A Moving Memorial Mass Tribute In Sydney Australia To Mile Nekic – One Of „Croatian Six“

From Left: Barry Lowe, Marijana Rudan, Vesna Krizmanic, Marko Franovic, Ina Vukic, Cecile Lowe. Inset: Mile Nekic

On a busy, working day, Friday 20th January 2023, a Memorial Mass was held at the St Anthony’s Church, Croatian Catholic Centre, Summer Hill, Sydney, Australia. It was a holy mass honouring the memory of a Croatian selfless patriot who walked and lived with the Croatian Community in Sydney for many years and passed away at the age of 75 in Osijek Croatia on 10 December 2022. After immigrating to Australia in 1969 Mile Nekic lived a peaceful productive life until 1979 when along with five other Croatian immigrants’ lives known as Croatian Six took a deeply tragic turn. The six men were arrested on allegations of planning terrorist attacks in Sydney area, tried and convicted to 15 years of prison each. They always maintained their innocence to be released from prison in 1991 on good behaviour around the same time when the Australian television investigative journalist Chris Masters tracked down their accuser, Vico Virkez, who confessed that his testimony against the Croatian Six was false and that he was a Serb national Vitomir Misimovic on Communist Yugoslavia Secret Services UDBa assignment to blacken Croatians as extremist terrorists. Almost immediately after being released from prison in Australia Nekic packed his meagre belongings and headed back to war-torn Croatia to help defend it from the brutal, genocidal Serb and Yugoslavia Army aggression. His life’s dream had always been to see Croatia free from communist Yugoslavia. He died as a retired Croatian Army Officer; a hero of oppressed people by anyone’s definition. He died yearning for final justice for him and all the Croatian Six; he was not meant to see the day when the outcome of the Supreme Court of NSW in Australia would deliver the findings of the late 2022 ordered Judicial Review into convictions for planning terrorist attacks from 1981 against the Croatian Six.

Ina Vukic, Readings from the Bible, Mile Nekic Memorial Mass Sydney

Today, there are several sources that indicate that the Yugoslav UDB set up the case against the Croatian Six, and these sources include the declassification in 2016 of the relevant National Archives of the Commonwealth of Australia, the publication in 2019 of the book “Reasonable Doubt: Spies, Police and the Croatian Six” by Hamish McDonald, McDonald’s interview with American national security professor John Schindler, publication of the book “The Secret Cold War, The Official History of ASIO, 1975-1989.” by John Blaxland and Rhys Crawley, 2017, Hamish McDonald’s 2012 book “Framed”, which succinctly contextualises the circumstances under which the Croatian Six were charged and convicted of conspiring to bomb or attempt terrorist attacks on Sydney, and interview by Vice Virkez with ABC journalist Chris Masters, in which Virkez (Misimovic) clearly admits, among other things, that he lied in his statements to the police and the court against the Croatian six.

Fra Davor Filko , St Anthony’s Church, Croatian Catholic Centre Summer Hill, Sydney, Australia

After the Memorial Mass on Friday 20 January 2023 delivered by Fra Davor Filko touching memories of and tributes to Mile Nekic were shared by Mr Barry Lowe, a prominent former Australian journalist and Ms Marijana Rudan, a journalist, documentary film producer and a former television presenter.

“It’s a bit painful reflecting on a life that was as difficult as the life Mile lead. 10 years in some of the worst prisons in Australia, the whole time knowing you’re innocent. Then the rest of your life waiting and hoping for that wrong to be righted,” Barry Lowe said, continuing:

“I think some of the people like me who tried to get the Croatian Six verdict over-turned – and there were many of us, some of them in this church today – have carried a sense of guilt that we couldn’t have done more. For me the Croatian Six campaign had a personal element, Mile was my friend and my starting point in wanting to see justice prevailing.

But I think the remarkable thing about Mile was that he managed live a full and productive life despite the bad hand of cards that he had been dealt. He was a patriot who made a significant contribution to Croatia’s struggle for independence – and he was awarded the medals for bravery that prove it. His role in leading a military intelligence unit that worked behind enemy lines, is an important chapter in the history of the Croatian resistance in eastern Slavonia.

