"Modestly prosperous, sleepy, provincial town in eastern Croatia, near the border with Serbia. Known for its picturesque baroque architecture."
This was the beginning of almost all descriptions of Vukovar before the war in Croatia in 1990s.
But during the war Vukovar became more than a destroyed town. It became a symbol of all the destruction in Croatia during the war, of all the sufferings its inhabitants experienced.
Vukovar suffered a three-month siege by Serb paramilitary forces and Serb-controlled Yugoslav army in 1991. After it was almost totally destroyed it was occupied by Serbian forces in November 1991. Once a town of 45,000 inhabitants it was the most comprehensively destroyed town of any size in either Bosnia-Herzegovina or Croatia during the wars of the first half of the 1990s.
Destructions were also accompanied by the ethnic cleansing of Croats and all non-Serbs.
For the next six years Vukovar was under the rule of rebel Serbian authorities in so-called 'Krajina' region, and was finally reintegrated with Croatia in 1998, under the process of "peaceful re-integration" of Eastern Slavonia.
The reconstruction is under way. But the process is still slow and painful.
Fondest memory: There are many sources about the tragedy of Vukovar. I will include links to few articles in English found on BBC website. BBC is usually considered as informative and objective,
Vukovar massacre: What happened by Gabriel Partos
Vukovar massacre haunts Serbs by Allan Little
Profile: The 'Vukovar Three' by Tamara Kovacevic
I hate counting people according to their nation or religion. I also hate proving that "this town or city belongs to this-and-this nation".
But since I can expect a comment on this page starting with "Vukovar was a Serbian town, and they were only defending it from the Croats" I will include some numbers about the national profile of Vukovar's inhabitants before the war.
1910: 10,359 inhabitants: 39,50% Croats, 15,70% Serbs, 33,80% Germans, 9,20% Hungarians, 1,80% others
1948: 17,223 inhabitants: 63,50% Croats, 25,50% Serbs, 0,30% Germans, 5,30% Hungarians, 5,30% others
1971: 30,222 inhabitants: 48,60% Croats, 30,20% Serbs, 0,20% Germans, 2,80% Hungarians, 18,20% others (mainly "Yugoslavs")
1990: 44,639 inhabitants: 47,20% Croats, 32,30% Serbs, 0,20% Germans, 1,50% Hungarians, 18,80% others
Vukovar was not a town of neither Croats or Serbs. Before the war it was a peaceful multienthnic town in eastern Croatia. It had quite large Serbian population after the Ottoman invasion in 16th century, and also after the WWII when mostly Serbs and Yugoslavs were systematically settled here at the place of Germans who fled after the war.
But regardless of the numbers and percents, I refuse to accept the theory that tries to explain the tragedy of Vukovar by the game with numbers.
No numbers can be an excuse for the crimes done in Vukovar in 1990s.
The house and memorial of Lavoslav Ruzicka, one of Croatia's Nobel Prize winners, was also destroyed (this is not his house; I had the photo but I deleted it not knowing it was his house).
Lavoslav Ruzicka was born in Vukovar of Czech father and Croatian mother. He won Nobel Prize for discoveries in organic chemistry in 1939. More info at www.nobel.se .
Further down the main street...
It was Saturday afternoon, around 4 pm, and the city center was deserted except for our group. Don't wonder where most of the people were - they haven't returned to Vukovar yet. How could they? Where to? To these burned houses and offices?
We usually build tips to show what a certain place is. The following tips will show you what Vukovar is no longer.
This is the beginning of the main street - Ulica dr. Franje Tudjmana. The street wasn't called like that before the war. It also did not look like that. It has never looked like that.
Tennants of this apartment building were lucky - no direct hits, only shrapnels and bullets...
Can you imagine yourself living in that building, looking at the thousands of bullet holes every time you want to go home?
Some of the tennants have returned five years ago... that's their daily routine.
Favorite thing: Vukovar really impressed me. I am not a "war tourist" but it happened to me to visit countries where you still could see many reminders from recent wars, like Bosnia and others. But Vukovar is different: not just devastation everywhere, but you still can feel the hate and violence of the fights door to door. And the silence is astonishing.
This was a family house, most likely with 3 generations living in it - grandparents, parents and children (such households are still rather common in Croatia).
Are they alive?
Will they ever return?
Favorite thing: Reconstructed school is waiting for the first students in the school year 2002/2003. It was totally demolished in 1991 during the Serbian agression. Every reconstructed building is rising hopes that life could be established again as it was before 1991. I know it sounds pathetic but this people here suffered alot and aren't much confident regarding their future.
Favorite thing: Nowadays this is the seat of the local Police and was one of the first reconstructed buildings in the town of Vukovar. Police has very important role in the normalisation of every day life. It is multiethnic, composed by both Croats and Serba and I hope it works good.
Sixteen years after the Vukovar tragedy, the feel is bitter.
No one was charged for the destruction of the whole town.
No one was charged for the thousands of people that were killed, wounded or disappeared.
The accusations of genocide were cleared off charges.
The only people found guilty of the whole Vukovar tragedy were two generals of the Yugoslav army who were found guilty for the tragedy that happened on Ovcara.
One was sentenced to 20 years. The other to 5 years. (>link)
So, in total - it is 25 years. For 260 deads.
That is 35 days in prison per one person killed in Ovcara.
This was the biggest department store in pre-war Vukovar.
In the city center. This is the view of it from the "Cross" monument. I didn't go close to it. I didn't have to.
Nothing was left intact in Vukovar.
If a house or a building was not leveled to the ground, then only walls survived.