THE LIBERTAS DIARY
Neither the world nor Croatia nor Dubrovnik itself did understand the significance, strength and dignity of the besieged town of Dubrovnik.
Pictures of air bombardments, attacks launched from the combat ships, shelling and machine gun fire from the surrounding hills, “Slavija” ship with thousands of refugees on open sea, deceitful propaganda about Cavtat, Mokošica, flags, and finally, absolute tragedy of Dubrovnik in flames – created not only the image of suffering, but also weakness both of Dubrovnik and its citizens.
It is such a small, even too small number of people who know that the besieged Dubrovnik wrote significant pages of Croatian liberty, dignity and faith, so much so that French Academician D’Ormesson shouted: “New Europe is being born here!”
The spirit of Dubrovnik was being created by each and every person or thing. Deliveries of babies, drawings, school, Singing Children of Dubrovnik, Đelo and the Brass Band, Orchestra and Mozart, Music School, Ruža, New Year’s Concert, master Ivo, Siniša, Pavo, Theatre, Convoy, Voice of Dubrovnik, exhibitions, bakers, fire squad, street cleaners, water supply, Cathedral, Saint Blaise, Dominicans, Franciscans, Bishop, Boninovo Cemetary, the sick, retarded, disabled, doctors and nurses, drivers, foreign humanitarian workers, Croatian Army, Argentina Hotel, Convoy ships, unit of combat ships, Srđ, Sustjepan, Croatian Navy, captives in Morinje, the occupied in Cavtat, Rijeka and Primorje, destruction of Ćilipi, Slano, Čepikuće and Lisac, detachment of Mljet, Šipan, Lopud, Jakljan, Koločep, Interuniversity Centre, informing of the world, boards of return, displaced elderly women from Konavlje doing their needlework in the course of attack, Human Rights Committee consisting of Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox and Jewish fellow members, women refusing to leave, church services...
At that time, we were sharing Dubrovnik’s fate all the way from the Eastern Slavonia to Cavtat, from the intellectuals’ meeting at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb to the captives in Morinje.
Slobodan Lang was a doctor. He was making his rounds of the suffering people in order to prevent and stop their misery,or at least ease the pain. These notes represent the historical (“medical”) record of the Dubrovnik’s under siege dignity.
Fact of the matter is that those were the great days of Dubrovnik, Croatianness and humaneness.
They were destroying walls while people were growing taller.
Their cannons were roaring while Mozart was being played in Dubrovnik.
They were pouring shells while Dubrovnik was giving out oranges.
They were looting while women from Konavlje were doing their needlework.
They were destroying the cross on top of Srđ while wounded Christ was being worshipped in Dubrovnik.
They were tearing down while the Croatian flag was fatefully flown up on the Mount Srđ, protecting the damaged Stradun and filling up children’s drawings.
Dubrovnik prevailed because it depended on each and every individual’s capabilities. Dubrovnik was filled with spirit that was carved out by all. Nobody was superficial. Dubrovnik was stronger.
Zagreb, December 16, 1996
Dr. Andro Vlahušić
Dr. Slobodan Lang
CONTRIBUTING A WORD OR TWO TO DR. LANG’S DIARY
These records of remembrance and observation amidst war operations, as well as a newly-conceived liberty, represent a piece of evidence to trials and tribulations in the Dubrovnik Region. As such, they happen to be a reliable source of information concerning the chain of events in the Southern Croatia at the time of intolerable aggression, destruction and devastation.
It is interesting to read these lines, remembering people and events from the recent past in which Dubrovnik struggled to survive. This town saw a deadly struggle for desired freedom and against imminence of bondage. And in the rare moments without a shell fire that would hurt our body and soul, destroy our palaces, houses and temples, a different kind of suffering would surge: thirsty, starving people, lightless, surrounded by the enemy, shut out of the rest of the world, crying to God and people, praying fervently: God, come to our assistance!
And, while Serbs and Montenegrins alongside JNA (Yugoslav National Army) were laying siege to the City of Dubrovnik, cutting off any communication whatsoever with it, provoking anxiety and fear, people started to put up resistance, solidarity, closeness and humaneness. Everything was being shared. There was no lamenting over the shortage of goods. Convoys of solidarity starting off from various parts of Croatia showed that Dubrovnik had never been as much in the heart of Croatia as at that time. And never had Croatia been that much in the heart of Dubrovnik.
It took supernatural strength to believe the evil would eventually come to an end. What happened in the Southern part of Croatia was nothing short of miracle: Dubrovnik did not fall into its enemy’s hands. None of the military or human strategy whatsoever could give us explanation to that. How come freedom and dignity and peacefulness could survive in such circumstances?! How could our people vent their spite toward aggressors and “world cartographers” who had literally “crossed us out”?!
Only St. Blaise’s patronage and strength of the destroyed cross on top of Srđ, as well as ardent faith, sacrifice and prayer of the suffering people, can respond to these questions. These lines reflect hope and faith. Hope, faith and love of our people guided Dubrovnik to existence, survival and freedom, inspiring Đivo’s freedom-dedicated song: “Oh fair, oh dear, oh sweet liberty…”
Monsignor Želimir Puljić,
Bishop of Dubrovnik
DUBROVNIK - A CITY OF CROATIAN FREEDOM
The moment I heard of the suffering in Dubrovnik,* I knew it was time I had set off for Slavonia. So I went to Slavonia, and there was plenty to see there. Mr Šegedin reminded me of an event in his speech. At the time, I talked to him about a text written by my grandma on November 28, 1944, under the title “What is this world coming to?” And I took a trip to Slavonia to see what the world was coming to.
And that I saw in Slavonia. I will present you with a few examples. There was a house by the Danube in the place called Dalj, and in that house, in just one room, seventeen children and women lived in fear for the single reason they were Croats. I do not recognize the Hague and what it stands for because they have never been to that room.
There was a destroyed church in the village of Sarvaš, and in it there was just a black dog. I suggested that the world politicians, summoned in the Hague* at that moment, should have gone to Sarvaš and prayed.
There was the Maternity Ward of the Osijek Clinical Hospital, and in that ward a nurse happened to be killed just because she had been helping deliver babies. By this same token, babies themselves assumed responsibility for being Croatian-born babies. At the moment, in Osijek, Slavonia, it was possible for babies to be delivered in hospital basements only.
It was the war which deliberately targeted all types of crosses, i.e. churches, maternity wards, homes. Not for being cultural or historical landmarks, but for the possibility of sheltering a pregnant woman. And a new-born baby. And a sick person in their effort to hide. Or a priest who would give comfort. That was why a lot of destruction was in order. To destroy the people.
They expected us to be sad, to be extremely sensitive about Dubrovnik, which we were. Further on, they expected us to be inefficient, or ready to break down because of Dubrovnik. But we were not prepared to rescue Dubrovnik, turning away from the rest of Croatia. Thus I would kindly ask any Belgrade politician not to bother doing for Dubrovnik what they would not do for the rest of Croatia. Dubrovnik citizens would need no such thing.
• From Dr. Lang’s speech, delivered at the meeting of support in the Croatian National Theatre, Zagreb, October 5, 1991. The meeting was held shortly after the city of Zagreb had been put on air raid alert.
• This relates to a meeting of international politicians that was being held in the Hague at that time, and not to the International War Crimes Tribunal, but, after all, it can be taken both ways.
PROCLAMATION FOR THE RETURN OF DUBROVNIK CITIZENS TO DUBROVNIK
“Citizens of Dubrovnik, citizens of the Republic of Croatia!* Croats and people of good will all over the world! In the Serb aggression against Croatia, the time has come to approach the crown-jewel among Croatian cities – Dubrovnik – with utmost resolution. Occupying JNA, as well as Serb paramilitaries, are forcing Dubrovnik citizens out of the town, requesting that the patriotic Croatian banner be pulled down.
In the course of its long history, Dubrovnik used to be generous to any religion, nation, artist, scientist, people in general. Dubrovnik is the city of human rights. It is now time to pay our debts to Dubrovnik.
Not any single Dubrovnik citizen is allowed to leave Dubrovnik. Let each and every Dubrovnik citizen be returned to Dubrovnik. Every Croat, alongside every good-willed person, is Dubrovnik citizen as of today.
We are all setting off for Dubrovnik. Convoy of return to Dubrovnik is due to set off on Tuesday, October 29, 18.oo hours, by “Jadrolinija” ships harboured in Split. Departure from Zagreb is due on Monday, 13.00 hours, in front of the “Dubrovnik” Hotel. There is a possibility of taking a bus or driving one’s own car (…) The ship from Rijeka to Split leaves on Monday, October 28, 18.00 hours. The Convoy for the Return of Dubrovnik Citizens to Dubrovnik will be joined by several hundred fishing boats.
On this occasion we invite each and every owner or commander of a ship to accompany the Convoy (...)”.
• The Proclamation was written by Dr. Slobodan Lang and Nedjeljko Fabrio, Head of the Croatian Literary Society, prior to the Convoy “Libertas” setting off for Dubrovnik, October 27, 1991. The Proclamation was announced the same day on the Radio-Zagreb, an hour later on HTV (Croatian Television).
UNDER THE SIEGE OF STEEL
November 6, 1991
Forty-three days since the attack on Konavle. Dubrovnik’s forty-six-day-long deprivation of water and lights. Seven days since Convoy “Libertas” set out on its journey. Fight of savageness against civilization is going on in Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is surrounded. Tanks, that are forever shelling mere hotels at Babin Kuk now crowded with the displaced persons, are dug in on top of the Žarkovica Hill. To them up there in Žarkovica nothing is sacred. Just the other day, a five-year-old boy was wounded with his mother in Gruž and for one single reason – they were going to take a walk near the sea. A woman was shot at while walking along Stradun. Imagine, put the bullet into the woman’s chest in the middle of Stradun. This morning I have found a ten-centimeter-long piece of shrapnel in front of Hotel “Argentina”.
In the hotel there are displaced persons, EC monitors, International Red Cross representatives, foreign and Croatian reporters. We are looking down the barrel of their guns, pointed at us at all times from their combat ships, provoking terror in each and every human being, young or adult, female or male, in Dubrovnik. The roar of their cannon fire is a day-to-day desire to kill the innocent, and occasional church bells sounding marks their success.
In Dubrovnik, people are encircled by tons of steel. Other people, tearless and with steel in their hearts, are tightening the steel siege of the surrounded town. They have engaged all sorts of powerful steel weaponry: combat ships, submarines, tanks, heavy machine-guns, planes, missiles, mortars. They are destroying homes, setting cypresses and vineyards on fire, expelling residents, cutting out lights, preventing medical supplies, food supplies, firewood supplies, terminating communication and friendly contacts between people. In Dubrovnik, encircled by Minčeta Tower, Fort Bokar, Fort St. John, Fort Lovrijenac, a coronet of Dubrovnik walls, people have relied upon tradition - in such a small spot, there are, side by side, houses in which Ivo Vojnović, Fran Supilo and Ruđer Bošković were born, side by side there are beautiful churches and monasteries, St. Blaise’s Church and Monastery of Small Friars, Cathedral, Orthodox Church and second oldest Mosque in Europe. Great Onophrius’ Fountain symbolizes the importance of water for Dubrovnik; Rector’s Palace stands for the ever-lasting democracy and freedom, Marin Držić and Gundulić Monument represent the unrestrainable, world-scale might of the Croatian culture in Dubrovnik.
