Hrvoje Kačić, Serving my country, Croatia rediviva 

Published by the Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar, Zagreb 2006.; ISBN 953-6666-21-9

Two chapters about Dubrovnik from the book

16. dubrovnik and the Calamities of War[1]

We are greatly indebted to Father Marin[2]. He, through Pomet, sent a message to the world that "war is the bane of human nature". Generations in Dubrovnik grew up understanding the prudence of this message – especially at those times when their compatriots from other regions of Croatia were caught up in the storms of war: even outside the borders of their homeland, often against their will, and too frequently in the service of foreigners.

But the experience, and the teaching, of our ancestors have not managed to preserve our "Croatian Athens", this gentle "Dubrava" (oakwood) of the Croatian south from the horrors of war. Such horrors are alien to the heritage of European sensibility, at least at the end of the second millennium.

Perhaps the example of the Second World War contributed to our hopes, our expectations, that Dubrovnik might have escaped the tears, human sacrifices and victims, the bombardment, destruction or devastation of whole regions. We believed that we might thread our way peacefully between the Scylla of decadent communism and the Charybdis of the "second Yugoslavia" which had been built on communist ideology. For we had been educated in the values of Dubrovnik; Dubrovnik, which had been recognised not only in Europe but throughout the wider world as a pearl of civilisation, a jewel of architecture, the unification of the harmony of nature; and an Athens of the spirit, of culture, civilisation, traditional values, tolerance, openness, and mutuality. Thus, we were certain that Serbian extremism and chauvinism could not subdue us.

How wrong we were. We underestimated the nature and structure of the so–called Yugoslav National Army. For even when that sad army – which had been neither "national" nor "Yugoslav" since 24 January 1991[3] - when it took off its mask – and clearly and publicly threatened to remain the main political force in Yugoslavia – even then, it was still believed that this army would not make organised strides into crimes of such dimensions.

It was well-known that the army had resources of enormous and deadly power; but unfortunately we underestimated a fact which had already been adequately verified: the extent to which it was prepared to destroy for the sake of destruction itself, to shoot just to kill and to wound, to capture for the prizes of plunder, and was willing to become an army of occupation.

Now, as we think of the calamities of war and of Dubrovnik,[4] and of those dinosaurs in their olive-grey generals’ uniforms as well as other human relics with the same uniforms and equipped with weapons from those same arsenals, we can say (it is not an excuse, but an explanation) that we were mistaken: mistaken about the nature of the monster that was threatening us. History will later pronounce whether this mistake was excusable.

One of the leading wartime partisan generals, Peko Dapčević, addressed an appeal to the Allied Airforce Headquarters in Italy, back at the beginning of 1944. He requested that the bombers of the allies' squadrons, as they made their way to operate against targets in Hungary and Romania (Ploesti), should not fly over Dubrovnik; because it would be so devastating if there were an accident and an aeroplane crashed on the town with its dangerous load – damage to Dubrovnik would mean a huge loss to European culture. We were duped by this memory, assuming that the army, boasting loyalty to its partisan roots, had retained some of Dapčević's spirit; and that through its military academies, its specialisations, and its services in foreign countries it would have developed a code of military behaviour that prohibited it from permitting itself the brutality that characterises aggressors, conquerors, and occupiers.

It is obvious that we were wrong. But before we try to describe how and why we were wrong, and since we have just mentioned the partisans in connection with Dubrovnik, we should ensure that nobody is mistaken with regard to one aspect. That is: the calvary of Dubrovnik began with the arrival of the partisans in the region in October 1944. It began then, because in that first post–war period the "liberators" forced a horrible tribute upon the Croats of Dubrovnik and its surroundings, paid in blood. In scarcely any village or hamlet were women  permitted to wear black so that they could appropriately mourn for their dead. In the town itself more than twenty priests and monks were executed, as were hundreds upon hundreds of citizens of the Dubrovnik region.

In the interests of truth I should mention that Vladimir Dedijer – when I met him accidentally in the spring of 1971 at a cocktail party in the Yugoslav Embassy in Washington – told me (in the presence of an honest partisan general, Danilo Trampuz): "We were unjust to Dubrovnik, when thinking back to the partisans and the so–called National Liberation Army". I was curious and asked him: "Why?" His answer was very direct: "We let a lot of people get killed there", and he continued: "Tito sent me to Dubrovnik at the end of 1944 to stop the executions, but by then it was already too late".

Dubrovnik was the first; similar episodes followed in Srijem, Bačka, Tovarnik, and other towns and places throughout Croatia. Testimonies such as Dedijer's bear out the allegation that even people such as he were instructed to seek alibis for all the horrors that took place in the post-war reality. Executions became less frequent in the ensuing months. Everything about the differentiation of atrocities and the decision whether to make them public or conceal them (if indeed there was any system in the selection, or any criteria for decision) leads us to conclude that none of these crimes had the function of revenge or punishment; rather they were inflicted to frighten, to conquer, to uproot dreams of democracy and freedom.

In the many criminal proceedings reflecting Bolshevik savagery, proceedings which, of necessity, continued long after the Resolution of the Inform Bureau (when Tito broke with the USSR in the middle of 1948), many citizens of Dubrovnik lost their youth and manhood in the prisons and camps of Lepoglava, Stara Gradiška, Zenica, etc.

So too now, just at a time when we were hoping that the winds from Europe with her established democracies would uproot the causes of armed hostility, our Dubrava, unhappily, followed the destinies of many other Croatian towns and villages, by becoming a victim of the storms of war.

Development in the transition period from totalitarian communism to democracy was not a simple process, especially not when it was contemporaneous with the decay of the worn-out model of multinational state communities, whose peoples squirm and twist in insoluble economic chaos because they have been enslaved by an ideological utopia.

Throughout the whole first half of 1991, all relevant international opinion – some people reluctantly, some not – accepted Bush's determination to preserve the strategy of retaining the status quo. In this they were influenced by the potential for dramas in the ex–USSR, and the tragedy of the war in ex–Yugoslavia. Subsequently, Roland Dumas, then both French Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of the Security Council of the United Nations, said nostalgically (when referring to circumstances in the USSR and the SFRY) that a world-wide audience looked on at the crumbling of the last two colonial empires of Europe.

To understand better the various directions taken in the final episode of the dissolution of those two artificial creations – both set up in a whirlpool of chaos, violence, war, cruelty, and communist revolution - it is essential to stress certain differences between them. These can be seen right now; millions of people have seen their one-time hopes crumble to nothing. This last act represents the end of the world for some. But simultaneously, for innumerable numbers of people and even for whole nations, it represents the dawning of the day of long-sought freedom and democracy.

