Commemorating Victims of Communist Crimes: If Only They Would Honour Victims By Seating A Few Victim Families In Front Rows

Croatia, Macelj, 13 May 2023 – Commemorating victims of communist crimes, victim families without due honouring as seated away from front rows (Photo: Screenshot)

It seems to me that I have spent half my life wondering “What and who does the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon association serve” (Počasni bleiburški vod) since the organisation of the commemoration of the victims of communist crimes of Bleiburg and the Way of the Cross was stolen from the Croatian diaspora and planted in Zagreb, riddled with former communist operatives. I see, namely, that these commemorations are organised in such a way that they induce the effect of diminishing the significance and horror of the victimhood, of several hundred thousand post World War Two victims!

At the commemoration of these victims of Yugoslav communism held in Donji Macelj on Saturday, May 13, 2023, I finally realised, with a heavy heart, that the most important thing in this commemoration to the organisers and sponsors are not the victims and their descendants (who are also victims) but the descendants of Yugoslav communist murderers or their ideology, for they sat in first rows, not the victims. They, not the descendants of the victims, sat in the first rows, closest to the altar from which Holy Mass in memory of the victims was said! So, in the first rows, on the chairs that signify honouring, not a single victim of that terrible genocide of the innocent Croatian people sat, not a single descendant of theirs! Most of the Croatian government sat there, and they were the first to be greeted! This year, as in previous years, the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon organised the commemoration according to the same pattern and under the sponsorship of the Croatian Parliament: the ruling elite in the first row, closest to the altar, and neither the piety nor the prayers for the victims were visible on their faces or lips from where I sat, along with numerous descendants of the victims. Archbishop of Zagreb Mon. Drazen Kutlesa, leading the Holy Mass, delivered a deeply moving speech focusing on the victims of the communist terror. In Macelj alone 10,000 of them in 130 mass graves so far unearthed. But the Catholic Church was not the organiser of this commemoration, nor of the seating arrangements.

When someone like me comes to Croatia from the so-called civilised world, where at similar commemorations the victims or their representatives are placed in the front rows, often next to the President of a country or the Prime Minister, then this Croatian commemoration leaves the impression of shallowness and superficiality of piety and lack of remorse on behalf of those murderers in whose Party they were once members. This Croatian commemoration was about elitism of those holding power in the country and not so much about demonstrating respect for victims and their families. This is very sad as far as I am concerned and deserves utter condemnation. 

Croatia, Macelj, 13 May 2023 – Commemorating victims of communist crimes, political elites, associated with communist murderers either through family or ideology seated in front rows (Photo: Screenshot)

An unpleasant impression was created that this commemoration created new victims (victims of the commemoration) because, well, those who are associated with communist ideology and regime terror that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent Croatian men, women, children and members of the Croatian Army that fought in the Second World War for independence of Croatia were sitting in places of honour during the commemoration; regardless of the fact that the European Union also condemned the communist totalitarian regime. They were not sitting there like those who have already publicly and vehemently condemned these communist crimes and erected monuments to their victims across the country. No, they still let wild grass and weeds grow over mass graves and around the openings of deep pits full of victim remains. 

To me and to most decent, compassionate people this arrangement of seating at the commemoration is perceived as glorification of the perpetrators of the crimes over the victims who are being commemorated, and a kind of license to continue belittling the victims and underplaying communist crimes in the public and state-official space. 

Universally, the right to truth is often invoked in the context of gross violations of human rights and serious violations of humanitarian law. The right to truth implies knowing the full and complete truth about the events that took place, their specific circumstances and the persons who participated in them, including knowing the circumstances in which the violations occurred, as well as the reasons for them. Not in official Croatia. Not about communist crimes. Given that the seating arrangement at the commemoration in Macelj is a measure for revealing the truth, then it seems that these victims will have to wait a long time for it. Unfortunately! 

