In the early morning hours of 1 September 1991, the Town of Daruvar and the villages of Doljani and Sirač in the southern part of the municipality of Daruvar.
Serb rebels moved on Doljani and captured several civilians, including women and children, and forced 20 members of the Civil Defence and Police to surrender. Forty members of the “Omega” Special Police Unit (SPU) from Bjelovar and 50 officers from the Bjelovar Police Station were sent to Daruvar as well as police from Garešnica, Kutina and National Guard Corps from Kutina.
The “Omega” SPU intervention troops and the “Pjetlići” platoon from the Daruvar Police Station arrived after breaking through to Doljani with much difficulty in an operation where rebel Serbs forced 20 Croatian soldiers to the ground, tied them up and abused them. Once the police armoured combat vehicle appeared, the insurgent Serbs panicked and opened fired on the prisoners as they fled towards the Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) barracks. The Serbs killed police officer Srećko Manđini and the following members of the Civil Defence Detachment from Doljani: Željko Bublić, Vlado Plažanin and Tihomir Lneniček. They also wounded nine people, including police officer Eugen Lapčić, who died on 24 September 1991.
After pushing the Serbs back to the YPA barracks in Doljani, Croatian forces withdrew when YPA armoured personnel carriers were deployed from the base. However, the operation succeeded in rescuing 17 prisoners, several women and children and prevented the fall of Doljani. As battle raged in Doljani, rebel Serbs launched a mortar attack on a gas station in Donji Daruvar at the other end of the municipality. Police and national guard troops responded with mortar fire on Serb positions and after several hours of exchanging fire the rebels carried out an infantry assault that left Daruvar surrounded on three sides.
Troops that were in Doljani that morning arrived in Daruvar to assist local soldiers. They came under heavy fire which resulted in the withdrawal of Croatian forces to a final line of defence around the city. It was here that Tihomir Vrdoljak, the first victim of the Homeland War from the Bjelovar area was killed. He was previously a member of the “Omega” unit and volunteered that day to go to Daruvar with his former comrades. Vrdoljak was hit by shrapnel and died on the way to the hospital in Bjelovar.
Although the exchange of gunfire and shelling of the city lasted well into the night, its intensity decreased with nightfall. This was how Croatian forces won the Battle for Daruvar.
Photos – author Tony Hnojčik
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Graduated with a Master’s Degree in History from the University of Zagreb. He has worked at the Croatian History Museum and as a researcher for the popular TV Calendar program for Croatian Radio and Television. He has authored several books and documentaries about Croatia’s Homeland War and is the creator/producer of the immensely popular “It Happened on this Day – Homeland War” Facebook page as well as the online portal Domovinskirat.hr. Borna also is the host and editor of the daily segment “Patriotic Minutes” on Croatian Catholic Radio. He created CroHis to promote the values of the Homeland War and ensure that the sacrifices of those who defended Croatia’s independence would not be forgotten.