The Voćin Massacre

On 13 December 1991, a series of horrific crimes against the civilian population were committed in the villages of Voćin, Hum, Kometnik, Bokane and Kraskovići in the Papuk foothills.

In late November of 1991, Croatian forces initiated an operation to liberate occupied areas along Papuk Mountain on both the Požega and Orahovac and Slatina slopes. Conscious of their imminent defeat and prior to their withdrawal, local rebel Serbs and “White Eagles” paramilitary units killed 36 people throughout the area, many in an extremely cruel manner. It was the culmination of many crimes against Croats killed in the occupied territories up to 13 December. In his book “Slatina in the Homeland War”, Miljenko Brekalo noted that among those killed that day were two Serbs. One was Stojan Nenadović and the other was Mile Jorgić, killed as an example to other Serbs because he did not want to retreat to Pakrac with enemy troops. The remaining victims were all Croats.

Following this gory act, rebel Serbs and Chetniks departed the night of 13 December and set fire to houses and other structures in the village. Even the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church was not spared. According to Miroslav Gazda’s article “Serbian Crimes in the Voćin Region on December 13, 1991” in the publication “Voćin – Church and Shrine”, it was said that the church served as a weapons arsenal. At exactly 3:15 AM on 14 December, a group of Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) soldiers under the command of Milan Trbojević blew up the church. Parts of the walls and stone were found up to a half a kilometre from the site of the blast and unexploded shells were found throughout the center of Voćin. The parish priest noted in the article that the explosion was heard from 30 kilometres away and pointed out that, miraculously, a part of the spire remained standing above the flames as if it was scolding those who committed the crime in Voćin.

Croatian forces entered the abandoned villages the next day and were rattled by the horrific scenes that awaited them. A total of 43 victims, comprised of those from Voćin as well as those from massacres committed on 3 and 6 December were buried in the town of Slatina during a mass funeral led by Cardinal Franjo Kuharić on 18 December. Among the many Croatian survivors was six-year-old Danijel Medic, whose memoir was published in the book “A Crime for which no one has yet been held Accountable”:

I lived with my grandmother Jaga on Pašina Street in Voćin, where my father Branko Medić was killed on 13 December 1991 and as I can recall, this is how it all happened: We heard shooting and some explosions and after some neighbours came over, we (Danijel Medić, Branko Medić, Marija Matanči, Stjepan Matanči, Franko Peršić and great-grandmother Dorić) all went to the basement except for my grandmother Jaga Šimić who wanted to place the chickens in the pen. We heard the gunshots as they immediately killed her. We stayed downstairs and they (the Chetniks) entered the house pounding and smashing as they searched through everything. I don’t know what but we heard it from the basement and the noise was loud. Then they came to the basement door, knocked and shouted “Come on, Ustashas!” and the swore at us. We went out… first my father and we all followed, except for our old great-grandmother Jelena Dorić. She was very old, blind and not mobile. They lined us up in front of the well in front of the house and then Branko Oliver, who killed my father, took me out into the street and said: “Run away, little one!” I stayed on the street and he came up to my father with a gun and shot him through the temple. I was 6 years old, saw everything well and remember it very well. When I saw that, I became very scared and as a child, the fear and horror caused something to snap inside of me and my first instinct was to run away. I saw houses on fires and ran towards the center of the village until some people took me in. When I got to the center, many people were there, a tank and some buses and some lady grabbed me by the hand and put me on the bus. It was general chaos as the place was full of civilians, soldiers and police. We went to Zvečevo and I remember that there were tanks in the parking lot in front of the hotel watching us. They separated us there and took us to a village near Okučani where I was in one of their headquarters and then two people took me into their custody. After two or three days with them, social workers came and took me to Banja Luka where they put me in a home until my mother picked me up on Christmas Eve in 1991. I was, in fact, a refugee from 13 December 1991 until Christmas that same year.
When I became an adult, I sued Branko Oliver, the man who killed my father, in court during a three year trial that was held Bjelovar and Virovitica. There were other witnesses in addition to myself but the court ordered an acquittal. My testimony was considered irrelevant even though a psychiatric doctor said that I was a relevant witness. The court concluded that I was too young. The female psychiatrist came out of the courtroom crying because the court’s stance deeply affected her. The second time I was a witness at the trial, the defense attorney asked me the same thing each time in order to find the smallest detail or mistake (whether Oliver was masked or not, whether or not he had a beard, how long was his beard, whether he was in civilian clothes or uniform, whether he shot my father with his left or right hand, was it here or there, beside or similar) just to confuse me. I remember it well. I watched Branko Oliver shoot my father in the temple with a pistol and kill him and this cannot be forgotten. It is etched in my memory and I will remember it forever. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court in 2008 acquitted Oliver of all charges or responsibility for the murder… meanwhile my father is no more. My father is a victim of the Chetnik crime in Voćin, although the state does not treat him as such.

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