There is an awful, most unpleasant on humanity’s level, political phenomenon gaining more and more momentum in Croatia. Creating havoc, social division, and heartbreak (especially for victims of heinous communist crimes that are tantamount to genocide). One would have expected the passing time and commemoration of victims would yield a tolerable peace of mind; calmness, forgiveness on national level. However, with the relatively widespread communist mindset in places of power, on local and national levels, the passing time has only brought more determination in those associated in the past with communist operatives to keep justifying and glorifying the atrocious communist crimes and keep labelling the victims and their families as Fascists or Ustashas; even if the latter do not exist and even if the victims were largely not Ustashas during World War Two, and Fascism as such did not exist as a regime in Croatia. The frequent celebration in Croatia of former Yugoslavia’s communist symbols and leaders on the streets of Croatia today is sickening. It is also incredulous that, since year 2000, Croatia has not produced leaders in power who would address this injustice and kick forward a decisive transition from communism.   

Today, 19 May 2023 marks 32 years since 1991 referendum with which Croatians said no to communism, no to Yugoslavia! That 94% “No” vote cost Croatia enormously – 1990’s Homeland War that ensued after Yugoslav Army and Serb aggression. Rivers of blood, rivers of ethnically cleansed Croats from their homes, unfathomable brutality of Serb aggressor and devastating destruction of homes and infrastructure. That, coupled with the arms embargo against Croatia at the time, compared to today and the persistent communist plague interfering with democracy and transition from communism imposes a certain kind of mass restlessness in those faced with such injustice that must, sooner or later, find catharsis. That is simply human nature.  Ina Vukić

Croatia: Tito’s Bloodthirsty Unpunished Genocide

The month of May is one of the most poignant months for Croatians. Patriotic Croats, those who fought for independence during and since World War Two commemorate the victims of communist crimes, the multitudes of thousands brutally murdered at Bleiburg (Austria) in May 1945 and the hundreds of thousands murderously purged post WWII (Way of the Cross), while the communists and former communists celebrate what they call their liberation of Croatia in May 1945! The historical fact remains that Croatia was not liberated, it was forced to remain as part of Yugoslavia and the weapon used for that was genocide and mass murders of Croats who rejected communism.  

8th of May 2023 the so-called antifascists in Croatia, communists actually, celebrated “their” liberation of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, on May 8th 1945. Sickening accolades to murderous communists/partisans rang painfully in our ears because the historical facts point to absolutely nothing that can humanely be celebrated. The remains of brutal murder of innocent Croats by the partisans, including children, filled mass unmarked graves on the fields around the capital as well as its main cemetery Mirogoj. The fact is that archived boxes of death records in the cemetery contain names of people, men, women, and children whose date of death is recorded as 8th May 1945.  These registers of deaths speak of 8th May 1945 as a very sad day for Zagreb, on which many innocent people murdered and suffered terribly. There are tens of mass graves around Zagreb, alone. All those deaths and massacres occurred on 8th May 1945. Does this signify liberation! Not by a long shot. Partisans had orders: locate the people on the list they were given, take them within the hour and kill them! This pattern of killing is found in records of all cities, towns, and villages in Croatia from 8th May 1945 onwards.

More than one thousand mass graves, many of which contain several thousand victims of communist crimes, have been unearthed in Croatia; more than 1800 when those unearthed in Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are counted. Yugoslavia’s Josip Broz Tito has been labelled by several credible academics and politicians across the world as among top ten mass murderers of 20th century

Zagreb was occupied, not liberated on 8th May 1945. Occupied in every possible way by genocidal communist forces as directed by communist Yugoslavia leader Josip Broz Tito using Stalinist communist methods that murdered some 36 million innocent Russian lives. After which a murderous totalitarian dictatorship followed in Yugoslavia.

The fact is that Yugoslavia was the most unsuccessful European country of the 20th century. There is no country in Europe, which is in its seventy years of existence, from December 1918 to January 1992, twice created and twice disintegrated in the seas of blood of its citizens. The first Yugoslavia (two versions of Kingdoms headed by Serbian Monarchy) lasted less than 22, and the other (communist Yugoslavia) for less than 47 years – together they survived less than the average life expectancy of European citizens. All possible economic and political arrangements have been tried in Yugosavia so that it could be preserved.  It was capitalist and socialist, monarchical and republican, genocidal and murderous, unitarist and federalist, pluralist and monistic, the king’s right-wing and the marshal’s left-wing dictatorship. She was in the West and the East, undecided and unaligned. Nothing helped. Yugoslavia fell in early 1990’s – rivers of blood just like during and post World War Two, but Croatia finally emerged free of the Yugoslav communist terror.

