June 25, 2012
0259 CROATIA (Vukovar-Syrmia) - Remember Vukovar
21 years ago, on June 25, 1991, Croatia and Slovenia declared themselves independents, separating themselves from Yugoslavia and dispelling utopian panslavic dream of their forebears, fulfilled to some extent in 1918. Both countries celebrate in this day Statehood Day.
Vukovar (the town on the river Vuka), located in eastern Slavonia, on the west bank of the Danube river, was for at least 600 years a prosperous city in which they lived in relative harmony Croats, Serbs, Hungarians, Slovaks, Germans (expelled after WWII), Ruthenians and other nationalities. In 1991, the Vukovar municipality, which included the town and surrounding villages, was recorded as having 84,189 inhabitants, of whom 43.8% were Croats, 37.5% Serbs and the remainder were members of other ethnic groups. In 2001, the municipality have only 31,670 inhabitants, of whom 57.46% were Croats, and 32.88% Serbs.
After the two Yugoslav republics declared their independence, already existing ethnic incidents turned almost immediately in war, which in Slovenia (more homogeneous ethnically) ended in 10 days, but in Croatia lasted more than four years (Croatian War of Independence), resulting many casualties and significant damage. Atrocities committed during these years (almost exclusively by paramilitary formations on both sides) have been unprecedented in Europe since WWII.
The 87-days siege of Vukovar (25 August – 18 November 1991) by the Yugoslav People's Army, supported by paramilitary serb forces, as Arkan's Tigers and White Eagles, proved a turning point in the Croatian war, being the fiercest and most protracted battle in Europe, and Vukovar being the first major European town entirely destroyed after the WWII. Croatian officials estimated that 90% of Vukovar's houses were damaged or destroyed. Bogdan Bogdanović, the former mayor of Belgrade, characterises the siege as an act of "urbicide", a deliberate assault on urbanism.
Although figures are disputed, probably that were over 1,000 deaths on each side, plus more than 1,600 civilians dead or missing. Laura Silber and the BBC's Allan Little will described in Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation how "corpses of people and animals littered the streets. Grisly skeletons of buildings still burned, barely a square inch had escaped damage. Serbian volunteers, wild-eyed, roared down the streets, their pockets full of looted treasures." And, peak of atrocities, after the fall of the city, members of the Serb militias gathered 263 men and 1 woman from the Vukovar hospital, wounded combatants and civilians alike, transported them to the prison camp of Ovčara and executed them by firearms. Also, between 20,000 and 30,000 croat civilians were deported from the town and its surroundings.
Vukovar was under UN protection until 1997, when the period of reintegration of the region ended and the city returned to the full custody of Croatia, but without the Island of Vukovar, on the river Danube, which remained under Serbian control. Croats and Serbs now lived separate social lives. Most houses and many of Vukovar's historic buildings had been restored as of 2011, but Human Rights Watch noted that, of 4,000 homes that had been rebuilt, none of them were inhabited by Serbs.
The city's water tower (in the top of the picture, in the left), built in the late 1960s in a city park (Najpar-bašća), was retained by city planners as it was after siege, riddled with bullet holes. In war was hit more than 600 times and today it's a symbol of victory and new life.
About the stamp
The stamp, carefully chosen by Dragan (Hvala lijepa, Dragan), was issued in 2011 with the occasion of 20th Anniversary of the destruction of Vukovar, and depicted the damaged houses from the Nikola Tesla Street.
sender: Dragan Buškulić (direct swap)
sent from Rijeka (Primorje-Gorski Kotar / Croatia), on 30.04.2012