In the Soviet Union a radical cleansing, and the first phase of transformation, is taking place in a relatively quiet way. But in Yugoslavia that same process is degenerating into a state of undeclared war. The reasons for these different courses can be inferred from the following:

(a) In ex-Yugoslavia, communism was either defeated or collapsed; in Slovenia first, then in Croatia, followed by Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. This happened away from the state's centre of power, Belgrade. Communism continued its tyranny there, albeit under a different name. By contrast, communism in the USSR collapsed in the power–centre itself; in Moscow, in the Russian Federation. (I believe that the events in the Baltic Republics, even though they occurred before those in Moscow, are relatively marginal; because of the hugely disproportionate significance of events in Russia when we take into account all the relevant factors). Thus, with the collapse of communism in Moscow itself, the military machine was left disorientated; despite the efforts of some of the generals, it was not engaged as a political arbitrator. In Yugoslavia, on the other hand, the communist defeat in Slovenia and Croatia brought about a blending of objectives between the Serbian oligarchic communist authorities and the Yugoslav – or rather, Serbian-army, an army raised in and poisoned by communism; an army that ignored the organs of federal government.

(b) Serbia, which many of its citizens assumed to be synonymous with Yugoslavia, or if not that at least as the dominant federal unit within it, is becoming an unattractive continental Balkan mini–state with all its uncertainties and burdens, especially the mammoth army (because of its geopolitical situation, natural resources, working habits, size, population, resources, economic potential, etc.). But Russia is definitely still a world superpower, from the Baltic and Black Sea to the Pacific.

(c) In a critical historical period Gorbachev and Yeltsin happened to be in control, as leaders of the Soviet Union and Russia respectively. Both ex–communists; but rational and realistic politicians who understood the demands of the time and who opted for dialogue, negotiation, compromise, and peaceful solutions. By contrast, and most unfortunately, the leaders of Yugoslavia (actually Serbia) at that crucial moment were Jović, Milošević, Kadijević, and Adžić; aggressive totalitarians who wanted to keep Serboslavia, but under the name of Yugoslavia, resorting to compulsion and even war and bloodshed.

(d) Thanks to the common sense of responsible people, Russia has become a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations; and is allowing access, where the needs are unavoidable, to international support–structures, financial and otherwise. Serbia, on the contrary, under its neo-communist leadership (with Montenegro, it is the only residue of European communism), is using the former federal army to implement its repressive policies – first in Kosovo, then in Slovenia, Croatia, later in Bosnia and Herzegovina and finally again in Kosovo – and remains deaf to every appeal and resolution that emerge from the policies of the world community and particularly the European community.[5] It is sinking into isolation. Narrowmindedly, it is exposing itself to sanctions; and these will become even more stricter and efficient and should remain in force until Serbia undergoes its own metamorphosis, and thus matures into a partner of nations, in conformity with the standards required by the international community. Colonialism and democracy are eliminating each other. Despotism cannot be improved, only destroyed.

In these historic circumstances, members of the present generation of all non–Serbian nations inside the borders of former Yugoslavia have been confronted by the struggle for the survival of their own nation. We are witnessing a painful process, within which the victims, and the losses, are not equally distributed.

While this has been going on in ex–Yugoslavia, as Yugoslavia sinks further into the darkness of war, Europe and more especially the USA (the USSR is fully engaged with its own turbulence) have been preoccupied with the Gulf War. The USA, surprised, unprepared, and confused, left the initiative to Europe; only recently has it undertaken more direct action with respect to Bosnia-Herzegovina, as it came to understand that although there is knee-deep blood in exhausted Croatia, it was likely that even worse might happen in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Until then it had fallen back upon resolutions and statements, always stressing that the USA would accept no solution that had not been reached by peaceful means;  which, in the language of the Balkan Bolshevists, Byzantines, and barbarians, means that force could be used to destroy any chance either for an evolution, or a solution. Whereas Europe, with its collective decision-making system and a rotating six-monthly presidency plods along after events.

But those who criticise Europe for its blindness, deafness, and slowness, are wrong; especially wrong when they accuse it of indifference or ill will. Europe cannot change itself for the sake of the Balkans even if it wanted to. Differences in European views are huge with regard to the importance of speed, or in their perceptions of the fierceness, and the scale, of the atrocities. These disagreements cannot simply be swept under the carpet. However, as a fuller understanding of the situation has inevitably grown and matured across the mosaic which represents the contemporary European Community – first in Germany and France – observers were dispatched, followed by the Conference on Yugoslavia in The Hague. Everyone agrees that Europe reacted late. But its main failure lies in the fact that it did not in good time implement radical economic sanctions against Yugoslavia. An efficient economic blockade and isolation of international traffic would have brought an already heavily indebted country to an economic catastrophe, which would have accelerated the process of sobering-up the top authorities. Moreover, that would have sidelined the militant warriors; whether it is those warriors who sit in the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, those who threaten or bring about anti-bureaucratic revolutions in Gazimestan, Dedinje, Ušće, or Knin, or those who execute people in Borovo Naselje and Škabrnja, destroy Vukovar, Osijek, Vinkovci, Zadar, Dubrovnik, etc., or those with premeditation who even shoot down a white EC helicopter near Varaždin. It is those warriors who sow hatred and death.

The Hague Conference is often regarded as an historic misunderstanding or failure, foreshadowed at the table at Versailles, later in the Jajce; something that, in the name of "Yugoslavia", served to abort effective action. The successors are known, the inheritance is not. It is certain that the balance is a negative one, and the only question is when will that finally become clear. But those who, encouraged by the media, irresponsibly condemned The Hague Conference as "sterile" or its president, Lord Carrington, as a "senile nobleman" are mistaken. Evidently, we are forced to live in a time where there is abundant "political blindness". 

As the dinosauric generals and paranoid Milošević just go on, the sirens of death and destruction sing a requiem for Yugoslavia - that common state of the southern Slavs, which will forever be remembered as a Yugo–tragedy. According to its Constitution of 1974, Yugoslavia already had two important elements required for a confederation in place; parity and consensus. But these were not respected in any important matters, because everything and everyone were governed by the orthodox communist ideology, until it began to be squeezed out by the beginnings of democracy.

Once all the efforts of Slovenians and Croatians to transform the common state into a genuine confederation were rejected, the results of the Slovenian plebiscite and the Croatian referendum were foregone conclusions.[6] Only the speed of their implementation could have been changed.

Clearly, the only option that remained was the declaration of independence and self-reliance; qualities with which Dubrovnik approached its own crucifixion as an integral part of Croatia, a Croatia whose sons, between Dravograd and Serbia, had had a similar experience at one moment of history, in 1945.

Aggressive conquerors were trying to realise Serbia's long-standing dream and presumptuous ambition, to gain an exit to the sea.

And so, on 1 October, with no reason but with a clear aim, they launched their attack on Dubrovnik. They were not entirely satisfied with the sea owned by their southern satellite. They wanted their own exit to the sea; not just for economic reasons (Dubrovnik being a highly lucrative source of tourist money) but for their vanity, violence, arrogance, and for the sake of further plunder.

The conference in The Hague started at the beginning of September 1991. Belgrade figured out that this would be the last, and for that reason the best, moment for plunder. Even before the Serbian and Montenegrin representatives had reached The Hague, the USA and the European Community had already laid down a clear and indisputable condition: there was to be no changing of borders by force. But perfidious Serbia played a wrong, but under the circumstances its sole remaining, card:  the so-called "self-determination of a nation". If this was so valuable in the eyes of the USA and Croatia, why couldn't it be so concerning parts of Croatia; especially Dubrovnik, which was the most attractive region for Serbia? They could offer an anti-bureaucratic revolution, autonomy, and a free republic. Serbia tried to tempt Dubrovnik with this offer, that is, under Serbia's protection it could "enjoy" a position like Monaco.

At that stage Croatia was passing through its martyrdom. Eastern Slavonia was being attacked from all sides; the line Okučani – Lipik – Virovitica, and then Lika, the Karlovac-Rijeka road were being shelled; the Maslenica bridge was demolished, followed by the Obrovac-Benkovac railway line towards Zadar and Šibenik. The Peruča (a hydroelectric power station) was threatened and the barracks throughout the "remaining remains" of Croatia. Ploče was under assault from the sea. In the minds of the generals, Neum was one of the remnants of Yugoslavia. In August 1991 mobs of plunderers were mobilised, regardless of whether they were army reservists or any other kind of "bearded bands of brigands" (the so-called JNA was thus described by Douglas Hurd, the British Minister for Foreign Affairs,  in August 1991); mobilised with the war cry: "prepare yourselves, prepare" for plunder and theft.

Far from the rest of the exhausted regions of Croatia's indivisible land, its southern part was expected, in the military-strategic plans devised by generals with their blacked-out minds and their raging warriors, to be an easy catch. They expected just to walk into the town, find some marionettes – with beards or without – and enrich Serbia with a seventh autonomous republic. During the storms of war, Dubrovnik has lost everything except its people and its wonderful youth prepared to defend their native soil with their own lives.

Military forces are invading the territory from the east, from Boka. Slano, in the west, is being destroyed; and the hinterland is under attack from Trebinje. Brgat is putting up tough resistance even though the enemy is absolutely dominant in both air and sea attacks. The dragons of the air are demolishing Croatia's sacred objects inside Dubrovnik. They are also destroying the ports, cultural monuments, civilian property, monasteries, churches, and hotels; while, as a gift from the “liberators,” explosives are aimed at museums and palaces even through the windows of the city walls and fortresses.

Geographically separated from its homeland, Dubrovnik with extreme effort  has found the power to defend itself. Young men from the villages, from cafes, from their places of work, from their schools and faculties, are taking up arms. Small fast boats find their way by night between gunboats and cliffs. Young men have arrived via the sea; students have left their universities; friends from Korčula, Imotski, Split, Solin, Opuzen, Zagreb, Vukovar, Herzegovina have joined them. At the very last moment military experts have arrived from Benkovac, Slavonia, Sinj, Omiš and Lastovo. So night and day, the so-called "televisions"[7] (a form of Molotov cocktail) were being made in people's homes; these are the only weapons that are not in short supply. Professional officers have transferred from the very same Serbian army, because those who were honourable and decent refused to serve under the five-pointed red star, together with the Chetnik symbols; the criminal path has extended too far. Efficient military command has emerged; the sea blockade has been broken.

Despite all the resources Croatia can raise, Dubrovnik is becoming a new Guernica and Srdj; a new Alcasar. This symbiosis of Alcasar attacked and destroyed by "those on the left", and Guernica demolished by "those on the right" – is a fascinating parallel for Dubrovnik and Srdj, because what has befallen Dubrovnik and Croatia during this war comes from a widely representative spectrum, ranging from the Balkan’s most extreme fascist right to the bolshevists most extreme left incorporating anyone willing to plunder, steal, and rob. The evidence is everywhere to be seen.

Contrary to the achievements of contemporary Europe, under Milošević's sway various Adžićes have been homogenised shoulder-to-shoulder. In the summer of 1991 Adžić ordered his newly promoted officers: "Traitors should be shot on the spot without mercy or regret" and various Arkans and Hadžićes have been pulled in as well. The fetters are Šešelj's, Bora Jović's, and B. Kostić's. So, the far left and the far right have united to create force, violence and war, and to generate the hatred that was promulgated in the Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences [8]. It is a familiar fact that hatred is the most dangerous of explosives.

This is the first war that will go down in world history as an ideological one that was invented, worked-out, and directed under the auspices of an Academy of Arts and Sciences.      The Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences (SANU) released The Memorandum resulting in calling the Serbian people to use all means and justify any actions in achieving the security of “threatened” Yugoslavia.  In 1986, when the SANU Memorandum was made public, the SANU president was Dobrica Čosić who, in 1992, became the president of rump Yugoslavia. When unavoidable comparisons with the Spanish civil war come to mind, it would be interesting to discover whether the generals were aware that in all of European history, only in Spain and now again in the Yugo–tragedy were aircraft used to destroy the cities and kill the inhabitants of what they regarded as their “own” state. In the Yugo-tragedy, feeble minds still consider that state to be one and united.

Professor Ivo Banac was correct when he, seemingly in a nightmare and with cold premonition, predicted that the Serbs were prepared to do anything to prevent Dubrovnik from staying within Croatia; and that if they fail, they would be capable of destroying it. Can there be any more obvious and convincing proof of such a shocking thesis than what they have already done?

