After all we were on vacation...
Although I read the newspaper accounts of the civil wars in Yugoslavia after the break up of that communist country in the early 1990's, I really didn't understand the reason for the fighting nor how devastating the damage. It was for complex and historical reasons that combined power and politics with ethnic and religious differences. Wikipedia has a summary worth reading.
Simply, Croatia wanted to be an independent country from Yugoslavia, but Serbia wanted Croatia as part of Greater Serbia. In 1995 Croatia successfully ended the Homeland War.
Our tour guide was a young lady that was just a child when the war was going on. Her father left his family to become a soldier in defense of his country. The contrast in listening to her and also hearing the older generations speak was stark. For the most part they all wanted to move on with their lives in peace and forgiveness. In school they were purposefully teaching tolerance so as to get out of the cycle of tribalism. Of course their memories weren't as vivid or long.
However, our tour guide's most personal memory of the war is the stuff of nightmares and grace. Her father was wounded and in the Vukovar hospital at the time of the Vukovar massacre. The Serbs came with open trucks in late 1991 to transport POWs from the hospital to a prison camp not too far away. There was not room for her father on the trucks so he stayed back.
|Memorial dedicated to the men patients from Vukovar Hospital|
who were killed in Ovcara
Everyone on those trucks were murdered. As she was telling this story I had a difficult time holding back tears and had to walk away to compose myself. Her family was both blessed and dealt something that they will never forget that day, but she talked of forgiveness and rebuilding. Her voice was full of hope. I also heard love for her country and all mankind.
|It doesn't take long for nature to take over.|
As we walked the streets of Vukovar over 10 years later I saw a town still rebuilding from a war that showed the absolute worst of man. Buildings with fresh paint stood next to buildings that seemed to be standing up by sheer will. I saw men, veterans likely, gathered at a cafe sharing stories. I saw a farmer's market bustling with activity and bakers rolling out dough on a table beside the street. I saw peace and hope. It was a very emotional day for me.
Restoration was occurring from the ground up. Businesses reopening in the bottom floors to help finance the rest.
|See stork nest on top of old chimney?|
|Of course I found a gorgeous Ironwork balcony!|
And apparently a sense of humor and a beer helps one get through the day, too.
It's been long enough since our visit that I'm sure there are only a few physical remnants of the war now, but the Vukovar water tower still stands as it did as a reminder of the pain and suffering of the local Vukovar people. (My shot of it was washed out so I grabbed the freely shared one below.)
|Wikipedia file photo|
The town of Vukovar is at the confluence of the Vuka River and the Danube. I could see on our visit its potential as a wonderful place to raise a family and as a tourist destination on the Danube. It has likely returned to just that.