Croatian Diaspora Celebrates Philanthropy of Marko Franovic

Tony Abbott (L) Ina Vukic (C) Marko Franovic (R)

It was yesterday, on 8th of May 2021, that the family of Marko, Božo, Marija and Milena Franovic delighted many guests at the Croatian Club Punchbowl in Sydney Australia in celebration of Marko’s 80th birthday. It was an event like no other in my memory. This was not a mere birthday celebration, this was also an opportunity when the Australian community and the Croatian community spread across the world recognised and celebrated the outstanding human being that Marko has been especially through his philanthropy spanning across continents in efforts to better democracy and life for all, awarding him the Blessed Alojzije Stepinac Lifetime Achievement Award. And it so happens that Marko Franovic shares the 8th of May birth date with Blessed Stepinac.

Marko Franovic recipient of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac Lifetime Achievement Award for Philanthropy

Croatia’s Blessed Alojzije Stepinac once said: “Nothing will force me to stop loving justice, nothing will force me to stop hating injustice, and in my love for my people I will not be eclipsed by anyone.”

And today, Marko Franovic shows us how these words when translated into actions can mean so very much to so many people.

Sydney based Marko Franovic had, due to oppression and harsh life fled communist Yugoslavia in 1961 and via refugee camps in Italy he reached the shores of Australia – determined to make life better not just for his family but for his Croatian community and the Australian community. His life is a shining testament of success in all he touched with his hard work and dedication. This quiet, humble man delivered enormous positive impact on the creation of the independent State of Croatia and its 1990’s Homeland War and his philanthropy reached every corner in both Australia and Croatia that needed help. Many distinguished guests celebrated yesterday in Sydney and many sent video greetings from Croatia.

To me this was a proud moment not just to celebrate Marko but also to see Australia’s former Prime Minister Anthony (Tony) Abbott among us, thus reminding us that Australia had indeed been an exemplary host country, a new homeland, to so many refugees and migrants from Croatia who were able to nurture a long-standing desire for Croatia to free itself of communist Yugoslavia. Australia was one of the first countries outside Europe to recognise Croatia’s independence and plight for democracy in January of 1992 and it showed a passion of camaraderie with our plights and efforts to achieve that independence and democracy.

Charles Billich (L) Marko Franovic (second from L) Ina Vukic (second from R) Anita Paulic (R)

I was honoured to have been asked to deliver a speech during the celebration of Marko Franovic’s birthday, when he was named Croat of the Year 2021 and received his Lifetime Achievement Award. And here is my speech, which I hope will bring this amazing human being closer to you:     

“Our families of Croatian origins share a common passion and that is freedom from oppression and love for democracy and national identity. We of Croatian origins living in Australia for many, many decades feel especially lucky because this country had offered us the dignity of nurturing our love and dream for a free Croatia, propping up its plight and fight for independence from the Yugoslav communist regime when it was most needed, while growing and nurturing our love for Australia itself. And Marko is a shining example of how wonderful the synergy of love for two countries can be. It is ultimately a win-win situation for all.

As to how very fortunate we, whose immediate families fled to foreign lands, were at choosing Australia to flee to from communist Yugoslavia, like Marko did, I always like to refer to the speech that Sir Robert Menzies’, the longest serving Prime Minister of Australia in history, delivered in Parliament on 27th August 1964 in which, among other things, he said:

“…It is difficult for people coming to Australia easily to forget their historical backgrounds. Since the war a number of organisations opposed to the present Government of Yugoslavia have developed throughout the world amongst refugees and migrants from that country. It is understandable that some Yugoslav migrants of Croatian origin should continue to hope for the establishment of an independent Croatia and within a democracy like Australia they have right to advocate their views so long as they do so by legitimate means. I wish to make it perfectly clear that the vast majority of the migrants from all parts of Yugoslavia who have settled in Australia have proved to be law abiding, hardworking citizens and a real asset to this country…”

Sir Robert Menzies put wind under the wings of our love for our first homeland, Croatia.

Jadranka (Adriana Rukavina (L) Marko Franovic (C) Ina Vukic (R)

This win-win situation that has its foundations in love and loyalty to the first and second homelands is something to celebrate and tonight we celebrate its personification in the shape of Marko Franovic. It needed to be written into a book and I am honoured to present to you the hot-off-the-press ‘Never Forget Your Past: Marko Franovic Story’. It is a book that, after Mr Petar Mamic from Domovina newspaper contacted me with the idea, I myself undertook to write, to collate, to put together with the input of many people as well as collaborating authors Branko Miletic and Vanda Babic Galic. It is a birthday gift to Marko from all of us. Some of you here tonight who have gladly sent me your statements about Marko for the book, know, that you have brilliantly contributed to this gift for Marko but also a gift for both Australian and Croatian communities. Thank you so very much and I apologise if, at times, my requests for contributions came at a time when you had more pressing things to do. But you delivered for Marko and for that I am deeply grateful. Just like many delivered from Croatia. Thank you all, once again.

Never Forget Your Past: Marko Franovic – book covers

Proudly and with deep admiration we can say that the past four decades, at least, of Marko Franovic’s life have been marked by extraordinary gestures of generosity towards the Australian and Croatian communities. Marko is a philanthropist who, with his generous works, personifies the definition of this very word: a person who feels a deep love for humanity, who shows himself with practical kindness and helpfulness towards humanity. Marko is not only respected through his philanthropy. He has integrated with obvious and extraordinary ease his business, philanthropic and civic commitments and has followed a standard for individual and corporate citizenship that reflects a great measure of what we look for in society and rely upon to maintain the preservation of generosity and kindness to others.

Although he prefers to walk selflessly, quietly, under the radar of a bright stage and spotlights – Marko is a man of immense importance. He does not care about fame or recognition because he is a man who loves to support and give the most he can, rather than receive. His firm strides through the social landscape of his Homeland of Croatia and Australia, his many public roles, his contribution to social, political, and cultural care and the achievements that have often been talked about and analysed throughout the many years, are colossal and thus difficult to list in one place like this.

Marko has lived and lives a life what others like to call a life of a good man.

Never Forget Your Past: Marko Franovic Story’ is a book that wanted to show rather than tell and put on display what an exceptional human being Marko is and has been. On that note, the book shows not only the harsh life’s path Marko had to endure in order to become what he is today, but it also gives examples of his prolific philanthropy and how other people and community leaders see him.

I trust you will all enjoy the book and keep it a testament to how love for the first homeland joined with the love for a second can create miracles.  The miracles that are quiet, often unnoticed, but to many have the significance of well-being that inspires creativity and progress.  

Video birthday greetings for Marko Franovic from Croatia with English subtitles

Thank you, Marko, for all you do! I salute you! Happy 80th Birthday!” Ina Vukic

Mate Granic et al. – You Will Not Succeed In Denying The Croatian Diaspora Its Rightful Place In Foundations Of Independent Croatia And Its Diplomatic Missions

Sydney Australia 1991 – one of several peaceful protests against war in Croatia and for Independence of Croatia Photo: Ina Vukic

15 January 2021 marks the 29th Anniversary of the International Recognition of Croatia as an independent and sovereign state. Although other countries followed during the ensuing months of 1992 an overwhelming number of countries had announced their recognition of Croatia on 15 January 1992 (Australia on 16 January 1992, United States 7 April 1992…).

A child might use prevarication to avoid telling the whole truth about how the kitchen window got broken. Croatia’s Mate Granic, former communist Yugoslavia operative, former Foreign Minister and Prime Minister of Croatia uses prevarication (on the 29th anniversary of the international recognition of the Republic of Croatia as an independent and sovereign state) to purposefully avoid the truth and facts about the key elements and players in the creation of the independent state and its diplomatic missions across the world. It is an absolute truth and fact that after the Croatian Independence Referendum (to secede from communist Yugoslavia held on 19 May 1991) between June 1991 and around June 1993 the path was set to establish permanent premises of Croatian Diplomatic Missions throughout the world and in particular there where a relatively large and influential Croatian diaspora lived (E.g., Germany, Australia, Canada, United States, Argentina, Chile etc.).

In those crucial years during which the foundations for the sustainability of an independent Croatia were laid, war of Yugoslav Army and Serb rebels was raging against Croatia, lifeline funds were alarmingly scarce for Croatian independence plights and the Croatian diaspora poured in with enormous financial help through fundraising efforts and lobbying their local politicians and parliamentarians towards recognising Croatia as sovereign state as well as local communities via many peaceful mass protests against the war in Croatia and supplying Western media outlets with factual reports from War zones in efforts to correct the Yugoslav/Serb lies and half-truths TANJUG News Agency was feeding to the world.  

It has been 29 years since then and Croatians witnessing and participating in those events are significantly reduced in number as coming to power of many former communists after Franjo Tudjman’s death in late 1999/2000 also and regretfully  meant that the Croatian Homeland War saw increasing efforts for it to be criminalised with lies and fabrications, a multitude of Homeland War generals were forced into retirement, Croatian Generals sent to the UN International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague on trumped up politically driven indictments, Homeland War veterans in general degraded and their deserved welfare ignored and their pivotal place in the foundations of Independent Croatia almost obliterated, the recognition of the role of the Croatian diaspora in creating an independent state of Croatia systematically and increasingly ignored and downplayed by those who seized power in Croatia after year 2000.

