Vjekoslav Zugaj


It is not easy nor simple to write the preface to a book written with no less a purpose than to describe Stara Gradiška. This is for the simple reason that the significance of Stara Gradiška is not its history or geography consisting of a simple sequence of events that occurred in this Croatian geographic microlocality, but rather what Stara Gradiška represents and means in another more subtle and precisely, defined sense. Through being a prison for centuries, this place and its name became significant, which is also what encouraged the author to write this book. The effort was worth it because what is written cannot be forgotten. Without this "significance" Stara Gradiška would be just another little town, in no way particularly memorable, among many along the old border where Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Turkey met. Stara Gradiška is always significant because what happened there is too important to be forgotten, although people have a tendence to forget the hardship and difficult times they lived through on their way to finding the truth. It should not be a warning and certainly not a threat to those who would wish, sometime in the future, to repeat the evil that was done there. Let it rather be a reminder that what happened there demonstrates to the entire world and the Croats themselves, how high is the price of liberation and independence, celebrated in Gundulić's hymn to freedom.

I am writing this from the point of view of a former Croatian political prisoner who was imprisoned there for 14 years during the time of the Communist terror allready described by more skilful writers than myself. This is only a modest contribution, for it will never be possible to write everything about Communist crime and fallacy. The crimes against humanity, committed against Croats in Stara Gradiška, surpass the imagination, even the very lively one of naive men who assumed that some good could be achieved by doing evil and manipulating the human soul as though commissioned by the devil himself. They forgot that in doing wrong not even the minutest amount of good could come about, to assist in the ever lasting and eternal struggle between good and evil.

President of the International
Association of Former Political
Prisoners and Victims of Communism


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