I have lost count of the number of times General Zeljko Glasnovic, Member of Croatian Parliament for the Diaspora, has emphasised and warned in his public and parliamentary appearances that the Croatian diaspora is purposefully excluded from Croatian social, economic and political life and development…and that this must be rectified in order for Croatia to move forward. “Unfortunately, we live in a country taken over by Yugonationalists, and they treat it as a feudal property and with that, they prevent the return of our people (from the diaspora to Croatia),” he said in an interview last year.
A clear and disturbing example, albeit camouflaged in the president’s welcoming speeches about great love for the diaspora, of how those “Yugonationalists”, communist die-hards, operate in excluding the Croatian diaspora from Croatia’s life unfolded during the past week before our very eyes during the president of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic’s official state visit to Australia, Sydney. It struck me, and multitudes of other Croats in Sydney, for an nth time how those close to the president of Croatia organising her visit to Australia and New Zealand have “refined” their communist ways of ignoring and hiding the impressive wealth of Croatian masses from sight by not giving everyone the opportunity to show up and greet their homeland country’s president.
Sydney, for instance, has over 60,000 people of Croatian descent and loyalty and, yet, the Croatian president’s closest advisers and organisers booked only one public venue where the public could come greet and welcome the president and that venue could only fit 2.5 to 3.0 thousand people. Public announcements of the president’s public appearances were not widely made in order to secure attention of all, those (more than 70% of the Croatian Sydney community) that do not frequent clubs or churches or read Croatian newspapers or listen to Croatian radio on a regular basis were excluded. When the first Croatian president dr. Franjo Tudjman visited Sydney in 1995, the situation was entirely different; the public venue where he came to greet the Sydney Croatians carried 20,000 places and was filled with Croats, completely.
Whether president Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic had foreknowledge of this organisational disgrace and insult by exclusion to Croatians in the diaspora is a question the answer to which lies beyond my knowledge. One thing that is painfully obvious, though, is that such organisation, excluding the vast majority from being able to come and greet the president, was done purposefully and, in line with how communist-minded as well as Yugoslav Secret Police (UDBA) had operated before and operate in Croatia now. The ugly brazenness of such organisers whose aim is to divide and alienate from the homeland the bulk of the Croatian diaspora calls for new efforts on the part of the Croatian diaspora to stand united for Croatia and contribute to lustration, the fight against the communist beast that stands in the way of progress to full democracy and a functional Croatian national state. When one remembers that the Croatian Diaspora gave enormous financial and political lobby as well as military generals, officers and soldiers contribution to the creation of independent Croatian state in the 1990’s then renewed unity is an absolute essential in order to achieve lustration in Croatia and complete the goal for Croatia set in 1990: to create an independent, democratic and prosperous state, far far away from communist Yugoslavia totalitarian regime.
The word “lustration” has its roots in Latin—the verb lustrare means to “purify” or “illumine.” To the citizens of former communist countries in Europe, lustration refers to the process in which the abuses of former communist regimes are revealed, implicating perpetrators as well as victims. Lustration in countries that have so far embraced it in the former European communist countries, which regretfully does not yet include Croatia, has encompassed ensuring former highly positioned people or those in communist secret services are not afforded key positions in the government or key positions in country, opening and making various types of files public—regardless if it is reading the books of the secret police or exposing compromised politicians, the process is sensitive and, at times, painful for people who for decades lived oppressed lives under oppressive communist regimes.
President Grabar Kitarovic’s visit to Australia and New Zealand is cementing the divisional and destructive processes installed and employed by former communists with view to ensuring an alienation of the Diaspora from its Croatian homeland. Grabar Kitarovic as president has called upon the Croatian Diaspora many many times to return to Croatia and help it prop-up its failing economy and plummeting demographic reality. And then she arrives in that diaspora on a visit and does not ask why is only 5% of this diaspora here to greet me!? Where is everybody!? Her speech to a mere couple of thousand, instead of say at least fifteen, sugarcoated with love and openness towards Croats in the diaspora. The organisation of her visit was a closed-door affair; openness is simply not the word that can describe it in any shape or form.
The questions, recently also posted on the Voice of the Croatian Diaspora Facebook page, which masses from the excluded-from-greeting-the-president Croatian diaspora would have put to the president had they had a chance and opportunity to do would have been as follows:
1. What’s happening with the establishment of Minister for immigration/diaspora affairs?
2. What’s happening with regard to installing postal and/or electronic voting system and why is it not utilised for the Croatian diaspora given that the platform already exists, e.g. E-citizens?
3. What’s happening regarding the new Electoral Act, how is it possible that the Croatian diaspora is excluded from the political life of Croatia and reduced to mere three diaspora representative seats in Parliament?
4. Demand for the abolishment of socialist-communist bureaucracy.
5. Most questionable government “Advisory body for Croats living outside Croatia”. Who are these people, what have they achieved so far, what do they do?
6. Why are people who were part of UDBA and KOS (communist Yugoslavia Secret Police and Counter-Intelligence services) posted into the Croatian diplomatic and consular missions and posts?
7. Who and in what manner chooses the President’s advisers – for example the first adviser to the President is Jozo Brkic, brother to highly positioned in HDZ Milijan Brkic, and chief organiser of the President’s visit to Australia – what are the criteria for choosing advisers?
8. When will decommunisation of Croatia commence?
The mediocrity of life is what communists nurtured during the times of former Yugoslavia; most people had just enough means to stay above the poverty line, waiting unrequited for the promise of a better future under the guiding hands of the promise-making communist party to kick-in. The exceptionalism, the promise and fight for prosperity in Croatia that accompanied every single, bloody but victorious 1990’s Homeland War battle for freedom from communist Yugoslavia afforded Croatia the time to convince itself and its original liberation movement HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union (that backed Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic as presidential candidate) couldn’t possibly ever become a “lame duck” when it comes to installing a full democracy and clearing the key posts in society and authority of communists that held important positions in Yugoslavia. HDZ in its fight for independence also fought against mediocrity and for prosperity in life. Today, in reality, HDZ has become the same as SDP (Social Democratic Party) – the latter didn’t want independent Croatia in the first place, and the former does “bugger all” to clean-up the oppressive, incompetent and arrogant public administration, service provision and bureaucracy. In the meantime, Presidents gallivant around the globe with grandstanding rhetoric for needed reforms but matching actions simply never eventuate to the degree that sweeps in the reforms, particularly in the area of returning into the body of the Croatian national state the status of the Croatian diaspora, to which they passionately, rhetorically, pin Croatia’s deliverance from ruin.
Heraclitus — “the obscure philosopher,” the pre-Socratic thinker, is best known as the man who said that you cannot put your foot into the same river twice. “The river/ where you set/ your foot just now/ is gone — /those waters/ giving way to this,/ now this.” (“Fragments: The Collected Wisdom of Heraclitus,” Viking). Letting opportunities go by without implementing lustration that would rid the budding democracy from the inherited communist mindset, laws and practices has led to the feeling one gets about Croatia that many people appear uninspired or lack the energy to rid their community of mediocrities and idiot intoxications communist mindset injects, whether in form of nepotism in employment or whether in getting away with theft and corruption… Given the enemy defined by communist-era mindset and habits, inherited by modern Croatia, a time for the commencement of effective lustration only comes once! It’s just like Heraclitus said “you cannot put your foot into the same river twice”.
When people attack critical voices against communist heritage that must be purged from Croatian democracy, they are accommodating mediocrity. I, for one, do not wish to live in mediocrity – I want Croatia to succeed in achieving its original goal for independence and democratic prosperity and that means it must: thoroughly rid itself from communism and its UDBA, its bloodsuckers. It must lustrate! Ina Vukic