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NFCA Press Release -14th Annual Delegates Assembly
By Joe Foley | Published  06/12/2007 | Politics , Events , Community | Unrated
NFCA completes a successful assembly

JUNE 4, 2007


NFCA Board Members: Josip Knezevic (NY), Joe Rukavina (MN), Jim Kresnik (NE), and Frank Jerbich (IL)

The National Federation of Croatian Americans (NFCA) completed a very successful 2007 Annual Assembly of Delegates held this past weekend in Philadelphia at the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel. Edward A. Andrus, NFCA President, in his State of the Organization address said: "The NFCA brand is well known in Washington, DC, and also Zagreb I am told, with open access to the Administration, the State Department, and the U. S. Congress. We continue to do things that only Americans can do to improve the relationship between our country and The Republic of Croatia, and the Croatian people are benefiting from our work."

The fiscal state of the NFCA remains balanced with membership on the rise as reported by NFCA Treasurer, Zvonko Labas. NFCA Director of Government & Public Affairs, Joe Foley, reviewed the legislative activities of the organization in his "Washington Report", especially focusing on the goal to have Croatia receive an invitation to join the NATO Alliance in 2008. Future NFCA plans call for increased activity with the U. S. Senate in advance of the NATO invitation and encouraging the expansion of the Congressional Croatian Caucus with new Members. In addition to participating in the organizational business of the NFCA, the delegates heard an impressive group of guest speakers deliver on topics of real relevancy to the Croatian American community.

Dr. Esther Gitman, born in Sarajevo and herself a holocaust survivor, presented deep and broad evidence on the many risks that Croatian people willingly took to rescue Jews from the Nazis during World War II. Dr. Gitman, with a PhD in Jewish History from City University of NY, is currently on a Fellowship at the U. S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, where she is making use of the museum's understudied archival collection from Croatia to shed new light on rescue issues and the fate of Croatian Jewry. Her presentation, titled "The Rescue of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia, 1941-1945", is a continuation of her PhD work which included research in Zagreb, where she went on a Fulbright Scholarship, as well as at Yad Vashem in Israel. Dr. Gitman put particular emphasis on the rescue leadership and risk taking of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac.

Rear Admiral J. Robert Lunney, who initiated and drove the process to locate the family of Medal of Honor (MOH) recipient U. S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Peter Tomich, presented the "saga" of his work that took over nine years to finally have the MOH presented to Tomich's next of kin in Croatia. Peter Tomich, an American hero of Croatian ethnicity, born in Prolog, Bosnia-Herzegovina, was posthumously awarded the Medal for his courage under fire during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, by President Franklin Roosevelt. Because the U. S. Navy was never able to find the family and present the award, it became the only MOH that was awarded but never presented from WWII. Admiral Lunney was determined to find the family and complete the mission. As a result of his successful work, on May 18, 2006, in a elaborate ceremony on board the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, docked in the harbor of Split, Croatia, Peter Tomich's MOH was finally presented to his next of kin, retired Croatian Army Lt. Col. Srecko Herzeg. Although the presentation took place 64 years after the fact, it was a glorious day for the United States of America and The Republic of Croatia.

The Embassy of Croatia was represented by the Minister-Counselor and top political advisor to the Croatian Ambassador, Vice Skracic, and Lt. Col. Damir Terzic, the Embassys Defense, Military, Naval, and Air Attache. Together they provided an across the board update on U. S. - Croatia relations, the role that the NFCA has played and the need to continue strengthening relations as only Americans can, the transformation that is taking place within Croatia's defensive forces to be more expeditionary in alignment with NATO, and the large scale military exercises that Croatia will participate in with her western partners this summer off the northern coast of Dalmatia. Mr. Skracic expressed real appreciation with the appointment last year of U. S. Ambassador to Croatia, Mr. Robert A. Bradtke. While the relationship between the two countries has been on a strong growth path, it has clearly moved to a higher level with the presence of Ambassador Bradtke. Both representatives of the Embassy were delighted to meet and engage with Admiral Lunney, and they attended the banquet later held as a tribute to Lunney for his successful work.

Mr. Darko Zelenika, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Washington, DC, gave the delegates an update on the political situation in BiH. Many questions abound about the future of BiH, but unfortunately no solution acceptable to all parties has yet been found. Most agree that the Dayton Peace Accord has outlived it usefulness, and something new needs to be developed. Last week the three members of the BiH Presidency hosted a celebration at the U. N. for the 15th anniversary of BiH becoming a member of the United Nations. Those members of the NFCA that attended had a sense from private discussions that some new thinking on the subject may have emerged during several of the meetings that the political leaders attended while in the U. S.

