- Homeland Calling: Exile Patriotism and the Balkan Wars
Immigrants to the United States often form community organizations to maintain their ethnic culture and to keep ties to the home country alive, and they do so without in any way impairing their new American patriotism. The large immigrant streams from Eastern and Southern Europe during the early part of the twentieth century, consisting for the most part of the laboring classes coming for economic rather than political reasons, conformed to this pattern. The émigrés forced out of Europe because of World War II and its aftermaths were of a different cast. They were better educated and more politically minded than their predecessors. The organizations they formed had a purpose far beyond that of folk dancing and ethnic home cooking. Paul Hockenos, an American journalist now living in Europe, attempts in his latest book, Homeland Calling, to show how those groups coming from Yugoslavia interacted with previous immigrants and how they influenced events in their home countries.
His book is divided into four parts, the largest being devoted to Croatia, others focusing on Serbia and Kosovo, and a brief conclusion. The omission of chapters concerning the three other republics that emerged from the collapse of Yugoslavia—Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia—can be explained by the fact that their new governments had no organizational ties to immigrant groups abroad. Those immigrants in the United States who had been born in Bosnia were for the most part Serbs in language, religion, and national sentiment. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the first American ambassador to Bosnia was a Bosnian-born Muslim, and that the Bosnian government had sufficient insight into American affairs to hire early on a competent public affairs agency.
In the chapter concerning Croatia, the author details the relationship of Franjo Tudjman with the immigrant Croatian societies in the United States. Tudjman had been a leading partisan figure during World War II but had gradually drifted into a Croatian nationalism fixation during the years of Tito, so much so that at one time he had even been arrested by the central government. Nevertheless, he remained a prominent and influential figure in Croatian circles and was allowed by the federal government to visit Canada and the United States during the 1980s. As was to be expected during his visits he spoke to many Croatian immigrant groups. What was surprising, however, was that he sought out extremists to speak to. These were often former members of the Ustashe, the fascist organization that the Italians and Nazis had installed in Croatia, and which was at least as if not more bloodthirsty than its sponsors.
The author writes of more than three hundred thousand Serbs, thirty thousand [End Page 152] Jews, and the entire Gypsy population falling victim to Ustashe executioners. It was therefore shocking to hear this former partisan commander, who had killed Ustashe and whose troops had been killed by them, talk of burying past differences through the embrace of nationalism. He was extraordinarily successful; the leaders of all the extremist parties became passionate followers and funneled as much money as they could raise into his coffers. When Tudjman became president of the newly independent Croatia, he invited many of them into his government. Gojko Suslak, a former pizza house owner, for example, became minister of defense despite a lack of military knowledge other than gun running. According to the author, Warren Zimmermann, the last American ambassador to Yugoslavia, was clearly put off by Suslak and described him as "a Darth Vader doppelganger with his long lined face, hooded eyes, and permanent scowl."
Nevertheless, Suslak made the most of his new position. With his idiomatic English and love for things American, he got along well with visiting American military, and when the Clinton administration decided that Croatia was the key to peace in the area and agreed to help reconstitute the Croatian army, Suslak presided with American advisers over the transformation of a ragtag, uncoordinated army into a smoothly functioning strike force...