|November 19, 2001 |
15,000 Recall Siege of Vukovar in 1991
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
UKOVAR, Croatia, Nov. 18 (AP) — About 15,000 people gathered today to
commemorate the 10th anniversary of the bombardment and three-month siege of
Vukovar — a symbol of Croatian suffering from Serbian wartime brutality.
About 1,700 Croats were killed when the Yugoslav Army and rebel Serbs
overwhelmed the city after Croatia proclaimed independence. A column of
22,000 people — half of the prewar population — walked out of Vukovar on
Nov. 18, 1991, expelled by its new rulers.
Most of the town, which sits on the bank of the Danube, was reduced to rubble.
Today, both Croats and Serbs make up the city's population, which is still
22,000, but they live largely separate lives. Memory and emotions remain
strong. "Our priest tells us to forgive, if we cannot forget," said Vera
Janjic, standing at the grave of her son, killed in 1991. "I'm trying hard,
but I cannot do it."
In 1995, the United Nations war crimes tribunal indicted three former
Yugoslav Army officers on charges of crimes against humanity, blaming them
for the indiscriminate shelling of Vukovar and deaths during the siege. But
the men — Maj. Veselin Sljivancanin, Col. Mile Mrksic and Capt. Miroslav
Radic — remain at large in Yugoslavia. Majda Glavasevic, who only buried her
husband four years ago when his remains were exhumed from a farm near
Vukovar, said in Zagreb that she hoped they would be tried.
Such a trial "cannot reverse history," she said. "But I want them to hear
about the pain they caused, to realize that the whole world is condemning it
and to suffer, just a bit, locked up in jail, before they die of natural
causes." Branko Borkovic, a commander of Vukovar's defense, said in an
interview with Reuters that his last image of Vukovar, before he retreated
through minefields, would remain with him forever.
"I looked up as we were leaving and saw the skeleton of a town, dark and
misty, with ruins still smoldering," he said. "The last thing I saw was a dog
tied in front of an empty house, barking happily at us. For a moment I had a
weird thought that I should go back but I knew I couldn't. We never really
had a chance." The town reverted to Croatian control in 1998 after the
Serbian rebellion was crushed elsewhere in the region.
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