Martin Čičin Šain

Martin Čičin Šain was born in 1952 in Vodice. From 1973 he worked as a member of the Yugoslav Police, and later the Croatian Police forces. He joined the war following the appearance of road blocks. His first assignments were to scout the hinterland behind Šibenik, Skradin and Vodice. He was successful in communicating with the local Serb population and thanks to his efforts some of the road barricades were taken down. Following a heart attack, he underwent treatment. From July 1, 1991 he acted as the Chief of the police station in Kijevo. He was one of those who reached the decision to evacuate Kijevo with the aim of saving people's lives. After the fall of and retreat from Kijevo he participated in the organisation of the defence of Vodice and its surroundings and he took part in the »September war« - the defence of Šibenik when JNA [Yugoslav National Army] tanks were stopped at the Šibenik bridge. He worked in the Croatian Army until 1995 when he retired for family reason and due to consequences of the war. After a series of attempts he attained the status of a war veteran in 2009. Today he lives in Vodice, in poor physical health, and views the system established in the Croatian state with distrust.



crome_0171_martin_cicin_sain_eng,version2,07.02.2013,Darija,Translation crome_0171_martin_cicin_sain_eng,version1,12.12.2012,Documenta,Transcription Thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Could you tell me your name, place and date of birth? My name is Martin Čičin Šain. I was born on January 23, 1952 in Vodice. Where does your family, your parents come from? -From Vodice. Our surname is very common in Vodice. Not only in Vodice, but in other areas too. But we come from Vodice. What was your life like in Yugoslavia? It was fine. I was working for the Yugoslav police until 1973. Our living standard was good. My late wife was working too. We had two children. We didn't lack anything. We had a house and a job. It was a decent life, unlike today. Did you serve JNA? I did, from 1971 until 1972. In Rijeka and Kranj. What was it like? My job was only to drive a truck and a bus. So that was quite easy. Why did you decide to work in the police? After I finished serving JNA, I was offered that job. Because I had some experience from the army. I had a wife and a child. And if you worked in the police, you could be sure that you would get your salary on time. That was why I decided to accept the job offer. I worked in the police until I retired. What was it like to work in the Yugoslav police? Sometimes I had problems because I was a Croat. But I treated everyone equally. I didn't care about ethnicity. To me, everyone was equal. One person cannot make much of a difference. But together we can make a difference. It was an interesting job, every event was different. It was dynamical, every event was special. The only problem was that we had to work in three shifts. We had to work overtime. We also had to work night shifts. We weren't paid extra for that. We did have some benefits, but we were never paid for working overtime. As if we were giving benefits to the state, instead the other way around. What were the inter-ethnic relations in the police? In Šibenik, we didn't have any problems. There were a few exceptions, though. Martić, for example. But there weren't many of them, so their ideas weren't noticed much. We were mixed, but most of the people in the police were Serbs. But later, in 1973, more Croats came to the police. They came there for the same reasons I did. Because they knew they would get their salary on time. So we all went to work for the police even though we didn't like to wear uniforms. Did you meet Martić during that time? -We played cards together. I worked in traffic police for a while. I was the head of Operations. I met with him during that time. What was your relationship to him? We weren't close. During the period of Yugoslavia, I noticed some people in the police who later stood out. But we weren't close with Martić and his people What do you think was the reason for that? He had already started to advocate the concept of Greater Serbia. I didn't agree with neither the concept of Greater Serbia or Greater Croatia. I believed that the relations among people were the most important. He thought differently, so we didn't communicate much. He later began to stand out. He was in contact with the people involved in the SAO Krajina, Jovan Rašković, for example. Some of them still live around here. They didn't move to Serbia or Bosnia. They are still here. How did you feel when they started to organize and prepare for the separation of Krajina? They were creating a state within a state. I thought that was wrong. I have many friends and relatives who live abroad. Some of them are Serbs. We are still in contact. It would be like taking one part of Germany in order to create Greater Croatia. There are many Croats in Germany. There are both Serbs and Croats in France too. There are around 50 000 Serbs in Paris. But they cannot just come there and claim one part of Paris as their own. No reasonable person would do that. When did you start noticing that things were beginning to change? Was there a particular moment when you noticed it? We began to notice something when HDZ won the election, during