Saturday, 14 May 2022

Bleiburg Tragedy Commemorated at Zagreb's Mirogoj Cemetery

ZAGREB, 14 May 2022 - Delegations of the Croatian Parliament, Government and the Bleiburg Guard of Honour laid wreaths at Zagreb's Mirogoj Cemetery on Saturday to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the Bleiburg tragedy and the Way of the Cross of the Croatian people at the end of the Second World War.

The commemoration was organised by the Bleiburg Guard of Honour and co-organised by the Croatian Bishops Conference under the patronage of the Croatian Parliament and the co-patronage of the Croatian National Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The joint wreath of the Parliament and Government was laid by Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković and Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman. The delegation included Deputy Speakers of Parliament Željko Reiner and Ante Sanader, member of the European Parliament Karlo Ressler and about 20 members of the Croatian Parliament.

The wreath of the Bleiburg Guard of Honour (PBV) was laid by Deputy Chairman Milan Kovač. He was accompanied by Honorary Chairman Vice Vukojević, Chairman of the PBV Supervisory Board Vladimir Šeks, member of the PBV Court of Honour Anton Sujić and treasurer Zlatko Goršanić.

Addressing the press after the commemoration, Jandroković said that this tragedy of part of the Croatian people, which occurred in May 1945, had been suppressed for 45 years.

"This crime, committed by the communist authorities of the former Yugoslavia, has been kept secret for 45 years and could not be discussed in public. This is logical because the perpetrators of this crime were those who represented the communist system.They suppressed the truth about this event and protected those responsible," Jandroković said.

Tens of thousands of Croatian civilians and soldiers of the defeated pro-Nazi Independent State of Croatia (NDH) surrendered to allied forces at Bleiburg, Austria in May 1945, but were handed over by British troops to Yugoslav forces. Some were executed on the spot, while many perished during so-called death marches, known in Croatia as the Way of the Cross, on their way back to Yugoslavia in the second half of 1945.

Tens of thousands of people were killed "brutally and without a trial". "We are here today to remember those events, commemorate and pay tribute to the victims and express our sympathy with their families," the Parliament speaker said.

Noting that the crimes were committed in the aftermath of the Second World War, he said that "we remember those people regardless of their faith, nationality, party or ideological affiliation."

"As a civilised democratic society, it is our duty to keep the memory of anyone who was killed without a trial and without evidence. We are doing it now and will continue to do so in the future," Jandroković said.

As part of today's commemorative ceremonies, Mass will be held in the Church of Croatian Martyrs in Udbina, about 200 kilometres south of Zagreb.

Responding to questions from the press, Jandroković said that police would certainly take action against anyone who might display Ustasha symbols at the Mass.

"I believe that everyone attending the Mass today will be there to commemorate the victims, remember those who were killed in a cruel and perfidious way. We are not commemorating or celebrating the defeated ideology and regime but are remembering the victims. We have a duty to do so, that is a civilisational achievement, and that is what every democratic and civilised country does," he added.

PBV Deputy Chairman Kovač also emphasised that they were paying tribute to the victims who were killed "brutally and without a trial when there was already peace in Europe."

Kovač recalled that the commemoration was taking place at Mirogoj because the Austrian authorities had banned it from taking place in the Bleiburg Field. He rejected the explanation of the Austrian authorities that commemorations at Bleiburg had celebrated the pro-Nazi Ustasha regime, expressing hope that this false accusation would be disproved on appeal.

"We did not celebrate any ideologies or regimes there but prayed for the souls of our ethnic kin as pilgrims, with rosaries in our hands," Kovač said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 13 May 2022

77th Anniversary Of Bleiburg Tragedy Being Commemorated This Month

ZAGREB, 13 May 2022 - The 77th anniversary of the Bleiburg tragedy and what in Croatia is known as the Way of the Cross marches is being commemorated this month, with the central commemoration, to be held under the auspices of the Croatian parliament, set for 14 May at Zagreb's Mirogoj cemetery and in Udbina.

As part of this year's commemorative events, a mass will be served at the parish church in Bleiburg, Austria, at 6 pm today, and Croatia's Ambassador to Austria will lay a wreath there. The memorial service in "Hl. Petrus und Paulus" church in Bleiburg will be said in Croatian.

The central commemoration, including the laying of wreaths and Catholic and Muslim prayers, will take place at Zagreb's central cemetery on Saturday, after which mass will be celebrated at the Shrine of Croatian Martyrs in Udbina, some 140 kilometres south of Zagreb.

