Croatia: A Nation’s Unrelenting Grief and Suffering On 29th Anniversary of Serb Aggression

Zeljko Glasnovic (Top centre), Jure Buric (bottom right corner), Tomislav Mercep (bottom right centre), Mato Mostarac (top right)

It has been a balmy breeze I stood in all this poignant week in Sydney, Australia, as I watched and participated in the profoundly moving emotions of the grieving Croatian nation. It was a week of the 29th anniversary of the blood-soaked fall of Vukovar in 1991, of bestial massacres of Croatians by Serbs in Skabrnja, of the death of widely revered hero who tried with all his might and unstoppable courage to prevent the Yugoslav and Serb aggressor decimating the Croatian people – Tomislav Mercep (according to multitude of credible claims, convicted by Croatian courts of war crimes on basis of trumped-up charges) and the death of dr. Anto Kovacevic, political prisoner of former communist Yugoslavia and a fearless activist for democratic and independent Croatia. I faced and saw multitudes of inconsolably sobbing widows, widowers and grown children, brothers, sisters, neighbours… of those Croatians whose life was brutally and cruelly cut short in the 1990’s during the Serb aggression against Croatia.

To make matters horribly worse and to keep the Croatian nation in perpetual grief (and anger) Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and his government, which comprises of Serbs associated with 1990’s bloody aggression against Croatia, in this same week announces a new law that would provide war pensions even to the Serb civilian victims of the 1990’s in Croata! The agony Plenkovic and his government are inflicting upon Croatian victims of Serb aggression has no bounds it seems.

This Croatian government’s mindset is deplorable and depraved.  

As far as I can see that new law does not even take into consideration the fact that most Serb civilians in the rebel-Serb areas of Croatia brutalised, ethnically cleansed of Croats, occupied for years by those Serbs, would not satisfy the definition of civilians because they were complicit in one way or another with the aggression, tortures, banishments of Croats, murders … any so-called Serb civilians participated in Serb hostilities against Croats in Croatia before and during the Homeland War and the new law and its regulation does not appear to provide measures of essential proof as to who was a “true” civilian and who was a “civilian combatant”, helping willingly the anti-Croat Yugoslav and Serb military on their path of destruction, murder, genocide, torture, rape, ethnic cleansing.

I did not see during this week of mourning in Croatia either the Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic or the President Zoran Milanovic summon the people of Croatia to look beyond grief, to believe that the deaths they mourned had not been in vain. The President Zoran Milanovic laid a wreath in Vukovar’s Ovcara memorial field where the Serbs in 1991 slaughtered hundreds of Croatian wounded and sick, carting them off to their execution at that spot from the devastated Vukovar Hospital but je said not a single word while or after laying the wreath; his lips did not move, not even in silent prayer for the slaughtered victims. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic walked with the procession from Vukovar’s hospital to the Ovcara killing field, saying that “it is important to pursue information about those still missing,” from the Homeland War. But in that procession of remembrance he took with him his deputy prime minister, Boris Milosevic, a Serb, who came to Vukovar to lay a wreath for the aggressor and murdering Serbs who died during their bestial attacks against Croatians!

Speaking about the presence of Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milosevic in the procession of remembrance in Vukovar, Plenkovic said that “Croatia won the Homeland War and thus extended a hand for coexistence to minorities… These are the messages of the future, focused on the values we share…” To add salt to the wounds of the atrocious attempts to equate the victims with the aggressor in Croatia, the Special Envoy of the President of Serbia for Resolving the Issue of Missing Persons with Croatia, Veran Matic, also huddled in Vukovar with a wreath for victims. His presence is mockery of Croatians, both fallen and living – both he and Serbia’s President Aleksander Vucic have and had means to access information about the missing Croatians from the days of aggression and still after almost 30 years they all keep silent with that information, hiding it on purpose.  And there are no messages to that effect coming from either the President or the Prime Minister of Croatia!

As to Serb civilians being “civilian combatants” in aid of Serb aggression against Croatia I am reminded this week of the heart-wrenching story of a Croatian man from Croatia’s Vukovar who ended up in Sydney, Australia, to recover from unspeakable tortures by the hand of Serb “civilians” during the 1990’s after the International Red Cross had come across the Manjaca concentration camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mato Mostarac told his harrowing story in 1995 to the ABC TV documentary program Four Corners, which was producing the award-winning documentary film “The Coward’s War”, headed by Australia’s renowned investigative journalist Chris Masters. I myself assisted as psychologist and interpreter in the interviewing for the documentary film of the deeply traumatised survivors of Serb aggression.

