Croatian Community Of Diaspora Has With Its Ideology of Freedom Built Itself and Enormously Helped Create Today’s Free Croatia – No Interference Please!

Screenshot Sydney Morning Herald/Ambassador Betty Pavelich (L) Croats fleeing communist Yugoslavia 1945 Bleiburg Massacre (R)

Is it only the Australian Croats who are experiencing diplomats from Croatia dishing out to them patronising lectures and uninvited advice reminiscent of those from the failed communist Yugoslavia era, or is the Croatian diaspora of other countries experiencing the same interference? As we have been able to see from Australia in the last month or so, it has become evident that there is a significant reversal in the politics of the Republic of Croatia towards and against the ideals of the NDH/Independent State of Croatia of the Second World War, which ideals were, in essence, those of the aspirations and struggles for the independence of Croatia from any Yugoslavia, and that trend is being imposed on Australian soil, on its Croatian community, by Croatian government representatives. The Croatian community of Australia has always acted in accordance with the laws of Australia and has always been faithful to the ideal of an independent Croatia. Such interference and meddling by today’s evidently pro-communist authorities of Republic of Croatia through its Embassy with a community of a foreign, legally regulated country (in this case Australia) could be classified as undesirable, politically tendentious, and even legally inappropriate.

Namely, many of us have noticed from the Croatian media that in the last few months the Croatian state has changed its attitude and tolerance towards football fans’ outbursts that are associated with the NDH ideology. We read and heard how about twenty Croatian national team fans were detained and prosecuted for misdemeanours for singing an old Croatian marching cadence at a soccer match in Osijek (for the qualification of the Euro 2024 competition) which the Croatian police, the state, claimed was a marching cadence from the regime of the WWII Independent State of Croatia/NDH. The fact that this marching cadence has its origin in the 19th century in honour of the Croatian national hero Josip ban Jelačić, and not in the NDH, does not bear any significance for the Croatian state of today on its route of these new political persecutions of patriotic Croats. Croatian authorities pin this marching cadence to the WWII Independent Croatia just as they pin the historic salute For Home Ready (Za dom spremni) without regard to facts and truth that show different.

Then, several members of the Bad Blue Boys fan group, otherwise known as the “ultras” of Zagreb’s first division football club Dinamo, were treated in the same way. They also sang a similar song at the national championship match in Velika Gorica near Zagreb, probably as a sign of solidarity with those fans from Osijek, writes Igor Lasić of Deutsche Welle on October 30, 2023, and Zadarski list on October 31, 2023.

Then, before this, we all remember with profound unease the events from August 2023, when, according to reports from some Croatian media, the Croatian police informed the Greek state in advance and obviously with dishonourable intent, that dozens of Croatian fans of the Bad Blue Boys/BBB ultras group were on their way to Greece at the time when a soccer match was supposed to be held there and they were allegedly banned from attending matches, but not from visiting Greece. On the streets of Athens near the football stadium, a young Greek man was killed in a street crowd and the Greek police arrested everyone alive who was there, including dozens of Croatian Bad Blue Boys who were there and detained them on suspicion of participating in that murder. The police in Croatia arrested those who managed to escape from Greece and handed them over to Greece. Weeks passed in Greek prison until they were released home, cleared of all suspicions of participating in that murder. No doubt, Croatian politics are, because of the targeting football players and football fans to force upon the world the false image that WWII ideologies, i.e., neo-Nazism or Neo-Ustashism exist in Croatia today!

In Australia, too, the Croatian Community is experiencing similar finger-pointing and insinuations about some neo-Ustashism, or neo-Nazism, of Croatian football clubs that have always respected the political past and ideology of Croatia’s independence on Australian soil. Namely, in one of the major Australian newspapers, The Sydney Morning Herald, which is otherwise widely reputed in the wider Australian community as an ultra-leftist orientated newspaper that promotes such ideology, an article appeared on October 30, 2023 by journalists Simone Fox Koob and Ben Schneiders under the title “Celebrate players, not politics: Croatian ambassador wants soccer clubs to kick out ideology”. 

