Croatia and The Relentless Serbian Aggression Against It

Planned and organised exodus of Serbs who never wanted an independent Croatia from Croatia in August 1995

Serbia’s aggression against Croatia in the past three decades wears a political and morally corrupt cloak, chipping away at the glorious Croatian victory over the brutal and genocidal Serb aggression in the early 1990’s.  

The fact that Croatia’s government, despite its loud rhetoric in challenging Serbia’s new indictments for alleged war crimes of four Croatian 1995 Operation Storm pilots fails to stop, or even reprimand, its Serb coalition partners for their barracking for Serbia in this matter is a rude reminder that this Croatian government is hypocritical and dishonest, especially towards the suffering and sacrifices Croatians endured because of Serb aggression. A truly just response would be to cease government coalition with minority Serbs who were associated with Serb aggressor and who degrade Croatian war veterans and who have consistently been trampling over the glory of Croatian victory in defending Croatia from the genocidal Serb aggression.

The Zagreb based N1 TV has Monday 20 August 2022 published parts of the Serbian indictment against Croatian pilots engaged in battles during Operation Storm in August of 1995 that was successful in swiftly liberating a part of Croatia from brutal Serb occupation that held ground since 1991 and had ethnically cleansed the area from all Croats and other non-Serbs. Then, following orders from Serbia and rebel Serb leadership in Croatia some 200,000 Serbs, who never wanted an independent Croatia and mostly sided with rebel Serbs and Serb aggressors (those Croatian Serbs who fought with Croatia defending it from Serb aggression never fled or exited) left Croatia for Serbia, which happening Serbia has called ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Croatia. Make no mistake, Serbia and Slobodan Milosevic regime planned and staged this exodus for Serbia’s political agenda. There is no doubt in the mind of many professional war analysts as well as Psychologists that, once Croats were successful in liberating their land the Serbs, including so-called civilians, feeling guilty and being guilty of crimes against Croats, fled in fear of retribution for their crimes and brutal aggression and ethnic cleansing and murders and rapes… The indictment for alleged war crimes against the four pilots, Vladimir Mikac, Zdenko Radulj, Zeljko Jelenic i Danijel Borovic, is reportedly a 26-page document issued in Belgrade on 31 March 2022 and upheld by the Belgrade Appeals Court in mid-August 2022, and reeks of Serbia’s desperate and consistent attempts to deny its own genocidal aggression against Croatia in the 1990’s and to whitewash its heinous war crimes there.

While the Croatian government headed by the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ and Andrej Plenkovic as Prime Minister keeps as his deputies in government coalition Croatian Serbs (such as Boris Milosevic and Anja Simprega and holds Milorad Pupovac close) the same persons are conducting Serbia’s political and other interests rather than Croatian ones in Croatia. They do not accept nor condemn Serbia’s brutal aggression against Croatia! They do not embrace the truth that Croatia was placed in the position of self-preservation, defending the lives of its people, in the face of Serb aggression that was brutal, indiscriminate, wanton and genocidal, worse than what we see these days in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic assessed Thursday 25 August that the indictment against four Croatian pilots for alleged war crimes against civilians during the Operation Storm was “politically staged” and said that Serbia must face its past. Prime Minister Plenkovic recalled that a few months ago they met with the accused pilots and told them that they would protect them in this context. “We believe that this entire indictment is a politically staged indictment, and we look at it that way. (…) Serbia needs to face its past, with the effects of the Greater Serbian aggression of the Slobodan Milosevic regime on Croatia,” said Plenkovic.

Croatia was a victim of aggression, the Homeland War had a liberating character and our defenders, our pilots will be under the special care of the Croatian state in this context, and we will find an appropriate way to react to this whole situation, he added.

Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlic Radman also asserted that the indictments from Serbia against Croatian pilots and the announced indictments against two Croatian generals were politicised. “All the indictments from Serbia have been politicized, The Hague has had its say,” he told reporters at the two-day annual conference of Croatian diplomats at the Westin Hotel in Zagreb Thursday 25 August.

Croatian President Zoran Milanovic also publicly addressed the indictments against Croatian pilots on August 24.

“We have another reason for the meeting of the National Security Council. This was done by official Belgrade, not some independent prosecutor’s office…” Milanovic said.