This genuine freedom though, is still being undermined and cut and disrespected. Instead of organising commemrations to victims of communist crimes during May 2023 the powers that rule Croatia celebrate false liberation! They are the participants in continued denial of justice to these victims! The occupation, not liberation, of Croatia in 1945 was initially physical, murders. Yugoslav/Partisan military forces killed many tens of thousands of Croatian, prisoners of war and civilians in Slovenia and Austria after the formal end of the war in 1945 and the slaughter continued for decades to come. This was not discussed in historiography and politics until the collapse of Yugoslavia in early 1990’s, partly because the state hid and erased the traces of its abominable crimes and because, through intimidation, it forced millions of inhabitants to remain silent – to live in a kind of schizophrenia in which they could not forget the past, and were not allowed to remember it. Then the communists turned to property, they sent innocent people to their deaths in order to steal their properties. The political occupation followed which was characterised by oppression, political prisoners, assasinations at home and in the diaspora of Croatian patriots and multitudes fleeing the country to the West in fear for their lives.

In June 2006 the Croatian Parliament adopted bz a large majority the DECLARATION ON THE CONDEMNATION OF CRIMES COMMITTED DURING THE TOTALITARIAN COMMUNIST REGIME IN CROATIA 1945-1990. Given today’s developments and those after that year in which former communists took more and more power in Croatia for whose independence they spilled not a single drop of blood, includes the following paragraphs: 

„… 4. The fall of totalitarian communist orders (regimes) in Central and Eastern Europe was not in all cases, and not even in the case of the Republic of Croatia, accompanied by national and/or international investigations of the crimes committed by those regimes. In fact, the perpetrators of these crimes were not brought before the court of the international community, as was the case with the terrible crimes committed by National Socialism (Nazism).

5. As a consequence, there is a very low level of awareness among the public of former communist countries, including the Croatian public, about crimes committed by totalitarian communist regimes…

6. The Croatian Parliament is convinced that people’s knowledge and awareness of historical events is one of the prerequisites to avoid similar crimes in the future. In fact, moral assessment and condemnation of committed crimes play an important role in the education of young generations. A clear attitude of the international and national communities towards the past can and must be a guideline for our future actions.

7. The Croatian Parliament believes that victims of the crimes of totalitarian communist regimes who are still alive or their families deserve sympathy, understanding and recognition for their suffering…“ (Croatian National Gazette/Narodne Novine  NN 76/06 od 10.07.2006)

And this very parliament continues to promote the communist murderers, continues to justify these abominable crimes, continues to degrade the victims of communist crimes they condemned. It is truly sickening! Even more so knowing that this is not even a bit penalised by the European Union of which Croatia is a member state and which condemned most strongly all totalitarian regimes including the communist.

There is absolutely no doubt that the communist system was the most criminal of all totalitarian ones; of the fascist one, of the National Socialism one. The numbers of victims testify to that, the manner of killings testify to that… Croatian government of today, its cronies and parties of interest, with their public displays about liberation of Croatia in May 1945, have the audacity to claim that Croatia was liberated by mass murderers (of its wn people). Communist Leader Josip Broz Tito is still revered by quite a few and so is the communist five-pointed red star on the Yugoslav flag that was smothered by the bloody fight for independence during 1990’s. Several hundreds of thousands of innocent Croats have died at Tito’s orders, but there has been no trial for the communist criminals who caused the suffering, according to some published court opinions in Croatia during the last decade it was the communist system, not the individual criminals, who murdered (e.g. the 2014 case of Josip Boljkovac)! Communist crimes and their perpetrators have not been prosecuted, not even posthumously! The push in Croatia to label cold blooded murder by communists as political murders appears to be yet another tool of injustice towards victims in Croatia. Tito has not been prosecuted posthumously, either! Every possible excuse under the sun has been used by the government to avoid prosecution of communist crimes in Croatia.

