The Abduction and Murder of Dr. Ivan Šreter, Advocate for Peace and Dialogue with Rebel Serbs

Rebel Croatian Serbs abducted Dr. Ivan Šreter, a local leader of Croats in western Slavonia, at barricades in the village of Kukunjevac near Lipik on 18 August 1991.

Ivan Šreter was born in 1951 in Pakrac, where he lived with his parents and two younger sisters. As a youth, he was active in his local church where he started “Call of the Calvary” church newspaper. He completed his secondary school education in physiotherapy in the town of Lipik and then entered the Faculty of Medicine in Zagreb. After graduating from university in 1978, Šreter did his internship at the Pakrac hospital and found employment at the hospital in Lipik. He was not married but had an adopted son Vitomir. In the mid-1980s, Šreter was made an “enemy of the state” and served 10 days in prison following a bizarre incident in which he used Croatian language terms for “retired officer” to describe his patient Steve Majstorović in a medical report.

During the transition to democracy in Croatia in 1990, the patriotic Dr. Šreter was active in politics and became the leader of the Pakrac branch of the Croatian Democratic Union (CDU). Despite heightening tensions in during the Serbian armed uprising in early March of 1991, he advocated a policy of non-violence and reconciliation. His political activity often made Šreter the target of harassment and physical attacks by belligerents in Pakrac as dynamite was thrown at his house, he was shot at and subjected to various other forms of intimidation. On one occasion, two ethnic Serb police officers even tried to arrest Šreter at his workplace. He resisted and in the ensuing fight was rescued by two Croat policemen. Despite all this, Šreter remained steadfast in advocating peaceful coexistence with Croatian Serbs in the area.

We have never threatened you and we never will threaten you. We just us to continue to live together on an equal basis. Relinquish your crazy ideas and send representatives and delegates to participate in in official bodies so that we can resolve all problems through democratic dialogue. There is nothing to be gained in the use of weapons or desecration and destruction of our shrines! We could have laid explosives under your homes but the thought never entered our minds.

Dr. Ivan Šreter, 30 May 1991

He was abducted the day before Pakrac came under attack and his release was sought by Croatian parliamentarian Slavko Degoricija. In his book It was not in Vain Degoricija described how he agreed with Milorad Pupovac, one of the Serbs’ leaders in Croatia, that the Croatia would exchange two doctors arrested in Sisak for Dr. Šreter. After the captured doctors were released, Pupovac said that the Serbs in Pakrac desperately needed Šreter as they did not have their own doctor and promised to release him as soon as they received their doctor. Unfortunately, Šreter went missing and despite the many efforts of his family and friends, his remains were never found. It is assumed that Šreter was tortured and killed in the infamous Bučje camp where his doctor’s coat was found. As the President of the Crisis Headquarters for Western Slavonia, Dr. Šreter was the highest-ranking official of the Republic of Croatia killed during the Homeland War.

Sources
Literature
Benković, Stjepan; Križan, Branko. Kako se branio Lipik, Lipik: Udruga branitelja Lipika 1991. godine and Grad Lipik, 2016

Internet
Zvonimir Despot: “Zašto o dr. Šreteru šute i Pupovac i HDZ!”, Večernji.hr, approach achieved on June 6, 2020, www.vecernji.hr/premium/zasto-o-dr-sreteru-sute-i-pupovac-i-hdz-1189546

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