June 23 -- Vukovar, Croatia

Vukovar, Croatia

During Croatia's war of independence in the early 1990s, Vukovar on the banks of the Danube became a symbol of hate and destruction. Today, the town and its people are struggling to come to terms with the past. Vukovar was heavily damaged during the Croatian War of Independence. Approximately 2,000 self-organised defenders (the army of Croatia was still in an embryonic stage at that time) defended the city for 87 days against approximately 30,000 JNA troops supplemented with 110 vehicles and tanks and dozens of planes. The city suffered heavy damage during the siege and was eventually overrun. It is estimated that 2,000 defenders of Vukovar and civilians were killed, 800 went missing and 22,000 civilians were forced into exile.

Vukovar hugs the western bank of the Danube. For centuries, the river helped transform the town into an important trading center, surrounded by fertile agricultural plains.
But the Danube here in Vukovar also forms Croatia's eastern border with Serbia. During the Yugoslav wars in the early 1990s, heavy fighting in the surrounding region resulted in the deaths of thousands and widespread destruction. Vukovar is an extremely devastated place. Seventy percent of the people that come for confession really struggle inside," Zlatko says. "They want to forgive -- not forget but forgive. But they don't have the strength. They have to pray for it."

Vukovar on the banks of the River Danube leaves visitors with a sense of shock, despair and sadness at the town's fate. The words of Sinisa Glavasevic come to mind, a local journalist who covered the siege of Vukovar for Croatian Radio.
"Who will care for my town, my friends? Who will take Vukovar out of the darkness?" Glavasevic said. "You must build from the beginning. First of all, your past -- look for your origins. And then, if you have strength left, invest it in the future. And the town, do not worry about it. It was in you all the time, only hidden. Let the butcher find it. The town -- that is you". 

Glavasevic was executed along with around 200 prisoners of war in November 1991 after Vukovar fell to Serb forces. He was just 31.

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