On 25 May, a commemorative gathering is scheduled to take place in the State Archive. On 29 May, Catholic memorial services will be held for the victims of the Bleiburg tragedy at Radimlja, Stolac, southern Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Since 1995, with a few interruptions during the SDP government in Croatia, the commemorations in the Loibach field near Bleiburg, in the southern region of Carinthia, have been held in tribute to tens of thousands of Croatian civilians and soldiers of the defeated pro-Nazi Independent State of Croatia (NDH) who surrendered to allied forces there in May 1945, but were handed over by British troops to Yugoslav forces. Some were executed on the spot, while many perished during so-called death marches back to Yugoslavia in the second half of 1945.

In 2020, Austrian parliamentarian parties requested an expert opinion on whether such gatherings in the Loibach field could pass the test of constitutionality.

A task force consisting of historians, jurists and Catholic Church representatives as well as local officials in that Austrian province concluded that such gatherings should no longer be held in Bleiburg.

The commission was set up in 2020 in accordance with the decision of the parliamentary parties ÖVP, SPÖ, the Greens and Neos, and the decision of that think tank was prompted by discussion on the political dimension of the commemorations in recent years.

In 2019 the Catholic Diocese in Klagenfurt withheld permission for a mass to be said by someone of the bishop's rank. The Roman Catholic Church in Carinthia turned down the request by the Croatian Catholic Bishops' Conference to hold mass at Loibach, claiming the event was used for political purposes.

On 22 March 2019, the president of the Austrian Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, said Austria and Croatia should jointly deal with the historical issue of Bleiburg.

"I think we need a culture of dealing with history," the Archbishop of Vienna said after a meeting of the country's Bishops' Conference.

The cardinal said it would be good to form a joint commission that would deal with Bleiburg's "complicated history." "I think we need something like that, otherwise we will stay at the level of conflict," he added.

He concluded that for now Austria saw only a "fascist gathering" occurring at Bleiburg, while Croatia's focus was on the painful history of ancestors, the Austrian news agency APA quoted him as saying on that occasion. "Bleiburg symbolises a very painful period in the history of the Croatian people, with many thousands dead," he said.

Croatia protests to Austria over removal of historical coat of arms

On 5 May this year, the Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs lodged a protest note with Austria over the removal of the historical Croatian coat of arms from the monument commemorating Croats killed at Bleiburg in May 1945.

The monument is located on the private property of an Austrian association, the Bleiburg Guard of Honour, and the reasons for the removal of the coat of arms given by the Völkermarkt municipal administration "are unacceptable to Croatia from both the historical and the social and political point of view," the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

As regards commemorations held at Bleiburg, the ministry said that they must be dedicated solely to the memory of those killed and held as part of Requiem Mass for the thousands of civilian victims.

The Bleiburg Guard of Honour has removed the disputed inscription to avoid any connection between the inscription and the coat of arms, the statement said.

The protest note says that "the coat of arms itself was for centuries a constituent part of the heraldry of the Habsburg Monarchy and as such often displayed on various historical buildings and in historical documents, hence it does not and cannot have unconstitutional connotations."

The ministry also noted that "declaring the historical Croatian coat of arms a fascist symbol has done undue harm to the reputation of Croatia and the Croats living and working in Austria, and has created the impression that Croatia today uses unconstitutional symbols. Croatia strongly rejects such an interpretation."

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 9 May 2022

Karlovac Mayor Says Marking Victory Over Fascism Day For Sake of Victims, Not Victors

ZAGREB, 9 May 2022 - Leaders of Karlovac County and the City of Karlovac on Monday laid wreaths at the Jamadol cemetery, with Karlovac Mayor Damir Mandić saying that they commemorate the day for the sake of the victims and not the victors. 

The office of the mayor, who is a member of the HDZ party, said that modern-day Croatia was founded on antifascism and the fight against all totalitarian regimes.

Mandić said that they were commemorating the millions of victims who in the 20th century paid with their lives during "the rampage of totalitarianism, Fascism, Ustashism and Communism."

"Commemorations like these are held for the sake of the victims, not the victors. Notably, if we remember that in communist countries the victory turned into a defeat because under the guise of antifascism and victory, freedom and democracy were abolished," said Mandić.

The office of Karlovac County head Martina Furdek Hajdin, also a member of the ruling HDZ party, said that she laid a wreath and lit a candle on Europe Day in memory of the victims of all totalitarian regimes.

"Unfortunately we are again witnessing a war in Europe, an aggression on Ukraine and the suffering of innocent victims, which even more underlines the importance of strengthening the values of democracy and unity in Europe," she said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 10 April 2022

HOS Members Killed in 1990s War Commemorated in Split

ZAGREB, 10 April 2022 - Members of the Croatian Defence Forces (HOS) 9th Battalion "Rafael vitez Boban" on Sunday laid wreaths and lit candles at a memorial in Split for the battalion's members killed in the 1991-95 Homeland War, on the 31st anniversary of the unit.

"We are standing here before this wounded memorial, proud of them and their courage. Shame on cowards, deserters, lovers of the red star who spit on HOS. All defenders were 'for the homeland ready' in the Homeland War, that salute is not an expression of hate but of love for one's home and Croat people," said the battalion's wartime commander, Marko Skejo.