Franciscan Monastery houses one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe. Porporela sung about in a number of songs, and Dubrovnik harbour crammed with vessels. From a point above, you can see all the way to Konavle and Cavtat, Lokrum in front of us, and opposite there is Gruž, Daksa, Kalamota, and a cluster of islands scattered in direction of the Island of Mljet; here is Rijeka Dubrovačka, Zaton, Trsteno, Slano. Dubrovnik is unique, and whole its history, islands, cypresses, vineyards, summer houses, monasteries, churches and mosques have sustained their wounds alongside the Dubrovnik citizen of today.
Konavle – burnt down and with its population expelled, Šipan, Kalamota, Lokrum struck by shells, forests set ablaze, summer houses destroyed, mosque damaged and the native house of Ruđer Bošković almost destroyed. For the first time in the history of Dubrovnik, certain people have indeed been up to destroying this city, and such a situation has come as a big surprise to its citizens.
VUKOVAR AND DUBROVNIK
At the outbreak of war in Potkonje, Knin, Vrlika, Topusko, Dvor on Una, Osijek and Vinkovci, after the terrible crime had been committed in Dalj and the glorious battle of Vukovar had only just started, nobody in Dubrovnik believed anyone would dare attack their city. And the city itself started sheltering displaced persons from all over Croatia, regarding it almost as a weird kind of tourism. Thus it went on until 43 days ago when Konavle came under attack. That was the time when displaced persons from around Dubrovnik were beginning to arrive to Dubrovnik, while on October 1, Croatian history started writing a new epic of Dubrovnik. People were scared. How to fight against iron and steel? Hundreds, thousands came to know that the most beautiful city in the whole world was no longer safe. They set out to sea, fleeing very much like Jews once had done in view of the forthcoming fascism. People who stayed in the town were beginning to get used to the siege, making occasional contacts with the rest of Croatia and the world. According to Feđa Šehović, this at first glorious moment of people getting together was somehow wasted by fear and turning the blind eye to one’s duties. Dubrovnik felt as though it had been abandoned by Croatia, yet it could maybe for the first time in its history fully realize how it was possible to persevere within Croatian borders only.
And, in the moment of losing hope, the Libertas Convoy set out on its journey. Instead of combat ships, there were fishing boats and other small vessels, instead of weapons – good people in action.
STRENGTH OF THE CROSS AT MOUNT SRĐ
November 7, 1991
Fire in Mount Srđ. Smoke rising up; the TV tower and the cross standing upright – the former, linking us with the world, the latter, linking us with the soul. They may be broken but not bent.
Shells pouring down from Žarkovica; but they cannot harm us. Kathleen Wilkes, the Chairwoman of the Interuniversity Centre Executive Board (got back to Dubrovnik yesterday), opened the first annual conference at the IUC – “Human rights and quality of living regarding displaced persons in Dubrovnik”. The most prominent people in Dubrovnik were gathered together by Đelo Jusić. Danica and Helena, representatives of Croatian-American Society in Atlanta and Washington, have only just informed me of the telephone conference for reporters located between Dubrovnik and Washington – the conference will be given by master Pero Poljanić, Dubrovnik representatives and me at 18,15. The most prominent TV networks and news agencies willl be on site in Washington, and a number of senators have received an invitation to attend. Žarkovica is launching an attack. We are fighting back. It is hard to think back to how the convoy set off...
Sunday, October 27. Afternoon at the “Dubrovnik” Hotel. Getting ready to take off to Eastern Slavonia. Branko Čulo is here with me, while Željko Gaži reports from Germany, collecting aid there (he is from Babin Kuk). We are talking to students about further hunger strike. Branka Šeparović and Mirjana Rakela are coming over. “Don’t bother making questions, do come with us”. We are taking off to the Ministry of Maritime Affairs. Conversation with Minister Rudolf and associates. Convoy for Dubrovnik is setting off. Thank God! (Up there, in Srđ, new column of smoke, however, the TV tower and the cross are still standing). After the horrors of the exodus from Ilok – convoy of return at last. Andro Vlahušić and me have been keeping the telephone line between Dubrovnik and Zagreb busy for the past few days while planning the convoy of return to Konavle, Župa, Cavtat, Slano… Homes must not be abandoned. We would kindly ask both priests and doctors to come together with people. If noone else,at least the elderly. According to Andro, it is just like elephants, come home and die. The convoy of return. Both Nenad Starc and Nedjeljko Fabrio are part of an agreement. It is five of us. Nedjeljko and me are writing the Proclamation each in their own hand, putting it together afterwards. First part belongs to him, the writer’s part, second part to me, the doctor’s part, third part is in terms of organization.
CONVOY IS SETTING OFF
“We are all setting off for Dubrovnik.” Monday, 28 October. Press conference. It is chaired by Branka Šeparović. Bosiljko Mišetić is among the attendees. At the moment I am putting my departure to Slavonia off. It is a hard thing to do. I have come to love the people in Laslovo, Seleš, Vinkovci, Tenja, Đakovo, Slavonski Brod, especially my fellow guardsmen of the First Company/Second Battalion of the Osijek Guards. They will understand why I have to go to Dubrovnik. They are warm-hearted, brave people. What they know only too well is that Croatia needs to be defended both in the north and south. Željko from Babin kuk is going to stay in the Eastern Slavonia, Branko has come from Slavonia to defend Dubrovnik.
Convoy is beginning to receive aid. St. Blaise’s Fund has been here with us from the very start. Pero Luznik is an old friend and a genuine Dubrovnik citizen. We have been joined by Caritas and Red Cross. Željko Bulajić is with us not only by himself but also on behalf of the “Montenegro” Society. Artists, actors, persons prominent in cultural life are enlisting – Mirko Božić, Ivica Vidović, Božidar Boban, Tomislav Durbešić, doctors Petar Nola, Dragutin Ferber, “Sisters of Mercy” hospital team, Nedjeljko Fabrio, Zvonko Špišić and, naturally, Tereza Kesovija. A number of good people are being with us, among them the most important certainly are thirty-five Dubrovnik returnees.
350,000 residents have been expelled from their homes in their own native land, 13,000 from around Dubrovnik are now in the town itself, 10,000 have completely abandoned their home town. Thirty-five Dubrovnik returnees represent just a tiny portion among thousands and thousands of displaced persons throughout Croatia. It is a small number. But for Croats and all good people it is a starting point of return to the destroyed and looted homes, abandoned fields and burnt down forests. The return is aimed at putting the destroyed church bells up again. It is the return of people who are going to win over iron and steel. New convoys to Ilok, Baranya,Vukovar have already been announced, too soon maybe, but with reason. People must not be expelled from their homes, people under siege must not fall into oblivion. Persecution must not be allowed, you must not let yourself become a displaced person.
We are meeting in front of the “Dubrovnik” hotel at 18.00. We are joined by Ivan Zvonimir Čičak. Six buses are set in motion. 148 people have set off from Zagreb. Rijeka is our destination, via Slovenia. Convoy “Libertas” has set off.
Srđ is still under fire. Smoke. Both the TV tower and the cross still standing. Crystal-clear day! Sunshine. Clouds as white as lambs against the blue sky. Beauty of Dubrovnik! And fire still being held from Žarkovica. Srđ clouded by smoke. I feel like swearing, but I am not going to.
Displaced persons from Konavle entering the Old Town
Convoy “Libertas” receiving a warm welcome in front of St. Blaise’s Church
Office setting up for Convoy “Libertas”
TARGETING THE SYNAGOGUE AND THE CATHEDRAL
November 8, 1991
Boninovo and Lapad have been hit again. One of the crosses at Boninovo has been broken, but not bent by them. Together with people from Konavle, we have picked it up and carried it to the Office in Stradun. It is now standing upright in the middle of Stradun beneath the statue of Ivo Vojnović.
October 28-29 We are on the buses heading for Rijeka. We do not know what it will be like. I am in the front seat of the bus in company of Čičak and Mišetić. We are approaching the border with Slovenia. There we receive a purely bureaucratic treatment. Indeed, we have not expected that type of obstacle. Mima and me confront the police officers. One of them says something insulting to the whole Croatian nation. I hate nations being evaluated in such a way. Not a single one, ever, for any possible reason. More than an hour elapses before we go on. Branka and Čičak have talked to the highest-ranking Slovenian officials. We have been assigned a police escort. I guess they are ashamed. We are on the road again. In the vicinity of Postojna, a sudden, horrific collision of the two cars. Fortunately, noone is hurt. Approaching Rijeka, we get lost and have to wait for the second time. A number of evil omens! What is this coming to?
A few graves have been destroyed at Boninovo. Italian grave dating back to 1886. “Questo Asilo Di Pace E Esperanza…” Indeed, they are taking from us both peace and hope, but they will not succeed. Even the grave of Pavo Kordić, a captain and a priest, have been destroyed by them, also the grave of Pero Mrkušić, a great man of Dubrovnik, a man of the world.
Some fifty people are coming on board in Rijeka. The “Slavija” ship is setting off for Dubrovnik. Early in the morning , October 29, we are passing by Vodice. I would like to thank them for a warm welcome and greetings. We are approaching Split. Boardwalk is almost empty. Are we going to make it? We manage to get to Admiral Sveto Letica’s Office. How to run the blockade and not going off to Zelenika. Aboard the ship, there are many of us who have put a lot of effort into human rights, respecting national, religious, political, sexual attributes…so eagerly that it is almost impossible for us to get through the Control Point at Zelenika. The following is written there: “No entrance for human rights.”
CROATIA UNITED IN THE CONVOY
More than a hundred and fifty people go aboard. Rector of the Split University alongside his associates from Split and Zadar. Medical Team too. While in Admiral Letica’s Office, the phone starts ringing. Stipe Mesić, Franjo Gregurić, Stjepan Sulimanac, Neven Jurica, Željko Mažar, Damir Mejovšek come in. Politics is here to stay, so our chances for success get higher. I am thankful for their being ready to sacrifice a life on the Gandhi type of expedition. We are joined by Monitors and Members of International Red Cross. Early in the evening, ships are assembled to move southward, to Dubrovnik. I shall never forget the image of these noble people. Convoy has been assembled out of a bunch of enthusiasts. Today should be declared Day of the Croatian Navy. Only yesterday, we had no ships whatsoever, as for today – all along the Adriatic, Croatian fleet of freedom, Libertas, is being formed.
In the evening, the sight of the Split boardwalk. Thousands, tens of thousands of people. The chant. The flags. The fireworks. Stipe comes in, addressing Split citizens. I ask from them a Croatian flag for Dubrovnik. Citizens in the town of Split! It does you credit, you are great! Large number of people are on the other side in the dark, seeing nothing, hearing nothing. They are good people indeed. They cannot be broken.
