Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Croatian Radiotelevision Story from 1998 Tells the Tale of Reconstruction of Strašnik

January 6, 2021 – A Facebook post started making the rounds in Croatia today, where archival footage from the village of Strašnik in 1998 is shown, where the concerns about the quality of the construction work after the Homeland war is questioned.

You can see the video in question below:

The video is from an extremely popular Croatian Radiotelevision show called “The Fruits of the Land” (Plodovi zemlje), which is the longest-running TV show on national television – it has been continuously broadcast since 1958. In the Nineties, the show was hosted by the extremely popular host Ivo Lončar, who has since passed away, but who produced the segment in question.

In the introduction to the segment, we are briefly told the story of Strašnik village, which is a village most people in Croatia had not really heard of before December 29th, 2020, when it was the epicentre of the disastrous earthquake. During the Homeland war of the early Nineties in Croatia, the occupying forces burned most of the homes in the village and forced the (mostly Croatian) people living there to flee their homes. After the success of Operation Storm in August of 1995, and in the spring of 1996, the return of the villagers began. Unfortunately, Ivo Lončar says in the piece, the return was not as efficient as was promised to them – as evidenced by the fact that out of the 400 people living in the village before 1991, only about a hundred of them returned before 1998, when the segment was produced. Before the war, most of those 400 people lived mostly off the land, most of them had cows and sold milk.

The people of Strašnik told the story of the state-funded and managed project of the reconstruction of their homes, stressing that the project started off on the wrong foot. The construction work itself was performed by the Krs company (the segment says it’s from Zagreb, but other sources say that the company was from Osijek), and the oversight was performed by the Sirać company. Back in 1998, when the segment was made, the people of the village told the reporter that the quality of the work performed was extremely low, This was at the moment when more than 70% of the houses in the village has been completed. 30 percent of the homes were never rebuilt, and the electricity was re-installed in the village in 1998, two years after the beginning of the project.

The people of the village publicly accused the head engineer, who led the project of rebuilding the homes in Strašnik, of open corruption. A villager (Stjepan Prašnjak from the local administration) explains to the reporter that they had come in contact with him personally and tried explaining to him that many odd things were happening during the construction phase, including the example in which the entire foundation of a house was built using 5 sacks of concrete. The same person also told the story of a villager who had returned to their home, went to sleep during the night and was awakened by the sounds of something breaking, crashing, only to discover that his chimney was crashing down!

Mr. Prašnjak then explained that the people of the village had tried complaining to numerous instances, both on the local, county level, and also on the national level through the Ministry in charge of the reconstruction of Croatia after the war. The replies they received were mostly that the problems will be fixed on the field, and that the company performing the construction work would have to foot the bill for any irregularities. Back in 1998, he added that nothing has been done to fix any problems.

The reporter continued to explain that the low-quality materials were used in the construction (concrete, brick, iron, roofing tiles), and the work performed was also bad. To prove the inferior quality of the work, the fact that in the first winter after the work was completed, in 1996, when the first snow came, 5 or 6 chimneys came down on their own, plaster started coming down on various houses etc. The windows and the doors were of very low quality, as well as plumbing and electricity installations. Ivo Lončar said outright that the reconstruction of the houses was plagued by the smuggling of the construction materials. Stjepan Prašnjak adds that the person who was in the village representing the company took bribes from the villagers, stating that there are witnesses who can corroborate that.

Most of the houses and the outbuildings were reconstructed by the villagers themselves, who invested their own funds into that. They felt bitter that they weren’t supported by the state more in that. The segment continued to explain the economic situation in the village, where there was only one tractor in 1998, and they were not given any financial support for the planting season.

Ivica Perković from the village told the story of his return to the village, which took place in 1998. First of all, he complained about the state of his house and said that it was impossible to return if you don’t have a house. He continued to say that both the speed and the quality of the reconstruction was not satisfactory. To prove his point, he stated that the works on his house had started in 1996, and that they were still not finished in 1998. He had complained about that fact to the Ministry, who responded to his complaints, but nothing had changed. He then explained that he had 5 cows, which he got milk from for sale, and some pigs, and that agriculture was the only way to make their living in the village.

