Sir: Richard West's article Tito and the Croats (18 September)
is unfairly slanted and irresponsibly flippant. I do not know his reasons for dragging the name of the British—Croatian Society into what he chooses to call his 'analysis of the Croat question', but lest your readers get the impression, after reading his article, that this Society is some kind of catholic anticommunist conspiracy I should make it clear that this is a non-political and nonconfessional association devoted to promoting cultural and humanitarian causes. It is necessary to stress that not all Croats are Roman Catholics. A sizeable portion of them are Moslems and there are also Croats who belong to the Orthodox faith. The presence of Mr Waugh in this Society has nothing to do with his catholicism, but with the fact that during the war his father, together with Randolph Churchill and Lord
Birkenhead (the second Earl and the first Patron of our Society), participated in the British mission which liaised with the Croatian partisan forces in the partisanheld town of Topusko.
The picture Mr West paints of the Croats is that of inveterate dissidents and seditionists whose main motive apparently is an irrational hatred of the Serbs. He recounts the horrors committed during the war years, garnishing his description with some malicious fiction borrowed from the Italian journalist Malaparte, as if to prove their wickedness. What happened during the war was horrible enough and neither the Croats nor the Serbs can be very proud of what they had done to each other. But to keep ramming the `Ustashi' crimes down the throat of every dissident Croat is irresponsible as well as highly provocative. As Mr West very well knows, there were Nazi collaborators in almost every country occupied by Hitler, What Mr West forgot to mention was that tens of thousands of Croats fought with the partisans. But he in his 'analysis of the Croat question' does not seem to be interested in pursuing the problem to its roots. A good illustration of his approach is provided by his comment on the language issue. Serbian and Croatian, he claims, 'are rather less different than Yorkshire and Lancashire, the main distinction involving the way to pronounce the vowel "e" and to spell the word for vagina. . .' A joke, at last. One can almost hear him chuckling to himself. As a matter of fact, differences are rather more extensive than this, sufficiently so, it seems, to prompt the authorities to order the destruction a few years ago of a book of Croatian orthography written by a group of leading Croatian linguists and merely codifying the existing usage.
Edo Pivoevid Vice-President, British-Croatian Society, 40 Henley Grove, Henleaze, Bristol