Ante had a bad feeling; when we were setting out, he said he didn’t want to go, that something bad would happen, but he went for us, his comrades.
On this day in 1991, a strong attack was launched on Borovo Naselje. Among those who lost their lives that day was a hero of the Homeland War, “Tigar,” Ante Vrbat. “Ante had a bad feeling; when we were setting out, he said he didn’t want to go, that something bad would happen, but he went for us, his comrades,” recounted Anđelko Burilo.
Ante Vrbat was born on January 18, 1966, in Bijelo Brdo, Derventa municipality in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the eldest of three children to Anđa (born as Čabraja) and Pejo Vrbat.
When Pejo Vrbat got a job at the Đuro Đaković factory, the whole family relocated to Slavonski Brod, where Ante attended the Mika Babić Elementary School, which is now known as the Hugo Badalić Elementary School. After completing vocational school, he followed in his father’s footsteps and started working at the Đuro Đaković factory, maintaining machines. In his free time, Ante enjoyed playing soccer and playing the guitar. He married his longtime girlfriend, Darinka, in 1987. In 1988, their first daughter, Antonija, was born, and two years later, in 1990, Ante became a father once again, this time to a daughter named Ines.
His family would describe him as an incredibly dedicated father and husband. Darinka, his wife, emphasized his humanity and caring nature toward others. His fellow soldiers had almost the same to say about Ante Vrbat: “He was only a few years older than us, but he seemed much older. He was serious, dependable, always in the right place when needed, and we felt safe knowing he was by our side.”
On January 15, 1991, Ante Vrbat became a member of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUP), and from June 15, 1991, he joined the Special Purpose Unit Rakitje, from which the legendary Tigar (Tigers) unit would later emerge. Along with 42 other members of the 2nd Company, 2nd Battalion from Rakitje, led by Commander Zlatko Horvat, they arrived in Vukovar on August 7, 1991, via the so-called “Corn Road,” through Bogdanovci. They initially settled in Eltz Castle, but shortly after, they received orders to move to Borovo Naselje, where they went to the then Bratstvo i Jedinstvo Primary School, now known as the Blage Zadra Primary School. They were deployed to various positions as needed, eventually ending up at a crucial strategic point known as “Trokatnica,” a house overlooking Borovo Selo.
A few days before his death on September 9, 1991, Ante returned to Slavonski Brod for two days, marking the last time his family saw him, as reported by direktno.hr.
On September 14, 1991, a fierce attack was launched by combined enemy forces from Trpinja, Borovo Selo, and Bršadin. As the defenders holding the defensive line toward Borovo Selo successfully repelled the attack, they received a call for assistance with anti-armor weapons from Blago Zadro, as the enemy had advanced almost to the Community Center, now named after General Blago Zadro. Anđelko Burilo, speaking over the phone, asked if they could reach the Community Center by vehicle to arrive sooner, to which Blago Zadro replied affirmatively at that moment. However, while the anti-armor weapons were being loaded into a van, the situation on Trpinjska Road rapidly deteriorated.
Ante Vrbat, Anđelko Burilo, Željko Hrgović, Pejo Glavašević, and Zdenko Biki set out in a Citroen van to provide assistance. When they emerged onto Trpinjska Road from Lička Street, according to survivors’ accounts, the tank barrel from a distance of just over fifty meters was already lowered, leaving them with no chance to avoid the direct hit that followed immediately. Ante Vrbat, who was driving, and Pejo Glavašević, in the passenger seat, were killed instantly by the first hit. The explosion, along with the van’s side doors, ejected Anđelko Burilo, Željko Hrgović, and Zdenko Biki, saving their lives, as a second tank shell hit immediately thereafter.
“Ante had a bad feeling; when we were setting out, he said he didn’t want to go, that something bad would happen, but he went for us, his comrades,” Anđelko Burilo recounted.
Unfortunately, Ante’s forebodings came true. After the deaths of Ante Vrbat and Pejo Glavašević, during a long and fierce battle that lasted for several days, access to their bodies was impossible. Only when the defenders of Trpinjska Road managed to push back the Chetniks and the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), Ante Vrbat and Pejo Glavašević were transported to Vukovar Hospital and later buried.
The remains of six individuals, including Ante Vrbat, were exhumed in 2003 at the cemetery behind Vukovar Hospital, known as the “Schwabian Cemetery,” and identified in February 2004.
On March 5, 2004, with military honors, Ante Vrbat was buried in Zagreb, at the Miroševac City Cemetery.
Ante Vrbat, a husband, father, son, and brother, was only 25 years old when he lost his life.