Barry Lowe delivering his speech at Memorial Mass for Mile Nekic, Sydney

But this productive life also included the warmth and generosity and total commitment of loyalty that he gave to his friends. An anecdote from the time soon after I got to know Mile – which started when I interviewed him about his success as an artist while serving time in Long Bay jail: My wife Cecile and I had just moved into a small terrace house in Marrickville – a bit of wreck, in dire need of some major renovation. But I barely knew which end of a hammer you’re meant to hold. Mile dropped in one day, had a look around and said ‘I can help with this’. The next day, a Saturday, 6 o’clock in the morning we’re woken by a knock on the door and Mile walks in with a couple of mates, a cement mixer, bags of cement, timber, power tools, you name it. All the weekend they’re pulling up floors, stripping down walls and in a couple of days we’ve got a reasonably presentable house. I couldn’t get Mile to take a cent for the work or supplies, he even insisted on buying the beer for the post-job celebration.

We kept in touch, and we spent time together when the war was on, often sitting in the bar that used to operate in the underground shopping mall beneath the central square in Osijek, a safe haven when the city was being shelled.

Then there was a couple of decades when we didn’t have much contact until I heard about the new effort to reopen the Croatian Six case. I tracked Mile down and last April went to see him, Cecile and I driving from Salzburg through territory I hadn’t visited since the war. The four us – including Mile’s lovely wife Mirjana, who we really bonded with despite a reliance on Google Translate – had a wonderful four days together, kicking over the old traces, visiting the ruined water tower at Vukovar, touring the underground wine cellars in Ilok. I’ve been reflecting recently how much more painful Mile’s death would have been for me if I hadn’t had those few days with him last year.

Then the news a few months ago that the judicial review into the Croatian Six had been ordered. I rang Mile – in the middle of the night for him. He was over the moon. He sent me a message the next day saying it was important to him that I had been the one to give him the news. He talked about returning to Australia to have his day in court.

Well, that’s not going to happen now. There’s a bitter irony about how things turned out. Mile always wanted to clear his name and have the world know that he wasn’t the terrorist he’d been labelled with. I think he had imposed a sort of exile on himself and felt he couldn’t come back to Australia until his name was cleared. He didn’t get that opportunity that but at least he learnt that it was going to happen.

Of course, the Croatian Six conspiracy wasn’t just about jailing six innocent men. It’s objective was to defame the entire Croatian community in Australia. I think Mile somehow assumed some of the burden of guilt for that being allowed to happen.

I’ve been advised to steer away from politics in this speech. But I can talk about religion, this seems like an appropriate place. One of the tenets of our faith is forgiveness. And I can, with difficultly I admit, forgive those who made this injustice happen. But they need to show remorse and contrition. Some of them – former public officials – are still out there. They need to speak out now and say, yes this did happen, we were part of it and now it needs to be put right. Rest in Peace Mile.”

“Last year in May, thanks to the efforts of Ina Vukic, i visited Mile Nekic and his wife Mirjana in Osijek for a research project. I stayed with them in their home, where Mile recounted all the details of his difficult life to me,” said Marijana Rudan and continued:

“There in his tiny kitchen while he smoked many cigarettes and Mirjana made coffee, he explained how he’d met my uncle at the airport in Vienna as they boarded the same plane to Australia in the late 1960s. 

Young migrants with no money, bound by their desire to escape Yugoslavia and start again in a free land of opportunities.

‘I know your father and your uncle well. Welcome Marijana,’ he said.

I immediately sensed two things in his large blue eyes as he spoke.

I saw that this man carried so much pain and that did not surprise me knowing the details of his life, yet despite the years and the many times life had broken Mile with its injustice, his eyes still held onto hope …

Marijana Rudan delivering speech at Mile Nekic Memorial Mass, Sydney

‘What will you do with my story?’ Mile asked.

‘What would you like me to do with your story Mile?’ I asked him. ‘What is your wish?’

‘I just want people to know that I wasn’t guilty. I just wanted to live my truth and for that they wrongly judged me. I want the world to know that I was innocent.’

I told Mile, that I would do my best to make sure his wish came true.

‘But Mile’, I said,

 ‘Please eat something and look after yourself. 

I want you to live to see the day when everyone will know the truth.’

and Mirjana laughed. ‘It’s a good day when Mile remembers to eat.’

That evening in Osijek Mile and his wife showed me their city, the cafes they frequented, the main square and then they took me to dinner in one of the nicest restaurants. ‘See, I do eat Marijana, but for me it’s more important that you eat and that you remember your time here with us in Osijek.’ 

I will never forget his kindness.