 Namely, that article referred to the speech by the Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia to Australia, Betty Pavelich, she gave some five or six weeks ago at the Croatian Football Tournament in Australia in Adelaide, after which, justifiably, numerous protests and criticisms appeared within the Croatian community in Australia. Many people asked: with what right does the Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia, who is in fact a temporary guest in Australia and who is not part of the Croatian Community, interfere in the community and gives advice that no one asked for? As usual, The Sydney Morning Herald, as anyone smart and familiar with that newspaper could have expected, used the content of her speech to paint the Croatian community in neo-Ustasha and neo-Nazi colours! The Australian Croatian Community has not experienced something like this, I was told, since the 1960s and 1970s, when the UDBA Secret Services of communist Yugoslavia operated on Australian soil tasked with denigrating and destroying the Croatian Community, that is, Croatian patriotism, with untruths and fabrications.

The fact is that Australian Croats do not have to do anything for their life in Australia that the Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia or any other country tells them to do. Australian Croats created social and football clubs, Catholic centres, and nursing homes for the sick and elderly, with their own efforts and money, guided by their ideology of an independent and free Croatia they carried from WWII era. With this ideology, the majority also fled from the communist-Yugoslavian ideology and everything they did as a community, they did and do in accordance with the laws of Australia. They certainly do not tolerate well when leftist politics impute against them an ideology they never held, i.e., Nazism. It is also a fact that these same Croatian men and women in Australia gave Croatia the freedom that the Ambassador is talking about, because they played a key role in the creation of the modern Croatian state in various ways and by making sacrifices. And the Croatian Ambassador to Australia omitted to acknowledge that in her speech. No mention in her speech of the fact that the Croatian palatial Embassy building and residence in Canberra she sits in was built with charitable donations and volunteer labour from Australian-Croatians that may well include several of those she now says are not welcome or are acting in undesirable ways to Croatia’s reputation! But I am not surprised because Croatian diplomacy for many years, since the death of Dr. Franjo Tuđman in late 1999, mostly ignores and belittles most of these freedom-building Croatian men and women in Australia (and elsewhere around the world). When did anyone experience in Australia that the diplomatic establishment organised ceremonies to explicitly thank all those Croatian men and women who gave their all so that Croatia could be free of communism and Yugoslav totalitarianism? Nobody has as far as I can see. But some may have come across a reception where the invited guests were mostly those who were nowhere near when Croatia needed help from its diaspora! I have nothing against the “new” people in the community, in fact I’m glad to see them, but I’m against it when those who are responsible for freedom of Croatia are ignored in the same process.

“The Croatian ambassador to Australia has told the community its soccer clubs need to take politics out of the game to protect the country’s reputation,” writes The Sydney Morning Herald. “Let us celebrate Croatia and let us focus on those who gave Croatia its freedom, as well as those who make us proud on the international soccer stage … We must take politics and ideology out of the game. We must work together to protect the reputation of our clubs, of our players, and of our homeland,” Sydney Morning Herald said that Ambassador Betty Pavelich among other things told the Croats of Australia about a month ago at a football tournament!

It seems to me that today’s authorities of the Croatian state are washing away their own sins, that is, the sins of communist crimes against Croats committed by the family ancestors of many, on the shoulders of that part of the Croatian people who, even in the Second World War and after it, only wanted a free and independent Croatia. The fact that loved ones of many from the Croatian community in Australia to whom ambassador Betty Pavelich now gives unsavoury and tendentious advice lie in mass graves and pits full of victims of communist crimes throughout Croatia and Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina has it seems eluded her. To forget that, to forget the ideology with which many were saved by fleeing brutal communist Yugoslavia, would mean breathing another breath of life into the failed communist ideology that even the European Union condemned but Croatia, the official state of today, does not. It is utterly unacceptable not to fight against the attempts by Croatian diplomacy to interfere with the lives and beliefs of its freedom-loving diaspora on the soil of its host country. Particularly so knowing that the heart of that patriotic diaspora was grown into human success stories through fleeing from communism and its crimes.

“Those of us who love the game (football) and who love Croatia must do everything in our power to protect the brand and the image,” The Sydney Morning Herald quotes Ambassador Betty Pavelich.

Oh, my goodness!

