Easter In Croatia – 2021 Looking Back To 1991

(R) Josip Jovic, the first casualty in Croatia’s 1990’s pursuit for independence. (L) Giant and magical Easter eggs proudly on display in front of Zagreb Cathedral 2021

Easter of 2021 is the second Easter of most difficult times many have seen when it comes to celebrating togetherness, together. The pandemic is the culprit. At Easter we usually crowd the churches, and, in our homes, we gather so that we can all experience the spirit of contemplation during the greatest celebration of Christianity. This year many across the world will not have this togetherness in physical presence but the soul, the heart and the mind connect and stay connected, cementing the love and joy in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

My thoughts and the thoughts of multitudes in the Croatian diaspora are with our first Homeland, Croatia. Croatia is being tested once again as the third wave of Covid-19 looms and threatens the very existence of community life in the coming months. And so, the Homeland and the diaspora shall remain united with faith and optimism.

Croatian diaspora keeps the Homeland in its heart and draws strength from Croatia, which feeds identity and belonging like little else in life. This source of strength in most difficult times has been proven a thousand times and we are familiar with the strength Croatian diaspora offered when defending Croatia from brutal Serb aggression became a matter of life and death. It was Easter 1991 when the first blood was shed in the goal of Croatia’s freedom and in preserving Christian identity, away from communist Yugoslavia.

Croatian diaspora’s love for Croatia is the compass that guides us in the crossing of any difficult road of life. On reflecting upon Croatia’s history, the sufferings and the sacrifices for freedom one may indeed compare this pain with the pain and suffering Jesus Christ endured on his torturous way to the Calvary. But just like Easter Day, the day of His resurrection, as we imbibe Croatia’s lush beauty, wine and cuisine cultivated by centuries of tradition in celebrating Christ, the utmost sacrifice and pain in achieving victory for its independence, we find that history never tasted so good; just as faith never tastes so good as it does at the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

At Easter 2021 it is inevitable for Croatians to contemplate on Easter 1991 with great sadness but also exquisite joy at what would be achieved once torture of bloody aggression was suffocated and victory came like resurrection of the Croatian thousand-year dream. Freedom and independence.

Easter of 1991 became to be known as Bloody Easter (“Krvavi Uskrs”). Every year, 31st March marks the anniversary of the death of Josip Jovic, the first Croatian defending Croatia killed in the Homeland War. He sustained fatal wounds in the area of Plitvice Lakes when Serb rebels mounted a vicious onslaught against Croatia’s efforts to pursue a path of secession from communist Yugoslavia. This incident of recent Croatian history hinted that the battle for Croatian freedom and independence would be difficult and bloody. It is this tragic event that will go down in our history as Bloody Easter.

Croatian peoples’ intention to get out of communist Yugoslavia and become a sovereign, independent State had accelerated during 1990 as changes on the political landscape saw new political parties formed towards a democratic future, Croatia’s Constitution being written, Croatia’s diaspora connected to help fight for democracy and on 30th May 1990 Croatia held its first session of a democratic Parliament, inaugurating the Croatian Parliament. A section of Croatia’s Serbs who did not want to be a part of independent Croatia even though, overall, they were a minority in Croatia, grew into terrorist formations and in October 1990 proclaimed a part of Croatia their so-called “Serbian Autonomous Region of Krajina” (SAO Krajina). Ethnic cleansing and abuse of Croatians living in that region was evidently on the cards.

The day prior to the Bloody Easter incident at Plitvice Lakes in 1991, Serbian extremists and rebels in that region organised the so-called “rally of truth”, demanding that the Plitvice Lakes National Park remain part of the rebel Serb freshly self-proclaimed and so-called SAO Krajina. The next day, another illegal decision to dismiss the management of the National Park and the beginning of terrorising non-Serb workers followed. A bus full of Serb extremists from Knin had arrived in the Plitvice area, known worldwide for its natural beauty and under the protection of UNESCO. Serb rebels entered the administrative building of the National Park, blocked the main public road to the south, to the so-called SAO Krajina, at dawn the SAO Krajina flag was found raised at the Korana River bridge in the area.  

These events at Plitvice called for immediate intervention. The young Croatian police force had a task of establishing order and peace in the park area. However, before dawn on March 31, rebel Serbs ambushed a convoy of vehicles with Croatian special forces on the main route not far from Plitvice hotels.

Gun fire opened from the surrounding forest, and an anti-tank mine entered the bus full of Croatian police officers, which fortunately did not explode due to an unpulled fuse. This was followed by the police officers’ hurried exit from the bus, lying down by the road, opening fire in the direction from which the shooting came and slowly advancing through the thick fog and deep snow that surrounded Plitvice that Easter.

The conflict lasted for several hours. Unfortunately, in the action, an enemy bullet fatally wounded 22-year-old Croatian policeman Josip Jovic, a member of the Special Tasks Unit of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Croatia, Rakitje. Despite the quick intervention by the ambulance medics, Jovic died from wounds on the way to the hospital. A dozen more Croatian police officers were wounded.

Serb rebels issued an ultimatum to Croatian forces to leave Plitvice. But that was resolutely rejected. Although the action of the special units of the Ministry of the Interior in Plitvice was of a limited character, and in the totality of all future horrendous events of the Homeland War it was relatively small in scope, but it was the first such action of defending Croatia, above all successful, which far exceeds its importance in armed terms.

Croatians stood their ground to defend their people and land at Easter 1991. A show of remarkable and extraordinary love of Homeland was set in action then. The faith in the Croatian nation that smouldered and sparkled in the hearts for a thousand years was fortified, once again, by action of courage and love there at Plitivice Lake in 1991, at Easter! Let’s keep it that way – Croatia and its diaspora!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3)

Happy and Blessed Easter everyone!

Ina Vukic

Croatia: First Define Serb Civilian In War Then Talk About Compensation!

In any war civilian victims are defined as casualties of war killed or injured by non-civilians. Civilians who are helping a war effort are people working to supply the troops or paramilitary forces and to provide them with weapons, shelter, cheer them on or help in other ways are not combatants in the sense of bearing arms, but they are an essential part of the war machine and constitute a threat to the other side and, therefore,

may well (must) be considered as combatants and not civilians.

Even thirty years after Serb (Croatian rebel Serbs and Serbs from Serbia) and Yugoslav Army aggression against Croatia began, Croatia has not managed to sort this out. And it was the first thing it should have done after the Homeland War had completely ended with the re-integration of its last occupied territory of Eastern Slavonia in 1998. For all the public knows Croatia has no list of Serb “civilians” in Croatia who must be listed as non-civilians and yet Croatian government has the terrible and mean audacity to try and pass its new legislation regarding the rights of civilian victims during its Homeland War including among them Croatian Serb rebels and their families and friends who were actively involved, in one way or another, in the aggression against Croatia.

Clearly distinguishing between civilians and non-civilians (civilian combatants) has never been more important for Croatia than now. This importance arises from the fact that if this is not clearly defined it will serve as yet another notch in the repulsive denial of human rights of the real victims that equating the victim with the aggressor has been doing so far in Croatia.  

During this past week the matter of proposed new legislation for civilian victims of Croatian Homeland War has been before the Croatian Parliament and the floor clearly demonstrated that even though Croatia won that bloody war of aggression against it, the war is by a long shot not over. Croatian Serbs who belonged to the rebel squads during the war, who simply cannot be considered as civilians, still have their sights on taking over Croatia for Serbia and they are in parliament as representatives who got into the parliament with a couple of hundred votes – because Croatia’s law regarding minority rights permits that. They do not represent those Croatian Serbs who are in the same minority but fought on the Croatian side in war, to defend Croatia from Serb aggression. They are in parliament with the task of equating Croatian victim with Serb aggressor.

Croatian authorities appear to have purposefully forgotten or are sweeping under the carpet the fact that Serb aggression against Croatia started with the Croatian Serb rebels, many of whom come under the definition of civilian combatants who actually drove the aggression and who caused untold damage and loss to Croatians even though they belonged at the time to no official army. Their family members and friends helped them to cause untold damage to Croatia and continued to do so. They were all an army of “civilians”, intent on ethnically cleansing Croats from their own homes so that their homes become a part of Greater Serbia. This is simple language but nevertheless most relevant. The so-called Log Revolution (Blavanska revolucija) was an insurrection by Croatian citizens of Serb extraction who in August of 1990 barricaded sections of Croatian territory near Knin in efforts to stop Croatia in its path of secession from communist Yugoslavia. These rebel Serbs were armed and dangerous and their families stood tight with them against Croats and Croatia. This tension once rebel Serbs were joined by the Yugoslav Army and Serbia’s forces escalated soon into a war, Croatian Homeland War, during which the aggressor perpetrated ethnic cleansing of Croats, genocide, murder, rapes, destruction.  

Serb aggression against Croatia serves as a clear example where civilians are not exclusively civilians but actually largely an active and essential part of that aggression. Serb “civilians” were largely involved in hostilities against independence of Croatia and against the Croatian population in Croatia. Generally, the participation of civilians in hostilities is an issue that represents a critical challenge to the protection of civilians in current conflicts, particularly when hostilities are conducted in the midst of civilian populations and assets, and when non-state armed groups and individuals are engaged as central actors. This issue is also of particular relevance when the hostilities occur under occupation. While international law recognises a basic right of self-determination for populations under occupation, it provides immunity against violence only to those not participating in hostilities. This apparent contradiction is at the core of the debate on the protection of civilians and raises a number of questions about the roles and rights of civilians in armed conflict, as well as the concept of participation in the war effort and the nature of hostilities. Is a member of a militant group necessarily a “combatant”? Of course he/she is! Was a Serb civilian individual who tortured or sent from Vukovar to a camp in Serbia his Croatian neighbour a “combatant”? Of course he was!

So, thirty years after the war of Serb aggression (from inside Croatia and outside it) in Croatia started, a law that aims to set out the rights of civilian victims of the conflict, parents of children who were killed, children of parents who were killed and families of missing persons has been drafted, and the Croatian government (part of which are family members of rebel Serb aggressors!) is pushing for it to be passed by parliament by the end of the year.

The proposed law aims to provide financial compensation for people who became disabled as a result of the war or people who lost family members, as well as funding specific items like prosthetics.

The problem is in the definition of civilians during that war – it has not surfaced yet in the way that reflects reality of the time nor is it accompanied with efforts to delineate between true civilians and civilian combatants, i.e. those who were a perilous enemy without guns! This is the point upon which strong disputes and recriminations are occurring on the parliament’s floor.

The opposition or right-wing politicians are fighting for distinctions to be made so that someone who was a civilian combatant among the Serb aggressor doesn’t “sneak in” and receives compensation that should go to true civilian victims only.

Furthermore, Stipo Mlinaric Cipe, Member of Croatian Parliament for the Patriotic Movement Party has rightly criticised the proposed legislation because it also actually excludes Croatian victims of war who were taken to Serbia during the war, kept in prison camps, tortured and often killed there.

How can we one day explain to the generations that come after us that they have to set money aside from their salary to pay compensation for the aggressors who destroyed their homeland? How to explain that the people who killed their grandparents have all the benefits of the state budget? Is it worth pushing the aggressors at the expense of the budget for 76 hands? It is unfortunate that we are losing the battle we won in 1995 in peace,” Mlinaric said in Croatian Parliament on Wednesday 17 March 2021.

…Tomorrow some Chetnik (Serb) who received amnesty (for war crimes) or someone who fell out of a tractor while fleeing Croatia during the Operation Storm (1995) will get money from the Croatian state … there are some good provisions in this law and really some people or some group who could not exercise that right before will now, on our Croatian side, I am not interested in those from the other side… this may sound rude, non-Christian, but I don’t care what happened to those who applauded the tanks and those who bombed our cities, I don’t care. I wouldn’t give them a penny from the Croatian budget, to any of them … “ said in Croatian Parliament Hrvoje Zekanovic MP for Croatian Sovereignists when talking about the draft legislation on compensation for civilian victims.

The coalition government partly made up of those who belonged to the rebel Serb side during the war, on the other hand, are fighting for all who were not members of any armed forces or groups to be considered as civilians. And they know only too well that a great majority of Serbs in Croatia bore no arms but participated in the hostilities against Croats! Their aim is to justify Serb aggression and equate victims with the aggressors. These are attempts by the depraved people Croatians encounter every day on the streets and parliament! They talk of reconciliation when they have no intention whatsoever to admit to their own guilt! On the contrary, they fabricate new lies about the Homeland War every day. They condone acts of murderous aggression and want their victim to pay them for it. Truly repulsive and utterly immoral.

