“…dismembered remains of soldiers’ bodies, flames and smoke billowed from vehicles and cars parked in the yard” – The Day when Novska was in Flames

October 4, 1991 was one of the most tragic days in recent history for the city of Novska. Just as citizens left their shelters following the end of air raid alarms, enemy fighters attacked the center of the city shortly after midday.

That same day, the Special Tasks Unit of the Ministry of the Interior from Kutina arrived to help defend Novska and as they regrouped and awaited combat orders, a meeting of the city defense command was underway in the Secretariat for National Defense building. The situation in the town was not at all simple as the enemy launched stronger attacks from Okučani and the inhabitants of Novska fled their homes. However, even that did not provide a hint that Novska would soon be in flames.

Two Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) fighter jets attacked the city with rockets around midday and also hit the building of the Secretariat for National Defense. Ten people did not survive the airstrike. Zvonimir Crnojević, Vladimir Idžojtić, Antun Jakovljević, Ilija Kaurin, Miroslav Kolar and Mijo Perković of the 62nd Independent Battalion, Dragan Odak of the 56th Independent Battalion and Civil Defense member Filip Kozić were all killed. Milan Hećimović, a member of the 311th Traffic Battalion who brought Colonel Ivan Tonković from the General Staff to the city that day was also killed. Local citizen Milka Bokun was also killed and dozens of people were injured. A meeting of the Executive Council of the Novska Municipal Assembly was in progress when the attack took place and one of its participants described the shocking scenes he witnessed after leaving the building:

There was horror and dread in the yard of the Secretariat for National Defense and the Command of the 62nd Independent Battalion of the National Guard Corps. We silently stared in shock and disbelief at a scene that simply could not be described… dismembered remains of soldiers’ bodies, flames and smoke billowed from vehicles and cars parked in the yard and ammunition in burning cars continued to explode at short intervals, as if someone was shooting a gun. A moan was heard from one of the two garages where Mijo Perković of the Military Police lay in a pool of blood on the floor. He was still conscious, holding his stomach and immediately afterwards several soldiers ran to him. Among them was his commander Branko Orešić who brought a hospital stretcher so they could take him to the Novljan ambulance. Mijo was one of the last wounded to be taken to the ambulance after the others were already taken to the ambulance or transported away. After all that, we heard later that day that Mijo did not survive and died on the way to the hospital in Zagreb.

It was assumed that the attack on Novska was caused by treasonous “fifth column” elements who announced that fresh Croatian forces had arrived in the city. The next day, the situation in Novska was addressed by Croatian President Franjo Tuđman as Anton Tus, Chief of the General Staff, stated that the city was the most endangered part of the western Slavonian battlefield. Without a doubt, the YPA tried to capture Novska to open a path of attack to Lipik and Pakrac. The exodus of the population from the Novska municipality, which began in September, grew even larger following this attack.

Photos – Željko Gašparović

Sources
Literature
Marijan, Davor. Novska u Domovinskom ratu. Novska: HVIDRA, 2009

Internet
DLS Novska: “Na današnji dan prije 26 godina raketiran je Ured za obranu u centru grada Novske od strane srbočetničkog agresora”, access achieved September 22, 2020, http://dls-novska.hr/hr/vremeplov/pregled/na-danasnji-dan-prije-26-godina-raketiran-je-ured-za-obranu-u-centru-grada,29.html

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