…Entrance to the Jewish Cemetary has been hit. Synagogue and one of the graves alike have now been hit. We are leaving for Lapad. Lapad has been badly damaged. Everywhere there are smashed, burnt, blackened cars, shops. 35a, Ivo Vojnović Drive, a solidarity-fund building (working-class building) completely demolished. Ivo Brbora, an electrician, and Olivija Ulić, a displaced woman from Mokošica, are standing at their demolished home. The man has accommodated the woman at his place. The building is crammed with very small children, the youngest one two and a half months old. I ask them what their message to the rest of Croatia would be. “Our homes need to be restored so that we can get back.” I am picking up torn pieces of paper in front of the building. Computer pay cheque, total 5170 dinars. The owners of the pay cheque have just become homeless.
Žarkovica has been “successful” today, destroying the cemetaries of Christians and Jews, Italians and captains, priests, masters and plebeians. Displaced persons, workers, poor people and children have been shot by them. According to JNA, all the people in question are dangerous – they say that Lapad “abounds in soldiers and ustasha”, and yes, they are right: Lapad abounds not in ustasha, but in good people, and good people are the greatest danger of all to Žarkovica and JNA gunboats.
APPEAL TO THE HOLY FATHER TO SAVE DUBROVNIK
November 9, 1991
It is the time of negotiations, messages, appeals, ultimatums. We are all in, the Pope, bishops and clergymen, presidents – from presidents of local communities to the US President, soldiers, displaced persons and scientists.
A golden rule at the negotiating table says:
Naturally, every relationship is unique, however, there are certain principles that can be of great help to us.
There are many relationships in Dubrovnik. The most troublesome one is between Žarkovica and Stradun, Lapad, Gruž and Golub Rock and Mokošica. Žarkovica and Golub Rock alike block movements, life and dreams of people, inflicting damage in various ways – from sniper shots aimed at the people in Stradun to shelling homes, cultural landmarks and the three crosses – hospitals, churches, graves.
NOTORIOUS GOLUB ROCK
All but 10% inhabitants have fled Mokošica for a heavy machine gun deployed at Golub Rock has made life there impossible, not allowing the repair of electricity and water pumps at Rijeka Dubrovačka. Two men have been shot dead and one wounded only because of their attempt to return the water to the worn-out City! When the army kills the unarmed working men securing water and lights for Dubrovnik, then it is quite a task to negotiate with them as such.
Blockade of Dubrovnik, made by gunboats, destroyers and a lot of other grey things aimed at destroying - like sharks, these devices move in circles around Dubrovnik, targeting Lopud, Kalamota, Lokrum, Lapad, Gruž, the Old City.
Blockade has been going on in and around Cavtat, torched Konavle, Župa, Slano.
The strangulation of Dubrovnik is present around all the things it “has”: telephone, radio, television, food, drugs, let alone many things this city is short of: freedom of movement, water supply, lights, warmth, life itself, and, as of yesterday, probably neither food nor medicines, due to the proclaimed JNA blockade of each and every ship.
A lot of effort has been invested into the international blockade of truth about Dubrovnik in that foreign journalists are being prevented from coming in freely, they are being selected and tested whether they are suitable for the task. It is impossible for Dubrovnik to communicate with the rest of the world, international newspapers are being banned…
Blockade sometimes means spreading disinformation, ultimatums, false humanitarian appeals, holding back any possibility of negotiation…
I was up to writing about negotiations, but forced by the reality into talking about blockades. Some other time, tomorrow, if we are still alive, if it is at all possible, I will bring that topic up. Today let me just stick to the blockade.
It is not that only City of Dubrovnik is under siege – it is dozens of settlements abandoned by their inhabitants. Many expelled persons would like to start off convoys of return. One 20-month-old child, asked what it wished most of all, answered: “That bad uncles did not shoot any more.”
Everything is being destroyed and strangled in Dubrovnik – the deepest human feelings, the very soul, the reality of life.
Turks laid siege to Dubrovnik 500 years ago – not half so terrible as current one. Former Pope Pius II, who gave Dubrovnik its Fort Revelin (today a shelter for displaced persons), was himself under way to aid Dubrovnik. But death came to him first. Pope John Paul II was invited by Father Stanko Lasić to come to Dubrovnik at the moment and save it. If he does that putting his own life at risk (I very much doubt that those who do not respect humanity could respect Pope), he will be given credit for not letting Dubrovnik-1991-ghetto become Dubrovnik-1991-killing-city.
MOKOŠICA ON FIRE
November 10, 1991
6 a.m. Shooting has started*. Everywhere, all types of fire arms. We have been having a cup of coffee, Braco Pavlović and me. 7.30. Black fountains above Rijeka Dubrovačka. 7.31. Lapad. 7.32. Old City. 7.33. Machine guns. Whining of the dogs. Destruction of what has already been destroyed. Smoke rising up twice from the dockyard of Stara Mokošica. Two minutes of peace. Dogs barking somewhere in Stara Mokošica. Again two shots. Roaring on all sides. Smoke stretching from Nuncijata to Srđ. Howitzer gone off at Hill 452. This morning, 3 more howitzers have been added to the existing 4. Mortars from Petrovo Selo. Machine guns. Cannons fired from the ships. A sniper, even a gun. Mere sound of phone ringing frightens us. First a ring in order to determine whether there is a living soul behind the telephone, then arms fire. 7.38. Close range.
D 1… What is the actual value of a minute’s silence.
Smoke rising up again. Srđ, Nuncijata, Babin kuk, Gruž, tanks, sea, dockyard, Mokošica Stara and Nova. Twittering of the birds, nervous, fearful. Half a minute of silence. 7.45. Tick – tock. A bird, I cannot tell the type.
D 2… Human being reacts, depending on the sound and the approximate vicinity…
Black and white clouds are mixing, clouds of evil and good. Who is going to win? 7.46. 7.46. The hill I am looking at right now has just been hit. A bee is flying nervously, humming around me. Buzzzzzzz… (flying and then – buuuuum!) 7.50. Painful twittering of the birds all around. They are flying in all directions. Not a trace of safety anywhere. A minute of silence.
D 3… Reaction depends on the type of arms, and the approximate vicinity of the sound and the smoke.
7.54. Three times at close range. Nova Mokošica is on fire. There are 300 children aged 10. More than 500 aged 16. More than 1500 people. A number of them elderly. 7.55. Black fountain. 7.56. Sounds are mixing together.
Prayers, explosions, echo, bees, whining. Not a sound made by man. Birds are flying, dogs and cats running, but not a sight of man. It is not the twittering, it is the whining of the birds. I have never heard anything like this before. 7.58. Throughout Mokošica houses are being on fire.
Simultaneous whining of any, even wounded, animal is something I have heard for the first time ever. Never have I heard anything like what is taking place on the beautiful Sunday morning over Rijeka dubrovačka. 8.03. The house nextdoor has been hit. Ominuous black smoke. Destruction all around, but what about people?
8.04. Howitzer, followed by machine gun burst. 8.06. A new sound. I am not aware of what that is. 8.07. Machine gun, mortar, cannon fire. 8.08. A house nextdoor hit again. It might have been the Health Care Centre. What black smoke! God, why?
I cannot understand. I am struggling against hate. Hard. I would also like to forgive. My own death, if necessary. Yet I could never forget, ever.How Health Care Centre is being devoured by the fire! Smoke is so black. Above us, there are a few black clouds. I do not know whether we shall see the morning after. 8.12. Once again fire breaks out right nextdoor. A bumble-bee is whining. Great many birds have landed on the roof in front of me. As if they dared not fly. 8.19. Two hits, smoke. Is that the Post Office? 8.20. The first fly is buzzing. Big, black. It has sat on a white stone.
D 4… I interrupt my thought…
I keep asking myself about the scale of suffering in the Old City, Lapad, Babin kuk, and how the residents are managing. When it is far from here, there is almost no fear. You are seemingly rational, but you know that it is not so. When it is not too close, you get a twitch, staring, looking for smoke, you are uneasy. 8.23. Machine gun. As if it were somewhere around. Is it possible that they are drawing nearer? Twice, so close to us, black fountain. Several houses have been hit. Smoke spreading all over Nova Mokošica. The first butterfly.
D 5… If it is a close strike, you can wrap yourself up in your thoughts...
8.25. Black fountain. Second, third, fourth one. Sustjepan. Three times in Nova Mokošica.
D 6… Head… 8.30. You are scared. Pins and needles. Are you going to be shot? Is it going to hurt? Gooseflesh all over.
You are looking at the destruction right in front of you… 8.35. A kind of brown smoke rising up from the neighbouring building. A new colour. 8.38. Once again the building in the back yard. Black smoke and a little further away - the new colour. Red smoke coming out of the building, as if it started to bleed. 8.40. An hour has elapsed. I have kept the count of 81 shots in the distance, 65 not too close, 63 very close. Total 209 shots. That is 5016 shots at the end of the day. We are not talking about a military conflict. Or fight. Or destruction. We are talking about an attack on a camp. Three shells for each unarmed civilian in Mokošica. Ten for each child. It is a desire to kill children. Either for being Croatian born, or for having stayed among Croats.
It is not only a desire to destroy or kill, but to destroy whatever is Croatian. I accuse and protest. I am interrupted by the sound of the flute, overpowering the sound of the cannon bursts. Master Ivo is playing his grand concerto. I have never been more Croatian than today, on Sunday morning, November 10, in Rijeka dubrovačka, on the balcony of the house in Nova Mokošica. 8.44. Three small houses right nextdoor have been struck.
I am hurting, somehow I am not the same person as of this morning. New beautifully-coloured butterflies. My thoughts are with Maja, my family, any Croat, any human being. I accuse people of steel of killing it all: human beings, animals, birds, dogs, cats, fish, bushes, flowers. I accuse them of destroying anything that they set their eyes on. Homes, people, bell towers, health care centres, cemetaries, schools, shelters, roads, shores, harbours, ships. I accuse them of putting their strength into the blackness of death.
FANCY MEAL ALONGSIDE SNIPER ROUNDS
November 11, 1991
I apologize for my reporting less often, begging you for forgiveness, you will perhaps take my side and excuse me if I tell you that during the last 20 hours here in Mokošica people in my company and me have been shot at from a pistol. Our car came under a machine gun fire. I was a sniper target while entering the house so I had to take a plunge down the stairs, and I found myself looking down the barrel of a gun the moment we came under a howitzer fire.
After all, it was a festive lunch in Mokošica. We gathered together to share delicious vegetable soup and “đuveč” (a dish made of stewed meat and vegetables): Branko Paće, Ivica Kmetović, Ivo Paće, Živko Pavlović, Franc Posretkar, Vjeko Vidoš, Ivo Ogresta – the host to the meal, Davor Ogresta and Mladen Bartulović. We were also accompanied by Dubravko Ogresta, aged 14, Tonči Bartulović, aged 16, Milka Bartulović, Tončika Bartulović and Ogresta’s daughter. We were looking at Rijeka dubrovačka, destroyed summer houses, burnt out cars, sunk yachts that were being taped by our fellow sufferer, TV Marjan cameraman, Zoran Erceg. While waiting for soup and a “đuveč” to be served, we caught a glimpse of Hill 452 above Knežica. There, a short distance off one time fascist Italian trenches, JNA taught its “moral” and “political” lesson by using 155 mm howitzers and loads of ammunition. However, we rushed into the house because we had spotted a black “Seagull” dropping two bombs on Dubrovnik.
