Dan O. Rados
CIS Reviews, Burlingame/Arcadia is promoting this June, through the Croatian Philatelic Society, a new stamp which is the last one in a trilogy series commemorating the Croatian city of Vukovar, its defenders and their families. On November 18- 20, 1991, after three months of unique heroic defense, the battle for Vukovar was lost which was followed by a protracted four-year war that the Republic of Croatia eventually won.
Today, almost 18 years later, all the facts have not been reported, all the suffering has not been described, all the injustice has not been enumerated. In fact, the Justice for which the courageous defenders and their families were offering their lives, not only has not been satisfied: in the interest of historical and political opportunists, domestic and foreign, it has been, without consideration, brutally witheld and denied.
The stamp is double formatted. Similar to the first edition of the trilogy ( Bleiburg, 2007) and the second edition ( Gen. Gotovina ), the left side portrays an image of a work by a world renowned naive painter Ivan Lackovic-Croata dated 1998. It bears the author's inscription: „Hail Europe, Croatians who are about to die, salute you“ This is an adaptation of a classic quote „Ave Caesar, morituri te salutant“ by an artist who understands his nation's history. Above the image of a group of individuals with lowered heads and tied in chains in groups of four, there is an inscription „Croatia“, marked by two separate dates: 1914 and 2009. In this 95 year period, starting with WWI, Europe, primarily personified by Great Britain’s political influence, has clearly and intentionally failed to the interests of the Croatian people in the crucial moments of their history.
It failed on April 26, 1915 by designing and implementing the then secret London Agreement whereby Britain promissed, and later delivered on this promise, the Croatian terrritories of Trieste, Istra, Dalmatia extended to Ploce in the south and most of the Adriatic islands to Italy as a reward for Italy's participation in the Entente war efforts. (A corolary question might be posed as to what extent would the Rapallo Agreements of 1920 and the subsequent Rome Agreements have materialized without this precedental sale of Croatian lands to third parties).
It failed on December 1, 1918 when Croatia „joined“ the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. We quote from our second edition: „This newly imposed political system was a mere continuation of the opression of the Croatian people, a system for which the Croatian people did not cast a vote, and which Croatian Parliament never ratified“. This forcefully imposed political system, concieved in London as a part of „the European solution“ became, in fact, a long term epicenter of european (and particularly) Croatian problems. The difference was that the Croatian problems were always paid for with great loss of civilian life and loss of territories.
It failed in May, 1945, eight days after the end of WWII when Lord Aldington, following the London instructions, extradited by deceit the majority of the Croatian Army accompanied by civilian masses to the Yugoslav Army forces disregarding the Geneva Convention of which the Croatian Government was a signatory since 1943. This act of „forced repatriation“ resulted in the greatest post war massacre which claimed more than 5% of the total nation's population. Mass executions started in Austria and were conducted in Death Marches through Slovenia, Croatia proper, Vojvodina, Serbia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia. Genocide was committed, yet the truth was silenced; 581 mass graves alone in Slovenia testify to the committed genocide while at the same time in official British circles, the secrecy of the Bleiburg Archives is extended for additional 40 years. In the meantime, the government of Zagreb displays its typical, planned paternalistic lethargy.
It failed in recent history (2000) when the International Court in The Hague announced through its actions that Croatian generals were included in the category of war criminals, and that the defense of Croatian lands by Croatian citizens were criminal actions. Such political interpretation of what seems like a manifestation of Anglo-Saxon justice clearly shows how in the name of Justice, individuals, institutions and principles have been prostituted because political interests are more important than that which is morally correct and legally right.
Starcevic said: "Croatians wanted to free themselves from domination, not merely to replace one domination with another“. A nation that allows foreign powers to dictate and write its history cannot establish firm foundations for the development of its future generations, regardless of weather this act takes place within or outside any type of
The right side of the stamp is dedicated to the town of Vukovar, its defenders and their families.
