Monday, 2 May 2022

History of Vukovar or History in Vukovar? No, Our Future Please

May 3, 2022 – Vukovar is indeed full of life. The 3rd of May is Vukovar Day, marking the day it became a free royal town in 1231, and the day of Saints Philip and James who became Vukovar’s patron saints when their church was built in 1723.

Traditionally, this day is a bank holiday in Vukovar, with celebrations and events in the city centre. With the Svi zaJedno Hrvatsko Naj festival leaning onto Vukovar Day, the city becomes the site of culture, sports, gastronomy, music, and more, for over a week. And if you take a closer look, you will see that it’s Vukovar’s youngest who make the city come alive. The little ones are jumping with joy and running between the stalls, the decorations, and the popcorn vendors, and our high schoolers are even here to teach us something. And if you listen closely, you can hear them speak both Croatian and Serbian.history vukovar.jpg

Courtesy of TZ Vukovar / Marko Balaži

This co-existence in Vukovar still sparks debate among those who know about its history, and curiosity among those who are yet to learn. On this Vukovar day, we decided to have a look at history in hopes of making a step in the right direction for our future. We went to schools in Vukovar, both primary and secondary, where we had a chance to speak to the headmasters and teachers. The guiding thought was the idea that the subject of history is a sensitive area, especially in Serbian minority classes. This question has been explored before, with varying conclusions, so we wanted to see where we stand in 2022. The outcome is interesting, but not surprising, refreshing, and yet completely normal.

The demography of Vukovar

Vukovar has historically been a diverse urban centre, whose population throughout the 20th century was made up of the Croatian, Serbian, Hungarian and German nationalities to varying extents, with the Serbian population steadily growing and reaching 25,5% in 1948 and 32,3% in 1990, whereas the German and Hungarian population significantly declined during the same period. In 1990, the Croatian population made 47,2% of its 44,639 inhabitants. It is important to note that the social structure of the city kept changing throughout the 20th century due to the Yugoslavian policies, as well as the fact that the socialist state discouraged expressing religious beliefs or national identity in everyday life. Our interlocutors who have lived all their lives in Vukovar shared that in pre-war Vukovar “you wouldn’t know other people’s nationalities or beliefs” (I.A., 68), “unless in a political situation, no one cared” (A.J., 63), “in everyday human lives it did not matter one bit, we all played together as kids, grew up together and watched our children grow up together” (J.G., 72). Their memories of the city make their faces light up and their eyes sparkle, and they happily share stories of life by the river, the best ice cream, friendship, and family. The things that mattered. Of course, the events of 1991 shattered that image of the city and it took decades to start even imagining something like that again.history of vukovar.png

"The Danube Bath", courtesy of Vukovar Municipal Museum

Model A for the education of national minorities

Like anywhere else, the rights of national minorities in Croatia are emphasized and respected in all aspects of life. One of the areas serving as a constant source of inspiration for debate in Vukovar is schooling. In Croatia, schools follow a three-model system (A, B, C) with several additional programs (such as summer school ). In model A, minority language and writing systems are fully adopted, with the Croatian language taking an equal amount of school hours as the minority language. Model B uses both Croatian and minority languages, with social subjects taught in the minority language. Model C teaches minority languages and cultures as an additional subject, with all other instruction and teaching done in Croatian.

In Vukovar, models A and C are most often chosen by minorities, with model A being the most likely choice of the Serbian national minority. What this means is that schools following model A will often have students of the same age group take separate classes based on the chosen model (i.e. if they are a member of the minority group or not). The purpose of the three models is the preservation of minority languages and cultures with enough flexibility to accommodate for integration.

Peaceful reintegration of the Danube Region and the history moratorium

One of the conditions of the Serbian representatives in the peace negotiations of 1997 was that there was a moratorium put on the teaching of Vukovar’s recent history in national minority classes. The moratorium lasted 5 years and officially ended in 2003. From 2003 to 2022 it has been a rocky road, and there were numerous attempts to have a peek behind the scenes and see if the sensitive parts of history are being taught in minority classrooms. Sensationalist headlines would appear, stating that Croatian history is only taught over something like 3 pages in the Serbian textbook written in Serbian using the Cyrillic writing, that teachers deliberately skip and ignore the whole section, that they twist it, etc. Having spoken to headmasters, teachers, parents, and students, the truth is simple – it is highly individual, and if teachers feel strongly about the topic, they might be inclined to adapt their way of teaching. The opinions of parents are varying, some feel strongly, and some don’t, depending mostly on the generation they belong to. What probably sums it up best, are the words of the mother of a second-grader, stating that “we cannot avoid the topic, certainly not in 2022. No matter which classroom my children attend, they will learn about the events and hopefully, they will be able to form their own opinions. What we want for them is to live a normal life and grow up in a society of equal opportunity”. (S.G.)

