Croatian government sat there, and they were the first to be greeted! This year, as in previous years, the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon organised the commemoration according to the same pattern and under the sponsorship of the Croatian Parliament: the ruling elite in the first row, closest to the altar, and neither the piety nor the prayers for the victims were visible on their faces or lips from where I sat, along with numerous descendants of the victims. Archbishop of Zagreb Mon. Drazen Kutlesa, leading the Holy Mass, delivered a deeply moving speech focusing on the victims of the communist terror. In Macelj alone 10,000 of them in 130 mass graves so far unearthed. But the Catholic Church was not the organiser of this commemoration, nor of the seating arrangements.

When someone like me comes to Croatia from the so-called civilised world, where at similar commemorations the victims or their representatives are placed in the front rows, often next to the President of a country or the Prime Minister, then this Croatian commemoration leaves the impression of shallowness and superficiality of piety and lack of remorse on behalf of those murderers in whose Party they were once members. This Croatian commemoration was about elitism of those holding power in the country and not so much about demonstrating respect for victims and their families. This is very sad as far as I am concerned and deserves utter condemnation. 

Croatia, Macelj, 13 May 2023 – Commemorating victims of communist crimes, political elites, associated with communist murderers either through family or ideology seated in front rows (Photo: Screenshot)

An unpleasant impression was created that this commemoration created new victims (victims of the commemoration) because, well, those who are associated with communist ideology and regime terror that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent Croatian men, women, children and members of the Croatian Army that fought in the Second World War for independence of Croatia were sitting in places of honour during the commemoration; regardless of the fact that the European Union also condemned the communist totalitarian regime. They were not sitting there like those who have already publicly and vehemently condemned these communist crimes and erected monuments to their victims across the country. No, they still let wild grass and weeds grow over mass graves and around the openings of deep pits full of victim remains. 

To me and to most decent, compassionate people this arrangement of seating at the commemoration is perceived as glorification of the perpetrators of the crimes over the victims who are being commemorated, and a kind of license to continue belittling the victims and underplaying communist crimes in the public and state-official space. 

Universally, the right to truth is often invoked in the context of gross violations of human rights and serious violations of humanitarian law. The right to truth implies knowing the full and complete truth about the events that took place, their specific circumstances and the persons who participated in them, including knowing the circumstances in which the violations occurred, as well as the reasons for them. Not in official Croatia. Not about communist crimes. Given that the seating arrangement at the commemoration in Macelj is a measure for revealing the truth, then it seems that these victims will have to wait a long time for it. Unfortunately! 

There is an awful, most unpleasant on humanity’s level, political phenomenon gaining more and more momentum in Croatia. Creating havoc, social division, and heartbreak (especially for victims of heinous communist crimes that are tantamount to genocide). One would have expected the passing time and commemoration of victims would yield a tolerable peace of mind; calmness, forgiveness on national level. However, with the relatively widespread communist mindset in places of power, on local and national levels, the passing time has only brought more determination in those associated in the past with communist operatives to keep justifying and glorifying the atrocious communist crimes and keep labelling the victims and their families as Fascists or Ustashas; even if the latter do not exist and even if the victims were largely not Ustashas during World War Two, and Fascism as such did not exist as a regime in Croatia. The frequent celebration in Croatia of former Yugoslavia’s communist symbols and leaders on the streets of Croatia today is sickening. It is also incredulous that, since year 2000, Croatia has not produced leaders in power who would address this injustice and kick forward a decisive transition from communism.   

Today, 19 May 2023 marks 32 years since 1991 referendum with which Croatians said no to communism, no to Yugoslavia! That 94% “No” vote cost Croatia enormously – 1990’s Homeland War that ensued after Yugoslav Army and Serb aggression. Rivers of blood, rivers of ethnically cleansed Croats from their homes, unfathomable brutality of Serb aggressor and devastating destruction of homes and infrastructure. That, coupled with the arms embargo against Croatia at the time, compared to today and the persistent communist plague interfering with democracy and transition from communism imposes a certain kind of mass restlessness in those faced with such injustice that must, sooner or later, find catharsis. That is simply human nature.  Ina Vukić

Croatia: Where Are Monuments To Victims Of Communist Crimes?