The schemer's illusions and traps are often easily recognisable by the propagandistic slogans launched from Belgrade. To give a few examples: Vuk Karadžić's exclaims "Serbs, all and everywhere". Pera Živković's, which coincided with monarchist dictatorship states: "Unity-Brotherhood" - this was paraphrased by Josip Broz as "Brotherhood-Unity" when he installed his bolshevist dictatorship, but the inversion of the words does not change the essence of the thing. Then we have the generals' "Movement for Yugoslavia", "Better a grave than a Euroslave"; Milošević's "All Serbs in one state" – which means, "Nobody can be allowed to beat you", but does not mean "those who are beaten are banned from using arms to kill". Paroški's "You have the right to kill everyone, as one might kill a dog outside the fence" (this was said in Jagodnjak – Baranja, while Croatia still had de facto authority there); or Šešelj's in the Serbian parliament, "All Croats must be expelled from Serbia".

Indeed, it is difficult to imagine Šešelj renouncing his favourite thesis "Karlobag – Ogulin – Karlovac – Virovitica", to which he added "Rijeka is the largest Serbian port".

It is quite superfluous to comment in any way upon the shock value, and the threats, of the messages in such slogans as these. But it is necessary to note one event, which occurred in Mokošica. During the hand-over of a corpse of a volunteer killed on the hill over Zaton Bay, a bearded olive-drab soldier asked Mr. Bačić, a Croatian Red Cross representative: "What kind of problem do you Croats have?" To which Mr. Bačić replied: "We are waiting for the war to end so that we can return to our homes and start to work." At this the uniformed figure responded: "You Croats are strange people. You wait for peace so that you can work, and we Serbs wait for war so that we can plunder." This open declaration is saturated with primitivism; this soldier had probably never read or heard of the wisdom of a talented member of the Serbian Academy of Arts, Dobriša Čosić, contained in his favourite phrase: "Serbs lose in peace what they have gained in war." Nevertheless, we cannot shake off the feeling that there is a significant mental overlap or connection, despite the obvious variation in their modes of expression.

One must believe that it is a fundamental right of every person to evolve in his mind his own views, beliefs, ethics, and morality; but we fear that often this cannot happen without the catharsis of trauma and shock. Through this catharsis even ordinary people, fed from Belgrade, will have to pass; as well as, unfortunately, a number of Belgrade academics. The process will be slow, but it is unavoidable.

The truth about Dubrovnik, and not only about Dubrovnik but specifically about the experience of the people of Dubrovnik; the truth about the dead and displaced; about the dimensions of suffering; about the extent of destruction and the thoroughness of the devastation; about the volume of plunder; about the unsung examples of courage of the dead and of survivors; about the tragic death of the author Milan Milišić (a Serb by birth but a scholar of Dubrovnik and a member of the Croatian Authors' Society), killed on doorstep of his own residence during one of the first October bombardments of Dubrovnik – these truths will probably contribute to speeding-up this unavoidable process of catharsis. Finally, there is the truth about the number, disposition, pride, and honour of the many Serbs who remained in Dubrovnik along with the rest of their fellow-citizens. All of these collectively suffered, forged their strength, built up their obstinacy, strengthened their resistance, helped each other, counted the days until the siege would end, cursed their attackers, conquerors, and plunderers, and waited for the moment when the enemy would withdraw or be expelled from the area of Dubrovnik and from the whole of Croatia.

In order to familiarise the public with the acts and crimes committed in Belgrade and Podgorica a photo-documentary exhibition, combined with video footage of the destruction of Dubrovnik (especially its old historical nucleus) and its surroundings, should be made public. It is important for them to know that during the offensive against the Fortress Imperial on Srdj, which was carried out by "special forces" from Niš on St. Nicholas's Day in 1991, among the numerous heroic defenders one particular man made a great contribution. He was an athlete - born and educated in Dubrovnik, but of Serb heritage,  who considered Croatia his homeland. It was he who, firing the last shells from the only mortar available, halted the assault on the fortress at a crucial moment when some of the attackers had already surmounted the terrace of the fort. Indeed, members of the public in Belgrade should know too that it was not only ordinary criminals, in uniform and in civilian clothes, who participated in the plunder; but that generals and admirals encouraged the pillage and sometimes even joined in. (One of them, Admiral Jokić, was until recently the Minister of Defence in the Serbian government). Belgrade, where civilisation and humanism have been suppressed, needs help now, today. Dubrovnik can and must help.

By its crucifixion, Dubrovnik recognised its enemies in contemporary Montenegro and, even worse, in Serbia. Dubrovnik, the cradle of Croatian culture, literature, science, common civilisation; with a developed sense of rationality, beauty, and art; that has made noteworthy contributions towards the articulation of philosophical, juridical, and diplomatic teaching and ideas – Dubrovnik must remain an open city. This quite apart from its substantial tourist dimension. There had already been warnings that attempts to destroy the heart of Croatian civilisation, and the autochthonous character of Dubrovnik, would not be tolerated. When danger threatened - danger already identified as the four fatal and catastrophic symbols of bolshevism, barbarism, Balkanism, and Byzantinism, the question arose of whether we were exaggerating the threat. Now, through today's tragic lessons and painful experience, we realise that we were not vigorous enough in our warnings. All our fears have been justified by the outcomes of the aggressor but in even worse and more catastrophic form than anticipated; and we should add that "bestiality" and "brigand" complete an inglorious "B-hexagonal", undoubtedly typical of the ‘warriors’ from Belgrade.

We knew that only prudence and caution would enable us to confront Byzantine perfidy in order to preserve the Western tradition of European civilisation. Life, and sacrifices seldom seen before the end of the second millennium, have taught us that caution, wisdom, diplomacy, and money are not sufficient skills, nor are they means or devices for defence. We need more: determination, courage, and – unfortunately but certainly – weapons. Weapons will be needed until contemporary Europe, using its economic superiority, democratic traditions and civilisation, and above all its absolute military superiority, destroys the last fortress of the "B-hexagonal"; and hands the umbrella of strategic protection to the newly liberated nations of the European southeast. We should note that NATO is functioning as "hardware" for the CSCE, which remains as "software" in the European framework. Certainly this will happen in the near future. But, for us, even a few weeks are too long. What is written in the Charter of the United Nations, in the Final Act of Helsinki, in the Paris Charter for a new Europe of 1990, must be understood. Croatia is a full member of the CSCE, but has been so only since March 1992. However, it was necessary to change the rules within the CSCE to enable Croatia to become a member: decisions needed to be made according to the principal "all minus one", no longer just by common consensus. This change was agreed, finally, at the end of January 1992. Even "Yugoslavia", already almost bankrupt, could not prevent the new realities within the regions of its former colonial dominion.      

