Croatia: No Cyrillic in Vukovar – Thank You!

Vukovar rally 2 February 2013  Photo: Goran Ferbez/Pixsell

Vukovar rally 2 February 2013 Photo: Goran Ferbez/Pixsell

A river of citizens from across Croatia spilled into Vukovar Saturday 2 February (more than 20,000) to protest against the government’s intent to introduce Cyrillic script (Serbian language) along the Latin one (Croatian language) on public places or official signage. Although police presence was significant the event proceeded without incidents.
Organised by the Committee for Defence of Croatian Vukovar, the rally carried its main slogan: Cyrillic Never in Vukovar. Banners with slogans “ We defended Vukovar, not Bykobap”, “We Fell for Vukovar, Politicians Have Betrayed Us”, “Betrayal – Again!”, “Victory in War, Defeat in Peace” …
The Croatian government was asked to listen to the voice of the eastern town’s residents and give up enforcing the constitutional law on national minorities’ rights in Vukovar and introducing bilingualism.

Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic was asked “not to test and provoke” those who defended Vukovar in the 1991-95 war.

Committee chair Tomislav Josic said the committee Friday 1st February filed a motion asking the Constitutional Court to assess the constitutionality of the law on national minorities’ rights, and that it expected the government to give up enforcing it until the court passed its ruling.

In demands read out by Josic, the committee wants the government to see to the arrest and prosecution of war criminals, and parliament to hold a discussion on the enforcement of the constitutional law at issue.

Josic said the committee wanted state institutions to enforce the law on the residence of every resident of Vukovar, and the town council to stop amendments to the town statute that would enable bilingualism in Vukovar.

A proclamation by the Committee for Defence of Croatian Vukovar was also read out, asking the state and legislative authority to “turn the wheel” which “is heading towards the destruction of everything that has been created so far.” The state authorities were accused of the high unemployment and discontent among the people, and urged not to put themselves above the people.

January 2013 was the month, which marked the 15th Anniversary of the Peaceful Reintegration of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium.

During the two transition years (1996 – 1998) foundations for peace were laid as a basis for reconstruction, revival of Vukovar’s post-war community”, said for Hrvatski List Dr. Drazen Zivic from “Ivo Pilar” Institute of Social Sciences in Zagreb.
However, even then we asked ourselves whether a just and non-aggressive peace was established by the Reintegration, or whether the Reintegration established an unjust or aggressive peace,” Dr. Zivic continues in his interview with Marko Curac of Hrvatski List. “Were only the short-term political interests in those foundations of peace, or does that peace rest upon truth, justice, forgiveness, reconciliation, understanding, dialogue, tolerance, mutual and inter-ethnic trust and acknowledgement as long-term or lasting facets of peace?
The latest disquiet and upheaval in Croatia, spurred on by the government’s announcement to introduce Cyrillic script into Vukovar, appear to suggest that the peace achieved through the Peaceful Reintegration of Eastern Slavonia in the late 1990’s may not, indeed, have been as genuine as the world was led to believe.
War wounds are still painfully open, and it would seem that the Peaceful Reintegration of Eastern Slavonia did not consider an effective process of healing those wounds but rather utilised porous bandages, superficial tolerance, pushed for legal rights of all without taking on responsibility in delving into healing the war wounds from within.
After the bloody Serbian aggression, which took at least 2,500 lives in Vukovar area, 800 still missing, deported or ethnically cleansed more than 43,000 Croatians and non-Serbs, and perpetrated a cataclysmic destruction of homes, businesses and infrastructure in the early 1990’s it is humanly clear that wounds and scars still burn with pain and bitter anger in Croatia, in Vukovar.

Surely (!) these circumstance must provide for and urge the Croatian government to reconsider at least the timing for the promulgation of ethnic minority rights to bilingualism “guaranteed” by Constitutional law, particularly given that this law was changed in 2002 and, I hold, in line with the mindset from the 1996-1998 Peaceful Reintegration of Eastern Slavonia. The 2002 law provides for the establishment of bilingualism (or multilingualism) when one or more ethnic minorities make at least a third of the total population in a particular region. Serb ethnic minority fulfilled that criteria in Vukovar in the 2011 census, however, that census is considered questionable given that it according to many consists of a relatively large number of Serbs who have a  registered address there but do not reside in the area. Furthermore, the same Constitutional law stipulates that in the event of applying the minority rights to bilingualism the government must ensure that such an implementation does NOT cause a disturbance in the relationship of the ethnic minority with the national majority (Croatian), that is that the realisation of those rights must not come at the expense of dialogue, understanding, tolerance …
On 22 December 1990, Franjo Tudjman, the first president of the Republic of Croatia, at the proclamation of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia said to the Parliament: “…future generations are going to be the ones who will more objectively judge and give opinion about this Constitution. We can only bear witness to the fact that we have courageously and decisively, with an open heart and free spirit, approached the writing of it, in a milestone and dramatic time”.

