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Red Fiat - "Crveni Fićo"

Osijek Coat of ArmsWhat is "Red Fiat", or "Crveni Fićo", and what it has to do with Osijek?

First of all, "Fićo" (FEE-cho) is nickname for ultra-mini car "Zastava 750", made in Yugoslavia under license from Italian manufacturer FIAT. It was a copy of Fiat 600 and only 130 inches in length. It was mass produced from 1955 to 1985 and had sorts of cult status.

What is connecting story of "Fićo" to  Osijek? Before war in Croatia erupted, military baracks were populated with JNA (Yugoslav People's Army). At that time, military service was compulsory and there were young men from all over the Yugoslavia in the Army barracks. In fact, they deliberately sent draftees to farthest parts of Yugoslavia from their place of living to spread "Brotherhood and Unity" Tito doctrine.

So, citizens of Croatia held protests in front of all barracks in Croatia, to let go their sons home, as well as other nationalities. Essentially, the message was "let out sons go home", and "go away, we want independence". That was generally situation and atmosphere at the time.

Two days after Croatia declared independence, JNA tanks demonstrated their power on the streets of Osijek. This incident occurred on June 27th 1991 at the intersection of Vukovarska and Trpimirova street. Citizen of Osijek Branko Breškić, seeing what is happening and wanting to stop the tanks, drove his Fićo right in the way of incoming tanks.The car was crushed with ease by the T-55 tank, but the whole event was recorded by national broadcaster HRT (Hrvatska radiotelevizija - Croatian Radio-Television). The footage was soon circulated the globe and showed viewers what is happening. It clearly showed who was the aggressor and who was the victim, as civilians had no guns, just rocks in their hands.

Branko later joined Croatian armed forces, and lived through the war, but sadly later died in a car crash in 2001. Interestingly enough, Branko and driver tank driver Josip Ilić later had the opportunity to meet. Josip Ilić was a Croat from city of Županja and in military service to Osijek. He had no choice but to run over that car because his commanding officer was holding gun to his head. He later defected from the JNA, and sadly died in 2010 aged 38.

On a side note, volunteer from Ireland Thomas Crowley "The Irishman", said that he decided to come to defend Croatia after seeing these images on TV. He died in 1995. in battle.

In 2011, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of this event, on that same intersection monument was erected, showing red Fićo riding the tank, to reverse the roles. This monument has become a symbol of defiance of citizens of Osijek, who have suffered so much in the war.

We prepared a short video of the event and the monument: