Croatia: Bonjour Tristesse

Ethnic cleansing of Croatians of Vukovar 1991  Photo:

Ethnic cleansing of Croatians of Vukovar 1991 Photo:

What tragic consequences await the people led by governments which, in their hunger to fit into international halls of applause, look away from their people to abide to what others who are beyond borders say, rather than looking in to put their own nation first, may perhaps prove to be nothing less than what Françoise Sagan immortalised in his classic novel underpinned by lack of moral fiber that eventually destroys the main characters’ life.

One may go so far and say that governments of Croatia since Franjo Tudjman’s death (1999) have been more concerned with what “must” be done (that which foreigners want) in order to pursue membership in the European Union and what unreformed Communists cooked up in order to thwart full freedom from communist mindset, than furthering the noble cause of democracy and sovereignty for which the people had suffered terribly.

Achieving full and meaningful sovereignty in essence requires resolve and determined assertion of rights to self-determination. Croatian people had asserted the foundations for those rights through defending their life and property from Serb aggressor. But terrible wounds of war and pain remained while the governments that paraded over the people through the past two decades appear to have done very little, if anything, to heal the wounds through instilling and building pride for the cause so many had died in defending. It is more than apparent that the governments embarked on shattering rather than truly furthering the pride that sovereignty brings. This, one may safely conclude, is one of the sad consequences of the circumstances when the majority of people wanted out of Communist totalitarian system but many of its powerful leaders still remained loyal to the communist creed based on the control of the powerful and the powerlessness of people whose daily lives that creed affects.

Franjo Tudjman warned everyone of these dangers even as early as 30 May 1990, in his speech at the Inaugural assembly of the Croatian Parliament:

“… According to my personal persuasion, the first and the most important task of the new democratic government in Croatia should be the creation of all spiritual, material and legal preconditions for the sense of legal civil and national security of all its citizens, for peace and trust among them. Not only the big scriptwriters from the opposing and especially hegemonic Unitarian and dogmatic camps, but also all those people who are tied to the past and who are confused by democratic movements and traditions to which they are not accustomed, do and will do everything in order to obstruct the realization of our goals, to inhibit and compromise the introduction of the rule of law system, order, work and morality. Luckily for us, and them as well, they must quickly come to understand the general internal and international circumstances, especially the omnipresent unavoidable collapse of the real Socialist system render their scenarios as futile historic anachronisms. That, of course, does not mean that we can afford to underestimate the dangers from different forms of threats, blackmail and even provocation which come our way almost daily from anti-Croatian and anti-democratic lairs and headquarters. On the contrary, that has to motivate us even more to jointly, all of us, and each individually, do everything so that reason, freedom and progress conquer passions, the rage of darkness and backwardness...”

The former president Stjepan Mesic surfaces as the apparent and active main engineer and driver that pursued in multitudes of ways (covert and overt) in the spread of confusion about the Homeland War and the defence of Croatian right to self-determination. He opened this road of confusion and bitterness in the late 1990’s by spreading hatred and lies against Franjo Tudjman and inciting suspicion into the cause of defending Croatian independence by “announcing”, fraudulently, to the world that Tudjman really wanted part of Bosnia and Herzegovina for Croatia. Mesic had totally and intentionally omitted the fact that Croatians of Croatia, in solidarity with the threatened and attacked Croatians of Bosnia and Herzegovina did the just and universally moral and correct thing by rushing in to help those in need. Then, when he finally realized his dream and became the president of Croatia in 2000, Mesic started purging from the corridors of power the brave Croatian Generals who had dedicated their lives to the defense of Croatian self-determination in the Homeland War.

Along came multitudes of foreign and domestic demands for reconciliation between Croats and Serbs of Croatia but those demands rarely, if at all, considered the rights of Croatian people – indeed, the rights of Croatian victims, as priority, were almost ignored. The whole world seemed to buzz with criticisms regarding the slowness of reconciliation between the Croats and the Serbs; regarding the slow pace of Serbs returning to Croatia after they had fled from it in 1995. Hardly anyone mentioned the slowness of return to their homes of hundreds of thousands of Croats and Muslims who were ethnically cleansed from their homes. Hardly anyone batted an eyelid to the sad fact that more than 2000 Croatian war veterans had committed suicide from despair; hardly anyone said: hey, wait a minute, it’s all good to worry about the Serbs who fled Croatian after they’d reaped havoc and destruction there, but how about the Croats who sustained the horrid injuries and damage from that havoc and destruction! Hardly any of these foreign or domestic political power brokers said: Stop! Let’s first heal the wounds, let’s first deal firmly with all crime committed, let’s not forget the many thousands of women raped by the very Serb men who are allowed to walk the same streets as their victims – freely!