the time Tuđman was in power. When there was a change in the government. Some individuals came to our police station at that time, and refused to conduct their duty. It had more consequences to them, then to us. We knew who we could count on, and who not. Some people said right away that they didn't want to take part in the war. I respected that. They were Serbs. They live in Šibenik today. Their relatives were on the other side. They didn't want to shoot at them. I respected that. But others just refused to conduct their duty and identified themselves with Greater Serbia. When did you first go to the front line? When the barricades were put up in the 1990. I was working the first shift as the Head of Operations in Šibenik police department. I was working until 2 a.m. At 5.30 a.m. I was called back to work. I had to observe the area around Šibenik, Skradin and Vodice. Barricades were put up on Plančanik. We had to go round them, through the woods. We had to observe the area around Skradin, Vodice and Šibenik: Đevrske, Kistanje, Varivode, Pađene, Knin. We discovered JNA camp, and a place where the police of SAO Krajina used to meet. We also discovered a military depot. And a barricade on Plančanik, above Skradin. There was also a JNA camp there, with 200 soldiers, 10 personnel carriers and 5 tanks. On the left side of the barricade there was a JNA machine gun nest and two mortar nests. It was on the road from Skradin to Đevrska i Kistanja. It was a sign of JNA occupation. A machine gun nest was put up on Bribirska Glavica too, which was a historical area. I saw that as destroying of our history. It didn't matter if it was ours or theirs history, but it was the history of this area. The area around Laškovica and Smrdelj, between Visovac and Đevrska. They put up a barricade there. I was the first one there. Truck tires were put there and a harrow. Harrow is a tool for smoothing out soil. When I came on the barricade, I greeted them. They called me ustasha. I asked them if they were drunk. They had twenty litres of brandy. I told them it was dangerous to have a harrow there, someone could get hurt. He called me ustasha again, and referred to himself as chetnik. I told him he wasn't a chetnik, nor was I ustasha. I was doing my job, he was doing his. He wasn't even paid for his job. The barricade was removed in 1991, thanks to me. I used to come there a lot, so people trusted me. I could come and go as I pleased. I don't know if they knew what I was doing. So the people who kept the barricade trusted you? -Exactly. They removed the barricade. I would often go into their house. They were protecting me, in a way. There were six of them in the family. They always gave me something to eat and drink. They didn't give me any information. I got information from other sources. They simply let me pass through. I spent 258 nights there. After 180 nights, the barricade was removed. I stopped coming there after I had a heart attack. And after I stopped coming, the barricade was put up again. So I gained their confidence. You think they trusted you more than the other people who were working on that area? How did you manage to gain their trust? I think it was during our first contact. I don't know if they trusted me then. My goal was to remove the barricade. And to reduce the tensions. But then I suffered from a heart attack, and things changed. I don't know exactly what happened. I didn't ask. I tried to go back there, but they weren't around anymore. There were many houses there. There were around 400 people in that village. There are only ten of them left today. They had their own beliefs. They thought they were in danger. They told me I was ustasha. But I could have never been ustasha, because I wasn't born during WWII. And they were even younger than me. So they couldn't be chetniks either. I think I gained their confidence and that was the reason why they removed the barricade. I talked to them. They would invite me for a drink. I didn't drink alcohol, but I would drink some coffee. You mentioned that you suffered a heart attack. Could you tell me how and when did that happen? It was during the night of May 28, 1991. After 258 nights I spent there. I started to feel some chest pain. The colleague who was with me, drove me to Šibenik where I was hospitalized. Late doctor Čabo diagnosed me with a heart attack. I have suffered four heart attacks since. A month after the heart attack, I was appointed Commander in Kijevo. When did you go to Kijevo? -On July 1, 1991. Under full armour. I walked for thirty kilometres. I stayed there until Kijevo was evacuated. When I came to Kijevo, they were in the police station. There weren't any members of ZNG or of Croatian Army. We had 58 rifles, 22 of them were semi-automatic. The rest of them were really old. Our equipment wasn't good. Every policeman had 50 or 70 bullets. There were six women with us who weren't even armed. After I came to Kijevo, I realized what it actually meant to be in war. They were shooting at us every evening. On July 1? -It started on July 1. They were shooting at us every evening and every morning. We organized guards in some villages. My commander and I checked on them every evening. During the two months I was there, I hardly slept at all. We were surrounded. There was a JNA checkpoint