Remembering Vukovar, a city that will forever be a hero
(…) a word for Vukovar
which has its shadow
and you cannot bury it
because it tells you
even that which is already forgotten
From “In search of a word for Vukovar”, by Mate Ganza (translated by Miljenko Kovačićek)
Past is important. One can try to contest that, but only unsuccessfully. Because past is where our present has grown from, sometimes very unfortunately. In such cases in particular, it is precisely where we can find the key to changing whatever should not be part of human destiny, whether individual or collective. Vukovar, a hero of a city that is so much more than a mere relic of the Croatian Homeland War, holds one such key. The key whose turning in our memory should always remind us of the victory in Vukovar’s defeat which stands as the monument to the indestructibility of human spirit.
As Siniša Glavašević, a Vukovar-born Croatian journalist, one of Vukovar’s most heroic victims and probably the bravest and most outspoken Croatian librarian, wrote in his Stories from Vukovar (Zagreb, 2011), “[n]o single city in Croatia has given more for Croatia’s independence, no single city has defended such a great piece of Croatian soil with so few soldiers,…” as the hearty Vukovar. And yet, on 18 November 1991, in the first year of the almost five-year long Croatia’s war of independence, after three months of courageously withstanding the worst of human, cultural and material devastation, it finally succumbed under brutal aggression and became the victim of an even more awful tragedy.
However, this same Vukovar that was the site of the greatest loss of the Croatian Homeland War and of the most gruesome and longest battle on European soil since the Second World War, today shines among the most valuable gems making the foundations of what now Croats call their home. Day by day, it stubbornly lives on, defying the consequences of its literal and symbolic massacre 26 years ago, building itself anew.
Perhaps the best way to give proper credit to Vukovar for the high price its people have paid for Croatia’s independence is to honour their sacrifice by doing whatever we can to make sure that Croatia is its people’s true homeland – a safe place where everyone can live, work and create in freedom and peace.
Vukovar’s past and identity go much farther than the tragedy that befell it in hopefully the last Croatian war. It is its beautiful baroque architecture, the peacefully flowing mighty Danube washing away the old and brining in its steady flow the promise of the new. Presenting a selection of old prints of Vukovar preserved in its Print Collection, the National and University Library in Zagreb wishes to pay its deepest respect to this anything-but-ordinary city and remind all that its future will be shaped by how its past is treated, in which context its memories have to be kept alive, both of suffering and agony as well as of joy and glory.
(Source of the featured photograph: http://film-mag.net/wp/. Photo by: Max Juhasz (used for the cover of Ustani kada kažeš Vukovar by Nikola Šimić Tonin)).