CHETNIK IRON GUARDS
And now, a howitzer:
- soldiers climbing up;
- 15 of them gathering around a howitzer;
- I am looking down the barrel;
- one of them comes in, walking up and down with hands in his pockets, then he halts, pointing his finger right at me, the other one comes in, also pointing his finger in my direction, he grabs his binoculars, and we are goggling right into each other’s eyes;
- the one at the rear takes a 1.5 m long pole, and there it is, jumping 1.5 m up, 5 ton cannon, flames all around, our counting 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, bang. We jump up, off to the cellar.
No đuveč at the moment, then right after the dying out of the shooting, we go up to have some. The person in charge of a telescope gives us a warning: he is watching us again! Get rid of the đuveč, off to the cellar once again, four times so, four flights of stairs. Twenty meter deep hole dug in the ground, a car turned upside down, all the glasses throughout the building broken, but we have managed to consume the đuveč deliciously. According to our agreement made on November 9, from that day on, we would eat đuveč on that same day in the years to come. As far as the war was concerned, that day it was crystal- clear that conflict was in short supplies, it was a matter of sheer destruction.
AT THE FOUNT OF MISFORTUNE
November 13, 1991
During the night of November 10, we make a decision to leave Mokošica and return to Dubrovnik. So much happened in two days . Stara and Nova Mokošica, Rožat and Sustjepan have become a part of us forever. My thoughts will always be with Mrs. Živa Knežević who has stayed on the bank of the Rijeka dubrovačka because “ a lot of fear is going on, but it is even worse in our head. When you get a house at a steep price, it is hard to leave.” I will also remember beautiful people from Dubrovnik and Zagreb * in Stara Mokošica, feeding animals under intensive fire, where “no animal has died, houses are being roofed, life gets back to normal as much as possible. Noone knows when this will come to its end… If we had not had meat, we would have cast a net, so we would have cought some fish, shoot they or not.”
“Croatian flag has been raised at one end of Petrovo Selo”, for “at this moment, I intend to save what is ours.” People from Zagreb told me: “This is no more just Mokošica, this is Croatia.”
Sailors of Dubrovnik who have sailed the seven seas are my friends as well, and today, alongside master Ivo Paće, they are defending their homes. Dražen, an architect who has at one time participated in the Upper Town reconstruction, has arrived from Zagreb, saying: “My intentions were to go to the theatre of misfortune, not to just improve the damage.”
• It was a group of volunteers who had come from Zagreb on their own. I knew neither their names nor the way they had come.
CHRIST NAILED TO THE CROS BY A SHRAPNEL
Indeed, this is the theatre of misfortune. I was at the top of St. Saviour’s belltower in Stara Mokošica, watching the tragedy of destruction at all four cardinal points, from all directions, especially by howitzers above Knežica. I was staring at the people. Lady from Vrlika, my wish has come true: “If only I could see their faces.”** They are a part of howitzer. I was crying together with the children from two and a half to ten, displaced children from Maslinata. I paid respect to wounded Christ, nailed to the cross by a piece of shrapnel and shot through the heart – I thanked him and prayed, knowing that respect and love for man, even at the cost of one’s own life, was the only way to defend the dignity and beauty of Dubrovnik. An old postman who came from Ravno more than 20 years ago told me his 85-year-old mother got killed when her house collapsed while she was being inside. “They will not let me bury her!” I watched a man that put his life into jeopardy while driving a wounded person. Two shells exploded in front of the Nova Mokošica Health Centre, having wounded a paramedic in the course of helping a patient. I took notes of medicines to be sent, messages for the children in Germany, messages for the inhabitants of Mokošica presently in Dubrovnik: “Our fellow citizens are to better organize themselves, therefore help us who are at home”, how to secure food, social welfare, health care, prevention of infections… Above all, wish for peace and humaneness.
** It was May 1991, and a group of elderly people remained in a village near Velika. Since August, 1990, these people had been shot at by the snipers from the surrounding hills. One of the elderly ladies asked herself: “How can they shoot at us when they do not even know who we are!” She expressed her wish to see their looks.
TIME TO RETURN TO DUBROVNIK
It is the night time, new moon above Srđ. Davor is taking me to the shelter. We are walking one behind the other in total silence. We need to have hopes. Today thousands of shells have poured over us. Shall we get through? All kinds of sounds frighten me. We have to run across the crossroads, the most dangerous place. I am breathless. I can see some buildings, I suppose we are safe. Indeed we are at the shelter door. Davor, thank you! I am going to take a nap. It is cold. Majsan ( armoured car ) is not coming! Photographer Zoran, who has shot it all, is arriving. We have to go back.
At dawn we are going down to the harbour of Stara Mokošica and boarding a boat together with Pero. We are sailing across Rijeka dubrovačka. During that I am thinking about a hundred years old and imminent navigation of Dubrovnik citizens and ships across Atlantic and along Mediterranean. I am thinking about American Navy as perhaps the only power that could restore peace to Dubrovnik – peace has to be restored on land and sea. It would be so great if all the arms in and around Dubrovnik were handed down to America. I know Europe will not send us arms, but, if only, as in World War II, Europe offered us El Shatt for women and children, as well as Bari for medical and food supplies, and if England which kept monitors during the Great War would only request for the whole of Europe not to let down currently the most distressed of all – Dubrovnik citizens.
Somewhere in the middle of Rijeka my mind is preoccupied with Convoy “Libertas”, first people and whole Croatia. Are you really going to terminate convoy for Dubrovnik? Has it been just a one-time weekend action? Does it have to have a stop as it usually happens with the students’ strike?
IT IS MORNING: TODAY THEY WILL DESTROY IT ALL
Off the coast I am remembering Nazor and Ivan Goran Kovačić and crossing to the other side of the Kupa river, committments to freedom and against terror. Goran gave his life, but he built Croatia. Nazor lived to see the end of fascism. In the name of all the artists, writers and intellectuals, good people of Croatia, both of them showed that it had been the time to cross to the other side of the Kupa. Intellectuals, scientists, artists, writers and all good people in general, I beg you to cross the Rijeka dubrovačka – you may be the only chance for Dubrovnik.
We have crossed the Rijeka. Thank you, Pero and Cvijeta. You are good people, genuine Dubrovnik citizens. Sustjepan. We are heading for Nuncijata and Gruž. It is morning. Destruction begins. Today they will destroy it all, all there is in Dubrovnik. Today we are going to need help on all sides, America, and Europe, and Croatia, and all good people.
HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE BESIEGED CITY
November 14, 1991
The time of human rights is completely taking over Dubrovnik. There is no more politics, nor ideology, there is only humaneness left.
In the morning we are first visiting displaced persons and shelters. We are having a conversation at the Aquarium which is being managed by a sailor of Pustijerna, a sailor that spent 25 years on board ships.As a matter of fact, a number of shelters are being managed by sailors. In the shelter there are 300 people who are in fact displaced persons, and 80 out of this number are children. And the number of people is determined by the quantity of bread which is being given away per person. The oldest person is 92 years old. They have come from all directions and various places – Konavle, Župa, Mokošica, as well as Karmen. They have been through a lot, they have organized their own health care. A woman doctor and two nurses, displaced persons themselves. Just the other day they received a wounded person after Hotel “Imperijal” had been set on fire. He was shot behind by two pieces of shrapnel. He did not leave them until morning. An elderly lady with diabetes, who had slipped into a coma several times, was also there. She had neither relatives nor any kind of support. Being penniless, she was afraid of leaving Dubrovnik. A pharmacy has also been founded by those people. But there are no bandages on stock. A few children have already been through diarrhea and vomitting. During our stay at Aquarium, guards come to feed the “orhan” fish. All the children gathered together around the pool. For them, the feast of the “orhan” fish is the big time of the day. We are passing by the former “Kaptol” Gallery, that houses some thirty people. There are some 500 people in the “Rupe” Museum. At the School Centre there are 300 of them, at the Music School some 200. Children are everywhere, writing poems, drawing.
MESSENGERS OF THE HADES
We began to publish “Voice” in the shelters. It is the third paper we have founded. “Voice from Dubrovnik”, “Dubrovnik’s Voice of the Little Ones” and now “Voice from the Shelters”.
What people most frequently ask is: “Doctor, are we on to be celebrated by your epic?” They are afraid of being offered for somebody else’s celebration.
Destiny has its different ways.Let me tell you a few things on the people who are there. A lady with a hearing problem since she was six months old – all because she was taking antibiotics that have ruined her hearing. Her husband’s hearing is also poor, he is a car mechanic and he has had an accident at work. One of their daughters is seven months, the other five years old. The lady’s mother , aged seventy, is also with them. According to her, children cannot stand the situation, having constant diarrhea, vomitting all the time. How to wash diapers? Says she: “We have all sorts of crosses to bear”. On August 25, they fled from Hrvace near Sinj to Split on board a bus for the displaced persons, then regular service from Split further south. “My problem is”, she says, “that there is little respect left for people with bad hearing. And the batteries both my husband’s and mine are low. We will be able to hear no more.”
Then there is a gentleman who was born in Tešanj, Bosnia, in 1942. In 1962, when he was twenty years of age, he came to Cavtat to work as a waiter. Two of his brothers went off to Germany to find a job there. Whatever money they earned, they put together and invested into Restaurant “Toranj” (“Tower”) located in the centre of Cavtat. In 1973, the gentleman in question built a house at Zvekovica, in 1988, he built another one for his son in law at Močići, in 1990, he opened another restaurant and a car mechanic shop. He possessed a large boat, “koća”, 15 m long. Also a refrigeration plant, warehouse, and the whole line of business. This is a portrait of a family that have invested it all into the progress. On October 10, from the St. Rok the gentleman was watching his house on fire. And on November 12, he was standing at Porporela, watching his boat in flames. Why was he doing that for hours? “I thought: it is impossible for a boat to burn up completely. Something must be left for me. One cannot believe one’s eyes. Now I am wearing somebody else’s pair of trousers. And I am a sick man ( I have got a tumour in my throat). I am a good beggar myself. My shoes are from Caritas.” He thinks his property was in the value of two to three million Deutsch Marks. “A few of my best friends have been blown off by shells. I am not a party man. I have been a member of no party whatsoever. I have been brought up to respect people. All my Serbian friends have lost their houses to fire. We have lived together, and together we have been in the shelters.”
Stradun is covered with stones. Unexploded shells can be seen in the street. From a completely destroyed Drugstore “Dubrovkinja” we have taken out some diapers, gauze, napkins, toothpastes, soaps. There are not nearly enough means for personal hygiene. Not in the least. We have taken all the things to the Red Cross.
The city is littered up with garbage. It is impossible to take it away. I take it infections are inevitable. Epidemics. It should be considered what to do. We have paid a visit to the shelter of the Islamic Community. I have invited the imam to the Red Cross Board of Human Rights session at 3 o’clock.
It is a beautiful day. Sun. No shooting. False peace. Foreigners are leaving. Monitors and others.* In order to be in line with morality, a small number of children, mothers, sick and elderly people are leaving as well.
