Michael Palaich – Up Close And Personal For Croatia’s Freedom: “For Baka’s Homeland” A Book Review

Michael Palaich
Photo: Private Album

“For Baka’s Homeland”/Michael Palaich – a book review by Ina Vukic

Up close and personal – for freedom of Croatia!

Michael Palaich’s “For Baka’s Homeland” is a soothingly powerful, reinvigorating and captivating book about roots of the invincible patriotism for his grandmother’s (baka’s) homeland lovingly cultivated far away from that homeland, in America. The object of that patriotism, patriotic love, devotion and pride – Croatia, while geographically far away and often scarcely visited during the childhood years of growing up in the diaspora is a spiritual anchor that embeds itself into the hearts and minds of multitudes born and/or living away from the parental homeland. It is also a book about the intrinsic, steadfast driving resolve within that patriotic love thriving outside Croatia for decades, nurtured within the Croatian emigrant community outside of Croatia, becoming a driving force of help and support in times of need when that Croatian nation had no alternative, nor choice, but to defend its life from brutal aggression by the former communist Yugoslavia and Serb forces; to fight for its freedom and self-preservation.

“For Baka’s Homeland” presents the reader with a personal account, memoirs, the author’s account, an insider account of Croatia’s 1990’s horrendous struggles to secede from communist Yugoslavia and become a democratic, independent State. Insider account by a member of the Croatian diaspora, whose contribution to Croatia’s independence struggle and its ultimate success was crucial! The particularly valuable contribution this book makes to the factual history of struggles and sufferings Croatian people had endured, particularly after World War II, is the fact that, overall, it provides the reader as to how, through what activities, personal risks and adventures, a person of Croatian origins born and living abroad put himself through so that his grandmother’s (baka’s) homeland could one day call itself free and independent – just as “baka” yearned for all her life.

This is a book about strong loyalty to the love of and for family, the love of and for grandparents. Reading this book, the reader may indeed conclude: there is no more magical way to validate one’s love for family than through actions that protect and embrace the values for which that family stands and, in that, place one’s own life at disposal for achieving those values in tangible forms; in this case – Croatia’s freedom.

The captivating nature of this book is particularly carried through many intriguing stories, accounts, explorations of issues associated with a nation’s struggle for independence.  Palaich’s personal undertakings and experiences on the long and hard road to Croatia’s independence provide the reader with “an ordinary man’s” insight into political, ideological and practical milestones to independence and the creation of a new State during the late 20th century.  The fact that these accounts come from one patriotic individual living and born in the suburbia of an American city, part of Croatian diaspora, is of particular significance and value especially to those keen to take a “microscopic” look into how it was possible for ordinary people to contribute so crucially to the independence of Croatia in such harsh and unforgiving times that lasted for decades (and, indeed, centuries).

The self-sacrifice fuelled by patriotic love is the backbone of this book; its spine. “For Baka’s Homeland” is very much a book whose contents could also aptly describe multitudes of “ordinary” men and women in the Croatian diaspora who have during the 1990’s practically stopped living their own private lives to the fullest and gave those lives as moral and material surety for the success of an independent Croatia. Michael Palaich, though, is the one who openly and sincerely put pen to paper and this book is the delightful product even with its vignettes of absolute horror Croats have had to endure during their struggles to exit communist Yugoslavia. The delight of the latter is not in the content of those vignettes of horror but in the fact that they now are particles in the food for thought and gratitude as Croats celebrate Croatia’s victory in the 1990’s Homeland War and say “Lest we forget”!