Mato Mostarac’s Serb neighbours in Vukovar broke into his yard in late August 1991, beat his wife who cowered in pain and was paralysed from it, and forcefully took him with other Croats in a truck to the Begejci concentration camp in Serbia, for a while in Begejci and then transferred to the Serb-held Manjaca concentration camp (Bosnia and Herzegovina); a death camp of brutality unseen since WWII. Serbs cut and chopped Mato and the other Croatian victims with a razor blade over their bodies and faces, tortured and raped or forced them to watch a detainee father rape his detained son and vice versa… Many indications show that Serb civilians were largely not civilians but cruel torturers and murderers of Croats, in aid of the communist and Serb aggression against Croatia. When I met Mato Mostarac, his whole face and body were marked with numerous thin and long scars from razor blade cuts… Here is a bit of what Mato Mostarac told us at the shooting of the 1995 Australian state television documentary ABC “The Coward’s War”:

„After they (Serbs) took their turns I was completely covered in blood. I had a white jumper on, and everything was soaked in blood. I ate all my blood, dried blood, it dried all over me. I’d pluck it together with the fibres from the jumper and all that. I’d eat all that event the blood from my hair. I ate everything … hungry…hungry…and they just give you water…“

As to the passing of Tomislav Mercep and on the fact that some consider Mercep a national hero while others (mainly die-hard communists of former Yugoslavia) consider him a war criminal, here is what, according to Fenix Magazine, Croatian newspaper base din Germany, dr Jure Buric (wartime Mayor of devastated Dubrovnik, former member of Croatian Parliament) said this week:

„Tomislav Mercep – for some a hero, for others a criminal. The latter have a court verdict they can wave around for something like that, and the former have common sense and a good memory of his heroic deeds at a time when a rifle and a cannon and a pencil and a bad word attacked him and his homeland. Is it heroism to defend his home? It is! Is it heroism to defend your people? It is!

And? – there is further and no further. There is no further, because when a man defends himself, he can do something dishonourable, but even that dishonourable deed should be viewed through the prism of reality and the moment when we cannot all control our emotions and actions, because it is not a ballroom dance with pleasant music and chess. The buzzing of bullets and destructive grenades are the music here, and on the board are living, not wooden figures. So who is who ?! A punishment is enough for an honest man if he realises that he did something dishonourable, because he has to live with it. He doesn’t even need a punishment that will make the other side happy and drive him to the grave ahead of time.

For such a thing, courts and court scales are needed, on which everything should not be thrown in order for the desired party to prevail.

With Tomislav Mercep, the court scales tipped against him and it was not easy for him or us to watch the hero rot, like my friend the late prefect Đuro Brodarac (who died in prison), who was met by the same fate.

Only you, the latter, rejoice in his death, but know that there are infinitely many more of the former – those who mourn him and pray to God for his soul!“

As to Veran Matic’s visit to Vukovar this week representing Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic, retired general and former Member of Croatian Parliament, Zeljko Glasnovic, summarised so clearly and aptly the widespread sentiments across Croatia and its diaspora in his Facebook status:

„Veran, continue to be “faithful to your fatherland” and do not tell empty stories once a year when you come to Croatia. What kind of reconciliation are you talking about, what kind of cooperation and search for the missing are you talking about? You know where they went missing, why don’t you tell us Veran? You come to worship falsely and provoke false sympathy. Did you lay a wreath in the centre of Vukovar where in April, 45 years ago, 200 most prominent citizens of Vukovar were killed by the army that fought under the same five-pointed star under which Vukovar was destroyed in ’91? Did you lay a wreath at a mass execution site near Vukovar where 400 Croatian soldiers were killed by the same communist villains at the same time?

You will show the true respect you are talking about only when you say ‘SORRY, WE HAVE COMMITTED AGGRESSION AGAINST CROATS, we killed you, we raped your wives, we killed your children, we looted and burned your homes, we demolished your churches, we took out eyes, cut off hands, ears and fingers of your defenders, we buried them in pits, because of us mothers do not know where the graves of their children are, we have turned your people into refugees, we killed civilians and the wounded, we massacred them, we abused them, we are still silent today about where your missing are, SORRY WE REPENT.’

The persistent equating of the victim with the aggressor does not make your kneeling credible, Veran, no matter how much you cause your knees to bleed in Ovcara and other execution sites, you and those who will come after you. Veran, what kind of delay in normalisation and the search for the missing are you talking about? There is no delay, WE do not know Veran where our people disappeared to, YOU know and are silent. Who’s at a standstill here?

Tell us, Veran, who carried out the aggression on Croatia – we defended ourselves, and died while defending our country for the freedom of our people. After your ‘pal’ Sljivancanin (Veselin) was released from prison (after serving two-thirds of 17-year sentence for ICTY war crimes in Vukovar conviction) he gave a statement that ‘he did not finish his job in Vukovar’, and you would like to reconcile? You are covering up crimes against Croats just as all Croatian governments are covering up the communist crimes from World War II.

Veran, until the last bone is found, until you all kneel and cry over your crimes, until all your war criminals are punished, until you pay the last penny, until you admit aggression, until you open the archives, NONE of you need to come to any of our anniversaries. ALL of you, Veran, are persona non grata in Croatia for me. And not only you, but also half of our government that cooperates with you as the UDBA (communist Yugoslavia Secret Services) did to cover up and forget as many crimes as possible. A prime example of this, despite all the relevant evidence, is the honourable man Nikola Kajkic, who exposed you and was no longer suitable for our institutions while in the case of the betrayal and surrender of our generals to The Hague they were very expeditious and quick: “Locate, identify, arrest, transfer “. You just continue kneeling, Veran, our killed people also knelt before you as you (all)  brutally executed them – but they received no mercy.“

No memorial or monument to Croatian suffering such as Ovcara/Vukovar and Skabrnje during the 1990’s Homeland War should be a diving board for politics and especially not the politics of equating the victim with the aggressor. This is unacceptable, cruel and designed to keep the Croatian people who fought for and defended Croatia and Croatians for independence. Perpetual grief for the sufferings Croatians endured or fell victim to has not yet steeled the Croatian people for the future they lost rivers of blood for in the Homeland War. Grief should unite towards building a better future but, alas, the Croatian government and leadership continue interrupting that positive outcome from national grief…their sights are set on diminishing the value and the direction Croatian people took at the risk of their own lives from the very bloody dawn of Serb aggression. Time to put the foot down against the thugs in Croatian government and leadership who equate brazenly and cruelly the victim with the aggressor. Ina Vukic

Croatians Remember The Suffering and Victims of Communist Crimes

When the Associated Press publishes an article regarding WWII Croatia and other world mainstream media such as New York Times shares it, you can safely bet your bottom dollar an evidently anti-Croatian independence biased journalist of Serbian extraction wrote the article. And so, on 17 May 2019, the world’s public has been served an article written by Dusan Stojanovic, “Croatia’s WWII Divisions in the Open as Merkel Visits”, not because of the need to acknowledge and respect WWII and post-WWII victims, no matter which side they were on during the war. The article is obviously served in order to prop-up anti-Croatian propaganda regarding victims without even blinking an eye at even the thought that the numbers of victims pinned to Croatian independence fight during WWII and blown out of every proportion, are in fact wrong and made up to no other end but to vilify the Croatian people who wanted Croatia’s independence as opposed to a communist Yugoslavia.

“The (Ustasha) regime was responsible for sending hundreds of thousand Serbs, Jews, Roma and Croatian anti-fascists to death camps,” writes Stojanovic! He gives no source for this statement in his article. Of course, he gives no credible or factual source because there is none! The fact that there are sources based on research that give an entirely different picture, overwhelmingly discrediting the atrociously concocted estimates he helps spread does not seem to interest him.