I ask you all to pay attention: Dubrovnik is a place women and children should be taken to, not taken away. The sick and elderly should be taken to, not taken away. Yet, Dubrovnik will see the stay of the majority of children, and mothers, and sick and elderly right there. Dubrovnik’s basic defence is human rights. While you are reading these lines, think about what can be done. But do not jump up and down the boardwalk for sheer hate, or serve festive meals. Croatia deserves better than that. Let us rely on human rights and start from there when world’s support is set in motion.
SRĐ THE MYSTICAL
November 15, 1991
Alongside Branko Čulo, I climbed up the Srđ. During our stay in Dubrovnik, whenever the city was hit by a shell, Srđ would be hit by three. Every time we heard the roar and asked where, we would hear: Srđ is being shot at. Signal rockets used to fly mostly above Srđ, and in those days every morning we would ask ourselves if Srđ was still in our hands. We knew: as long as Croatian Guards held Srđ, Dubrovnik would remain free. If Srđ fell, perhaps enemy would not march into the city that very moment, however, our freedom would be over.
Thus Srđ has become a mystical hill. Simple source of freedom, and yet I have never climbed it, never met anyone from there, and how can I ever say that I have been to Dubrovnik if I do not climb that hill.
We started off about three o’clock p.m. alongside Husein, who had come to Dubrovnik from Bosnia. He was climbing with light steps through cross-shaped paths toward the peak, and he was taking care of us. After one-third of our way, we stepped out of the forest and found ourselves out there in the open. We were recovering more and more thrown away objects that used to belong to JNA along our way, such as: shells, boxes, parts of overcoats.
On the right side we would often hurry up because we could be spotted from Žarkovica. As we were coming closer to the peak, we could see the whole area of Dubrovnik. We noticed our Guards when nearly there, and we waved them. They waved us back.
Hurricane north easter was sweeping over the top and it was awfully cold there. They invited us into the fortress, but we first wanted to take a look of what there was around. Dubrovnik could clearly be seen from the top of the fortress – from Konavle and Cavtat across Župa, Grude, Srebreno there were Brgat and Bosanka near us, then Rijeka Dubrovačka, Elaphite islands, Orašac, Trsteno, Slano and Ston,Pelješac and further off – Dalmatia. Directly beneath us: Ploče, Pile, City, Lapad and Gruž.
Upon flagstaffs – Croatian flags. The wind was so strong that Husein could not climb up and take one off in order to carry it with us. There was a Croatian flag on the top of the TV tower as well. It took three hours for a Guard to climb up and attach the flag there – and when I think of those who were fussing about flags in Zagreb. What about flags? I will have to say more specifically about flags.
Dubrovnik has been watched over by young men in the fortress already for 70 days. Some of them have been as long as a month in the fortress: stand guard for an hour in bitter cold, rest for awhile, then stand guard again. All they have is being invested into the safety of others – and safety means arms thanks to which tens of thousands of people have privilege of being free.
They have paid dearly for that. They have disregarded their personal needs. They are less than adequately equipped with sweaters, gloves, shawls, socks, warm trousers, shoes. Indeed, I appeal to you, especially women, to send anything possible in order to keep the young men at least a bit warmer. Send anything you can to Srđ, to the young people of Srđ! Food is being brought to our Guards by youngsters not older than 17.
HERO CVIJETO ANTUNOVIĆ
December 6, 1991
Srđ becomes a hero. There are such individuals that have accomplished heroic deeds. One of them is Cvijeto Antunović. Until December 6, he was one of the boys who used to carry food to Srđ. That day when it started shooting, he was forbidden to go to Srđ, however, he refused to obey and at 7.30 set off, accompanied by the roar of all sorts of destructive weapons. At 8.30 he found himself right among a bunch of enemy soldiers, wiping them out with a hand grenade. At 9.30 he destroyed a tank by using three anti-tank mines, and at 10.30 he started coming down, carrying upon his back Željko Gustin, who had a wound in his chest with damaged left lung. He was carrying a man all by himself. Later on he said: “I did not even think of taking a rest because I would not have been able to raise him any more.”
Srđ is a strange hill. There is a destroyed cross on top of the hill, and that cross is a source of inspiration to anyone in Dubrovnik, and the whole Croatia knows that a new one has to be erected. There is a destroyed television satellite there, but on the top of the tower a Croatian flag is flying and its message is meaningful more than any TV message.
Some day after this war is over and freedom flourishes in its peace and beauty, on top of Srđ, overlooking Dubrovnik, a monument shall be erected in honour of the suffering, young or old, civilian or military that were defending Croatia, no matter what their sex or age. It must not be a nameless monument, each and every name shall be engraved in it.
We were coming down the hill in the pitch-dark night. We could not see a thing so we were moving step by step, accompanied by the wind whistle and music of the Croatian flag flying from the TV tower.
While I was descending from Srđ, I was thinking about Slavonia, our guards, those that were in front lines, exposed to attack wherever they were, in Slavonia, or Dalmatia, or elsewhere in Croatia, without any visitors because of great dangers.
Perhaps they were sometimes feeling forgotten for they were the last ones to receive clothes or food. I could remember conversations in Laslovo and Tenja, Ernestinovo and Tenjski Antunovac.
I was feeling pain with those places in mind, and it is perfectly clear why. They are occupied today, but to me they are symbols of freedom, they could never be taken by anyone, and young people there and on top of Srđ mutually represent both base and guarantee to the development of a new democratic and humane Croatia.
EVERYONE SUFFER IN DUBROVNIK
November 16, 1991
Today we have got back from Zelenika. It has been one of the most tragic journeys of my entire life. On Thursday morning, we boarded “Slavija” in Gruž. However, in order to leave Dubrovnik, European Monitors, Red Cross representatives, as well as majority of foreign journalists, found themselves aboard that ship. The hell of Dubrovnik had obviously become too much for them – Red Cross representatives who had sworn they would never let anyone down, European Monitors who used to be members of various European armies, experienced war reporters. And that was why the wounded, the sick, pregnant women, mothers with children, elderly people came aboard. The ship was intended for 6,00 passengers, but there was a crowd of 3,500 people on board. We approached the ship coming through the Gruž harbour which was littered with sunken, capsized or burnt down ships. Smoke was rising out of the burning installations for days. We were being watched by those on the top of the hill, not being able to do anything but think they would start to shoot at any moment.
On board that ship, I was contemplating about the ships crowded with Jews on their way out of Germany in the late thirties, as well as the abandonment of Saigon. We were at the very bottom of the ship’s garage. It was simply not possible for the cars and trucks to embark because the ship was crammed with men, children, women, elderly and sick people. The sick were lying on the metal floor, with their I.V. drips hanging up in the air. Tears and silence were hand in hand. Faces were totally changed with crying, haggard because of the silence. People were lying on the stairs in positions I had never seen before, fifteen persons per cabin. One could step between human bodies only too carefully. As we sailed out, huge waves were tossing the ship up and down, so many people vomitted, were nauseous, felt psychical discomfort.
Doctors were sought on all sides, painful crying expressed a thousand year old Croatian suffering, agony of yet unborn children to 90 year old people. Everyone there was into the suffering. I would like to thank the medical team with Dr. Rapaić at the head of it for their total dedication to the people on board.
As we reached Zelenika, we were astonished by the image of a floodlit town, open restaurants and shops, fruit sale, running water. I almost forgot about these things. How can one get used to such a deprived life! We had talks with Yugoslav Army representatives concerning conditions and chances for the peace to hold on, ending up the suffering of people. We asked them to let us spend the night in Zelenika for the sea was too rough to travel. We got a permission for that. All but grown-up men were given a permission to stay aboard the ship and they did not have to be examined. Doctors examining patients were quite fair, and during the night, at 2 a.m., Captain Jeremić alongside the whole medical team responded to our appeal for medical aid. They gave us what they could for which I was very grateful. A few soldiers asked me whether Serbs were being put behind bars in Dubrovnik. I offered myself hostage if a single person had been imprisoned in Dubrovnik just for being of Serbian nationality. After all, the biggest problem was a lack of information. The most important prerequisite as to the victory of democracy and human rights probably is the right to a free press – wherever we are.
“SLAVIJA” - A SHIP OF HOPE AND SALVATION
Early in the morning we set off for Dubrovnik, the sea was stormy again. We had talks with European Monitors concerning state of the art and further possibilities. Their leader had a decade-long experience as regards separation of armed forces. We tried to talk him into staying but we were not successful. Generally speaking, “Slavija” was at that point quite different from the triumphant Convoy “Libertas”. I thought it wrong to accept politicians into the Convoy and not to go to Zelenika. That way we only created an illusion that the blockade had been lifted. I would like to thank the “Slavija” crew who had already sailed five times from Rijeka via Zelenika to Dubrovnik, having transported some 7,000 people, food, medical aid, Red Cross packages. I want to thank uncle (“barba”) Damir Jovičević, Montenegrin who today is one of the most prominent guards of Dubrovnik’s life line. I am also grateful to all his fellow sailors.
After the return to Dubrovnik, the session of the Board of Human Rights was attended by the representatives of all religions and ethnic groups from all over the country. We made decisions on how to set in motion some new convoys and return to Mokošica and Konavle. We also saw how people live. The population of Dubrovnik today may be dividided into eight groups: first, the residents coming from the area that has been occupied and residents expelled, residents from the area even though occupied still inhabited, the ones from the area still at risk of being occupied, those expelled from the environs of Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik permanent residents, those who have abandoned Dubrovnik (a kind of privilege), those who have left Dubrovnik as a last straw, without knowing where to go or who is to meet them, and lastly, inhabitants isolated on the islands and with no communication with Dubrovnik. All groups mentioned here need to be included into human rights protection programme. We were also presented with the works of art meant for the first Dubrovnik Exhibition of War Art. “Voice from Dubrovnik” and “Little Voice from Dubrovnik” newspapers have been printed on regular basis, and yet another one has been in preparation – “Voice from the Shelters”.
We are leaving. The sun is shining, a few people walking along Stradun. Beauty of Dubrovnik is untouchable. The following people are in the “Libertas” Convoy: Danko Atias, Feđa Šehović, Marko Brešković, Đelo Jusić, Lukša Barbić… We are discussing what is further on agenda. In the evening we are going to Gruž. Some guests are coming from France. Any contact with the rest of the world keeps our hopes up. We have also talked to Mr. Mišetić and a number of people from Zagreb. We are begging of anyone: do not hold up Dubrovnik’s links with the world. We are suggesting to each and every citizen in Croatia to invite their friends who are experts or prominent in politics to hold their meetings in Dubrovnik. Today is the time of the conference tourism in Dubrovnik. It is essential to come to this City today.
A DAY OF PEACE
November 17, 1991
Stormy southerly wind forced our ship which was headed for Cavtat to sail back. We reached Lokrum, we could not sail on. The ship was filled with hope. It saw the presence of Dr. Bernard Kouchner, French Minister for Humanitarian Issues, Madam Margherita Boniver, Italian Minister of Migrant Affairs, negotiators in the name of Dubrovnik Municipality, members of Dubrovnik Red Cross Board of Human Rights, citizens currently visiting their relatives in Dubrovnik, sick and elderly people who wanted to go home, also great many parcels were circulating between members of separated families. Headed for Cavtat, our ship was forced back by the stormy southerly wind. It was a ship of hope. From a simple gesture of love between members of a family to grand acts of the world-prominent humanists in their search for peace. But the ship was neither large nor powerful enough to make all those hopes and wishes come true.
