The town of Zadar on 20 January 2017 hosted the ceremonies marking the 24th anniversary…
The ceremony in Knin was attended by the highest state and military officials, including the President of the Republic of Croatia and the Commander-in-Chief of the Croatian Armed Forces Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament Gordan Jandroković, Deputy Speakers of the Croatian Parliament Milijan Brkić and Željko Reiner, Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence Damir Krstičević, Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović, the Minister of Homeland War Veterans’ Affairs Tomo Medved, the Chief of the General Staff of The Croatian Armed Forces Mirko Šundov, the President of the Union of Associations of Families of Captured and Missing Croatian Defenders Ljiljana Alvir, foreign defence attachés accredited to the Republic of Croatia, the members of the Croatian Armed Forces, participants in Operations Storm and numerous Homeland War veterans. A guest of honour was the Chief of Staff for the Minnesota National Air Guard Brigadier General Sandra L. Best, who is on a days-long visit to Croatia.
At the Croatian Army Support Unit, the highest state and military officials met with the families of fallen and missing Homeland War veterans, disabled ex-soldiers and the representatives of Homeland War veterans’ associations. The meeting was followed by a ceremony on the main square in Knin. Major General Siniša Jurković reported to the president of the Republic of Croatia in front of a line of Homeland War troops’ flags. In memory of all fallen Croatian defenders and as a sign of gratitude to them, the President of the Republic of Croatia and the Commander-in-chief of the Croatian Armed Forces, Croatian Prime Minister and the President of the Union of Associations of Families of Captured and Missing Croatian Defenders laid a joint wreath on the Monument of the Croatian Victory “Storm 95” on Ante Starčević Square. Afterwards, 12 cadets of the Police Academy and 12 cadets of the Croatian Armed Forces laid a red rose on the monument, while 24 Homeland War veterans lit candles. Military Ordinary Msgr. Jure Bogdan recited a prayer for the fallen defenders.
In her speech on the main square in Knin, President Grabar-Kitarović pointed out: “A new leaf in the history of the Croatian people was turned here. A free Croatia. The Croatian flag on Knin Fortress is our reality. Twenty-four years ago, we let the world know that we had a right to decide our own fate. We are ready to defend that right in front of everyone and everything, now and forever.”
“As the first female president of Croatia, I feel honoured to bow down to all defenders who sacrificed their lives, their health in the war. Politicians are not expected to start fights that will cause apathy, despair and divisions because this is the place where we won power over our own destiny. Managing that destiny is a responsibility of all of us because this is our only homeland, now and forever. I shall use this opportunity to quote one general: ‘The war is over, let us turn towards the future’,” President Grabar-Kitarović said, concluding that each Croat’s mission was to make Croatia a prosperous country in which every human life was valued.
On behalf of all MPs, the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament Gordan Jandroković addressed the spectators and underlined that the Croatian people’s historic success in liberating Croatian territories occupied by Serbian aggressors in Operation Storm as well as in the Homeland War as a whole were being celebrated with a feeling of unity, pride and happiness that day.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković also congratulated Homeland War veterans and expressed his gratitude to them, stressing: “Operation Storm changed the course of history. 5th August is a date of special significance for the Croatian people because their valour, determination and strength were manifested in it. We liberated our territory and let the world know that the Croatian people were masters of their own destiny. Victory Day will always be celebrated because it evokes emotions and memories of a time when we proved that no goal was unattainable. We shall never stop seeking justice for victims of the Homeland War. We are investing efforts into shedding light on war crimes and tracing all missing persons. Our youth must know this – had it not been for Operation Storm, Croatia would be a much different country today.”
The President of the Union of Associations of Families of Captured and Missing Croatian Defenders Ljiljana Alvir said: “Never has so much joy and sadness been felt simultaneously nor will it ever be felt as on 5th August 1995. The Croatian people were on their knees. They were kneeling not at the feet of Serbian aggressors, but at the feet of Croatian defenders.”