And so, this May 2023, Croatia stands as divided almost never before. It is an independent state, free from former Yugoslavia but the remnants of Yugoslavia are felt and visible at every turn. The independence achieved through the Homeland War of 1990’s appears as something not at all important to the government and majority in parliament. They are more occupied with keeping the communist Yugoslavia spirit and mind alive than with anything else. Sheer cruelty towards own nation!

The reality in Croatia shows that the most powerful state and social institutions in Croatia persistently avoid confronting and distancing themselves from the criminal communist past. Moreover, within the Croatian state and social institutions, the criminal paradigm of Yugoslav communism and its value system, symbols and personality cult are advocated more and more openly and vulgarly.

We count our blessings, though, in all those who will, starting 12 May 2023, be commemorating the hundreds of thousands Croatian victims of communist crimes at Bleiburg, Austria, and the Way of the Cross, across Croatia, at mass graves and pits. Ina Vukic   

Croatia: Where Are Monuments To Victims Of Communist Crimes?

Monument to victims of communist crimes, London, Twelve Responses to Tragedy (Photo: In Vukic)

Late March 2023 my post-Covid pandemic extended trip from Australia to Europe commenced in London, aiming to “hop” across United Kingdom, Switzerland and Austria to Croatia, my birth homeland! My aim was to catch up with friends I had not seen for over three years and to recharge my spirits by visiting memorial sites and other landmarks of humanity and justice universal note.

Justice for victims of repressive and totalitarian regimes has been one of the most important pursuits in life anybody could have. Victims of World War Two Nazi regimes have been and are continuously remembered, monuments to them rightly exist in every major city of the free world while former communist countries in Europe have, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, set about raising monuments to victims of communist crimes within their own countries. In Croatia though such pursuits of justice appear to have been placed on government back burners, despite its responsibility and duty to uphold in every way the European Union’s condemnation of all totalitarian regimes, including communist one!  

The raising of monuments to victims of communist crimes had and continues to encounter resistance particularly by those who argue that such monuments should not be raised because, they say unfairly, such monuments represent historical revisionism and that some victims of communist crimes were Nazis! How many of the 35 to 40 million victims of communist crimes in Europe and Russia were Nazis? They do not say but the number could run into thousands, not millions! And so, according to these anti-monuments-for-victims-of-communist-crimes persons the overwhelming number of innocent victims must suffer because of a relative few among them! Atrocious!

And so here I sit in my apartment in Zagreb, Croatia, pondering: where are the grand monuments to victims of communist Croatia? It’s been 32 years since Croatia seceded from communist Yugoslavia, lost thousands of lives, suffered brutal destruction, devastation, ethnic cleansing of Croats in the 1990’s war of Serb and Yugoslav Army aggression in the process. I search and search and there are none on city squares, parks or even street corners of the Capital! None in major cities or towns, either! None as central monument to victims of communist crimes.  There are multitudes of black holes in the ground across the country, mass graves, bottomless pits into which communists had thrown hundreds of thousands murdered or living Croats who fought against communists in World War Two or simply rejected communism. Men, women, and children. And those after the War who did not want a communist regime. These pits are mostly located in secluded, hard to get to spots in forests or unkempt fields – far away from human eyes, most never visited bar several that caught the public attention thanks to historical research enabled by the modern independent Croatia. Thanks to the glory of God wildflowers bloom on shrubs and in the grass in warmer months of the year around mass grave sites.

And so, 32 years after its declaration of independence from communist Yugoslavia Croatia can only show one monument for victims of communist crimes and that one is not of national significance but rather local even though the monument is dedicated to local victims and communist Yugoslavia ones, secluded, and rather hidden from the masses that live in or visit Croatia. It is in the small town of Vodice of about 9,000 people on the coast, raised in 2015 not by the national government but by local council with the help of donations from citizens and patriotic community associations. I wrote about this back in 2015

The main sculpture in Vodice is a dome 2.2 meters high, built of white concrete combined with bronze. The motif of the sculpture is abstract, and the dominant element is water with components of light and sound. No names, no human faces engraved or sculptured on it!

