Za Dom: SPREMNI!

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For the last few months, many countries around the world have been participating in soccer matches that could qualify their country for the World Cup in Brazil next summer. With a top ranked soccer team, Croatia is no exception. This week, they played a match against Iceland in Zagreb. To say this game was  very important would be an understatement – a win would  qualify Croatia for the prestigious tournament, so emotions were running high. The Croatian national team celebrated a 2-0 win against Iceland, and landed them a spot at the World Cup 2014.

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The FIFA World Cup attracts not only soccer fans but in parallel, promotes nationalism, and the two basically go hand in hand. Since Croatia’s break from Yugolsavia, the World Cup quickly became the foundation of nationalistic appeal and in this setting, soccer was utilized very clearly as a means by which to instill pride and faith into the hearts of the Croatian public. I view soccer as a form of nationalism that forges unity in countries with significant social divides and it is a way for fans to channel pride for their country in a positive setting.

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Croatian national team defender, Josip Šimunić, an Australian born and fellow diasporee, has  been scrutinized and fined by Croatian public prosecutors for allegedly chanting ‘racial’ slogans after Croatia’s victory over Iceland. He took the microphone, and saluted: “To the battle! to the battle!” (U boj! U boj!) to which the fans replied: “For our people!” (Za narod svoj!) He then continued: “For the Homeland” (Za Dom) to which 20,000 fans responded back: “Ready!” (Spremni!)  The Australian native is also facing possible suspension and hefty fines from FIFA, which has caused a divide once again with Croats.

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“For Homeland: Ready!” (Za Dom Spremni) is a CROATIAN salute that has been used by many people, over the course of a few centuries and it is  a salute used in the latest Homeland War.  Many people, specifically communist folk in Croatia, associate this salute to the Ustashe, WWII, Hitler and Ante Pavelić which is the reason why political officials have condemned  Šimunić and his supposed criminal actions. As if one would be so idiotic to believe that an Australian, born in democracy, who always wears a rosary around his neck would demonstrate such hate toward a group of people at a soccer match!? Having Ustaše in my family (grandfathers and their brothers), I don’t even associate Za dom Spremni as facist. To me ‘Za Dom Spremni’ is patriotic – love for Croatia, not hate for another ethnicity.

Political leaders and the mainstream media are having a field day with this.  Šimunić’s actions come at a perfect time, where they can deflect their own insufficiencies as political leaders. Corruption, unemployment, and a general disapproval of the government have all taken the backburner and all focus has been placed on  Šimunić. What is more laughable is these same people want to lecture ME about democracy. These people who were born in communism, and still live and breathe it today would like to give Šimunić a lesson about democracy and Croatian history. These people, who hated everything Croatian, are suddenly the experts on Croatia’s bloody history.

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But yet, when a Croatian flag was burning in the 90th minute of a soccer match between Croatia and Serbia 2 months ago, these same people didn’t condemn these actions.

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These same people who at that same match seen a 50 metre Serbian flag with the words BYKOBAP (Vukovar) didn’t speak up. They stood silent, like the nice little communists they are, for fear of rocking the peace boat with Serbia.

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What amazes me is these political leaders and their group of small followers claim the salute brings back horrible memories of the nazi’s and killings, but yet – the cyrillic alphabet in Vukovar does not. And then when FIFA banned a banner that says “Remember Vukovar” basically on the anniversary of the fall of Vukovar, they stood silent. Because apparently remembering the victims of the biggest slaughterhouse modern day Europe has seen is a crime.

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 Joe Šimunić did not incite hatred and did not give any racial speeches. His salute was love for his homeland, pride for our nation, and a guaranteed spot at the World Cup in Brazil.

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Vukovar: 22 years of Fallen Angels

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Many today are familiar with the devastating scenes of inhuman cruelty which lies within this city, captured on film and camera to show to the world the very worst of the Serb aggression on Croatia. November 18th marks the 22nd anniversary of the fall of Vukovar. If you haven’t had the chance to read my previous posts about Vukovar, you can do so here:

Vukovar NIKAD Bykobap!