Folk wisdom teaches us that justice travels slowly but eventually arrives. The difficulty is the small number of those living in Belgrade who want to understand this. Some are incapable of such understanding, others are not; but either the latter lack influence, or else those in power are trying to postpone the day – or rather the moment – of their inevitable collapse. On 11 April 1992 the European Twelve sent a new warning to Belgrade, and at the same time a clear invitation to Serbia and Croatia. Belgrade’s space for retreat is diminishing. Austria and Hungary are demanding that the CSCE use its effective "mechanism for intervention in an emergency". From Belgrade comes the familiar outcry: "‘everyone is against us. Everyone hates the Serbs. Everyone has become Ustasha; there are a lot of them, even among us Serbs". Those trying to help Serbia understand where it stands and where it is heading are the real friends of the Serbian people;  not Milošević, Jović, or Adzić.

Europe and the world are today wondering: Quo Vadis Serbia? They have been taken by surprise by unfolding events. We, however, after the menace of Milošević's speech at Gazimestan, are less surprised at what is happening.

If we turn to look at what is now happening we see that Serbia, with substantial help from its Montenegrin satellite, has wounded the ancient historic heart of the town under Srdj (Dubrovnik). It has destroyed an even wider area around, demolishing all its economic potential, and has literally devastated Konavle, Župa, Rijeka dubrovačka and Primorje. The damage, although it can be registered, is beyond price. The entire population will cooperate to treat the wounds, but the treatment will have to be continued far into the future. The population of the region (not only Croats but members of other nationalities) is in deep pain and sorrow; Serbia has slammed upon itself what was previously an open door.

Serbia has disgraced itself and ruined its own credibility before the world – a credibility already shaken – because of Dubrovnik. No single foreign diplomat when in contact with anyone from the Serbian or Montenegrin leadership or from the so-called "Yugoslav National Army" has failed to blame them, or privately or publicly condemn them for their unforgivable mistakes. Lord Carrington and Cyrus Vance have made public statements to this effect, as of course have many others. The Serbian Minister for Foreign Affairs, before a British TV audience, attempted to deny or to minimalise the damage in Dubrovnik; then he went on hypocritically to deny that any Serbian units were involved in the attacks on Dubrovnik – he claimed quite falsely that the action was carried out by Montenegrin reservists alone. Bulatović, who depends upon his leader, had to let this shameful statement pass; he is waiting for the very last moment, if he can catch it, to leave the sinking ship.

The European Twelve were provoked into issuing a special Declaration on Dubrovnik.[9].

Thus Serbia malgre lui invited, and Dubrovnik because of its own suffering achieved, an explicit Declaration of the European Twelve (one certainly unprecedented in history), that Dubrovnik is part of Croatia. Let us recall who the Twelve were, in 1991: France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, and Ireland.

The Declaration on Dubrovnik is no new discovery. But it gives quiet satisfaction: many of the "scholarly" scribblers from the eastern parts of ex-Yugoslavia will realise that all their efforts and money have been pointless; and that they should direct their chagrin, although indeed with self-criticism, against Milošević and his brethren. They missed the right moment to stop the intemperate policy proclaimed by their leader in compliance with the Memorandum.[10]

In fact Dubrovnik suffered the worst destruction after the Declaration on Dubrovnik of the European Twelve. Possible as revenge. But another fact is that since the Declaration there have been no more written ultimatums. The enemy has changed his tactics. He is now trying to break down the defenders by brute force, and to  compel them to give up their defence. He is trying to find quislings who will remove the existing Croatian authorities. A psychological war has started against the urban population. But the enemy is being beaten by the tens of thousands who refuse to abandon their city, and their courage will be proudly recorded in history.

However, little by little things may be changing in Belgrade. The weekly Vreme of 6 April 1992, in an article entitled "Dubrovnik is burning in the European bank" laments Serbia's exhausted financial resources, its galloping inflation, and its unavoidable economic position as follows:

"Jacques Atalie, President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, keeps a picture of a burning Dubrovnik in his office. It is easy to guess how Adzić's and Milošević's representatives, who ordered the bombardment or agreed to it, would be received when asking for credit from that bank. Milošević and his team, now that even Albania has become a democratic country, represent the last communist island in Europe. Such a regime, without any friends in the world, cannot count on getting any money at all."

Facts and pictures remains; and all the evidence about the dead, about massacres, demolished churches, hospitals, schools, etc. in this brutal war is deeply distressing; but this was a war that we could not afford to lose. Over and over again in the foreign media the war has been oversimplified, described as a "civil war in Yugoslavia or Croatia", as a "Serbo-Croatian conflict", or as "ethnic confrontation".

I cannot agree with the constantly-repeated suggestion that it was the suffering of Dubrovnik that brought about the diplomatic recognition of Croatia. Croatia would have been recognised without the sacrifice that Dubrovnik endured. It would be closer to the truth to say that the suffering of Dubrovnik accelerated the recognition of Croatia. From Scandinavia to the Pyrenees, even in countries across the oceans, most diplomats talked with extreme indignation about the suffering and the demolition of Dubrovnik. The Italian President, Cossiga as the head of state came personally to Croatia to present the credentials of the documents of recognition. He said that the calamity of Dubrovnik was, intimately for him, an event, which helped to confirm his thoughts about the recognition of Croatia. Surely then, Dubrovnik contributed towards speeding up the recognition of Croatia; and proudly, obstinately, but patiently, suffered its own martyrdom.

We should not overlook the fact that others throughout our homeland have suffered even more: Vukovar is an obvious example. We are grateful for the help sent from all parts of Croatia and from all parts of the free and civilised world that did not abandon us. But it must be understood that Dubrovnik was ultimately defended by its own citizens, with the support of volunteers from other parts of Croatia. If anyone doubts this then it should be enough to look at the list of victims killed in battle. Too little is as yet known, especially about the consequences of the repeated Yugoarmy attacks on the fortress Imperial on Srdj. Maybe it is too early to talk of the bravery of the Croatian defenders: but for the sake of respect for our wonderful youth, and especially because of piety towards those killed in action, it would be out of place to rank them as ‘more’ or ‘less’ deserving. They fought with weapons in their hands for freedom and an independent Croatia, against a more powerful and far better armed enemy.

Dubrovnik has shown, and proved to Belgrade and Titograd, that it is part of Croatia; if necessary, it will prove it again to Trebinje, Bileća, or Nikšić. It should not need to prove it to Zagreb. Dubrovnik suffered deeply, but proudly remained unconquered before the world. It prays to God, and kneels only before St. Blaise.

            Dubrovnik is Croatian; and experience shows that, it can survive only as an integral part of its homeland, in view of what it has given to, and received from, Croatia. This is valid for the past, present, and future. But Dubrovnik is, at the same time, unique and special. Everyone who visits sees this, and when one gets to know it, they begin to feel it too.