“For Baka’s Homeland” Front Cover
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The book opens with the author’s examination of and pondering upon influences of nurture versus nature in shaping a character, in predisposing us for how we react in life to various environmental/social triggers and influences. He offers the reader a look into his Croatian grandmother and grandfather, struggling to create a new life in a foreign land after coming to America at the turn of the 20th century. He takes the reader into the migrant reality where patriotic love and loyalties for the original homeland (Croatia) are nurtured and lovingly cultivated through generations – firstly his father’s, then his and ultimately his children’s, all of whom were born and raised in America. To bring closer to the reader the reality of such upbringing that essentially means living parallel lives, Palaich says in the First chapter of his book:

I have come to accept the reality that I will never be fully accepted as a Croatian in Croatia. I am always referred to as ‘The American’ when in Croatia…I have also accepted the reality that I will never be fully assimilated into American Anglo-Saxon culture either. My father was born in America and served in the U.S. Army Air corps during WWII. I am a veteran of the U.S. Navy. I have lived and worked in America my entire life. Still, there is much of the Anglo-Saxon culture in America that I just don’t understand. In my youth I believed that I was unique in this way. But after making friends with many first- and second-generation Croats living in Canada, Australia, Germany and Argentina, I find that many of us born outside Croatia share this sense of straddling two cultures.”

The book continues as it takes the reader into decades of Croatian patriotic, political, cultural and other activism and activities that thrived within the Croatian communities in the diaspora. Invariably, these were towards the goals of nurturing the Croatian identity and its plight for freedom and, hence, patriotism throughout the world that was outside the former communist Yugoslavia, which, without fail and with cruel vigour always brutally and to the point of mass murders and assassinations oppressed the Croatian national being. It is a matter of recorded history that much of the former communist Yugoslavia Secret Police (UDBa) had, after WWII, cunningly infiltrated even the tightest of “Western” societies’ institutions and national security corridors with only one aim in mind – to assassinate, destroy, vilify and brand as dangerous extremists, if not terrorists, all nationally conscious and patriotic Croats living outside Yugoslavia. This unsavoury and utterly cruel backdrop had given rise to many clandestine, covert and risky activities Croatian patriots living outside former Yugoslavia had entered into in the quest for Croatian freedom, risking own lives and those of their families. And so, it is very meaningful for quests for freedom generally to read Palaich’s accounts of the Croatian organisations that operated in America prior to Croatia’s Homeland War. How the love for Croatia built in him particularly through his grandmother’s loving care transformed into political activities crowned with patriotism and ultimately love of all Croatian people.

My political journey began in 1978, and each step in that journey would result in a psychological change. Normal feelings of fear would gradually be replaced with a sense of over-confidence and defiance. The idealistic political activity that was originally rooted in the belief that the Croatian people had a right to be free, slowly morphed into illegal activity in an attempt to realize that political objective…” says Palaich in his book as he delves into stories of Croatian diaspora political activism and activities while at the same time fighting, hiding from, ducking, crawling and stalking in efforts not to be caught by local authorities or, even worse, by the murderous agents of the communist Yugoslavia UDBa operatives who had infiltrated the Croatian community in the diaspora.

The reader is served with a series of moving stories of heroism, of brilliant attempts and ways in trying to get “Western” media houses interested in the plight of Croats for freedom from communist oppression, of background operations – small and large – in organising public protests and catching the attention of prominent politicians in the “West”. Frequently in this thread of the book we come across moving vignettes of true and absolute camaraderie based on patriotism and quest for freedom. Reading these accounts, a reader finds himself asking: why? Why would anyone give up and risk a safe and relatively financially prosperous life for this? For patriotic love!

Michael Palaich offers answers to those questions throughout his well-written book.

To this end, an extract from the book about Croatian political activists in the diaspora goes “…Their politics had consumed their lives and developed into an almost religion-like devotion. Almost immediately, I saw a similarity between their commitment to freeing the Croatian people from the slavery of Communism and the Christian missionaries evangelizing the Good News of the Bible. They were unwavering and focused fanatics. I intentionally choose to use the word fanatic, because I have come to appreciate the purpose-driven life of fanatics in combination with a worthy cause…”

Reading this book one can easily find that history is not merely about memorising dates, memorising significant events, it is more about seeing the undercurrent of thoughts which were determinant in making those significant dates, in making those significant events in the history of a nation, of Croatian freedom in this case. In “For Baka’s Homeland” the reader almost finds himself or herself privileged to be able to enter into that undercurrent of thoughts and, as if by epiphany nudged by the rich accounts in the book, come to know what extraordinary people and activities it took to contribute to that history of creation and delivery to the people of a free Croatia.

