The Death of Luka Brkljača, War Hero – Biograd buried Two Brothers, Two “Tigers” within Three Days

Luka Brkljača, became the first Croatian soldier from Biograd na Moru to die in the Homeland War when he was killed in action on 24 September 1991 in Nova Gradiška.

Born 29 November 1968 in Zadar, Brkljača’s adventurous spirit manifested itself in his early youth when he joined the Biograd Scout Association, an organization he would lead as an adult. Immediately after the outbreak of the Greater Serbian uprising in 1990, Brkljača voluntarily joined the defense of Croatia as a member of the Rakitje Special Task Force from which the 1st Guard “Tigers” Brigade originated. He began his military career as a detachment commander in the 1st Platoon of the 2nd Company and then took command of the platoon in the 2nd Battalion of the “Tigers” in May.

He was extremely responsible and consistent. He was especially careful and perceptive in reading the situation in a certain area and very quickly became involved in the defense structure as he developed a plan for the protection and evacuation of the population.

Janko Bobetko, General, Croatian Army

After participating in Croatia’s defense in the far east of the country, Brkljača was next assigned to the Nova Gradiška battlefield where he lost his life during an enemy shelling attack.

Luka, the team and I were housed in the castle in Cernik. We needed weapons to go to Čovac and Gređani and waited for the barracks in Slavonski Brod to fall in order to get them. That did not happen so after a while we went together to Čovac and Gređani to replace the other “Tigers” team which included Damir “Gavran” Tomljanović and Tomo Medved. As we rotated all the time, they then went to towards Novska. After some time, we received information that the weapons had finally arrived in Nova Gradiška and we went to get them on that fateful day of 24 September. We were standing by the post office shortly after midday when a senior male came by and asked us what we were doing there as an attack on Gradiška was expected soon. Luka and ‘Ćusto’ were bent over removing shells from the case and did not hear him. When I told Luka what the old man had said, he replied “ignore him, he’s one of their provocateurs.” At one point an aircraft approached from the direction of the fire station and I shouted to the boys to take cover, we didn’t even see the other plane and he fired a missile that passed over our heads, severely wounded Luka, caused a flesh wound for ‘Ćusto’ and the detonation threw me through a double glass door. I heard Jozo Miličević call “where are you?” to me over the Motorola phone and when I heard that I realized that I was alive. An ambulance soon arrived but Luka was severely wounded and they took him to the morgue in Slavonski Brod as an unidentified body. We were fortunate to even locate him.

Josip Širić, 1st A Brigade of the Croatian National Guard (CNG)

His comrades decided to transfer Luka’s body to his native Biograd but as Maslenica was under occupation the only access was by the island of Pag. What makes Luka’s death even more tragic is that Siniša Brkljača, also a member of the “Tigers”, was killed in a car accident while traveling to Zagreb to find his brother Luka’s body. Luka’s comrades only found out about this while on the ferry to Pag.

When Siniša heard that his brother had disappeared, he decided to go up and look for his brother with one of his comrades. He did not know we were on our way back. Siniša ended up on the table after the accident but was clinically dead. Both were buried within three days.

Josip Širić, 1st A Brigade of the CNG

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