Serb National Council (SNV) president and member of parliament Milorad Pupovac said in Vukovar on Saturday that Croatia needed to introduce a policy of remembrance that would not be a source of fear and accusations and perpetuate hate, but would rather provide an opportunity for people to come together and pay tribute.
Pupovac paid tribute today to the victims of Vukovar together with Marica Seatovic, head of the association “Protiv zaborava” (Against oblivion), which represents the families of Croatian Serbs killed, gone missing or abducted in the war.
Together, they lowered one wreath into the waters of the River Danube and then laid a wreath and lit a candle at the town’s Homeland War Memorial Cemetery, after which they lit candles for all people killed in Vukovar at the Serb Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas.
“It is our deepest wish that we start creating, in Vukovar and the whole of the country, commemorative and remembrance policies that will not be a source of fear and accusations and perpetuate hate but rather provide an opportunity to come closer to one another and express respect, tribute and solidarity,” the leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) said.
After his visit to the church, Pupovac addressed the press, saying that he had decided to visit the town today after a meeting held on Friday with representatives of leading organisations of Croatian Serbs, so that he could lay wreaths and pay tribute in peace without having to feel that it might offend anyone or that tomorrow, on Vukovar Remembrance Day, he might be in a place where his presence was not wanted.
“I came here today because I did not want what happened on the previous two occasions to happen again – not being able to lay wreaths and express my deepest respect for the victims,” Pupovac said.
Asked by reporters to comment on Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava’s statement that he (Pupovac) could not both visit Backa Palanka (where Serbian authorities organise commemorations for Croatian Serb refugees and Croatian Serbs killed in the 1995 Operation Storm) and pay tribute to the victims of Vukovar, Pupovac said that just as he had not been for masters of life and death in the war so he was not for masters of the dead in peacetime.
“All the dead belong to us and those who want to prevent that are bad masters, have bad intentions and are ill-advised,” he said, adding that he was aware that not all Serbs would understand his visit to Vukovar just as not all Croats would accept his messages.
Asked if his actions should be followed by representatives of the Vukovar SDSS branch, who so far have not attended Vukovar Remembrance Day commemorations, Pupovac said that they were among those who attended the meeting with him on Friday and that his visit to Vukovar today was also owing to their contribution to the meeting.
“And as for when Serbs will come here in large numbers, that is not only up to them. I am doing what I am doing to make that happen, to make room for them, too, so that they too can feel that they can come here. And they were here, only that’s being forgotten,” said Pupovac.