When it came to deal with, or rather disposing of Croatian people who wanted freedom from communist Yugoslavia, the Serb aggressor was particularly vicious and a deranged beast by anyone’s standards. Genocide, mass murders, mass rapes, massacres, depraved tortures – sheer and viciously revengeful hatred for freedom-fighting Croats of either military or civilian description. As Palaich’s stories and vignettes from the 1990’s war zones in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he found himself in his efforts to help the freedom fight in whichever way he could (smuggling guns and night-vision equipment to at least help a little the ill-equipped Croatian soldiers fighting the huge enemy Yugoslav/Serb Army; working on foreign media representatives desperately trying to secure an outcome in which the World will know the truth [as opposed to the Serb-led propaganda and lies the “Western” media seemed so ready to embrace]; engage in political plots and strategies that would assist Croatia in its quest for freedom…) tell the reader, it was a time when the strength of patriotism tested the majority of Croats in efforts to save own lives and the lives of those one loved. The intrigue in the political ingenuity and the sheer courage of many Croats we meet in this book, as Palaich focuses on events with detailed accounts, are particularly eye-opening, powerful moments the author delivers to his readers. It was a most dangerous time for Croats – 1990’s – and an extract from the book says “This time I was standing in the middle of a war zone controlled by the enemy, being questioned by an officer of that enemy’s army. This time the Serbian officer standing before me had the power to take my life if he wanted to. There were no rules in this war – not with the enemy…”!

But, as this book evidences, there were rules the Croats followed and those rules were much about ways and tactics every individual would employ to save Croatian people from continued oppression. These tactics did indeed at times require a Croat from the diaspora to engage in activities that were considered illegal by the country he/she came to help Croatia from. Michael Talaich spent several years defending himself in the legal and other related activities against him by the US Federal Police, Federal Agents and the U.S. courts – the scavenging for evidence against him that ended with a Grand Jury indictment for six counts of violating the U.S. Arms Export Control Act. It took the author several years to clear this and his indictments were all dismissed by a US State Attorney in 1999. This blessing did not happen without the care that free Croatia extended to its loyal activists for freedom.

Would the author, Michael Palaich, go through all the trials and tribulations that followed his steps in his fight for free Croatia again? Would he do the same things for Croatia and its people if the situation was the same again? If the desperate need arose again? Those are the questions and answers addressed in the final part of his book. To know and understand the answers to these questions one must read “For Baka’s Homeland”. The patriotically minded reader is in for a gallant treat!

Croatian language version of this book is due to be released in June 2020

“For Baka’s Homeland” in the English language is available in major online bookshops including America-based Amazon as well as all international Amazon online bookshops; Thriftbooks,  Barnes & Noble 


For Baka’s Homeland: Eyewitness To The Birth Of A State By Michael Palaich


While in the coming weeks I intend to write in depth about this new book by Michael Palaich, just ahead of Christmas, I wish to say that for the vast majority of people of Croatian descent, in particular, born or living outside of Croatia, this new book is as relevant to life and as warmly familiar as the bread we eat, or have eaten, every day. For others, it is a window into the world of love for one’s people and freedom from oppression – communist oppression; a love that drives one to the path of fighting for freedom; giving it all, sacrificing much of personal life and its material blessings.

This book “is a compelling eyewitness account of a third-generation Croatian-American who was first recruited into the Croatian Liberation Movement at the age of twenty-five. The author’s personal story details how the love for his Grandmother (Baka) led to his love for her people, her culture and ultimately to a desire to assist her homeland in realizing its centuries-old quest to achieve independence.