Indeed, this was the time when the horrid Serb aggression had not hit and devastated Croatia and in the spirit and intentions found in Franjo Tudjman’s speech when proclaiming the Constitution, now is high time to revisit and review the Constitution as well as the Constitutional law in relation to ethnic minorities, bring them in line with other civilized democracies of Europe and the “West” as Tudjman and the first parliament of independent Croatia intended in 1990. Certainly, the Constitution of Republic of Croatia does NOT provide for the loss of sovereignty of any part of Croatia and the announced introduction of official bilingualism in Vukovar area certainly comes with bitter taste, pain and heightened alertness that Vukovar is in danger of significant ethnic unrest. Given that, one would expect the government to remove its blinkers and assess the intention and the spirit of the total legislation relevant to ethnic minority rights; not charge ahead with bilingualism like a bull against red rag. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: “Chinese Whispers” fail – now let’s unveil the full truth of Serb aggression

Milorad Pupovac 1993 copy

Had the ICTY Appeal Chamber on 16 November 2012 not acquitted Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac of war crimes they were charged with in relation to August 1995, all the atrocities committed in Croatia prior to August 1995 would fade into forgetfulness and insignificance. The world would always refer to August 1995 as the most significant marker for Croatia’s Homeland War.

When in 2001 the ICTY Prosecutors prepared their initial indictments in relation to Croatian “Operation Storm” they focused their attention on ensuring that this military operation – which liberated Serb-occupied Croatian territory – stands as symbol which would equate the victim with the aggressor. Croatian army  was to be found to have been as brutal as the Serb aggressor. No doubt in my mind about that. The Prosecutors pranced around appearing to know everything there was to know about crimes supposedly perpetrated by Croatia’s war-leadership and army. Such atrocious turn of events would surely not have captured as an enormous media and other mileage throughout the world as it had, had the ICTY Prosecution not had “helping hands” from both Croatian and Serbian politicians, most of whom held high positions in the former communist Yugoslavia.

The “Chinese whispers” thus started and spread by ICTY Prosecution failed to cement the intended vilification and criminalisation of Croatia’s defense efforts in the face of Serb aggressor. Nevertheless, a great deal of damage to Croatia’s reputation has been done and misinformation circulates; it will take a long time to clear them. Perhaps the lies and misinformation will never be cleared given that the game of “Chinese whispers” has the capacity of creating myths that stick around for ages despite the fact that the game actually fails to reap the desired result.

That being the case it is now the time to pick up on the truth and deal with what really happened in Croatia before August 1995. A small but potent example of some of those happenings can be found in an article published in Hrvatski List on 27 December 2012, written by Ivica Marijacic.

The article claims that a long-time member of Croatian Parliament representing Serb minority, Milorad Pupovac, secretly supported the Serb armed rebellion against Croatia during 1990’s.

The leader of Serbian minority Milorad Pupovac used to go to his village Ceranje Donje near Benkovci, which the Chetniks held under control and expelled all Croatians from it during the war years. It’s not clear how he was able to do that but it’s assumed that he had help from members of UNPROFOR forces who were there and kept the line of separation (A photograph, reportedly taken in 1993, has been discovered that evidences his visits to his village during the war)… Pupovac supported, or had nothing against, armed rebellion of the local Serbs against the Republic of Croatia in which his two brothers actively participated. Serbs were the ethnic majority in the village of Ceranje Donje but some Croatian families also lived there; their houses were and still are next door to Milorad Pupovac family home.  The Croatian families suffered abuse by the local Serbs and Milorad Pupovac’s family did not lift a finger to protect them…

Indeed, the article in Hrvatski List goes on to say that Milorad Pupovac’s brothers Vojislav and Mladen were very active as members of the armed Serb rebel forces. Mladen was reportedly the extreme one and served as First Class Corporal under the notorious Captain Dragan (Dragan Vasiljkovic a.k.a. Daniel Snedden). While Milorad Pupovac cannot be held responsible for his brothers’ actions he did nothing to stop the abuse and expulsions of Croatians from his village nor did he stop the destruction through bombings of their homes. The article goes on to say that witnesses have stated that Milorad Pupovac did encourage Serb rebels not to give up their armed rebellion.