Split-Dalmatia County Assembly president Mate Šimundić said HOS members "were ready for the homeland back then, as they are today", and that he, as a representative of the state authorities, paid tribute to them.

A state that questions such a thing questions its own survival, he said.

A former HOS general and member of parliament from the Homeland Movement, Ante Prkačin, recalled that 10 April was yet another anniversary, the 81st anniversary of the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), wondering if they were not allowed to talk about it.

HOS was the armed wing of the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) fighting in Croatia's 1991-95 war of independence and "For the homeland ready" was the salute used by the pro-Nazi Ustasha regime of WWII Independent State of Croatia.

According to Wikipedia, the HOS 9th Battalion "Rafael vitez Boban" was named after the Ustasha colonel and general of the World War II Croatian Armed Forces (HOS).

The battalion was active in Dalmatia and other parts of Croatia as well as in Herzegovina and it lost 46 members in the Homeland War.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 7 April 2022

Central Commemoration Of Bleiburg Tragedy To Be Held In Zagreb, Udbina

ZAGREB, 7 April 2022 - The central commemoration of victims of the Bleiburg tragedy and what in Croatia is known as the Way of the Cross marches, held under the auspices of the Croatian parliament, will be held on 13 and 14 May at Zagreb's Mirogoj cemetery and in Udbina, a town in Lika-Senj County.

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković held a working meeting on the commemoration with representatives of the Croatian Bishops' Conference and the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon.

As part of this year's commemorative events, a mass will be served at the parish church in Bleiburg, Austria, and Croatia's Ambassador to Austria will lay a wreath there.

The central commemoration, including the laying of wreaths and a prayer, will take place at Zagreb's central cemetery, after which a mass will be celebrated at the Shrine of Croatian Martyrs in Udbina, some 140 kilometres south of Zagreb.

Participants in today's meeting underlined the importance of commemorating the victims in a dignified way to preserve the historical truth about the tragedy.

The event commemorates soldiers of the Nazi-allied Croatian Ustasha regime and civilians killed at the Loibach Field near Bleiburg, Austria in the aftermath of WWII, after they fled the areas taken over by Tito-led Partisans.


For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 3 April 2022

26th Anniversary of Death of US Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown Commemorated

ZAGREB, 3 April 2022 - A memorial ceremony was held in Dubrovnik on Sunday to commemorate the 26th anniversary of a plane crash, in which a US business delegation led by Secretary of Commerce Ronald Brown was killed.

The US Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade, Marisa Lago, said that mourning continued for the 35 people tragically killed while working for peace and prosperity in the war-torn region.

The then US President Bill Clinton described the mission led by Ron Brown as "a mission of peace and hope", she recalled. "How pleased the members of the mission would be today with us in Dubrovnik, Croatia, a NATO ally, an EU member and a regional economic success story", she added.

Lago said she was confident that Secretary Brown and the people he led would not shrink back from the challenges of today and would share her conviction that through partnership and cooperation we can persevere together in the search for peace, prosperity and security.

The ceremony was attended by Dubrovnik-Neretva County Prefect Nikola Dobroslavić, Dubrovnik Mayor Mato Franković, Dubrovnik Airport Director Ivan Maslać, US Chargé d'Affaires Mark Fleming, Colonel Darko Arapović on behalf of the Defence Ministry and local government officials.

The participants in the commemoration ceremony signed the book of condolence at the Ronald Brown Memorial House.

A US military aircraft carrying Secretary of Commerce Ronald Brown and 34 other persons crashed in a storm near Dubrovnik's Čilipi Airport on 3 April 1996. All passengers were killed, including two Croatian nationals. The US delegation was travelling to Dubrovnik to meet with Croatian officials.

For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Commemoration Held For Three Women Killed at Zagreb Court 22 Years Ago

ZAGREB, 22 Sept, 2021 - Government officials and representatives of the judiciary on Wednesday attended a commemoration at Zagreb's Municipal Court for three women killed at that court 22 years ago. 

On 22 September 1999, during a divorce hearing, Mato Oraškić killed his wife Gordana, her attorney Hajra Prohić and judge Ljiljana Hvalec as well as wounding court reporter Sanja Cvetković.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said the perpetrator had been given a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and called for joint, strong and coordinated action in preventing violence against women.

"In partnership with civil society organisations we have enabled progress in the cooperation of all government agencies, introducing stricter penalties, improving procedural law, and ratifying international treaties such as the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, which has made it possible for us to align our legal order and improve legislative and procedural frameworks for dealing with that phenomenon," said Plenković.

He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had resulted in an increase of violence but noted that the number of misdemeanor reports for violence had decreased while the number of criminal reports had increased.