Nikola Starešinović from the village told his story later in the segment, where he explained how, after his house had been rebuilt, it was discovered that the foundation of his new home had not been done properly. The foundation of his house was crumbling away (you can see that yourself around the 9:30 mark of the segment). He had complained about that to the institutions in charge, and the overseer came to his house and issued the recommendation of what needed to be done to fix the problem – and it was never done! He explained that he had no idea who else to complain to, to have his house fixed properly. He then continued to explain his life as a new farmer in the region.

Josip Šubić told the example of a house which had supposedly been reconstructed, where the water installations and the water heater had been installed, while at the same time the house didn’t have the doors or the windows. He added that when the people in charge of the oversight arrive in the village, they kept saying that the work is doing great.

The segment finishes on a very pessimistic note, with a villager saying that he regretted returning to the village and that he understood why young people were not coming back. The other one explained how and why people of the village were disappointed. Ivica Perković tried to give an optimistic view of the situation, saying that he loved the village and that more and more people were returning to it.

Ivo Lončar concluded the segment by stating that the reconstruction in Strašnik was officially finished, that the workers and the machinery had left the village. What remained were unfinished houses, even those finished are of low quality, people were sad and disappointed, the outhouses were never built by the state, there is no production of anything in the village, and he asks for how much longer the people of Strašnik need to suffer.

In 2021, the only thing we can say is – unfortunately, their suffering is far from over.

For more on the Petrinja earthquake and to see how you can donate money, food, humanitarian, sanitary, and material aid, follow our dedicated section.

Friday, 30 October 2020

VIDEO + PHOTOS: Vukovar Tower Opens In Spectacular Ceremony

October 30, 2020 - Fireworks pierced the sky, music filled the air and a striking choreography of colours lit the Vukovar Tower at this evening's grand unveiling

123002885_3595848073769282_1138724059920618830_o.jpg
© Marko Džavić 

Fireworks pierced the night sky, music filled the air and a striking choreography of colours lit the monument at this evening's official unveiling of the renovated Vukovar Tower. In a well-measured and memorable ceremony, the chill of the autumnal early evening was replaced with a myriad of heartfelt emotions.

Screenshot (54).png

One of the most recognised symbols of remembrance of Croatia's Homeland War, the Vukovar Tower has been under renovation for three years. Famously damaged in fighting during the war, its scars are a constant reminder of the heavy bombardment the town received. The Vukovar tower has undergone renovation needed to ensure its survival and to open up the structure to public visitation. Around 46 million kuna has been spent on the project, with much of the money coming from public donations.


Fireworks, as seen from spectators on the ground

Music at the opening ceremony ranged from solemn ballads delivered by Croatian pop stars, several all-male choirs and the traditional tamburaci folk music of Slavonia. The ceremony was broadcast live on the web pages of the City of Vukovar and on local TV channels.


The full hour-long ceremony

The Vukovar tower was built in 1968 and stands 50 metres high. It is difficult to judge its size from pictures, but at the time it was built, the structure was one of the largest water towers in Europe. In the times before the war, it held a restaurant with a panoramic view of the town and the surrounding Slavonian countryside. During the war, the Vukovar Tower was hit with more than 600 missiles. It thereafter became a symbol of resistance, then of remembrance.

Screenshot60.png

An integral part of the monument, the scars on the tower have been preserved in the renovation but shored up so that the Vukovar Tower can stand indefinitely. A new memorial space within the tower was presented as part of the unveiling. The monument will hereafter become part of Vukovar's most-visited buildings. Tens of thousands of Croatians visit Vukovar each year. Its art, culture and beautiful nature draw many, but large numbers also make the trip in remembrance of the war and the lives lost in the town. Almost every Croatian school year will make an organised trip to the town for this purpose.

Screenshot66.pngAll uncredited photos © Grad Vukovar

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

Read the Croatian Travel Update in your language - now available in 24 languages

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Emotive New Vukovar Father And Son Monument Unveiled

September 22, 2020 – Their lives taken in the Homeland War, Petar and Igor Kačić are depicted in the new Vukovar Father and Son monument. Igor was just 16-years-old at the time he was killed

During recent days, family members, the town mayor and veterans representatives attended the unveiling of a new Vukovar Father and Son monument. The statue is the work of Zvonimir Orčić and Josip Cvrtila and was commissioned in remembrance of Petar Kačić and his son Igor. Aged just 16-years-old at the time of his execution, Igor is the youngest victim of the massacre at Vukovar.

119946797_274204140565085_2829524350300861209_n.jpg

Petar Kačić was killed on the front line of the fighting in Vukovar on 2nd October 1991. He and other town residents were trying to defend their families and neighbours from the approaching Yugoslavian National Army forces. They were hopelessly outnumbered and inadequately armed for the task. They faced one of Europe's then-largest and best-equipped armies, whose numbers were bolstered by savage and ruthless paramilitaries.

Although the new Vukovar Father and Son monument shows the two males of the family together in defence of the town, Igor was actually killed one month after his father's passing, on 20 November 1991. While still grieving for Petar, the family had been moved into a shelter at Vukovar hospital to escape the intense shelling that rained down on the town each day. It had already destroyed their home two months previously.

Following the fall of the town, all refugees from the fighting were taken into the custody of the Yugoslavian National Army and their paramilitary accomplices. In a barbaric act that was to be repeated time and time again during the violent break up of Yugoslavia, the men were separated from the women, and small children, and then taken away.

Igor_Kačić.jpgIgor Kačić, aged 16

Although only 16-years-old, Igor Kačić was a strong and muscular boy. The look on his face was perhaps nearer that of a man, aged by grief, relentless shelling and the new responsibilities he had taken upon himself. After his father had been killed, Igor assumed the role of the family protector and stood on watch at the hospital while his mother Irena and his two sisters slept inside.

Around 300 men were taken from the Vukovar Hospital. Their number contained not only wounded fighters but sheltering civilians like Igor. They were transported by the Yugoslavian National Army to a farm in a hamlet called Ovčara, south-west of Vukovar. The army drove away, leaving the prisoners in the custody of the Serbian paramilitaries. 260 prisoners were lined up in groups, then shot. The bodies of 200 were later found in one mass grave.

pic_00001.jpg

“It is not just a monument to Petar and Igor, it is a monument to all fathers and sons who gave their lives in the Homeland War,” said Igor's mother, Irena Kačić, at the statue's unveiling. Aged 69 years old, Irena Kačić had made the journey from her present-day home in Rijeka to attend the ceremony for the new Vukovar Father and Son monument.

All photos © Grad Vukovar / public domain

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

Read the Croatian Travel Update in your language - now available in 24 languages

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Bozinovic: Dalj Commemoration Shows Firmness of Those Who Defended Country

ZAGREB, Aug 1, 2020 - Deputy Prime Minister Davor Bozinovic on Saturday attended the 29th annual commemoration for the defenders of Dalj, saying their deaths were a tragic but proud moment of the Homeland War which showed the firmness of those who defended their country with the strength of heart and true patriotism.

He said that "in 1991, before the formation of the Croatian army, police forces played a very significant part in resisting the enemy."

"The police officers of this station were helped by members of the National Guard Corps, Civil Protection and the people of Dalj," Bozinovic said, adding that one tank shell fired today in 1991 killed 20 police, 15 guards and four Civil Protection members.

"But they didn't think that the atrocity they committed here would be one of the decisive events for raising the morale of the Croatian people in defending and liberating their country."

We should be proud of the Croatian courage, perseverance and strength of unity because this tragedy determined the further course of the Homeland War, Bozinovic said.

The defence of the Dalj police station was one in a series of confirmations of the dedication of the Croatian police to the enforcement of the law and the preservation of the constitutional and legal order, democratic values and the integrity of our country, he added.

Wreaths were laid outside the police station and Mass was celebrated for the victims at the Dalj church.

Reporters asked Bozinovic, who also serves as interior minister, about war crimes investigations and the war missing.

He said the investigations and the search for the missing was a priority of the government, the relevant ministries and other institutions. "There is intensive inter-departmental cooperation which has already delivered results and I'm sure it will do so in the future as well. When it comes to Dalj, criminal complaints have been filed and they are being processed."

Honouring all innocent war victims is a civilisational achievement

Bozinovic was asked to comment on Homeland Movement MP Ivan Penava's statement that this year's Grubori commemoration was a political trade-off and equating the 1995 Operation Storm and individual crimes.

He  said the government had been continuously working on building political relations in Croatia.

"A responsible policy should create conditions so that we can turn to future challenges as successfully and with as little baggage from the past as possible. Talking about equating is groundless. The Storm anniversary is one of the most important dates in Croatia and will remain so, so one can't talk about any equating, nor is it appropriate to talk about that in that way. Honouring all war victims is a civilisational achievement."

