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Slovenian Village Buries Militiaman With AM-Yugoslavia, Bjt

July 7, 1991

CERKLJE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ This village near Ljubljana Airport paid its price for freedom Sunday, burying a Slovenian militiaman to the sound of a brass band and the wailing of his distraught father.

Peter Petric, 37, was an aircraft mechanic until Slovenia declared independence June 25. He put on a freshly pressed reservist uniform. Three days later, he was shot storming a tank.

″He was my best friend, a super man, who lived for his children,″ said Voyko Kuncic, standing among hundreds of solemn and red-eyed friends. Uniformed men wept with the old women in black.

Petric’s cremated ashes were carried on a cart piled with flowers behind a shuffling military honor guard and a 20-piece band. Out front, a militiaman carried Slovenia’s red, blue and white flag.

At graveside, Petric’s wife and two sons, ages 10 and 13, stood erect. His 8-year-old daughter, Alenka, looked around in confusion, distractedly stroking her bouquet in Slovenian colors.

Afterward, friends from the Territorial Defense Force filed by the grave, each dropping a red carnation.

His father, Peter, hung limply between two friends, wracked with sobs. From time to time, he broke into a diatribe against the circumstances that took his son.

Mourners asked to describe their feelings called Petric’s death a tragic consequence of a turn of events that cannot be stopped. He was a martyr, most said, and most likely not the last.

Slovenia’s Territorial Defense Force killed 39 Yugoslav Army soldiers since June 25, losing four dead. Four Slovenian policemen, five civilians and 10 foreigners also were killed by the fighting.

″We will continue on this path, especially after this aggression by the army,″ said Matias Sonc, chief of maintenance at Adria Airlines, where Petric worked.

He accused federal leaders of using needless force, because the independence declaration made clear the secession process should be gradual, with negotiations among all six Yugoslav republics.

Others agreed, mostly in bitter terms.

″We did not expect this sort of brutality from the army,″ said Matija Biber. ″We thought there would economic, political measures, but this?″

Asked if Slovenians would continue to pay such price, he said: ″After this, I think yes. Ninety percent of the people feel as I do. If you are alive as a slave, what kind of price do you pay?″

His wife, Bernanda, nodded. ″It is not nice, this war,″ she said. ″We don’t like it. But we like freedom.″

Petric’s commander, Peter Zupan, said he was not surprised by the federal army attack. And, he said, he won’t be surprised if there is another one.

″We will fight to be free, and we are ready,″ he said. But his swollen eyes made clear he was not happy about it.


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