DOSSIER PERATOVIĆ III: That family departure from Croatia Nada Peratović compared with political exile

Following the official inquiry from Fairpress, the office of Municipal State Attorney of Zagreb officially confirmed that, in the case of complaint against Željko Peratović for sexual harassment of his daughter, it was verified, after extensive controls, that there were no elements of a criminal act which needed to be processed further. However, we do not have the information on whether it was ever established who made the accusation against Željko Peratović, considering that making false accusations is a criminal act. That type of a complaint, which had devastatingly serious consequences for the Peratović family had to be sanctioned.

Authors: M. Podumljak and M. Matić. Translation: O. Kolanović Bosnjak. May 14, 2015

Reprinted with permission of the fairpress.eu

Željko Peratović’s excruciating life agony began on August 28, 2004. Fairpress did a feuillton about it, media occasionally reported about it and professional journalist associations (Croatian Journalists’ Association – HND, Reporters Without Borders) reacted during critical situations. It seemed that the non-binding verdict of Municipal Civil Court of Zagreb in April 2015 would mean the end of Željko Peratović’s wrongfully caused sufferings.
However, one thing has been neglected in all published stories regarding Željko Peratović so far. Alongside the fact of being a journalist, Željko Peratović is also a husband and a father. For the first time publicly, exclusively for Fairpress, Nada Peratović, the wife of Željko Peratović spoke about their troubling times. From the moment he got fired from Vjesnik, in the summer of 2005, Željko Peratović has been subjected to continuous legal and penal prosecution, simultaneously trying to clear his name via court proceedings against his employers. Ups and downs, optimism and helplessness have been part of his everyday life.

Nada is translated to Austrian media Zeljko statements for Austrian media when he was awarded by the Reporter ohne Grenzen Österreich

Nada translates to Austrian media Zeljko’s statements when he was awarded by the Reporter ohne Grenzen Österreich

 

In an interview for Fairpress, Nada Peratović, an activist, lawyer and Željko Peratović’s wife describes some of those events and explains how she managed to survive those situations with her daughter.

It’s hard to remember everything. Coming to this interview, I broke out in a cold sweat. In a way, I myself now understand what it means to be traumatised all over again. I can single out my first encounter with state services, which was in 2007, when police barged into our apartment with a search warrant. The cause was, they told us, that Željko had posted a state secret on his blog. That was the moment I realised what it feels like to be scared. On the one hand, your reason is telling you: ‘Ok, everything is under control, let them do their job’…but on the other hand, of course you don’t feel comfortable when 7, 8 policemen are in your home, going through your things.

That fear is maybe the most dominant feeling that comes to my mind when remembering that period. For example, when I would take my daughter to kindergarten, I would go in first and start the car to check if there wasn’t a bomb in the car, and only after that would I put her in the car. It’s hard to explain what goes on inside a person in those kinds of situations. However, we managed to handle it somehow.

Nada and Željko Peratović went through the pressures, the threats, police searches, public embarrassments, trials together. In majority of those situations, the target was Željko Peratović. Nada Peratović was simply present, alongside a husband who was suffering, trying to keep their family together. However, Željko’s enemies made sure that Nada Peratović didn’t remain a bystander.

In 2009, the State Attorney’s Office received a complaint against Željko Peratović regarding sexual harassment of his own underage daughter. In these types of situations, if the mother of the child wasn’t the one who made the complaint, she is treated as an accomplice. Nada Peratović commented on those dramatic moments for Fairpress:

I was sick of everything. Not of his work, but I thought ‘Enough is enough, where does it all end?

I felt as if we had hit a wall. Victims of a system meant to be buried. And in the process, nobody will know, because unlike the other complaints, this one had significant limitations. According to the law then, all investigative operations were secret, and on the other hand considering that our underage daughter was involved, we weren’t allowed to speak out about it as parents, and at the same time we were suspects in a crime against a child.

That complaint meant that they were now free to question my child in various ways, as much time as they wanted. Of course I knew that they would eventually say that everything was all right, but the child will in the meantime have to go through a trauma, unanswered questions – ‘Mum, why did I have to go to some talk for five times?’ or ‘Mum, why did the doctors examine me?’

It was precisely during that complaint thing that I was especially hurt that most of Željko’s journalist colleagues didn’t react at all. And they knew. At least the majority of them, who were working at the time, knew.

We could have been silent about it, but we didn’t want to. The same day that the policemen left, I immediately told my husband – ‘Tell your colleagues, activists and all those involved. Let them know what’s happening’. Besides few people that got in touch with us after they found out, the great majority kept silent.

As a mother I tried, as much as it was possible of course, to protect my daughter in that procedure. When the police was supposed to question my daughter about Željko’s possible inappropriate behaviour towards her, I told her, before her conversation with the policemen, that she was going to have a talk with a man about her acceptance to school, considering she was supposed to start first class of primary school the following year.”