Where was she and where were her superiors in Croatia (Yugoslavia) when for decades upon decades after the World War Two despite persecution and vilification by communist Yugoslavia authorities – Australian Croatian Community did just that! Maintained its Croatian identity, built soccer and other clubs! Held love of Croatia close to their hearts always!

Heavy-hearted, because Croatia suffered enormously during 1990’s War of Independence from communist Yugoslavia, and because cruel history appears to be repeating itself with the aim to run down Croatia patriotism and colour it as neo-Nazism or neo-Ustashism, this seems like the right time to quote from Sir Robert Menzies, Prime Minister of Australia, speech from August 1964 in the Australian Parliament:

“…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 a 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…”

While the Sydney Morning Herald has not, it seems, asked Ambassador Pavelich what Croatia is doing to condemn the former communist totalitarian regime of Yugoslavia let it be known to Sydney Morning Herald, to the Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia to Australia, to all who care to note: the Australian Croatian Community together with its soccer clubs has always acted in accordance with Australian laws and its many members have contributed towards a better life for all in Australia and in Croatia. That is a fact recorded by history and no political ideals or pursuits can erase it! Ina Vukic

Free PDF Book Download Now Available – Esther Gitman’s “When Courage Prevailed: The Rescue and Survival of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia 1941-1945”, Second Edition

In 2011, she published ‘When Courage Prevailed: The Rescue and Survival of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia 1941-1945’ on the rescue of Jews in Independent State of Croatia and about the role of Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac. In 2019 she received the prestigious (Croatian) Order of Duke Branimir, Honoray Doctorate from University of Split Croatia and published a book titled ‘Alojzije Stepinac – Pillar of Human Rights’.  

Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Diaspora and Homeland/HAZUDD and

Croatian World Congress associations have worked tirelessly in the past couple of years to bring out the Second Edition of Esther Gitman’s acclaimed with significant historiographic and historical values book “When Courage Prevailed: The Rescue and Survival of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia 1941 – 1945”.  

This book in its full version of Second Edition, in pdf format, is now available for download or online reading at this link:  

In this book, against the terrible backdrop of Croatia’s fight for independence (from any form of Yugoslavia) during World War Two, the reader will find many clear and touching examples of how Croats, often with the knowledge and cooperation of the Ustashe regime’s officials, courageously subverted the government’s compliance with policies of occupying Nazi forces. For example, one of the things that made rescue possible was the designation by Ante Pavelic, the leader of the Ustashe and the Independent State of Croatia, that Jews whose professions were vital to Croatia’s national interest, and their families were termed ​“Honorary Aryans” and members of mixed marriages were also subsumed under this title. In relation to the now Blessed Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac the book takes the reader through various diplomatic correspondence, letters, and sermons.  Although Stepinac was convicted by the Communists, falsely accused of assisting the Ustashe in a highly political trial immediately after WWII, without the right to a defence, the facts of history researched and presented in this book justify Esther Gitman’s  portrayal of Stepinac as a courageous prelate who never forgot “his belief in moral law as a guiding principle”. She reminds the world that he believed there was only one race, the human race, and that he was the sort of man who requested that the eight Jewish priests and nuns in his diocese continue to wear the yellow Star of David despite an exemption as a sign of their “belonging to the people from which Our Saviour was born”. She provides irrefutable and factual historical documents that explain the conversion to Catholicism during those times of the Jews and the Orthodox who accepted the conversions; it was done at Stepinac’s instruction “in order to save human lives” with the explicit intent that they could “return to their church” when “this time of madness and savagery passes”.  

Dr Esther Gitman/ Photo: Ina Vukic

The Second Edition of this book, like the First one, will serve many a reader as an eye-opener to the history written by those who served the interests of communist Yugoslavia. This book shows us that many facts and truths about Croatia and Croats were, during post-WWII Yugoslavia, either covered up, twisted, or ignored on purpose. This book is a valuable reference and resource of a very important part of Croatian history that has worldwide reach and relevance. Ina Vukic        

Croatia – Ten Years In EU, No Confrontation With Communist Past And Jerusalem Post Is Not Helping

Croatian Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac statue in Zagreb (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

July 2013 Croatia became a member state of the European Union.

