D.I.C. Veritas

MSP: Izjava svjedoka Jele Ugarković


1. My name is Jela Ugarkovic. I was born in the village of Komic, municipality of Titova Korenica, Croatia. I now live in Denmark. I left my family home in 1974 when I started working in Zagreb, first at Unitas concern factory and later on at the company Rade Koncar, as a financial officer. I was employed there until March 1991 when I was, along with thousands of other people, laid off. At the outbreak of the conflict, in 1990-1991, there was a growing tension between Serbs and Croats. Iwas the victim of certain provocations by Croats in that period, but I never reacted to them and never had any problems.

2.    In September 1991, I left Zagreb for a two-week visit to my parents in the village of Komic to help them pickle food for the winter. My mother's spine was in a very bad condition due to years of hard farm work, and my father was already an old man. It was more and more difficult for my father to work as one of his legs was shorter than the other being disabled in World War II. So, it was difficult for him to move. Komic is a village situated on a very rough terrain, winters are extremely cold and the soil is barren. Bearing in mind that Komic was an old village, with less and less people living in it, where it was very hard to live off land, my parents sold out, a year before my visit, almost all the cattle that used to be big in number because it was predominantly a cattle-breeding region. As my brother, sister and Icould not visit them frequently, we told them to sell the majority of livestock, although it was hard for them to accept it. Some houses in the village had electricity but ours did not. And there was no phone in the village, either. For all these reasons, I stayed with them because had no heart to leave them like that.  Istarted to work on the farm to make it a bit better. From then on, I was with my parents. So,I found myself in my native village of Komic when the operation “Storm” was launched.

3.    The village of Komic was in the hinterland and we experienced not much of the fighting or shelling. But, the 1991-1995 conflict was a period particularly hard on us. The villagers had to struggle to survive and make ends meet, on a daily basis. Males born after 1947 were called up.

4.    In the early morning on 4 August 1995, at about 4 a.m., my father woke me up and 1 could hear shelling in the distance. My father said that Croats were coming. I tried to calm him saying that it was certainly our Army doing exercises. But, during the day I heard it on the radio that the Croats began the attack, and I heard Tudjman's speech. He called on Serbs to stay where they were and promised nothing would happen to us. Among the other reasons, I stayed in the village because I believed in what he had said. So, I went on working around the house but in the afternoon, when I came out to tender our cows, I saw a convoy of tractors with farmers on the road headed eastwards, towards the main road and Ondico. The village of Komic had two roads, one was the Udbina-Gracac near Ondico to the west via Lastarica leading to the centre of Komic and it was a macadam road, and the other was paved leading from Udbina via Opalic to the village center. Houses and farms in Komic were scattered along the road and on the slopes of a hill to the south of the village.

5.    I approached one of the tractors in the convoy asking what was going on and the driver told me to run away as the Croatian forces were coming. I had dinner with my parents and we did not talk much over it but we stayed on. Nevertheless, my father told me to sleep outside, and I slept in a grove, because he was afraid something could happen to me, as he survived previous wars. He wanted the Croatian soldiers not to find me if they came to the house.
6.    On the morning of Saturday 5 August, I woke up early again, and again I heard gunshots. Around 5 o'clock in the morning I saw a neighbor from Place driving a tractor, who told me he was leaving and I saw that he cut his animals loose and left them all around. We listened to the news on the radio by using transistors; neighbors use to gather around 1 p.m. to listen to the news. The only news that we heard were from the Croatian battlefront; the news were of Croatian victory with no losses and the Serbs were told to stay.

7.    That day our neighbor Petar Lavrnic came and told us that he had been told by other neighbors to evacuate my parents and me. But, even then we did not want to leave our house. In fact, my father said that I was young and that I should go, but I refused. A little after the noon on that day, 5 August, almost all remaining residents left the village. The vast majority of the population, about 150 residents, left the village, and only elderly stayed behind. Then, my father asked me to check who else stayed in the village. I started looking at the upper end of the village and I found only old and frail people who remained in their homes as, for example, Petar who was 60 years old and his mother Sava, who was over 90. (I think their last name was Lavrnic or Momcilovic ). I also found Stoja whose last name was Ostojic, I think, aged about 70. There were a few young people who remained behind, those who were looking for their parents, like Radovan Diklic who was looking for his father and who told me that he saw a few elderly women in their homes.

8.    During that period, before the Croatian army entered our village, I remember hearing a detonation, I think it was from a tank shell, and saw a house on fire in Ondice. Later on, as I was passing by, I saw that the burnt-out building was a school.

9.    The Croatian army entered the village on 12 August. I was in my garden and heard my dog barking. And then I saw something in the distance. I hid and soon saw an approaching column of soldiers in tanks, armored vehicles and a truck, with a lot of soldiers in the vehicles. They wore dark green uniforms and as I recall had black berets on. I knew they were Croats because the vehicles had checker-board license plates which were their symbols. The army kept moving towards the village along the unpaved  road, and soon I saw a smoke coming from a nearby house (later in the evening my dad said that it was the burnt-out house of Petar Lavrnic and his mother Sava). It was the first house in the village. At the same time, I heard the shooting in the village of Poljice as well as loud explosions from the houses in the neighborhood.

10.    When the shooting stopped, I ran to find my father. I stood at the edge of the forest and near our house I saw soldiers, actually only their legs, because I hid myself very close by among the trees. So I did not dare come any closer for fear they might see me. I saw the soldiers descending downhill and surrounding our summer kitchen. The distance between the slope at the edge of the forest where I was hidden and the summer kitchen was about 15 meters. By the way, my mother Marija was constantly lying in the summer kitchen bed-ridden, where I fed her and changed her clothes. The summer kitchen was built half of timber and half of stone, and was separated from our main house, which was entirely stone built and was in the same yard. Two soldiers entered the house from one side and two from the other. I froze and hid among the trees. They entered all the rooms and the big barn and hayloft. Shortly after, I heard a soldier say “Guys, we've set everything on fire, let's go,” and the soldiers left.

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