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18. 11. – Memorial Day For The Victims of The Croatian War

18.11. is an important day for Croatian citizens who remember the victims who died in the Croatian War of Independence. This day holds significance due to the heroic defense of Vukovar, the tragic events in Škabrnja, and the bravery displayed by defenders in Saborski, Slunj, Cetingrad, and Rakovica. 

Victims of The Croatian War

Vukovar saw around 1,800 defenders during the war, with 1,624 losing their lives and over 2,500 sustaining injuries. Approximately 7,000 captured defenders and civilians were taken to concentration camps. In the defense of Vukovar and its surroundings, 2,459 civil protection members participated, resulting in 191 deaths, with 76 still missing. Following the city’s fall, civil defense members were captured in camps in both Vukovar and Serbia. 

On the same day, November 18, 1991, we also remember the tragedy in Škabrnja. There, Croatian civilians, mostly the elderly, were massacred in their homes and yards. During the Croatian War, 86 Škabrnja defenders and civilians lost their lives. Six more people fell victim to landmines after the conflict. 

Vukovar - My Choice for Better or for Worse

  • The days to remember the victims of Vukovar from 1991 to 2023 are happening under the theme “Vukovar – my choice for better or for worse.” The 32nd-anniversary program kicks off on Friday, November 10, with cultural and educational events.
  • The main event is on November 17 at 7 p.m. at the National Memorial Hospital “Dr. Juraj Njavro.” Citizens will gather to light candles with prayers from Vukovar priests and music from the “St. Juraj” Klapa of the Croatian Navy.
Victims of The Croatian War 5 Tenks
  • On Saturday, November 18, the day of the city’s occupation, a commemorative meeting begins at 10 a.m. in the hospital courtyard, broadcasted live on TV. Darko Milas, Klapa “St. Juraj,” and top Croatian tambourine players will lead the event.
  • The 25th Column of Remembrance starts at 10:30, covering a 5.5 km route through the city to the Memorial Cemetery. Led by Croatian veterans and family members, they’ll pay respects at the aerial cross memorial. The day concludes with a memorial mass for all Homeland War victims, led by Archbishop Mons. Giorgio Lingua.
  • On November 19, tribute goes to the victims of Borovo Naselje with a Column of Remembrance and wreaths at Borovo Commerce. On November 20, they’ll remember those killed in the hangars of Velepromet and Ovčara
Crosses
Ovčara Cemetery

Memorial Day For The Victims of The Croatian War of Independence

The battle for Vukovar, then under the military siege of the  Yugoslav National Army, started on August 25. It was concluded on November 18, 1991. Before the city’s defenses crumbled, tragic events unfolded. 

About 1,600 defenders perished in the city and its surroundings, with approximately 600 killed after capture in mass war crimes. The toll included 1,000 civilian deaths and over 2,500 wounded. Furthermore, 7,000 captured veterans and civilians were taken to Serbian concentration camps, and around 22,000 inhabitants were expelled. Several hundred from the Vukovar area are still detained or missing from the War. 

Victims of The Croatian War 5 Tenks

On November 18, we recall the tragedy in Škabrnja, where 43 Croatian civilians were massacred on the same day in 1991 by JNA members. JNA – Serbian paramilitary forces, and volunteer groups from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Following the attack, Škabrnja was burned, destroyed, and mined. Survivors were handed over in Pristeg, while men were detained in Knin camps and later exchanged. 

The Škabrnja crime coincided with the JNA and Chetniks’ actions in occupied Vukovar and other areas where crimes occurred. After Škabrnja’s liberation in the military-police operation Storm, additional civilians died navigating minefields upon returning. 

The Consequences of the War Are Still Here

The consequences of the Croatian War of Independence continue to impact the people today. Some of the consequences include: 

  • Loss of Lives: The war resulted in a significant loss of lives, both among military personnel and civilians. Families were torn apart, and many people lost loved ones.
  • Displacement and Refugees: The conflict led to the displacement of a large number of people. Many Croatians were forced to flee their homes, leading to internal displacement. Others became refugees seeking safety in neighboring countries. 
Vukovar 1
  • Infrastructure Damage: The war caused extensive damage to infrastructure, including homes, schools, hospitals, and other public facilities. Reconstruction efforts have been ongoing, but the scars of war are still visible in some areas.
  • Economic Impact: The war had a profound economic impact on Croatia. The destruction of infrastructure, loss of productivity, and the cost of rebuilding strained the country’s economy. However, Croatia has made efforts to recover and develop its economy since then. 
Victims of The Croatian War 1
The Vukovar Water Tower still bears witness to the consequences of the war era.
  • Psychological Trauma: Many individuals who lived through the war, including survivors and veterans, continue to experience psychological trauma. The impact of war-related trauma can persist for years, affecting mental health and well-being.
  • Social Reconciliation: Reconciliation and healing within society remain ongoing challenges. The war left deep-seated wounds. Efforts to foster understanding, tolerance, and reconciliation among different ethnic and religious groups continue. 
Victims of The Croatian War 5 Tenks
Vukovar (aerial view of the Water Tower and surrounding buildings)
  • War Crimes Tribunals: The aftermath of the war saw the establishment of international war crimes tribunals to address the atrocities committed during the conflict. The pursuit of justice and accountability for war crimes has been a complex and ongoing process.
  • Legacy for Future Generations: The war’s legacy is passed down to subsequent generations, influencing the collective memory and shaping the identity of the nation. It is important for society to address the historical narrative and educate future generations about the realities of the war. 

Croatia's Ongoing Journey of Rebuilding and Healing Post-War

While Croatia has made significant progress in rebuilding and developing since the war, the consequences are still felt on various levels. Efforts in terms of reconciliation, economic development, and addressing the long-term impacts on individuals and communities continue to be essential for the well-being of the people of Croatia. 

Vukovar Today. Lookin into a bright future
Vukovar Today. Looking into a bright future!

In spite of the challenges faced in the aftermath of the Croatian War of Independence, Croatia stands today as a beacon of resilience and progress. This thriving nation welcomes people from all corners of the globe with open arms. 

As we reflect on the painful memories of the past, we choose not to harbor hatred, but rather to honor the defenders who sacrificed so much. The remembrance of the victims is a testament to our commitment to building a brighter future for the generations to come. Croatia, a safe and thriving country, embodies the strength of a united community forging ahead towards a hopeful and inclusive tomorrow. 

Your CTC Team

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