President Milanović at commemoration of Anti-Fascist Struggle Day: Croatia was on the side of good, on the winners’ side

22. June 2022.

The President of the Republic Zoran Milanović attended a commemoration on Anti-Fascist Struggle Day on the occasion of the 81st anniversary of the foundation of the first Partisan detachment and the first anti-fascist unit in this part of Europe.

After laying flowers at a memorial in Brezovica Memorial Park near Sisak, President Milanović told anti-fascists and all those who remember the war they are modern and democratic followers of a view on the world that used to be important and remains so today thanks to them. “This cannot be eradicated and will not disappear just like that. That root is deep because it is a constituent part of the Croatian path, one of those outgrowths that form our root”, he noted.

As for the first Partisan detachment and the movement that emerged from it, President Milanović said it put the Croatian people on the calmer and safer side of history. “Without those people and those who organized them, the Croatian name and reputation would be tarnished like never before in history”, he noted. In this context he mentioned the events of April 1941. “What took place in April 1941 when the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was founded after so many centuries by the will of great powers, very quickly turned into a criminal project that today it is hard to believe it actually existed. The fact that just three months later, the first Croatian Partisan detachment was established, comprised mostly of Croats, shows that the Croats did not accept that state, the reason being obvious”, the President noted.

“A completely insane, inexplicable policy threatened to put incredible shame, a stigma on the Croatian people. However, the fact that mostly Croats were here in 1941 would not be fair to gain political capital. Those people were Croats, in 1941 they were first of all communists, members of a secret organization led primarily from Moscow and whose goal was a Soviet Croatia”, President Milanović remarked explaining that those are facts that are not negative, do not hurt and should not bother anyone, but are the truth. The truth is that Serbs and Croats were brothers in arms for those few years during the Second World War is one of the greatest things that happened. What happened between one part of the Croats and Serbs remains a distant past today. We can only analyze it from a distance today”, the President stated.

In regard to the communists after the war, President Milanović said they took national interests into account. “They felt it was time for certain territories of Croatia, especially on the coast, namely parts of Dalmatia and Istria traded in 1941, to be incorporated into the Croatian state. During five days in May 1945 these people, by making a descent upon Istria and Trieste, I believe for the next thousand years brought Croatian Istria into bequest, possession for Croatia. Those were courageous, successful and smart people”, President Milanović highlighted.

He noted that is hard for people today to understand the history of that time. “The motives, fears, impulses of those people, their communism, their wish to change the world by revolution, the pretension to achieve a universal brotherhood of peoples – which is at the same time noble, but rough and cruel. Postwar crimes are a fact, they were perpetrated against Croats, against members of the defeated army while it was retreating and did not wish to surrender. They were on a mass scale, Serbs and Croatian communists took part in atrocities, but even a larger number of them kept quiet about that for years”, President Milanović stated, adding that they should not be condemned for keeping quiet today. In order to talk to our children today, who are showing less and less interest, about these things that must not be dogma – because we are on safe ground. We are on the right side of history, on the winners’ side”, the President underlined.

“The truth and the actual development of events are on our side. We made a huge contribution to the winning army. Our ancestors fought on the side of good and we have to talk about this the whole time. The fact that we are here at an event that continues to be a Croatian national holiday being held under the auspices of the Croatian Government indicates that there is no danger for anti-fascism in Croatia today. But for it to live in memory requires working with young people”, President Milanović stated, and expressed hope that his address would be something to think about. “But that time has finally come in a country not to achieve total fellowship which is impossible in a democratic society, but for some issues to be discussed with a lot less emotion, and a lot more reason. Because we have nothing to be ashamed about, our way was just and successful”, President Milanović stated in concluding his address.

Also speaking at the commemoration on Anti-Fascist Struggle Day besides the President of the Republic were the president of the Federation of Anti-fascist Fighters and Anti-fascists of the Republic of Croatia Franjo Habulin, the envoy of the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament and Sisak-Moslavina County Prefect Ivan Celjak, and the envoy of the Croatian Prime Minister and Minister of Justice and Public Administration Ivan Malenica. Also in attendance at the commemoration were the former Croatian presidents Stjepan Mesić and Ivo Josipović, the mayor of Sisak Kristina Ikić Baniček, and the mayor of Zagreb Tomislav Tomašević.

Alongside President Milanović were the Head of the Cabinet of the President Bartol Šimunić, the Adviser to the President of the Republic for Human Rights and Civil Society Melita Mulić, the Special Adviser to the President of the Republic for the Economy Velibor Mačkić and the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces Lieutenant General Siniša Jurković.

PHOTO: Office of the President of the Republic of Croatia / Dario Andrišek