Who Killed Zvonko Busic?

Zvonko Busic (L) Tihomir Dujmovic (R)

Until 2008 the U.S. officially considered Nelson Mandela a terrorist. During the Cold War, both the State and Defense departments dubbed Mandela’s political party, the African National Congress, a terrorist group, and Mandela’s name remained on the U.S. terrorism watch list till 2008. Mandela was imprisoned in 1964 after being arrested and charged with sabotage, specifically a campaign against the country’s power grid, and plotting to overthrow the government. He was released in 1990, at age 71. He was elected president of South Africa in 1994, in the country’s first full and free elections, and served until 1999. In 1986, Ronald Reagan condemned Mandela’s group (as did the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher), the ANC, which was leading the black struggle against the apartheid regime, saying it engaged in “calculated terror … the mining of roads, the bombings of public places, designed to bring about further repression.” After the apartheid regime in South Africa declared the ANC a terrorist group, the Reagan administration followed suit. In August of 1988, the State Department listed the ANC among “organizations that engage in terrorism.” It said the group ”disavows a strategy that deliberately targets civilians,” but noted that civilians had “been victims of incidents claimed by or attributed to the ANC.” The U.S. Defense Department stood by its language, and Mandela and other ANC officials remained on the terror watch list even as President Bush welcomed Mandela, newly released from prison, to the White House in 1990. Because of what was described as a “bureaucratic snafu,” their names were kept on the list until 2008, 14 years after Mandela had been elected president and nine years after he had left power. He was 90 at the time.

All this tells us that even though terrorism is real today there is a need for caution in the way we respond and particularly when responding to actions of freedom fighters of past eras prior to the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989. Regimes imposed brutal oppression and repression against people, which led to numerous expressions of retaliation or rebellion including actions that may appear of terrorist nature particularly to those associated with the keeping of the regime but never to those wanting freedom from the regime. Indeed, in those days it would appear that “terrorist-like” activities were the only choices available for those who wanted freedom from oppression changes for nations.

Croatia’s Zvonko Busic was a freedom fighter, seeking with others in his group to topple the murderous and oppressive Communist regime in former Yugoslavia; specifically to topple it in Croatia and free Croatia from Yugoslavia.

As with Nelson Mandela, very very few today would see Zvonko Busic’s actions and the actions of his group during the 1970’s in the same light as, say, the atrocities of al-Qaeda.

Zvonko Busic, a Croatian freedom fighter, served 32 years in prison in the United States for hijacking a plane and planting explosives that, through members of New York Police Department’s reportedly reckless disregard for Busic’s instructions as to how to safely defuse the explosives, killed one policeman (Brian Murray) and injured three others.

Busic was working in New York when he led a group of five people who on September 10, 1976, hijacked TWA Flight 355 flying from New York to Chicago with about 80 passengers and crew members on board.

Zvonko Busic, his Oregon-born wife, Julienne Busic (formerly Eden Schultz), Frane Pesut, Petar Matanic and Mark Vlasic said at the time they wanted to draw attention to Croatia’s bid for independence from communist-led Yugoslavia. The passengers on the hijacked plane had testified to the fact that they were treated well and never felt their lives were threatened during the hijacking. Indeed, several testified in New York court in favour of the hijackers.

Soon after takeoff from New York’s La Guardia Airport, Zvonko Busic got word to the pilot that he had planted a bomb in a locker at New York’s Grand Central railway station. He handed the written instructions as to how the bomb must be defused so that it hurts nobody. The hijackers demanded that a statement about Croatian independence be published in the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the International Herald Tribune. All the papers except the Herald Tribune complied. When the skyjackers confirmed that their statements had been printed by the newspapers, they surrendered.

In 1977, Zvonko and Julienne Busic were convicted of air piracy resulting in death, which carried a mandatory life sentence with parole eligibility after 10 years. Julienne Busic was released from prison in 1989 after serving the minimum13 years and Zvonko Busic was released on parole in 2008 after serving 32 years upon which he was deported from U.S. and returned to Croatia, where in 2013 he committed suicide.

The others involved — Frane Pesut, Petar Matanic and Mark Vlasic — received 30-year sentences, released on parole in 1988.

I did not do this act out of adventuristic or terroristic impulses,” Zvonko Busic told the court in New York before receiving his sentence. “It was simply the scream of a disenfranchised and persecuted man.”

If I had ever imagined that anyone could have been hurt,” he added, “I would never, even if it had cost me anonymous death at Yugoslav hands, embarked on that flight.”