“Prosecutors are otherwise doubtfully independent. In some countries they are, in some countries they are, and they are not. In Belgrade, they are as independent as those ladies who experimented with centrifugal force in Brooklyn and Harlem and the Bronx while twirling a purse around their hand. That’s about the kind of independence we are looking at there. Until the pimp comes. And the pimp is always around. It’s pimping, not an independent prosecution,” Milanovic said.

“Good will is being shown so that the story about the war in which Serbia attacked Croatia finally stabilises, and then poof. Here’s the indictment. The topic is important for the Council to harmonise the position of how we will react. I should now react from the knees, from the hips,” he said and continued:

“Aleksanader Vucic (President of Serbia) and his colleagues have decided that now is the time to indict four wartime commanders. I don’t want to discuss this because Serbia has no jurisdiction. We can indict President Vucic because he ran amok on the territory of Croatia, not on the Petrovac road , as in Branko Copic’s song, on which some children died. I am sorry for that, but the Croatian commanders cannot be responsible for that,” says Milanovic.

Excerpts of the Serbian indictment state, among other things, that the indictees, “by violating rules of international law defined by the Geneva Conventions, ordered – and their orders were carried out – air attacks on civilians not participating in hostilities”, who should be treated humanely in every situation, without any discrimination based on ethnic background, and protected from any form of violence. Ten civilians including four children were killed in the shelling over the column that formed Serb exodus from Croatia between 4 and 7 August 1995.

Croatian renowned historian and author and authority on Homeland War, Dr Ante Nazor, said recently that “first of all, one should express regret for every innocent victim who died, especially when it comes to children, but all the evidence that has been publicly presented so far cannot call into question the key and undoubted fact that military vehicles and weapons of the Serbian Army of Krajina (SVK) were attacked in to the circumstances of combat action during the military operation, which means that for collateral civilian casualties, regardless of whether the column was attacked by a Serbian or Croatian aircraft, those who allowed the military vehicles and equipment of the then self-proclaimed Serbian Republic of Krajina army to withdraw together with the civilians are primarily responsible…”

It is mind boggling how the Serbian authorities have the gall to claim that there were civilians under the alleged attacks who did not participate in hostilities. How would they know if military equipment and members of Serbian army were together with those who appeared to be civilians. The truth on the ground, while the aggression lasted, was that most Serbs who fled in August of 1995 who appeared as civilians after the victorious Operation Storm would most likely not fit the definition of a civilian. Most aided and abetted any which way they could the Serb aggression against Croatia, including political agitation that encouraged many to kill and destroy, not to speak of attacks, intimidation, threats, beatings … of Croatians living in the areas they proclaimed Serbian Republic.

The indictment underlines that the then conflict in Croatia’s territory did not have the character of an international conflict because parties to the conflict were the Croatian Army and the Croatian Ministry of the Interior on one side and units of the army of the so-called Republic of Serb Krajina on the other. Serbia obviously does not even care that the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia had in fact declared the conflict an international conflict and, hence, only on that basis did it have jurisdiction to prosecute Croatian Generals who were acquitted of war crimes indicted with in 2013! Serbia omits the fact that Krajina rebel Serbs in Croatia perpetrated horrors over the Croatian population in service of Serbia’s pursuits in creating a Greater Serbia.

Since neither Serbia nor Croatia allows the extradition of their citizens, the indictment proposes that the indictees Vladimir Mikac, Zdenko Radulj, Zeljko Jelenic and Danijel Borovic be tried in their absence.

Serbia’s War Crimes Department further insists that it has jurisdiction over the case as to the substance of the matter, in line with Article 3 of its Act on Organisation and Jurisdiction of Organs of State, which says, among other things, that Serbian state organs defined by that law have jurisdiction over crimes committed in the territory of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, regardless of the nationality of the perpetrator or the victim.

Croatia rejects that, rightfully and correctly so.

The Croatian government and senior state officials have, in the meantime, stressed on several occasions that Croatia does not recognise Serbia’s jurisdiction in the case. Again, one wonders why Croatian government bothers with having Diplomatic relations with Serbia. Serbia will never accept its guilt or Croatia’s victory over Serb aggression. I, for one, will be keeping an eye on this case if the indictments against the pilots go to court in Serbia. Ina Vukic   

Dr Jure Burić – An Interview: “Croatians will continue paying a heavy price until lustration happens!”

