by Ivica Dikic
"We never harmed or insulted anyone, because there was no reason for that. We lived our life and tried to be good neighbors and friendly with everyone. My Bozo had many friends and people loved him," says Vjera Velebit. The elder son Nikola started working at the age of fifteen as a musician, playing at village parties in Poljana and neighboring villages, so that he also had many friends. Let us remind again, in these times normal persons did not care about ethnicity and religious background. Soon, however, things changed, so that that information became the most important part of biographies of millions of inhabitants of the former Yugoslavia. Bozo Velebit was a Serb.
He did not stop hanging out with his friends from work, he did not stop going to pubs, and he still did not care about other people's ethnicity and religious background. In the March of 1991, on TV he watched tanks of the Yugoslav People's Army in the streets of Pakrac, shooting in the streets and ambulances picking up and driving away the wounded. A few months later, the war broke out all over the newly established state [Croatia] and Bozo and his wife Vjera and their two sons listened to the echo of far away battles during long sleepless nights.
"I invited all of them to come to my place in Switzerland when the war started," says Bozo's sister Milena, "but my brother said the following: 'Thank you for inviting us, but I have no reason to leave my house and my country. I've never harmed or insulted anyone and I have nothing to be afraid of'."
Bozo Velebit was again truly na´ve, because he forgot the fact that, according to his wife Vjera, was never very important to him. Namely, Bozo Velebit was a Serb.
"Rumors started spreading through the village to the effect that Mercep's soldiers had arrived to Poljana and that they would not spare any Serbs. I was in panic and afraid and could not sleep for many nights. I kept listening to voices, shots, and detonations that could be heard from Pakrac. I think that Bozo was also afraid but he did not want to show that. He kept saying that we had nothing to be afraid of," Vjera Velebit sobs while talking. Bozo's sister Milena fills in her story:
"When I heard that Mercep's squad had arrived to Poljana and heard the stories about them, I again invited my brother to Switzerland until the worst was over and he repeated: 'thank you sister for your invitation, but I'm not going anywhere, because I haven't harmed anyone and have nothing to be afraid of'."
Most of the Croats living near Poljana stopped communicating with their Serb neighbors and coworkers at that time. They turned into accomplices of Tomislav Mercep and his murderers.
"If it wasn't for Mercep and his men, this land would now be controlled by Serbs. He saved this region and these people and he is our hero. I fought for him and I am proud of that. The stuff you journalists write is useless. You should have been here in 1991 and then wrote..." says today the director of Fish Farm in Poljana, Milan Bozic. During those difficult and foggy days in October 1991 Bozo Velebit became aware that he was in danger. However, it was too late.
"We went together to the train station in Kutina and I remember that it was two o'clock in the afternoon when we were approached by two military policemen. One of them was named Kreso Steovic, and the other one Goran Skozit. Both of them were from the nearby village of Meduric. They were Mercep's lapdogs. Mercep had the people from "Fish farm - Poljana" put together a list of Serbs who worked there. They said, the people who worked with my Bozo, that all of those Serbs were Chetniks. However, Mercep and his murderers did not know what these people looked like. Therefore, they had to recruit these local dogs, who arrested Serbs with pleasure," she says.
On October 21, 1991, Vjera Velebit, saw her husband for the last time. The two policemen did not even allow them to say goodbye. Namely, they told her that they were taking Bozo to be questioned and that he was going to be released the following day.
"That evening three men in uniforms came to my home. Mijo Jajic Rus was one of them. They demanded from me all the money I had in my home. I had in the house 400 Swiss Franks and DM100, given by Milena to my sons. That was everything we had at home, but they were not happy and said that Bozo had told them that we had more money. I said that he could not have said something like that because we did not have any more money. I gave them everything we had and they left," says Vjera. Then she relates how for the next few days she went every morning to Mercep's headquarters in Poljana to inquire about her husband. She regularly talked to Mercep's orderly Zvonimir Trusic and Nikola Rukavina Pop. They did not introduce themselves, but she found out their names a few years later when she saw their photographs in the newspapers. They promised that Bozo would be released a few days later.
Death ruled these days in Poljana and the nearby villages. The following persons were taken from their houses to death: Blagoje Zabrdac, Duro Brkanjac, Pero Rajcevic, Veljko Stojakovic, Ivan Drekovic, Nada Radakovic, Milan Jerinic, two Vuckovics... Milos Ivosevic, Marko Grujic, and Rade Pajic, were brought from Zagreb to the death meadow [poljana means meadow]. Aleksandar Sasa Antic and Ina Zoricic-Nuic were murdered. Warriors commanded by Tomislav Mercep were those days the only authority in that region. They looted, stole, tortured, and raped. There are very few survivors, but even are they are sometimes not sure whether they would have been better off dead, killed by Munib Suljic, Igor Mikola, Sinisa Rimac or someone else.
"Although there were rumors that the victims had been thrown in the fish ponds and although because of that people refused to eat fish at the time (they thought that the fish were eating human flesh), I do not think that my husband ended up in a fish pond. I know very well that one day a truck was loaded in Poljana with corpses, driven to the mortuary in Kutina and then to the crematorium. Most likely, my Bozo was in that truck. What's worst in all of this is that no one has told me where and how he died, and it's been nine years. I've heard stories that at one spot they dug a hole in the road, put the remains of the victims inside and poured tarmac on top," Vjera Velebit says through tears.
"I had a friend before the war in Poljana. His name is Predrag. When the war started, I did not see him or talk to him for a long time. I saw him recently and he told me that he had seen Mercep's guys taking a few prisoners at a time to the filed, shooting and burying them. Then they returned for a new group and repeated everything... When he saw that, he was in shock for five months and did not leave his house in Poljana. Then he went to Zagreb to study," says Nikola Velebit.
"They do not want to talk, because many of them participated in the compilation of the list used for the arrests by Mercep," adds his mother Vjera. The silent conspiracy in Poljana and in nearby villages is almost unbelievable. As soon as one mentions interest in the events from 1991 people immediately say that they "know nothing", that they are not from here or that everything that has been written about Mercep and Poljana is a brazen lie.
"So, what happened to all those people who disappeared?"
"Disappeared, disappeared... they disappeared, but people can disappear in many ways. Perhaps they were exchanged, who knows what happened to them... I only know that there was no killing here and that there were no war crimes."
"How do you know that?"
"I was here all the time and did not see anything..."
Vjera Velebit does not believe in justice anymore. She believes that too much time has passed and that no one will be prosecuted for the murder of her husband.
"I do not see that anything has changed. Mercep will continue to get rich by suing journalists who write the truth and no one will be able to do anything to him. And I will maybe end up like Milan Levar from Gospic," she says.