† Blago Zadro: Trpinja Road Hero

Milanović: The graves will never forgive you!

I would like to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the fall and capture of Vukovar in silence, leaving you with a few iconic images. Please note, some images do contain graphic material.

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Gotovina and Markač: A year of freedom

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“I declare, contrary to the opinion of judges Aguisa & Pocarda, acquittal”

(“… I izriče, uz suprotno mišljenje sudaca Agiusa i Pocarda, oslobađajuću presudu …”)

– Judge Theodor Meron

November 15, 2012: Bedtime prayers were different that night with my kids. We prayed for the release of two men I did not know personally, let alone my kids. Then came the questions: Who are they? Why are they in jail? Did they do something bad? My husband and I tried our best to explain to a 5 and 6 year old why they were in jail, even though we ourselves knew they should not be in jail. My husband then pulled up a picture of Ante Gotovina on his phone and showed them. Both my girls sighed and said “ohhhhh, we know him”.

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My family and I travel to Croatia and Hercegovina every summer. I think it is safe to say that my kids have seen hundreds of posters and grafitti like the one above while travelling all over the country. Wherever you went in Croatia, whether it was in a small village, a big city or especially driving down the coast, there were pictures of Ante Gotovina, often seen with the slogan “Hero, not a criminal!” (Heroj, ne žločinac!) Over the course of his imprisonment, Gotovina’s fame grew. He was the face of the Homeland War (Domovinski rat), and Operation Storm (Operacija Oluja).

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“Oluja” was the final chapter, the last battle of Domovinski Rat. It was strategically planned out by the Croatian Army (HV – Hrvatska Vojska) to attack a 630km frontage against the Republic of Serbian Krajina (Srpska Krajina), making it was the largest European Land Battle since World War II.

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In 1991, the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) issued sealed indictments to the Croatian government seeking the arrest of Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač for war crimes. Gotovina was indicted together with Mladen Markač, a former commander of the special police of Croatia’s interior ministry. Gotovina and Markač (along with Ivan Čermak – who was released earlier) were accused of aiding and abetting the murders of 324 Krajina Serb civilians and prisoners of war by “shooting, burning and/or stabbing” them and forcibly displacing almost 90,000 Serb civilians. Gotovina was charged with five counts of crimes against humanity and four counts of violations of the laws or customs of war.

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April 15, 2011: Hundreds of thousands of Croats around the world watched and listened in horror as Gotovina and Markač were sentenced to 24 years of imprisonment. The older folks who remember the war so vividly, including the war veterans, and the younger generation who have only read about the Croatian Independance War were equally shocked and saddened. So many questions remained unanswered, so many tears left unwiped, so many mothers without their sons and then this slap in the face. If Ante Gotovina is guilty, then we are all guilty! Gotovina’s lawyers vowed they would appeal the verdict.

A woman shows off a badge with a picture of Croatia's general Ante Gotovina during an anti-government rally at the Zagreb main square

The following day, Croats in major cities rallied against the government to protest the guilty verdict. 50,000 protesters in the main square in Zagreb carried Croatian flags and banners saying “I love Croatia, not the European Union,” as well as chanting “Treason” because of what organizers said was the failure of political leaders to protect the dignity of war veterans. Gotovina’s capture and trial was orchestrated by the Croatian Government and Croatian Intelligence so his arrest and conviction removed a serious obstacle in Croatia’s road to joining the European Union.

And so, as I was putting my kids to bed on November 15, hundreds of thousands of Croats were holding vigils, masses were held in churches and cathedrals throughout Croatia, anticipating and praying for the release of our generals. Before going to bed, I set my alarm to wake me at 3am EST. I needed to hear the verdict live. I was expecting the worst, but hoping for the best. I was watching a streamed program on Croatian news, so while the verdict was read in english, I was listenening to a Croatian translator. And then I heard those words: “I izriče, uz suprotno mišljenje sudaca Agiusa i Pocarda, oslobađajuću presudu”. OMG. Ante Gotovina is FREE. A few minutes later, the same words from Judge Meron’s mouth, only this time for Mladen Markač. OUR GENERALS ARE FREE!! I knew I didn’t hear wrong, because the translator let out a giggle, almost as if he was going to cry and his voice continued to tremble during the 4 minute verdict. I immediately went on social media and my newsfeed was flooded with images of our generals! It would be impossible to overstate the electric sense of anticipation that coursed through Croatia and diaspora that moment. I screamed. I cried sobbed. I ran upstairs to tell my husband who in a dead sleep opened his eyes and said “Hvala Ti Bože” (Thank You God).

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The next 4 hours I was glued to my computer, anxiously awaiting news of their arrival and the preparation for the celebrations that would take place in Croatia. I was imagining what their arrival home after 7 years would be like and wished more than anything that I could be in Zagreb for their arrival!

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I couldn’t wait to tell my kids that the two men they prayed for were finally free! As soon as they woke, I dressed them in their Croatian jerseys, called their school that they would not be there for the day and headed over to my parents. My parents still had no idea that our generals were free. As soon as I walked in with the kids, my parents said “They must be free” and immediately tears started to stream down their faces.

November 16, 2012 made Croatians proud and united again, just like they were during the war years. The release of Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač was more than about two army generals spending decades in jail. It was about the homeland war. It was about the mothers that lost their sons defending their homeland. It was about the children who were left orphans. It was about Vukovar, Škabrnja, Dubrovnik, Livno, Zadar, Kupres, Osijek. It was for the 2000 war veterans who have taken their lives since 1995. It is for the ones that still suffer daily in silence with post traumatic stress syndrome. The release of Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač changed Croatia’s history books, once and for all. The Croatian Homeland War was clean. The Croatian Homeland War was valid. Croatians were NOT the aggressors and the Croatian Army liberated our country honorably.

Is this how we treat our war veterans?

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Two weeks ago, Vukovar was declared a city of piety. What Auschwitz is to the Jews, that is what Vukovar is to Croats. Cyrillic in Vukovar is what the swastika is in Auschwitz – unacceptable. Vukovar is a sacred city, but it is also an eerie city, where the birds stopped singing a long time ago. Humanity must never forget the horror of Vukovar, and yet, that horror continues on today.

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Canadians and Americans from coast to coast  paused this week, to honor the sacrifices our soldiers and war veterans made for our freedom. While Rememberance Day and Memorial Day ceremonies  were held on Monday in the USA and Canada, a Croatian war veteran was brutally beaten by a  Croatian police officer while attempting to remove a bilingual Cyrillic sign on a government building in Vukovar. The war veteran, Darko Pajčić, was no ordinary war veteran. He was only 18 years when he dropped out of school, equipped with only his running shoes and a rifle, to defend his beloved Vukovar.  To add salt to the wound, the Croatian officer responsible for the beating was a Serb, who fought against Croatian forces in 1991. 

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This morning, Croatian Minister of Internal Affairs, Ranko  Ostojić, stated that ‘alcohol is to blame’ for the incident.  Really, Mr.  Ostojić? Was alcohol to blame for this war veteran, who likely suffers from PTSP, to lie there injured in his own blood while police officers stand around and  debate whether to call for medical help?  Was alcohol to blame for the war from ’91-95? Is this how we treat our war veterans? When did a bilingual sign, a sign that should not even be there, become more important than a human life?

It is time for action! The Association for the Defense of Vukovar needs to rally and the people of Croatia need to stand up for the the rights of CROATIAN people, not always focusing on a small minority that makes up the population. It is time that our war veterans be treated with dignity and respect! It is time that government institutions employ Croats, and not those that ravaged our homeland! It is time for Croatia to rid themesleves of the red communists that are leading this country given to us from God,  into complete destruction! It is time for this Serbian man disguised in a Croatian police uniform to be brought to justice!

The Alarm Bells of Vukovar

A MUST READ!

Eyes of the Mind

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The war is not over in Vukovar.

The restoration of Eastern Slavonia to Croatia after four years of brutal occupation did not put an end to the war of lies and deception.  Amid disingenuous and euphemistic discussions of ‘minority rights’ and ‘reconciliation’, the truth is still struggling to be heard.  Europhiles beholden to the quasi-Communist notion that peace and goodwill can be legislated are deaf to the alarm bells ringing loudly in Vukovar.

Truth ought to be indiscriminate, but I can assure you that only a tiny part of the truth about Vukovar’s post-war ‘reconstruction’ is being heard.  This is especially the case for those of us who are not native to Croatia.  We are very much deceived if we believe it is as simple as the people of Vukovar failing to ‘move on’ after the war.  The danger in such lies is that they contain an element of the…

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Ghost fields: What is leading Croatia’s agricultural demise

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Before you return home from visiting Croatia, your family usually forces offers you to take some pršut (prosciutto), cheese or some food that is common in Croatia, but unique and exquisite to foreigners. We all know most of these items are banned from entering most countries, but yet, we have all tried to ‘smuggle’ some of these delicacies and enjoy at them home, often sharing with friends or family that did not have the opportunity to visit back home in a while. I’ll admit that it’s part nostalgia, but for the most part, it’s a divine taste that can only be made in Croatia, with Croatian products and of course with the elements: air, sun, and soil. Dalmatinski pršut (Dalmatian prosciutto) for example needs the bura (a cold and heavy north east wind that blows from mainland towards the adriatic) and jugo (a warm south east wind) to naturally and effectively cure prosciutto. Pork in Croatia is traditionally raised, without the use of hormones, making it a superb cut of meat.

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Agriculture plays an important role in Croatia: both as a source of income and a share of the countries total GDP. Since Croatia’s secession from Yugoslavia, the country has had to transition from a communist economy to a liberal market economy which experienced numerous transitional concerns (failure in privatizing state owned land, loss of traditional markets and import-export deficit) which led to a catastrophic decline of agriculture in Croatia. Food imports and prices are rising in this small country that once fed themselves comfortably. In the last 20 years, Croatia has imported 9.5 billion USD worth of food! As recently as in 2012, Croatia imported 2.5 million USD of food and almost 1 billion USD more than it exported. 142 million USD of that was just in pork imports! Meanwhile, Croatian farming is declining at an alarming rate, and Croatian farmers simply do not have market that they once had. Croatia’s acceptance to the EU is only expected to produce more gloomy statistics. Slovenia, Poland and the Czech republic seen a drop of 30% in local production the same year they joined the EU. For a country like Croatia where agriculture is important and vital to the countries economy, those numbers are downright spine chilling, and one must question: will agriculture cease to exist in Croatia?

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This week, the president of Croatia’s largest pršut producer, Dalmatinski pršut, stated that they as a company are forced to buy fresh and or frozen pork from Spain. He states that Croatian farmers simply cannot keep up with the growing demands of their business. This is shocking and alarming, not only for consumers, but for the farmers, especially in Slavonija (a region in Eastern Croatia) who have gone out of business due to low pork demands.  Production of pork in Croatia today is dominated by a few large corporations which are vertically integrated which means they control every step from selection of breeding stock to marketing pork in the large  supermarkets. So naturally this is a disaster for the traditional pork farmer in Croatia. Livestock is not the only factor suffering in the agriculture sector. Even with Croatia’s geographical diversity, fruit and vegetable crops has been severely disrupted. and almost all fruit is imported.

In order for Croatia to sustain farming, it would be deemed necessary for the government  to create conditions for the economic development of farms. This might include putting in for preventative measures against the elements, updating agricultural machinery,  offering more education to family farms, and giving incentives to younger generations who are moving to bigger cities because the age structure is of great concern.  Agriculture is just not about food. It is about rural communities and sustaining proper income so Croatia’s precious agriculture sector can thrive as it once did.