The author openly shares his personal journey from the sometimes-violent streets of Detroit to the war-torn streets of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

After Traveling across four continents, he produced a documentary on post-WWII Yugoslav war crimes titled The Bleiburg Tragedy and contributed to several other documentaries about Yugoslav war crimes. He created his own news agency and became a Registered Foreign Agent for the Republic of Croatia during the country’s War of Independence. Palaich was ultimately indicted by the US government for arms smuggling.

After more than two decades, Palaich finally reveals the full story, the historical people he met along the way and the unbelievable reason he is a free man today.”

Michael Palaich
Photo: Croatia.org

Michael Palaich, the author of the well-known documentary “Bleiburg Tragedy”,  was born in the United States of America, is a graduate of Wayne State University, Detroit Michigan, where he graduated Cum Laude with B.A. degrees in Psychology and Political Science.  He has worked as a freelance journalist and served as a correspondent during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The name of Michael (Mike) Palaich and his extensive activism on behalf of Croatian freedom has been well-known to the Croatians in America and beyond for a long time. In the 1980s, he was an eloquent spokesman for the Croatian cause in the Detroit area. At the same time, he had the vision and stamina of undertaking a major project, that of interviewing and recording eyewitnesses of the extradition of Croatian civilians and disarmed military forces by the British to Tito and his partisans in May of 1945. Most of the extradited were massacred by Tito’s communists and those who survived were taken via long and horrific routs to various labour camps located throughout the country, from Austria in the north to the borders of Greece in the south. During those marches tens of thousands more people lost their lives. In Croatian history this calamity is known as the “Bleiburg Tragedy and the Križni put/Way of the Cross”. (The extradition began near the town of Bleiburg in Austria.) The British authorities knew well what would happen to those who were forcibly handed over to the communists – certain death for most of them. Palaich’s documentaries have become an indispensable historical source for researchers of those tragic events in which hundreds of thousands of Croatians (and some others) were murdered and no one ever was charged for those horrific crimes.

Currently “For Baka’s Homeland” is available on Amazon online shops.

Ina Vukic



Croatians Remember Sir Robert Menzies And Bleiburg Massacre

Sir Robert Gordon (Bob) Menzies of Australia

Sir Robert Gordon (Bob) Menzies of Australia

According to British documents, located in the British Public Records Office at Kew Gardens in London, over 500,000 Croatian civilians and 200,000 soldiers were handed over to Tito’s Yugoslav Partisan Army in May of 1945. Based on eyewitness testimony and independent documentation, we can only estimate that the vast majority were slaughtered. The Bleiburg Tragedy is, perhaps, the best kept secret of man’s inhumanity to man. Certainly, it serves as an example of man’s ability to ignore the suffering of the powerless and those who lack nation-state status. Let us pray that Croats always cherish their independence and always fight those that attempt to subjugate them,” Michael Palaich.

May 15th 2014 marks 69 years since the days after WWII ended hundreds of thousands of innocent Croats (disarmed soldiers, civilians including women and children, fleeing communist Yugoslavia into promised freedom in the West found themselves slaughtered over the ensuing two months by Tito’s communists; the field at Bleiburg in Austria marks the central point where the slaughters began as the fleeing refugees were turned by the British forces into Yugoslavia, into the vicious and murderous hands of the communists, who dare to call themselves antifascists, under the pretence of forced repatriation.

May 15th 2014 marks 36 years since the death of Australia’s former Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies. On 19 May 1978 some 100,000 Australians turned out in the Melbourne CBD and in the suburbs to pay tribute to Menzies, after he died at age of 83. This very fact provides an indication of the respect with which many held him and among them were multitudes of Croatian immigrants in Australia who had fled communist Yugoslavia, thus surviving the vicious and merciless communist purges.

