The Death of Marinko “Bosanac” Antunović, Homeland War Hero and Veterans Advocate

Marinko “Bosanac” Antunović, one of the greatest heroes of the defense of Vukovar and Borovo Naselje, passed away on 10 December 2001.

Born on 1 February 1959, Antunović grew up in the village of Ljubače in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) where he completed primary school followed by mechanical engineering in nearby Tuzla. Upon completing his education, Antunović fulfilled his military service in the Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) where he was trained as a naval saboteur and when he returned to civilian life, he found employment with the professional fire brigade in Tuzla. After setting fire to the Yugoslav flag on a Tuzla promenade with a group of Croats on “Republic Day” in 1989, Antunović fled by car to Slovenia and was a stowaway on freight trains to Hamburg where he sought asylum.

Antunović stayed in an asylum camp located aboard a container ship until June 1991. He then went to Croatia after war began and joined the 4th Vukovar Battalion of the 3rd Guard Brigade of the Croatian National Guard (CNG). Prior to the start of the Battle of Vukovar, Antunović was deployed to the “Đergaj” silo which was a constant target of attack by the enemy. As the area between Bršadin and the “Đergaj” silo were mined by the aggressors, Antunović would detonate them by firing anti-hail rockets into the minefield. The enemy attack at the beginning of the Battle of Vukovar found him in the Lipovački Put section of Borovo Naselje heading towards Trpinja… a day he would never forget as he vividly described:

“We repelled the Chetnik attack, destroyed a tank and my comrade Vinko Budimir Slon died only a metre away from me. Parts of his body and blood were all over me and from that day on I didn’t care if I lived or died. That day I fired 68 rifle grenades and was deaf for ten days. That day ended with us victorious, we held the Chetniks back and they never attacked from that direction again until the fall of Vukovar.”

Antunović and his fellow soldiers destroyed a number of armoured vehicles while defending Borovo Naselje and he is remembered for being able to operate almost everything that came to hand, from hand grenade launchers to machine guns to anti-aircraft guns. After destroying a transporter from the “Korea” defensive position on 7 October, Antunović was discovered severely wounded and taken to a hospital where he said he was “patched” up by Dr. Juraj Njavro. Despite being seriously injured, he remained in the hospital for only a week and returned to the field at his own risk. As he recovered in the basement of the Abazzia Restaurant, the enemy managed to enter Vinogradska Street during heavy fighting and unable to stay idle any longer, Antunović joined the tank hunters led by Ivan Kapular. Shooting from behind the railway embankment along on the Bobota Canal, Antunović destroyed a tank and a transporter:

“I fired the first rocket and missed. They then shot at me and I was covered by earth which also go into the barrel of the launcher. I took the earth out and reloaded. Bushes around me disappeared and branches fell from the trees. I shot and heard a loud explosion. A minute later I raised my head from behind the embankment and saw a tank and transporter on fire.”

Recalled Marinko Antunović. His comrades-in-arms remembered him as well: “That Bosnian, although wounded and limping, beats tanks.” Up to that point, Antunović served only on an anti-aircraft guns due to a leg injury and covered the area towards the Danube and Borovo Selo. When he saw that the fall of the city was inevitable, Antunović and a group of defenders broke through to Vinkovci and he was immediately transferred to the Rebro Hospital in Zagreb where despite initial fears of amputation, the leg was saved by Dr. Šoša.

Antunović continued his war journey in BiH where he helped in the defense of Kupres alongside his comrades from Vukovar before returning to civilian life in December 1994. After the peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region, Antunović and several other Vukovar defenders placed the Croatian flag on the Vukovar water tower. After the war, he dedicated his life trying to unify all Croatian veteran associations into a single, strong umbrella organization that would best represent their interests. Disappointed by the inability of the veterans to unite, Antunović committed suicide in the Srednjaci district of Zagreb where he resided on 10 December 2001.

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