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

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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

 

International Women’s Day: A Tribute to the courage of Croatian women victims of mass rapes

“SUNČICA/ SUNNY” – is a recently published book in Croatia, edited by Marija Sliskovic, that contains testimonies of interned (imprisoned) women against whom the war crimes of rape were committed, covered up, and to this day not brought before the criminal courts. It’s about the crime that was part of the war strategy of Serbian and Yugoslav Army aggression against Croatia in the 1990’s.

Sunny was only eight months old when she was taken with her mother in occupied Vukovar (1991). Her mother was locked in a flat like a slave for rape. Sunny did not know what they were doing to her mother, she cried because she needed her mother for herself. Serbian soldiers raping her mother were annoyed by Sunny’s cries so they threw heavy army coats over her. By some miracle Sunny did not suffocate under the heavy coats, she survived. Sunny is strong, she survived the occupiers’ heavy attire and survives the cover-up of crimes against her and her mother today. Croatia is woven from the strength of many Sunnys.”

Victim of war crimes Ružica Erdelji:

Transcript from video testimony September 2011 above (Ruzica’s testimony starts at 0.31 sec on video:

“I am Ruzica Erdelji, maiden name Barbaric, Croatian – Herzegovinian. I was born 11 January 1951 in Grabovo near Vukovar.

I spent the war in Vukovar, at Olajnica, building 15, in the corridor of third floor, without any living conditions, without water, food, in fear. Hungry in 21st Century. We waited for freedom. With the arrival Chetnik occupator, for me and many Croatians the Way of the Cross commenced, and many have never returned from that Way of the Cross.

We had to surrender to the Chetniks, they led us through the city, on the bridge Jelica Jankovic was kissing with the Chetniks, she tells them by name and surname who needs to be killed. Those people are no longer alive, and she proudly strolls through Vukovar.

They transport us on buses to Velepromet.  As soon as I got out of the bus, they separated Serbs to one and Croatians to the other side. Branka Janjetovic comes and writes me in under number 477. My neighbor comes soon, Pero Krtinic, points to me as a Croatian and hands me over to the Chetniks, while I hoped he would help me. They take me into the carpentry building. Sladjana Korda is at the door, takes by force everything I had, and I had about 30,000 German Marks and gold jewelery. She ripped my leather jacket looking for money, she took everything and pushed me into the carpentry room.

There Hell, at nine thirty at night a Chetnik nicknamed Topola from Velepromet takes me out and drags me through streets of Vukovar. He says he’s taking me to interrogation. It’s night, I don’t know where I am, he forces me into a house and then into a room, Chetnik headquarters are in that house. He, armed, ripped everything off my body and raped me all night while gunfire went on outside. A man was crying in the next room.

In the morning he takes me to another room, several of them there, rape again. Then a Chetnik comes and he takes me upstairs, to a children’s room. Rape again, torment. After he had finished tormenting me, he takes me to the ground floor, where another Chetnik named Zmigo awaits. Holding batons and rifle he takes me to the next room, Arkan’s men are there. Again rape, one after the other, I felt humiliation, I felt repulsed at myself, dirty, unkempt. They chased me out, and there Zmigo waited, takes me away as war trophy, me as if a little Ustashe. Along the way we meet Ilija Macura, I thought he’ll help me, but he pretended he did not know me. He was in army uniform, today he works as delivery man for the police.

Zmigo takes me to the cellar of a house across the street from Textile school, he too rapes me all night. In the morning he takes me to a Chetnik leader, Lancizanin from Vukovar, nicknamed Kameni. He sends me to Velepromet, to judge me there. And again carpentry building with Sladjana Korda. She kicked me into a room, it was the room of death. I, the only woman among men. Vukovar men dressed in Chetnik uniforms came there all the time, they beat us and dragged people out who never returned. Next night they take us out in buses to army barracks. They beat us there and force us to sleep on concrete.

If we needed to go to the toilet there had to be 10 of us. When we finally reach the toilet, you cannot relax from fear, as armed Chetnik stands beside us. One day we had to clean the army barracks, we were humiliated, shamed, dirty. Come Stanimirovic, Dokmanovic and Hadzic, spit on us and ask what we are doing on holy Serbian ground. Stanimirovic now receives a parliamentary wage, while I live on 1, 775 Kunas pension after 35 years of work.

After all those tortures and torments, 29th November 1991 we are transported to Sremska Mitrovica, and on 12th December we were exchanged. Never had anyone asked how I am, do I need help. I’ve been treated at psychiatric wards in Cakovec, Zagreb and Vukovar. Noone lent me a hand of consolation.

Thank you to everyone who supports us in this painful journey of truth, because the truth must be known. “

“Sunny” has become a strong movement in Croatia during recent months with courageous women finally breaking the social and intimate barriers that occur in cases of rape, and have come out: speaking of their suffering, pointing their fingers at and naming the Serb war criminals, perpetrators of mass rapes over Croatian women during Croatia’s war of Independence. To take their courage further they have begun arriving at the office of the State Prosecutor, giving their testimonies, providing evidence of war crimes – with great expectations that the perpetrators be finally brought to justice.

Marija Sliskovic

Marija Sliskovic, also the president of the “Women in Homeland War” Association said last month in Croatia: “Those who had perpetrated those crimes must face their evi deeds,” adding that in the opposite case the criminals will think they’ve done something that’s not punishable”.

It’s a known fact that there were even camps for the implementation of mass rapes into which fertile women of non-Serbian origins were broughtvand raped. They would be released only when they were highly pregnant, too risky for termination of pregnancy. There is no doubt that this approach to women contributed to ethnic cleansing of the areas as women who experienced this most often did not want to remain in these areas in order to avoid seeing their rapists (and these were often their first neighbours) and to be constantly reminded of the horrible memories.

Women of Vukovar also experienced hell on earth when in 1991 Chetnik paramilitary units together with Yugoslav Peoples Army occupied the city. In that they kept many non-Serb women in Vukovar, imprisoned them in houses and committed over them pathological perversions that only sick minds can imagine. It’s enough to mention that the youngest female person whom these maniacs tormented was six, and the oldest eighty years old.”

The courageous women of Croatia are pursuing war criminals that have escaped justice up until now. Their plights for justice had in the past fell on deaf ears; rapes were covered up, rapists set free, some fled Croatia after the war only to be returned to Croatia under the EU push to repatriate Serb “refugees” back into Vukovar/Croatia.

No more cover-ups if these women, victims, get their way. Besides approaching the State Prosecutor’s office they are spreading their intention to reap justice to the Croatian foreign minister, EU Ambassador to Croatia, Members of Croatian Parliament for Serb Minorities…

As a woman, I stand in awe and admiration before such courage.

There is no doubt in my mind that many these heinous rape crimes have been covered-up and “overlooked” for political reasons that point to external pressures against Croatia not to “ruffle too many feathers against Serbs” if it wants to be in EU! Well, it’s about time that Croatian government and institutions step up and shout out loudly in securing justice for it’s women victims of mass rapes. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A.,M.A,Ps.(Syd)

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