“The secret about missing Croats is buried in the Belgrade archives by the aggressors on the Republic of Croatia, who label Operation Storm as a criminal operation and call mass graves and execution sites places where minor groups of deceased persons were haphazardly buried in 1991,” Alvir emphasized, adding that Croats were obliged to find their missing and deceased compatriots and lay their bones to rest. “We do not deny anybody their right to grieve for their dead and find out the truth about missing persons. We grieve for all victims, but we also celebrate our victory because we have a cause to celebrate. As a nation, we have demonstrated victor’s strength,” Ljiljana Alvir said and underscored that the victorious Croatian people could not be humiliated.
Alvir also put emphasis on the following: “It is a fact that many were banished from their homes with nothing but bags in their hands 1991, but it is also a fact that many obeyed their leaders’ call and abandoned the Republic of Croatia with their movable property in 1995. Many of them took part in an aggression on their own country. Some have returned to Croatia; some are too embarrassed to return; some do not want to live in a country bearing the name of the Republic of Croatia; some are too afraid to face the consequences of the crimes they have committed; some have simply made a better life for themselves elsewhere. That is the honest answer to the question posed these days: ‘Where have all the Serbs from Croatia disappeared?’”
The sound of bells on Knin Fortress symbolically marked the moment of the Croatian Armed Forces’ entrance into Knin during Operation Storm. Just like 24 years earlier, the Croatian flag began to flutter from the top of the fortress. The names of 241 fallen and missing Croatian soldiers were read and twenty-four volley shots were fired.
During a musical performance by the Croatian Navy’s Vocal Ensemble “Sveti Juraj” (Saint George) and the Police Vocal Ensemble “Sv. Mihovil” (Saint Michael), the Wings of Storm Display Team performed stunts in the sky above Knin, including a stunt called missing man in honour the late member of the Croatian Armed Forces Corporal Josip Briški.
The Minister of Defence Damir Krstičević made a statement on Knin Fortress, recalling the liberation of Knin 24 years prior. “Every Homeland War veteran was overcome with feelings upon entering the town. Four years of war culminated in several days of liberation, pride, glory and unity. We were overjoyed. We had done something good for our people, for our country. Peace, freedom, the end of the war at last. It is difficult to put those feelings into words. President Franjo Tuđman’s arrival at the Knin Fotress, his raising of the flag, his kiss to the flag – all of those great things will forever be remembered by Homeland War veterans. We did not want a war; we were attacked and we defended ourselves. Praise the Lord that we built up an army and arrived at Knin on today’s date. We brought peace and freedom. I extend my appreciation to all Homeland War veterans and participants in Operation Storm,” said Minister Krstičević.
High state and military officials, led by a formal line-up comprised of the Croatian Armed Forces, the police, Homeland War veterans and historical military units, walked from Knin Fortress to the Church of Our Lady of the Great Croatian Baptismal Vow, where the Bishop of Zadar Msgr. Želimir Puljić served a mass for Croatia.
The celebration of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day, the Day of Croatian Defenders and the 24th anniversary of Operation Storm featured a number of cultural and sport events. Already in the early morning hours, a reveille performed by the Croatian Armed Forces Band echoed through the streets of Knin. Other events throughout the day included an exhibition drill performed by the Honour Guard Battalion, a motorcade of motorcycles and military old-timers as well as a static display of the Croatian Armed Forces’ weapons and equipment.
FC Dinara Knin’s stadium was a location of several all-star matches. The Croatian Armed Forces faced off against the Ministry of the Interior, while the local FC Knin Dinara played against the Proud Sons, a team comprised of fallen Homeland War veterans’ children. Veterans of FC Dinamo Zagreb and FC Hajduk Split squared off with the veterans of FC Osijek and FC Rijeka. Before their respective matches, the teams’ representatives laid a wreath and lit candles on the Monument of the Croatian Victory “Storm 95”.
Reception for Homeland War Commanders
On the occasion of the 24th anniversary of Operation Storm, the ministers of defence, the interior and Homeland War veterans’ affairs hosted a reception for Homeland War veterans on Knin Fortress on 4th August.
The reception was attended by the President of the Republic of Croatia and the Commander-in-Chief of the Croatian Armed Forces Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, the envoy to the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament Goran Pauk, Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence Damir Krstičević, Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović, the Minister of Homeland War Veterans’ Affairs Tomo Medved, the Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces General Mirko Šundov and his associates, General Police Director Nikola Milina, the Chief of Staff for the Minnesota National Air Guard Brigadier General Sandra L. Best, defence attachés of friendly and partner states accredited to the Republic of Croatia, Military Ordinary Msgr. Jure Bogdan, the commanders of Homeland War units, the representatives of Homeland War veterans’ associations, fallen Croatian defenders’ family members and the representatives of local self-government.