Monument to victims of communist crimes, London, Twelve Responses to Tragedy (Photo: In Vukic)

Late March 2023 my post-Covid pandemic extended trip from Australia to Europe commenced in London, aiming to “hop” across United Kingdom, Switzerland and Austria to Croatia, my birth homeland! My aim was to catch up with friends I had not seen for over three years and to recharge my spirits by visiting memorial sites and other landmarks of humanity and justice universal note.

Justice for victims of repressive and totalitarian regimes has been one of the most important pursuits in life anybody could have. Victims of World War Two Nazi regimes have been and are continuously remembered, monuments to them rightly exist in every major city of the free world while former communist countries in Europe have, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, set about raising monuments to victims of communist crimes within their own countries. In Croatia though such pursuits of justice appear to have been placed on government back burners, despite its responsibility and duty to uphold in every way the European Union’s condemnation of all totalitarian regimes, including communist one!  

The raising of monuments to victims of communist crimes had and continues to encounter resistance particularly by those who argue that such monuments should not be raised because, they say unfairly, such monuments represent historical revisionism and that some victims of communist crimes were Nazis! How many of the 35 to 40 million victims of communist crimes in Europe and Russia were Nazis? They do not say but the number could run into thousands, not millions! And so, according to these anti-monuments-for-victims-of-communist-crimes persons the overwhelming number of innocent victims must suffer because of a relative few among them! Atrocious!

And so here I sit in my apartment in Zagreb, Croatia, pondering: where are the grand monuments to victims of communist Croatia? It’s been 32 years since Croatia seceded from communist Yugoslavia, lost thousands of lives, suffered brutal destruction, devastation, ethnic cleansing of Croats in the 1990’s war of Serb and Yugoslav Army aggression in the process. I search and search and there are none on city squares, parks or even street corners of the Capital! None in major cities or towns, either! None as central monument to victims of communist crimes.  There are multitudes of black holes in the ground across the country, mass graves, bottomless pits into which communists had thrown hundreds of thousands murdered or living Croats who fought against communists in World War Two or simply rejected communism. Men, women, and children. And those after the War who did not want a communist regime. These pits are mostly located in secluded, hard to get to spots in forests or unkempt fields – far away from human eyes, most never visited bar several that caught the public attention thanks to historical research enabled by the modern independent Croatia. Thanks to the glory of God wildflowers bloom on shrubs and in the grass in warmer months of the year around mass grave sites.

And so, 32 years after its declaration of independence from communist Yugoslavia Croatia can only show one monument for victims of communist crimes and that one is not of national significance but rather local even though the monument is dedicated to local victims and communist Yugoslavia ones, secluded, and rather hidden from the masses that live in or visit Croatia. It is in the small town of Vodice of about 9,000 people on the coast, raised in 2015 not by the national government but by local council with the help of donations from citizens and patriotic community associations. I wrote about this back in 2015

The main sculpture in Vodice is a dome 2.2 meters high, built of white concrete combined with bronze. The motif of the sculpture is abstract, and the dominant element is water with components of light and sound. No names, no human faces engraved or sculptured on it!

Monument to Victims of communist crimes in Vodice, Croatia

On the second part of the monument – its annex, there is the inscription ‘Monument to the Victims of Yugoslav Communism’ next to the coat of arms of the Republic of Croatia and a cross, as well as patriotic verses. In addition to Croatian, the text part is also in English.

According to the data of the Commission for determining the victims of war and destruction of the city of Vodice, in the last two years of the Second World War, partisans, on the orders of the local communist authorities, murdered close to a hundred civilians from Vodice and neighbouring towns without any proven guilt. There are 53 victims from Vodice, 17 each from Gacelez and Cista Velika, while 15 are from Tribunj and the island of Prvic. Most of these victims were killed over the Golubinka pit near Tisnjanska Dubrava.

