The Death of Ivan Mažar, Hero of Vukovar and the Homeland War

On 2 November 1991, Ivan Mažar, hero of Vukovar and the Homeland War died in the Vukovar hospital as a result of wounds received during combat.

Ivan Mažar was born in Prijeboj near Korenica in 1930 and had a difficult childhood marked by the loss of his father and brother during the Second World War. After the war, surviving family members were resettled by the new government and Mažar, not knowing to where his mother and three brothers were relocated, worked in the fields around Sunja. In 1953 he came to Vukovar where he started a family with his wife Marija and raised three children, Vinko, Slavica and Željko. Mažar worked at Kombinat Borovo and for a couple of years as a “guest worker” in Germany. He was retired when democratic changes took place and when he realized that war preparations were taking place, the entire Mažar family became involved in planning the defense of the city and creating armed detachments. When the Battle of Vukovar began, Mažar defended Borovo Naselje as a member of the 3rd Battalion of the 204th Brigade of the Croatian Army. “Stari Mažar” (eng. “Old Man Mažar”) as his comrades called him was always faithfully accompanied by his German shepherd Tik. Tanja Belobrajdić recalled Ivan Mažar in the book “Nisu zaboravljeni” (eng. “They are not forgotten”):

Although little known to the general public, the name Ivan Mažar is associated with two significant events during the defense of Vukovar, especially the battlefront on Jadranska Street, the railway tracks and the railway bridge to Vinogradska Street and Bršadin where here he was stationed. One was his stubbornness in holding his position during a fierce enemy attack until help arrived and the other was his retrieval of the body of Blago Zadro, slain commander of the defense of Borovo and future Croatian General, while Mažar’s comrades spread cover fire at the enemy. For this act of courage, Blago Zadro’s son Robert presented him with the late commander’s rifle since Mažar only had a hunting carbine for a weapon.

On the last day of October, after he and his comrades repelled an enemy attack from the village of Bršadin, Mažar was wounded in a mortar attack as he returned to his home on Jadranska Street and was found by a neighbour who had heard Tik’s barking. Although the wounds at first did not seem to be life threatening, Mažar’s condition worsened and was transported under fire across Priljevo to the hospital by his comrade-in-arms Ljubo Grubišić. Mažar succumbed to his wounds in the hospital two days later.

Belobrajdić Tanja, Nisu zaboravljeni: Grad heroja. Zagreb: Despot infinitus, 2020

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