The U. S. State Department was represented by Mr. Raffi Balian, the current Croatia Desk Officer & Regional Political/Military Affairs Officer for South Central Europe. Mr. Balian delivered a very clear and positive story on U. S. relations with The Republic of Croatia. He was impressed with how far Croatia has come in such a short period of time. He acknowledged Croatia's leadership in the region and gave the country great credit for the willingness to be helpful to its neighbors, some of whom were previously enemies. Croatia Prime Minister Ivo Sanader has more than once expressed his desire to live in a friendly neighborhood. Mr. Balian talked about one of Croatia's primary foreign policy goals of membership in the NATO Alliance and answered questions regarding the likelihood of Croatia entering alone or with her Adriatic Charter partners, Macedonia and Albania. With regard to the outstanding meeting between P. M. Sanader and President Bush last Fall at the White House, even though Mr. Balian had been in his position only several months at the time, he could see that unusual arrangements were undertaken to make that meeting happen. He gave most of the credit for that to U. S. Ambassador Robert A. Bradtke for his experience and professionalism.

The final guest speaker was Philadelphia Real Estate Developer Slavko S. Brkich who chose the NFCA Convention as the setting to go public with his announcement of creating a Croatia Art Center within a residential complex of 115 units he is developing in the Brewery Park section of Philadelphia. The Zora Art Center will have over 10,000 square feet of gallery space between two galleries, a 125-seat auditorium, a library with classroom, and a gift shop. "His dream," as Mr. Brkich refers to it, is currently planned to open in the Spring of 2008. It is his hope that the center will attract Croatian artists and others to display their creative works and other cultural items for the community to enjoy. He also expects that the Center will be staffed with Croatian art students studying in the U. S. in return for their housing at the complex. All Croatian Americans should appreciate this wonderful gift from Mr. Brkich and know that they have a friendly space in Philadelphia to show their creations and to celebrate their heritage.

The NFCA concluded the formal meetings by having the delegates vote, as they are required to do annually, for Board Members and Officers for the 2007-2008 operating year. Officers elected are: Edward A. Andrus (PA), President; Joseph M. Brigich (PA), Executive Vice President; John P. Kraljic (NY), Past President; Steve Rukavina (PA), Eastern Regional Vice President; Frank M. Jerbich (IL), Central Regional Vice President; James B. Kresnik (NE), Western Regional Vice President; Zvonko Labas (MD), Treasurer; and Anne L. Pavlich (MD) Secretary. The other Board Members elected are: Marie McGuckin (IL), Edward Pazo (PA), Joseph Rukavina (MN), Judith Vogelsang (MO), Zdenka Dealcic (PA), Tony Dizdar (OH), and Josip Knezevic (NY). Prior to the voting, the Board unanimously approved a resolution permitting NFCA Board Membership without the requirement to be physically present at the election. The procedure for individuals interested in becoming Board Members in this manner is to send a written request to the NFCA Headquarters Office, Attention NFCA Secretary. The NFCA Executive committee will then consider and vote on the request.

On Saturday evening, a banquet dinner and ceremony were held in honor of Admiral J. Robert Lunney, who attended with his lovely wife Joan, for the Admirals work over nine years resulting in Peter Tomich's Medal of Honor being presented to his next of kin aboard the USS Enterprise docked at Split, Croatia, on the beautiful day of May 18, 2006. This had been the only Medal of Honor from WWII not presented, and then what a special presentation ceremony it was. The NFCA delegates were able to review a video of the presentation event to gain an understanding of the enormity of it.

In the 64 years between award and presentation of his Medal of Honor, Chief Petty Officer Peter Tomich has become the role model for members of the U. S. Navy and is the Patron of Senior Enlisted Personnel. A U. S. Navy Destroyer Escort has been named in honor of him, leaders attending the Senior Enlisted Academy in Newport, Rhode Island, reside in "Tomich Hall", and the top graduate in each class receives the "Peter Tomich" leadership award. The motto of the academy is "lead by example" as did Peter Tomich when he lost his life while saving many others as the USS Utah was torpedoed and sank in Pearl Harbor on that fateful day.

Admiral Lunney had a distinguished naval career and successful business career before undertaking the task of finding Peter Tomich's family. He enlisted in the U. S. Navy during WWII at age 17 and later distinguished himself as a naval officer during the Korean War. His ship evacuated over 14,000 military personnel fighting their way out of the Chosin reservoir along with North Korean refugees from the port of Hungnam, as overwhelming Chinese troops advanced southward at a rapid pace. His ship still holds the world record for number of people rescued by a ship&.and without proper facilities to house them. The ship then sailed through mine fields for several days before reaching the safe port of Pusan, without incurring any deaths and while delivering five new babies on board. Several years ago he took part in a delegation to meet with North Korean officials in a joint effort to search for the missing remains of American service personnel. Among his many accomplishments, too numerous to cover here, are that he graduated Cornell Law School and today still practices law in New York State.