When the Jerusalem Post publishes an article about Croatia it often appears as a regurgitation of Jewish-Serb collaboration lobby that relentlessly stands on its hind feet, desperately guarding from view the mass extermination of Jews in World War Two Serbia, shouting about Croatia’s World War Two history as the Holocaust culprit in that region. To my knowledge, one has never read or heard from Jerusalem Post anything about World War Two and post-WWII massive victims of communist crimes.  

Such an appalling treatment of victims and victimhood is widespread in Croatia of today, also. Still, 32 years after seceding from communist Yugoslavia! Since year 2000 when former and then current communists took power in Croatia they work and act in the same ways as, say, evidently politically bent journalists of Jerusalem Post. Croatia today is still a bed of lies and a bed of denial of justice for all victims, regardless of which regime they were victims of. There are hundreds of thousands more innocent victims in Croatia of the communist Yugoslavia regime than of that of the WWII Croatian Ustashe regime. To talk of numbers and comparing numbers of victims is certainly not a just or fair way to approach victimhood by any measure. Even one victim is one too many. Croatia’s communist apologetics government and powers around it go even further – they permit celebrations of murderous communist former Yugoslavia regime, even participate in some while attempting to erase and denigrate the significance of victims of the Serb aggression in Croatia during 1990’s and the absolute importance of the Homeland War, which ushered Croatia into independence from communist Yugoslavia!

Official Croatia has not confronted itself with its communist past and at the same time employs all the “tricks in the book” to downplay and push away any scientific and historical research, based on historical records that used to be sealed and banned for access during the times of communist Yugoslavia, that expose the false Word War Two and post-War history of Croatia, written, of course, by the communists. So, official Croatia engages in what one might call confrontation with its past, selectively and while at it keeps breathing more lies into the already falsified history about the reported Holocaust in WWII Independent Croatia. Examples of this appalling protection of communist crimes can easily be seen in its ignoring of credible historical research by Esther Gitman (on Blessed Alojzije Stepinac’s rescue of Jews in WWII Croatia), Blanka M. Matkovic and Stipo Pilic (on camp Jasenovac, for instance, that remained open and functional after WWII and one can safely conclude that it was used as a killing field of Croats by Yugoslav communists), Igor Vukic (on historical documentation regarding numbers victims in Jasenovac camp during WWII), Roman Leljak (on horrific unearthing of mass graves of communist crimes victims),  and many more.        

On 7 April, 2023, the Jerusalem Post published an opinion article by Michael Freund “Croatia must confront its fascist past”. While there is no fascist past Croatia must account for because fascism was never a regime in Croatia per sé – not even during World War Two – there is a communist regime it must confront with and correct the purposefully wrong labelling of WWII Ustasha regime as fascist or Nazi. Michael Freund in his Jerusalem Post article claims that Croatia’s WWII Archbishop Blessed Alojzie Stepinac is” anything but blessed”! When one couples that with the fact that he, and Jerusalem Post, continue ignoring the fact that modern research (Dr Esther Gitman, who is of Jewish descent, in particular) has clearly shown Stepinac’s extraordinary engagement in rescuing thousands of Jews from sure death it is abundantly clear that Michael Freund’s opinion is saturated with anti-Croatian, anti-truth politics. One could easily dismiss his opinion as depraved and an attempt to promote sheer hatred.

In the above Jerusalem Post Michael Freund writes: “He (Alojzije Stepinac) served as the archbishop of Zagreb beginning in 1938 and was an ardent supporter of the pro-Nazi puppet regime established by Ante Pavelic, leader of the Ustashe fascist and ultranationalist organization in Croatia. Not once did Stepinac ever formally denounce in public the genocide perpetrated by the Ustashe against Jews, Serbs, Roma and others, and he keenly backed the forcible conversion of more than 200,000 Serbs to Catholicism.” Evidently, Michael Freund is parroting what his anti-Croatian Serbian and other mean-spirited friends have been saying, not even bothering to read historical facts that demonstrate that Alojzije Stepinac did on several occasions during WWII, to the threat of his own safety and life, speak publicly against the racial laws imposed in Croatia by the occupying forces of Nazi Germany. Michael Freund will tell you repeatedly that hundreds of thousands of Serbs were converted to Catholicism forcibly during World War Two Croatia but will not tell you the truth that such conversions were voluntary after Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac invited Serbs to convert from Orthodoxy to Catholicism (the same for Jews) in order to save their lives from persecution and peril. In the same “breath” Stepinac wrote that if the converted wished to revert to their religion after the danger of threat to their lives in the circumstance of Nazi Germany occupation, they would be free to do so!  

These historical facts and truths have been well published in the past twenty years at least, including in original documents provided by Dr Esther Gitman’s  books on historical research on this topic; but as sheer hatred would have it, such as the one Michael Freund seems to be enjoying dishing out, it is fair to say that Croatia cannot confront a past it did not have in the form Freund is trying to shove down our throats.    

Germany based Dr. Josip Stjepandic has also written a reply to Michael Frenud’s Jerusalem Post article of 7 April 2023 and it was as follows:   

“Michael Freund is the president of the Israel-Serbia Friendship Association. In this capacity, he sharply denigrates Croatia and Blessed Cardinal Stepinac in the article ‘Croatia must confront its fascist past’.

What appears to bother the author most is that Zeljana Zovko, a Member of the European Parliament, hosted a conference on Blessed Cardinal Stepinac, ‘Blessed Aloysius/Alojzije Stepinac – Testimony of Faith, Perseverance and Hope’, in the European Parliament.

‘Fascism, anti-Semitism, revisionism, evil regime, cruel distortion, obfuscate their country’s wartime role, neo-fascist songs penned by a far-right Croatian nationalist, Nazi salutes’ are mentioned here as examples of misbehaviour among the Croats. It can hardly be worse.

It is easy to see the extreme Serbs’ point of view in this article, for which Croatia and the Croats are to blame for everything. Such an article will probably make the author even more popular among Serbs, but it cannot in any way serve the interests of the State of Israel.

The facts paint a very different picture.

Croatia is an EU and NATO member and is fully integrated into Western alliances.

Almost 20 million tourists, including more than 60,000 from Israel, visit Croatia every year. No significant xenophobic or anti-Semitic incident is known to have occurred because Croatia is the country with the lowest crime rate in Europe. Other statistics also draw Croatia and Croats as very peaceful country and people to visit. It seems that the author had not done this. Otherwise, he would have seen that there is no trace of anti-Semitism in modern Croatia and probably wrote about Croatia quite differently.

The states of Croatia and Israel are now working together in many areas. Recently there is even a joint study of the University of Split and the Sapir Academic College, Hof Ashkelon, on ‘Democracy and Resilience in Modern Society’.

Unfortunately, the Holocaust also took place in Croatia, but in a completely different way from what the author portrayed. After Nazi Germany invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, the country was divided. In Croatia and Serbia, Hitler installed puppet regimes and dictated the rule of power. This also included the persecution of the Jews.

While Serbia was declared free of Jews (“judenfrei”) in 1942, and Croatian government at the time did not pursue that goal and about 9,500 of Croatia’s 39,500 Jews survived. How this came about, describes the book ‘When Courage Prevailed: The Rescue and Survival of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia 1941-1945’ by the Jewish-American historian Dr. Esther Gitman, who, like about 6,000 other Jews, owes her survival to the tireless efforts of Archbishop Stepinac.

Gitman draws a differentiated picture of the Independent State of Croatia: on the one hand, the terror imposed by the Nazis based on racial laws – on the other hand, 6 paths of humanity that led to the rescue of the Jews. As a result, every fourth Jew survived in Croatia, more than in almost any other country under the control of Nazi Germany. This is thanks to noble, brave Croats like Archbishop Stepinac. That would have deserved greater recognition in Israel, which unfortunately has not materialised so far.

Therefore, the State of Israel should thank Zeljana Zovko because she recalled this special merit of a Catholic bishop, who spoke out against the racial laws very early on and always repeated his opinion (e.g., New York Times: “CROAT ATTACKS GERMANS: Archbishop of Zagreb Denounces Their Theory of Race,” July 8 1943).”

Ina Vukic and Josip Stjepandic

(HAZUDD/ Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in the Diaspora and Homeland)

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