President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović emphasized that Operation Storm was a victory of victories and that Croatian freedom and independence was owed to the selfless sacrifice of Homeland War veterans and their commanders, who had led them by example.
Minister Krstičević, himself a participant in Operation Storm as the commander of the 4th Guards Brigade, recalled that Croatian people had demonstrated to the world 24 years ago how the visionary guidance of Croatia’s first president Franjo Tuđman, combined with Croatian fighters’ unity, resolution and boldness, had culminated in a victory that had dealt the final blow to Greater-Serbian politics.
Calling the success of Operation Storm the crown of all victories in the Homeland War, Minister Krstičević lay emphasis on the necessity of teaching the youth about Homeland War heroes such as Blago Zadro, Andrija Matijaš Pauk, Damir Tomljanović Gavran, etc. – men whose lives are embedded in the foundations of the Croatian statehood. The Croatian people ought to thank them and Corporal Josip Briški, the first man after the Homeland War to sacrifice his life for the advancement of world peace and security.
Minister Božinović said that Operation Storm’s brutality and rapidity had become a symbol of Croatian people’s might and faith. He also reminded of the first line-up of Croatian police officers at the Police Academy in Zagreb on the historic 5th August 1990, highlighting that the event marked the beginning of an organized defence of Croatia and that the Special Police’s spirit of unity in the Homeland War was identifiable today.
Minister Tomo Medved also took part in the victorious Operation Storm. He pointed out that Operation Storm had been a showcase of Croats’ strength and unity and that it was an element of Croatian national identity today. He further put stress on the importance of properly valorizing the role of those who sacrificed their lives for Croatia as well as spreading the truth about Croatian history to youth.
On the occasion, Minister Medved presented awards and commendations to secondary-school students who wrote the best short stories about the Homeland War, pointing out that the students had established themselves as the keepers of memories of the Homeland War.
Overall, 94 short stories from secondary schools all over Croatia had been submitted for a competition organized by the Ministry of Homeland War Veterans’ Affairs. A panel of expert judges had awarded seven stories and excerpts from them were read by their authors at the reception.
The first prize went to the story Shoes Size 10.5 by Ana Šulentić, a junior at the 11th Grammar School in Zagreb. The runner-up was the story In My Basement by Katarina Brešić, a junior at the Archdiocesan Classical Grammar School in Zagreb. Five stories tied for the third place: Sixty Seconds by Stella Crnobrnja, a senior at Ivan Švear Secondary School in Ivanić-Grad; The Memory by Matija Knezović, a sophomore at Vocational School Split; Brothers in Arms by Cora Borković, a sophomore at the 4th Grammar School in Zagreb; The Final Round by Lara Fulir, a freshman at the 4th Grammar School in Zagreb; and Silence by Erik Matejak, a senior at the Archdiocesan Classical Grammar School in Zagreb.
The formal reception featured a performance by the Croatian Navy’s Vocal Ensemble “Sveti Juraj” (Saint George), Police Vocal Ensemble “Sv. Mihovil” (Saint Michael) and the Croatian Navy Band.
Monument to Homeland War Veterans unveiled on Mount Dinara
On the occasion of the 24th anniversary of Operation Storm, Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day as well as the Day of Croatian Defenders, Monument to the Homeland was unveiled on Ošjak, a peak on Mount Dinara standing at 1,657 meters above sea level, on 4th August. The monument is dedicated to Croatia and Homeland War veterans. Its unveiling was attended by the envoy of the President of the Republic of Croatia and the Commander-in-Chief of the Croatian Armed Forces Anđelko Stričak; Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence Damir Krstičević as the envoy of the Croatian Prime Minister; the Minister of Public Administration Ivan Malenica; State Secretary at the Ministry of Homeland War Veterans’ Affairs Ivan Vukić; the Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces General Mirko Šundov; as well as the representatives of Homeland War veterans’ associations and local self-authorities.