A question, or two, must be asked: How can such a deeply compromised person serve in any Parliament? What chance of proper reconciliation between Serbs and Croatians can there be when such a deeply compromised person serves in Croatian Parliament?

This article sent shivers down my spine. I remembered helping as a Croatian speaking Psychologist the Australian ABC TV crew film the documentary “A Coward’s War” (1995) which interviewed the utterly traumatised and abused survivors of genocidal Serb brutality in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The issue that stuck to my mind like superglue was the fact that most of the survivors were brutalised, tortured, sent to Serb concentration camps (initially in 1991 into concentration camps within Serbia, e.g. Begejci) by their neighbours/Serb civilians (who had armed themselves later). It is these and similar bestialities which occurred between 1991 and August 1995 that should take a prominent place in the documenting of history of that war, not Operation Storm. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Bleiburg, Jasenovac and Hangar Ovcara – inseparable Croatian trinity of pain

An article titled “About Croatian Deaths” by dr. Slobodan Lang was published Thursday 11 October in Croatia’s

Hrvatski List” (No. 490, pages 39 – 40).

Its contents encapsulating Croatia’s symbols of pain, memorial area, unique symbols of injustice, agony, suffering, war and post-war crimes into a plea for every person’s right to a grave to be honoured is compelling.

And, on this occasion of General Ante Gotovina’s birthday, it is most fitting that this article be translated into English and shared worldwide. I have done this here.

“Croatian Death

(Translated from the Croatian language by Ina Vukic)

Boris Sprem, president of Croatian parliament, died at the age of 56.

He died of Plasmacytoma, a grave illness, while undergoing treatment in America and still holding a high position in Croatia. Everything that could be done was done for him as a patient. The main responsibility for the future is to develop new knowledge. Bone marrow transplantation was initiated in Croatia, way back, during late 1980’s.

Wikipedia writes little about him; that he was the main secretary of the Croatian Auto Club and of some political functions. No published works.

As a student of Medicine I learned that when someone younger than 80 dies, one (the doctor) should feel anger, because that person had not fully realised his/her right to life. When a person, a patient, dies after the age of 80, we feel pain, because an irreplaceable person has gone forever. Every death stirs love and responsibility for life, remembrance of the past and work for the future.

Mr Boris Sprem’s death causes anger. He lived too short a life.

Croatian Dying

We have shown the highest level of advocacy for patient’s rights in the case of illness and dying of General Janko Bobetko. In that time, the coalition held Croatian government just as it does today.  The Hague Tribunal had, in spring of 2002, charged him with war crimes perpetrated in 1993, in Operation Medacki Dzep. The General stated that he would not go to the Hague alive and he refused to receive the indictment. War veterans surrounded his home and defended him as they did Vukovar, Osijek, Sibenik, Dobrovnik, Lasva Valley, Posavina …

At the end of September Jadranka Kosor, Vladimir Seks, Andrija Hebrang, Ljubo Cesic Rojs, Bosiljko Misetic, Slobodan Lang and Ante Kotromanovic visited him in his home at Tuskanac. Bosiljko Misetic said that he visited the General as a friend and as a lawyer. Andrija Hebrang did not want to comment, and Lang as a doctor: “The General is a courageous man and knows how to bear a burden, which is also evident in his biography.” General Ljubo Cesic Rojs said: “War veterans do not surrender to anyone, what kind of defenders would we be if we surrender? There’ll be no surrender.” As to the question of what if Bobetko were to be apprehended, Cesic Rojs bespoke: “We will defend him.”