In Croatia, which gained independence from Yugoslavia, but not without untold devastation and death at the hands of Serb aggression in the 1990s, Zvonko Busic received a warm welcome from masses in 2008 as a hero of the country’s struggle for statehood. But, holding positions of power in the country at the time, the former communists and their supporters did not participate in this warm welcome. Indeed, they went out of their way at times to ensure Zvonko Busic continues to be labelled as a terrorist. These were the same people that did not want an independent Croatia in the first place and drove the persecutory wagon that would, for quite a number of years, attempt to criminalise Croatia’s defensive Homeland War with lies and false accusations. The best example of the latter, of the crucifying lies, may be seen in the indictments by the Hague International Criminal Tribunal of Croatia’s generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, who were in 2012 finally acquitted of all charges.

That politics determines whether an act previously seen as terrorism becomes, after diligent consideration, an act of courageous freedom fight from oppression is well demonstrated by the Nelson Mandela and Zvonko Busic cases. Nelson Mandela was escalated to the ranks of Nobel Prize (1993) winner for peace, while Zvonko Busic committed suicide reportedly from sheer desperation at seeing that although free and democratic on paper, Croatia was still in the grips of repressive communist mentality and control.

Elevating Zvonko Busic’s freedom fighting to that which Nelson Mandela lived to enjoy will, if it occurs at all in the communist minded surrounds, most likely take a number of years. In this path of true believers in true Croatian freedom we come across an extraordinarily skilful and dedicated author, journalist, columnist, television presenter, publicist – Tihomir Dujmovic. Tihomir Dujmovic has recently completed the manuscript of his new book on Zvonko Busic and he plans to launch it in early March 2018. Parallel to this,

Tihomir Dujmovic is all set for the March 2018 premiere of his theatre play “Who Killed Zvonko Busic”, the plot of which is based on his book “Croatia in the Jaws of the Children of Communism”.

Both the new book and the theatre play on Zvonko Busic by Tihomir Dujmovic hold a torch for true delights all freedom fighters will surely embrace. The humanity found in freedom fighting, such as the one Zvonko Busic engaged in, Nelson Mandela engaged in, and scores of others around the world, does, always, in the end, shine through.

At the 1970’s trial to Busic and his group in New York the judge said that Zvonko Busic’s actions were motivated by a noble cause, i.e. Croatian independence. The judge also determined that any harm to others was completely unintentional.

His whole life Zvonko Busic cherished the ideal of a democratic and free Croatian society in which people would live with equal rights and opportunities. It is an ideal he lived for, he tried to achieve at enormous personal risks and in the end – an ideal for which he died. Croatia, the world, must never lose this from sight. Ina Vukic

The Soul Is Indestructible – Interview With Julienne Busic

Julienne Busic with statue
of her late husband Zvonko Busic
in Rovanjska, Croatia
Photo: Private collection

 

You’ve been operating a foundation (Zaklada Zvonko Bušić Taik) in Zvonko’s name for several years now. Tell me about the Foundation’s work

– The Foundation was initiated by former Premier of Croatia Nikica Valentic, who became friends with Zvonko (Busic) and admired him very much. He offered space in his office building and that’s how it all began. Among the founding members are Drazen Budisa (past president of the Social-Liberal Party, former political prisoner during the Tito dictatorship, and also a friend from student days), and many others who have a place in Croatian history. We have been involved in many humanitarian activities; for example, delivering Christmas gifts to impoverished families with many children in Slavonia, and collecting canned goods and other groceries for families who suffered in the floods several years ago. Lidija Bajuk, one of Croatia’s best singer-songwriters of ethno-music in the world, donated a concert on behalf of the effort. We’ve also organised musical evenings with the children of war veterans as the performers. Many of them are extremely talented musicians and opera singers! And not to forget our Valentine’s Day party for very special couples, war invalids and their spouses, who have remained by their side and been their most important support and comfort! Our translation project – English translations of books about the Croatian war of independence – is among our most important ongoing projects. So far we have translated and offered on Amazon and the Internet two such books, In the Eye of the Storm, by Ante Gugo, and The Croatian War of Independence by Ante Nazor. A third is coming up soon, about the siege of Vukovar and the human aspect of the aggression against the city. This project was possible in large part thanks to a radiothon organised by the Croatian radio program in Australia (Pero Maric is the director). So once more, thanks to the Australian Croats for their unending support for valuable projects. We even had the pleasure and honour of meeting with the President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, and presenting her personally with our first book!

Julienne Busic (Second from L) with
former Premier of Croatia, Nikica Valentic (third from L)
Photo: Private collection

Now that the Vukovar Day of Remembrance is approaching, can you talk about your third book, Living Cells, which deals with the subject of rape as a war crime through the eyes of a survivor during the siege of Vukovar?