It portrays three elements: a cross as a symbol of 1300 years of Croatian Catholic faith tied to an ancient Croatian coat of arms, an inscription Vukovar-Justice Denied marked by a date of fall of Vukovar in 1991, and a symbolic detail of a viper similar to that depicted on a flag carried by American volunteers in their fight against colonial British rule.
So that the Republic of Croatia might survive the war and live, Vukovar gave 1739 dead, 3000 wounded, 495 dissapeared and 9800 imprissoned in Serbia. During the three month defense of the city , 315,000 shells fell of the city destroying 96% of all structures. About expulsion of the civilian population, family traumas or generational scars rarely anyone speaks because today it is more acceptable to be politically correct than be truthfull and just.
How many monuments should have been erected, which was not done, to commemorate all these victims? How many prosecutions of war criminals should have been written to insure that Vukovar will not be another continuation of the London Agreement, SHS, Bleiburg and the Hague? Nevertheless, to this day, this process is evolving in front of our eyes, aptly expressed in words of teacher, Starcevic:
"Be aware of these people from the past until today.....they are always the same, always masked so that their vulgarity will not be recognized."
The direct responsibility for the Vukovar tragedy resides with the Yugoslav Army soldier who blindly followed orders; it resides with the Serbian officers of all ranks, generals in Yugoslav uniforms and all paramilitary variations, the entire military staff, all ministries and ministers, the press and TV, the top military and civilian leadership in
Belgrade, all of which were hailed and praised by the majority of the Serbian populace. On the topic of collective responsibility and war reparations, there are only superficial comments offered by the self- serving domestic and foreign oligarchies. In a larger context, a great deal of responsibility resides with the domestic political leaders of all parties that did not questions the Hague's unjust and damaging agreements and did not call for their revision and anulment where needed. Why? Because sovereinty of a nation is clearly more important than offerings of economic and social models and programs that satisfy the domestic oligarchy while negating the rights of the average Croatian citizens.
The injustices are numerous:
- For Ovcara, there were minimal indictments and shameful judgments.
- For shelling of the civilian population, no responsibility was defind.
- For plunder of private and national property, no responsibility was established.
- For those who denounced their neighbors-Croats, no responsibility was found.
- For the dead, wounded, dissapeared, interned in concentration camps, no responsibility was acknowledged.
- For false narratives equating victims to aggressors, no responsibility was avowed.
- For blatant blankets of institutionalized distortion of truth, no responsibility was found.
This stamp is presented in honor of town of Vukovar, its defenders and their families, those who died, who disappeared, were wounded, imprisoned, expelled, forgotten by the so called human rights spheres and judicial forums, which tend to interpret human rights only in light of political ideologies, thus without just consequences.
Justice denied is one of the most terrible forms of opression which Croatian people should not allow to be repeated, and yet, this process of denied justice is evolving in front of our eyes today, 18 years after the liberation war was won.
That points to the third element of the stamp: on the lower, right-hand side there is an image of a viper reminiscent of volunteers from American colonial history. In the struggle for their freedom, they imprinted on their flag the image of a viper with an inscription:“Don't
thread on me“!. This ought to be understood as a proven historical message that any oppression, from past history to the present, and particularly, the oppression of unjust and corrupt institutions, must have an end... with a caution that such oppression can often end with harsh and swift consequences.
From a generation of Croatians who were direct witnesses and themselves victims of denied justice, we offer our gratitude and recognize the heroism, honor and glory of the town of Vukovar
and its noble people.
POST SCRIPTUM : VUKOVAR 2022
The process of denial of justice is still alive;
political expedience, no matter how unjust, how irrational, how abusive.....is still tacit and strong, still going on.
„BE AWARE OF THESE PEOPLE FROM THE PAST UNTIL TODAY.... THEY ARE
ALWAYS THE SAME. ALWAYS MASKED SO THAT THEIR VULGARITY WILL NOT BE RECOGNIZED“.
Dan Rados, 2022
All Content © 2015 Croatian Film Institute, All Rights Reserved