in Polača. The other one was in Civljani. So, they could communicate with each other and they were connected with Kijevo by the road Split- Sinj-Vrlika-Knin. So they came to Kijevo to pick up their mail or their pension money. Or when they needed a doctor. Nobody stopped them. They used to sit with us in front of the police station. We would drink a beer or coffee. The village of Unište was also important for the story. It was in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They weren't well connected. There was a road from Kijevo to Unište, but the road ended there. They didn't have a store, a doctor or a school. Everything was in Kijevo. So we were in contact with Unište and they supported us. We used to go there even though mostly Serbs lived in that village. There was a man whose nickname was Lenjin. Marković Nikola was his name. He lived in Vodice. We would go into Serbian houses as if though they were Croatian. Orthodox Serbs lived in Unište? -More than 60% were Orthodox Serbs. Even when Kijevo was attacked, they were taking care of the members of the Croatian Army and police. Everything was normal in Kijevo until August 3. On August 3, late Joso Jurić Orlić called me to come to Base 1. That was in Glavaš. I went there. We met. He told me that there was over thirty tons of explosive in the Peruča Dam. The explosive was brought in by helicopters. It later turned out that there were actually 35 tons of explosives. Fortunately, all of the explosive wasn't activated. If everything exploded, all the villages would have been destroyed. Sinj, Vrlika, and all the way to Omiš. The whole Cetina Krajina would have been destroyed. Before that happened, I gave a command, together with Vukušić Nikola, to evacuate the elder, the sick and children from Kijevo, which we did. It was two days before August 1. They were taken by buses towards Split. They were taken to Palace Hotel in Kašteli, or to their relatives, if they had some. On August 7, Špiro Ninković, Ratko Mladić and Tanjga came to the police station and wanted to meet me. I agreed. -Who was the third one? Tanjga. He was a member of the SAO Krajina government. They wanted to talk to me, they demanded that women and children come back. I told them that everybody was free to come and go as they pleased, through Kijevo. But our people weren't allowed to go towards Vrlika and Knin. When they would reach a JNA checkpoint, the army and the civilians who were there would search them. They would search their vehicles too. After that he told me that women and children should return to Kijevo. The colonel that was with them asked me if I trusted Mladić? I told him I didn't. So I didn't allow the return of women, children and the elder. The first attack on Kijevo happened on August 15. Fifteen shells were fired. What was your impression of Ratko Mladić? I thought he was not somebody you could trust. I had been a police officer for twenty years, so I had some experience. The next day, B-92 TV came to Kijevo from Belgrade. They asked if they could interview me. I agreed. We met, we offered them lunch. The reporter called his editor. He called him to say that he was sitting beneath the Croatian coat of arms in the police station. He turned on the speaker phone, so I heard his editor's reaction. He almost didn't believe him. The reporter said he would bring pictures to prove it. That was my only meeting with the Belgrade TV. I later heard that they showed the interview on TV. People who were able to watch B-92 told me that. They actually published the interview. In that interview, I said that the war was unnecessary. And that everything could have been resolved peacefully. All the bloodshed wasn't necessary. None of this was neccesary. Everything could have been resolved peacefully. That was published. But it didn't help, we all know what happened later. The attack on Kijevo on August 15? It was 7 a.m. I came back after I checked all the checkpoints. I sat down, drank some coffee. That was the first thing I did every morning after I came to the station. We would sit there for two, three hours, drinking coffee. While we were drinking coffee, we heard a detonation. We ran out of the station. We tried to hide somewhere. We saw smoke near the church. It was St. Mihovil's church, up on the hill. The church was hit with seven shells. Luckily, it wasn't damaged much. Only the facade was damaged, but not the inside of the church. Only the south, east and west side of the church was damaged. And three shells hit the cemetery. After that, nothing happened until August 26. On August 26, at 7 p.m. late Jurić-Orlić Joso called me an wanted to meet with me at Base 1. It was above Glavaš. He came there from Dinara. He had observed the area from there. When we met, he informed me that they had brought in trucks. Trucks full of ammunition. Tanks were being prepared. He asked me what did I think about all that. I said I believed that the attack would happen the next morning. I was right. I contacted the policemen. There were policemen in every village. These were the villages of Sladići, Jurići, Cicvarići, Potok, Bajani, Glavaši, Teskere. I contacted them all. I told them to come to the station. At 7:30 p.m. I made the decision about evacuation. The evacuation started at 9:30 p.m. One village at the time. First