The placement of the monument on Ošjak was initiated by the Dinarides Mountain Association and the Association of Homeland War Veterans of the 7th Guards Brigade Pume (Pumas). The envoy of the President of the Republic of Croatia called the location symbolic as it had carried the weight of creating a free Croatian state. “The Croatian Armed Forces carried the weight of an entire generation on their backs. They can be proud of their accomplishments,” Deur said.
Minister Krstičević recalled that the Croatian Armed Forces commenced the final liberation of the Republic of Croatia on the glorious Mount Dinara.”The strategic decision by the first Croatian president Franjo Tuđman that the Croatian Armed Forces should emerge on Dinara in November 1994 was the key to victory. Along with other units of the Croatian Armed Forces, the 4th Guards Brigade Pauci (Spiders) and the 7th Guards Brigade Pume (Pumas) made a large contribution to the combat on the merciless terrain of Dinara. Key operations Winter 94, Leap 1 and Leap 2 were carried out there and the crown of all efforts was Operation Storm. What is unique about that endeavour is that Croatian soldiers held out the extreme weather on Dinara because they knew that they could do it and had to do it for Croatia,” Krstičević said.
“Operation Storm was magnificent. The 4th and 7th Guards Brigades of the Croatian Armed Forces had the honour of liberating Knin, a former royal residence. However, what is often forgotten is that Operation Storm had begun much earlier,” Krstičević recalled. “The final victory in Operation Storm, the crown of all military victories in the Homeland War, would not have been possible without Croatian defenders’ devotion,” Minister Krstičević concluded. After the speeches, the monument was blessed by Father Marko Medo, Vicar General of the Military Ordinariate of Croatia.
Along with the representatives of the government and Homeland War veterans’ associations, the monument was unveiled by children of fallen Croatian defenders – Marin Koli, Mile Marković, Ante Pedić and Toni Zagorčić.
The Monument to the Homeland (dubbed Monument to Men on Hilltops in war jargon) was carved out of indigenous Dinara stone so as to fully fit into the mountainous environment. It consists of two blocks of irregularly shaped dolit stone taken from nature. The coat-of-arms of the Republic of Croatia is carved in the smaller stone, with red squares being shaped and patterned irregularly so as to symbolize the Homeland War. An excerpt from the poem Moj dom (My Home) by Croatian poet Silvije Strahimir Kranjčević (1865 – 1908) is carved in the second stone. Author of the monument is stone-carver Antun Vuko from the coastal town of Trilj, who has carved four monuments dedicated to Croatian defenders on Mount Dinara so far.
Text by INDEPENDENT PUBLIC AFFAIRS AND PUBLISHING SERVICE
Showcase of Films about Homeland War
On the occasion of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day, the Day of Croatian Defenders and the 24th anniversary of Operation Storm, the 2nd Showcase of Homeland War Films, organized by the Ministry of Defence, was held in Knin on 3rd August. The showcase began with a keynote address by Nevenka Bekić, State Secretary at the Ministry of Homeland War Veterans’ Affairs. Attendees included the Commander of the Guards Mechanized Brigade Brigadier General Tihomir Kundid and the Mayor of Knin Marko Jelić. “The Homeland War is an inexhaustible source of inspiration. By supporting such audio-visual projects, we preserve the memory of the Homeland War and pass the values of that war onto the youth,” said Nevenka Bekić.
The open-air showcase at resort Marunuša by the Krka river featured five films: Heroines of the Homeland War – Winners, Lessons on Humanity, The Tower of Death, Storm in the Soul and Half a Man.
The selected films are fictional works and documentaries about the Homeland War co-financed by the Ministry of Homeland War Veterans’ Affairs, which has been co-financing films about the Homeland War since 2014 with the aim of maintaining the dignity of the war and promoting its values. The open-air showcase continued on 5-6 August in the town of Slunj in Central Croatia, where 11 films were shown on the banks of the Slunjčica river. The films for the showcase were selected by Neven Hitrec, director, screenwriter and author of two dozen documentaries.
The 1st Showcase of Homeland War Films was held on the occasion of the anniversary of Operation Flash in Novska on 30th April 2019.
Text by VESNA PINTARIĆ
Photo by TOMISLAV BRANDT
Translation by IVA GUGO