Dr Andro Vlahusic, then minister for health, ensured home based medical services, and the professional team of doctors, headed by Dr. Mijo Bergovec, rejected handing over to The Hague. The international team of doctors accepted Croatian doctors’ opinion and the General was defended from aggression against a patient and a man. He died free, in spring of 2003 in Zagreb. By testamentary he ordered the defense of Croatian truth and dignity. “I have a clean face which allows me to leave behind a written footprint of everything I have done and finished during my military and political life that lasted for more than five decades.”

President Tudjman had shown a captivating strength even as a patient. A part of the so-called left-wing had at the time embarrassed Croatian humanism with disrespect, insults and mockery of the patient, the man and his illness, the treatment and suffering. The diagnosis was confirmed in 1996 at the Walter Reed hospital. He died at the age of 77. His funeral was magnificent, an expression of dignity and gratefulness of the Croatian people to a great man. The absence of international dignitaries demonstrated that the world does not know the truth about him or about Croatia. In the imminent future we see that they did not know the truth about themselves.

The Croatian Dead

For the short time while Mr Sprem was its president, the Kukuriku coalition parliament abolished sponsorship over remembrance at Bleiburg.

Warfare, occupation, persecution, killing, judgments, concealment of graves and persecution of truth mark the Croatia of the twentieth century. During World War II Croatia was one of 35 countries under German occupation. Racist laws were also enacted here, Jasenovac arose, and the victims did not receive a grave.

At the end of the war and during the post-war period, Bleiburg and the Way of the Cross – happened. Again, killing was allowed and graves were not. The whole of Croatia is filled with tomb-less people of that war. A small monument in Bleiburg is a crossroad between West Europe, where several thousand of people have been tried and convicted for war crimes, and East Europe, where several million of people were killed out of revenge and as threat for the future.    

One man is convicted in Israel and more than 20,000 people pronounced righteous among the nations because they had exposed their own lives at risk for saving Jews. Neither Yugoslavia nor Europe has shown interest for good people and their deeds.

In Yugoslavia, after World War II, monuments were raised to some while it was forbidden to know about the others. Tito’s brotherhood and unity among various nationalities was based on the duty to hate and division inside every nation. The brotherhood of hatred is Cain’s brotherhood. The Second World War was not a conflict between good and evil, but between the bad and the worse. Allies were marked by racism and imperialism (Western and Eastern) with divisions into superior and inferior people.  Axis powers, especially Nazism, also introduced non-humans, those who must not even live. That was the conflict of Constantine’s sword and godlessness. Rare ones defended Jesus: girl and maiden Ana Frank, 20 year old Karol Józef Wojtyla, forty year old Massimiliano Maria Kolbe, Aloysius Stepinac … the righteous who defended all whose life was endangered. Everyone’s life is God’s. We are here to give it, live it and build it, and not to take life.   

Asked about how he could erect a monument in Jasenovac if it was banned to know the dead, at the end of nineties in Vienna Bogdan Bogdanovic replied that it was promised that the names of the victims would be made known before the erection of the monument. He considered himself duped. He gave me his drawing and wrote “ To Mr Slobodan Lang and with apology.” Post-war monuments in Croatia did not respect the dead but served as cover-up of truth and suffering. That’s no art.

During the Homeland War, inspired by the painful inheritance, we watched over every grave. Nevertheless, it took many years to tidy up the memorial centre in the Hangar on Ovcara (Vukovar).

Bleiburg, Jasenovac and Hangar Ovcara, are an inseparable Croatian trinity of pain, memorial area, unique symbols of injustice, agony, suffering, war and post-war crimes.  The families of victims, religious rites and scientific understandings are the most important elements of remembrance. Unfortunately, even during this very week in Zagreb a gathering was held about who has and who does not have the right to a grave.   

Based on my personal painful experience I, as a man, as a believer and as a representative of President Tudjman proposed to the Parliament more than ten years ago that all people should be given the right to a grave. Majority rejected my proposal. Instead, President Tudjman was accused of wanting to agitate bones. The proposal of a right to a grave was twisted into agitating bones. I have been proposing that Victims of Fascism Square be renamed to Victims’ Square for many years. Do not divide the dead.

Mr Boris Sprem, as Speaker of Parliament, took upon himself the responsibility of paying tribute to victims, with the following words: “We will pay tribute to the victims of the Way of the Cross in places where the number of such victims was the greatest, in an appropriate and dignified way.” Let’s do this with a joint memorial area for the Croatian trinity of pain by renaming Victims of Fascism Square into Victims’ Square, by the right of every dead person to a grave and brotherhood inside the nation, and peace and cooperation between nations.