Much more space would be required to analyse the factors of influence, and really to talk about the particularities of Dubrovnik. This must, however, be left to more competent and capable professionals, both inside and outside of Dubrovnik.

However that may be, since we were confronted with this imposed war, and everything that this bane of human nature  puts upon us, we should mention some - far from marginal – to which Father Marin’s ‘bane of human nature’ subjects us to manifestations of human courage that showed themselves during this period of isolation, siege, occupation, as well as bombardment from air, sea and land. These were independent of the lack of food, water, electricity, gas, etc. Let me give some examples.

Those who do not live in the town should know that for more than six months certain parts were under fire day and night. This firing came from occupied Žarkovica, Strincera, Pobrežje, and some parts of Srdj near Bosanka, where the enemy bunkers with their deadly weapons were only about three hundred metres away from the town. In spite of that, and despite a total economic standstill (but we should note that there was not a single day without fresh bread, even on days when the dead could not be buried) this Vukovar of the Croatian south resisted proudly, often in ways that might defy the understanding of some. For the prayers and the singing in the shelters and cellars, special credit should go to those like the "Little Singing Dubrovnik", "Maestrali", "Ragusa"; to Marko, Delo, Nina, Ivica and to other fighters of the soul. This is something seldom seen in these parts where singing is usually associated with alcohol.

Many cultural events and activities such as plays, concerts, publications, workshops and sport activities took place in Dubrovnik at this time. For example, the newspaper,  Glas iz Dubrovnika,  and the magazine of Matica Hrvatska, were published in Dubrovnik; soccer players took part in the Croatian championship even though there was not a single children's playground in Dubrovnik which was not exposed to sniper fire. A people who can react like that are magnificent; people who are repelled by violence, unused to weapons, with a tradition of antimilitarism (although perhaps experience should have taught us that with such neighbours as we have, antimilitarism and peace cannot be enjoyed for too long).

The Christmas meeting with local and refugee children on one of the Elaphite islands had to be experienced to be believed. While they were singing, mortar shells could be heard, so the performance had to be transferred from the ground floor to the cellar; but also transferred were the joy and the serenity. There was no cursing, not even from those who were in exile on the island. Many of them had lost everything; others were just worried to know whether the smoke from the villages on the nearby shore was coming from their homes. That would have meant that everything they had was gone, because anything portable and thus which could be stolen, already had been. It was an exceptional experience.

In spite of all this, in some parts of Croatia a false impression developed that there was actually no real war going on in Dubrovnik, and no real danger. It developed especially in regions that did not have to suffer the cruelties of war for so long and so intensively. In some places it was even said that every story about Dubrovnik was exaggerated, and that the media were using Dubrovnik to mobilise public opinion throughout the world – by, for example, calling attention to the concerts and other cultural aspects continuing to take place there. In some circles the very mention of Dubrovnik provoked feelings of saturation, sometimes even antipathy. The only adequate answer can be found in Christ's teaching and message: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they  do.”

By contrast, in Dubrovnik itself which, as well as its own population, offered shelter to another sixteen thousand exiled from the surrounding villages, what could be felt was a sense of being abandoned, sacrificed, alone. Various factors contributed to this feeling including the role of the media and the effect of political factors. We should recall the provisional so-called "peace timetable" of the Croatian parliament, and some remarks and statements, delivered at inappropriate moments before TV audiences, which had negative implications. In particular, statements like "we have won", "the war is over", etc. Certainly the negative impact of statements like these were not noted in Dubrovnik alone.

This is well-illustrated by an episode during a public discussion held in the Dubrovnik theatre, when after the applause a question was addressed to me "Would you comment on the present situation in Dubrovnik; is it being forgotten by Zagreb, and just made use of as a victim?" I answered that humanitarian aid was arriving from all sides and that although nobody in the town was earning and the community was left without any income, there was no hunger, there were enough medicines, the medical services were functioning excellently, and the schools were not closed. I also said the following in response to the same question: "Recently I saw a newspaper heading: ‘Ilok is a tear on the face of Croatia,’” and I added that Dubrovnik; and Zadar, and Škabrnja, and Kijevo; and Slunj, Gospić, Petrinja, Lipik, Vukovar; and Vinkovci, Nuštar, Osijek, etc., are all tears on the face of Croatia, saying in conclusion: "The face of Croatia is covered with tears".

            All the same, we are aware that talk about Dubrovnik being "special" can have important political connotations: especially when appeals are made by anonymous individuals or, if not anonymous, for their conspicious good will. This is particularly the case of high-ranking KOS (Counter Intelligence Service) officers of the ex-JNA - people such as Colonels Beara and Purlija – who were in desperate action throughout the occupied regions of Dubrovnik. It is known that they were trying to play the ‘Free Republic of Dubrovnik’ card: that it should have self-determination, that it is a special and precious jewel of the whole Slavic south. They offered a slew of possibilities whereby Dubrovnik would gain particular advantages if it were to have such a position, would have internationally guaranteed privileges, a special status, etc. They were making desperate efforts to sweep everything that has been done under the carpet, and made suggestions about incorporating Dubrovnik in their expansionist policies and offering it autonomy and all the attributes of a federal unit. Only the totally naive could neglect to see that these same authorities would renounce that offer under convenient circumstances.

However, the “Band of Brigands” together with Army aggressors from the East, implementing the brutal war over Dubrovnik and against anything and everything that could be called "Croatian", had more horrifying objectives: by terror and atrocity either to expel, or to exterminate, as many as possible of the present inhabitants and to settle Serbs in their place, thereby attaining their expansionist ambitions.

This is indeed one of the brutal wars of history. A conquest of territory: but a territory free of Croatian human beings.

Pride in the survival of Dubrovnik goes first to our boys who took up arms to defend their homeland. Eternal thanks and glory to them, in particular to those who gave their lives.

Ending these reflections, it is important for Dubrovnik to remember Father Marin's message about the "lion's heart".[11]

History is the teacher of life, but it is only one of the important determinants of future development. Historical values depend on all the relevant circumstances at any particular time. During recent decades new political and social values have been accepted in Europe, conceived by Schumann, Adenauer, Spaak and De Gasperi. As far as future relations between the newly emerged, recognised and independent states are concerned, the time factor should help to heal the wounds caused by the war. After the inevitable catharsis, tolerance should be substituted for hatred, dialogue and the interests of co-existence should prevail over sentiment, and commercial relations should be established – if the new countries wish to become eligible as acceptable partners in the new Europe.



