The Birthday of Homeland War Hero Zoran Gruber

Zoran Gruber, heroic defender of Vukovar and soldier of the Homeland War was born on this day in 1969.

Born in the village of Migalovci, Gruber spent his early youth in Eminovci near Požega where a street was named in his honour. He finished primary and secondary school in Požega where he graduated as a mechanical technician. Already in 1990 Gruber realized that his homeland was endangered and went to Zagreb where he joined the special police of the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) of the Republic of Croatia along with a group of young men from the Požega region. Josip Širić, his friend and comrade-in-arms from the “Rakitje” Special Task Force recalled Gruber:

Among us was a young man, Zoran Gruber who came with me from Požega. He was from a mixed marriage as his father was a Serb and his mother a Croat. I remember how he felt miserable declaring himself as a Yugoslav when he completed the questionnaire upon reporting to the Ministry. In doing so, some suspected him of being an informant but I told them that he came with us and wants to assist in the creation of a Croatian state. Gruber soon gained everybody’s trust, especially that of the commander. He proved it time and time again. We were separated in Vukovar and while I went to into the field at Ilok, he went to Vukovar. I must say that he could have got out of Vukovar but he did not want to. He wanted to stay until the end and in the end, he was killed there.

“Grubi”, as his comrades called him, arrived in Vukovar on 7 August 1991 with a group of “Tigers” under the command of Zlatko Horvat. Prior to this, Gruber had already gained experience in the first battles of the Homeland War at Pakrac and then Plitvice when Josip Jović, the first Croatian soldier was killed. With their arrival in Vukovar, the “Tigers” strengthened the line of defense of Borovo Naselje against Borovo Selo. Their presence encouraged the local defenders and when the battle for Vukovar began they rushed to where the fighting was most intense. Gruber’s responsibility as platoon commander increased especially when Commander Horvat was killed in September. The area covered by the “Tigers” stretched from Trpinjska Road over Lička, Nova and Stara Banijska to Borovska Road and the Slon checkpoint.

“Grubi” and his comrades in the battle for Vukovar

It was there that Zoran Gruber was wounded at the beginning of November 1991 as a sniper shot hit him in the shoulder. After receiving first aid he was taken to the reserve hospital in the Borovo Commerce building but due to the severity of the injury, his comrades transferred him to the Vukovar hospital. There he witnessed the fall of the city and any trace of Gruber was lost soon afterwards. It was not until years later that the family learned of the terrible fate he had suffered. Gruber was among the wounded and hospital staff taken to Ovčara where they were tortured and executed. His remains were exhumed and identified in November of 1998.

Zoran Gruber was on the bus, winked at me as he walked past me and sat two rows behind me on the right side. His wounded right shoulder was bleeding profusely but he always maintained his dignity. He is strong and proud here just as he was in battle, at least the two in which I saw him. I can’t see even the slightest fear on his face.

Vilim Karlović, member of the 1st Guard “Tigers”Brigade and author of the book “I Survived Vukovar and Ovčara”

Karlović, Vilim. Preživio sam Vukovar i Ovčaru. Zagreb: Vlastita naklada, 2013
Monografija 1. gardijska brigada Hrvatske vojske Tigrovi, Zagreb: Znanje, 2015

Oral testimony
Testimony of Josip Širić, collected on 12 December 2019.

Tanja Belobrajdić: “Zoran Gruber: I u autobusu za Ovčaru čvrst i ponosan”,, access achieved on August 28, 2020,
V. Milković: “EMINOVCI DOBILI ULICU NAZVANU PO HRVATSKOM BRANITELJU ZORANU GRUBERU Vilim Karlović:”Bio je hrabar i nevjerojatno odlučan čovjek. Kao takav je otišao u mučeničku smrt””, Požeško vodič, access achieved on August 28, 2020,

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