While in May of every year Croats commemorate the 1945 Bleiburg Massacres, not only to pay respects to the victims but also to keep the candle of hope alight for justice, for the prosecution of communist crimes, Australian Croats in their many numbers also remember in gratitude the life of Sir Robert Menzies – their Prime Minister who stood by their rights to keep the flame and the dream of independent Croatia alive.
Robert Gordon “Bob” Menzies is the longest-serving Prime Minister in Australian history. Menzies was Prime Minister twice, first from 1939 to 1941, and then from 1949 through to 1966, for a grand total of 18 years and five months in the top job. Menzies was at the centre of many significant events in this period of Australian history, which shaped the modern nation and the Australian Liberal Party.

Menzies was strongly opposed to communism because it enshrined what Ronald Reagan was later to term the evil empire. The prisoners in the various communist gulags, hard labour camps, purges under political opponents banner … well understood this—as did the descendants of the victims of Lenin, Stalin, Tito, Mao …

Amidst a plethora of false allegations of Croat violence in Australia – without doubt the work of communist Yugoslavia Secret Police UDBA – Menzies found it necessary to deliver an historic speech in the Parliament of Australia when in 1964 the authorities found no evidence whatsoever to support allegations of Croat Ustashe violence towards individuals of Yugoslav nationality from which systematic or organised attacks could be inferred. Menzies’ resolve in protecting the rights of Croatian immigrants in Australia to cherish the very dream of an independent Croatia was a resolve not of a hater of communism but that of a politician who lived for the people, their rights and welfare.

In fond memory of Menzies, I quote a part of his speech in the Australian Parliament on 27 August 1964:

“…In the years since World War II, Australia’s immigration programme has brought to this country people from all parts of Europe with a diversity of historical and cultural backgrounds. Many of these people were refugees from oppression. Many derived from happier circumstances. This flow of new citizens has played an important part in building the nation. It is something, which has given us great satisfaction and we wish to see it continue. However, it is basic to our immigration policy that all these new citizens should be integrated as fully, and as quickly, as possible into Australia’s national life…

I turn now to the matter of immigration from Yugoslavia. To understand the attitudes of these migrants it is necessary to remind ourselves that this part of Europe has an exceedingly complex and troubled history. Yugoslavia emerged from the political settlements of World War I. It brought together as a union a number of southern Slav peoples including Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, under the Serbian King Alexander. The Serbs obtained their independence from the Ottoman Empire during the nineteenth century and were numerically the largest group in the new State. The Croats had formerly enjoyed a degree of autonomy within the Austro-Hungarian empire and retained a national identity dating back as early as the ninth century. Deep differences of religious, cultural and historical kinds have existed between the groups despite kindred racial origins.

Within the new State, the Croats sought a federal concept of government with a large degree of local autonomy. In 1928, the leader of the Croats, Stjepan Radic of the Croatian Peasant Party and two of his colleagues were assassinated in the Parliament in Belgrade (Serbia). This precipitated a profound breach between Serbs and Croats. The Croats developed strong agitation in support of independence. Peasant Party leaders taking their cause to the League of Nations. Some Croat Parliamentary representatives were arrested, others, among them Dr. Ante Pavelic, went into exile…

It is difficult for people coming to Australia easily to forget their historical backgrounds. Since the war a number of organisations opposed to the present Government of Yugoslavia have developed throughout the world amongst refugees and migrants from that country. It is understandable that some Yugoslav migrants of Croatian origin should continue to hope for the establishment of an independent Croatia and within a democracy like Australia they have right to advocate their views so long as they do so by legitimate means. I wish to make it perfectly clear that the vast majority of the migrants from all parts of Yugoslavia who have settled in Australia have proved to be law abiding, hard working citizens and a real asset to this country…

…So I make the Government’s position quite clear: This Government will not interfere with freedom of opinion. Equally, it will not tolerate any activities, which constitute a breach of the law.”

On this day in May we remember the innocent victims of communist crimes and we remember Sir Robert Menzies. Croatia today, perhaps more than ever before, needs politicians of Menzies’ caliber – politicians who know how to bring justice to the victims of communist crimes and fight against the communist agenda that still seeks to degrade and destroy the independence Croats paid for in rivers of blood. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)









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