Tomorrow we are trying again. Yesterday evening, Dubrovnik Mayor, Mr. Pero Poljanić, alongside the displaced persons, organized dinner for the prominent guests. We were headed for Hotel “Argentina”, passing through the pitch-dark town inside a lightless car. Those positioned in Žarkovica were shooting, they fired a tracer missile.
THANK YOU, MESSIEURS MINISTERS!
Ministers who have courage enough to come to Dubrovnik in order to help the suffering population there, risking their own lives, are worthy of deep respect. What is this same act worthy of when it comes to
The rest of the evening and the next morning was dedicated to the peace plan for Dubrovnik. As there are various forms of international protection of cultural landmarks, hospitals, churches – thus regions of peace, white regions, open regions should be initiated and formed, regions that should on no occasion be used for any military or war purpose. Hope to have more luck with our journey to Cavtat tomorrow.
Peaceful day today in Dubrovnik restores Stradun to life. It is quite strange to see Stradun so crowded again. It is also good to know that Convoy “Libertas” is one of the most significant meeting places of Dubrovnik citizens. A number of visitors have come to see the exhibition opened yesterday, socialize and mostly bring up the issue of human rights. After the implementation of peace, return of population to their homes comes up as the most important issue. For that purpose, Board of Konavle and Cavtat, Board of Župa and Board of Mokošica have been formed. First islanders have reported in today.
Generally speaking, this war has divided Dubrovnik inhabitants into interesting social groups. Now I am repeating what I have already mentioned before. There are ten groups. Occupied area, population expelled (Konavle, Župa), occupied but still populated area (Cavtat), cut off area, likely to become occupied (Mljet, Šipan, Lopud, Koločep), detached area (Pelješac, Ston), population expelled (currently residing at Babin kuk or other shelters), residents who have left Dubrovnik under favourable conditions, those who have left Dubrovnik under the most tragic circumstances, permanent residents and residents of the Old City. For each of these groups a specific programme of protection and reformation has to be developed in order to make Dubrovnik whole again.
Dubrovnik has been through a lot. An elderly lady from Dubrovnik told me: During the last four days Dubrovnik sustained more horrible destruction than during four years of World War II.
Today shells have been silenced.No other form of suffering has been put to rest. We are thirsty, unwashed, without lights, under blockade, detached… Dubrovnik still is in the need of any kind of support it could get from any source, individual, Croatian, world.
MAN ABOVE AND BEFORE ALL
November 20, 1991
Again, a new sunny day in Dubrovnik.We have been to the harbour and aboard ship “Ilirija”. We have met Mr.and Mrs.Fitzroy Maclean there. A long line of vehicles have started a tour of the damaged Dubrovnik. We have passed by a storehouse where coffee, firewood and totally burnt down refrigeration plants are kept. Opposite to Kantafiga we have been shot at. I ask Sir Maclean when he was last shot at in this country. He says it was in 1944, during the battle of Belgrade. To the question of who he was shot at by, the reply is – you know, we were shot at by the Nazis, hitlerites.
We have taken a tour of the tragic “Babin kuk”, hotels “Minčeta”, “Tirena”, Plakir”. We have taken a look at the ship wreckage in Harbour Gruž , remains of the synagogue in the Old City, Ruđer Bošković’s house, we have talked to people, climbed up to a spot above Hotel “Argentina”, overlooking the whole town. Sir Fitzroy has been astonished by the tragedy of Dubrovnik, continuing to ask himself how it was possible that the scale of conflict was greater today than in World War II. The army which once was formed out of unarmed people while being attacked by one of the most powerful armies – how come it would take a completely reverse role of a powerful attacker on the defenceless people! How is it possible for an army to found camps and liquidate people?
A lot of battles have been fought in Dubrovnik today. I am mentioning just a few of them. One of them is a battle within man’s inner soul. Today the third ship has sailed away, and I have not gone aboard. “Slavija”, and “Slavija” again, taking children away, and then “Ilirija”. One should fight a personal battle in order to put other people’s suffering above one’s own personal value.After all, living is beautiful. It is lovely to be in safe places.
A permanent, international battle for peace has been going on with the help of Mr. Kouchner, Unicef representatives, Italian lady minister Margherita Boniver. We have addressed the world most prominent personalities. International battle for peace has been going on from day to day. It is perfectly clear that the only support Croatia could ever get is for peace implementation. Not ever for any form of war continuation. The third battle has to do with supplies. Today, 200 tons of goods have arrived on board “Ilirija”, and a huge shipment has been sent by Unicef on board “San Marco”.
CROATIANNESS ON TRIAL
Dr. Jure Burić, Croatian Government Commissioner, Dubrovnik clergy, some members of the Croatian Government, me, we were carrying metal containers, sacks with potatoes, all the things that meant life. We were worried about not having time enough to get it all out. We were less afraid of bullets that could be fired at any moment.
The battle to stay comes fourth. Today, a few hundred women and children have left for Italy. In fact, taking away women and children does not mean resolving the situation in Dubrovnik – and what next – “settle the matter” with unarmed population and destroy the city? All Dubrovnik needs is peace, love and respect for any human being.
That is where fifth and perhaps most difficult battle of Dubrovnik comes. The battle of recognition within Croatia.We are not receiving newspapers, we cannot defend ourselves. However, we have heard of the people who were born around here but they are not willing to share the pain and suffering of their fellow citizens, they know nothing about shells or bullets, detonations are not grating on their ears, weeping of children is not breaking their heart - yet the people in question say that we are not good Croats due to the fact that we care about human rights only.
Learn the message of Stjepan Radić, or the message of a thousand-year-old Dubrovnik history, or cultural heritage possessed by Croats. Man is above and before all the priorities. Do not come at us just for our trying to be humane. Do not attack humaness in the name of Croatianness. Croatia will not be recognized if it does not advocate human rights as most valuable of all. Today Croatia may carry a point if it recognizes the human rights of its own citizens. I guess it is obvious that Zagreb must support Dubrovnik in terms of humaneness, as well as peace fulfillment. Zagreb citizens, my fellow citizens, feel for those who suffer more and give them your support. Do not come hard on them, especially when they are not in position to defend themselves, neither from bullets nor shells that are pouring on them nor words that are being printed in the unobtainable newspapers.
NATIVES OF THE KOTOR BAY FIGHT THEIR BATTLE AS WELL
Sixth battle is being fought here, battle against Yugoslav Army, not only in the hills but also at the green table. At the green table, Red Cross, boards of human rights, negotiators demand that humaness and humanity be ranked above any war trophy or war victory. This battle is being fought by the children as well. This is Tihana Miloslavić message to all of you: “The war is on. I have not seen my house in Župa for 40 days. Who knows what is going on there. I have left my tiny kittens there. And tiny white bunnies. I have had 30 of them. Why has everything turned out this way? Why? Why was it impossible for us to stay at home? While I am writing these lines, the house is shaking because of the roaring detonations all around us. For 40 days I have been waking up in somebody else’s bed, for 40 days I have been living in somebody else’s house. Who knows what number of children have been put through the same ordeal. I wish no such thing had to take place. Why? I am saying my prayers and I long for peace.”
The battle is also being fought by certain groups. Today we have been addressed by the inhabitants of the islands of Mljet, Lopud, Šipan and Koločep. They are not being in position to obtain medical aid. Even when a ship arrives in Dubrovnik, so many things required are usually missing. It is hard to get to the islands. And there are some sick people there too. Board of Župa and Board of Konavle have been founded. Montenegrins, natives of Boka living in Dubrovnik, have started their own battle, they announced their letter to Mr. Bulatović, conveying the following: “You must know that people will survive this war. But the killed, wounded and suffering will be an everlasting memento as to why the war was waged, why it was so cruel, why it destroyed all the boundaries, roads, paths… Put your efforts into restoration of peace in this country so that people can recover from fears and suffering and trust their neighbours once again.”
At the moment, the hardest is the battle of Mokošica. I have just ended up my telephone conversation with people there. There are 1,600 of them. They are being constantly shelled. The suspension of talks has brought on a tragedy. They are listening to whizzing sounds made by bullets and shells, women are crying, children have no idea what to do, they are begging for mercy. They are telling me: “Doctor, they have told us that they have no protection plan whatsoever as far as we are concerned. We believe you and you only.”
GRATITUDE TO DR. BOSANAC
What am I to say to them? That negotiations have been broken off in Zagreb. That diplomacy has failed. That defence is practically helpless. That humaneness does not work. On the contrary! That our Croatianness will perhaps come under suspicion if those 1,600 people survive. But here is my message to you all – I shall butter up each and every living soul just to make it possible for six hundred children to live. So that a thousand women and elderly people would stay alive. And I refuse to believe in Croatianness that does not protect children.
Last night when we were getting back to the hotel, the shooting was going on from the hill above. Dr. Kouchner, French Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, who had come to Dubrovnik, gave orders to his officials to stand behind him. For he said, what sort of man would I be if I were not at the head, what sort of man would I be if I did not say: follow my lead.
The worst, most tragic battle that night was to receive the very last message Vukovar had sent to Dubrovnik. Vukovar still trusted in Dubrovnik. And that lady doctor, Mrs. Bosanac, begged of Dubrovnik and Dr. Kouchner to help 2,000 children, 5,00 sick in great risk of a gas gangrene, epidemic, destruction…I had not yet met Dr. Bosanac but I knew I would always be grateful for what she had done, for having let Dubrovnik share the tragedy. Believe me, my colleague, we had done what we could. We were not aware of any goings on because we were not receiving any news, but Dubrovnik and Vukovar were twin towns. And the suffering of the people there imposed standards on overall Croatian dignity.
APPEAL OF THE EXPELLED POPULATION OF SLANO
To Gentleman Dr. Lang,
Your today’s article under the title “There are many battles of Dubrovnik” inspired us, expelled residents of Slano, to address you with a request to find some room for our abandoned, seemingly completely forgotten, fellow residents in your future articles.
Our parents, brothers and sisters, mostly elderly and vulnerable, stayed in Slano. Thirty-nine people have been imprisoned there for 50 days already without any electricity, gas, water supply or food, without any news or any help whatsoever. Majority of them is in need of medical aid on daily basis, medical aid they probably have not had for a long time.
Dubrovnik is Dubrovnik. It has been well known all over the world, its name or image, its suffering and agony can be of help to us indeed, we wish that from the bottom of our hearts.
But for goodness sake! Let us not allow ourselves to forget the people, hundreds and hundreds of them abandoned in Slano, Trnova, Banići, Grbljava, Brsečine, Trsteno and other settlements in the west of Dubrovnik! We are not permitted to leave them out from our reports, never mention them in the course of infinitely long 50 days. Neither their hunger nor thirst is any milder than in Dubrovnik, nor is their need for medical aid any lesser than within the walled city. FOR GOD’S SAKE, LET US DO SO MUCH AS TO REPORT OR ANNOUNCE A PIECE OF BRIEF NEWS OF THEM AND THEIR SUFFERING. Let us say that we are thinking about them, trying to help them. Let us lie about alleged negotiations on their behalf – we can do at least that much.
