Croatia: Distressing Taste Of Red

Celebrating 22 anniversary
of Croatian Operation Storm
in Knin 5th August 2017
Photo: Dusko Jeremez/Pixsell

As far as many are concerned, wearing a red dress (red being the colour symbol of communism that has mass murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent Croats until 1990) scored no positive points but those of unease for the president of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, at the official state celebration 5 August in the town of Knin of Croatia’s victory over Serbian aggressor and communist Yugoslav forces in 1995. This non-point-scoring of the red dress becomes particularly pertinent and offensive when, on the same day, arrests were made in the same town, at the same celebration, of several Croatian men including veterans, who fought in the 1995 liberating Operation Storm under HOS (Croatian Defence Force) insignia “Za Dom Spremni”, for calling out in pride “For Home Ready” (Za Dom Spremni) – the salutation persistently and wrongfully being associated with WWII Croatian Ustashe regime, by the former communists especially, even though its roots reach far beyond WWII into Croatian proud history!

While generally a red dress may look good and glamorous, on occasions like this one, where pride in victory over communism and bloody Serb aggression is celebrated, those in power must display absolute and thorough political and moral sensitivity to their people’s plights, to the plights for which thousands lost their lives while hundreds of thousands of Croats and other non-Serbs were ethnically cleansed from their homes and Croatia devastated. Evidently this was not the case in Knin on Saturday 5 August 2017. And that is sad and distressing!

5th August 2017 – 22nd anniversary of Croatia Victory Day also celebrating Day of Homeland Gratitude and Croatian Defender’s Day. Croatia’s entire political leadership, war veterans and about 8,000 people officially celebrated in Knin its victory over Serb rebels and Serb forces in 1995’s military Operation Storm.

 

Operation Storm was the time when Croatian defence forces proved to the world that David could still defeat Goliath.

And that is what the sentiment of these celebrations should have emanated.

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and parliament president Gordan Jandrokovic laid wreaths and paid their respects at the monument dedicated to the victory on Knin’s central square. Grabar Kitarovic said that Croatia hopes that one day even Serbs will celebrate Storm as the operation that “ended Greater Serbian aggression”. She said in her speech that she wishes to express her regret for the Serb victims of Operation Storm, continuing: “Croatian people did not want war and does not revel in anyone’s suffering. That’s why Croatian state makes an exemplary effort, with its own resources, to secure the return of all those who want to return. It does that despite the fact that the initiators of aggression against Croatia have not paid a single kuna or, more to the point, a single dinar for the restoration of everything that the Chetniks and the so-called Yugoslav People’s Army destroyed during the four years of artillery shelling, pillage and plunder. Hence, with full protection of national interests Croatia will give its full support for Serbia’s entry into the European Union.”

Croatia’s president Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic
in Knin on 5th August 2017
Photo: Net.hr

While reconciliation is a noble pursuit, in the case of celebrating Operation Storm, the end of Croatia’s horrific suffering at the hands of Serbs, talking of self-imposed victims on the side of the aggressor as if they were innocent victims is something that Croatian victims and defenders would find hard and painful to take. Particularly when it means that Grabar-Kitarovic’s talk of Serb victims in Oluja in effect gave a certain validity (undeserved) to Serbia’s commemoration for Serb victims of Operation Storm held in several towns and cities across Serbia on Friday 4th August, which commemoration denies Serb aggression, continues to promulgate lies about forced deportations of Serbs from Croatia and justifies Serb genocide and ethnic cleansing over the Croatian people when they set out to break away from communist Yugoslavia.

If one wants to achieve true and lasting reconciliation then it is essential to clearly delineate between the aggressor and the victim. The events around marking Croatia’s victory over Serb aggression, whether those in Croatia (where accent is given to the victim-hood of the aggressor) or those in Serbia (where Serb victim-hood is accentuated even though such was self-imposed), all give the sense of the undying political exercise of equating the aggressor with the victim. In every war there are victims on the side of the aggressor but it needs to be recognised and maintained that those victims would not be so if the aggression and the need to defend oneself did not occur in the first place. In that sense any Serb victims deserved no mention at Croatia’s victory celebration. The intention of Serb aggression in Croatia was to destroy Croatia and Croats and both the fighting forces and many Serb civilians participated in that destructive energy.

Croatia’s minister for veterans’ affairs
Tomo Medved (Second from R) in Slunj
Photo: Dnevnik 2017

Hence, when it comes to this year’s celebration of Operation Storm 1995 in Croatia I (and multitudes) place my preference on the one held in the town of Slunj where the Croatian minister for veterans’ affairs, Tomo Medved, said that the Croatian forces, in that magnificent military operation, succeeded in destroying the bloody feast of aggression and brought back the citizens from a four-year deportation.

We succeeded, we liberated all of the occupied regions, we made it possible for people to return to their homes, but we paid an enormous price for our freedom, 352 lives, in this area alone, of Croatian defenders and civilians,” Medved said before some 10,000 people.

Yes, Croatia has succeeded in winning the 1990’s military war imposed upon it by Serb and communist Yugoslavia aggressor, however, Croatia stands forced into decades long, largely unyielding, distressing battles against the remnants of communism that suffocate strong democratic progress and keep the distressing and utterly unfair push for equating the aggressor with the victim thriving. No more red dresses or shirts on occasions of official celebrations of Croatian victory over its aggressor, please! Ina Vukic

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