            I saw the appeals from Pero Poljanić, Mayor of Dubrovnik, and from Željko Šikić, President of the Executive Council, written on 11 November 1991 and addressed to President Tudjman and Gregorić, the Prime Minister. These were appeals for immediate assistance. I found many expressions of concern and sympathy from numerous people in the Government and in the President’s office, as well as from many members of Parliament. Nevertheless, although it was acknowledged that Dubrovnik was in a desperate situation, (as was Vukovar in particular, as well as many other towns and cities),  in many of these protestations there was an underlying belief, and even openly-expressed remarks, that those among the defenders of the city were unwilling or reluctant to fight.

            President Tudjman  seemed to have had such impressions as well. I immediately thought that such "information" and reports of that kind deserved no credibility, stressing that the defenders, and indeed the citizens of Dubrovnik, were determined to use all their force and ability in confronting the aggressors and defending the City.

            So that my standpoint would be more efficiently or successfully accepted, I asked the Mayor of Dubrovnik to send me a list with the names of the victims so far recorded amongst the people within the Dubrovnik area, right from the start of the aggression as soon as possible.

            Since I wanted to use these particulars in my contacts with various representatives of the international community, I suggested that it would be helpful if such a list might be prepared and submitted in English. I received this list on 21 November by facsimile.[12] This had been prepared for the Mayor by Dr. Kathleen W. Wilkes. The list contained the names of 94 victims that had been officially recorded up until 12 November, giving essential details i.e., name and surname, age, the place and date they were killed. On this same day I asked to meet President Tudjman at the earliest opportunity. He received me in his office; and before I handed him the list, I wrote the capital letter “D”, on the line next to the names of the victims who were active defenders. The letter “D” meant they were citizens of Dubrovnik.

            I draw attention to the name Josip Zvone, a defender aged 17, killed on the western hills over the River Ombla, when he was trying to reach the frontline to replace his brother; and due to the shortage of arms they exchanged the single gun used by both of them at the frontline.

            President Tudjman was surprised and very impressed by the high number of victims. He told me that we had at our disposal strong armed forces in the vicinity of Slano, about 45 kilometres north-west of Dubrovnik. He added that the local leaders of Dubrovnik were hesitating; they did not support the idea of our forces taking offensive action from the west, because they were afraid such action might provoke additional and more destructive bombardments of the Old Town, and that the citizens did not have adequate protection. He had received such information and reports from the military officers in the Ston and Metković areas. I was extremely disappointed to hear such reports, and I responded that I was very surprised, particularly because I had daily contact by radio with many important Dubrovnik officials; I confirmed my commitment to check the accuracy of these reports without any delay. Within the next few hours, I was fortunate to reach the Mayor of Dubrovnik (Mr. Pero Poljanić), the Head of the Crisis Headquarters (Mr. Željko Šikić), the Military Commander, (Nojko Marinović), and members of the Negotiating Team with the JNA, Mr. Nikola Obuljen and Mr. Djuro Kolić. In direct radio communication I received from each of them clear and direct appeals to bring assistance to the endangered Old Town with all available means, and to attack the Chetniks and JNA forces from the west.

            With tremendous excitement I was looking forward to relay this information back to President Tudjman. Over the phone I told him the unanimous and decisive determination of all the responsible officials from Dubrovnik requesting offensive action in order to liberate Dubrovnik from the aggressors. Of course, I was personally in favour of these justified appeals.

            I was aware that before President Tudjman left for Geneva to meet the UN and EC representatives, he instructed Mr. Gojko Šušak, the Defence Minister, to order all Croatian units and forces on the southern fighting line to undertake offensive action in order to reach Dubrovnik from the west and liberate the Town. Our forces indeed started with an attack from the area between Smokovljani, Čepikuće and the Tmor Mountain. However, the JNA undertook counteroffensive action, and with tanks and heavy weapons  surrounded Čepikuće after their strong bombardment of this village. Our forces were involved in fierce battles, but unfortunately they were forced to abandon Čepikuće on the evening of 25 November.

            On the same day our defenders on the Tmor mountain were forced to withdraw as well, and on subsequent days the JNA conquered the villages of Baniće, Smokovljane, Ošlje, Zaton, Doli; and so, by 5 December, they had reached the east side of the Bistrina Bay Bridge. Consequently, the peninsular of Pelješac was also cut off from the mainland – and that meant that access to Klek and the Port of Ploče from the rest of Croatia – now including Pelješac – had become possible only by sea from the west coast. The fighting frontline was established at the Bistrina Bridge and Zamaslina village, and so the inhabitants of Mali Ston were exposed to bullets from light hand weapons as well. This frontline remained at those places until April 1992.

            In the advances of the JNA forces towards the west, described above, there was a significant advantage for the aggressors. It should not be overlooked that this additional territorial gain was considered by the JNA commanders to be an extremely important strategic achievement; not only that, but they thought that the surrender that it entailed would have an adverse effect on the defenders’ morale and will to fight, as well as on the inhabitants’ willingness to resist their authority in the City of Dubrovnik.

            These events, bringing about the further isolation of Dubrovnik from the rest of Croatia, encouraged the aggressor to implement even stronger attacks on the defenders of Dubrovnik, and thus to the heaviest bombardment of the Old City on 6 December; even though in the early afternoon of 5 December a cease-fire, applicable across the Dubrovnik area, was agreed between three of the acting ministers of the Croatian government, (Mr. Davorin Rudolf, Mr. Petar Kriste and Mr. Ivan Cifrić), on behalf of the Croatian side, and Vice Admiral Miodrag Jokić, JNA Commander for the South Sector with the Captain Commander Sofronije Jeremić, for the Yugoslav forces. A mutual commitment was given to prepare and sign terms and conditions,  verbally agreed and noted; but the Vice-Admiral said that he needed approval from Belgrade before signing the agreement. The dramatic assault on the fortress “Imperial” on Srdj hill, and the bombardment and destruction of the Old Town as carried out on 6 December, were clear examples of the hypocritical behaviour of the commanding executives of the JNA, who sought to havethe benefit of surprise in this well-planned, and intended, conquest of Dubrovnik.

            Finally, in April 1992, the Croatian armed forces began the liberation of southern Croatia. By this time the Yugoslav army was being defeated from Zamaslina and Bistrina to the villages of Doli, Slano and Majkovi. After the horrific theft and plunder of everything moveable, and after the terrible destruction, the troops’ morale had become so low that their commanders could not count on their readiness to fight. In this situation, and in order to avoid one defeat after another, international influence also had a significant impact. (A touching example is the village of Osojnik, situated in the hills between Zaton and Rijeka Dubrovačka, which was rebuilt mostly by Swiss donors).