Sadly, this also means that these same politicians and former Yugoslav communists or their children together with their Serbian counterparts have been during the past two decades “writing” a history of the founding of the independent state of Croatia with lies and prevarications, just as they did about the WWII Independent State of Croatia after the War had ended. And so, those born during and after the 1990’s Croatian Homeland War are fed more and more lies and half-truths and are in danger of not knowing the most relevant truths about how and why the independent Croatia came to be. How and why their independent state was created.

The Croatian television Studio 4 program televised for the occasion of the 29th Anniversary of international recognition of Croatia’s independence featured none other than Mate Granic and his appearance there demonstrates so clearly how lies and prevarication regarding the establishment of the Croatian diplomatic missions throughout the world, the international recognition of Croatia, create a false picture and false record. Granic purposefully omitted to talk truthfully about the period June 1991 and June 1992 that was critical for the international recognition of Croatia and for the preparations for the establishment of permanent Croatian Diplomatic Missions throughout the world (up to June 1993) – he blatantly ignored the fact that Dr Zvonimir Separovic was then a very Croatia-minded Foreign Minister. Whether this omission on Granic’s part was related to the fact that Dr Zvonimir Separovic was one of the leading Croatian public figures to pursue truth about Communist crimes and mass graves of their victims had anything to do with Granic’s disregard is a question I believe many Croats will know how to answer or contemplate upon. In the same television program by plucking out individual cases of diaspora contribution to the establishment of Croatian Diplomatic Missions Granic completely omitted to talk and recognise fully the crucial roles Croatian diaspora played in the processes of international recognition of Croatia and the establishing permanent Croatian Diplomatic Missions throughout the world.

Generally, let me present here some absolute facts Mate Granic (and those in power in Croatia or around them who are, shamelessly “carrying the can” for communist Yugoslavia) is avoiding talking about or recognise:

  • Not only did at that time Serbs with the help of the Yugoslav Peoples’ Army occupy and ethnically cleansed of Croats one third of Croatia but also Yugoslav (Serb) diplomatic missions across the world were occupied by Serbian diplomacy under the thieving claim that Serbia (with Montenegro, called then and until 2003, FRY – Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) was the heir to communist Yugoslavia and, therefore, rightful owner and occupant of the diplomatic missions’ premises throughout the world kept operating (without Croatia) in premises acquired with a great deal of Croatian funds that were syphoned off from Croatia during the decades when Croatia was part of communist Yugoslavia federation;
  • Coming out of a totalitarian communist regime Croatia needed and relied upon its democratically-minded and experienced diaspora to step in and help drive the establishment of its Diplomatic and Consular Missions including securing new premises for which Croatia had no funds at the time (Australia serves as a bight example where the Croatian communities raised significant funds to purchase premises and equip them for future diplomatic-consular permanent mission);
  • Croatia needed and relied upon the democratic systems knowhow, connectedness and influence of its diaspora to establish diplomatic core ties and good will on the ground for diplomatic networking – and the Croatian diaspora delivered gladly and professionally “big time”;  
  • Coming out of the totalitarian regime of communist Yugoslavia Croatia needed and relied upon its diaspora to drive and establish operational framework of its diplomatic missions on the ground of most foreign countries and individual Croatians did just that, without remuneration but with a huge love for democracy and freedom from communist mindset.  
  • Documentary, verified and verifiable evidence still exists in the Croatian Diaspora regarding the Croatian Diaspora input and role in the establishment of Diplomatic/Consular Missions of Croatia on the ground in various countries. When Mate Granic became the Foreign Minister of Croatia in May 1993 there were attempts by his diplomats to get hold of all the documentary evidence pertaining to diaspora role in setting up the Missions – they were not afforded that privilege – it was justifiably feared they would destroy the evidence.

29 years after, it is evident that the Croatian Diaspora has been placed on the same trajectory of disrespect and disregard as the Homeland War veterans when it comes to upholding the very foundations of independence! Croatian communist mindset still littering the corridors of power, hand in hand with Serbian aggressor operatives and clan – continue with their degradation of values the Croatian people had set for themselves when they overwhelmingly decided to secede from Yugoslav communist regime. Mate Granic and all of the communist Yugoslavia apparatchiks and apologists – you will not succeed in denying and downplaying the Croatian Diaspora and its rightful place in the foundations of the Independent Croatia and its Diplomatic Missions across the world. Ina Vukic

Blessed and Merry Christmas

Wishing you all a Blessed and Merry Christmas 2020 from the joy of nurturing Croatian culture and traditions in Australia since 1850’s!

Blagoslovljen i Čestit Božić 2020. iz radosti održavanja hrvatske kulture i običaja u Australiji od 1850-tih!

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