Vukovar: Divided By An Alphabet

Video by Reporter – Euronews: well worth watching!

Article from Euronews:

“It stems from a law to protect Serb minority rights, but in the Croatian city of Vukovar, the introduction of the Cyrillic alphabet on public signs has reopened the wounds of an old conflict.

Vukovar was virtually destroyed during the wars that erupted after the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991. Today, it is being rebuilt but remains a symbol of Croatia’s fight for independence – a fight better known as the Homeland War. Now, a new kind of symbol is causing an uproar: that of Cyrillic signs erected on public buildings.

A 2011 census has shown that Serbs make up over a third of Vukovar’s population. According to Croatia’s constitutional law on minority rights, their language and alphabet is protected. The first Cyrillic signs went up in September, but they were torn down just as quickly by Croatian war veterans. Protesters argue that Cyrillic is a reminder of when Vukovar stood alone against a Yugoslav army unhappy with Croatia’s declaration of independence. And they paid the price.

A war veteran, Danijel Rehak heads the Association for Croatian Prisoners of War. He took part in the recent protests:

“We are against the Serbian language and Cyrillic signs because the aggression on Vukovar in 1991 was committed with those letters. 5,000 of our fellow citizens vanished in that aggression: defenders, civilians, children and the elderly, 401 are still listed as missing,” he told euronews.

In August 1991, the Yugoslav army and local Serb milita groups attacked Vukovar after Croatia declared independence. The siege lasted three months and Vukovar was integrated into the Serb Republic of Krajina for the next four years. One of the most horrific stories of this war was the massacre of many patients and staff at Vukovar hospital.

Vesna Bosanac was in charge of the hospital during the siege. She took care of the wounded. Today, this national icon claims that successive Croatian governments have failed to understand the emotional hold Vukovar still has on the nation’s soul. She explains: “When we came back here after the peace accord in 1997 it was all in Cyrillic. And then the process of peaceful reintegration began and everything that was in Cyrillic was no longer valid. And now, because of the census conducted in 2011, Cyrillic signs have been erected on official buildings again. Cyrillic wouldn’t be a problem if people here had healed their wounds, if they had found their dead and missing, but they haven’t, and inflicting Cyrillic is like pouring alcohol on an open wound.”

Today, the hospital basement is a museum which serves as a reminder of the suffering that took place in Vukovar and how many people felt forgotten and even sacrificed by a government fighting their nationalist wars. Although Croatia is an EU member state, people still argue that Vukovar is being used for political gain.

Meanwhile, the Zagreb government claim the constitutional laws protecting the Cyrillic alphabet were necessary to fall in line with EU legislation on minority rights.

Fred Matic, Croatian Minister of War Veterans, told euronews a key ingredient is still missing for a lasting peace:

“The Serbs have not undergone the catharsis of accepting what happened with the former Yugoslav People’s Army, with Serbia and Montenegro who committed aggression against Croatia. They simply still haven’t come to terms with it. There is also a partial responsibility on the shoulders of Croatia, but Croats won’t take responsibility until Serbs take the blame for what they did from the beginning,” he said.

Many in Vukovar are not ready to accept responsibility for the past and move forward together. The time is not ripe for this healing. These feelings run deep into the heart of Vukovar’s school system. Croatian and Serb children arrive at school together. Then they go their separate ways: Croatians into one class and Serbs into another.

Serb students learn both Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. They also learn Serbian history as part of the peace accord to help Serbs keep their national identity. Zeljko Kovacevic, the school’s principal, is an ethnic Serb. He lived in Vukovar throughout the siege and is well-respected by both communities. He told euronews that it’s the adults who block integration, not the children:

“Politics define the rules of the game and people stick to them. There is no work so people clutch at straws and don’t think independently. It irritates me when educated people don’t think things through. If they did, the city would come back to life, with lots of new ideas, better schools and children finally learning together.”

Critics of Vukovar’s school system argue that despite the so-called corridor comradery outside of class, segregated schools offer little hope of Vukovar moving on from on its past. But for many parents, the problem is explaining the history to their children.

While opponents to the Cyrllic signs are calling for Vukovar to be exempt from this minority law, there is fear on both sides that Vukovar will remain divided by its past”.

Croatia: Serbian Cyrillic Signs To Vukovar Are What Swastika Is To Victims Of Nazi Exterminations

Cyrillic in Vukovar Croatia

As I briefly commented in my last post the Independent Democratic Serb Party/SDSS in Vukovar has issues with Vukovar’s Local Government declaration of Vukovar as a place of special piety for its suffering under brutal Serb aggression in 1991 and declaring the Croatian and Latin script as its official language.

I now turn to some of those “issues” some Serbs of Vukovar have with the Vukovar’s Croats (victims and veterans of Homeland war). On Wednesday 6 November  the president of the Independent Democratic Serb Party/SDSS in Vukovar Srdjan Milakovic appeared on TV Vinkovac program “Politics and Truth” and stated that his people would not be joining the procession to honour the victims of Vukovar on the 22nd anniversary of the fall of Vukovar 18 November because, he said, not all victims are honoured in that procession!

As things would appear here Milakovic considers that families, friends, wives, children, mothers, fathers, colleagues … of murdered victims should march side by side with the murderers, suspected murderers, rapists, suspected rapists, plunderers, ethnic cleansers – hand in hand as if nothing had happened!

While, in terms of humanity’s “forgive and forget” slogan, that may be a desirable albeit often far-fetched goal, it is certainly not a realistic one, especially not if in that procession you get to walk side by side with known or identified, but pardoned through political wheeling and dealing war criminals, walking freely, dishing out cynic’s glances.

But Milakovic does not stop there. He drives the sharp dagger further into the still inconsolable pain from the horrors of the war of Serb aggression and says: “the introduction of Cyrillic signage in Vukovar was not done to offend the emotions of Croats, but primarily for the reasons where members of the Serb minority would feel that they are welcome and equal in Vukovar, just as they were before 1991”.

There you go, right from the “horse’s mouth”: Introduction of Cyrillic in Vukovar had/has more to do with forced reconciliation, with shoving war crimes under the rug than with rights of ethnic minorities under the law.

Milakovic says this without a single tiny speck of remorse for mass crimes perpetrated against Vukovar and its Croatian population in 1991!  He fits in among the slime and slimy politicians who will say and do anything to equate the innocent victim with a determined and premeditating murderer.

He, himself, stated that conditions for the introduction of Cyrillic do not yet exist and he, nevertheless, vigorously opposes the declaration of Vukovar as a place of special piety (which concept, by the way, honours all victims, regardless of their ethnicity).

And many other Serbs of Vukovar know that, they do not want Cyrillic there yet either.

Things cannot be the same as they were before 1991 in Vukovar just as things cannot be the same for anyone who has lost and suffered so severely from criminal acts against them, against their family.  The fact remains that Serb aggression in Vukovar (as everywhere else in Croatia) started in 1991 when majority of Croatian citizens voted to secede from communist Yugoslavia and Croatian Serbs (rebels) started pouncing like mad dogs upon their Croat neighbours in villages and towns, killing, plundering, shifting them in trucks to concentration camps in Serbia … At times on this blog when I write about these issues I appear like a broken record, at times repeating the same things over and over again and I do that with purpose and without apology: battling against evil and the insufferable stench that emanates from political agenda’s of war crimes denial, from denying the victims the right to heal and choose how they will best heal, from brutal forces that attempt equating victim with aggressor – is a battle of perpetual need to stay focused on the truth and keep going back to how it all started, over and over again until the truth sits at its rightful place without being tampered and interfered with.

And no, Srdjan Milakovic, Serbs who participated in the persecution and murder, and rape and ethnic cleansing in Vukovar in 1991 can never enjoy the respect and the tolerance that existed before 1991! They may one day be forgiven, for it is in human nature to forgive and contemplate forgiveness BUT true forgiveness is a two way process: the one to be forgiven must also want to be forgiven, must show humility and remorse and I have yet to see any meaningful gestures of that.

Indeed the Croatian war veterans and the majority of Vukovar’s residents say the city – which was destroyed by Serbs in the 1990s war – cannot be considered like others. Serbian and Cyrillic letters are a reminder of the conflict’s killings and tragedies and therefore the city should be exempted from the law that provides for bilingual signage under national minority legislative rights.

The Cyrillic script to the still-suffering victims of Serb aggression is what the Swastika is to the victims of Nazi extermination. No doubts about that in my mind as symbols and scripts have a powerful effect of association and in this case that association is torturous for the victims. While Swastika is an ancient spiritual symbol of wealth and peace in WWII it became the symbol of war crimes, extermination, torture, hate, evil; the Serbian Cyrillic script certainly is not in itself an evil script but it became to symbolise evil in Vukovar and Croatia during the Serb aggression of 1990’s, for everywhere one turned where war crimes proceeded graffiti in Cyrillic signs installed fear, announced murder, rape, deportation, reveled in the insufferable suffering inflicted upon Croats . Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Displacement of Croats – again?

Over 3 million displaced in wars that raged in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina  1991 - 1995

Over 3 million displaced in wars that raged in Croatia and
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1991 – 1995

To start this, let me just quote the start of Nenad Piskac’s article – Croats are dying out in Slovenia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina – on Croatian Cultural Committee portal .

It’s bad for Croats in Croatia, so how would it not be worse for them in Slovenia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina? Croats here and there in the “region” are not even political subjects. In some places they’re not even an object. They officially do not exist. Croats in Slovenia, for example, are not even an ethnic minority, in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina they are third-class “constitutional people” modified by Muslims and the only constitutional people without its own “entity” (living territory), in the Serbian Republic they were thoroughly ethnically cleansed without any prospect for return, and in Serbia, Croats can be anything they want except Croats”.
I wonder if anyone in the international community that “counts” has noticed this sad state of affairs while they bang on about the rights of ethnic minorities in Croatia? I wonder, if they’re going to do anything about it!

