18:20 / 16.09.2023.

Author: Domagoj Ferenčić

Commemoration held to mark the 32nd anniversary of the Battle for Vukovar

Vukovar water tower

Vukovar water tower

Foto: Davor Javorovic / PIXSELL

Some 1 800 poorly armed civilian volunteers and members of the Croatian National Guard defended Vukovar against some 36 000 Yugoslav People’s Army soldiers and Serb paramilitaries equipped with heavy armor and artillery.

A commemoration marking the 32nd anniversary of the Battle for Vukovar, the biggest and bloodiest battle in the Homeland War, was held in Vukovar on Saturday. The Serb and Yugoslav People's Army siege of the city lasted 87 days and culminated with the fall of Vukovar on November 18th 1991. It was ultimately a pyrrhic victory, as the city's defense remains synonymous with the Homeland War and Croatia's struggle for independence. Deputy Prime Minister and Veterans' Affairs Minister, Tomo Medved: "This is an opportunity to remember that time, to remember the courage, decisiveness, and readiness of Croatian defenders to defend Vukovar. It is an opportunity to show them our respect, and in a special way say a goodbye to our friends who gave their lives in the defense of our homeland."

The Commander of the 1st Battalion of the 1st "A" Brigade of the Croatian National Guard, Ivan Grbavac, was selected this year to raise the flag on the Vukovar Water Tower, which also endured the endless shelling from the Serb and JNA forces and has become a symbol of the city’s heroic defense: "It is a great honor to raise the banner of the legendary 204th Brigade and the Croatian flag on the water tower. I'm doing this as a member of the 1st Brigade, which gave an immeasurable contribution to liberating Croatia."

The Battle for Vukovar, at the time, was the fiercest and longest battle in Europe since the Second World War. Vukovar was also the first major European town to be entirely destroyed since 1945. Retired Brigadier Branko Borković - a veteran of the Battle for Vukovar: "We were bare-handed, unarmed and young. We were well aware of what we wanted and where we were going. We were abandoned by everyone, the entire world stood against us. And yet, today we have a situation that proved that it was worth fighting for. And maybe that, in some way, can provide encouragement to young people, don't run away from difficulties. Bite the bullet and fight, because after all, this is the promised land."

Ultimately, the battle proved to be a turning point in the Croatian War of Independence. And while Vukovar fell under Serb occupation, the heroic defense of the city on the Danube and the now seriously exhausted Serb and JNA war machine, resulted in Croatian forces liberating the bulk of the rest of the country occupied by Serb forces backed by the JNA. Vukovar was eventually peacefully reintegrated into Croatia in 1998, with the signing of the Erdut Agreement, and has since been rebuilt.

Source: HRT

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