it was Sladići, then Glavaši and then all the rest. The first village was evacuated at 9:30 p.m., then half an hour later the other. We evacuated almost all Kijevo area until 3 a.m. How many people were left in Kijevo at that moment? Four buses full of women, children and the elderly left Kijevo, but there was still about 800 people left in the village. It was lucky that none of them got killed. When I made the decision to evacuate, I was told that I betrayed Kijevo. But I told them that the houses didn't matter, it was important to save human lives. You could build a house again, but you could not do that with a human being. That was my motto during the whole war period. To save our lives. Nothing else mattered. At around 3 a.m. we evacuated the police station. We evacuated the hospital, too. It was at the foot of the Kozjak mountain. The first shell hit Kijevo at 5:17 a.m. Until 7:15 a.m. 360 shells were fired. We counted them. Three shells were fired every minute. Sometimes four, sometimes two. But all in all, 360 shells were fired in the period of two hours. Where were you during that time? -We did a crazy thing. We didn't stay in the village. We tried to get out, towards the periphery of the village. They were firing towards the houses, because they thought that we stayed there. Six shells hit the hospital, and the police station was hit as well. Around 1600 shells were fired until 1 p.m. Then they tried to pass in tanks towards Polača. From Siva Brda. But we blew up the road there. With two gas bottles. That was how we destroyed the first tank. But then we ran out of explosive and had to retreat. Since they couldn't get into Kijevo right away, the bombers came too. They had all sorts of ammunition. And different kinds of planes. At 4 p.m. I issued the command to retreat. One checkpoint from Cviljani constantly tried to contact me. I told them to hang up and retreat. Luckily they got out of the barn in which they were staying. The barn was hit, so they would all die if they stayed. But luckily, they managed to get out. So nobody died. But during the attack two people were wounded. Jurić Arambašić Ante and Sladić. Arambašić had a shell fragment in his left shoulder. The other one got only scratches. The doctor gave him a bandage, so he carried on normally. But we all had to carry Jurić Arambašić over Kozjak. We were going from Kijevo towards the Tovar valley. We found some water springs to freshen up. But, while we were in the valley, they started shooting at us. I was with Bajan, who was the president of the local community. We fell down and started sliding down the hill. The skin on our hands was torn. But we managed to get down. Nobody got shot. We just slid down. There were a few civilians with us. Twenty policemen headed the column. Later came Zelić Ivan together with fifteen members of the special forces. They came from Kruševo to help us. We were at the end of the column. How many civilians were there? -Around 400. They were in the middle of the column. I forbid the retreat towards the church. Towards the St. Mihovil's Church? -Yes. But twenty members of the National Guard, together with Zelić Ivan and Radovniković, didn't listen to me. They retreated towards the church. So they were surrounded and imprisoned. We later heard that they even opened graves. Because they didn't believe that nobody got killed during the attack. So they were looking for the bodies. But nobody died. During the retreat, we reached the top of the hill. It was around 2:30 a.m. I was at the end of the column because I didn't know the way. I headed towards Maovica. While we were climbing Kozjak, we had to hide because the JNA was looking for us. Luckily, it was an oak tree forest, so the trees had thick leaves and it was easy for us to hide. We tried to hide in every possible way. We had a view on Kijevo. I started to cry when I saw what had been done to the village. We saw them coming from Civljani, Cetina, and Polača. They were entering the houses, robbing them and then burning them down. Every house in Kijevo was burned down. I cried, and I wasn't even born in Kijevo. When we reached the top, Zelić and I headed towards Maovica. There we met Tesker Jure and five old ladies who were with him. I asked him if he knew the way. He said he did. He headed the column, Zelić and I were at the back. We didn't know that there were some people still left on Dinara. Not civilians, but policemen. Under the command of Jurić - Orlić Joso. He died. We tried to get out. We came to Maovice in the morning. Most of the civilians were evacuated by one man, who took them towards Otavica and Drniš in trucks. Zelić and I headed towards Vrlika. There we met father Mate Gverić, a priest from Kijevo, who followed us. He thought we knew the way. But we didn't. When we came to Vrlika, there was a sharp curve on the road. And there was a personnel carrier. So we quickly turned left. But father Mate Gverić was left standing. I carefully headed toward the personnel carrier, and then I noticed that it was ours. But it was broken down. I told Zelić that it was ours. Zelić came closer. We didn't know where father Mate was. Then we saw him sitting on the road. We told him it was safe, and that he could come closer. But he was terrified. After we came to Vrlika, we noticed that it was evacuated a day before Kijevo was attacked. But our plan was to evacuate through Vrlika. I tried to contact Drniš, Split and Sinj. They answered me. At the same time, people from Dinara tried to contact me. They told me their position. Not directly, but in codes. I told them we were fine and that we didn't have any casualties. They also didn't have casualties. They evacuated through Unište, Troglav, Livno i Sinj. But they managed to get out only after a month. They were in good relations with Orthodox Serbs and Croats from Unište. They made them food. While they were hiding in caves on Dinara. People from Unište were hiding? -No, the policemen. People from Unište brought them food, as if they were their own. What happened with Unište after the fall of Kijevo? Some people evacuated, others stayed in the village. They are still there, the road was built too. There is now a road toward Grahovo and toward Livno. They wanted to be part of Croatia. But that didn't happen. They are right on the border. But they wanted to be a part of Croatia. They felt like they were a part of Croatia. I forgot to tell you one thing. On August 8 we had a meeting in Villa Dalmatia in Split. There was the Minister of Defence, Luka Bebić, some of the commanders, Police Commissioners, presidents of the local communities. From Kijevo, Kruševo, Vrlika, Sinj, Drniš. They asked me questions, which I didn't know how to answer, because I wasn't a military technician. I didn't have any real military training. So I didn't know how to answer their questions. I told them they were the ones who should think about the tactic, they were the ones who should be in charge of the defence. And we would carry that out. After that meeting in Split, I talked to the Police Commissioner Vukušić Nikola. We decided that Kijevo should be evacuated. It later turned out that it was a good decision. How did those ministers react when you told them that? They didn't even acknowledge that it was my idea. But how did they react? They didn't say anything. They promised us weapons, since I told them we needed more weapons. We saw the whole Knin from Dinara. We could have fired from there, we could have done many things. But we didn't have any weapons. We didn't have mortars or anything. They promised us many things, but we didn't get anything. When the Police Commissioner and I decided that Kijevo should be evacuated, people from Kijevo thought that we betrayed them. I didn't betray Kijevo, I wanted to save their lives. Do you think that those in charge didn't send you any backup or weapons on purpose? Many people had asked me that. I don't know if it was on purpose. European Union was in session at that time and was about to recognize Croatia. I told them we didn't need recognition if it meant that millions of Croats would get killed. Maybe that was the reason. It was not right to evacuate Vrlika, without letting us in Kijevo know. Because Vrlika was the only way through which we could evacuate. We couldn't go towards Knin, or towards Drniš, which had already fell. It wasn't right to sacrifice so many people. I think I made the right decision to evacuate Kijevo. Where were you after you arrived to Vrlika, after the fall of Kijevo? I met with Romac, the Police Commissioner from Vrlika. He was at the checkpoint in Hrvace, near Sinj. He was surprised when he saw me. He thought we all died. I told him nobody died. I borrowed his phone to call my wife. When she heard my voice, she fainted. So my son took the phone. He couldn't believe when he heard my voice. They were told that we all got killed. It's difficult to talk about it now. But I told him that nobody got killed. My son organized my transfer to Šibenik. After I came to Šibenik, I was forbidden to appear on television. But I agreed with Vukašić to appear on television after all. Why were you forbidden to appear on television? This is the report. Can you tell us briefly what it says here? I called Rogošić, from Croatian Television. He works in Split as a cameraman and as a reporter. When I presented myself, he was surprised because he thought that we all died. I told him nobody died. It was around 4 p.m. I asked him if he would like me to make a statement for television. He said he would, so he came to Vodice. This is the official note I addressed to president Tuđman. And to the Ministry of the Interior and to the Police Department in Šibenik. I read this on TV too. I was on the news very often at that time. This was published on the 28th. -What does it say? It just says when did the fall of Kijevo happen. And that there weren't any casualties. And then I explained everything I told you. That 1600 shells were fired in the period of one hour. We were bombed as well. The civilians managed to get out. Some of them got out before, the others got out that night. Only four civilians were left in Kijevo. They were 90 years old. They didn't want to leave. What happened to them? JNA transferred them to the checkpoint in Hrvace and later they were taken to Kašteli. I said that in my statement. I think it was important to state what had happen and how did it happen. I was still the Police Commissioner in Kijevo when I was called to Vodice to the Crisis Unit meeting on September 3, 1991. Since I lived in Vodice, I also worked in the police there for a long time. I demanded that the defence of the village be organized. Some individuals, I won't name them now, but they were against that. They told me I should mind my own business. So I, together with several more people, left the meeting. On the night of the 15th, the Police Commissioner ordered me to come to Žrnovica the next morning. That's near Split. I had to carry seven tons of explosive from Žrnovica. At 5:10 p.m. I arrived in Šibenik. To the quarry in Njivice. I told them I hadn't eaten anything since the day before. So I went home to get something to eat. I was transferred to my car. I went to Vodice. I was among the last ones who had crossed the Šibenik Bridge. I came home and sat at the table. Then I heard the air raid sirens. I didn't have the time to eat lunch. I just took my gun, which I always carried with me. I put on my uniform and went to the police station in Vodice. It was 6 p.m. In the police station I saw late Jurić Martinčev Ante, Buvac Zlatko, Šarin Emil and some other members of the police and a few members of ZNG. Since the commander wasn't there and I was the one with the highest rank, I asked late Boban how many people did he have. He said around twenty. He had a recoilless gun and personal weapons. I told him to go towards Srijemska Lokva. I told Buvac Zlatko to take fifteen men and head towards Zatonska Street. It was in the direction of Čista Mala, Gaćeleza and Dragišići. Mostly Orthodox Serbs lived there. I also took fifteen men and headed towards Šabin. That was behind Okit, on the main road. When I arrived there, I set up the weapons. Personal weapons and a grenade gun, which actually wasn't a good enough defence from the tanks. Those guns couldn't do anything to the tanks. At 7:10 a.m. Serdarev Mure arrived and wanted to see me. I asked him what he wanted. He told me that Vukušić wanted me to come back to the police station. I came back right away and he appointed me the commander of Vodice and of the western part of the Šibenik county. At 8 a.m. some of the members of ZNG came to see me. Those who didn't, got on the front line. I asked them on which positions were they in JNA. One of them told me he was a captain. So I told him he should be with me in the headquarters, since he knew something about the tactics, technology and the weapons. The former Police Commisioner also arrived. He was also told to come to the headquarters. The Crisis Unit of Vodice was in the same building. The first defence of Vodice was organized that evening. The next day I noticed that the air defence wasn't organized very well. They were receiving information too late. So I contacted a man, an electrician, and asked him for help. Ratko was his name. I asked him to fix the radio connection. So he was setting up the new antenna under the shell fire. After that, I became in charge of informing the air defence. Later, they contacted me from Šibenik. Zmaj was on the waterfront. The air defence was set up there. It was a clearing, they didn't have any shelters. They didn't get the information when the planes were coming. They would get the information only after the planes would pass. But still, they managed to take down 21 planes on that area. I knew an economist at that time, Jonje Željko was his name. He worked in the Agriculture Cooperative Tribunj. I called him to come to the station. I asked him to contact the local communities and get us some weapons and ammunition. He managed to get some mortars from Kutina. I asked him to go get them. He did. He brought mortars which didn't have the proper sighting devices, so we had to improvise. But they worked. So we began to form the logistics base. Which was in Vodice. Jonjić and me formed a logistics base there after the liberation of the Šibenik Bridge. We helped in taking over a military depot in Daruvar. Every night we travelled from there. We would come to Daruvar in the morning, load the weapons and head back to Vodice in the evening. Six trucks would come to Vodice every morning. A man who kept records came to check our ammunition and weapons. When he saw what we had, he called his superior and told him that there was so much weapons here as if we were ready to fight the war. We had 35 tons of weapons. The first guns we got were from Daruvar. Two pieces of T-12. That was the first heavy weapon we brought in, except from the ones from Žirje and Zečevo. When we returned to Vodice, five tanks came. There is a club "Hacienda" in Vodice, right when you enter the town. Late Boban and Buva Ante headed there and asked to surrender. We pointed our guns towards them. These guns weren't loaded. A British reporter from "Independent" was with us. We asked for the tanks. They were dragging out. We didn't have any contact with Šibenik. It was beginning to get dark. Which meant we couldn't use our weapons at all, because we didn't have visual contact. They retreated. We stayed to defend Vodice. On the first night, 1000 people were defending Vodice, with only 45 guns. People organized themselves, they were waiting with Molotov cocktails. The police reserves were temporarily in Hotel Miran in Pirovac. They had a night vision device there. We needed that device, so I sent a policeman, who broke into the room, took the device and brought it to Vodice. We were observing from the shore the whole night. We were observing the sea, because we were expecting the attack. Srime, Vodice, Tribunj, Murter, Betina, Jezera, Tisno. We were prepared and we positioned ourselves on the shore so that we could defend the shore. We had our hunting weapons. We were prepared. So for seven days, they were guarding our sea. Actually, they were guarding the shore. 