            The attack on Dubrovnik and the destruction caused to the town had a very negative impact on the reputation and position of Yugoslavia worldwide; and in April 1992, after Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina had been admitted to the UN, military operations began to expel the aggressors. In battles near Bistrina, Zamaslina, Doli, Slano and Majkovi, the Serbian forces suffered one defeat after another. Discussion again began in the UN Security Council to introduce sanctions against Yugoslavia because of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. On 24 May 1992, hoping to gain the support of some countries in the Security Council which were against introducing, or at least for postponing, the threatened sanctions, and in order to comply with UN demands to finally stop the siege of Dubrovnik, the Belgrade authorities decided to withdraw their units from the Dubrovnik coastline, Osojnik[13], Rijeka Dubrovačka and Župa Dubrovačka up to Plat. This ended the siege of Dubrovnik.

            The final liberation of south Croatia followed after the Joint Declaration signed on 30 September 1992 in Geneva by the Croatian President, Dr. Franjo Tudjman and by the President of Yugoslavia, Dobrica Čosić. With reference to the Vance Plan concerning the Yugoslav Army withdrawal from Croatian territory (outside the so-called UNPA zones), Yugoslavia had committed itself on 20 October 1992 to adhere to Point XIV of the Vance Plan and this Declaration to leave Obod, Zvekovica, Cavtat and the whole of Konavle, and thereby Prevlaka, which was mentioned explicitly. It was of utmost importance to emphasise Prevlaka, because the signing of maps by the then Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panić meant that Yugoslavia recognised Prevlaka as Croatian territory, even before the international community and the United Nations.

            While these commitments were being discussed the JNA tried to facilitate access to Konavle by the armed plundering by Vučurević’s Chetniks. However, they were stopped by the Croatian Army, who forced them back towards the eastern Herzgovina hinterland, across the Croatian border.

[1] Article published in the "Dubrovnik in War" Ed. Matica Hrvatska – Dubrovnik, on the occasion of the P.E.N. World Congress, held in Dubrovnik 19th – 24th April, 1993.

[2] Marin Držić (1508 – 1568) is the most famous writer of the Croatian Renaissance, and among the first Croatian playwrights. Pomet is the leading person in Držić's comedy Uncle Maroje.


[3] See footnote 3.

[4] See Appendix for copy of the letter from the President of the Serbian Government dated 5 October 1991 addressed to the Croatian Government

[5] This was still during the protracted period when Milošević was treated as a viable peacemaker.

[6] It was extremely difficult to expect that Tudjman and Kućan might be successful in obtaining consent from Milošević to restructure Yugoslavia from a Federation into a Confederation. Moreover, Milošević was causing the destruction of Yugoslavia by abolishing any kind of autonomy in Kosovo and Voivodina and simultaneously was abusing Serb ethnic groups in Croatia to reach autonomy.

[7] These are explosives that were handmade because there was a marked shortage of ammunition.


[8]The translated conclusive section of the SANU Memorandum reads: “ The position of equality that Serbs must strive for presupposes the same initiative in deciding on key political and economic issues as enjoyed by others. For decades of Serbian passivity have been bad for Yugoslavia as a whole by failing to contribute ideas and critical appraisals based on her longer state tradition, enhanced feeling for national independence, and rich experience in struggling against home-grown usurpers of political freedom. Unless the Serbian nation within Serbia participate on an equal footing in the entire process of decision making and implementation, Yugoslavia cannot be strong –and Yugoslavia’s very existence as a democratic, socialist community will be called to question.

An entire period in the development of the Yugoslav community and of Serbia has clearly ended in a historically worn-out ideology, overall stagnation, and ever more obvious regression in the economic, political, moral and cultural spheres. Such a situation imperatively requires a profound and well-thought out, rationally grounded, and decisively implemented reform of the entire governmental structure and social organisation of the Yugoslav community of nations, and speedy and beneficial integration into the modern world through social democracy.

The Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences takes this occasion to express, once again, its willingness to promote this portentous undertaking and the historical aspirations of our generation with all the resources at its disposal.“

[9] See Appendix 7 for Press Communique by NATO – OTAN The Situation in Yugoslavia – statement issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Rome on 7-8 November 1991. Subsequently the Declaration of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the Bombardments of Dubrovnik was adopted on 13 November 1991 at the 466th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies.

[10] Professor Supek suggested the infamous SANU Document as an example of a “morally guilty noncombatant” in the war against Croatia. See K.V. Wilkes “Jus in bello” p. 74 in Dubrovnik in War (1993) Dubrovnik: Matica hrvatska Dubrovnik.

[11] The sense of this message refers to the co-operative and polite manner that should be maintained in relationships. However, when common interests are involved you are expected to maintain strong attitudes and positions.

[12] See Appendix 8

[13] The village of Osojnik is situated in the mountain region of the Dubrovnik County, which extends in the direction of Herzegovina. The people mostly made their living from agriculture. They left their homes in October 1991 after the attack by the Yugoslav Army. There were 97 houses in the village, out of which 96 were destroyed, mainly after they had been plundered and gutted so that traces of the crime could be concealed. This was discovered immediately after the withdrawal of the Yugoslav Army on 25 May 1992.

The only building that the Croatian Army found undemolished was the Osojnik Community Office building, which the Yugoslav Army had used as its command centre. The parish church of Gospa Velika (Church of Our Lady) was burnt down, only the outer walls remained. On one of these walls, four big "C" letters were written in the Cyrillic alphabet (the Cyrillic letter C equals the Latin letter "S"). These letters traditionally stand for "Samo sloga Srbe spasava" (Solely Solidarity Saves the Serbs). The Croatian returnees understood this message as a sign for "Srbijo speri sramotu svoju" (Serbia, cleanse your guilt!). Even more distressing was the sight of the graveyard, where some of the graves had been dynamited (including the Monument to the 1944 Victims of Yugoslav Communist Terror). However, there were also some completely undamaged graves, although some of the tombstones bearing religious marks had been desecrated. From some undamaged graves, stone slabs had been removed and coffins opened with obvious signs that the skeletons had been desecrated. Several coffins from these undamaged graves had been taken out to the ground and the human remains had obviously been searched by grave robbers. The only logical explanation for the damages to the front part of the skulls is that those who committed these crimes were hoping to find gold teeth.

Many thanks to Dr. Inga Lisac, Zagreb, for sending the text, and to Dr. Hrvoje Kačić for permission to publish it on this web. D.Ž.


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