On the night of November 17th people of Croatia’s capital Zagreb and their friends and visitors lit up the city with candles lining its long and wide artery called Vukovar Street! This was in memory and honour of all those who perished and died defending the Croatian city of Vukovar from brutal and genocidal Serb aggression in 1991 until the city fell on its knees on 18 November 1991, suffered genocide and ethnic cleansing committed against the Croats and other non-Serbs and became occupied by Serb-led forces.
More than 10,000 candles were lit last night in the capital Zagreb along the 10-kilometre Vukovar Street to remember victims from the 1990s homeland war in the eastern town of Vukovar.
The damage to Vukovar during the long siege prior to that date in 1991 has been called the worst in Europe since World War II, drawing comparisons with the World War II–era Stalingrad. The city’s water tower, riddled with bullet holes, has been retained by city planners to serve as a testimony to the events of the early 1990s.
Vukovar was heavily damaged during the Croatian War of Independence. Approximately 2,000 self-organised defenders (the army of Croatia was still in an formative stage at that time) defended the city for 87 days against approximately 36,000 Yugoslav People’s Army/JNA troops commanded by Serbia supplemented with 110 vehicles and tanks and dozens of planes. The city suffered heavy damage during the siege and was eventually overrun. Untold cruelty was suffered by the Croatian people of Vukovar during the siege – massacres, murders, tortures, rapes, forced deportation, humiliation, forced detention… Some 2,000 defenders of Vukovar and civilians were killed, 800 went missing (more than half of which are still missing to this day in 2015) and 22,000 Croat and non-Serb civilians from Vukovar were forced into exile.
On that same day – 18 November 1991 – on the other end of Croatia – in the seaside village of Skabrnje near Zadar – another terrible crime was committed by Serbs, under the command of Ratko Mladic (held also responsible for Srebrenica genocide 1995), against innocent Croatian civilians. Moving from house to house, Serb butchers tortured, murdered and massacred 43 civilians and 15 Croatian defenders. The Croatian villagers that survived were forced into exile and their property burned and pillaged.
Today on the 18th of November 2015 the 24th anniversary of the fall of Vukovar is marked in Vukovar and the 24th anniversary of the Skabrnje massacre.
On the main road in Vukovar, along the road where on 18 November the procession will pass, a banner with the names of the deceased Croatian soldiers has been put up. The banner is over 200 metres long and includes 1,145 names. This is the first time that the names of all those who have laid down their lives for independent Croatia in Vukovar have been publicly presented.
Vukovar and Skabrnje from 1991 are a sad, terrifying reminder and distressing symbol of hatred and aggression the whole of Croatia was made to suffer because it wanted freedom from communist Yugoslavia; because it wanted democracy for its people!
May the victims of the heinous Serb aggression rest in eternal peace and honour. Lest We Forget. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)