Interview by Ina Vukic

October this year will mark 30 years since the beginning of the siege of Dubrovnik and its surroundings and the bombing of its walls and vital structures, which culminated on 6 December 1991; the deaths of civilians and soldiers. You were the war commissioner of the Republic of Croatia at the time when the Yugoslav Chetnik aggression indiscriminately hit the city and its people with its murderous weapons and intentions. How much do you vividly remember those days of the attack on Dubrovnik, and can you tell us what was going through your mind the most at that time?

In summer of 1991 a decision was made by the Municipal Council of the City of Dubrovnik, in fact the then Municipality of Dubrovnik to accept and take in refugees from Vukovar. Our people from Vukovar were offered accommodation and holidays in all our hotels. Other places by the sea did the same, offering free accommodation to a certain number of refugees for a certain period of time. At my suggestion, which was unanimously accepted (I was then leading “social” matters on the Council), we offered all refugees from Vukovar accommodation for an unlimited number of people and for an unlimited period of time – not knowing that we, ourselves, would soon become refugees, and our citizens of Vukovar were shelled once again!

All resources from the Red Cross, Caritas, hotels, associations, … were made available and after the public announcement, we prepared for the reception of numerous refugees. Very soon, several thousand of unfortunate people found themselves in Dubrovnik. We selflessly wanted to help them in their suffering and alleviate the sad fact that their husbands, fathers, brothers, relatives … remained in their city defending it and losing their lives for it.

How profoundly distressing were the testimonies of women and children who escaped from the hell of war and found refuge with us. We organised swimming lessons for them, all kinds of events, sports competitions, to try to at least alleviate a little bit their grief for their fathers and their city. We regularly followed the events in Vukovar and found ourselves slowly preparing for the defence of our city – in case it became necessary.

One part of our people based their defence strategy on the fact that the City would not be attacked (after all, who would dare attacking the Pearl of the World and the UNESCO-protected city!). One part of our people, including myself, based their defence strategy on another fact and that was that our neighbours were not so smart and that there would be attacks.

Fear and unrest were felt in the City. An interesting event took place at a larger gathering (a full cinema hall right in the centre of the old town). Speakers lined up and each in their own way “analysed the situation” and fearing the fate of Vukovar. At one point of such fear and uncertainty, my compatriot from Velja Međa-Andrija Oberan, came up to the podium.

What will he say now – I’m really interested, I thought.

And Oberan began:

‘My people, I came to this city in torn trousers twenty years ago – following my belly for bread. I didn’t really have much schooling and I applied for work on a building site. The first morning I saw people around me making some agreement between them and collecting money, so I asked what it was about and if I could participate as well?’ ‘You can, Vlach,’ they told me. ‘We are collecting money for brunch’! ‘And what is a brunch?’

‘Well, it’s something like your breakfast, you Vlach.’

‘Okay, here’s the money, and what will be for that brunch’

‘White kidneys,’ they replied.

After a while, a car comes in and a large pot was taken out of the trunk, and I approached to see what the white kidneys were! I lift the lid and see – well, my people, these are testicles!

Now, whoever has balls, let him not be afraid of war, and who has white kidneys – I can’t help him! – That was the shortest and best speech I heard in those times!

Bombing of Dubrovnik, December 1991

In your opinion, what was your role in the fight for freedom, for the independence of Croatia?

It was felt that the war would not bypass us either. The Government of the Republic of Croatia had appointed me as the “War Commissioner for Southern Croatia” – one of six War Commissioners in the country!

And? On October 1, 1991, in the early morning hours, the first grenade fell on Dubrovnik.

On the same date, the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) began with the ritual burning of my birth house in Ravno (Herzegovina), which was, of course, thoroughly looted by Serbs and Montenegrins before that. As it was then – so it is today – unrestored and without a roof. However, “journalists” have long ago renovated it and luxuriously equipped it – so much about our objective “journalism”!

So that is the date of the beginning of the war in BiH, and not the few months later as Alija Izetbegović said – when the shelling of Sarajevo began!