– I just taped a long documentary program for Croatian radio on this subject, which will be broadcast next week prior to the Day of Remembrance. As some might know, Living Cells (for which I was honoured to receive the prestigious A.B. Simic literary award several years ago) is based on the true story of a friend of mine who was held for months as a sex slave in Vukovar during the siege. Her story was particularly disturbing because she was forced to choose between three soldiers; in other words, they forced her to choose her rapist or else threatened that she would be raped by all of them and others as well. This was an evil psychological twist that was almost as bad as the rape itself, at least in my opinion. Later, many friends and neighbours accused her of willingly “cooperating”. Otherwise, why would someone “choose” her rapist? Not only was she branded as a rape victim, as though it were her fault, but also accused of having done it voluntarily, even received benefits from it. So this issue is a complex one, and needs to be addressed by several ministries. First, the Ministry of Health and Social Services needs to provide therapy for the victims, and the Ministry of Defenders must ensure the women receive some kind of compensation. Many are destitute still today. And of course, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must take action to get the perpetrators back to Croatia to serve their sentences. The two rapists in my friend’s case both fled to Serbia and therefore never paid the price for the horrific acts. And without justice being served, it is difficult to forgive. The women want to forgive, but until the perpetrators address their crimes and pay their debt, express remorse, it is difficult for the wounds to heal. This isn’t a pleasant topic, I know, but we need to inform women’s groups and human rights groups outside Croatia about our victims, create a network, raise our voices. My book is the only one I’m aware of that addresses rape as a war crime against Croatian victims, so I hope people will read it and perhaps donate a copy for their local university, a school, a group dealing with this issue.

Nino Raspudic (L) Julienne Busic (C)
Drazen Budisa (R)
Photo: Private collection

How are you coping with the loss of your husband? It’s been four years now.

– It might sound strange, but I don’t feel that I’ve “lost” him. He is always with me, guiding me, sending me messages only I can understand. Philosophically speaking, the physical body is just a collection of atoms and degradable materials that are reabsorbed into the earth. The natural process of birth, death, and regeneration. But the soul is something else and it’s indestructible. I take great comfort in that. In the end, he paid in full his debt to society, he never intended to harm anybody, and the fact that he served 32 years in prison, two years longer than the law allowed, didn’t bother him in the end. He often commented that he was grateful for the last two years because he discovered two philosophers, Pierre Hadot and John Cottingham, who provided explanations for many issues he’d been grappling with all those years. Unfortunately, he didn’t recognise the world into which he was finally released, and couldn’t find his place in it, couldn’t find a way to be useful. He was also deeply disheartened by the materialism, the Ego that seemingly ruled everything, the lack of idealism, the placement of party over homeland, and the vindictiveness of petty, superficial souls, so he went on to discover the ultimate Truth that can only be found in Death. He gave everything he had for his people and country, for their freedom, for his greatest love, Croatia.

Julienne Busic and
President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovuc (C)
Photo: Private collection

—————————————

Julienne (Julie) Busic (maiden name Julienne Eden Schultz) is a successful American writer and a worldwide well known political activist (alongside her late husband Zvonko Busic) for the freedom of Croatia at the time (1970’s) when Croatia was still a part of the oppressive communist totalitarian regime of Yugoslavia. Julie lives in Croatia and dedicates her life to book writing, promoting and actively taking part in translating into the English books by Croatian authors on the topics of the Croatian War of Independence and painful destinies of victims of crimes committed against Croats during that war. She remains a devoted humanitarian, concerned and seeks to promote human welfare of Croatian victims of war crimes. Interview conducted by Ina Vukic

 

LIVING CELLS at Amazon

 

An Interview With Julienne Busic

Julienne Busic
Photo: Ina Vukic

Julienne (Julie) Busic (maiden name Julienne Eden Schultz) is a successful American writer and a well known political activist (alongside her late husband Zvonko Busic) for the freedom of Croatia at the time (1970’s) when Croatia was still a part of the oppressive communist totalitarian regime of Yugoslavia, who, as well as her late husband, had spent significant time in American prisons in relation to their actions for Croatian freedom. Julie lives in Croatia and I have met with her; here’s my interview with her.

 

Julie, a great deal of intense happenings, both positive and negative, have marked your life for decades now because of your love for the idea and realization of Croatia’s  freedom from communism (Yugoslavia). Your love for your late husband Zvonko Busic has, I dare say, despite high risks to personal freedom and life’s comforts, emboldened you to join him in actions for freedom world-wide. Any regrets?

