AP NEWS
Related topics

Serbs in Croatia Indirect Victims of War With PM-Yugoslavia Rdp

August 31, 1992

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) _ Four weeks ago, a Croatian soldier broke into Nada Radisic’s apartment, changed the locks and moved in. Her only offense was marrying a Serb 13 years ago.

″I am desperate,″ Mrs. Radisic said, sitting with other women in the apartment across the hall.

At the Serbian Orthodox Church, 60-year-old Ruzica Madjarac sat in the priest’s office crying. Her sister’s apartment in Karlovac, 30 miles southwest of Zagreb, has been seized by strangers and her state pension cut off.

″I can’t change my parents. I cannot change who I am,″ cried Mrs. Madjarac, an ethnic Serb who has lived in Zagreb for 36 years.

In a country where ethnicity means everything, ethnic Serbs and Croats married to them are suffering what some contend is widespread discrimination and harassment.

Underlying ethnic tensions surfaced brutally last year when Croatia seceded from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia.

Yugoslavia tried to crush the insurgency and overran one-third of Croatia before a cease-fire was called. Some 10,000 people were killed in the six- month civil war, and hundreds of thousands of people were driven from their homes.

As in cases of alleged Serb abuse of Croats and Muslims in the former Yugoslavia, proving a pattern is difficult.

But stories of evictions or destruction of homes, threatening phone calls, job dismissals and legal limbos make their way regularly to U.N. officials in Croatia.

″There is a problem everywhere in Croatia,″ a top U.N. official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he knew of Serbs in Zagreb who’d lost jobs or been told to leave their homes.

Serbs trying to return to their homes in former battle zones have been detained by local and military police, he said.

The dynamited remains of Serb-owned houses dot the towns of Daruvar and Pakrac in eastern Croatia. Unconfirmed media reports say as many as 6,000 Serb houses in Croatia have been intentionally destroyed.

Milenko Popovic, acting head of Zagreb’s Orthodox Church, contends Croats are conducting their own form of ″ethnic cleansing″ - the forcible expulsion of one ethnic group from an area so it can be repopulated by another.

Most allegations of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans war have been leveled at Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the former Polish prime minister sent to the Balkans to investigate allegations of atrocities, has said ethnic cleansing was being practiced in Croatia, but in a ″subtler″ way than in Serb-controlled areas.

Serb political and religious leaders say Croats are trying to eradicate the ethnic background of thousands of Orthodox Serb school children by giving them a Roman Catholic education.

″You can’t say it’s force, but you can’t say it’s free will either. Pressure is the word,″ said Zarko Puhovski, a Croat professor of political philosophy at Zagreb University.

In Zagreb, the Serbian Democratic Forum, an advocacy group for Serbs in Croatia, and the Orthodox Church of the Holy Transfiguration have become way- stations for Serbs with nowhere else to turn.

Popovic says he sees about 10 Serbs daily through the forum.

As he described their complaints, a young Bosnian Serb entered his office, eyes wide with the terrifying prospect that he may be forced to take up arms against his family.

The man, a 10-year Zagreb resident married to a Croat, had been drafted by the Croatian Army, though not a citizen, and threatened with arrest if he didn’t report. He fears meeting his brothers, still in northern Bosnia, on the battlefield.

″I’d rather kill myself than risk killing my brothers,″ said the 33-year- old man, his hands trembling.

Milos Stojic, a 55-year-old Karlovac resident, told how his apartment was ransacked and taken over by Croats. The former math teacher, who suffers from epilepsy, now sleeps in train stations or with friends.

″Serbs have lived here hundreds of years, and it’s our homeland as well,″ Stojic said.

Petar Ladjevic, the forum’s secretary-general, put it in harsher terms: ″It’s not just losing national identity, it’s sort of a pogrom on Serbs who did not take part in the armed rebellion.″

Mrs. Radisic feels the same. Her husband fled with Yugoslav army troops when they abandoned their Zagreb barracks last year during fighting between Croatian troops and rebel Serbs.

She and her daughter were on vacation when the Croatian soldier and three colleagues, all in military camouflage, broke into their home on July 25.

Her neighbors notified local and military police, and Mrs. Radisic has since spent countless hours shuffling futilely among government offices.

Taped to the door of her apartment is a white piece of paper printed with the words ″Zdravko Magdic, HV,″ identifying the new tenant as a member of the Croatian army.

″One of Magdic’s colleagues asked me if I was familiar with the law,″ Mrs. Radisic said. ″I said a bit. He said, ’Then you know that in practice there is no law in existence except the law of weapons.‴

AP RADIO
Update hourly