It is interesting that in Dubrovnik, the first victim of the Serbian grenades was one

honest and good man in his home Miličević- a Serb! Civilian of course!

Were the people around you, and you, fully committed to the goal of Croatian independence?

In all this difficult time of hopelessness, there was still hope. We trusted our President Franjo Tudjman and our brave defenders. We knew that we would defend and organise our Homeland in the way that befits a Croatian person. In a report for HTV, I told the deceitful and inconsistent world: with your eyes on the Croats, you remain deaf and blind and dumb, but know that these tortured old men and hungry children will not give you peace, and the public will condemn you that you could have prevented this war – and you did not!”

And a message to the aggressors – Serbs and Montenegrins:

“When you think that you killed the last man from the ruins, the hand of the Croatian defender will be raised, and he will spoil your plans”!

How would you describe the Croatian spirit of the 1990’s?

The Croatian spirit in those difficult times was constant, strong, unbreakable. It drew its strength from the fact that we were getting stronger every day and increasingly armed despite the will of the world. Thomson’s “Čavoglave” was sung by both old and young, fuelled by strength and hope for our better tomorrow in togetherness. We extended a hand of reconciliation to our former persecutors, following President Tudjman’s advice that we must all be one, because that is the only recipe for success.

I caved in, inside, and extended my hand to the man whose hand beat my late friend Bruno Busic, because he was now a true Croatian defender who was ashamed of his unreasonable act. And everything somehow “was in tune” until the former communists, seeing that nothing bad would happen to them, got stronger.

Then they spat on that outstretched hand, and they still spit on it today.

How would you describe the Croatian spirit of today?

I wrote this poem at the time of the strongest Serbo-Chetnik and Montenegrin aggression against Croatia, when the “Red Army Barracks” threatened Osijek, and General Branimir Glavas awakened hope, when they killed Vukovar and the heroic defenders led by General Blago Zadro, when they destroyed Dubrovnik … while General Mirko Norac defended Gospić, when the five-pointed star polluted our Blue Adriatic …… autumn 1991.

THE SAME MESSAGE WAS VALID THEN AND IS VALID TODAY !!! – TO US AND TO THEM!

WE ARE ALL READY FOR CROATIA!

When at dawn the first ray,

Caresses the blue sea

And it illuminates your rivers

The golden fields of your mountain

When it awakes the Lika wolf

Herceg Bosna angry snake

And a pirate from the Neretva

Let them in if they can.

Vucedol dove

Zrinjski Castle, Senj Tower

Sinj Alkar calls the Fortress

If they are allowed, let them in

From Velebit the fairy is calling

I greet you, Dubrovnik

Beautiful Istria and the Littoral

Slavonia and Zagorje

Posavina, Dalmatia

Wake them all up

He sang a song of paradise

We are all READY FOR CROATIA!

You were the County Prefect (Župan) and you were a member of the Croatian Parliament, and as far as I remember, among other important things, you once asked for the termination of cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, at least temporarily. Your request was not implemented, can you tell us something about that?

I served as the first prefect (župan) of Dubrovnik-Neretva County – honourably and responsibly trying to respect all people, and to those from the international community who visited me very often and insisted on reconciliation with the aggressor, I made clear what kind of reconciliation was possible.

I would tell them that, when the time came, Croats would forgive, but know that they will never forgive themselves if they allow something similar happen to them in the future.

On one occasion I asked them if they had heard of the “school of democracy” in Dubrovnik founded at the very beginning of the war. Of course they had not heard of it, and they remained amazed. Then I told them – on the day when the first grenade fell on Dubrovnik, we founded that school and we were professors, not students, because there were Serbs in the same shelter with us – probably relatives of those who sent us those grenades, and that not a hair fell from their heads, while their property remained intact. Find me just one example of such warfare in the whole world?!

And when they told me that they were worried about how the Serbs from Trebinje would feel one day on Stradun (Main street in Dubrovnik), I answered them very vividly: I guarantee you much better and more comfortably than the Germans in Paris ten years after the end of the Second World War!

This is where communication would usually end, and I would report it to my President Tudjman at the earliest opportunity – just in case. The President would not be angry with me – on the contrary, he was glad that someone could say something, and he for understandable reasons could not.

