by PETER GRACE
AUCKLAND — Croats in New Zealand celebrated their homeland’s Independence Day at the end of June.
In Auckland, the Croatian Catholic community held a dinner with live music and entertainment at the Croatian Community Hall on June 22. One speaker referred to Croatia becoming independent from the Federation of Yugoslavian States in 1991.
The Croatian War of Independence was fought from 1991 to 1995 between Croat forces and the Serb controlled Yugoslav People’s Army and local Serb forces, with Croatia gaining victory in 1995.
The High Commissioner to Croatia, Dr Damir Kusen, who is based in Australia, told guests the National Day was a time when the community recalled what is in their collective memories, when they look back at the history of their nation, and “those who sacrificed themselves for the freedom and prosperity of our nation”.
“When we look back 23 years, Croatia showed magnificent strength and unity,” he said.
Dr Kusen came to the celebrations from Canberra with his wife, Loretta, and daughter, Ines.
The family was accompanied by Croatian priest Fr Miroslav Jelic, who concelebrated Mass at Te Atatu the following day with community chaplain Fr Sateki Raass. That Mass, in Croatian, was dedicated to the victims of the aggression against Croatia during the 1990’s conflicts
in the former Yugoslavia.
On June 24, Fr Jelic and the ambassador met Croatian club members in Wellington, and Fr Jelic
celebrated Mass there.