CIS Reviews, Burlingame/Arcadia, is promoting this April through Croatian Philatelic Society a new stamp about Bleiburg commemorating the 62nd anniversary of the tragic May 1945 events which occurred at the Austrian-Slovenian border.
That year, seven days after the formal end of WWII, British military forces extradited by deceit, after agreed upon terms of surrender, the first contingent of 100,000 Croatian civilians, women and children, and unarmed soldiers to the Yugoslav communist army which, immediately after crossing the Austrian border, started a planned genocide over the masses entrusted to their custody . Overwhelming available documentation testifies, clearly and unequivocally, that there was a pre-determined supreme plan, there was a supreme command which issued specific orders of genocidal proportions, and a systematic way of mass executions and liquidation.
The stamp is double-formatted; the left side portrays an image of a work by a world known naïve painter, Ivan Lackovic –Croata dated 1998, bearing the author’s inscription: “Hail Europe, Croatians who are about to die, salute you”. This is a prophetic adaptation of a classic quote “Ave Caesar, morituri te salutant…” by an artist who understands his nation’s history. Above the image of ”Bleiburg” there are three imprinted dates: 1918, 1945 and 2007.
A time frame of 27 years between 1918 and 1945 was for Croatians a period of systemic oppression by the monarchy from Belgrade , followed thereafter by a period of struggle against this imposed oppressive regime, followed by the establishment of the ideals of free Croatian nationhood, and finally, a fall of the nation in a whirlpool of world events.
For serious historians, what is known as Bleiburg started in two phases before Bleiburg itself. The first, a political phase, marked by year 1918, saw the crystallization of the goals of the old, decadent Serbian philosophy Načertanije which propagated the expansion of its boundaries over Croatian lands, under the tutelage of Europe personified primarily by Great Britain. A second phase of “Bleiburg before Bleiburg” started during the second half of 1944, with the massive retreat of the population from eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina caused by mass exterminations of civilian population and clergy by the advancing communist army.
A portion of this human multitude will, with many others, eventually retreat toward Austria’s Bleiburg fields, from where they will be extradited to the Yugoslav communists by order of the staff of Fifth Corps, Eight British army of (later promoted) lord Aldington. This started a process of forced repatriation, and genocide over one of the oldest people in Europe: Croatians. We ought to learn from history in order to learn how to live better in the future!
The right side of the stamp portrays an image of a chapel which is currently being built at the Bleiburg field, and which will be blessed by Croatian Cardinal Bozanic on occasion of the 62nd commemoration of the May 1945 events. This year’s commemoration has been scheduled for Sunday, May the 13. Below the image of the chapel, printed intentionally in large letters, there is an inscription: “Bleiburg”, marked by three dates: 1945-1991-2007.
Showing an interesting parallelism, a time between 1945 and 1991 is (again) characterized as a period of oppression against the Croatians, this time by the communist Belgrade regime, followed by a struggle against this oppression, subsequent attainment of Croatian independence after four years of war, and thereafter, a decline of a nation in a whirlpool of European interests and internal national shortcomings.
These are the historical facts, as they were recorded by a long time friend, historian, stamp collector and – with the French attorney Desbond - the greatest friend of Croatians, professor Michael Mc Adams. More than three decades ago, he said: “A historian cannot “write” history. History has already been written, it is a fact, it has occurred…therefore, it IS written. A historian can only attempt to record as accurately as possible the events which were forged by those who lived and died at that time”(cis/ac/1974)
This stamp is issued commemorating three generations of Croatians which were executed in the shadow of Truth, without due process, without a presence of a priest, and without justice only because they were declared Croatians. They had to be physically executed in order to open territories for the expansion of Greater Serbia. In the words of Tito’s right hand Milovan Djilas: “They must die so that Yugoslavia may live”.
Sober thinking, and search for justice requires that the issue of Bleiburg be addressed by responsible governments, individuals and institutions in order to expose the truth to the wider public and condemn the parties who bear responsibility; only then it will be possible to separate plain rhetoric from much needed forgiveness and closure.
As long as the world is not given an explanation about 510 mass graves in Slovenia with countless Croatian nationals, civilians, women, children and soldiers interred and liquidated “without due process, without a presence of a priest, without justice”,……. as long as the governments of Slovenia and Croatia are still waiting to sign a serious agreement on mass graves,…… as long the work of the Commission for Investigations of War and Postwar Victims is paralyzed by the arbitrary senate (Sabor) call (which happened, literally, in the darkness of night), and whose unfinished work reached a list of 160,000 names of killed and disappeared after the end of war,…..as long the leading British spheres of influence negate their responsibility and refuse to open archived files, simply pleading ignorance,… as long as the international court in Hague is equating aggressors and victims, and then, absolving the aggressors of crimes…...today’s portion of Bleiburg history is still calling for justice. Indeed, we ought to learn from history to learn how to better live in the future!!
From May 1945 until today, 62 years went by. Many events have happened, but proportionally few changes of substance have truly benefited the average Croatian citizen. When any government abdicates its responsibility to the citizens to provide a milieu of justice, and to protect national sovereignty, such behavior can only be said to fluctuate within parameters of incompetence and treason. And, when the individual citizen abdicates his right to speak up, he implicitly contributes to such institutional behavior. Therein lies the cause for institutional crime.
Within that context, and the historical facts of Bleiburg, it is appropriate to remember the prophetic words of a dear writer from past, Marija Juric Zagorka: “Unfortunate Humanity…why do you carry the chains of slavery when it is only up to you to remove them? “
POST SCRIPTUM: BLEIBURG 2022
During 2021 and 2022, the Austrian government and the Austrian regional ecclesiastic authorities might not have conspired, but they worked together to limit and/or to eliminate the yearly commemorations on the Bleiburg field in what has been defined not an assassination of the body – the way it was done in 1945 - but as the assassination of the soul.
Memorial inscription, 1987. Memorial inscription, 1992. Memorial inscription, 2022.
Bleiburg Memorial, Austria
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This paper examines the long-term challenges to democratic nation building that have resulted from the forced repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Croatian civilians and military personnel to ...
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