The first part of the commemoration of the Bleiburg victims was held on Friday at Mass in the parish church in Bleiburg, Austria and at a wreath-laying ceremony at the monument in the Bleiburg field.
It was the first time that the commemoration was held without tens of thousands of participants attending after the Austrian authorities banned the previous manner of commemoration.
A joint wreath from the speaker of the Croatian Parliament and the prime minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a wreath from the Croatian Embassy in Austria and a wreath from the Bleiburg Guard of Honour were laid at the monument without the presence of the media.
Tomislav Markic, Director of Pastoral Care for Croats Abroad, led the Mass on behalf of the Bishops Conferences of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, calling for prayer for all victims of World War II and its aftermath, including both military and civilian prisoners of war.
He in particular pointed out Croatian casualties, saying that killings had begun at Bleiburg and continued during so-called death marches on the way back to Yugoslavia when “many people were killed out of revenge in a communist revolution led by war victors.”
“They were killed without trial and buried in a number of mass graves at locations known and unknown,” Markic said, adding that many “still thirsted for justice”.
He said that it was not only Croats who were killed, but also Austrians, Slovenians, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Serbs and others with whom the Croats share the common past and future.
The Mass was attended by the Croatian Ambassador in Austria, Daniel Gluncic, and leaders of the Bleiburg Guard of Honour, the traditional organiser of the commemoration.
The main part of the commemoration will be held in Zagreb and Udbina on Saturday.