Spokes In The Wheel For Truth For Croatian Alojzije Stepinac

Poster for documantary film: Stepinac – Cardinal and his Conscience

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the death of Blessed Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, the Croatian Catholic University and Interfilm held at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb on Saturday, February 8, the premiere of the new documentary film “Stepinac: The Cardinal and His Conscience”, authored by Croatia’s acclaimed writer, journalist, screenplay writer and its director Visnja Staresina.

Reportedly, Staresina has been preparing for the film for ten years. Her aim is said to have been to avoid the way Cardinal Stepinac has so far been portrayed through the Croatian-Serbian disagreements, in which the Serbian propaganda machine had constantly insisted on painting Cardinal Stepinac as a Ustashe collaborator despite the fact that post-2000 historical research, when Yugoslav Archives were open to researchers in Croatia, prove beyond any doubt that Stepinac in fact rescued many persecuted Jews. Of particular note are most thorough historical research findings by USA historian dr. Esther Gitman.

“When I started working on the film, I was surprised at the way in which Alojzije Stepinac was perceived out there. For example, my reference was the American media out there, and I tried to make sure that the participants in the film are the people who are not part of this existing paradigm,” said Staresina last week.

In this new documentary, Stepinac’s involvement in rescuing Jews during WWII is enveloped in the story of Renata, a girl whose entire family disappeared in the Holocaust during WWWII in Croatia. She emigrated to Israel in 1952 and decided to forget everything. The film reconstructs and follows the rescue of Renata Bauer.

In this documentary film “I let him (Stepinac) speak through his sermons, through his letters, through his spiritual testament, where you see him condemning racism since 1937, not 1942 or ’43. New York Times, articles published by the Jewish News Agency in 1943, which mention sermons from the Archbishop of Zagreb. It wasn’t very simple to say these things at the time, and it wasn’t easy to become news in the New York Times,” Staresina comments on her film.

This documentary film has been translated into English so that it can reach more people throughout the world, and the aim of its author is to get as many people as possible to know the truth about Cardinal Stepinac.

Croatian National Theatre Zagreb
Premiere of film “Stepinac – Cardinal and his Conscience”
Photo: Pixsell

Among other things, the film “Stepinac: Cardinal and His Conscience” reveals how Stepinac, as a human being, a man and Archbishop of Zagreb, faced and dealt with the greatest challenges of the 20th century. For Alojzije Stepinac that challenge was, undoubtedly, how to execute good deeds and save as many persecuted people from sure death as possible. This indeed was no easy task in the madness of a vicious war where the fight for independence (of Croatia) and the fight against that independence (to retain Yugoslav federation of states) took the nation into often dark pursuits for victory (as all wars do), regardless of whose that victory may surface as the outcome of the war. The film delves into the challenge of talking about the global and universal significance of Stepinac’s work; it explores the reasons why his character and the works that accompany him are not globally accepted and grounded on the truth to this day.

Apart from emphasising the relevance of Stepinac’s exemplary actions and morality, which contain messages that are applicable universally to this day, this documentary film, filled with Stepinac’s courageous and righteous actions despite fatal adversities, fits so aptly into the story of Croatia within the 20th century Europe.

Stepinac’s personal involvement in organising the rescue of Jews during WWII Croatia is presented in this documentary film through interviews with historians, researchers, as well as through personal testimonies of Holocaust survivors and their descendants; likewise, through testimonies of descendants of families who participated in these WWII rescue operations.

At the film’s premiere, its director and screenwriter Visnja Staresina stated that her guiding idea was to make a film that would show why Stepinac was globally relevant in his time, not just at Croatian local levels. “From the moment he was elected the youngest bishop in the world, through his anti-racist sermons reaching out from conquered Europe, from the Independent State of Croatia to the free world as a rarity, through the trials that made him globally known and the condemnation of the trials that provoked major protests from New York to Chicago and Dublin seeking his release. Finally, at the time of his death, leading commentators wondered what would happen between the Church and the communist regimes now,” said Staresina.