Until yesterday, they (Serbs) were killing us, raped us, beat us, massacred us, set us on fire, imprisoned us, denounced us, and today we are paying them for those same crimes. Are we a normal state? The whole play about this law that you made yesterday is just ordinary folklore with which, for who knows how many times, you equate the victim and the aggressor. Be ashamed of the the land you walk on, the bloody soil that covers the buried bones of our killed and missing,” Zeljko Glasnovic, retired Croatian Army and Croatian Defence Council General and former Member of Croatian Parliament, wrote 19 March 2021 on his Facebook profile about this proposed new legislation.

The point is that the most important criticism against this proposed legislation for compensating for civilian victims of Croatian Homeland War is the real danger that those “civilians” who participated in the hostilities against Croatia and Croats may end up receiving compensation and, I dare say, the danger is real because the proposed law does not employ real criteria in defining who was civilian and who was not, even though they may not have been members of armed forces or paramilitary forces! The government opposition and people in Croatia need to press on with this and “force” the lawmakers to distinguish among the so-called civilians and exclude from compensation those who participated in hostilities against Croatia and Croats without guns. Ina Vukic

Independent Croatia: To Expose Yugoslav Communist Enemy Within

Zoran Milanovic (L) Zeljko Glasnovic (R)

Croatia survived 45 years of communist rule under the lie of “brotherhood and unity” in Yugoslavia, emerged victorious in the 1990’s in fighting off the bestial enemies of its independence and democracy, only to keep having salt poured over the wounds it sustained in achieving independence and its continued struggle for a full democracy. In Croatia, former communist domination has been increasing since year 2000, alienating and degrading those who fought against the communist aggressor in early 1990’s. Make no mistake: Croatia’s very future is still at stake, despite the glorious victories of its defence forces. The best example of such alienation and degradation, which to my view verge on treason or bombarding of foundations of a state can be found in the acts of Croatia’s President Zoran Milanovic only a couple of days ago, on Friday 22 January 2021.

On Friday, the President of the Republic Zoran Milanovic, from the city of Zadar, cancelled his participation in the commemoratory program marking the 28th anniversary of the Croatian Military and Police undertaking called “Maslenica ’93”, which retook territory in northern Dalmatia and Lika from rebel Krajina Serb forces, with the military objective of pushing the Serb aggressor back from approaches to city of Zadar, Maslenica and Karlobag, allowing a secure land route between Dalmatia and northern Croatia to be opened. Milanovic abruptly cancelled his presence at Maslenica commemoration after he learned that some participants there, invited as part of official participants, were wearing clothes with the “HOS – For Homeland Read” (HOS – Za dom spremni) symbols, the same clothes worn by the paramilitary Croatian Defence Forces (HOS) who took a great part in defending Croatia from Yugoslav/Serb aggressor and, therefore, are unequivocally included among the pivotal creators of today’s democratic and independent state of Croatia. Of course, as their leader Milanovic, the Chief of the General Staff of the current Croatian Armed Forces, Admiral Robert Hranj, and all military commanders withdrew from the commemoration program after Milanovic announced his withdrawal.

“Since afterwards it was established that people wearing Ustasha insignia and inscriptions were also participating in the official commemoration protocol, the president cancelled his participation in the programme,” the statement from Milanovic’s office said.

This is not the first time that Zoran Milanovic insists on blatant lies about HOS and “For Home Ready” greeting! In fact, he has been consistent and uglily pushy on this! The fact that HOS that participated in defending Croatia from Yugoslav/Serb aggression was not an offshoot or continuance of WWII political environment but rather an arm of the 1990’s Croatian people’s decision to secede from communist Yugoslavia is a fact that Milanovic insists on burying and lying about.

To me, and I gather to many, this can only mean one thing and that is that Croatia’s President despises those who freed Croatia from communist Yugoslavia and fought and contributed to creating the free and independent Croatia.

That is among the reasons why Croatian government and Presidents since 2000 have persistently downplayed the role of Croatian defence forces in Croatia’s secession from communist Yugoslavia; and persistently keep on a course of degrading the value for the country of its liberating forces that fought off its brutal, bloody aggressor. Just imagine if political leaders in Britain or United States of America pursued a path of hunting down and belittling all those who during World War Two, or any war for that matter, guided their resolve to participate in freedom-creation with the motto “For God and Country!” or “For Home and Country!” Would they be impeached or banished from public positions? I think so!

And so, are Croatians supposed to accept as the country’s leader a man (Milanovic) who did not want an independent Croatia, who hid away from war battle zones when Croatian territory and people were being defended from Yugoslav/Serb aggression? I say not!