How can we find any excuse for Mr. Poljanić, Dr. Burić, a number of responsible Dubrovnik citizens or journalists and TV reporters for not mentioning a word about those people’s suffering, of which we have not got a clue.Perhaps the honourable gentlemen do not know that Slano with its surroundings belongs to the Dubrovnik Municipality and is supposedly under its protection. Or, perhaps that is not the case any more?
We are only too afraid of wars following the war and we kindly ask you to dedicate at least a bit of room to the above mentioned things.
Rijeka, 20th November, 1991
Expelled residents of Slano
November 21, 1991
Fiftieth day of the blockade. Dubrovnik has started to break its chains on all sides. Margherita Boniver and Bernard Kouchner (French Minister for Humanitarian Affairs) have come up with a manifesto: Dubrovnik, Croatian city of peace, should be turned into a white city – an island of peace. Therefore we demand that Dubrovnik population should receive supplies, armed forces should leave the city, troops surrounding the city should be withdrawn, Dubrovnik and its surroundings should become demilitarized.
Certain events of the fiftieth day have pointed at certain future possibilities and challenges. I have met with the Croatian youth. Commander of Srđ, father of little Marin born aboard the “Slavija “ ship, has told me things about efforts and courage of Croatian soldiers in defence of Srđ.
Sailors from Mokošica are very worried about its defence. They do not want to leave it. Moreover, they would like to reconstruct and further build it.
In the night, we have set out for the islands of Šipan and Lopud - on board a hydrofoil are Vido and a second-year student of Electrical Engineering, and they have been making huge efforts in order to help people survive. I am accompanied by Andro Vlahušić, a young doctor from Dubrovnik, who is a coordinator of charitable organizations and responsible for overall “Dubrovnik – Healthy City” Project. It is very cold, the wind is blowing while we are rolling over the waves in the direction of Lopud, at the speed of 45 mph, flooded with light of the fool moon. I am fully convinced that Croatia simply cannot lose with a youth like this. Croatia should rely upon and trust its youth.
Lopud. I am back here after 35 years. The island has a population of 3,60, around 60 of them being children. A 1,00 elderly. And around 40 displaced. They have neither any children’s nor any tinned food. Situation is even worse on the island of Šipan. Any type of humanitarian aid is required: medical aid, food, clothes. Without these people on board, it would be practically impossible to help the children, sick and elderly on the Dubrovnik islands.
In the early morning, we are on our way back to Lapad. We are being shot at. How are we to shoot back? By using Lanitop (play on words – second part of the word, i.e. “top” means “cannon” in Croatian. It is the only “top”, that is to say “cannon”, that we know of. And it is no more than a kind of medicine. What may be wrong with medicines if they are also shot at? Why on earth should anyone shoot at medicines unless something is wrong with them?
We arrive in Dubrovnik in the early morning. Freezing from top to toe. Two hour resting and we are back on the road. This time to the east. In the direction of Cavtat.
NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE OCCUPIERS
We leave for negotiations with the JNA aggressors. Negotiations of a political and humanitarian nature. The French Minister is with us. There is a productive communication between Red Cross Organizations of Dubrovnik, Herceg Novi, Kotor and Trebinje. We agree upon the burial of the dead, visit to the imprisoned and wounded persons, as well as return of the people to their homes. There is some success as to the definition of the catholic church situation and a start of the regular Red Cross service in the area. If this agreement is made true, it will be a gigantic step forward. After these accomplishments, we are on the sea-front waiting for the political negotiations to end. We are now faced with the fate of Cavtat. A Croatian mother in tears begging us to protect her displaced child in Dubrovnik because Dubrovnik children consider them traitors for staying in the occupied Cavtat. Tell them please, she says, that we are all prisoners in Cavtat, including the father and uncle of the child in question, and for that we are not supposed to be called names by others!
We are told by many that people are disappearing. We have to look into this. One of the soldiers tries to say something about the “disgraced” army, and how he used to have been friends for 22 years with a man killed at Mokošica. Approaching us furiously, another soldier threatens us with starting to shoot in 10 seconds time. Next thing we know is a clash near Pelješac and an alleged JNA casualty. We are all ordered inside, keeping safe behind the closed doors.
There is a curfew in Cavtat from five p.m. to six a.m. Negotiators come in. It seems that the outcome has been the worst possible. If only an agreement had been reached with at least a slight movement toward peace, or a ceasefire of a bit more lasting nature. Alongside Mr. Kouchner we are going to Mokošica at 10 a.m. tomorrow. Civil life should be restored there. Some more tranquility yet seems to be in the air. Despite concern about quantities of food for just another day, whereas electricity and water supplies are only in the residents’ dreams…However, killing at least might have stopped.
A number of people come to see us in Dubrovnik, disturbed by the news from Mokošica. There are growing fears that the situation there is getting worse. What is the truth indeed? Time is still being measured by hours and days. We must wait.
APOCALYPTIC IMAGE OF MOKOŠICA
November 24, 1991
On November 20, a French ship sailed into the harbour of Gruž, so we were sitting in the still of the night with Mr. Kouchner and his associates, and we were planning on: how to fight the battle of Mokošica? We rang Mr. Bulatović up to invite him to Dubrovnik and work for peace. However, it was the first hospital-ship I had ever visited. There were two operation rooms, a specialized room for burns, X-ray and a ward for about a hundred patients. This time people would leave Dubrovnik once again on board a ship. Dubrovnik was still very much into the Croatian abandonment, as well as military advance. We were still in the middle of nowhere, wishing for abandonment to stop, at the same time at danger that we might not last.
What was the link between the fall of Vukovar and Dubrovnik? Was Vukovar a kind of message as regards our subsequent fate, or maybe a guarantee that something like that would never ever happen to Dubrovnik?
On the morning of November 21, we are headed for Mokošica. French Minister, negotiators and me as a Red Cross representative. I have been asked by the priests to look into the church situation, indeed there are ten holes made by the explosion of a shell right on the roof of the Rožat church. The Bishop is all ready and set to pay a visit to Mokošica and the area of Rijeka dubrovačka. Somewhere in the surroundings of Sustjepan we are picked up by a military vehicle.We are descending in the direction of Komolac, marina, Sorkočević summer house, springs, a power plant, Rožat… destruction can be seen everywhere. Not only the shells but breaking into and looting the houses. Almost no must in the upright position, all of them crossed as swords pointed at one another in the middle of a weird duel between death and oblivion.
We arrive at Mokošica. Yugoslav Army has entered the new residential area, and a number of people come to see us. People neither know their fate nor who delivers a speech or is their captain of further and difficult navigation. How to evaluate the recent authorities that have remained silent in the hardest times? And, how to evaluate the new “authorities”, coming down from the surrounding hills after so many days of heavy bombardment, burning forests, and even at this moment, destroying homes.
Indeed, once upon a time, the following was written by Krleža: What can be done by Croatian man on European Good Friday? He cannot but shed Croatian tears.
Indeed, this is the time of Croatian tears.
After long-lasting and exhausting negotiations, an agreement has been reached on the next day’s bread supply route, the subsequent arrival of a medical team with medical supplies, as well as the very first steps toward getting life back to normal. We have even been granted permission to recover our dead, lying up in the hills for days. Between the two nations, we are trying to live up to the standards of paying respect to the dead and burying them decently. Could we have sunk any lower?
We are getting back to Dubrovnik alongside a hearse. Two dead bodies and two stories. One body is what was left of an old man, having died of a heart attack after he had been faced with the total destruction of everything around him at the end of his (in a way spent) life. The other one is what remained of a 25-year old young man, having tried to preserve the dream of Rijeka Dubrovačka, its sun, beauty, hills, laughter, children’s joy... His dead body is stretched with his hands tied. Were his hands tied after he had been killed, or he was killed after he had been tied? Who is to answer this question?
Women and children want to get away from Mokošica. There is not enough room. Some of them push into the hearse. Therefore, the young Croatian soldier yet one more time defends women and children with his dead body.
Upon our return to the City, a session of the Board of Human Rights has been held. We have secretly carried the Mokošica Christ into the City. The same Christ crucified once again, his heart containing new wounds inflicted by the man, the same one sharing Dubrovnik’s thousand shells, witnessing the destruction of the Stara Mokošica Cemetary, spending his days hopefully in the Nova Mokošica shelter, being there when Yugoslav Army stormed the place. His entrance into the City represents the entrance of a witness to human exile and suffering. That is Dubrovnik - reaching out to each and every displaced person, acquiring deeper sense of humaneness through suffering.
AFTER ALL, THIS IS BALKANS!
That same day, it has been announced by a reliable English News Agency that Croatian soldiers had cut the throats of 41 Serbian child in Vukovar. The very next day it will officially be denied by Reuters. And do you, trustworthy English gentlemen, know that your “reliable” truth has been published by the Montenegrin “Pobjeda” newspaper? And that there is the threat of Montenegrin soldiers that they will kill the children of Mokošica in the name of your truth? Do you know that your reliability might serve as a justification to the killing? You will deny a false piece of news. That is how your gentlemanly duty gets fulfilled. And you will tell the people what is expected to happen in the Balkans.
On 22nd, we set off for Mokošica again. Today it is in fact the first convoy of return since “Libertas”. Small one. From Dubrovnik to Mokošica. But the road between Dubrovnik and Mokošica today represents one of the most difficult one in the entire Europe. We are loaded with bread, medical teams are with us, some people are on their way back. I also wanted to see a garbage lorry there. Still we have not got a permission for that. We are not in a position to ask for too much.
This time with us there is a car that is to pick up the dead at Brgat. We are to take children and husbands back to their parents and wives. Even if dead, this still means their home-coming. I pay my deepest respect to them, thus thanking them for having been there for Dubrovnik. For having stood up to the cannons and gunboats, with the following message: As long as we live, you in Dubrovnik will be able to explain it all to the world to the best of their understanding – Dubrovnik is unique. Dubrovnik is not only our fate. Dubrovnik is a humanistic message at the end of 20th century. Have we or haven’t we learnt anything at all about how to give people a helping hand?
Again we are at Mokošica. This time I am not participating in the negotiations – alongside my professional colleagues, I am visiting doctors’ homes. Doctors are coming back to Mokošica. Among them, Dr. John, Head of the Dubrovnik Hospital. Their flats are intact. We are drinking a toast to that. People have come out of their houses, putting up plastic covers to protect their roofs destroyed by shelling from rain. They need construction material and glass. But nobody sets their mind on that and never sends any. Everyone send medicines and food only. Window glasses and a special type of bricks, the so called “kupa kanalice”, are in short supplies, and it takes a lot more imagination, as well energy, as in the case of Marija Ujević, who has started to manufacture these special bricks in Zagreb.
COMMITTEE FOR ISLANDS
We have founded Red Cross at Mokošica. People are in charge of water and gas supply, house repair, negotiations with the JNA (Yugoslav Army), providing for the most vulnerable (children, new mothers, women, the old and sick). Today we have also visited Stara Mokošica. We still dare not go to Rožat on foot. Agreement has been reached on the departure of a ship from Gruž via Rijeka to Mokošica at 9 a.m. tomorrow. Departure at 9, arrival at noon. It is a small step but also the first in 50 days. The convoy of return might go on. We have founded an office for Mokošica, i.e. Rijeka dubrovačka, at the premises of “Atlantska plovidba” at Gruž. Members of the Committee for Islands gather together. Also women have started their movement to prevent people from abandoning Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is not a military camp. It certainly would not help Dubrovnik if all but those fit for military service left it. Moreover, such a policy would definitely lead this City to destruction. Destruction of Croatian Dubrovnik and everlasting disgrace on Croatia.
