On the occasion of the Day of Remembrance of the victims of Vukovar, the documentary program "Truth on the Windmill of History", which was broadcast on Wednesday, November 29, on the Croatian Radio's Program 3, dedicated itself to an actual Vukovar woman, "S".
"There's one specific detail of her story that grabbed my interest. Three Serbian soldiers appeared in front of her and she was forced to choose which one of them was to be her rapist. She chose the one she had worked with earlier in a Vukovar factory because he had seemed nicer than the others. Horrible, having to choose the one that seemed nicer than the others and who would then rape her for months thereafter. That's what happened", Julienne Bušić recalls. Bušić is the author of the book, "Living Cells", a moving story about a victim of the Homeland War who went through a tremendous struggle to save her own life during the occupation while surrounded by Yugoslav Army forces and paramilitary Chetnik units, and was serially raped up until the fall of Vukovar, November 18, 1991.
The first one to rape her was an acquaintance of her father. She was taken in a truck to his house, with the excuse that she had to wash his uniforms. It was a terrible blow to the twenty-two year old mother of a three-year old son, who was at the time a member of the Vukovar hospital medical services. Everything went downhill after that.
In the Homeland War, rape was one of the military-strategic methods of ethnic cleansing during the Vukovar occupation and in other Croatian towns. Everyone remained silent about these mass rapes in the Republic of Croatia until S. decided to sue her rapists and speak about the imprisoned and raped women kept by the Yugoslav army and Serb para-militaries as sexual slaves.
Those who listen to the broadcast will also be able to follow the course of the trial. In the appeal process, the perpetrators are sentenced to six years in prison, but they were not punished for war crimes against civilians because they fled over the border into Serbian territory. Both are beyond the jurisdiction of the Croatian justice system.
This program seeks answers to questions about the incomprehensible moral indifference in regard to the victims, why our institutions have imposed silence on the rape victims for over twenty years, why the crimes were not processed, why the perpetrators were not punished and who is responsible? The program also addresses the implementation of the instrument of extradition and how it functions on the territory of the former territories of the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, as well as the implementation of the 2015 law on the rights of victims of sexual violence during the armed aggression against the Republic of Croatia during the Homeland War.
"When I was given the book "Living Cells" by the editor of the Third Program of the Croatian Radio, Nevenka Dujmović, I read it in one sitting and afterwards was unable to sleep for several nights in a row. I was obsessed with the injustice that S. had suffered. I felt a huge responsibility to present, through her story, all that had happened to the women during the Homeland War. Our sound man, Branko Starc, assisted me greatly in this effort by placing the listeners into the atmosphere, time, and circumstances of war-torn Vukovar", Ivana Perkovac, the author of the program, explains.
"It's high time to stop sweeping things under the carpet. We have recognized sexual crimes committed during the Homeland War as crimes against humanity and have made it into law, but we can't stop there", says Miruna Kastratović, editor of Front Line, Croatian Radio-1.
207 requests have arrived so far to the Ministry of Defenders from individuals seeking status as victims of war crimes during the Homeland War, but the number is certainly much larger.
"Rape during the Homeland War is no longer, or shouldn't be, a taboo subject; we need to talk about it and encourage victims to speak up because that is the first step toward healing", says Perkovac.
Julienne Bušić says the victims want to forgive, but the perpetrators need to be brought to justice. "We cannot allow these women to live among us as though they don't exist, and the criminals to walk around freely as innocent people", she adds.
Guests of the program are author Julienne Bušić, Minister of the Croatian Defenders, Tomo Medved, expert on international law in the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Toma Galli, Parliament Member and psychiatrist, Goran Dodig, dr. Vesna Bosanac, journalist Miruna Kastratović, and Mary Ann Rukavina, a Chicago native who moved to Croatia during the Homeland War to work with women who were victims of rape.