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Obituary 10 Jan 18

Predrag Lucic – Made Us Laugh, Sing and Cry

The journalist, editor and one of the founders of the legendary anti-establishment magazine Feral Tribune, has gone – but leaves behind a rich legacy of satire, laughter and songs.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Predrag Lucic. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Stefica Galic

Predrag Lucic, a renowned figure throughout the former Yugoslavia, died after a long illness on Wednesday, leaving behind a rich legacy as a journalist, editor, writer, poet, illustrator and entertainer.

Born in 1964 in Split, Croatia, Lucic studied theatre directing. He spent some of his student days in Belgrade and Tuzla, besides his hometown.

He entered journalism in the mid-1980s and in 1985, at the very start, joined what would become one of the most influential anti-establishment weeklies in the region, Feral Tribune.

Then, Feral was a merely an addition to Nedjeljna Dalmacija itself a Sunday issue of the Split-based daily, Slobodna Dalmacija.

In 1989 he became a reporter for Nedjeljna Dalmacija, while in 1990 Feral was moved to Slobodna Dalmacija, where Lucic was reporter as well.

He soon made an impression.

After the Yugoslav authorities banned an issue of Nedjeljna Dalmacija in August 1988, while the editor-in-chief of Feral, his life-long colleague, Viktor Ivancic, was doing his mandatory service in the Yugoslav People’s Army, JNA, Lucic took on the editing of Feral in Ivancic’s absence.

One reason for the ban was a satirical poem, “Mlada ‘Partizanka’ buzu imala” [“Young Partisan Woman Had a Hole”], written by Lucic and Boris Dezulovic, another young journalist and life-long companion of Lucic, who helped him in editing while Ivancic was gone.

Referencing an accident to a local ferry called “Partizanka” earlier the some month, the Lucic-Dezulovic duo also satirically referenced a popular World War II song, “Mlada Partizanka” [“Young Partisan Woman”].

Such satirical poems would become Lucic’s forte throughout his whole career.

Boris Dezulovic and Lucic performing 'Melodies of Struggle and Transformation', ridiculing the 1990s, in 2011 in Montenegro.

Another banned article written by the duo was a satirical reportage of a protest meeting of the inhabitants of Solin and Kastela – towns near Split – on Zagreb’s main square.

In this way, Lucic and Dezulovic parodied the nationalist protests, often referred to as “meetings”, of Kosovo Serbs around Yugoslavia – which gave important support to the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic and paved the way for his coming to power.

Another risqué satirical article, about a Great Dane from Kastela raped by “a Dalmatian dog from Split”, parodied the sensational reports in the Serbian tabloids about Serbian women supposedly raped by Kosovo Albanians.

The Split County prosecutor’s office deemed such articles inappropriate for causing “unease” among the local population, which could “endanger public order and peace”.

However, despite the banning of the issue, and criticism from their colleagues in Nedjeljna Dalmacija, the County Court under presiding Judge Branko Seric ruled against the ban, which was later supported by the Supreme Court.

In 2013, in an interview for the book on Feral, The Laughter of Freedom, written by Boris Pavelic, Seric remembered how unusual it was for a court to go against the prosecution in such cases.

Seric admitted that he had laughed while reading out the articles in the courtroom, apologising in the process.

In The laughter of Freedom, Lucic recalled also that he had felt “as alone as a dog” after his colleagues turned their backs on him.

“But how did I feel personally when I found out about the ban? Like a national hero. We had a blast, went out in the evening, the whole city knew it by then … This episode made me and Boro [Dezulovic] really close,” he added.

In 1989, the editorial staff of Feral was presented as Viva Ludez – an acronym of the names of Ivancic, Dezulovic and Lucic.

With the beginning of the war in Croatia in 1991, Lucic went to battlefronts across the country, doing reportage work for both Feral and Slobodna Dalmacija.

He was in the Croatian coastal city of Dubrovnik when it was besieged by the JNA and Serbian paramilitaries in 1991. He also reported on the mass exodus of the non-Serb population from eastern Croatia in the summer of that year.

Another Dezulovic and Lucic performance in Niksic, Montengro, in 2013.

As he said in The Laughter of Freedom, Lucic thought his wartime reports arose from a wish to understand “where all that incomprehensible hatred was suddenly coming from”.

“I wanted people to just hear: what is the problem, actually? One [thing] is a high policy with the lowest of intentions, boiling, and the second [thing] is what happens among people. And you really see: as people are pumped by propaganda, the skeletons start to fall out of the closet,” he said.

He explained how among both Croats and Serbs, he wished to set the story fairly, asking “uncomfortable questions”.

“We were not interested in printing the ‘official’ truths about the glory of the homeland because we knew we were living in a land of many blockades.

“The point was to write against them, and we could only do this through conversations with live people,” Lucic explained, adding that Feral reporters were always careful not to “glorify the war” itself.

In 1993, after Miroslav Kutle, a tycoon close to the governing Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, bought Slobodna Dalmacija, Feral separated off and became an independent weekly.

Throughout the years, he specialised in satirical poems, using tunes and lyrics from popular domestic and internationally known songs.

In his songs and satirical articles, along with his colleague from Feral, he ridiculed the nationalism, war and widespread corruption in Croatian society in the 1990s and 2000s.

That explains why Lucic, and other prominent Feral journalists and editors, remained public enemies for nationalists and conservatives, as well as for part of the mainstream media and the politicians.

In 1993, he also started Feral’s publishing house, which published many non-fiction and fiction classics.

In 2005, he was also the editor of Feral’s Stenograms On the Division of Bosnia, which compiled stenograms from the office of Croatia’s late President, Franjo Tudjman.

In these stenograms from the 1991-95 period, Tudjman talked to subordinates as well as to top officials of the Croat-led entity in Bosnia, Herzeg-Bosna, revealing his and Croatia’s role in the 1992-95 war in Bosnia.

Over the years, he was the author of many books of satirical and parody poems, as well as love poems.

Along with Dezulovic, he published Greatest Shits – The Anthology of Contemporary Croatian Stupidity, a book gathering the statements of politicians collected from Feral’s popular rubric of Greatest Shits, which Lucic and Dezulovic had edited for years.

Lucic’s theatre drama Aziz, or the Wedding That Saved the West won an award during a summer theatre festival in the summer of 2017. He wrote radio dramas as well.

After Feral folded in 2008, Lucic started writing for daily Novi list, where he wrote his last pieces in 2017, before becoming ill.

From the late 2000s, along with Dezulovic, he performed satirical and parody songs, ridiculing politicians, war crimes and corruption in the privatisation processes of the 1990s.

While performing these songs across the region, with their strong voices, mostly sung without instruments, Lucic and Dezulovic reduced audiences to both laughter and tears, making them follow the tune.

One of these songs, condemning the atrocity committed by Bosnian Croat forces against Bosniaks in the village of Ahmici in 1993, drew criticism from some individuals in Bosnia.

However, organisations of writers supported Lucic, claiming he was not offending the victims. “The satirical blade of Predrag Lucic is productively pointed towards perpetrators and deniers of crimes, regardless of the nation they belong to,” the writers said, again repeating Lucic’s own credo.

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