 

– First of all, I try to avoid labeling anything as negative or positive because one never knows. Many times I’ve thought something was negative and it turned out to be the opposite. I think we need to simply accept what is, without characterizing it, and use it to our advantage as best we can. Some things we can’t control, but we can control our impressions about things, in order to achieve a greater peace of mind.   As far as regrets, I try not to focus on that, either. It’s the past. Of course, I do have one deep regret, that an unintended death occurred during the course of our action, but as for the rest, it’s been an intense, fascinating, compelling, challenging, and interesting life. As Zvonko used to say, „don’t complain, you got a lot of interesting material from it for your books!“ But all kidding aside, it’s personally satisfying that the our idealism and sacrifice in the name of Croatian freedom were rewarded when Croatia became independent! And how many hijackers can brag that their victims came to visit them in prison and wrote letters of support to the sentencing judge? Several passengers and even employees of the airline are still in touch with me today! In fact, I just got a letter from one of them who had testified for the defense during our trial, wanting to know how I was doing.

 

The “Western world” seems to have adopted a warped and an unsavoury sense of justice when it comes to embracing or rejecting activities of freedom fighters – some have been and are labeled as terrorist while others of same or similar calibre are hailed as courageous and desirable. Many examples spring to mind including activities in the South African anti-apartheid movements and resistance often headed by Neilson Mandela, which had eventually been hailed as great and positive even though, history marks, some horrific crimes had been committed in the name of that freedom from the British imposed apartheid. The other side of that medal that has double-standards when it comes to judging freedom activism and fights, houses activities you yourself have taken an important part in during 1970’s for the freedom of Croatia from the oppressive and largely murderous communist Yugoslavia – and yet, those activities have been and still are seen by the world as terrorist. Do you have any comments on this assessment I make in regards to the world’s double standards revolving around genuine suffering of the people and their efforts in achieving freedom?

 

– I thought of Orwell’s 1984 as I considered this question. Whoever has control of information can direct how people think about people and events, and we see how it worked in the book which, by the way, has experienced a huge upsurge in sales in recent times. For obvious reasons. Much of the western mainstream media has a liberal bias, so Mandela and others who were idealogically similar enjoyed wide support around the world. Timing has a lot to do with it as well. The civil rights movement was in full swing when Mandela was arrested, so there were countless western organizations and governments supporting him. We shouldn’t forget, though, that until a few years ago, Mandela was on an American terrorist watch list! ( see: www.zvonkobusic.com/dokumenti/mandela.doc) Nonetheless, he was received by all the leaders of the world and has streets, squares, and schools named after him. Croatian dissidents weren’t „modern“, nor did they have the vast network of support the Yugoslav government enjoyed throughout the world as a bulwark, although illusory, against Stalinism. As long as Yugoslavia existed, Croatia wasn’t needed and her dissidents and revolutionaries were branded fascists, extremists, and terrorists not just by Yugoslavia but their allies as well.   Once you gain power, as Croatia did after she won the war, things change, although not as quickly as we’d like. Until the non-democratic forces from the Communist era are stripped of political power in Croatia, there will be a continuation of attacks against freedom fighters (terrorists in their vocabulary), and the paradigm will remain the same as in the former Yugoslavia. One glaring example is the case of Ante Barisic, a professor at the U. of Zagreb. In former Yugoslavia, he worked for the secret police and participated in the torture and abuse of Croatian students in the 1980s, one of them Marko Grubisic. (see: http://www.jutarnji.hr/vijesti/celnik-drustva-politickih-zatvorenika-od-851-udbasa-njih-754-preslo-je-u-sluzbe-rh/397933/) Grubisic reported him, and has given both interviews and detailed information to the police about Barisic, but nothing has been done, and he is still teaching students to this day. Why? Because his compatriots are still in positions of power in Croatia and they appear to protect each other. Imagine the reaction in Australia, U.S., Canada, if a political science professor was exposed as a torturer of students in earlier years! It wouldn’t be tolerated. Yet he’s still here in Zagreb, teaching the future leaders of Croatia.

Zvonko and Julienne Busic
Photo: croatia.org

– You have been a permanent resident in Croatia for a number of years now, because of your activities for the freedom of Croatia during the life of the oppressive communist Yugoslavia, which have been marked as unlawful, to say the least, your access to your first homeland – the USA – has been made very difficult and probably at times a logistical nightmare. How do you cope with that reality of not being free to to choose your preferred route or “normal” way of going about visiting the place of your birth? What would you say is the hardest part of that reality?

 

– Yes, I’ve been a citizen of Croatia, not just permanent resident, since 1994. In fact, President Tudjman himself gave me my Croatian passport during one of his visits to Washington, D.C. while I was there. That was exciting!

As for my access to the United States, I have been a victim of the war against terrorism through no actions of my own; that is, since I was released from prison. Year after year, the security regime is tightened as a response to events in the U.S. and outside. In 2009, I found myself on the no fly list after a Nigerian man was caught concealing explosives in his underwear on a U.S. flight. He almost succeeded in detonating them! President Obama was furious, and after that, thousands of people found themselves on the no fly list. There are over 41,000 now, and 500 of them are American citizens. In order to get to America, I have to take a circuitous route which does not fly over American airspace. In recent years, I have had to go through Caracas, Venezuela, Bogota, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico City, and then by foot over the Tijuana border in to California. It’s absolutely surreal and absurd. Imagine arriving at midnight in Tijuana, a woman alone, and having to get to the border through one of the most dangerous areas in the world. Not to mention Caracas! It’s even more ridiculous considering that I had flown over 60 times prior to that into, out of, and within America with no problems whatseover. The ACLU has been working on the case for several years now, but the wheels of justice move very slowly. Meanwhile, we wait.

 

How has Croatia embraced you as one of its own after it fought and achieved the independence you, your late husband Zvonko Busic and other Croatian freedom fighters had fought for decades before? What was or is the best aspect of that welcoming into Croatia?

 

– Everyone who welcomed Croatian independence was welcoming to me, regardless of how they felt about our action, and that was wonderful. Of course, those who hadn’t were not, and that is also to be expected. What means the most to me is when total strangers write or come up to me on the street and tell me how much my books have meant to them, how much they were moved by our story, how much they admire our ideals, and so forth. Especially younger people, since they are our future.

Julie Busic (L) Ina Vukic (R)/Photo source

 You continue being involved in and working on things that emphasise the importance of Croatia’s 1990’s Homeland War and the value of independence. Can you please tall us about some of these undertakings and activities you are involved in or lead?

 

Our Foundation, (on Facebook: Zaklada Zvonko Busic Taik) which was established in honor of Zvonko, is doing a project on translations of books into English about the Homeland War. So far, Ante Nazor’s „The Croatian War of Independence“ and Ante Gugo’s „In the Eye of the Storm“ have come out in English. Zvonko’s memoirs, „All Visible Things“, which also deal with the Croatian struggle for independence, have also been published. All are available through Amazon. I’d also like to mention that the project was financed in part by a fantastic action from the Australian Croatian community, a radiothon during which a substantial amount was raised! We would welcome a second one, too!

Such books are critical, because still today, non-Croatians do not understand what happened here, and that is because the information is not out there. We must have excellent translations in English and other major languages, and they must be available around the world on Amazon so that everyone can order and read them. This has not been happening, and it is a criticism we have to direct to all the governments we have had here in Croatia. Culture is politics, we have to understand that, and culture is an area that has been neglected. We need books, books, and more books. And that is just the beginning. We also need films, documentaries, podcasts…

 

The way that I see it, you fall into the category of people who have returned from the diaspora to live in Croatia. Putting aside numerous invitations Croatian leaders have over the years made to the diaspora to return and/or invest, do you think Croatia’s address and dealing with the needs of the diaspora are adequate or do you think Croatia could do better in its pursuits for a unity in Croatian identity across the diaspora? How would you assess Croatia’s efforts in ensuring that homeland Croatia and the diaspora become one body?

 

– I really don’t know much about the specifics of this issue, and what has been done in the previous governments, but I know the return of Croatians was a priority for President Tudjman. From what I’ve heard from some who have returned, there must be substantial changes in our bureaucracy to draw people back. It’s so complex that most people just give up, and it could be so much easier. People wait months and even years for simple documents, and most could be totally dispensed with or combined, or completed over the internet.  And there is still a lot of corruption, a continuation of the mindset from former Yugoslavia, that unless you pay bribes, nothing gets done. At any rate, Croatia’s demographics are a cause for great concern. We need the diaspora, we want them to return with their families, share their expertise and knowledge, contribute their skills, but there has to be a better strategy.

 

Are there things that you would like to add here or any message you would like to convey?

 

– Once again, I’d like to thank the Croatian-Australian community for the support they’ve given us and our Foundation so that we are able to finance the books in English on the Homeland War. There’s such a sense of involvement in the community; they haven’t become apathetic and are always ready to help and contribute to good projects. That means a lot, because together we can get the truth out.

Prepared and written by: Ina Vukic

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