Retired General of the Croatian Army (HV) and the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) Zeljko Glasnovic has yesterday in relation to the above actions and promotion of lies about HOS forces by President Milanovic published the content below, which I have translated into the English language from Croatian:

Zeljko Glasnovic Facebook page screenshot. Embedded image portrays human (and HOS uniform) remains of Zarko Manjkasa Crvenkapa in a mass grave of Serb aggression victims near Vukovar

 “You run from this?

If you run away from this, you are also running away from the man on whose bones the state of Croatia arose.

And not just on his bones but on thousands of bones.

You are distancing yourself from this?

If you distance yourself from this, then you also distance yourself from the function you perform.

Being President is like being an officer – service, not honour. No one ‘rewarded’ you by electing you President but indebted you. Remember.

You cannot be the President of a state whose foundations you despise.

You cannot be the President of a state despising the people who created that same state.

Despising emblems.

Despising flags.

Despising symbols.

As you bow at the grave to a man who is buried with this symbol on his uniform, at the same time you drive his comrades from the grave for that same symbol.

You can’t have double standards.

If you despise the world in which you live, you also despise its Creator. It is inseparable.

You cannot praise the act of creating a state and despise its founders.

Call them provocateurs, and until yesterday saviours and liberators.

You cannot say that you respect the sacrifice of the defenders, and at the same time spit on the symbols they proudly wore while bleeding for that same homeland.

You can’t be miles away from the battlefield, waiting for an outcome in the safety of your home and 30 years later condemning the flag under which others gave their lives to so that you could live.

You should be grateful.

With your head down.

Your hands clasped.

If not in prayer, then in silence.

In pride.

On your knees, because they deserve that.

It is easy to be a Supreme Commander in peace.

Where were you when the bloody battle was being fought?

It is easy to command the army to retreat as birds sing around you.

Do you know what it’s like to give an order while the air around you smells of death?

Do you know what it’s like when you’re surrounded, when you have no air, when you’re lying wounded?

Do you know what it’s like to be a commander when you lose 20 men in one day?

And you must move on.

Do you know what it’s like when you have to come to the door of the mother of a killed soldier and tell her that her only son is gone?

And you were his superior.

Do you know what it’s like when they mutilate your brother, rape your mother, imprison your grandparents and take everything away from you?

Do you know what it’s like to look into the eyes of a raging horde of animal instincts as they torture and kill your army?

Do you know what it’s like when your wounded tortured soldier dies in your arms?

Do you know how it is when your soldier with triple bullet wounds still stands at frontlines, refusing to leave his post.

Till death.

What to say to a mother whose son has been killed, who calls you and asks you to come sleep in his bed?

What to say to a soldier who asks you for 2 days off after 4 months on the field, and you can’t give them to him because there are no people, there are no shifts, but maybe there would have been shifts had the offices of the golden youth not been full.

Do you know what it’s like when there’s no time to grieve after your comrades are killed, when you have to move on like nothing happened.

And the heart bleeds.

Do you know what it’s like to remember all your life the last words of a murdered medical corps heroine: ‘If I had 10 lives, I would give them all for Croatia.’

Do you know what it’s like when a commander is wounded and his soldiers take turns carrying him, wounded, in a tent flysheet for 2 days, not wanting to leave him?

That’s an honour.

That’s pride.

They are brothers.

That’s loyalty.

That’s fidelity.

These are concepts that you will find difficult to understand.

A commander on paper – in peace – is not the same as a commander on the ground in war.

Some are not worthy of war,

and some are not even worthy of peace.

Have we given so many lives so that you could mock?

Did we shed so much blood so that you could jubilate?

Did we fight so that you could be ashamed of us on anniversaries?

Did we create this country so that the Commander-in-Chief could suppress us?

You are not worthy of our sacrifice.

You are not worthy of being called the President.

You are not worthy of the authority of the Commander-in-Chief.

In other countries, people bow in respect to war veterans, grateful for their life made possible through their sacrifice.

In Croatia, war veterans are being killed due to injustice, disrespect, belittling and mocking the shedding of their blood.

Thanks be to God, we even fought for people like you. The ungrateful, narcissistic and arrogant, who today spit on the foundations of their homeland, trample on the sacrifice of its defenders, mock those who made life possible for them and they call themselves presidents. Until when?”

Ina Vukic

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