I am going back to the City where I meet a friend who has presented Convoy with a bird. He takes me to his flat near Stradun and he shows me some beautiful paintings by Mujezinović and other masters. There are many birds in his flat. Also paintings of Russian masters have been put safely. A person of so many talents says how helpless he is and how he cannot see the point.
Dubrovnik’s fate? Every person in this City asks themselves this same question. French Minister, Bernard Kouchner, is still being with us and at risk of losing his own life or political standing, giving so much to help Dubrovnik residents out of this situation.
IS GOLD MORE PRECIOUS THAN PEOPLE?
November 27, 1991
I have not written a word to you for a few days because there have been so many events and encounters and a lot of suffering, fear and and hope in Dubrovnik. On 21st November, we again had a meeting with the JNA representatives, paving the way for the JNA marching into Mokošica. We have founded the Mokošica Red Cross, bringing the most respectable people together. How far does the Red Cross Organization go? Indeed, I suggest that Red Cross Committee should be formed on time in any place because when it comes to a state of emergency, it simply might be too late. In recent days we have formed Red Cross and Human Right Committees for all of Dubrovnik region, Konavle, Cavtat, Rijeka dubrovačka, Župa, Dubrovnik Coast, as well as islands. They have been working all around the clock, and a number of residents have been involved. More and more people have been coming in.
There is a group of Montenegrins and people from Boka that is gathered around Convoy “Libertas”. I have talked with them and it has been painful to hear them say: “I could never have imagined it would feel so bad to be a Montenegrin for, of all the people, Montenegrins should have cared most about Dubrovnik freedom. Honour and integrity, humaneness and courage, any ideal of ours has come into question.”
My dear Montenegrin friends, I am quite convinced that you must be exposed to huge suffering while being forced into persecuting women and children. And I know you will say: Enough. And you will erase this page of Montenegrin history and stand up for freedom and respect among people. Montenegro cares so much about dignity that it will not let dignity be burnt in Dubrovnik forests, homes and shattered lives.
CONCERT IN THE CITY
Sunday was abundant of cultural events. A concert was organized by Đelo Jusić at Revelin and Franciscan Monastery, and at the same time Christ from Mokošica arrived at the Cathedral for Christ the Lord Mass. He arrived with his wounded heart and crucified yet again, and people were coming up to him one by one, kissing the wound in his heart.
There was a lot of symbolics about Dubrovnik citizens and their strength – they took over loads of suffering and at the same time obligation of love. Is Croatia going to be worthy of these people? Are they going to hear a word of love, not only threats?
A rumour has been going on around town that gold and Tizian might come into jeopardy, so there are plans to displace works of art from Dubrovnik. People are cheap, gold is precious. It cannot be so. People are worth most, not a painting or a gram of gold is to leave this town while there is at least one person in it. Does anyone think these people would separate from what they are? Shall we in Croatia at least finally understand that all the islands or valleys, forests or summer houses, walls, Stradun, Tizian, gold, are being a part of people and exist through people only? And if people disappear, nothing else should be in existence.
Please, do not make plans as to save Tizian and gold if not people. Not by taking people away, but by keeping them safe where they are. This idea has also been brought up by some women of Dubrovnik, signing thousands of invitations to other women not to abandon Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is not a military fortification which should be freed from women and children, so that war can further go on.
Women refuse to leave Dubrovnik and it has been asked at their meeting how can Dubrovnik make it without its women and children. “Although I was among the last ones to have left Župa, I feel bad for the lack of information, I have abandoned Župa, but I won’t abandon Dubrovnik. First I want to know what to expect. That is how men feel. Only an organized family can expect prosperity. But we are running around in circles. I want to be a human being. I want to have dignity. Despite wearing somebody else’s sweater, I want to be a human being.”
One woman has published the following: “What are we to do? For as many as 55 days I have been fighting within myself in order to survive despite suffering and all, and see my son coming back from the frontlines, as well as my daughter, who is a refugee abroad. I am fed up being a refugee from Konavle and my heart would not let me go on this way. It feels only too hard to see people being taken away on board “Slavija”, and I have to look at all those tearful eyes and sad waving goodbye. All the goings away from the Libertas city have made me sick. Don’t go away, I feel like shouting.”
Perhaps the hardest battle of all is to stay in Dubrovnik. Go back to Konavle, Župa, Rijeka Dubrovačka, surrounding islands. We invite people to come to us in their thoughts, messages, and real convoys of freedom. Nobel prize winners and statesmen and artists and common people have made themselves heard. It is time to set off for Dubrovnik once again. Gruž is waiting for you.
November 28, 1991
Second Conference on Human Rights and Dubrovnik Refugee Quality of Life has been held. We have tried to comprehend Convoy “Libertas” and its experiences, as well as Dubrovnik of the last month period. I shall tell you the contents of my opening speech.
Human fight for the City of Dubrovnik is the most important thing about today’s Dubrovnik. This has been achieved by founding the Red Cross Committee for Human Rights, consisting of all religions or ethnic groups - Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, Moslem, Croatian, Serbian, Montenegrin, Albanian, all professions, proving that in these hard times fight for Dubrovnik is a fight for man.
We have been trying and have managed to take a tour of Dubrovnik, Mokošica, Šipan, Lopud, Cavtat, Srđ. We have been watching ships sailing in loaded with tons of relief, painfully watching them sailing out and taking people away. We have been supportive of the right to religion, culture, rights of women and children, human right to nationality.
We have been talking to more than seven thousand displaced persons about their living conditions, how they have been expelled and what they want. This has been the most extensive research ever concerning displaced persons in the life-threatening situation of the besieged City. We have done some hard work to influence a justified distribution of relief on the part of various organizations, such as Red Cross, Caritas, or any other humanitarian organization.
We have been accompanied by a number of international celebrities and organizations, Mr. Kouchner, Ms. Boniver, Fitzroy Maclean, UNICEF, International Red Cross, foreign reporters. Red Cross Committee has been founded for the occupied area of Mokošica, we have made contacts in Cavtat and started a route to islands. Red Cross Committees have been founded for the whole Dubrovnik Region, Konavle, Cavtat, Župa, Rijeka Dubrovačka, Dubrovnik coast and islands.
We have collaborated with the Civil Defence, Croatian Navy and Croatian Army, civil authorities, international organizations, even with the JNA aggressors. Yet another convoy of return has been set in motion through daily line to Mokošica.
We have been through such an ordeal because of Slavija’s tragic departure with three and a half thousand people on board a ship that was intended for just six hundred, or fire devouring Hotel “Imperijal”, or rescuing 90-year-old Konavle woman out of that 96-year-old hotel, or looking at a sweet cherry tree which has been hit by five thousand shells, or crossing Rijeka dubrovačka at night, passing by rocks just half a metre away from our speed-boat at 45 mph, or staring at the notorious Golub Rock and Žarkovica.
Alongside displaced persons we have attended concerts at the Franciscan Monastery and Fort Revelin, we have visited exhibitions of children’s and artists’ paintings, we have listened to Fitzroy Maclean at Kantafig, we have been hiding from bullets with Mr. Kouchner, we have mourned the death of Siniša Tkalec at his funeral, and we have been experiencing Christ from Mokošica during the Cathedral mass… All this represents Dubrovnik’s responsibility in the acceptance of suffering. Dubrovnik has proved a thousand times: there are no unnecessary people, exodus of any person hurts for everyone are necessary around here. Throughout its history, Dubrovnik has been giving to all religions, all nations, all artists, all scientists, all the people. Dubrovnik is the City of human rights.
DUBROVNIK - CROATIAN AND WORLD CONSCIENCE
It is time we paid back our debts to Dubrovnik. No Dubrovnik resident is allowed to leave Dubrovnik any more. Let all Dubrovnik citizens come back to Dubrovnik. As of today, all Croats and all good people are Dubrovnik residents. We are all setting off for Dubrovnik. After 30 days of experience, I should say that no Dubrovnik resident is allowed to leave, but also add: many parts of Dubrovnik Region are evicted, however, none of them are totally deserted. Many families are separated, but Dubrovnik has not been abandoned to the last member. As individuals we are filled with fear and uncertainty, but love for Dubrovnik and faith have not disappeared.
When I was coming to Dubrovnik, I never even dreamt I would live to see the days of such merciless destruction that is forbidden by any International Convention on Human Rights. Neither did I think I would meet JNA soldiers ready to help our people in most difficult situations, protect them and be human to them, nor could I have imagined myself assisting JNA soldiers, in the middle of horrible things to reunite dispersed family members.
I have never thought that events mentioned here will subsequently result in the joint power of all religions, children, women, cultures, arts, sciences, international solidarity, courage. Today three battles are going on in Dubrovnik. Those who are attacking us serve their purpose through destruction and ethnic cleansing. International Community gives assistance to the good ones, but at the same time takes people away, and Dubrovnik dreads staying, calling for people to return and watching over olive trees. Dubrovnik is still not up to this situation. However, over the past 30 days, out of unhappy, confused and feeble city, Dubrovnik has grown into the David of our times. Into the conscience of any man throughout Croatia, Europe, America, and the world. Nobody can give promise that there will be no new blood, sweat and tears in the forthcoming days. Yet I know that Dubrovnik has made a firm decision to stand up to the destruction and eviction, to people being taken away, and Dubrovnik is all for any type of help that can enable people to stay or get back to their homes. In the end, we should remember the role of the Croatian Army and Navy in the war-torn Dubrovnik. Both of them have proved powerless in annihilating gun-boats or destroyers from the land, or eliminating howitzers up in the hills by the mere use of guns. Neither of them could compete with steel or protect stone. But, since they first came into existence, they have been more than able to deliver food or medicines to the farthest islands at giant risk, to appear before any man, giving them 60 days each to think and decide whether they want to go or stay. They have given 60 days to each and every person to make them stronger in spiritual, social, or organizational way. They have provided Croatian Government with additional 60 days so as to use their skills in the organization of aid for Dubrovnik and advocating Croatian interests round the world. They have given 60 days to the aggressors in order to put a stop to their campaign of hate and save themselves perhaps from a centennial condemnation. And they have given 60 days to the International Community so that they could inform, understand, negotiate, help and bring suffering to a halt.
Everyone should think how they have made use of the immense contribution of the Croatian Army and Navy who are only human, not made of iron or steel. That contribution will certainly be appreciated by people. On my behalf and on the behalf of those who have been so well served by the Croatian Army and Navy, I take my hat off and thank to their young counterparts. May they never feel sorry for not being made of iron and steel, and for not possessing the power of destroyers or howitzers because they have showed the power of humaneness, the power of man, they have become Croatian legends and everyday life support to the Dubrovnik residents.
Zahvaljujem dr. Slobodanu Langu na dopuštenju za objavljivanjem ovog priloga.
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