The Battle of Vukovar was a turning point in the war for Croatia's freedom and independence, and its participants were heroes who deserve admiration, it was said at an event marking the 30th anniversary of the battle in Vukovar on Saturday.
Vukovar was heroically defended in the 1991 battle for three months, after which its defence lines were penetrated and the city fell into the hands of Serb paramilitaries and the Yugoslav People’s Army.
The ceremony in Vukovar was attended by numerous defenders and wartime commanders, led by the last commander of the city’s defence forces, Branko Borkovic, President Zoran Milanovic and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic’s envoys, the heads of Vukovar-Srijem and Osijek-Baranja counties, Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava, and government members, led by Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.
“More than 30,000 troops, armed with 600 tanks, 500 armoured vehicles and 180 howitzers were deployed to seize Vukovar which was defended by some 6,000 defenders and volunteers. In that ‘David and Goliath’ battle, by keeping the enemy engaged in the area of Vukovar, Croatian defenders gave an additional three months to the rest of Croatia to consolidate its armed forces,” Plenkovic said at the commemoration.
Battle was of crucial importance for maturing of Croatian democracy
Thanking defenders for what they did in 1991 by defending Vukovar and Croatia, Plenković said the Battle of Vukovar was a decisive battle of the Homeland War that also had a crucial role in the maturing of the Croatian democracy.
“Even though the suffering in the Homeland War is still a painful memory, notably the fate of 1,858 people gone missing, victorious Croatia extended a hand of reconciliation and trust, respecting the rights of ethnic minorities, including the Serb minority. Croatia remains committed to the values which helped defend Croatia’s freedom and democracy in the Homeland War,” said Plenkovic, underling the need to continue with efforts to shed light on the fate of all missing persons, punish war criminals, secure adequate satisfaction for former inmates of prison camps, and promote the truth about the Homeland War, notably among children and young people.
Speaking of the government’s responsibility for the revitalisation of Vukovar and the entire eastern Slavonia, Plenkovic said that Vukovar had been named a place of special respect, the Vukovar Hospital had become a national memorial hospital, 18 November, the day of the city’s fall, had been declared a national holiday, and the Croatian Army had returned to Vukovar while the prospect of bringing to justice those responsible for war crimes had improved.
Borković: Croatia not owing anyone anything, on everyone’s conscience
The last commander of Vukovar’s defence forces and commander of the 204th Vukovar Brigade, Branko Borkovic, said that Croatia today was a member of NATO and the European Union and that “it does not owe anything to anyone and is on everyone’s conscience.”
He said that Croatia is not an accidental state, is not “a successor either to the Ustasha or to Partisans” and was not created in World War II.
Borkovic noted that in recent years many political and social organisations, as well as various office-holders at local and national levels and public figures, had knowingly or unknowingly acted below the high standards set by Vukovar’s struggle and sacrifice.
As part of today’s commemoration, held outside the city’s Eltz Castle, Croatian Air Force jets and its Wings of Storm aerobatic team flew over the event. Earlier in the day, state and other delegations laid wreaths and lit candles at the Homeland War Memorial Cemetery.