A few months after I left Osijek, the news spread that a Judicial Inquiry had been ordered and that the evidence that led to the conviction and jailing of six innocent Croatian men, including Mile, would now be re-opened for examination.

I immediately called them.

‘The time has come Mile. The time has come.’

‘Are you still going to tell my story?” He asked me.

‘Yes, of course, but I am working with a team and these things take time. Look how long you have waited already. Over 42 years. Just a little more now. Hold tight.’

‘OK’ he said, ‘you will tell my story one day’.

When Vesna Krizmanic rang me to say Mile had died, we were both in shock and shed tears. 

 Over the years Vesna and Lydia had shared many stories about Mile’s kind heart.

‘He was a dreamer’ said Lydia ‘a true artist by nature.’

‘Mile was ruled by his emotions and his ideals, but somehow he was unfairly judged and so misunderstood.’

Mile Nekic lived his entire life yearning for freedom through expression in his fight for Croatia and through the stories he told in his artwork.

In one way, I’m not surprised that Mile chose to die on the night Croatia beat Brazil in the World Cup. Little Croatia beating the world’s greatest footballing nation. What a story of resilience, a fight to the end.

Mile’s heart was probably bursting. Because dreams do come true…

So will yours Mile Nekic.

Rest in peace dear Mile.

And know that your story will be shared, and your innocence honoured.

We all gathered here in your name today promise you this. Amen.”

With proud memories we hope and trust. Rest in God’s peace Mile Nekic and may the perpetual light shine upon you – always!

With thanks to Branko Miletic, Written and compiled by Ina Vukic


How “miscalculations” may have made a “prostak” out of Mr Holocaust

Efraim Zuroff
Simon Wiesenthal Center
Photo: Yossi Zamut/F;ash 90


By Branko Miletic
(First published in Independent Australia 14 January 2018)

The Weisenthal Centre’s “Mr Holocaust” would seem to be undermining the very Holocaust history he claims to support, writes Branko Miletic.

In Yiddish, the term “prostak” denotes a wilfully ignorant person, while in the various interconnected Slavic languages, the word takes on a wider meaning of being uncouth or rude.

Historically, going back to the Ninth Century, Yiddish as a language was all but annihilated by the unmitigated evil that was the Holocaust.

And for almost as long as there has been the Holocaust, there has been Holocaust denial.

No-one is more aware of this than the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Yiddish-speaking and Jerusalem-based director Efraim Zuroff — a man who has given himself the nickname of “Mr Holocaust”.

Since taking up his post in 1998, “Mr Holocaust” has guided the Wiesenthal Centre into a growing list of controversies, ranging from victim-shaming in the Balkans, to alienating his allies across the world, and now to threatening the very Holocaust history he claims to support.

Denial, it seems, can be a two-way street.

Take, for example, his repeated comments on the July 1995 massacre of 8,372 Bosnians by Serb forces in Srebrenica.

Despite the U.N., EU, U.S. and most governments around the world declaring it an “act of a genocide”, Zuroff claimed it could not have been so “as only men were killed”.

His remarks earned sharp rebukes from many quarters, including from Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel.

While Menachem Rosensaft, general counsel of the World Jewish Congress, who teaches the law of genocide at Columbia and Cornell universities, called Zuroffs opinion, “wrong from a legal point of view”.

Nor was his the first time Zuroffs’ miscalculations have caused mayhem, however the attempt to downplay the gravity of the Srebrenica massacre also goes to the heart of the issue here.

As Marko Attila Hoare, associate professor of economics, politics, and history at Kingston University, said in 2011 about the denial of the genocide at Srebrenica in July 1995:

It tends to go hand-in-hand with the denial of the genocidal crimes carried out by Serbian Nazi quislings and collaborators during World War II.”

As if to underline that he is an equal-opportunity offender, in 2011, Zuroff’s carelessness led to the acquittal of a suspected Nazi war criminal in Hungary, causing much consternation for both Holocaust survivors and their families.

In the ensuing aftermath, László Karsai, the central European country’s leading Holocaust historian and himself the son of a Holocaust survivor, labelled him an “hysterical, narcissistic Nazi-hunter, working only to earn a good living”. He went on to say the Wiesenthal Centre used publicity in order to “justify its own existence before its sponsors”.

Moving his attention back to the former Yugoslavia, Zuroff’s downplaying of Serbia’s World War Two “Judenfrei” history has assisted for now in keeping this fact out of the media spotlight.