Sanctions are now harsher and the message of the government and the entire society to abusers is that violence is unacceptable and that the victims are not alone, he said.

Attending the commemoration were also European Association of Judges President Đuro Sessa, Justice and Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica, and Supreme Court Deputy President Marin Mrčela, who all called for raising awareness of the problem and resolutely fighting and preventing violence. 

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.


Friday, 6 August 2021

SNV Commemorates Serb Civilians Killed at Uzdolje Near Knin in 1995

ZAGREB, 6 Aug 2021 - The southern municipality of Biskupija and the Serb National Council (SNV) on Friday held a commemoration in Uzdolje near Knin for civilian victims of the 1995 military and police Operation Storm, at a site where eight Serb civilians were killed on 6 August 1995.

In 2017 the SNV branch in Biskupija and the association of the families of missing persons "Protiv zaborava" (Against oblivion) unveiled a memorial commemorating the civilians killed at Uzdolje.

Today a religious service was held for the victims at the site and wreaths were laid and candles lit at the memorial by local ethnic Serb officials and Serb minority MP Anja Šimpraga.

The SNV recalled in a statement that the Documenta - Centre for Dealing with the Past nongovernmental organisation in August 2017 filed a criminal report against unidentified perpetrators for the crime committed at Uzdolje.

"The criminal report, which no institution has yet acted on, relies for the most part on facts about the crime on which light was shed in an investigation by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), primarily by witness statements," the SNV said.

It recalled that the investigation by the ICTY showed that three men, wearing camouflage uniforms with Croatian Army insignia on them and armed with machine guns, arrived by car in Uzdolje's hamlet of Šare in the morning of 6 August 1995.

They started abusing and intimidating elderly people they found in the hamlet, taking away a group of villagers to a location near the Knin-Drniš road, where one of the three men opened fire at them, killing seven, including three women. One person survived and managed to escape to a nearby forest.

Another person, an elderly woman, was killed in her house.

The SNV said it was not clear what prevented prosecutorial authorities to further investigate the crime and called on them to do so.

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Wednesday, 4 August 2021

President Zoran Milanović: There's no Boycott, Some Generals Received Invitation Too Late

ZAGREB, 4 Aug, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Wednesday that the fact that some of the army generals will not attend the Victory Day celebration in Knin is not a boycott, but that they received invitations too late.

Who has announced a boycott? Ljubo Ćesić Rojs has not. Josip Đakić is not a general, he is a bum, and a member of parliament, in other words he is nobody. Rojs will be there, Pavao Miljavac will be there and Ante Kotromanović will be there. Of course, not everyone can come every year, but most  people will be there," Milanović said during a visit to the southern town of Sinj.

He said he did not think there was any pressure on some of the generals by the Defence Ministry "because no one can exert pressure on those people," but noted that some of the generals and commanders were put in an awkward position because they received the invitation the day before the event, which was the ministry's responsibility.

During the visit, Milanović conferred high state medals on retired Brigadier Dušan Viro and posthumously on Franciscan Frane Bilokapić for their acts of humanity during the 1991-1995 Homeland War.

He said he did not consider the decoration of General Mladen Kruljac disputable even though he had been found guilty of corruption. "He is a war commander and is decorated what he did in the war. No one is perfect, but what he did in the war is without a doubt impeccable, and he is not the only one."

Judge Dobronić is my candidate for Supreme Court President

Answering questions from the press, Milanović confirmed that 61-year-old Judge Radovan Dobronić is his candidate for the position of Supreme Court President.

He has responded to the call for applications and "now we will see what will those who undermined, torpedoed and dishonoured my previous candidate do," Milanović said, describing Dobronić as smart, educated, honourable and incorruptible.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

State Delegations Lay Wreaths at Mirogoj Cemetery

ZAGREB, 4 Aug, 2021 - On the eve of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day, War Veterans Day and the central commemoration in Knin, state delegations laid wreaths at Zagreb's central Mirogoj cemetery on Wednesday.

The government delegation was led by Veterans' Minister Tomo Medved and a delegation of the Croatian Parliament was led by Deputy Speaker Željko Reiner.

The delegations laid wreaths at the Wall of Pain monument, the Central Cross in the Alley of Fallen Croatian Homeland War Defenders, the grave of Croatia's first president Franjo Tudjman, and at the common grave of unidentified victims of the 1991-95 war.

Wreaths were also laid by a delegation of President Zoran Milanović, led by his advisor on defence and national security Dragan Lozančić, as well as a delegation of the City of Zagreb, led by deputy mayor Luka Korlaet.

Shortly after that, a delegation of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), led by member of the SDP presidency and MEP Predrag Fred Matic, laid flowers and lit candles at the Wall of Pain monument and the Central Cross in the Alley of Fallen Croatian Homeland War Defenders.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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