The murders took place in a particularly cruel manner. The victims were brought with their hands tied with wire, stabbed with a bayonet, and thrown into a thirty-meter-deep pit where they bled and died in horrendous pain. This scenario of such communist depravity and mass murders and purges was repeated hundreds of thousands of times in Croatia as part of communist Yugoslavia and yet all that official independent Croatia can so far muster for the victims is no monument to the victims funded from the government budget as a firm statement in respect of all those who had perished for rejecting communism! Appalling!

Monument to victims of communist crimes, London (Photo: Ina Vukic)

Prior to arriving in Croatia, I visited London, United Kingdom.  I was utterly gladdened to have been shown for the first time in my life the monument to victims of communist crimes in the middle of the Yalta Memorial Garden, South Kensington. I was touched deeply by the monument even though the victims have not and are not receiving due justice. To me, a symbol of reverent respect for multitudes victims that fell under communist brutality even if the February 1945 Yalta conference included the mass murderer Joseph Stalin of Russia in the Allied plan to shape post-war Europe and permit self-determination, etc.! Despite that, post-Yalta conference communist purges, murders of innocent political opponents to communism raged like wildfire and the fact hidden from the world for decades upon decades.  

Monument to victims of communist crime, London (Photo: Ina Vukic)

The sculpture consisting of 12 conjoined heads of men, women and children placed on a column of the Twelve Responses to Tragedy monument to communist crimes’ victims in the Yalta Memorial Garden, South Kensington, London.   

Monument to victims of communist crimes, London (Photo: Ina Vukic)

While the above Vodice, Croatia, has no mention of the part its Parliament played in its raising, because sadly there was none, the monument in South Kensington, designed by Angela Conner,  dedicated by the Bishop of Fulham on 2nd August 1986 to replace the previous memorial dedicated by the Bishop of London on 6th March 1982, has the following inscription: “This memorial was placed here by members of all parties in both houses of parliament and by many other sympathisers in memory of the countless innocent men, women and children from the Soviet Union and other east European states who were imprisoned and died at the hands of communist governments after being repatriated at the conclusion of the second world war may they rest in peace.” 

In this London dedication I saw included the horror of the Bleiburg Massacres of hundreds of thousands of Croatians who were n May 1945, as the War ended, fleeing from communist Yugoslavia only to be forcefully repatriated and, hence sent to sure and most cruel death by the hand of communists. It was not written there but for all those who know facts of history the dedication becomes immediately etched in one’s heart, and small gestures of mercy for justice for the victims, surface there. 

Yes, Lest We Forget, but also, let’s build monuments to victims of communist crimes. These are overdue debts of humanity towards fellow innocent human beings. 

The mass liquidations that the Yugoslav communists carried out without trial on civilians and members of the defeated armies after the end of the Second World War, colloquially known as the Ways of the Cross and Bleiburg Massacre, have become in Croatia the occasion for annual confrontations between the families of the victims and the patriots with those on the political left, former communists, and their loyal descendants. The former will often point out the signs of the totalitarian and defeated Independent State of Croatia without any problems, while the latter will find justification for communist crimes and the horrific massacre of civilians. Such confrontations and public displays of injustice towards victims has become the taxic cancer that stifles due and proper successful transition from communism into real democracy. Ina Vukic 

May 1945: Josip Broz Tito/Yugoslavia – A Mass Murderer/Croatia – A Graveyard of Slaughtered Patriots  

During the past week on 4th May one could still find quite several praises and celebrations of former communist Yugoslavia and its leader Josip Broz Tito, who died on 4th May 1980! Accolades from former communists or their children or grandchildren polluted the air Croatians who fought for freedom from communism and democracy in 1990’s breathe. At times the pollution is unbearable. And the accolades continue despite Tito’s communist regime of Yugoslavia now being confirmed as one of top ten mass murderers of its people in the 20th Century! The Yugoslav communists held the key to state archives until 1991 and of course it was only after the archives became freely available to researchers that the world learned what a murderous butcher Tito was; 1,700 mass graves or pits so far unearthed there, 1,000 of these in Croatia. The alternative to not showering the memory of Tito with accolades would be to stand before the truth and stare into the faces of many mass murderers who carried out Tito’s orders for purges of all political opponents of communism. Most who have stood by that communist regime will not switch against it now – they cannot switch against their grandfathers, fathers, mothers, uncles… who murdered for the “glory” of communism…they cannot vacate the villas and ill-gotten wealth their families thrived upon as corruption thrived in former Yugoslavia. They are the ones who praise former Yugoslavia as being a “great country to live in”, if not the greatest…