350 shells were fired on Vodice on Friday. We have all those events in our police records. We were firing mortars at them that day. We had mortars before, but that time our men managed to come behind them and shoot at them directly. Actually, they were shooting at their headquarters. After that, it became more peaceful in Vodice. Not a single shell was fired until Monday. Šibenik was still under the attack, so we went to liberate the Šibenik Bridge. Those from Žirje first focused on the bridge. They focused on Zečevo. It's near Grebaštica. Ademi had his guns there. Baldić was on Žirje. My people informed me who was firing from where. So that we could coordinate the action. That day, the tanks were driving on the plateau. I don't know if you saw the plateau. It is in front of the motel. The motel was being fired at. I was ordered to cease fire. I said I didn't hear well. We didn't cease fire until they retreated to Gaćeleze, which was ten kilometres away. Only after they retreated did we seize fire. The frontline was the most dangerous, and they occupied it. The front line was half way between the Šibenik Bridge and Gaćeleze. From there you could bomb Šibenik, Vodice, Srima and Tribunj. As soon as you entered Gaćeleze, all that was out of range to you. I learned that during the time I was in JNA, people from JNA thought me that. And so everything started. The bridge was hit. The motel was hit. Then they retreated and we ceased fire. Was Vodice still in danger then? -Yes. And Šibenik? -Šibenik too, because they still had long-range artillery. Knin was within our range, and we were within theirs. And they were better equipped than we were. They had rocket launchers. They were firing cluster bombs on the hospital, and on the police station. Vodice were attacked too. Cluster bombs were fired. We weren't allowed to continue. We were ordered not to. We wanted to continue. But we were ordered to cease fire. Every time they would start to lose, they would call for a truce. I didn't allow that that time. That was the first defeat of JNA on the Croatian territory. The first time they retreated from these areas. First they occupied the area, then they retreated. The connection with the Šibenik Bridge was established again. I went to Daruvar later. After that, Zadar was occupied. The Maslenica Bridge was blown up. I was in Rovanjska at that time. When the Pag Bridge was hit, it had a hole with a 2,5 metres diameter. I drove over that hole. I told the police who was guarding the bridge to fix that, because they had the material for it. And they actually listened to me. When I came back from Daruvar, the hole was repaired. I was trying to clear the way to Zadar. We were passing a depot. Car wrecks, old washing machines. I was among the first ones to clear the way. When I first came to the Pag Bridge, they asked me to unload the weapons. I told Šale, who was in charge of the defence of Zadar, to recruit some men. But nobody wanted to get involved. We got involved because we wanted to. We were doing it for our country. We were protecting our homes. That was where JNA and the Serbs were wrong. We were thought to protect our homes. We organized ourselves to protect our houses. Until when were you actively involved in the war? Until January 3, 1995. My wife died then. So I asked to be removed from the front line. Because I had to take care of my daughter, who was eleven years old at the time. I still occasionally went to the front line, but I wasn't disclocted, I stayed in this area. I retired on January 3, 1995. I gained war veteran status in 2009. How come you had to wait so long? Because the Ministry of Veteran's Affairs didn't want to acknowledge my status. They claimed I wasn't on the front line, that my life wasn't in danger and so on. Our current president was the Minister of Veteran's Affairs at that time. Pero Kovačević from HSP was also in the Ministry. I was the only one who didn't get what other people did. Some people who didn't even take part in the war, now have veteran's status. How did that make you feel? My nerves suffered during the war. I take all kinds of medications. I take fourteen different pills. I suffered another heart attack. I was diagnosed with PTSD. Even after all that, I still couldn't gain the war veteran's status. I couldn't gain the status. They acknowledged that I was in the army, but I didn't gain the veteran's status. Something like that can happen only in Croatia. Why didn't they acknowledge your status? Somebody else got my status. And my pension. Because after I was recognized as war veteran in 2009, I was awarded with the rank of lieutenant. So after I retired, I should have been Mayor General. It meant that someone else was getting my pension. My rank and my title. I still haven't gotten my pension money. I did gain the war veteran status, though. I have some benefits, but only because I am a blood donor, not a war veteran. My wife, with 100 percent invalidity, has