The Fruits of War, One Particular Case: Interview with Ivonei Souza Trindade

The other day, we got an email from Brazil. Nothing strange there, were it not for its subject – The damages in Dubrovnik as a cultural heritage site during the Homeland War!? Of course, my attention was taken completely.

Ivonei Souza Trindade, born in 1991, graduated in Law from Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS) at Porto Alegre and is a lawyer in his hometown. In 2016 he published a book ‘ The Pavle Strugar Case’ dealing with the protection of cultural heritage under armed conflicts.

I was more than intrigued. I used to know this guy Pavle Strugar. He was a General and Commander in Chief of a military district of the Yugoslav People’s Army (‘JNA’) that caused so much misery in the war it viciously started in 1991. He was a huge man, 6”4’, I think, with broad shoulders and a deep voice. A true macho who, of course, like a true macho, tried to kill us all in our own homes. I met him in person on two occasions, if my memory serves me well – the first time at their HQ in the Bay of Boka (Montenegro) where I was sent by my local commanders of defense to broker a meeting to establish some first connections for negotiations. It was early October 1991. Together with a team of unarmed ECMM monitors (European Community Monitoring Mission), we traveled in a small private speedboat. The reception was glorious and truly unforgettable – in the very bay, our tiny boat was met by several war ships that purposely cruised around us causing huge waves to try to intimidate us, macho, indeed. And unimpressive to us.

The second and the last time I saw this odious individual was on board an English frigate in late July 1992, at a final meeting that defined the terms for the heroic ‘JNA’ withdrawal from the Croatian south for good. This time, the big guy was sweating, stammering, allowing others from his delegation to speak in place of himself. All that was left of him was his huge body frame, which served to nothing.

And, after the passage of time, now comes this message from Brazil.

Ivanei comes from a place in Brazil which people of Croatian descent generally do not inhabit, and he did not have any connections with anything to do with anything Croatian.

“In 2012, when I was a law student, I took part in the Brazilian Rounds of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, a prominent event for law students. The compromise (a fictive case) of that competition involved issues related to Cultural Heritage Law. In my researches, I ran across the Pavle Strugar Case'' states Ivonei.

''One year later, at my last year at the Law School, I chose The Pavle Strugar Case for my thesis. I got the highest grades, my thesis was evaluated so highly that the professors suggested I published it as a book. Over the time following my graduation, totally ignorant about the business of book publishing, I contacted several editors and the answer was always the same – to publish a book, even a small one like this, you must have money. Three years passed, and finally somebody told me to address the Clube de Autores, an institution that publishes books with no expense to the author. So owing to those kind people of the Clube, my little book saw the light of the day'' Ivonei continues ''I am so grateful. I wish I could find somebody to organise a translation into some other language as well, preferably first into Croatian as my book talks about an important segment of Croatian cultural riches. I am not money oriented, and I do not dream about becoming rich from this. The book has sold some 60 or 70 copies, and that is quite okay, considering it is available only in Portuguese.''

Ivonei goes on to describe the relationships and contacts that followed the publishing of his book.

‘'Last July, I first contacted the Sociedade Croatia Sacra Paulistana in Sao Paulo which promotes Croatian culture and heritage. They acted promptly and organised a lecture on my book in Sao Paulo. They bought some copies they wanted to send to Croatia. I had also contacted the Croatian Embassy in Brazil and was soon received by H.E. The Ambassador. The reception was so warm, H.E. was utterly interested, he made an order of several copies to send to the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. My book tries to give a wide framework to its central subject. I divided it in three chapters – the first chapter elaborates on the historical background of protection of cultural property before the 1954 Convention on Protection of Cultural Property, the second focuses on that same Convention and its way under the wings of the International Law. It also explains the individual criminal responsibility related to the 1972 UNESCO Convention of Protection of Cultural Heritage. The third chapter occupies the major part of the book; it elaborates on many elements, from how Dubrovnik became part of UNESCO World Heritage, to many details on Pavle Strugar’s shellings of the city, to a very deep analysis of the sentence by the ICTY in the Hague related to the part of criminal acts against world patrimony. I am sure it is a small, but precious work that explains the deeds of war from some other, legal point of view.’'

Ivonie states that he had no relation to anything Croatian, but, while working on his first thesis, especially on the part of the physical damages to such a precious work of art, as is Dubrovnik, he could not restrain some strong emotions and a true, deep compassion with the Croatian people and the sufferings they went through.

''When I realised it was happening right in the times of my birth, my link to Dubrovnik and to Croatia was defined forever.''


Thank you, Ivanei. This costs me the effort on Google - the ''Macho guy'' who committed the most vile acts your book so accurately describes, was released from prison in 2009 and is obviously still alive. I hope that somehow, this conversation reaches him, and many, many others - among which there hopefully should be somebody from Croatia that can do something concrete for the future of Ivonei's precious work here in Croatia.