The Death of Ivan “Sokol” Poljak, Hero of Vukovar and the Homeland War

Ivan “Sokol” (Eng: “Falcon”) Poljak, hero of Vukovar and the Homeland War died on 6 November 1991.

He grew up in his hometown of Sinj, was an avid parachutist and moved to Zagreb upon completion of secondary school. There he completed his studies in administrative law and was employed in the footwear factory on Savska Street. Poljak’s decision to join in the defense of Vukovar was kept secret from his family as described by Tanja Belobrajdić in her column “They are not Forgotten”:

His brother Željko last saw him on 22 September 1991 when he came to Sinj with a shipment of weapons while his sister Anđela last saw him a few days later in Zagreb before he went for a walk to the main square. When he did not return for days, the family reported his disappearance to the police only to learn of Poljak’s whereabouts when he called from Vukovar in mid-October.

After the death of Velimir “Sokol” Đerek and Tihomir Gredelj, Poljak took over the command of the defense of the Sajmište district of Vukovar on 12 October. Damir Markuš Kutina recalled Poljak’s death in his book “58 – HOS in the defense of Vukovar and Bogdanovci”:

The death of Ivan Poljak from Sinj, also nicknamed “Sokol”, was especially stressful for us… his base was in a basement where we gathered information on the situation in the field. I remember that he had to wear a splint and use a crutch because of his wounds, and his black beard presented the impression of him as a serious person. On 6 November, a shell flew into the basement through a small window and killed him. During a pause in the Serbian shelling, we looked at each other and wondered how a deadly grenade could have achieved just such an incredible trajectory!? Could someone have come and thrown a hand grenade? No, we checked and everything pointed to a shell. Again we lost another great leader, ‘Sokol’, last name Poljak from Sinj.

After the peaceful reintegration of eastern Croatia to the authority of the Croatian government, Poljak’s body was exhumed from a mass grave at the New Cemetery in Vukovar and buried in his native Sinj in May of 1998.

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