Cardinal Josip Bozanic (C) dr Zeljko Tanjic (R)
Photo: Pixsell

The Catholic University of Croatia in Zagreb joined this documentary film project primarily because Blessed Cardinal Stepinac, in addition to being an important church and historical figure, is also the patron saint of that University. Since its founding in 2006 the University has been involved in various ways with view to making the truth about blessed Stepinac known worldwide. Many public lectures have been given about him, students had opportunities to study the character and work of Blessed Stepinac through elective subjects, and professors participated in various conferences and scientific conferences. The Croatian Catholic University, together with the Archdiocese of Zagreb in 2016, organised a scientific conference attended by historians from Croatia and Serbia, and a large collection of papers on the Blessed Archbishop Stepinac and the Serbs in Croatia in the Context of World War II and Post-War was published. Together with the publishing house Christian Contemporaneity (Kršćanska sadašnjost), the University also published a book by Dr. Esther Gitman, “Alojzije Stepinac – Pillar of human rights” (2019).

“We are convinced that with the image, the word and the new testimonies presented in this film about blessed Alojzije will once again show the greatness of a man who, in the difficult years of Croatian and European history, was faithful to his call, resolutely and courageously, advocating especially for the endangered, led the Zagreb Church. To those who had not met him the film will give the opportunity to do so and encourage them to reflect upon his person. And also, for those who disagree with us the film gives the opportunity to evaluate his work and gives another documented insight into his life and work,” said at the premiere the Croatian Catholic University Rector Dr. Zeljko Tanjic.

Visnja Staresina (C) Esther Gitman (CR)
at the premiere of film: Stepinac – Cardinal and his Conscience
Photo: ika.hkm.hr

The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine. Have you ever heard that quote? It’s actually a paraphrase of an ancient Greek proverb. The Greek biographer Plutarch referred to this proverb in the first century A.D. when he made the following complaint. He said: “Thus, I do not see what use there is in those mills of the gods said to grind so late as to render punishment hard to be recognised, and to make wickedness fearless.”

One of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s translations was a 17th century poem, ‘Retribution,’ by Friedrich Von Logau: “Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience he stands waiting, with exactness grinds he all.”

The analogy I venture to bring here is related to the fact that even though ample evidence of Alojzije Stepinac’s good deeds in rescuing Jews and other persecuted people during WWII those to whose advantage it is to continue suppressing this truth and continue promoting the Serb-led (or communist Yugoslavia-led) fabrications about his collaboration with the Nazi’s are not likely to abandon their wicked ways any time soon. Why? Well, to bring out the obvious, it is of political advantage to them to continue walking in dark corridors where truth has no chance of being illuminated. And so, regretfully, instead of turning in the right direction, the wheels of justice for blessed Alojzije Stepinac on the international level have mainly been turning in the other direction, grinding out stones that become even coarser. That has sadly been the power of politics and political interests.

The problem is that political interference which has had a devastating effect on the truth ever since the trumped-up charges against Stepinac by Yugoslavia’s communist regime in 1945 continues in many ways. The communist Yugoslavia totalitarian regime ensured that the willingness and ability to investigate injustice and corruption that would show the communists up as liars and falsifiers of history was suffocated and incapacitated. This went on until 1990’s when Croatia broke away from Yugoslavia and only since then were all researchers able to access the archives and the truth. But even when a significant mass of that truth was found to not resemble the truth communists were peddling for decades, that illuminated real truth continued to be treated with some scepticism and avoidance by even the politicians in power in Croatia, majority of whom belonged to the communist echelons of former Yugoslavia! Such cold and apparently dismissive reception of the truth, which in fact redeems Alojzije Stepinac from all the communist trumped-up charges, from all the false accusations regarding his deeds or “omissions” during WWII, is in fact part and parcel of what still goes on in Croatia: corruption and fraud perpetrated by well-connected politicians and by their allies and like-minded persons in the country and outside it. If it weren’t like that, then even common sense tells us that the Croatian government would have long ago stood behind the clearing of Stepinac’s name through research and presentation of findings and opened up its “wallet” to support such projects. It has not done that and the presentation of truth that is of national importance (because the brush that tarnished Stepinac also tarnished the freedom-loving Croatian people) still remains within the realms of good will of people and institutions willing to back such projects financially.

Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac (inset photo of Zeljko Tanjic)
Photo: Screenshot Croatian TV

This is why this documentary film by Visnja Staresina (2020), why books by Esther Gitman (“When Courage Prevailed The Rescue and Survival of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia 1941-1945”;  “Alojzije Stepinac – Pillar of Human Rights”) and dr. Robin Harris (“Stepinac: His Life and Times”), the documentary film “When Truth Prevails” authored by Jadranka Juresko-Kero (2011) and other many works on this subject are crucial spokes on the wheel of justice and truth not only regarding Alojzije Stepinac but also regarding Croatia during WWII and after. The wheel of justice turns in the right direction by the force of these spokes despite the political sabotage of the truth. Ina Vukic








Congratulations, Madam President Of Croatia – Now Comes The Hard Part!

11 January 2015 Victory Night Centre: Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, President elect of Croatia Right: Jadranka Juresko-Kero, Election Campaign Leader Standing behind Grabar-Kitarovic to left: Tomislav Karamarko, President of Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ

11 January 2015 Victory Night
Centre: Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, President elect of Croatia
Right: Jadranka Juresko-Kero, Election Campaign Leader
Standing behind Grabar-Kitarovic to left:
Tomislav Karamarko, President of Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ


Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, the newly elected President of Croatia has achieved an amazing victory even though the winning margin between her and her opponent Ivo Jospovic in numerical value is considered minimal or very low. But to achieve victory in so profoundly politically divided country at this particular time of economic slump and brinks of threatening bankruptcy is a result worthy of greatness in its own right.

Since Sunday January 11, when the highest voter turnout in the last 15 years voted for a new president – aroused from a rather deep democratic sleep by the emotions unleashed by the Centre-Right (Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ and coalition currently in parliamentary opposition) and Centre-Left (Social Democrats and coalition currently holding government) face-off – Croatia is being forced to take the temperature of its body politic. For months, the former have, rightly so, accused the government as incompetent and responsible for the country’s dire economic woes with unemployment running at over 19% and some 70% living in relative poverty, while the latter wrongfully, in efforts of imputing collective guilt, keep accusing the former as being a criminal and corrupt organisation because its former leader, Ivo Sanader, had been convicted of corruption and fraud.

To demonstrate the deep divide in the country one needs only to look at the reaction of Croatia’s Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic: even three days after the presidential victory he has not found the decency to congratulate Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and thereby acknowledge, if not applaud, the democratic rights expressed through voting by Croatian voters that voted for her! Furthermore, he announces his unwillingness to collaborate with the new president of his state!

So the great irony of Croatia’s current situation is that it’s facing both a cliff and a standoff. Grabar-Kitarovic has won the election despite the enormous and seemingly unconquerable divisions in the country. The division is building up into a vicious standoff between former communists (often representing those who did not want the breakup of communist Yugoslavia in the early 1990’s) and those who fought and defended the nation’s right to self-determination and an independent Croatia. But all are facing a looming “fiscal cliff,” and the new President must overcome the divide and navigate towards achieving a greater unity within the nation against the backdrop of Centre/Right – Centre/Left face-off.

Indeed, Grabar Kitarović stressed in her first interview that now was a time that Croatia united and did not become divided which is what has happened over the last few years. She stated that she wants now to get to work on lifting Croatia out of the deep economic crisis it is in together with Prime Minister Milanović. Grabar Kitarović, says she will call Milanović herself if he does not call in the next few days.