Croatian palliative

Mr Sprem died during the week of Palliative medicine. When I headed Zagreb’s health care, I spent two hours by the side of a dying child every month. In the last war an intellectually disabled girl from Croatia, whom we found in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said: “Let them know in Croatia that we will love them even if they don’t ask about us.” My friend, a communist, a gentleman, colleague Mirko Kralj recently died from melanoma, in his home, surrounded by love of his wife and daughter, giving dignity to all. At Mirko’s funeral no one from SDP gave a speech. He, his beautiful wife and daughter achieved the act of Jesus’ love. Young nurse in Dubrovnik helps the patients, studies and establishes the palliative, and wants to create a family and become a mother. My daughter’s looking after her baby, for whom I pray, and my dear gypsy is pregnant again, in twelfth pregnancy but still came to work, collects that which we throw away. Support Palliative medicine.

Croatian Death

Since the year 2000, more than 2000 Croatian war veterans have committed suicide due to rejection, lies, persecution.

After the year 2000, Croatia is being judged, robbed, thieved, doesn’t allow the young to form a family, to give birth to children nor to work.

That is structural genocide. Croatia is dying.

Croatian Truth

To a very large extent the world had neglected the truth about Polish suffering in World War II. We know of the Holocaust, of the Warsaw ghetto and uprising, of the Katyn forest, but not of Poland. Himmler decided that “the only aim of education was to teach them simple arithmetic, nothing above the number 500, writing of own name and that God’s law was to obey the Germans … Reading is not desirable.”  It was planned to ethnically deport 30 million of Poles, 200 000 Polish children of Aryan appearance were kidnapped and given to German parents. Majority was never returned. It was only in 2012 that a book was published of the whole truth about Poland’s suffering and the magnitude of it.

We do not know the truth of Croatian suffering, persecution, patriotism, courage, wisdom, adaptability, universality. President Tudjman was persecuted as a historian for telling the truth, before 1990 and after his death. The would be intellectuals began, from 1993, talking about the need to de-Ustashesise. Then, with discretion, people from outside told them to rather talk about de-Tudjmanisation. 

Croatia does not know the truth about itself. We are not allowed to know it, our children are not allowed to learn it, and it is not allowed for world to be informed. I’m ashamed of Croatian historians. Let’s permit Croatian truth.

Croatian Faith

The Mayor of Zagreb, Minister Mrsic and only a few parliamentarians – Gordana Sabol, Jozo Rados, Zeljko Reiner … – were at the Mass held for Mr Sprem. Politics are more important to the parliamentarians than faith. I’m a believer; of course I attend a Mass for Ante Pavelic.

Is there a God?

Pervading all and everywhere and always beckons us to continue God’s work with human responsibility and care for the family, care for the environment and development of society.

Believe in Croatia, in the young, in having children, in work, in truth, in creating Croatia, in respect of suffering, in President Tudjman, in the innocence of Gotovina and Markac, in future, in Jesus.

Goodbye Mr Boris Sprem. As a citizen, I’ve proposed to today’s members of parliament, regardless of which party they belong to, how they should pay tribute to you. Has Croatia got even one single representative of the people?

We need a Croatian National assembly!

Happy birthday General Ante Gotovina!

Dr. Slobodan Lang

Dr Slobodan Lang Photo: Pixsell

About dr. Slobodan Lang. Born to Jewish family 8 October 1945 in Zagreb, Croatia. Physician, author, writer, politician and former personal adviser to the first Croatian President dr. Franjo Tudjman. His paternal grandfather Ignjat was the president of the Jewish community in Vinkovci (Croatia) and his grandmother Terezija was a housewife. In 1941 Catholic priest Hijacint Bošković, distinguished Dubrovnik and Croatian Dominican, was engaged in an extraordinary attempt to rescue the Langs from Nazi persecution. Bošković traveled from Dubrovnik to Vinkovci with a special permit that allowed him to relocate the Langs to Dubrovnik. Langs grandfather refused to leave, saying that he “was the president of Jews in peace and he will stay one in the war”. Both of his grandparents were killed in the concentration camp during the Holocaust. He graduated at the University of Zagreb School of Medicine and is a specialist in social medicine. (


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