Dubrovnik, December 1991

You were an important member of HDZ Party from its conception until 2018, when you withdrew from membership, and the Croatian media published, among other things, one of your messages to HDZ, which read “You have become a ‘spiritual Chernobyl’ in the Croatian people.” Please tell us something about your decision to leave the party into whose fabric you been woven for decades.

In those times I couldn’t even dream that the Cyrillic alphabet would return to Vukovar, that we will ratify the Istanbul Convention, because of which I withdrew from the HDZ party in 2018. That we would silently send our generals to The Hague, believing that this court will be fair! But in fact, The Hague was for The Hague! By joining the HDS (Croatian National Assembly – that was its official name at the time), I only continued to fight for the national interests of my people.

In the meantime, the STATE one got lost?! Why? Realising all the ugliness of the court in The Hague, I asked for the termination of cooperation with such a court. I also demanded a ban on the introduction of the Cyrillic alphabet in two cities in Croatia – Knin and Vukovar, because of all the evil that had happened to the Croatian man in those cities. Unsuccessful of course.

This is what I wrote to the HDZ leadership in 2018 as my resignation from membership:

“I would like to be wrong, but I already see that the Istanbul Convention will be ratified by the Croatian National Parliament, and so that I do not wait for this joke to play out, which in fact is a tragedy – I am honestly sad that you forced me to this act, I have decided:

I, Jure Burić, a retired doctor and politician, and my wife Ljiljana Burić, a proud Croatian mother of five of our children with an address in Dubrovnik, no longer want to be members of the HDZ party.

We do not want to be your co-chairs, because you are no longer followers of its founder, Dr. Franjo Tudjman.

I came into politics from the position of head of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Cervicofacial Surgery at the Hospital in Dubrovnik.

While the late President was still alive, I performed many honourable duties in the Croatian state. First as a War Commissioner (one of six in Croatia) for Southern Dalmatia, then the chief of war ambulance for the same area, the first mayor of Dubrovnik-Neretva and finally a representative in the Croatian State Parliament – that’s what Parliament used to be called!

We leave the party because we are

Ashamed of

your arrogance,

your hypocrisy,

your contempt,

your inconsistencies,

your servitude,

your cowardice,

your greed for positions,

your waiver of

GOD’S LAWS.

You have become a ‘spiritual Chernobyl’ in the Croatian people.

WE ARE ASHAMED BECAUSE YOU HAVE LOST SHAME!

Persistently beyond all reason and even though the Holy Father Pope Francis, Kaptol, Croatian bishops, the Croatian people together with their respected Croatian intellectual sons, members of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, who have CLEARLY decided AGAINST THE RATIFICATION OF THE ISTANBUL CONVENTION you still claim that it is a ‘deeply Christian act’ and that you are on the same side as the church?

AND, ratifying the Istanbul Convention with a gender ideology is a SATAN job and NOT a Christian act, which offends every follower of Jesus and an honourable Croat.

You are persistent in claiming that your ‘interpretation’ gives security to the Istanbul Convention from non-implementation of gender ideology, and you know that it is an ordinary pamphlet, a legally worthless paper with which you only rub people’s eyes (after all, why distance yourself from something – what is missing ?!)

Well, you will not anoint ours and that is why with this act we stop being members of a party that has nothing to do with its founder, the late President Dr. Franjo Tudjman.

God enlighten your mind!

One day, when, with God’s help, Tudjman’s honourable follower does come, if we are still alive, he can count on us.”

Bombing of Dubrovnik 1991

Do you think that the composition of the Croatian Parliament has changed since you left it and if so how?

With the death of President Tudjman, everything turned upside down. The people have chosen the people who will lead the state and state policy from the ranks of former communists who never had love for the Croatian state.

They don’t even have it today!

Because had they had it, they would not have passed such laws and they would never have ratified the Istanbul Convention, from which, by the way, Istanbul itself has recently withdrawn!

Why do my people accept the abnormal as normal – it’s not clear to me nor will it ever be!

Do you think that Croatian politicians in the functions of the legislative and other authorities were and remain irresponsible towards Croatia and the values ​​of the Homeland War after it completely ended with the peaceful reintegration of eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmia in 1998?