Then there is his silence over the former Yugoslav State erecting statues to Nazi collaborators and the rehabilitation of its own collaborationist history — a process that goes on to this day unabated.

Any attempt to publicly challenge Zuroff over such anomalies to his public pronouncements in relation to World War Two Balkan history elicits instant condemnation from the man himself, his organisation and his fellow travellers in the media — most of whose idea of journalism often more closely resembles bullying rather than objective reporting.

Even when simple arithmetics highlights the unexplained holes in the “accepted” conclusions, those that have dared to cross this apparent verboten Rubicon find themselves in the crosshairs of a well-oiled and, apparently, well-funded media campaign of character assassination.

In 1996, American historian Dr Philip Cohen discovered this the hard way after publishing his book: Serbia’s Secret War, which used Yugoslav, U.S., British, German and Russian archives to disprove many of Yugoslavia’s inflated World War Two death tolls.

Cohen’s work demolished the “victimology” that for decades has characterised just about everything that has been written about Yugoslavia’s role in World War Two.

Despite being lauded by former British PM Margaret Thatcher for his extensive research and despite being Jewish himself, Cohen discovered what happens when you challenge the status quo, courtesy of a tsunami of vilification, threats of physical violence — even being labelled a “Nazi sympathiser” by both the global Left and the Wiesenthal Centre.

But in many ways, Philip Cohen was a trailblazer, as one of the first historians to actually use simple, primary school arithmetic on decades-old publicly available data to pry open the floodgates of truth in relation to parts of Balkan World War Two history.

For example, between 1931 and 1948, according to Dr. Cohen (and the Holocaust Encyclopaedia), Europe’s Jewish population fell from 9.5 million in 1931 to 3.5 million in 1948 — meaning a net loss of some 6 million people, mostly courtesy of the Nazi death camps.

Over the exact same period of time, according to Belgrade’s official and publicly available population statistics, the number of people in Yugoslavia increased by over 1.3 million people, with 700,000 of those newly born citizens being Serbs, according to the same figures.

Delving further into the statistics, as Cohen and others found, the population of Yugoslavia, according to its published last census just prior to the outbreak of War in 1939, was almost 15.4 million.

In 1948, in the country’s first post-World War Two census, which was published by its new Communist government and then republished by the United Nations, showed a population of over 15.8 million — a growth of some 400,000 people. This made Yugoslavia the only European country actively militarily involved in World War Two to have its population increase during the period of the war.

Although these figures have been publicly available for at least 70 years, Zuroff and other commentators have consistently claimed that the decrease of 6 million people during the Holocaust is somehow comparable to the increase of Yugoslavia’s wartime population by some 400,000 people.

This odd analogy has been repeated by historians far and wide – including prominent Australian ones, such as self-styled “Nazi-hunter” Mark Aarons – as somehow being equal in “monstrosity”.

While Yugoslavia’s role in World War Two is a typical Balkan mix of myth, propaganda and bravado, the fact that such obvious errors, most of which contravene even the basic rules of addition and subtraction, can enter the annals of standard and accepted history, and go unchallenged for decades simply beggars belief.

One excuse for this mathematical incongruity is the consistent failure to check simple raw data, such as publicly-available population figures, while at the same time blindly republishing and rehashing numbers that were little more than Communist propaganda.

The other reason is a fear of public abuse from those that wish to keep their “crimes of miscalculation” covered up.

Were they to become common knowledge, they could potentially provide a massive shot in the arm to those that crave for even a whiff of “scientific credibility” to disprove the Holocaust and who wish to wipe the history of this awful event from the collective memory of mankind.

Perhaps the Yiddish term prostak is applicable to a few more people, including all those so-called “historians”, for whom the use of a calculator stretches their already seemingly limited skill set.



Croatian Diasporan Voice Presents Lifetime Achievement Award To Charles Billich

Awarding Lifetime Achievement to Charles Billich
Croatian Diasporan Voice
From left: Branko Miletic, Anne Dujmovic, Ina Vukic,
Alenka Bonic, Charles Billich, John Ovcaric
Mary Suminga, Valentin Perkovic

Recognising the dedication from the Croatian diaspora to the nation building of the independent and democratic Croatia, to the well being of Croatian people wherever they may be, has been a tireless, selfless pursuit of many people of Croatian descent living across the world, outside Croatia, for several decades. Recognising and awarding that dedication has been a goal of the Croatian Diasporan Voice association to which I proudly belong. On Saturday 9th December 2017, in the company of many distinguished guests from the Australian community, the worldwide renowned artist and humanitarian, Charles Billich, became the first inductee of that Hall of Fame dedicated to Croatians who have and who excel in their tireless dedication to the prosperity and well being of the Croatian homeland and Croatian people. An annual event for this Award is planned.

Lifetime Achievement Award
for helping Croatia from the diaspora

On the night of the Award presentation to Charles Billich in Sydney, Australia, the Member of Croatian Parliament for the Diaspora, General Zeljko Glasnovic, arrived to the ceremony via Skype from Zagreb, Croatia with the words that included:

“… independent Croatia was created in sweat and blood …Charles Billich is a part of that birth, of the rebirth of Croatian freedom. He is a great ambassador of Croatia, and I’m overwhelmed to be here at this commemoration to him … follow Charles’ example, he is got this, he has led by example and Croatia is one of them… Stay true, follow the course, and don’t stray from dimension – never quit. I wish you all the best, Merry Christmas and may the birth of Christ come to you with the best, thank you all …”

General Zeljko Glasnovic
Member of Croatian Parliament for the Diaspora

At the moment of the Award presentation to Charles Billich, John Ovcaric, Vice-president of the Croatian Diasporan Voice said that “this Award represents Lady Liberty, who we affectionately call Jelena, after Jelena Zrinski, the last of Croatian royal family and she represents the Croatian people and their defense of Europe from invading (Ottoman) forces and we feel that it’s a very apt figure and one that represents also the determination of Croatians such as Charles who worked tirelessly in this country to represent Australia first and foremost but also to represent our culture. Charles it is our great pleasure to present this to you as the first inductee of the Croatian Diasporan Voice Hall of Fame.”

Charles Billich and Christa Billich
Walking into the Hilton Sydney
Award night hall
9 December 2017

Charles Billich was visibly deeply touched by the honour bestowed on him, saying:

It’s like getting an Oscar for something that you’ve done, but this is better! Thank you so much. I am deeply touched and I declare I’m undeserving of this fuss, but yes, over time I have painted a few paintings that have skimmed over the history of Croatia so the highlights and symbolism of Croatia are thus recorded and it’s my intention to keep on doing it at an accelerated pace because I don’t want time to run out. My schedule is very, very busy and I have to rationalise my time from now on. Every moment counts and through hard work, working many hours a day, seven days a week, I achieve a modicum, a little fraction of what I would like to achieve, but even that little is holy to me. Thank you!

Charles Billich (L) John Ovcaric (R)

Reflecting upon his own past when he was persecuted by the former Yugoslav communist regime and upon this Award, Charles Billich said:

“Thank you the brotherhood of Croatians. I said that word, brotherhood, because I believe in that word perhaps a little bit more than in the word nationality, you know, we are brothers and sisters.

We are within parameters of this definition brothers and sisters with all the other tribes in the world. But in this, to each his own, I am very proud to be part of the Croatian tribe.

Ina Vukic (L) Charles Billich (C) Nila Oreb (R)

Tonight is a great surprise, I was not expecting it. You know, such a tribute to me, my work has just started …thanks to the inspiration of my new country Australia and my old country Croatia – beautiful people who populate both countries…

I have a body of work coming up in the future, which may disappoint you but will stun you. So bear with me for a little while longer and you will see something decent and professional coming out of my brushes. One of the things I want to do in the near future is a monument to another pioneer of Croatian and global links – Marco Polo – he is a super hero in Croatia, he is a superman, he is the one who established contacts with the Far East, particularly China, Mongolia and virtually put Croatia on the map – for all times. I’m working on a great monument to Marco Polo, which will be erected in Korcula, which is a Croatian island, the island where Marco Polo was actually born.

Charles Billich (L) Valentin Perkovic (R)

I compare tonight and I compare my joy that I feel tonight with the joy I felt a long time ago, since a century ago it seems, but it was only maybe 1952, I think, when something really unexpected happened like tonight was unexpected and which filled me with great joy. Now, if that’s possible in a communist country where I was in prison.

But because of prisons being so overpopulated and crowded finally the communist Yugoslav government, which dominated over communist republics Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia the government had to do something in order to satisfy the insistence of the International Red Cross to do something about the status of the persecutions of Croatians. I was in the prison one day and I was serving a ten-year sentence for political reasons and sedition when there was some announcement. And it was announced that because of the overcrowding of the prisons there would be an amnesty and the amnesty actually included some half of the jail population.