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

War Missing, Croatian Minority's Status Remain in Focus of Serbia-Croatia Relations

ZAGREB, June 23, 2020 - Croatia will continue to insist on solving the issue of persons gone missing in the Homeland War and the equal treatment of minorities in the two states, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman said on Monday, a day after a parliamentary election in Serbia.

"There must always be cooperation, talks must always exist, especially because we are neighbours. We have certain outstanding issues, we have 1,892 missing persons we are tracing," the Croatian minister told reporters.

Asked what kind of cooperation he expected after the landslide election victory of President Aleksandar Vucic's Serbian Progressive Party, he said the two countries had "many topics" they could discuss that "the Croatian public must be informed about."

Croatia will continue to work so "the families of the missing and those killed have their satisfaction," said Grlic Radman. "If Serbia has committed, if Serbian politics is credible in terms of commitment to the European journey, then it must prove it."

He reiterated that Croatia would insist that the Croatian minority in Serbia had the same status that the Serb minority had in Croatia.

"We supported absolutely all Croatian representatives in the People's Assembly. Unfortunately, the Serbian side still hasn't honoured the international agreement on the protection of minorities, on fixed representation, so in the period ahead we will work very hard on achieving reciprocity," he said.

"Just as Croatia meets all standards for the protection of minorities, and the Serb minority has seats in the Croatian parliament, we will insist that the same be done in Serbia," he added.

Friday, 1 May 2020

Plenković Criticises Milanović for Okučani Incident

ZAGREB, May 1, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Friday dismissed the president's claims that the appearance of a few men wearing T-shirts with the salute "For the homeland ready" at the Okučani celebration was intentional provocation, adding that it is Milanović's right to leave, and the obligation of others to stay.

President Zoran Milanović abruptly left the central commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Operation Flash in protest against the salute "For the homeland ready" on T-shirts of some of war veterans who arrived in the town of Okučani on Friday morning to participate in the commemoration. The salute concerned, which was used during the Ustasha regime in the Second World War, was also used by the HOS volunteers during the 1991-1995 Homeland War.

"I have understood. We have held a brief conversation, for a minute. He was obviously informed by someone that some of the participants in the commemorative event had T-shirts with the HOS insignia. It is his decision (to leave). It is his right to leave, and it is our obligation to stay," Plenković said in his comment to Milanovic's behaviour at the Okučani celebration.

Plenković dismissed Milanović's claims that those T-shirts were an intentional act of provocation.

Asked by the press whether such T-shirts bothered him, Plenković answered that "all who gave their lives for Croatia, including the fallen HOS members, have deserved my respect."

"Making differences and what the president has done is not good. We have come here to pay tribute to the fallen defenders. You can see these 51 cubes here (as part of the Okučani monument to the fallen soldiers), we have come here because of those people. There is no place for provocation, we are here also on behalf of the institutions," the premier said.

As for the said salute, the premier recalled that his cabinet had made a clear position.

"The council for dealing with the past, which we have established, has adopted a document which very clearly identifies the moments in which some insignia, used during the Homeland War, can be used and those are commemorations and times when we remember our victims," Plenković said. "We pay our deepest respects to Croatian defenders," said the premier.

Plenković recalled that during the recent commemoration in Jasenovac, Milanović said that a memorial plaque with the names of the fallen HOS soldiers which contains the "For the homeland ready" salute should be thrown away.

"You will never hear any of us saying that a plaque with the names of the fallen soldiers who defended Croatia should be thrown away," he explained.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Friday, 1 May 2020

Milanović Leaves Okučani Commemoration Due to Ustasha Salute

ZAGREB, May 1, 2020 - President Zoran Milanović abruptly left the central commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Flash Operation in protest against the salute "For the homeland ready" on T-shirts of some of war veterans who arrived in the town of Okučani on Friday morning to participate in the commemoration.

The salute concerned, which was used during the Ustasha regime in the Second World War, was also used by the HOS volunteers during the 1991-1995 Homeland War.

"I am sorry. I came here to pay tribute to those who gave their lives for Croatia. We had agreed about all elements of the protocol. However, one of the participants who was supposed to lay a wreath before me, appeared in the T-shirt with the message 'Ready for the Homeland'," Milanović said explaining why he had left abruptly the commemorative event and was not among the state officials during the wreath-laying ceremony.