That is a sign of a good leader: duty takes priority. Something Croatia’s Prime Minister Milanovic evidently lacks. A true leader is a master of bringing together two opposing bodies to form a single, cohesive group – or at least as cohesive as possible. The extreme polarisation in politics has caused a splintering of the public’s perception, trust, and faith in government and the government insists on staying put!

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has worked very hard campaigning for a better Croatia and captured the trust of multitudes. But the hard part of her path to the presidency is just getting started. The Social Democrats holding government and their political coalition partners are behaving like two-year-olds with a temper-tantrum! They’ve dug their heels in and keep attacking Croatian democracy with utterly unfounded and unfair nationalistic slur and awful vilification against those voters and the political parties who stand by Grabar-Kitarovic. Croatia is so very lucky to have a new President in Grabar-Kitarovic who knows well how to handle the twisted suggestions that try to portray her modern conservative politics as akin to nationalism, and blow them right out of the water. She is a world-class politician who has earned most of her stripes living and working in Western democracies, which cherish patriotism and unity towards the benefit of all.

But elements within those same democracies play the same hateful games with nationalism as do Croatia’s former communists who did not want an independent Croatia. So, often you may across articles by BBC, by AP, by New York Times … that enter into the same unfounded allegations of nationalism against Grabar-Kitarovic as Croatia’s former communists.

For example, in New York Times article “Croatians Elect Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic as Their First Female President” (Jan 11, 2015) Joanna Berendt and Joseph Orovic, without any reference or specification of facts they rely on, say that the victory speech given by the Croatia’s President elect on Sunday 11 January “suggested a return to the nationalistic politics that dominated Croatia in the postwar dissolution of Yugoslavia”. They quote a part of Grabar-Kitarovic victory speech “Let’s go together. A difficult job awaits us. Let’s unite. Let’s unite our patriotism, love and faith in our Croatian homeland,” and in it see nationalism with negative connotations!

One needs to wonder why Berendt and Orovic found no other to quote but Mr Dejan Jovic, who is a former advisor to Croatian president Ivo Josipovic and recently sacked from his advisory position as Croatian media reported in association with his abominable publicised views that the 1990 Croatian referendum on secession from communist Yugoslavia was “very illiberal”, a known opponent of Croatian independence and the breakup of communist Yugoslavia, to flesh out their mean-spirited and utterly unfounded nationalistic innuendo.

The authors of this NYT article lead us to believe that patriotism and sticking together for the betterment of ones nation, democracy and independence are something nationalistically negative!


My goodness, what might they have said about the part of US President Barrack Obama’s 2012 victory speech when he said: “Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward…It (union) moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people”?
Or is this NYT article attempting to portray a message that self-determination is not a human right of all nations?
No doubt about it: Croatia is at crossroads to either economic/existential ruin and political unrest or to unity and economic prosperity. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic wants the latter and is prepared to work hard to achieve it.

So, I would say that one of the most important tasks ahead of her, preferably within the first three months of her mandate, is to confront reality and take action. Although her presidential powers for direct action may be limited I would say there are more ways than one to achieve a goal. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

What Kind Of A President Does Croatia Need?

New presidential election in Croatia is fast approaching as 2014 slides into its second half. Articles published in Croatia’s leading newspaper Vecernji List on 7 June about three possible candidates (Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Zeljka Markic and Ivo Josipovic/current incumbent) for 2015 elections can be taken as a kind of a voter crossroad, which leads the voters into serious thinking and consideration as to what kind of a presidential candidate they’ll vote for and who will lead them into the future.

I’m certain that the voters of Croatia are sick and tired of hearing about how Croatia is in a bad shape – especially economically, but also on politically still tangled questions dating to the 1990’s Homeland War as well as those that followed in the years after WWII, which polarise the Croatian people to the point of frequently visible unrests.

Hence, I am also certain that Croatian voters, besides hearing the public admissions from leading politicians, including future presidential candidates – e.g. Ivo Josipovic – that Croatia is in a bad shape, a difficult state, will also seek in their future president to show them why Croatia is in bad shape and how he/she intends to get them out of it. That is, or that should be the most important question a voter asks himself on the way to the polling booth, i.e. as he circles his preferred candidate on the ballot sheet. Voting is a deeply personal matter in a democracy; in a democracy “the recruitment” of votes along Party lines, if it occurs, should not make a decisive or significant impact if the voter turnout is significant. Croatian democracy is “an adult”, it has come “of age”, at least on paper. The possibility that the voters will this time, after more than two decades, transfer that “adult” democracy from paper into a physical deed when they turn up to vote in significant numbers warms the heart.

Regardless of limited powers of presidents they have unbelievably great powers. It’s like that in almost all democratic countries, and so too in Croatia, in which the powers of the Government are separated from those of a President. A great deal of presidential powers is informal, i.e. it is not written anywhere in the Constitution or the Laws of the country. When Theodore Roosevelt (US President 1901-1909) said that the presidential office provided him with a “bully pulpit”, a powerful platform from which he could draw attention to important issues, he was referring to the superb platform from which to advocate for agendas and, hence, the great importance of president’s informal powers.

Given that Croatia is a member state of the EU and, hence, in that it enjoys an internationally well-noticed spot from which it can be heard on economic and political issues, Croatia needs a president who will lead it successfully into the world in which trust and credibility are of the highest importance. Without those qualifications there are no foreign investments of note or affirmation of the political questions Croatia struggles with.

As we know, or as we should know, it’s not important to which political party or which citizen movements a presidential candidate belongs to or is inclined towards because the presidential function serves all equally. That which is important is the person filling the job of a president and the personal qualifications he/she brings to that job. Choosing a president for a country is no different to choosing the CEO of a large corporation or company. That if the practical and political reality of today’s fluidity in which private capital or investments do not recognise state borders but often look into who is leading a country. And so, a successful president must possess the characteristics of cooperation, compromise and negotiation, especially across the international scene.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic Photo:Pixsell

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, with her solid experience and acquired knowledge of the international scene – in which she has always been recognised as a Croatian no matter where she was or what role she led – personifies the most successful candidate among the three possible candidates for the President of Croatia put forth for our consideration in the aforementioned Vecernji List articles.

Vecernji List journalist Jadranka Juresko-Kero, in her article about possible presidential candidates, emphasises as highly essential qualification Grabar-Kitarovic’s “thorough understanding of international political relations and the causal relationship between politics and the economy, which she has gained through her roles as Croatia’s former foreign affairs minister, Croatia’s Ambassador to the US and as currently highly positioned NATO Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy.” Grabar-Kitarovic possesses, therefore, the important qualifications without which a future president of Croatia could not lead the country into realising what it, in 1990, except freedom it already has, set out to achieve: a full democracy and prosperity or an acceptable or good standard of living for all citizens.




Zeljka Markic  -  Photo: Hina

Zeljka Markic – Photo: Hina

Croatia does not need a president like Zeljka Markic, and especially not when we see that regarding her qualifications Vecernji List journalist Ivica Sola relies almost solely on her ability to attract a large numbers of voters to sign for the referendum on family (that marriage is a union between a man and a woman to be inserted into the Constitution) held in 2013. Incidentally, truthfully, gathering a large number of signatories to a referendum whose question threatens, if they do not vote, the fundamental values people in a predominantly Catholic country hold about the family or marriage structure is not a reflection of the organiser’s skills – the people will largely come off their own bat. This would also be the view of those who live in same sex relationships, who are, after all, someone’s sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, parents …






Ivo Josipovic - Photo: Pixsell

Ivo Josipovic – Photo: Pixsell

Croatia does not need a next president like Ivo Josipovic (the current incumbent). Vecernji List journalist Marko Biocina, in his article, emphasizes (as an important characteristic for a future president) that Josipovic has been a person who “during the past four years has consistently been the only relevant domestic politician who has tried to achieve peace, not quarrels, between people”! Well, does Croatia really need another presidential mandate of a person who tries but does not succeed? Surely not! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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