Expectedly so, Stojanovic, goes on to quote communist Yugoslavia’s last president and president of Croatia between 2000 and 2010, Stjepan Mesic, as if wanting to justify the horrendous communist crimes against Croats: “Innocent people died in the (WWII) concentration camps, in Bleiburg, the Ustasha army capitulated and they were not innocent victims.” By using this Mesic quote one cannot but conclude that Stojanovic obviously subscribes to the communist depraved thinking that an unarmed, white-flag-waving enemy soldier needs no court ruling to be proven guilty of any crimes, need not be afforded the due treatment as POW, let alone the fact that those murdered at Bleiburg were murdered after WWII had ended! Let alone the fact that both Mesic and Stojanovic and multitudes of pro-communists fail to emphasise that civilians (women, children, elderly) as well as ex-Croatian soldiers were slaughtered in masses, dumped into mass graves and pits, at Bleiburg and along the Way of the Cross, throughout Slovenia and Croatia.

Communist purges by Yugoslav communists occurred because of power-hungry intolerance towards differing political opinions or orientation. All anti-communists were murdered, incarcerated or tortured, forced to flee the country to avoid persecution and ostracising or simply existed as socially inferior citizens of communist Yugoslavia. And Stojanovic has the gall to write about the Ustashe regime as being murderous and fascist. One would expect a fairly balanced article from a source such as Associated Press or New York Times, but no – all we get as a token gesture of balance in this article is this:

“During her pre-election campaign, the leader of the small Independents for Croatia far-right party, Bruna Esih, said Bleiburg represents a ‘symbol of sacrifice, suffering and freedom’”. But then, it’s a poor token gesture of balance because immediately after those words Stojanovic lets the readers know that “many in Croatia disagree.” Forgets conveniently to inform the public that those disagreeing with Bruna Esih’s words are in fact former communists who still hold power in Croatia and in whose interest it is to keep communist crimes under the carpet or to justify them, using fascism as excuse, but in that, proving to us the horrible truth that the communist regime had no tolerance for human rights to varying political allegiances or opinions.

Bruna Esih, President pf Independents for Croatia Party
(Neovisni za Hrvatsku)
Photo: narod.hr

Stojanovic goes on to write and says: “The memorial in Bleiburg, sponsored by Croatia’s parliament, has developed into a festival of right-wing extremism. Anti-fascist groups from Croatia, Slovenia and Austria have requested the event be banned and plan to protest on Saturday. Since last year, Austrian authorities have banned Ustasha flags, their black uniforms and insignia with letter ‘U’ at the gathering, and the local Austrian Catholic Church refused to take part in prayers held in the vast field surrounded by mountains.” He ends his article with this: “Anyone has the right to mourn their loved ones, regardless of who they were or how they ended up,” said Franjo Habulin, head of the Association of Antifascist Fighters of Croatia. “However, no civilised European country has the right to participate in commemorating the fall of fascism.”

Again, Stojanovic fails to mention that the same Franjo Habulin continues to lead events celebrating communist Yugoslavia, which as far as civilised Europe he refers to is concerned, has placed communism at the same level as fascism when it comes to condemnation of totalitarian regimes. Stojanovic does not even bother to tell the public that WWII Croatia was not a country ruled by Fascism in the full sense of its definition; it appears the innuendo that it was fascist suits many a communist regime apologetics where the victims of communist crimes are concerned. While facts tell us that Ustasha regime in WWII (whose prime goal was Independent Croatia) made profound mistakes, both on political and human life level, and imposed terror over groups of people, it was a time of war in which all sides (including the communist whose prime goal was to retain Croatia within Yugoslavia) made similarly profound mistakes and imposed terror over groups of people. Just because one side won the war, and the other didn’t, justifies nothing and especially not the crimes that brought about so many victims.

This weekend is a weekend of large significance for Croatians who have fought for, supported and cherished the independence of Croatia throughout time. It is the weekend that commemorates communist genocide against Croatians, the hundreds of thousands of innocent Croatian victims murdered by the communist Yugoslav partisans and authorities particularly from 14 May 1945 at Bleiburg, dumped tortured or murdered into mass graves along the so-called “Way of the Cross” through Slovenia and Croatia (so far some 1700 mass graves unearthed). While Stojanovic’s numbers of victims of Croatia’s WWII Ustasha regime are politically mounted estimates by communists and are increasingly proven to be wrong through research, the numbers of communist crimes victims are not estimates – the already unearthed hundreds upon hundreds of mass graves of Croatian victims speak loudly for themselves even though their voice is cruelly subdued by communist operatives or their apologetics. Lest we forget Bleiburg! Ina Vukic

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