Tiger that was saved by the Lion of the tribe of JudahCategory: Svjedočanstva
A forty-two year-old Zoran Hrubi fought in the Homeland war from the Fall of 1991, and was on some of the most dangerous battlefields across our country. In the war he was awarded a rank of a Sergeant. Five years later, Croatia was delivered from the aggression and free, but many of the soldiers were left handicapped. Zoran was one of them. Following the Homeland war, Zoran was diagnosed with PTSP.
Years of depression, anguish and occasional acts of violence followed, and in several cases almost led to tragedy. Therapies and strong medication eased some of the sickness and made every-day life bearable, but only through God’s intervention did Zoran receive full healing and deliverance. Today, he thankfully remembers everything that the Lord has done for him. For the readers of “Charisma” he has decided to tell his life story.
CHARISMA: Zoran, I can see these two Memorials of the Homeland war, one from the 101st Brigade and the second from the Tigers, as well as this medal “Tiger”. Since when did you partake in the Homeland war and how come you ended up in these formations? – I joined the defense of Croatia in September of 1991 and was a member of Croatian Armed Forces until April of 1996. At first I fought in the 101st Brigade, that is in the Croatian National Guard. With 101st Brigade I fought on several battlefields, from Lasinje and Pokupsko, in defense of Zagreb, and then in Slavonija, where I defended the city of Osijek. However I didn’t feel very secure in the 101st Brigade: since there were no schooled Croatian officers, we were often led by the former officers of the Yugoslav National Army (YNA), Serbs and Muslims. There was plenty of mistrust towards the officers, and this was fed by occasionally very dangerous and unprofessional orders that they issued. For example, we would find ourselves in the middle of cross-fire between the enemy and Croatian soldiers. Many Croatian soldiers died in such circumstances. Thus, in December of 1991 I transferred into 1st Guard Brigade – “the Tigers”.
CHARISMA: Tigers are probably the most elite brigade of the Croatian Armed Forces, that participated in all of the military actions during the liberation of Croatia. - Yes, with the Tigers I firstly fought for a brief time on Slavonian battlefields. Near Okučani and Novska we managed to halt the YNA and Serb paramilitary formations that intended to occupy pre-planned Croatian regions and establish the borders of “Greater Serbia”. During Spring of 1992, when YNA attacked Dubrovnik, I was moved there, where the Brigade was under leadership of late General Janko Bobetko. Since large parts of Croatia were occupied at that time, and the South was practically cut off from the rest of the Country, it was a great challenge to even reach Dubrovnik. We had to first travel with a ferry from Rijeka to Makarska. Then, from Makarska we headed of in more directions at once. Part of the Tigers and Varaždin VII Battalion (the “Pumas”) headed down the coastline, pushing the enemy back and making a way. My battalion headed through Herzegovina. We crossed Popovo polje, and in eastern Herzegovina came out near Trebinje. This town was a capital of Serb military in east Herzegovina. We observed the city, but our orders were not to engage because of the many Serb civilians that lived there, often as refugees from other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
CHARISMA: You told me of many difficult battles that were led in Herzegovina, as well as of secrecy of the entire action. Which of the events from that road to Dubrovnik is the most memorable for you? – I lived through many horrifying and truly traumatic moments there, and I am sure, thanks to God I lived through them. I remember when we were close to village of Žukovica near Hutovo blato, and when Serbs hit us with artillery: heavy rain of grenades fell upon us in such intensity and thickness that it was difficult to find shelter. One grenade fell few yards from me and my two comrades. We ran on the path next by a small stone wall. Grenade hit right on the other side of the wall. One of my comrades wend death to one ear from the explosion. We broke the record in 100 yards sprint for shelter that time. On another occasion, we were in the village near Trebinje, when the enemy hit us with guided missiles. Everything was ablaze around me, and I heard explosions and screams of those wounded. I was near an armored vehicle of one General of the Armed Forces, when the vehicle was hit. The General lost an arm and all of the others were burned alive inside.
At another time still, I found myself in an enemy crossfire, and all that was protecting me form bullets was a tiny wall. We have in fact slept there the night before and were awaken by enemy snipers – shooting at us. Only with the morning we realized that enemy positions were merely a kilometer from us. I barely lived through that experienced.
Until Spring of 1993, I fought on battlefields of Dubrovnik, and then we moved to the Zadar area, and mount Velebit. My battalion was positioned around Tulove grede. This is the top of Velebit, from where we could control the roads heading from mainland towards Zadar. For at least three times we lost this position and then took it back from Serbs. From the fights in Zadar area I remember French members of UNPROFOR threatening to bomb us each time we pushed the enemy towards Obrovac. Later, and under command of General Ante Gotovina, we managed to liberate this entire area during the Operation Maslenica.
CHARISMA: It is often heart that the symptoms of PTSP appear only after the war, and when the soldier returns to a normal life of a civilian. Have you ever felt anything during the war that would point to this illness? – Yes, I have felt the first symptoms of PTSP during the war: aggression, auto-aggression, significant mood swings. When I was on leave and at home, I could think of nothing else but of my comrades and I could barely wait to be back in battle. In time, I had nothing to talk about with civilians that never knew what the front line of battlefield was, and I didn’t want to even be with them.
