In January, the Baltimore Sun ran my article about what happens when you don’t make former Axis powers such as Croatia apologize for siding with the Nazis, and admit their sins: they repeat those sins, as happened in the 1990s. When Canada’s National Post reprinted a shorter version of that article, the paper ran a photo of a 60 year-old Croatian Serb who was living in a tree house, because Croats settled into his house after he was ethnically cleansed in “Operation Storm” in 1995. (Sound familiar?)

The Serb in the Tree

A Serb who returned to reclaim his home in Croatia a decade after fleeing the war in the 1990s is living in a tree house in his old orchard because of the failure of the Zagreb authorities to evict the new owners.

Mr Graovac was one of an estimated 300,000 Croatian Serbs who fled during the conflict. Much of their property was later seized by ethnic Croats, including those escaping the Bosnian civil war, or plundered by the Croatian armed forces.

The family who moved into his home refused to give it up on his return, arguing that they had nowhere to go. So Mr Graovac, 59, built a house in a tree in his former orchard and has lived there since. He sleeps on a straw mattress and has his “living room” under the tree, furnished with an old bus seat, a table and a mirror.

Water leaks in during heavy rain, and mice and other field animals come in. In winter and on very cold nights temperatures drop to about zero.

The story has turned the spotlight on the problems experienced by many of the 128,403 ethnic Serbian refugees from Croatia who have returned to the country after fleeing the conflict. But Croatia’s desire to join the EU may be a deciding factor.

The good news is that a week ago, after three years, Mr. Graovac was finally able to come down from the tree and get back into his house.