Croatian organist's theme rings of her people's fight

November 21, 1991|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Evening Sun Staff

Internationally acclaimed organist Ljerka Ocic-Turkulin expressed anger and fear as she showed the gory pictures from Croatia, her war-torn homeland.

The images included a pile of corpses in a small room, a piece of brain strewn on a dirt path and two soldiers lying in a morgue. Croatia declared itself independent in June and later that month it plunged into civil war with Serbia, the nation's largest republic.

Ocic-Turkulin, 31, is part of the Croatian Art Forces, a coalition of more than 200 musicians and artists who are raising money to help an estimated half a million Croatian refugees.

Ocic-Turkulin, will perform two concerts while she is in Baltimore. One is scheduled for tomorrow at the Zion Church of Baltimore City at City Hall Plaza, the other is on Sunday at St. Luke Evangelical Church on Harford Road. Her musical talent -- along with her pleas for help -- is what she can offer to help the Croatian war efforts.

"As a musician, I can't do anything else," she said, adding: "I don't know how to fight. It's a small contribution, but I'm trying to do my best here."

Because of the war, her concerts were canceled this summer in Croatia. She came to this country about three weeks ago to play church concerts in Florida and Baltimore. Her husband, and her small daughter are in Croatia.

She leaves Baltimore Tuesday, bound for Vienna, where she'll be taking a train down to Slovenia, north of her hometown. Back in Yugoslavia, she'll fear for her life, she said.

Croatia has a population of about 5 million people -- more than the countries of Israel or Ireland. At 55,000 square kilometers, it's bigger than Holland or Switzerland. Ocic-Turkulin lives in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Her family's been rooted there for more than 600 years.

She says she is distressed because the Serbians have bombed more than 100 churches and monasteries. An unknown numbers of museums, castles, palaces and mausoleums also have been destroyed.

She cried when many of the historic port of Dubrovnik's renaissance buildings and rare sculptures were destroyed by rockets and mortar fire. And she is sad because the town of Vukovar surrendered this week.

She told of her fellow countrymen -- about 15,000 of them -- who lived in basements and underground shelters without water or electricity for three months as tanks rumbled through the streets of Vukovar and bombs rained on the city, which was once the home of 50,000 Croatians.

"These people work all their lives for small property and a small house and all of a sudden, they lose everything," she said, adding: "When they're shown on TV, they don't show anger. They're lost and helpless. These people didn't do anything to anybody."

Serbian snipers are roaming towns and villages, paid to shoot randomly at civilians during air raids, she said. Her sister, on the way to the store, was caught in a cross-fire but managed to run home unscathed.

Ocic-Turkulin will perform benefit concerts and play for refugees when she goes back to Croatia next week. Her 6-year-old daughter, Kosjenka, is staying with her parents until her arrival. Her husband, Hrvoje, teaches forestry at a university. He goes on 12-hour patrols at night as a volunteer for Croatia's army. Her mother helps out at a local hospital where she recently visited 20 wounded soldiers who fought for Vukovar, situated near the Danube River separating Serbia from Croatia.

Despite Croatia's many defeats, morale is high, Ocic-Turkulin said. "When you see people so devoted to their country, you feel like you have to do something to help," she said. "I really love my country. I'm proud of it."

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