The headmasters of primary schools and secondary schools all agree that they are currently facing much bigger issues, some caused by the pandemic, some by the modern way of life, but that history on this or that side has become a rather dry topic which is not in their control anyway. They emphasize that having started from completely separate classrooms, teachers, subjects, and extracurricular activities, students these days all play together, attend workshops and sports clubs, take part in competitions and plays, and even go on excursions, exchanges, and cultural events together, forming separate groups around things like celebrity crushes, candy or games, and not nationality.

Like it or not, Vukovar is healing as nature always finds a way

The honest truth is it has been 30 years and time and nature have started doing their thing. A change of generations has happened. Make no mistake, what happened in Vukovar in 1991 were inhuman atrocities that can never be denied, and there is a lot of injustice still making it that much harder even after 30 years. Unfortunately, those who deserve punishment might never be punished for the crimes they committed but let us not punish those who had nothing to do with it, those who are at the same time the future of our city. Children are children, they might grow up to become assholes or they might go on to save the world. They might learn history in Croatian written in Latin writing, or that could be Serbian in Cyrillic writing. Chances are, they will find it equally boring and would much rather play than study. Some might be fascinated by it. They are all different. We are all different. Maybe it’s time to start learning from the young ones and celebrate diversity while working together for a better future for all of us. history of vukovar 2.jpg

 National day against peer violence, courtesy of OŠ Siniše Glavaševića

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Sunday, 1 May 2022

State Leaders Lay Wreaths, Light Candles, Thank Those Killed in Operation Flash

ZAGREB, 1 May 2022 - Laying wreaths and lighting candles at a memorial in Okučani on Sunday, the state leadership honoured those killed in the 1 May 1995 Operation Flash, all those who, it was said, were within reach of freedom and victory, but did not live to see it.

In the operation, 7,200 soldiers and police in less than 32 hours liberated western Slavonia, about 600 square kilometres of Croatian territory which had been occupied four years.

Milanović: Croatian Army stopped the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina

"Operation Flash was a big victory of the Croatian Army, one in a series that followed after the attempt to destroy Vukovar in late 1991", President Zoran Milanović said.

"With the first operations to liberate western Slavonia, with few soldiers and even less equipment and ammunition, in conditions of international isolation and, at that time, lack of recognition, a weapons embargo... the Croatian Army took the initiative and did not lose until eventual victory in Storm and operations Maestral and South Move, in which, until October and in October 1995, Croatian commanders and soldiers were killed," the president said.

Since the end of 1991 and in the 1995 operations Flash, Storm, Maestral and South Move, the Croatian Army was on the initiative, and gloriously ended the war, he added. "The very end of the war cost Croatia because of other states' political projects, the U.S. first and foremost."

It was the Croatian Army's arrival to Manjača in Bosnia and Herzegovina that stopped the war in BiH, Milanović said, "not the American bombings and finally the informal capitulation of Bosnian Serbs, Mladić and Karadžić, the agreement to negotiate and the lifting of the siege of Sarajevo."

"I'm not for ideologising history, I find it dangerous, but children should be taught that, those are the facts," the president said, honouring the 51 defenders who were killed in Operation Flash or died as a result of wounding, saying that they had been within reach of freedom and victory, but did not live to see it.

Jandroković: President Tuđman's vision and defenders' heroism

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said that today, at a time of Russia's aggression on Ukraine, Croatia's victory in the Homeland War became even bigger, even more brilliant.

"Croatia indeed seized that historic moment, winning in the Homeland War, creating a state, securing freedom and democracy for the Croatian people."

Jandroković said Operation Flash claimed 51 lives and that "those people are firmly embedded in the foundations of the modern Croatian state."

We remember and thank them as well as all those responsible for Croatia's freedom, he said, highlighting the vision of the then-president Franjo Tuđman, the courage of Croatian soldiers and police officers as well as the Croatian people's willingness to make sacrifices.

"President Tuđman's vision and the defenders' heroism should be an example to us all who hold public office of how one should fight for the Croatian state," Jandroković told a reporter when asked about the lack of unity in the state leadership.

Responding to a question, he said he did not come to Okučani feeling nervous because the president would be here too.

"I came here to honour the sacrifice of Croatian defenders, to show sympathy with their families, to remember a magnificent victory," he added.

Plenković: We tried to right injustices regarding veterans' rights

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said it was important to remember those who gave their lives for Croatia and that all future generations "know what was happening in the early 1990s during the time of the Greater Serbia aggression on Croatia and the occupation of this part of western Slavonia and about the operation which liberated this area in a very short time."

Speaking to the press, he thanked all veterans, soldiers and police officers. "In these few years, we have done our best to fill those gaps, to right a few wrongs regarding the legislative, financial, programme and organisational framework pertaining to Croatian veterans' rights."

Plenković thanked War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved in particular, saying he is confident that they have managed to solve the problems of veterans and their families.

He said the policy of his government was also to strengthen homeland and national security as well as the army and the police. That is visible in their budgets and in the strengthening of their capabilities so that Croatia can be a reliable and secure partner in the EU and NATO, he added.

"We see how important security is in these times of Russia's brutal aggression on Ukraine and what effects such situations have on our security as well as on our economy," Plenković said.

After the ceremony, mass was celebrated for the defenders and civilians killed in the Homeland War, with the state and military leaderships as well as the victims' families and representatives of veterans' associations attending.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 10 April 2022

War Veterans Ministry Distances Itself From Envoy's Statement

ZAGREB, 10 April 2022 - The Croatian War Veterans Ministry on Sunday distanced itself from its envoy Matko Raos' statement, made at an event marking the 31st anniversary of a Croatian Defence Forces (HOS) unit in Split, when he said that "today's Croatia would not exist if there had not been for 10 April 1941."

On 10 April 1941 the establishment of the Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was proclaimed.

"We emphasise that Mr Raos gave the statement on his behalf and not on behalf of the Ministry and we distance ourselves from it," the ministry said, noting that Raos had not been scheduled to speak at the event.

Earlier on Sunday, during a ceremony at which wreaths were laid at a memorial to members of the HOS 9th Battalion "Rafael vitez Boban" killed in the 1991-95 Homeland War, Raos said: "You have to know, if it had not been for 10 April 1941, today's Croatia would not exist."

The War Veterans Ministry said Raos' address at the event had not been envisaged in the first place, and that he was supposed to just lay a wreath and light a candle.

The ministry's response ensued after earlier today the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) condemned Raos' statement and called on the government and the ministry to distance themselves from it.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 10 April 2022

SDP Condemns Statement by War Veterans Minister's Envoy

ZAGREB, 10 April 2022 - The Social Democratic Party on Sunday condemned a statement by the War Veterans Minister's envoy, Matko Raos, who at a commemoration for a Croatian Defence Forces (HOS) unit in Split said that "today's Croatia would not exist if it had not been for 10 April 1941."

The SDP also called on the government to distance itself from Raos' statement.

Earlier on Sunday, during a ceremony at which wreaths were laid at a memorial to members of the HOS 9th Battalion "Rafael vitez Boban" killed in the 1991-95 Homeland War, Raos said: "You have to know, if it had not been for 10 April 1941, today's Croatia would not exist."

On 10 April 1941 the establishment of the quisling Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was proclaimed.

The SDP condemns the gathering in Split and the statement made by Brigadier Matko Raos, envoy for War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved, the opposition party said in a statement signed by SDP vice-president Ranko Ostojić.

"Putting the Homeland War and the establishment of today's Croatia in the same context with the criminal Independent State of Croatia, a quisling entity, is unacceptable. Croatia, just like the whole of free Europe, was founded on values of antifascism, as defined by our constitution, and we should be proud of that," Ostojić said.

"That people who represent the minister and the government have such a view is unacceptable. We call on the minister and the government to distance themselves from the event and their envoy's statement," the SDP said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 10 April 2022

HOS Members Killed in 1990s War Commemorated in Split

ZAGREB, 10 April 2022 - Members of the Croatian Defence Forces (HOS) 9th Battalion "Rafael vitez Boban" on Sunday laid wreaths and lit candles at a memorial in Split for the battalion's members killed in the 1991-95 Homeland War, on the 31st anniversary of the unit.

"We are standing here before this wounded memorial, proud of them and their courage. Shame on cowards, deserters, lovers of the red star who spit on HOS. All defenders were 'for the homeland ready' in the Homeland War, that salute is not an expression of hate but of love for one's home and Croat people," said the battalion's wartime commander, Marko Skejo.

Split-Dalmatia County Assembly president Mate Šimundić said HOS members "were ready for the homeland back then, as they are today", and that he, as a representative of the state authorities, paid tribute to them.

A state that questions such a thing questions its own survival, he said.

A former HOS general and member of parliament from the Homeland Movement, Ante Prkačin, recalled that 10 April was yet another anniversary, the 81st anniversary of the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), wondering if they were not allowed to talk about it.

HOS was the armed wing of the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) fighting in Croatia's 1991-95 war of independence and "For the homeland ready" was the salute used by the pro-Nazi Ustasha regime of WWII Independent State of Croatia.

According to Wikipedia, the HOS 9th Battalion "Rafael vitez Boban" was named after the Ustasha colonel and general of the World War II Croatian Armed Forces (HOS).

The battalion was active in Dalmatia and other parts of Croatia as well as in Herzegovina and it lost 46 members in the Homeland War.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 9 April 2022

HOS 9th Battalion Marks 31st Anniversary in Split

ZAGREB, 9 April 2022 - The Croatian Defence Force (HOS) 9th Battalion on Saturday marked its 31st anniversary at a church and the Lora arena in the coastal city of Split, commemorating its 46 members killed in the 1991-95 Homeland War.

Addressing a packed Lora arena, the president of the "HOS 9th Battalion" association, and the battalion's wartime commander, Marko Skejo, said, among other things, that members of the battalion had given a major contribution to Croatia's independence, ending his speech by shouting "For the homeland ready", to which the audience did the same.

One of the battalion's wartime commanders, Mile Ćuk, said its members had fought in all parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, with around 2,500 soldiers having passed through the unit, of whom more than 300 were wounded and 46 killed.

"Our fighters proudly and honourably wore on their uniforms insignia with the inscription 'For the homeland ready', the holy salute which today some want to ban. We Catholics celebrate Easter and Christmas, Homeland War Victory Day, Homeland Thanksgiving Day and War Veterans Day, which is the day of those who are for the homeland ready," Ćuk said.

HOS was the armed wing of the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) fighting in Croatia's 1991-95 war of independence and "For the homeland ready" was the salute used by Croatia's pro-Nazi Ustasha regime in WWII.

Attending today's commemoration were also War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved's envoy Matko Raos, Split-Dalmatia County deputy head Stipe Čogelja, representatives of neighbouring cities and members of parliament Ante Prkačin and Zlatko Hasanbegović.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 31 March 2022

PM, Defence Minister Remember Operation Plitvice

ZAGREB, 31 March 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday remembered the first victim of the 1991-1995 Homeland War - police officer Josip Jović who was killed by Serb insurgents near the Plitvice Lakes 31 years ago.

"This is an opportunity for us to once again remember and thank all Croatian defenders, soldiers, police officers and all those who gave their lives for freedom," Plenković said.

In a separate message on this occasion, Defence Minister Mario Banožić said: "We are proud of Josip Jović and all defenders, Croatian police officers and Croatian soldiers, who showed how to fight for the freedom of Croatia and all its people, regardless of the gravity of challenges and despite sacrifices."

Croatia on Thursday commemorated the 31th anniversary of Operation Plitvice and the death of Josip Jović, the first Croatian police officer to be killed by Serb insurgents at the start of the 1991-1995 Homeland War.

The operation was mounted after rebel Serbs set up a police station in Plitvice and the Croatian state leadership decided to restore constitutional order there.

Jović, 22, was killed and nine other police officers were wounded in that police operation after the Serb rebels occupied Plitvice Lakes National Park and blocked the D1 state road that connects the country's north and south. Jović was a member of the Lučko Anti-Terrorist Unit.

The operation was launched on the morning of 31 March 1991, Easter Sunday, and is also known as Bloody Easter.

According to police reports after the operation, 29 Serb extremists were arrested and 18 were charged with armed rebellion, including Goran Hadžić, a member of the main committee of the Serb Democratic Party, and Borivoje Savić, secretary of the executive committee of the party's Vukovar branch. Although the Croatian police regained control of the local police station, they had to withdraw later and the area remained under rebel control until August 1995 when Operation Storm crushed the Serb insurgency.

Jović has been posthumously promoted to the rank of major and decorated with high state medals.

Politics: For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 24 March 2022

Vukovar Bids Wartime Hospital Director Vesna Bosanac Farewell

ZAGREB, 24 March 2022 - Numerous Vukovar residents bid farewell to the wartime hospital director Dr Vesna Bosanac at the Homeland War Memorial Cemetery in Vukovar on Thursday.

Addressing those present at the burial ceremony, Dr Bosanac's long time deputy Siniša Maslovara bid her farewell.

"Most of us will remember her for caring for us all. She supported us and was there whenever we needed her, particularly when a serious misfortune or illness afflicted us. She loved her employees and fought for them to the limits of durability, even when everyone would leave them and when, sometimes, they would lose faith in themselves," Maslovara said.

He said that Bosanac seemed indestructible because she survived numerous misfortunes.

In the most difficult times for the hospital during the Homeland War, Dr Bosanac showed unimaginable courage, audacity and organisational skills, he underscored.

In addition to numerous Vukovar residents, also present at the funeral were the prime minister's envoy, Defence Minister Tomo Medved, Defence Minister Mario Banožić, Health Minister Vili Beroš, Vukovar-Srijem County Prefect Damir Dekanić and Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava, who proclaimed today a day of mourning.

Vukovar Hospital staff paid their final respects to Dr Bosanac prior to her being taken to the cemetery. A commemorative ceremony will be held later this afternoon.

Vesna Bosanac died on Monday after a long and serious illness. She was 73.

 

Politics: For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 21 March 2022

Wartime Vukovar Hospital Director Vesna Bosanac Passes Away

March the 21st, 2022 - Wartime Vukovar hospital director Vesna Bosanac has passed away following a long and difficult illness. She is widely considered to be one of the heroines of the Homeland War.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the exceptional Dr. Vesna Bosanac was the war and post-war director of the Vukovar hospital, a facility that became synonymous with the sheer tragedy that befell Vukovar at the hands of horrendous Serbian aggression.

Bosanac was appointed head of the Vukovar Medical Centre and the Vukovar War Hospital on July the 24th, 1991. The unspeakable events which happened in that Eastern Croatian town that autumn could barely have been expected by anyone, and Vesna Bosanac stepped up to the job, showing nothing but bravery and dealing with the responsibility of her position exceptionally well. During those terrible months, thousands of wounded people were treated and operated on in the shelled Vukovar hospital without food or available medicine.

Wartime Vukovar hospital director Vesna Bosanac and many other brave and selfless medical staff and other employees didn't leave the hospital until the fall of the Vukovar, and then ended up being captured by the Serb aggressors. She spent three weeks in the Sremska Mitrovica prison, two more days in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, before being exchanged and before arriving in Zagreb in December 1991.

She was awarded the Order of the Croatian Danica with the figure of Katarina Zrinski, she received the "Charter of the Republic of Croatia" on behalf of the Vukovar General County Hospital from Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, and the Association of Veterans of Podravka in cooperation with other associations from the Homeland War awarded her the Great Gold Plaque for all she did for the benefit of Croatia and the Croatian struggle for independence.

For more, make sure to check our news section.

Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Largest Croatian Defender Support Centre Opened in Osijek

March the 8th, 2022 - The largest Croatian defender support centre aimed at helping deal with the varying needs of those who served and defended Croatia against Greater Serbian aggression back during the Homeland War has been opened in Osijek.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Regional Centre for Counselling and Psychosocial Support to Croatian Homeland War Veterans, the largest such centre in the Republic of Croatia, was officially opened in the renovated building of the former Hotel Mursa in the Eastern Croatian city of Osijek on Friday.

The centre's opening ceremony was attended by Counsellor and Charge d'Affaires of the US Embassy in Croatia Mark Lewis Fleming, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Croatian Veterans Tomo Medved, County Prefect Ivan Anusic, Osijek Mayor Ivan Radic, as well as by various representatives of veterans and associations from the Homeland War.

The Croatian defender support centre project and the refurbishment of this space was coordinated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the project was funded in the amount of 328,832 US dollars (2.1 million kuna).

"The cooperation we have achieved with the Ministry of Croatian Veterans will be expanded and deepened, and we will continue to support the Croatian Government in providing services for Croatian veterans. This is especially visible today when we are faced with the situation currently going on in Ukraine. Our strategic partnership with Croatia remains strong and continues to grow," Fleming said.

“Our Croatian defender support centre will provide more than 9,000 grants a year in the area of Osijek. I'm proud that we are creating the proper conditions here for a multidisciplinary approach of all those who provide support to Croatian veterans and to deal with and solve their needs,'' said Minister Tomo Medved.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Made in Croatia section.

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