Mass was held on Saturday outside the Church of Croatian Martyrs in Udbina, about 150 kilometres south of Zagreb, to commemorate victims of the Bleiburg tragedy and the Way of the Cross of the Croatian people of 77 years ago.
The event at Udbina was organised by the Bleiburg Victims Commemoration Committee and held under the auspices of the Croatian parliament. Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic and several hundred pilgrims were in attendance.
The events of 77 years ago are embedded in the history of the Croatian people because at the time an endless column of refugees, soldiers and civilians set out for Austria in the hope that they would be granted protection by the Western Allies who handed them over to the Yugoslav Partisans near the Austrian town of Bleiburg, the organisers said.
Djakovo-Osijek Auxiliary Bishop Ivan Curic said that many other places of execution, pits, deportations and abductions from towns and villages – when a large number of priests and nuns were taken away – were kept hidden and without a memorial. Since then, new suffering has occurred – the Homeland War in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the ongoing war in Ukraine, said Curic.
Patriotism must not be marred by vengefulness
The dignitary said he wished today’s memorial day may encourage love and unity in the Croatian people as well as cooperation among nations and cultures and successful ecumenical dialogue so that patriotism is not marred by vengefulness.
The pilgrims at Udbina complied with the Committee’s request to display only their parish and national flags, in line with Croatian laws and for the sake of commemorating the Bleiburg tragedy with dignity.
“Today’s commemoration is a prayer gathering for the victims, it is by no means a political gathering,” the organisers said.