Have we accepted the Brussels dictatorship in place of the Belgrade dictatorship? Have we lost our national pride and common sense?!

Why don’t we look up to the Hungarian President Orban and the Poles. Why do we reject our faith and our nation?

Why are we again “good servants of bad masters”!

We did something wrong in these “Lead times”. I know what!

We had to implement LUSTRATION at all costs after the end of the war (since we couldn’t or were not permitted to do before!). Yes – lustration – so, that way, it could not happen that our politics is run by people from the former communist system. Every, even the smallest cooperation with UDBA needed to prevent such “minds” from participating in the government of the Croatian state!

We didn’t do that, and we are paying the price and will continue paying a heavy price until the moment lustration happens!

Another evil that is equally important is theft.

Theft that has crept into all the pores of our lives. Both political and economic ones.

People no longer have human shame and God’s fear. All that matters is money, and how to get it – who cares. Handcuffs around the wrists of our political leaders and respected fellow citizens are becoming something that seems normal, and no one is surprised anymore at such sights.

Have these people ever gone to church and listened to sermons. I also bear a grudge towards the people of the Church. They are not consistent, they have ceased to be Stepinac’s followers, and how could they not be when their chief asks for the opinion of Bishop Irinej on Stepinac’s holiness. God forbid that this chief was there instead of St. John Paul II, because he too would perhaps ask that Bishop if he can and should he recognise the independence of Croatia.

There is no authority in the Church, no authority in the State, people’s memories removed, and, regardless of this, I still trust in God’s providence and His intervention, and hence, I do not lose hope and believe in a more certain future of my Croatian people!

When it comes to Croats, what do you dream about?

I no longer have dreams. I have dreamed all my dreams. Thanks be to God, I have received my beloved Croatia, healthy and in my mind. Stipe or Ivo can lead her … anyone, but they must know and confront the fact that it is mine, not their Croatia, that it was created in the blood and unseen love of her best sons! I want to keep her like that in my mind and with such a desire one day stand before the Lord!

———————–

ABOUT: DR. JURE BURIĆ – Born 1946 to Croatian parents in Ravno, Bosnia and Herzegovina; studied Medicine at University of Zagreb, Croatia; specialised in Otorhinolaryngology; participated in the Croatian Spring uprise of early 1970’s for greater autonomy and freedoms of Croatia within Yugoslavia; Former Mayor of Dubrovnik, Former Croatian War Commissioner for Southern Croatia during Croatia’s Homeland War; Chief of Crisis Headquarters for Dubrovnik; First and Former District Prefect (Župan) for Dubrovnik and Neretva Region of Croatia; former Member of Croatian Parliament.

Easter In Croatia – 2021 Looking Back To 1991

(R) Josip Jovic, the first casualty in Croatia’s 1990’s pursuit for independence. (L) Giant and magical Easter eggs proudly on display in front of Zagreb Cathedral 2021

Easter of 2021 is the second Easter of most difficult times many have seen when it comes to celebrating togetherness, together. The pandemic is the culprit. At Easter we usually crowd the churches, and, in our homes, we gather so that we can all experience the spirit of contemplation during the greatest celebration of Christianity. This year many across the world will not have this togetherness in physical presence but the soul, the heart and the mind connect and stay connected, cementing the love and joy in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

My thoughts and the thoughts of multitudes in the Croatian diaspora are with our first Homeland, Croatia. Croatia is being tested once again as the third wave of Covid-19 looms and threatens the very existence of community life in the coming months. And so, the Homeland and the diaspora shall remain united with faith and optimism.

Croatian diaspora keeps the Homeland in its heart and draws strength from Croatia, which feeds identity and belonging like little else in life. This source of strength in most difficult times has been proven a thousand times and we are familiar with the strength Croatian diaspora offered when defending Croatia from brutal Serb aggression became a matter of life and death. It was Easter 1991 when the first blood was shed in the goal of Croatia’s freedom and in preserving Christian identity, away from communist Yugoslavia.

