Military Conscription in Croatia: Memories of Sinj 1999

Total Croatia News

As Croatia considers the reintroduction of military conscription on February 27, 2016, TCN’s Goran Antonijevic recalls his 305 days of life donated to the Croatian army in 1999. 

It is February 10, the year is 1999. My best friend Aida turned 24 that day. Last night, instead of celebrating her birthday, I was in the bathroom, shaving my hair off, after 15 years of my beloved hippie look. I shaved it off with my new electric razor, bought for the occasion. It was a sleepless night for me. My mother, who was never actually happy about my long hair, burst into tears when she saw me. My father presented me with a wrist watch, an item I had never used before, but “take it, my son, it will come handy…”

Reluctantly, I agreed only because he was somewhat sick those days, and just two months later he was in hospital having his cancer operated. I asked my sergeant for a leave of absence that weekend, but he did not see it as a good enough reason to give me a pass.

I do not remember what day it was, but I remember the anxiety at the station as I entered the bus, and the horror that I experienced when the gate closed behind me after entering the barracks. I remember the tears from the younger guys, boys who probably left home for the first time in their life. I remember the stench of feet, I remember the dirty building, iron beds, and yelling of the officers.

Finding my way among strangers, aggressive, timid, fanatics, stoners, weird, stupid, talking with rare birds who shared my stress of losing almost a year of my youth. Drunken officers, often hit with PTSD, I was finding my way through their logic, unreasonable to my mind.

I had a private meeting with one particular staff sergeant, working for military intelligence, who presented me with his knowledge about my life, and my involvement with the independent media of the time. This guy had no PTSD diagnosed, he simply had a party membership card in his pocket.

I was the star on “Homeland education”, as I had studied some theories about how Croats originated from Persia, and Croatia’s natural borders were around the Black Sea and Alps, such crazy theories being popular at the time.

It was damn cold those days in Sinj, and we were not issued with proper clothes, and as not everyone got their gloves, the order was given; take off your gloves, because if one doesn’t wear them, no one can, you must be all the same. I was hoping they would make me few inches taller, but that didn’t happen.

I started smoking in those days and here’s a cigarette still in my hand. Who starts smoking when they are 24? Losers and real smokers, I am ok with being a smoker, still struggling to accept being a loser.

Thinking about those 305 days given to the army, I cannot help myself concluding it was a waste. I was 24 years old, I was in what was to be my best year, and it was spent with officers watching one movie about US Marines too many, more time cleaning my boots, picking up cigarette butts, cleaning toilets, and marching around pointlessly…

One thing I could use if there is a situation in which my country would need my army knowledge is disassembling an AK-47, and assembling it again, and I learned that in first 3 days of my service.


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