And guess what! I was one of them! I can’t tell you the joy I felt at that moment, I was orgasmic, it was really something I can’t describe, I couldn’t sleep for two days after that – and this night is like that – thank you very much. Thank you to all the Croatians and Australians. Za Dom Spremni! (For Home Ready!) We are ready to defend our home.”

To capture in this article the character, the mood and the significance of this event here are other speeches of note delivered at this event.

John Ovcaric, Croatian Diasporan Voice/ Glas hrvatske dijaspore:

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen
Dobra večer Dame i Gospodo

On behalf of the Croatian Diasporan Voice,and the entire Australian Croatian community I wish to welcome you all to this gala event in honour of Charles Billich, recognising his lifetime achievements and contributions not only to Australia, but his community and his beloved country of birth Croatia.
My name is John Ovcaric, founder and vice-president of “The Croatian Diasporan Voice” and it is my sincerest honour and privilege to serve this evening as your master of ceremonies.

Before we commence with an evening that we all hope will leave lasting impressions and memories with you all, I would ask that we all take a moment to first recognise not only the man we are here to celebrate but also his dedicated wife.

Ladies and gentlemen, could I ask you all to stand and join me in a round of applause for Charles and Christa Billich.
This evening has played heavy on the hearts and minds of many for some time now.

Croatian Diasporan Voice as an association was formed not only to represent the interests of Australian Croatians, who now number in the vicinity of some 200,000, but also to preserve our cultural heritage.

Women of Croatian Diasporan Voice:
From left: Mary Suminga, Anne Dujmovic, Ina Vukic, Alenka Bonic

As Australians we embrace all that it is to be Australian, Australia gave us the rights and opportunities that our forefathers left their place of birth to seek in order to provide their children that which they yearned for but could not have.
The story of Charles is no less dramatic.

Having suffered as a young student the repercussions of speaking out against tyranny under a communist regime
And having any resemblance of freedom taken from him, Charles also looked beyond the beauty of his homeland seeking afar a place where, as an individual and artist, his artistic abilities and beliefs could merge and express themselves.

Australia provided him those inalienable rights, and in return he reciprocated by adding to its unique and rich cultural beauty through his work.
Charles, this evening a number of your friends, admirers and those privileged to be custodians of one of those works are here to celebrate with and honour you
Yet so many more, that you don’t know this evening also celebrate with us.

Each of us here this evening will at some point stop and reflect on a work you have created, a work they may have, seen adorning a place
All too often we forget that a digital world can never replace the expressions of an artisan who not only through the subject, but through its creation conveys emotions that existed as each brush stoke was executed.

When you create Charles, each of these brush strokes captures a small moment in time, they capture the essence that is you, and it is the colour, texture and their interplay together that capture the hearts and minds of those that admire.

These moments pass for you as you transition from one creation to the next, but for us, you are most certainly thought of and admired somewhere, every minute, of every day as we focus on each and every stroke, a moment captured in eternity, a moment that inspires and delights.
After this evening comes to an end, and you return to your studio and your easel, we sincerely hope that the memories of this evening in some small way inspire you, that as you create you know that the beauty you bestow upon us all will live forever and that this brings a smile to your face in return.

David Jakic, President of Australian Croatian Chamber of Commerce NSW:

David Jakic
President, Australian-Croatian Chamber of Commerce NSW

Dear friends, colleagues and guests,

Firstly, I would like to congratulate the team at the Croatian Diasporan Voice for creating such a sensational event.
John, Valentin, Branko, Ina, Anne, Mary and Alenka you have done such an amazing job in helping us create tonight and it’s an honor that I am able to stand here and express my appreciation for this memorable occasion.

To be honest… for my first official speech as president I’m nervous… it had to be at a night that’s appreciating such a inspirational person Mr Charles Billich.

Now for people that might be wondering why I’m slightly nervous, I just want to take this moment to recap on some of Charles achievements…
• Paintings for the United Nations in New York
• 2 Paintings at the Vatican
• The official artist for the Olympic games of Sydney 2000, Beijing, Athens and Sotchi
• The key to the city of Atlanta
• Charles art is on the Nobel peace prize certificate
• For me, my favorite… He purchased a beautiful Bentley.