In a salute to Admiral Lunney, NFCA President Ed Andrus said to those in attendance: "You have seen the video, read the stories, and looked at many pictures, but you still need to absorb more to imagine all that took place on the USS Enterprise. Imagine you are standing on the shore of Split and you see this enormous nuclear aircraft carrier moving into port with over 5,000 sailors and several hundred jet fighters on board, a vessel with more power than the accumulation of all of the ships that ever plied these Dalmatian waters back to Roman times. You might ask yourself two questions: Who has the power to do this, and why has this ship come? The answer to the first question is Admiral J. Robert Lunney with his determination, his perseverance, his courage in the face of powerful opposition, and his passion to complete the mission has the power to do this! And in answer as to why this ship has come? The USS Enterprise has come to honor an American hero from Croatia whose Medal of Honor needs to be finally presented to his family after 64 years!" What a splendid way to do it!

NFCA President Ed Andrus then presented Admiral Lunney with several gifts on behalf of grateful Croatian Americans: a framed Certificate of Appreciation signed by the NFCA Executive Committee, a beautiful book on Croatia Arts to encourage the Admiral to continue exploring for Croatian treasures, and a book of all of the Medal of Honor recipients signed by the President of the MOH Society with a note to Admiral Lunney that the book's story on Peter Tomich can now be completed.

Earlier this year the NFCA made a special request to The Republic of Croatia, endorsed by Croatia Ambassador to the U. S. Neven Jurica, that the government of Croatia acknowledge the formidable and successful work of Admiral J. Robert Lunney in this matter and to honor him publicly. The event on the USS Enterprise has, in addition to all else, enhanced the strengthening relationship between the United States of America and The Republic of Croatia. While others - both American and Croatian - contributed to this effort, it is clear it would not have been completed were it not for the prolonged pursuit by Rear Admiral J. Robert Lunney.

The NFCA is a national umbrella organization of Croatian American groups that collectively represents approximately 130,000 members. For additional public affairs information, please call Mr. Joe Foley, NFCA Government and Public Affairs Director, at (301) 294-0937, or Mr. Ed Andrus, NFCA President, at NFCA Headquarters at (301) 208-6650, or by email at For recent NFCA newsletters, important NFCA membership and chapter information, and other Croatian American news please visit the NFCAs Web Site at

National Federation of Croatian Americans (NFCA)
2401 Research Blvd, Suite 115
Rockville, MD 20850
PHONE: (301) 208-6650
FAX: (301) 208-6659

Formatted for CROWN by Marko Pulji
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  • Comment #1 (Posted by MALIANTIN)

    IT MUST BE RECOGNIZED THAT LATE PETER TOMICH (Petar)was born to Croatian family in Hercegovina, not in todays Republic of Croatia. I point this out because of all hoopla that "true" Croats are making out, including the new president of SDP, who is promissing to change the Constitution of RH in order to prevent Croats from Hercegovina to take part in elections in Republic of Croatia. When it is possible to take a credit for the deeds the Hercegovina Croats do, then all Croatians are quick to take it. Let it be remembered, an hopefully the Rear Admiral J. Robert Lunny will hear about it.

  • Comment #2 (Posted by Edward A. Andrus)

    Admiral Lunney and the NFCA have correctly reported that Peter Tomich was born and lived in Prolog, Herzegovina, and that he was of Croatian ethnicity.
  • Comment #3 (Posted by MALI ANTIN)

    I have read the article again, just like I did it last night, and nowhere in this article it says that Peter Tomich was born in Hercegovina. I knew that long ago, but that is not enough. Every Croatian in America and in the world should know what Peter Tomich did on that faitful day of November 7, 1941 when Japanise navy attacked Pearl Harbor. When someone attempts to undermin the Croats from Hercegovina, or Bosna, that should be a good argument to defend the honor of Croatian people. I only have that in mind. Probably, you could correct the article and insert somewhere that fact! As is now written, the article claims that Peter Tomich was born in Croatian, probably somewhere in the region of Split.
  • Comment #4 (Posted by N. K.)

    Peter Tomich Herceg is my grandfather ...he is Croat from Herzegovina Prolog Ljubuski. It's corect that
    Croat from BIH is discriminate and minimize from all political and economical life...Propaganda and lobby
    are stil on high level against Croat in BIH which is historic Croatian land not Serbian not muslim...
  • Comment #5 (Posted by Edward A. Andrus)

    Mr Maliantin should read the article paragraph 4 it says exactly what he is suggesting!
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