And today 8th of May, the former communists of Yugoslavia and their children, grandchildren and deluded followers will tell you that the Yugoslav Army of communists/Partisans marched in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia and liberated it (from fascists)! No they did not! They made sure Croatia continued imprisoned in the Serb-led concoction of a country forcefully and deceitfully stitched together after WWI led by the Serbian Monarchy related by marriage to the English Queen Victoria royal apparatus.  

Today, 8th May 1945 the First and Second communist armies entered the city of Zagreb … “soon mass killings began, the establishment of detention camps for opponents of communism and pillaging … the Canal camp at the main train station, old Zagreb disappeared … they are still with us today. Balkan bluffers, Yugo-nationalists … just look at the content of the Parliament, and how soon have we forgotten all of it … the torment of that dragon that is still among us needs to be put to an end. God and Croats…” General Zeljko Glasnovic as a Member of the Croatian Parliament for the Diaspora said in parliament in May 2020 and these words still stand as truth.

General Zeljko Glasnvic in Croatian {arliament May 2020

Let’s be real and realistic: Yugoslavia these pro-Tito people admire, and respect was not a successful state. Tito was not a modest, democratic, and generous, popular ruler, as he is still presented today by these and some media. Tito was not a saint protector from fascism who would probably still be here if he were not there, but an ordinary communist dictator who declared himself lifelong president, whose merit we were not part of the Western, democratic world but the repressive and economically unsuccessful socialist bloc, the primitive who built an unprecedented cult of personality in the world and carried Tito’s baton (phallic symbol) as part of the ritual of ultimate collective obedience to the demigod, and man to whose recklessly luxurious life that included private islands with a safari park, dozens of castles, Rolls, Mercedes and yachts and thousands of people who took care of everything went a good portion of the country’s GDP.

Josip Broz Tito was a dictator and a mass murderer. Tito did not liberate Croatia in World War Two, he basically fought for the introduction of a communist dictatorship across what was the previously false union of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and Stalin’s empire. To portray Tito in a historical context exclusively through the prism of “anti-fascism” and to pay tribute to him for Croatian independence is a mere intelligence spin that benefits only those who thieved the Croatian public goods and purged hundreds of thousands of those who did fight for independence of Croatia during World War Two.

All of those who shower the memory of Tito today always mention how grand his funeral in 1980 was! How many world leaders, presidents, kings, princes, prime ministers attended his funeral in Belgrade! They say that such attendance is and was proof of how a great person and leader Tito was! The truth is that had Tito’s communists not falsified history, had they not kept the keys to state archives, Tito’s funeral would not have been attended by world’s respected leaders but by mass murderers such as Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, King Leopold II of Belgium, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Augusto Pinochet and so on.

“Tito built hospitals, roads, railways, schooling and health care was free,” says the pro-Tito mantra even today in Croatia! During Tito’s life in Zagreb and Rijeka, however, no new hospitals were built, although the population increased. True, the people of Zagreb “voluntarily” paid two so-called self-contribution to the university hospital, but never built. A self-contribution was also taken for the highway to Split, but it was declared nationalist and never built. In Yugoslavia corruption started, one simply did not visit the Council nor the doctor without a blue envelope with cash for bribe.

When we went to the doctor in Yugoslavia, the doctor’s examination was often waited on for months, and the operation waited on for years if you did not have a relationship or gave a bribe –  but it was free.

Zagreb had only one dialysis machine that was more often broken than it worked, diabetics were dying – but it was free.

As a matter of record and interest, the last public hospital (KBC Rebro) built in the capital of Croatia, Zagreb, was built by the regime of Ante Pavelic, WWII Independent State of Croatia!

During Tito’s Yugoslavia a highway was built from Zagreb to Karlovac, about 45 kilometers, the only one after the end of World War Two until Croatia’s independence in early 1990’s. Other roads were from Napoleon and Maria Theresa, full of potholes and poorly maintained, and Croatia had less railways in 1990 than in 1940.

The factories were ours; everything was ours, says the pro-Tito mantra. In truth, they served as living rooms for workers who waited for months for minimal and raw materials, to produce something that ended up in a warehouse or, at best, crammed into the Non-Aligned countries for fictitious clearing of dollars. They produced mostly pollution and losses and swallowed irretrievably hundreds of millions earned on tourism (largely in Croatia) and remittances from guest workers (diaspora), but they were “ours” whatever that meant.

They produced alumina in Obrovac, in which there was no raw material, no port or railway, with a loss that did not exceed the planned hundred million dollars a year, and coke in the most beautiful bay of the Adriatic. It has often been said that “they can’t pay me as poorly as I can work poorly.” By 1974 some 94% of workforce wages in Yugoslavia were paid from foreign debt or subsidised by successful industry such as tourism, but not from workers’ productivity. We pretended to work, they pretended to pay us.

True, most of them were not really hungry, with work on the black and a bit of leasing of rooms in the house or apartment little roommate, a family would cover themselves for their monthly living expenses, smuggling stuff from Trieste, Italy, even better. The “middle class” in the 1970s lived quite tolerably from the grey economy, like “Del Boy Trotter”, and in social housing like his. For some, such flats, such as those given by the governments outside Croatia to social or welfare cases for free, are still today a notion of the middle class that has allegedly destroyed after the fall of Yugoslavia. “Comrade Tito, you stole, but you also let us steal” says a graffiti – and you already have a strong foothold for the claim that “life was better in Yugoslavia”.

Substandard work, two or three-hour brunches and lunch breaks and mass paid sick leave while working elsewhere such as seasonal field work, counter workers, tellers, who are always on a break, stealing from firms ranging from cement bags to dollar bags, depending on location. A system in which people learned to “navigate” in one way or another – most often in another. Those who knew how to “get along”, the Byzantine-Balkan way, was not so badly off. Whoever wanted to solve everything in a regular way, through completely dysfunctional and extremely corrupt institutions of the system, would quickly fail. Private individuals, cafe owners and money launderers, foreign exchange smugglers, shopkeepers, comrades from the Communist Party Committee, thieving socialist directors, guest workers who were millionaires with money earned in Germany on building sites, and  room-letters on the Adriatic – these are the categories of the population anti-fascism was generally good to.

Socialism protected the workers?  No, it sent them to Munich to get German Marks. Socialism, to be honest, protected the unemployed and those who did not want to work.

And then everything got sold out, destroyed, says the pro-Tito, pro-Yugoslavia mantra. It did not fail because socialism failed, and with it the entire Eastern bloc, nor because there was no market for socialist products anywhere, it did not fail because of theft and corruption, but because of the hated capitalism, nationalists, those who wanted independence and democracy, and Franjo Tudjman. Petrol vouchers and queues that mark 1980’s communist Yugoslavia were quickly forgotten, smuggling fake jeans from a flea market in Trieste and going by bus to get laundry powder in Graz, electricity reductions and coffee shortages, hyperinflation and perpetual stabilisation and normalisation after which everything was even less normal – all quickly forgotten. The fact that one could not even secure the services of a plumber, or another tradesperson, without connections to someone in the SIZ/ Self-governing interest community – was quickly forgotten also.

Tito’s Yugoslavia was not organised and successful as pro-Titoists see it today. Its declared bankruptcy in 1983 meant that Yugoslavia could not service its debts. Bankruptcy was accompanied by shortages of everything imported, power cuts, petrol vouchers and a complete collapse of the economy. And still, the Tito die-hards will tell you these absolute facts are made up – not true! Humanity can truly sink to the depths of despair and depravity. Nothing confirms this as the pursuits of communists and former communists who defend blindly and stubbornly the indefensible. Ina Vukic

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