Now I know I can go on much more but I’m sure you get the point…
But then, it doesn’t end there… not only did achieve so much, he is a man with an enormous heart.
This is a man who has not had it easy;
• He was imprisoned overseas for standing up for what he believed in a communist regime
• As they did, he came here on a boat which I’m sure wasn’t the ‘ovation of the seas’
• He helped Europeans coming to Australia find work
Again, I could go on but the one I love… he was once a taxi driver… so much respect.
Mr Charles Billich, You are an inspiration to so many and your work has brought so much happiness to people around the world.

Australia may claim you as their own; Croatia theirs… but its only fair to say that both countries should be proud to call you their son as you are an international treasure.
Please raise your glasses…”

Ina Vukic, Croatian Diasporan Voice:

The only embroidery of friendship is fidelity”, Antun Starcevic, 19th century politician and writer referred to as the father of the Croatian homeland.
It is both an honour and a pleasure to be with you all here tonight when we celebrate excellence and outstanding dedication and devotion from the Croatian diaspora to the advancement of our Croatian homeland. This award tonight is also given in recognition of Charles Billich’s enduring vision for a free and democratic Croatia and his enormous contributions to the defence and promotion of truth and Croatian name throughout the world – not to mention his outstanding humanitarian generosity.

Croatia! The cradle of Croatian peoples’ existence; the mother of our history; the father of our freedom fighting spirit; the grandmother of legend and the great grandmother of tradition; the grandfather of Za Dom Spremni (For Home Ready) and the great grandfather of patriotic love and resolve.
Patriotism and nation building has been the Croatian diaspora’s artery of existence.

Patriotism means a love of country.

Yet, that on its own – says very little.

We can, after all, love many things in different ways, but to love something always means to have certain devotion, and to care for that object of love in a special, thrilling way.

For a Croatian migrant to love and succeed in the new, as well as the original homeland, translates into that special love, that special devotion.
Some people express that special love through momentous actions that touch a whole nation.

And Charles has been and is right up there with them!

Many today regard patriotism with scepticism.

In a globalised world, multiple identities, nationalities and allegiances are commonplace.
Many would say that it would be better for us simply to celebrate our common humanity, to become citizens of the world – and not worry about our country of origin as well as the one we have built our lives in, being special.

I disagree. I don’t believe that we should abandon patriotism because patriotism is to countries what self-respect is to individuals:
You need it as a condition of collective self-improvement.

The unspeakable and brutal losses of family lives, the oppression and persecution by the communist regime of former Yugoslavia are all too well known to the young Charles Billich, way back then.

But Australia has been a balm that only a homeland can provide; another homeland that gives you freedom to nurture your dreams for the country of you birth and helps you work towards realising them.

Over almost three past decades I have had the privilege and utter delight in being touched by the selfless stewardship championed by Charles for a collective wellbeing of the Croatian people in the homeland and those in the diaspora.

Charles Billich has consistently and steadfastly delivered not only to Australia but also to Croatia on actions that are so important to our collective wellbeing.
Both countries have benefited richly from the talented and dedicated Charles Billich over several decades.

16 January 1992 was a day when Australia became among the first non-European countries to recognise Croatia as an independent and sovereign state.
Here, in my hands I hold the testimonial of that very day when we celebrated that momentous occasion of which Charles was a significant part!
I am gifting this publication to you Charles as one of the many beacons for Croatian freedom you have held in your hands throughout many years!
I salute you, Charles Billich!

Portrait of late General Praljak.
John Ovcaric (L) Charles Billich (R)

To honour the unwavering determination in defending the Croatian people from the brutal attacks waged in Bosnia and Herzegovina by Serbs and Bosniaks/Muslims during the 1990’s war Charles Billich unveiled on this night his portrait of the late General Praljak, who recently committed suicide in the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in response to the injustice pointing to Croats served by the tribunal. The proceeds of the sale of this portrait are intended for helping the late General’s family. May the proudest and the highest bidder for this stunning portrait do Croatia proud also!

This Award giving event for dedication to Croatia’s freedom and democracy was also organised with the memory to the 18th anniversary of the death on 10 December 1999 of Croatia’s first president dr. Franjo Tudjman! His determination for freedom inspired also the whole of the Croatian diaspora to become a major element and fighting force, alongside Croatian homeland forces and people, in achieving independence and democracy. With profound respect and fond memories Croatians in the diaspora – remember! Ina Vukic

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