CHARISMA: In those battle situations, when death was near, have you ever thought of God? – Honestly, no I haven’t. During these times I was preoccupied with staying alive, and during those brief leaves from battle I would get drunk and use every opportunity, while still alive, to have fun. None of us knew which would be our last leave. Three psychiatrists that I later spoke with concluded that I was in at least 8 near-death situations.
CHARISMA: In 1994, something happened that had a profound influence on you. – Yes, I was on leave with a group of fighters. We traveled for Zagreb and stopped in Senj for a drink. Initial short break became a long one. We drank and made quite some noise in the bar, and then, by accident one of my comrades was harmed. He died on his way to hospital. From then on I would fall into longer and more difficult stages of depression. That was the year when I went to my first talk with a psychiatrist, regarding my depression. This depression, that is PTSP that was then diagnosed, culminated in 1995. I started taking anti-depressants. I spent most my time on a variety of drugs, often new and un-tested medication, so I felt as a lab-rat. Medication that could help was becoming stronger and stronger. I ended up on valium. This was a period of time that I was possessed with thoughts of murder and suicide. I still kept weapons and on few occasions I was very close to tragedy and bloodshed. Doctor Vukušić helped me – he was on call from the Veteran’s Union, and he would come to calm me down.
CHARISMA: When did you first hear the message of Gospel? – The year was 1997. I moved with my family to Karin near Zadar, and people from one refugee family from Ilača, Josip and Mila, who were believers, Pentecostals, witnessed of God. They told me He can resolve any situation, my problems included. At first, this sounded very weird to me. However, these people lived true Christian lives and I started to listen to them.
CHARISMA: What made you take their words seriously? – Once, my daughter Valentina, who was 4 at that time, had a headache. This Pentecostal family had a visitor, a Pastor from Zadar, Tomislav Čani, who offered to pray for my daughter’s recovery. I consented, and following the prayer, her headache vanished and Valentina was healthy. I was awestruck and started to think about what they said of God who held blessings for me, and who had a good plan for my life. The family for Ilača would often visit us. They spoke of God’s goodness and showed this goodness to us: no matter on how I reacted to them they were always kind and friendly. They saw all of the problems that I and my family lived in: from cigarettes and addiction on medication to the unfortunate marriage, however they would always find words of encouragement. At last, when I moved to Zagreb, the suggested I visit church “Word of Life”.
CHARISMA: And you came… - Yes, I came. Sister Mila gave me a book written by Pastor Šićko in which I found the address of the Church and looked for it. It was a Saturday. The book had an address for the Church in Karašićka ulica, I looked for it and came to that quarter. However, I didn’t know this was only a contact address and that the Church was really not there. I looked for a number 33, asked about the Church, but no one in the neighborhood had a clue of what I was asking them. Suddenly, a heavy showers fell and I went home.
Tomorrow, on a Sunday, I decided to look for this Church even if hammers fell from the sky. I hurried my entire family into the car and drove to Karašićka again. There, at 8 in the morning, I rang the doors of Čulina family, who were surprised but took us in. When they heard what it was about, the prayed together with me, and called the Pastor. That same evening I met with Pastor Šićko. I told him of my life, of the war and depressions that tormented me. He told me these words I will never forget: “Until now you fought wars with a gun in your hand, from now you will fight on your knees”. Of course, I did not know what he was talking about then. And at the beginning I would attend church still on medication. I would even fall asleep during services. But not long after that, about a month after I called Jesus into my life and received salvation, I quit the pills altogether. I simply felt that the Lord has cured me. First thing I did was to testify to Doctor Vukućiš, who was very skeptical: I told him that what happened to me then I wanted to tell to then Minister of Defense Ivica Pančić. “If you do this,” Doctor Vukušić laughed, “Pančić will increase your disability from the current 40% to at least 60%! He will tell you that you’ve gone completely mad!”
However, that God’s healing in my life was true and permanent it was soon evident in practice. In September 1999, my wife died. I was left alone with three children. I took care of them and of us. Had it happened only a year earlier, something like that would be un-imaginable to deal with: a year earlier I could not take care of myself. And so I lived for the next three years. In 2001 I finished the Bible School in “Word of Life”, something that brought me even closer to the Lord and encouraged me in my Christian life. And then, the Lord brought a great gift into my life: my wife Danica.
I am very grateful to God for everything He has done for me. I want to serve him and I would love for others, my comrades with whom I defended Croatia once, and that are now living a similar life I used to, to get to know Jesus’ love and His healing power. I once fought for the most elite fraction of Croatian Armed Forces, whose slogan was “For Croatia like a tiger”. Now I feel I am in the most elite church in Croatia, whose slogan could be “For Croatia and for Jesus, like a Lion of the tribe of Judah”.
Taken from “Charisma” issue number 36.