a pension of 1400 kuna. I have 6000. It wouldn't be right if I had more, and she only 1400 kuna. She had three operations and a brain tumor. Nowadays when you retire, you're lucky if you get 2000 kuna in pension money. But you can't live with that. Was it more difficult for you during the war, or during the period after the war? It was more difficult for me to gain veteran status, than to defend my country. Even though I had all the necessary papers. I appealed to the court and I won. But the Ministry of Veteran's Affairs didn't acknowledge the court's decision. So I went to the court again. I wanted to be taken off from the TV programme "Spomenar". The judge called me and asked me why I wanted to be taken off that programme. I said it was because I didn't have the war veteran's status. Every year on August 27, I was on television because of what happened in Kijevo. I couldn't stand it. The judge was surprised that I didn't have the veteran status. I told him that the Ministry didn't acknowledge the court's decision. So I had to appeal to the court again, and then I won. I spent nine years on these two law suits. It took four years to get the court's ruling. Even though I had all the necessary papers concerning the attack on Kijevo, I can show you. These are all original papers. Is there something else you're interested in? How did you feel when Martić and Mladić ended up in the Hague? I thought it was great. Mladić is an old man now, as opposed to when I knew him in 1991. He can never get the sentence that he deserves. Because of both what had happened in Croatia and in Bosnia. I agree with president Josipović who said that people who were actually responsible for the crimes, still weren't convicted in the Hague. We have waited a long time. What about Martić? I think he didn't enough. Did he settle with the court in some way, I don't know. I think he didn't get enough. The same as Šljivančanin for Vukovar. It is unbelievable that some Croats who defended their houses, their country, got higher sentences than them. And we didn't attack anyone. We just defended what was ours. And we got higher sentences than those who attacked us. That isn't right. That's why I don't think that we would ever get some justice from the Hague. Markač, Merčep, or any other commander cannot be held responsible for the acts of the people who were under their command. That's their individual responsibility. But also, if someone was ordered to do something, they had to do it. And he had to have a written proof for that. That he had to do it. But everyone knows about the events that happened during the war. What is your life like today? It's not good. Like everyone else's. Health is what's bothering me. Since 2011 my wife had several operations and now she is preparing for her fourth brain tumor operation. I also had several operations in the past few years. I also suffered kidney stones. I am not in good health. And I have to pay my social security. Who is on the photo next to you? That is Šimac Ivica. He was the commander before I came to Kijevo. The photograph was taken near Kijevo, in the village of Glavaš. That was our meeting point. We would wait there until the men who observed the territory came back from Dinara. Then they would report to us what they saw. We were on Dinara constantly, day and night. It was the biggest mountain, so it was a good observation point. We got a report that there were mines on the Peruča Dam. Luckily, the Minister of Defence saved us. If he didn't send us the weapons which we asked, we would never manage to get out of Kijevo. When they would fire at us, we would fire back at them. I thought that was ok. People say different things now. European Union says that the police shouldn't use force. But I was in Germany and I saw how their police beat young people on Oktoberfest. So they don't have a say. I would never harm a civilian, but if somebody shot at me, I would shoot back at them. Anyways, after the war was over, I began to have health problems. My health problems actually began during the war. Our health care system is not good. That's really sad. There is too much corruption. With the resources we have, we could be more powerful then Switzerland, if only our politicians were honest. But of course, we are far away from Switzerland. I hope things would change soon. I don't agree with any political party. Not with HDZ, not with HSP, not with SDP. They deal with the past too much. My uncle died in WWII. Why should we still deal with that? More than fifty years has passed since then. We are creating the enemies ourselves. I think it's getting us nowhere. Both sides do that. We didn't fight for that. We need to make peace with that. We also need to understand that Croatian people who emigrated to Argentina or somewhere else, could never understand the problems we are facing here. Emigrant representatives are in our parliament. But they don't know how we live here. Some people in Croatia live on only 900 kuna a month. Emigrants in Australia or Argentina don't care about that. They learned to live according to the principles of the Western countries. Where profit is the only thing that matters. We are far from that. Mr. Martin, thank you for the interview. You're welcome.




Birth place: Vodice, Croatia
Birth date: 1952-01-23