July 13, 1992 Vreme News Digest Agency No 42


The Moving Out Continues

by Jasmina Teodosijevic

The promotion of Seselj's Serbian Radical Party in Hrtkovci took place on May 6. On that occasion a list of some 17 people "who don't belong in the village" was presented. Seselj was there, too. That is when the moving out began - by hook or by crook.

A group of people comes to your house, they ask you to sign that you're changing the house you were born in for another, somewhere in Croatia. Nobody guarantees you that such a house really exists. They don't let you take your TV set with you, or the tractor, or anything of value, least of all money. Some forty houses were made vacant that way. Others left on their own, after files on them were opened saying that they were helping Croatia - in money or in arms - or that their sons joined the Croatian National Guard.

"Until our turn came, we didn't believe these things were happening. Now when they are telling the same lies about us, we know that what they said about those who left before us were lies too", says a woman from Hrtkovci.

Young T.M. was beaten up last week in the middle of the road, just after his return from the front somewhere near Mostar. M.S. was killed with dull and sharp objects, and was found in a ditch far from the village.

Compared with him, V.P. was lucky: five of them came to see him on Sunday, June 28. They forced him to sign that he was changing his house for another one in Slavonski Brod. After that they left to see his father on the other side of the village. There were twenty of them, they banged on the door, he had to open. First they took the money. Then they threatened, and swore they would slaughter his children... Before he left, they allowed him to take a few personal things. The local police was there - they recorded everything, but did nothing.

V.P. was allowed to return a few days later. During his absence, the "special units" (as the local population call the Republican Interior Ministry reinforcements) chased out those who forcibly moved in. V.P.'s case was one of three last week with the same epilogue. A sign of positive changes? People from Hrtkovci think that such an improvement is due to the presence of the republican police and some changes in the municipality. But they are still afraid. Of whom, we asked.

"We don't know those people. They claim to be refugees from Bosnia and Croatia. I also came from Bosnia to get married here. My Serbs over there are honorable people, not like these...", says N.S.

"These people are robbers and vandals", says another woman. "I do all I can for the real refugees, for my people. At this moment I have at home two children from Gorazde (Bosnia). I have to hide them, together with my own children, because they are threatening us".

The local authorities say the situation in the village is "perfectly normal", that only Croats are moving out "after it was proved that they are supporters of the policy of HDZ /Croatian Democratic Union/". Mr. Sibincic, president of the Hrtkovci community, claims that he doesn't know anything about the forced moving out, except for the Hungarian family. He also knew nothing about the "special units". When asked to comment on the story about a refugee from Kula near Slavonska Pozega, who had a contract for a new house, but could not move in because another family moved in illegally before him, he said: "I don't like your questions. Ask me some nicer ones". He says that the Serbs from Hrtkovci don't know yet that all their Croatian neighbors are Ustashas, but that will become evident after things are explained to them. For old people who have children living and working abroad he said that they should not be trusted either, because "their sons are on battlefields that are against the Serbs". He himself saw some of them packing arms at the local graveyard to send to Croatia. He also saw some weapons in the Catholic priest's house - a machine-gun, in the kitchen, right in the corner.

We asked him why he didn't report that to the police. He said he wanted to go back there later, with two guys, and take the gun for his own protection.

He tells us: "You are not real journalists. I'd fire you all! Not only do I have strong doubts about your ethics, I know you don't have any. If you had, you would be somewhere else. You are lucky this here is a democratic community!"

A friend of his added that we (my colleagues from "BORBA" and Studio B, and some "foreigners" from AFP and EFE) were sent by some opposition party, the SPO (Serbian Renewal Movement, Vuk Draskovic) or something like that.