The world according to...

Following the devil’s tracks: The legacy of Cardinal Stepinac

Part 2 – June 1994: It’s strange how almost every step we took in Bosnia or Croatia, we returned to the Second World War, Tito and the partisans and the Nazis and the Ustashe, writes Robert Fisk

Saturday 07 August 2021 21:30
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<p>Serb volunteers in Borovo Selo load a cannon on the front line during the fighting for Vukovar against the Croatian forces, 5 October 1991</p>

Serb volunteers in Borovo Selo load a cannon on the front line during the fighting for Vukovar against the Croatian forces, 5 October 1991

How cruel are the distinctions of nationality. I left those women – who have neither passport nor nation, running water nor gas – still trapped in their ruined Muslim enclave, and drove down to the Adriatic and into Croatia with no more than a wave of my British passport. Four hours later, at Split, I climbed into a Croatia Airlines Boeing 737 for the 50-minute flight to Zagreb, on which I was served with red wine, smoked salmon and chocolates.

Yet even here, on this modern aircraft, the sinister message of ex-Yugoslavia was waiting for me. When I opened the Croatian Airlines inflight magazine it was ranting about the iniquities of communism, about “political manipulation” by the Serbs, of how “Serb aggression” had closed the airline. Inflight magazines are the blandest publications in the world, but here, on Croatia Airlines, they smelt of hate.

Few Croats, however, would have argued with the magazine’s contents. Croatia is in the western bit of ex-Yugoslavia, its chunk of Bosnia effectively included in the new federal authority and 30 per cent of the state of Croatia still occupied by local Serbs supported by Belgrade. The remaining 70 per cent of rugged coastline and gentle interior looks every day more Austrian, more German, as wealth creeps in from the European superpower which helped to give it birth. Yet Croatia is not in love with the west, least of all with the United Nations, whose troops have installed themselves in the 30 per cent of occupied territory without handing it back to the Croats.

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