 

 

Nada and Zeljko as activists of the Center for Civil Courage in the campaign against the clerical  referendum on marriage.

Nada and Željko as activists of the Center for Civil Courage in the campaign against the clerical referendum on marriage.

Considering the dramatic events from that period, we asked a child psychologist to give us her expert opinion on how these types of situations reflect on children. In a statement given to Fairpress, Radojka Sućeska Ligutić, M.A. in Psychology, stressed that children have full confidence in their parents at a young age and are too young to understand how the system works. That is why, she said, it is best to describe the conversation with an official person as something else to a child. Considering the complaint for indecent conduct of Peratović towards his daughter, who was 6 at the time, psychologist says that the truth in that situation regarding the purpose of the conversation would result in confusion and insecurity of the child, i.e., this is how psychologist Sućeska Ligutić, described the situation:

That kind of truth would make the child aware that some authority questions whether her father is being good to her, that there is a possibility that some kind of cuddling is misplaced. The daughter could get the impression that, even though she is weaker than her father, it was her duty to protect him. That would lead to a complete role switching where the child receives a long-term message that the parent cannot protect her from unpleasant situations so the child can develop a lasting feeling of insecurity. For the benefit of the child, the most important thing in these situations is to remain calm in front of them. That is the best way to protect them. Describe the situation differently, give the child some explanation that they can accept at their age, or if older, calmly tell them the truth.

The complaint for sexual harassment of their daughter shook close and distant members of the Peratović family and that was the last drop. After the complaint, in order to pull themselves together and for the purpose of their emotional stability, Nada nad Željko, together with their daughter, left for Switzerland for a while. That departure from Croatia Nada Peratović compared with exile:

When you are forced to make such moves, then it’s, physically, for us, a real exile, political exile.

 

Loreta Laus Nada Zeljko Peratovic

Nada gave the initiative to support Charlie Hebdo in Zagreb. In the picture are: Loreta Lauš, Nada and Željko Peratović, on Ban Jelaćic Square in Zagreb, 08/01/2015.

Following the official inquiry from Fairpress, the office of Municipal State Attorney of Zagreb officially confirmed that, in the case of complaint against Željko Peratović for sexual harassment of his daughter, it was verified, after extensive controls, that there were no elements of a criminal act which needed to be processed further. However, we do not have the information on whether it was ever established who made the accusation against Željko Peratović, considering that making false accusations is a criminal act. That type of a complaint, which had devastatingly serious consequences for the Peratović family had to be sanctioned.

Nada Peratović says that now that her daughter is older, she is becoming more aware of everything and that they explained to her what her father does for a living, what he writes about in his articles and that she has accepted it in a way:

Željko and I raise our daughter in a way that she is aware of where she lives and what can happen so she doesn’t get scared is somebody on the street or in school tells her something against her father. However, about the more serious topics, such as the sexual harassment accusation, we’ll talk to her when she’s a little older, because she’s still a little girl and it’s hard for her to understand what it all means.

From the moment he was fired from Vjesnik, Željko and Nada Peratović haven’t been working, which left its mark on them. Nada Peratović looked back with special fervour.

I completely support my husband in what he does. I have always been on his side and supported him in the ideals he aspired to and still does. On the other hand, I am a more rational type. I told him – ‘As long as we have my pension and something to eat, you don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to do’. I think that is the secret of our survival, despite all those stressful situations of mobbing, unemployment, pressures, complaints and threats, to stay together as a family. Although there were fights and tensions. We managed to emerge from those situations stronger than we were before they happened. In a way, it brought us even closer together as a family that sticks together. However, there are consequences. Both Željko and I suffered, and even now occasionally suffer from insomnia and fear caused by uncertainty. Although we try to deal with everything with a dose of humour, there are days when it’s hard. Although, I have to admit that some of the tensions ease as time goes by.

 

Zeljko Nada Peratovic award

Family Peratović together this year after Željko was awarded for investigative journalism “Marija Juric Zagorka” for texts and contributions to the clarification of cases of murders Stjepan Đureković and Milan Levar from the Croatian Journalists’ Association

 

Lastly, Nada Peratović offered advice to families that are in similar situations and commented on the verdict in the mobbing procedure that Željko Peratović won:

The most important thing is to talk about everything. And when times get hard, accept professional help. There is no shame in visiting a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Simply, if the pressure is too high, a person can always benefit from expert advice. When there is no talking, when there is no communication, each person cooped up in their own little world. You start to blame the other person for not understanding, for not wanting to understand. When people talk about it, then you realise that the other person has problems too, that maybe they have completely different feelings, different thoughts…Talking saved us. And about the verdict..It was simply nice to hear about it and gave us the strength to continue. Up until now I was always the one giving support to victims, and now for the first time I see what it’s like for the victim to receive some kind of justice in court and realize what it means to me personally. Not the money, but the fact that somebody recognized the fact that you’re not crazy, that you didn’t make things up, that it wasn’t just your whim, but that the pressure was real, the mobbing.

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