But, thankfully, there a many people that live and breathe for Croats’ rights. And when it comes to those within Croatia I’m quite glad that I have come across the “Action for a better Croatia” party and this is what it’s website says on the issue of Croats in Croatia:

“Lately, there have been frequent calls for youth to leave Croatia and seek their livelihood in some other countries, because there is no future for them where they were born and grew up. Besides showing present day tragedies such messages are extremely dangerous for the future of the Croatian people. Not even the biggest and richest countries in the world give up easily on their young people, so why are leaders of Croatia doing it and, for whose interests? Whom does it benefit that there are fewer Croats from generation to generation?  Can a small nation such as the Croatia afford such an attitude toward the future?

The recent census showed us the alarming demographic picture of Croatia, but the ruling political elite, and this government, the one that is currently governing as well as the one that governed the past decade, does not seem worried, in the least. Given that, over the past few years, we have witnessed a general neglect of national interests by these politicians, we can rightly conclude that the demographic collapse of Croatia is only one part of the plan for the destruction of an independent Croatian state and Croats as a nation.

But so that it would not appear that they are doing nothing, the ruling minds came up with a strategy to improve the demographic picture of Croatia and presented it to the National forum entitled “Demographics – conditions of Croatian future ” at which the sponsor of the Forum, President Josipovic, enthusiastically declares: ” There are two great tasks in front of us, and they are: to work on a pro-birthrate policy and to devise policies that will attract foreign citizens. The time of hideboundness has passed, Croatia has enough power and capacity to accept the young intellectuals who will certainly contribute to the development of Croatian pro-birthrate policies.”

So, that’s the plan, Mr. President? ‘Young Croats to be sent into the world to seek a better future, and Croatia to be populated by foreign citizens, because Croatia is not hidebound but filled with capacity to accept anyone who puts his/her mind to living in it. Has it ever crossed your mind and the minds of your wise counsel how to make use of this capacity and retain Croatian youth in the Homeland and make use of their intellect and zeal for the betterment of Croatia and not for the benefit of another country, which has not invested a cent in their development?  Your Kukuriku (Cock-a-doodle-doo) colleagues have not thought of providing expectant mothers with financial and other support that would allow them to give birth to and raise a larger number of children, so that immigration would be unnecessary. But, they have thought to push through an ideology that leads to an even greater decrease in birth rates through health (sex) education.

Croatia has, throughout its history, always been broadminded and provided a home and a refuge for all that needed it, and in return these same settlers eventually in time took control of the government, persecuting their hosts and claiming the land as their own. After each such generosity we were left without one part of our territory, and we will not even speak of the disappearance of the population over the ages from Croatian territories.

The most obvious example of this is the time after the Second World War when your ideological role models expelled Croats and ethnic Germans from their ancestral lands and then settled immigrants from the whole of the former Yugoslavia. The nationality of settlers was “accidentally” mainly that of those who claimed that it is their country and “accidentally” these newcomers were given the best land and the best jobs, while the indigenous Croatian people were either politically and economic exiled or sentenced to mere survival.

After fifty years, the newcomers have concluded that “that” part of Croatia is theirs and that only they have the right to live there, and they argued their conclusions with a rifle and a knife. The truth is that their plan did not succeed, but regardless of the fact that they lost the war, broadminded Croats forgave them the slaughter and destruction they committed and let them to continue living peacefully on the stolen land, but again after twenty years, they claim that this is their country and seek within it some rights of their own, rights that are not recognized anywhere in the world and which are, in addition, based on earlier expulsions of the Croatian population.  Do we need to once again repeat this to prove (to whom?) that we are not hidebound or, have we learned something from history?

Croatia truly has the strength and the capacity for young people, but it is necessary to know how to mobilize and make available that strength and capacity to those who were born and educated in Croatia, and only if there are not enough of them invite foreigners to enrich Croatia to with their knowledge and skills.

Promising young people that they will soon be able to work in the EU, is of course a fraud because those who wanted to could have worked there already, and there have been limits on employment established through employment quotas and the cost of labor, which is the same as in the country from which the worker is coming. But, that is not the main problem, the main problem is the question for which previous political elites have no answer: WHY should our young people have to go to work and wander around in foreign countries, separated from their families, friends and the land where they grew up. We know the answer. They promise employment in other countries, because they are incompetent, unable to secure jobs for them in Croatia.

Neither the HDZ nor the Kukuriku Coalition have so far shown neither the knowledge nor the will to create out of the Croatia a country in which one can live from his/her work and create new values for future generations. All we have seen from them is the selling off of everything that was for sale, and a life on credit. It is high time for us to thank the one and the other for everything, and that finally Croatia is governed by those who created it and dreamed of it as a country of happy people who will not seek their fortune under other people’s skies.

It is high time for those that were exiled a long time ago to return to Croatia, and not for daily exoduses of Croats to occur due to the incompetence and neglect of the anti-national politicians.

Action for a Better Croatia, mr. Zeljko Cvrtila, acting president

Translated into English by Zeljko Zidaric and Ina Vukic

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