Monument to Victims of communist crimes in Vodice, Croatia

On the second part of the monument – its annex, there is the inscription ‘Monument to the Victims of Yugoslav Communism’ next to the coat of arms of the Republic of Croatia and a cross, as well as patriotic verses. In addition to Croatian, the text part is also in English.

According to the data of the Commission for determining the victims of war and destruction of the city of Vodice, in the last two years of the Second World War, partisans, on the orders of the local communist authorities, murdered close to a hundred civilians from Vodice and neighbouring towns without any proven guilt. There are 53 victims from Vodice, 17 each from Gacelez and Cista Velika, while 15 are from Tribunj and the island of Prvic. Most of these victims were killed over the Golubinka pit near Tisnjanska Dubrava.

The murders took place in a particularly cruel manner. The victims were brought with their hands tied with wire, stabbed with a bayonet, and thrown into a thirty-meter-deep pit where they bled and died in horrendous pain. This scenario of such communist depravity and mass murders and purges was repeated hundreds of thousands of times in Croatia as part of communist Yugoslavia and yet all that official independent Croatia can so far muster for the victims is no monument to the victims funded from the government budget as a firm statement in respect of all those who had perished for rejecting communism! Appalling!

Monument to victims of communist crimes, London (Photo: Ina Vukic)

Prior to arriving in Croatia, I visited London, United Kingdom.  I was utterly gladdened to have been shown for the first time in my life the monument to victims of communist crimes in the middle of the Yalta Memorial Garden, South Kensington. I was touched deeply by the monument even though the victims have not and are not receiving due justice. To me, a symbol of reverent respect for multitudes victims that fell under communist brutality even if the February 1945 Yalta conference included the mass murderer Joseph Stalin of Russia in the Allied plan to shape post-war Europe and permit self-determination, etc.! Despite that, post-Yalta conference communist purges, murders of innocent political opponents to communism raged like wildfire and the fact hidden from the world for decades upon decades.  

Monument to victims of communist crime, London (Photo: Ina Vukic)

The sculpture consisting of 12 conjoined heads of men, women and children placed on a column of the Twelve Responses to Tragedy monument to communist crimes’ victims in the Yalta Memorial Garden, South Kensington, London.   

Monument to victims of communist crimes, London (Photo: Ina Vukic)

While the above Vodice, Croatia, has no mention of the part its Parliament played in its raising, because sadly there was none, the monument in South Kensington, designed by Angela Conner,  dedicated by the Bishop of Fulham on 2nd August 1986 to replace the previous memorial dedicated by the Bishop of London on 6th March 1982, has the following inscription: “This memorial was placed here by members of all parties in both houses of parliament and by many other sympathisers in memory of the countless innocent men, women and children from the Soviet Union and other east European states who were imprisoned and died at the hands of communist governments after being repatriated at the conclusion of the second world war may they rest in peace.” 

In this London dedication I saw included the horror of the Bleiburg Massacres of hundreds of thousands of Croatians who were n May 1945, as the War ended, fleeing from communist Yugoslavia only to be forcefully repatriated and, hence sent to sure and most cruel death by the hand of communists. It was not written there but for all those who know facts of history the dedication becomes immediately etched in one’s heart, and small gestures of mercy for justice for the victims, surface there. 

Yes, Lest We Forget, but also, let’s build monuments to victims of communist crimes. These are overdue debts of humanity towards fellow innocent human beings. 

The mass liquidations that the Yugoslav communists carried out without trial on civilians and members of the defeated armies after the end of the Second World War, colloquially known as the Ways of the Cross and Bleiburg Massacre, have become in Croatia the occasion for annual confrontations between the families of the victims and the patriots with those on the political left, former communists, and their loyal descendants. The former will often point out the signs of the totalitarian and defeated Independent State of Croatia without any problems, while the latter will find justification for communist crimes and the horrific massacre of civilians. Such confrontations and public displays of injustice towards victims has become the taxic cancer that stifles due and proper successful transition from communism into real democracy. Ina Vukic 

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