Remembering “Bloody Easter” of 1991, Croatia

"Blood on Easter" newspaper photo report by Mario Profaca, 31 March 1991

An incident at the Plitvice Lakes, Croatia, at Easter time in 1991, marked the beginning of the Croatian Homeland War. This incident took the life of the Croatian Police Officer, Josip Jovic, the first Croatian casualty in what was to become a terrible war, a bloody war. Croatian people decided to secede from communist Yugoslavia and Serbians decided to stop the secession by any means.

On 29 March 1991, the Plitvice Lakes management was expelled by rebel Krajina Serb police under the control of Milan Martic (sentenced by ICTY to 35 years prison for war crimes in Croatia) supported by paramilitary volunteers from Serbia proper under the command of Vojislav Seselj (Serb, currently in ICTY on strings of war crimes in Croatia charges).

On Easter Sunday, 31 March 1991, Croatian police entered the national park to expel the rebel Serb forces. Serb paramilitaries ambushed a bus carrying Croatian police into the national park on the road, sparking a day-long gun battle between the two sides. During the fighting, two policemen, one Croat, Josip Jovic and one Rebel Krajina Serb, Rajko Vukadinovic, were killed.

Croatian freelance Jounalist Mario Profaca sent me yesterday a photo (above) of the front page of Slobodna Dalamacija newspaper 1 April 1991 with headline that reads “Blood on Easter”, with the photos he took at Plitvice at the time.

Profaca wrote yesterday: “… At that time, together with Croatian policemen, on 31st March 1991, I went to Plitvice in the early hours of the morning and there we found a large number of barricades from which the Serbian terrorists were shooting at all vehicles that were there. Josip Jovic was hit near the post office building, bullets shot through his bullet-proof vest and soon he was taken to the Ambulance van but died on the way to the helicopter. The same evening, 31 March 1991, in Split, the next day’s edition of the daily newspaper was out with the headline and my photo-report from the location and from that time in Croatian history this day is called the Bloody Easter.”

Saturday 31 March 2012 marked 21 years from that incident and a commemorative service held at Plitvice Lakes.

Croatian President Ivo Josipovic at Plitvice Lakes 31 March 2012 Photo Robert Fajt/cropix

Croatia’s president Ivo Josipovic attended the ceremony, which commemorated the death of Josip Jovic, and said: “Today we celebrate freedom, peace, courage, heroism, patriotism and justice. It was courageous and just to stand here in Plitvice and defend the Croatian homeland, win in Homeland War, protect the values that are part of our constitutional system”.

 We have challenges in our efforts and needs to ensure our citizens a better living standard, prosperity and to stop all those who would want to turn back the wheel of history. As it was courageous and just in the 1990’s to fight against Chetnik ideas just as it was in the 1940’s, so too today, when some want to turn back the wheel of history, we need to say no,” Josipovic said to those Serbs who are attempting to rehabilitate the WWII war criminal Draza Mihailovic.

Today we have to tell them no. Croatia will remain a diligent, just country focused on reconciliation and coexistence, democracy and human rights. We want to clearly say that those values do not go hand in hand with the ideas that fed aggression, death and undermined human rights.”

Your son is our hero,” Josipovic said to the late Josip Jovic’s mother, “your son is our son, your son is all these values we cherish and which we will leave for our children to inherit. Thank you for giving birth and for bringing up your son, thank you, thank you to all war veterans and to all who had taken part in the Homeland War, because you have all contributed immeasurably to our future.”

The 21st anniversary of the first casualty of the Homeland War and the operation known as Bloody Easter was also attended by War Veterans Minister Predrag Matic, many of those who fought in the war, and representatives of the Interior Ministry and the Armed Forces as well as two candidates for the May elections for leadership of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Darko Milinovic and Tomsilav Karamarko.

Lest we forget!

Ina Vukic, Prof.(Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Disclaimer, Terms and Conditions:

All content on “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is for informational purposes only. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is not responsible for and expressly disclaims all liability for the interpretations and subsequent reactions of visitors or commenters either to this site or its associate Twitter account, @IVukic or its Facebook account. Comments on this website are the sole responsibility of their writers and the writer will take full responsibility, liability, and blame for any libel or litigation that results from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment. The nature of information provided on this website may be transitional and, therefore, accuracy, completeness, veracity, honesty, exactitude, factuality and politeness of comments are not guaranteed. This blog may contain hypertext links to other websites or webpages. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of information on any other website or webpage. We do not endorse or accept any responsibility for any views expressed or products or services offered on outside sites, or the organisations sponsoring those sites, or the safety of linking to those sites. Comment Policy: Everyone is welcome and encouraged to voice their opinion regardless of identity, politics, ideology, religion or agreement with the subject in posts or other commentators. Personal or other criticism is acceptable as long as it is justified by facts, arguments or discussions of key issues. Comments that include profanity, offensive language and insults will be moderated.
%d bloggers like this: