Thursday, 18 November 2021

Several Thousand People Participate in Commemorative March in Škabrnja

ZAGREB, 18 Nov 2021 - Several thousand people from all over Croatia and neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina on Thursday participated in a commemorative march in Škabrnja marking the 30th anniversary of the massacre that occurred in the town in Zadar's hinterland.

A government delegation comprising ministers Ivan Malenica, Marija Vučković, Vili Beroš, Nina Obuljen Koržinek, and Oleg Butković attended the commemoration.

Minister Butković said that he comes to Škabrnja every year because he is emotionally connected to that area through family ties. 

He added that everyone today feels pride and gratitude to all the victims.

Thirty years have passed. Time goes quickly but the wounds do not heal. I hope that we will altogether build a better Croatia and do everything so that we can live better but also for something like this to never occur again, said Butković.

He thanked everyone who participated in the march given "the epidemiological conditions." "I see a lot of people and it is nice to see that we will remember and pay homage to the victims of Škabrnja together," he said.

He added that he believes that the prosecutorial authorities will do everything for all those who committed this horrific massacre to be brought to justice. "There is no alternative to that so I believe that this area will have its turn before Croatian institutions for which Croatia defenders died and which we believe are functioning," said Minister Butković.

Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek said that "remembering all the victims of Vukovar and Škabrnja today and their huge sacrifice, we all have to build a better, happier and more successful society with great respect and responsibility."

Zadar Archbishop Želimir Puljić celebrated Mass for the Homeland in Škabrnja and recalled the war victims of the town but also of Vukovar and called on the faithful to not allow their future to be left to lackadaisical mood and hopelessness.

"Defenders fell for the Homeland's freedom so that we can duly and honestly build it," underscored Puljić.

"May the Croatian people grow and progress in peace, harmony mutual tolerance, and love. May their hearts not burn out and may their cradles not be empty. May everyone in the homeland have sufficient work and bread, justice, peace, and happiness," said Puljić.

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Thursday, 18 November 2021

Remembrance Day March Passes Through Vukovar

ZAGREB, 18 Nov 2021 - Several tens of thousands of citizens from around Croatia and neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina marched through Vukovar to commemorate the war victims of Vukovar on the 30th anniversary of the city's fall into the hands of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and Serb paramilitaries.

Veterans' Minister Tomo Medved said that arrivals in Vukovar awakened emotions every time.

"We express our gratitude to our courageous defenders and in a special way pay homage to the victims who were taken from the hospital to the Ovčara farm, to all our POWs, people who were taken to Serb concentration camps. The thing that is very important, is that today is a day when emotions are present to that measure, on the other hand, we have to work throughout the year for society to have appropriate relations towards Croatian defenders and the victims of the Homeland War, said Minister Medved.

Kata Zadro, the widow of legendary defense commander of the Trpinjska cesta street, Major General Blago Zadro who was killed in 1991, also marched in Vukovar on Thursday. "Vukovar today looks very nice. When I was here before the peaceful reintegration I couldn't find my own street or my house, given the way the city looked like then. Today, everything is renewed but it bothers me because there is no harmony or unity," she said.

According to Vukovar's defense commander Branko Borković, the Vukovar episode is not over because the perpetrators have not been punished yet.

"There are many open wounds. Many mothers, children, grandchildren are still searching for their loved ones. That means a very large number who still have not been found. That is a huge burden that not only burdens us all but is an obligation for the state authorities, regardless of their political background to insist and fight for that," said Borković.

Lyliane Fournier also attended the march. Fournier is the mother of a French volunteer Jean-Michel Nicolier, who was one of the victims taken from the Vukovar hospital and killed at the Ovčara farm.

"I am filled with emotion. We are waiting for the state prosecutor to finish the procedure and to conduct an investigation, to indict my son's murderer. All we have now is a decision by the court in Osijek. I am surprised with how many people are so kind to me and how many people remember my son," she said.

Flag bearers were at the helm of the march carrying the flags of Croatia army units including Croatian historical units dressed in historical uniforms.

As the procession passed in front of the building of Croatian Radio Vukovar, its staff played the last report by its wartime reporter Siniša Glavašević who was killed at the Ovčara farm on 20 November 1991 along with 199 other victims.

Similar to previous years, the country's top officials, President Zoran Milanović, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković, and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković attended the procession.

They were accompanied by several cabinet ministers, members of Parliament, representatives of political parties, and many public figures, like Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava, Vukovar-Srijem County Prefect Damir Dekanić, and numerous other mayors and county prefects. Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević was also seen at the march.

The Bosniak member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Šefik Džaferović, also participated in the commemorations and laid a wreath at the Memorial Cemetery.

After the march, numerous delegations laid wreaths and lit candles in honor of the victims of the Homeland War.

Holy Mass was celebrated by Zagreb Auxiliary Bishop Ivan Šaško.

The city on the River Danube was under siege for 87 days, and the battle for Vukovar ended on 18 November 1991 with its occupation, which lasted until 15 January 1998 and the peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region, after which the people of Vukovar finally returned to their homes.

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Thursday, 18 November 2021

Plenković: Vukovar is Croatia and Croatia is Vukovar

ZAGREB, 18 Nov 2021 - On the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Homeland War and Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Vukovar and Škabrnja we recall the heroes to whom the Croatian people owe their freedom and democracy, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday.

"Today, on the 30th anniversary of Remembrance Day, we recall all the heroes to whom the Croatian people owe their freedom, democracy, and the life that we have after the Homeland War. Vukovar is Croatia and Croatia is Vukovar. This can be seen today with numerous people arriving here from all over Croatia and from abroad to pay their respects," Plenković said in Vukovar ahead of the commemorative procession.

He added that this can also be seen in young people attending and is felt in the people.

Vukovar has a future

"The battle for Vukovar is respected, as is its sacrifice. It is a pledge for our future, the sacrifice of Croatian defenders will never be forgotten," said Plenković.

He said that the government has the duty to always do more for Vukovar and its citizens, to invest in its development, economy, social inclusion, and jobs. Plenković recalled that over the past five years the government has done a lot financially and economically as well as symbolically because it wants Vukovar to have a future befitting those who gave Croatia the most.

"It is up to us to make our small contribution and reward that with our actions in the years ahead," said Plenković, once again expressing his gratitude and respect to all those who gave their lives for Croatia's freedom in Vukovar 30 years ago.

Prosecution of those responsible for the deaths of Vukovar defenders and civilians continues

The prime minister said that Croatia is still searching for 1,800 missing persons from the Homeland War and that Veterans' Minister Tomo Medved is working on that.

"We are seeking information from those who have it and that is the Serbian authorities and individuals who know where the graves of those who fell for Croatia are located. We will persist in those efforts in partnership with the families of the missing, with associations and all those who have suffered and are still suffering because they don't know the fate of their loved ones," said Plenković.

As regards war crimes, he said that almost one-sixth of those accused of war crimes in Croatia were from the Vukovar area. The entire JNA command has been indicted, as well as individuals, and there have been more than 100 convictions, but that process is continuing.

Some of the perpetrators of war crimes are out of reach of Croatia's judiciary, but we will continue with the prosecution of those responsible for the deaths of numerous Vukovar defenders and civilians.

Question of the missing part of the criteria for Serbia's accession to the EU

As far as Serbia is concerned, the issue of the missing is raised at every meeting at all levels and that is something that will continue to be insisted upon, Plenković said.

"Recently there have been some signals of political will to take a step forward but given the experience we have had, we are cautious in analyzing those announcements, and only when we have concrete evidence and information that is currently unknown to the Croatian authorities will we be able to take a step forward. It is clear that the issue of the missing is part of the obligations Serbia has to fulfill on its journey toward the EU and we will always emphasize that," said Plenković.

Asked about his opinion of segregated classes in schools and kindergartens, Plenković said that the process of peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region resulted in certain occurrences in that area but the government is working on inclusive policies towards all minorities in Croatia, including the Serb minority.

"We will continue that policy. We consider it to be good and useful for Croatia which has European values that we want to be shared throughout Croatia, including Vukovar," he added.

With reference to the epidemiological situation, Plenković said that the expectation is for everyone in Vukovar to act responsibly.

"We cannot ignore the disease that exists around the globe and has been with us for two years and has caused us to change our way of life. That is why I expect today's commemorative procession, gathering in front of the hospital, attendance at the memorial cemetery, and Ovčara to pass in dignity, above all because of the victims, and everyone should make a small contribution towards responsibility. Even though we will be outdoors, we should not put others at risk," he said.

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Thursday, 18 November 2021

Remembrance Day Being Commemorated on 30th Anniversary of Fall of Vukovar

ZAGREB, 18 Nov 2021 - On Remembrance Day, Vukovar commemorates the 30th anniversary of the collapse of the city's heroic defense and the aggression by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and Serb paramilitary groups, in which 2,717 Croatian defenders and civilians were killed or went missing, while the city was nearly razed to the ground.

The city on the River Danube was under siege for 87 days, and the battle for Vukovar ended on 18 November 1991 with its occupation, which lasted until 15 January 1998, and the peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region, after which the people of Vukovar finally returned to their homes.

Although the fighting in Vukovar and its environs had started even before that, the date usually cited as the day when the battle began is 25 August 1991, when the JNA and Serb paramilitary groups launched an all-out artillery and infantry attack with the intention of overrunning the city in a week at most.

However, the city's defenders, although ten times weaker in terms of numbers and weaponry, managed to resist the attack for nearly three months. Residents were without electricity and regular water and food supply while hundreds of shells fell on the city every day, in addition to tank and air attacks.

The Vukovar hospital sustained severe damage, although it had the symbol of the International Red Cross on its roof, and the wounded were provided with aid in the basement, where surgeries and other complex medical procedures were performed in dire conditions. On 19 October 1991 a humanitarian aid convoy of Doctors Without Borders managed to enter the besieged city and evacuate about a hundred of the wounded defenders.

Vukovar was defended by about 1,800 Croatian soldiers, including many volunteers from all over Croatia, while on the opposite side there were about 30,000 enemy soldiers, supported by more than 600 tanks, hundreds of mortars, and cannons, as well as the air force.

The heroic resistance was broken on 18 November 1991. Some of the defenders tried to get out of the city, those who remained were taken to Serb concentration camps, and many were killed.

On 19 November 1991, the wounded, both defenders and civilians, were taken from the Vukovar hospital by the JNA and killed at the Ovčara farm outside the city in the night between 20 and 21 November. Two hundred bodies were exhumed from a mass grave at Ovčara, with the youngest victim aged 16 and the oldest 84.

About 22,000 Croats and other non-Serbs were expelled from the city, and the search for 386 persons who disappeared without a trace in Vukovar in 1991 is still ongoing.

On 29 October 1999, the Croatian parliament passed a resolution declaring Vukovar Remembrance Day in tribute to the people who had participated in the defense of the city -- the symbol of Croatian freedom. A government decision of 2019 declared 18 November a public holiday and a non-working day, which is marked as Remembrance Day for the Victims of the Homeland War and Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Vukovar and Škabrnja.

For the latest news about Croatia, click here.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Church Leaders Call for Building Coexistence Based on Truth

ZAGREB, Nov 18, 2020 - During Wednesday's religious services on the occasion of Vukovar and Skabrnja Remembrance Day, Cardinal Vinko Puljic and Archbishop Zelimir Puljic called for forgiveness and building coexistence based on truth.

In order to have a cleansed memory and create the right prerequisites for coexistence, it is necessary to have the courage to call everything by its name and look at the facts through cause and effect. Without truth and justice, there is no stable peace and restoring trust, Cardinal Puljic, the Archbishop of Sarajevo, said during Mass in Vukovar.

Hate that causes crimes must not dominate the conversation and one should admit to the crimes for there to be forgiveness, he said, asking all criminals to "become aware of their crimes."

Faith should help to create co-existence, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoring trust, Cardinal Puljic said, adding that peace-building rested on truth. "There can be no reconciliation and trust without an internal catharsis," he said, adding that those who did not want the truth stood behind evil, defending it and thereby supporting the negative atmosphere between people.

"By this, I don't wish to cause bitterness which incites hate, let alone revenge, but clearly says that the right dialogue, which leads to reconciliation, rests on accepting the truth," said Cardinal Puljic.

Celebrating Mass in Skabrnja, Zadar Archbishop Puljic said it was clear that "the people who experienced the horrors of Skabrnja and Vukovar can hardly forget and forgive what happened to them."

Speaking to the press later, he said, "since we went through tough days, it's now necessary to make tough decisions," as taught by Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Franjo Kuharic.

"If we wish to look ahead, if we want a better future, we must turn to the future. All segments of society must work on it so that, in the state which is now free, independent and democratic, rule tolerance, love, forgiveness, joint activity for our better future."

Their sacrifice is not worthy of what often happens, which is polarization and intolerance. They fought for freedom and a better society, and in that spirit, their message is just that, he said.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

President Milanovic Lays Wreath at Ovcara Memorial

ZAGREB, November 18, 2020 - On the occasion of Homeland War Victims Remembrance Day and Vukovar and Skabrnja Victims Remembrance Day, Croatian President Zoran Milanovic on Wednesday paid his respects to the sacrifice of Vukovar by laying a wreath at the Ovcara memorial site.

In addition to the President, the Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces, Admiral Robert Hranj, and presidential envoy Lieutenant-General Marijan Marekovic also laid wreaths.

Milanovic did not give a statement to reporters.

In Skabrnja, on behalf of the president, his envoy, Dragan Lozancic, took part in today's commemorative events.

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Milanovic: It is People, not Political Elites that Make up Remembrance Procession

ZAGREB, Nov 14, 2020 - The President's Office issued a press release on Saturday ahead of the Remembrance Day commemoration in Vukovar on November 18, saying that it is people and not political elites that make up the Remembrance Procession.

President Zoran Milanovic is of the view that the commemoration of people killed in Vukovar and Skabrnja during the Homeland War "has true significance only if it is open to all citizens wishing to pay their respects and gratitude to those killed and gone missing, and not just to those selected and to the political elites. The Remembrance Procession in Vukovar is made up of people and not political elites," the press release said.

"In the present situation, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the arrival of a large number of people in Vukovar to join the procession may be dangerous to their health and cause further spread of the pandemic. Double standards, obviously politically motivated, which allow a gathering of a large number of people in Vukovar while banning such gatherings elsewhere in Croatia, are irresponsible both to Vukovar and to the citizens," it added.

"In this situation, the victims of Vukovar can and must be honored in a dignified manner, without political calculations, double standards and putting the health of citizens at risk. The President of the Republic will pay his respects to the victims of Vukovar in a manner befitting the situation," the President's Office said.

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