Croatian diaspora’s love for Croatia is the compass that guides us in the crossing of any difficult road of life. On reflecting upon Croatia’s history, the sufferings and the sacrifices for freedom one may indeed compare this pain with the pain and suffering Jesus Christ endured on his torturous way to the Calvary. But just like Easter Day, the day of His resurrection, as we imbibe Croatia’s lush beauty, wine and cuisine cultivated by centuries of tradition in celebrating Christ, the utmost sacrifice and pain in achieving victory for its independence, we find that history never tasted so good; just as faith never tastes so good as it does at the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

At Easter 2021 it is inevitable for Croatians to contemplate on Easter 1991 with great sadness but also exquisite joy at what would be achieved once torture of bloody aggression was suffocated and victory came like resurrection of the Croatian thousand-year dream. Freedom and independence.

Easter of 1991 became to be known as Bloody Easter (“Krvavi Uskrs”). Every year, 31st March marks the anniversary of the death of Josip Jovic, the first Croatian defending Croatia killed in the Homeland War. He sustained fatal wounds in the area of Plitvice Lakes when Serb rebels mounted a vicious onslaught against Croatia’s efforts to pursue a path of secession from communist Yugoslavia. This incident of recent Croatian history hinted that the battle for Croatian freedom and independence would be difficult and bloody. It is this tragic event that will go down in our history as Bloody Easter.

Croatian peoples’ intention to get out of communist Yugoslavia and become a sovereign, independent State had accelerated during 1990 as changes on the political landscape saw new political parties formed towards a democratic future, Croatia’s Constitution being written, Croatia’s diaspora connected to help fight for democracy and on 30th May 1990 Croatia held its first session of a democratic Parliament, inaugurating the Croatian Parliament. A section of Croatia’s Serbs who did not want to be a part of independent Croatia even though, overall, they were a minority in Croatia, grew into terrorist formations and in October 1990 proclaimed a part of Croatia their so-called “Serbian Autonomous Region of Krajina” (SAO Krajina). Ethnic cleansing and abuse of Croatians living in that region was evidently on the cards.

The day prior to the Bloody Easter incident at Plitvice Lakes in 1991, Serbian extremists and rebels in that region organised the so-called “rally of truth”, demanding that the Plitvice Lakes National Park remain part of the rebel Serb freshly self-proclaimed and so-called SAO Krajina. The next day, another illegal decision to dismiss the management of the National Park and the beginning of terrorising non-Serb workers followed. A bus full of Serb extremists from Knin had arrived in the Plitvice area, known worldwide for its natural beauty and under the protection of UNESCO. Serb rebels entered the administrative building of the National Park, blocked the main public road to the south, to the so-called SAO Krajina, at dawn the SAO Krajina flag was found raised at the Korana River bridge in the area.  

These events at Plitvice called for immediate intervention. The young Croatian police force had a task of establishing order and peace in the park area. However, before dawn on March 31, rebel Serbs ambushed a convoy of vehicles with Croatian special forces on the main route not far from Plitvice hotels.

Gun fire opened from the surrounding forest, and an anti-tank mine entered the bus full of Croatian police officers, which fortunately did not explode due to an unpulled fuse. This was followed by the police officers’ hurried exit from the bus, lying down by the road, opening fire in the direction from which the shooting came and slowly advancing through the thick fog and deep snow that surrounded Plitvice that Easter.

The conflict lasted for several hours. Unfortunately, in the action, an enemy bullet fatally wounded 22-year-old Croatian policeman Josip Jovic, a member of the Special Tasks Unit of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Croatia, Rakitje. Despite the quick intervention by the ambulance medics, Jovic died from wounds on the way to the hospital. A dozen more Croatian police officers were wounded.

Serb rebels issued an ultimatum to Croatian forces to leave Plitvice. But that was resolutely rejected. Although the action of the special units of the Ministry of the Interior in Plitvice was of a limited character, and in the totality of all future horrendous events of the Homeland War it was relatively small in scope, but it was the first such action of defending Croatia, above all successful, which far exceeds its importance in armed terms.

Croatians stood their ground to defend their people and land at Easter 1991. A show of remarkable and extraordinary love of Homeland was set in action then. The faith in the Croatian nation that smouldered and sparkled in the hearts for a thousand years was fortified, once again, by action of courage and love there at Plitivice Lake in 1991, at Easter! Let’s keep it that way – Croatia and its diaspora!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3)

Happy and Blessed Easter everyone!

Ina Vukic

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