Milanović considers the whole situation as an act of provocation. "I find that this was an act of trampling on the sacrifice and on the memory of this (liberating) operation., Milanović said.

"I will not participate in any commemoration in the future with such events. I understand the prime minister and the parliament speaker. They have to," Milanović said alluding to the fact that the commemoration was held as planned with the PM Andrej Plenković and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković.

Operation Flash was launched on 1 May 1995, and within 31 hours Croatian military and police forces liberated about 500 square kilometres of territory occupied by Serb insurgents and restored control over the A3 motorway.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Milanović: Operation Flash Excellent Military and Police Operation

ZAGREB, April 30, 2020 - Marking the 25th anniversary of the Flash military and police operation, President and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces Zoran Milanović received for talks the army and police commanders who had participated in that operation, noting that it was an excellent operation.

"It will soon be 25 years since Croatia conducted its first major liberation operation and put an end to its four-year agony of being divided territorially and unable to function normally," said Milanović.

He added that the operation was impeccable in the military operational sense as well as in terms of respect for international law.

"That was an excellent military and police operation in every aspect," he said.

"As long as I am president, advancement in the army will be regular. There will not be any daily politicking. A system of values will exist and those are values that made it possible for us to join NATO and later the EU. That is Western democracy, which has various tones and colours and they are not all the same, but what we have in common with the countries with which we share security clauses and the article on mutual security assistance in case of an attack is that we have free elections and respect certain criteria and human rights," the president said.

"Thank you for everything you did for Croatia. Thank you for your active contributions. Long live Croatia," said Milanović.

The reception was attended by military and police commanders headed by Chief-of-Staff Admiral Robert Hranj and representatives of the Police Directorate.

More news about the Homeland War can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

President Milanović Pays Tribute to Police Officer Josip Jović

ZAGREB, March 31, 2020 - President and Armed Forces Supreme Commander Zoran Milanović on Tuesday lit a candle at a monument at Plitvička Jezera commemorating Josip Jović, the first Croatian police officer killed in the Homeland War, on the occasion of the 29th anniversary of his death.

Milanović's envoy, Brigadier Darko Podrug, head of the Croatian Navy commander's office, laid a wreath at Jović's grave in Arzano.

Jović, 22, was killed and nine other police officers were wounded in a police operation on 31 March 1991 after Serb insurgents occupied the Plitvice Lakes National Park and blocked the D1 state road that connects the country's north and south.

Jović was a member of the Lučko Anti-Terrorist Unit.

Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović on Tuesday paid tribute to Josip Jović, the first Croatian police officer killed in the Homeland War, as well as to other police officers and soldiers killed in the 1991-95 war.

Božinović lit a candle at a monument commemorating Jovic at Plitvice Lakes on the occasion of the 29th anniversary of his death.

Božinović, who heads the national team managing the current coronavirus crisis, said that police, together with other services, were today on the first line of defence against coronavirus, just as they had been on the first line of defence during the war.

More news about the Homeland War can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Croatian FM Talks War Missing at UN Human Rights Council

ZAGREB, February 26, 2020 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman spoke at a UN meeting in Geneva on Tuesday about Croatian citizens missing from the 1990s war, saying it was their families' human right to find out the truth which, he added, could also help reconciliation between peoples once at war.

Croatia is still tracing 1,871 persons gone missing in the 1991-95 war between Croatian forces and rebel local Serbs and the former Yugoslav People's Army.

Speaking at the 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Grlić Radman said shedding light on the fate of the missing was very important for Croatia. "That is of regional and global significance and also provides greater chances for lasting reconciliation between peoples."

"That is the everyday life of hundreds of families in Croatia and that's why we must show special interest and compassion. That's our concern," the minister said.

A photo exhibition by Sandra Simunovic called "Portraits of Sadness", depicting disturbing stories about the Homeland War missing, was opened on the fringes of the meeting.

Grlić Radman also met with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, extending his support to her work on the protection of human rights in the world.

"In today's world, where international human rights and multilateralism are increasingly being violated, it's important to support the high commissioner's work," he said.

The minister also took part in a disarmament conference at which he underlined the importance of effectively complying with all international and regional agreements on disarmament.

At the UN Human Rights Council meeting, he also pushed for strengthening the economic status of women, preventing poverty, including children's, as well as social exclusion, and protecting children from violence.

More news about Croatia and the UN can be found in the Politics section.

Page 7 of 23

Search