Let’s put Croatia first! No one said, but everyone should have!

That was the intention of Franjo Tudjman and the 94% of voting citizens who had elected democracy and sovereignty, self-determination, in 1990. But that intention fell into the water as power-hungry politicians paraded across Europe, to and from Croatia, neglecting severely the needs of the victims who suffered horribly in order for Croatia to realize it’s dream, its intention to set up and live democracy. Confusion about the righteousness of the pursuit of self-determination and democracy reached boiling points when the trend to equalize the aggressor with the victim began gaining ground throughout the years of Stjepan Mesic’s presidency over Croatia.

And now many are surprised why many Croatians are protesting against the introduction of Cyrillic in Vukovar area. Indeed, many outside of Croatia will say that the protests signify intolerance of Serb minority in Croatia; denial of human rights Serbs have… WRONG! Croatians have rights also and their rights as victims are a priority. There is no country in the civilized world where a government would allow the language of a murderous and raping aggressor to be used on official signage in the places where still-suffering victims walk.  Only the misguided and the rotten, the morally corrupt would allow such deepening and such prolongation of torture of victims.

How can one have Serbian Cyrillic on street signs where so many rapists walk the same streets as their victims! How can one have Serbian Cyrillic on street signs where there are still over 1,700 missing people from the times of Serb aggression!

After the Vukovar protest against Cyrillic signage, the protests are spreading further and the government still doesn’t listen to the people. There is loud talk in the corridors of power proposing that Constitutional law must be applied regarding ethnic minority rights to own language on official signage but that perhaps, given the widespread protests, Cyrillic signage could be excluded from war memorials such as the Ovcara massacre one!

Can you believe this degradation of human dignity!

One simply cannot isolate grief and suffering into small pockets when it affected the whole area!

How hard can it be to realize that the controversial Constitution law was made under Stjepan Mesic’s presidency and under Ivica Racan’s government – in 2002?! Both of these men: communist die-hard, anti Croatian independence from Yugoslavia.

How hard can it be for the government to temporarily place a moratorium over the introduction of Cyrillic in Vukovar, as the parliamentary opposition led by Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ proposes! How hard can it be for the government to bring about a temporary law of inapplicability of the parts of the Constitutional law that relates to ethnic minority language on official signage, as the Croatian Party of Rights “Dr Ante Starcevic” propose! How hard can it be for the government to be effective in reviewing a Constitutional law that evidently and strongly brings unrest and upheaval among its people!

While, in regards to the protests against Cyrillic in Vukovar, President Ivo Josipovic stated a few days ago that if there is no will to respect a Constitutional law then that law must be changed. What a pity that the government appears not to have heard this statement, which was widely publicised in Croatia and beyond. But still, if he is true to his words then Josipovic could easily make a move to have the law that is causing so much unrest in Croatia, changed. There are certainly many, many ways of respecting the ethnic minorities’ rights in daily lives, without having to erect bilingual or trilingual or multilingual official signage on streets and buildings. “Western” democracies have, one can safely say, perfected this through access to interpreters, translators, translations of public service brochures into applicable ethnic minority languages, subsidising ethnic language classes, subsidising ethnically or culturally specific nursing homes or retirement complexes … and the list goes on. But signage in official spots – streets, government buildings, etc. – stay in the official language of the country.

Sadly, it would seem that the Croatian government lacks the moral fiber similar to the one, which those who have read Françoise Sagan’s novel “Bonjour Tristesse” encountered. In the case of Croatia today, of Croatia of the past two decades, that lack of moral fiber has to do with the neglect of Croatian people and the neglect in asserting and strengthening their hard-won struggle for self-determination; that lack of moral fiber has to do with psychological and political warfare against the Croatian patriots by the die-hard Communists. But, thankfully, Croatians are largely intelligent and good people and it would not surprise me if the government, by pursuing the hard rule of existing laws, without utilizing the freedom it has to change laws in order to achieve its majority people’s needs, will drive itself into political suicide. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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