A Need for Truth

I was surprised this summer to hear that many of my Serbian friends were afraid for their safety in Croatia. Serbs used to go to the stunning beaches on the Adriatic Sea before the breakup of Yugoslavia, but these days they seem to prefer Montenegro or Greece in the summertime. Before traveling to Croatia, a few people told me that a friend of a friend was beaten up while on vacation, or that any car with Serbian plates would be vandalized. The stories affected us so much that we were nervous to take a Serbian rental car across the border, and made sure to pick parking spots with careful discretion. The car traveled through Croatia unscathed and at the time, I dismissed these fears of my friends as paranoia. After all, people my age were children during the wars, and didn’t the wars end 14 years ago?

The more I study Southeast Europe, the more I learn that the conflicts in the former-Yugoslavia have not ended. I am reminded of this fact when I see photos of war criminals proudly displayed in a bus or when I read about segregated schools in Bosnia. Certainly I am hopeful to read about Serbia’s cooperation with the trial of Karadzic and I am thrilled that visa restrictions were lifted so that my friends can travel. Still, I do not think they will go to Croatia’s coast anytime soon.

Today the news reminds me once again that despite the EU applications, lift of visa restrictions, and other evidence of progress the countries of the former-Yugoslavia are nowhere close to moving past the war. Serbia filed a counter-lawsuit against Croatia at The Hague today for crimes committed against Serbs in the wars from 1991-1995. The decision to file a counter-lawsuit was passed on December 31, 2009, in response to Croatia’s claims for genocide filed on July 2, 1999 against then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Zagreb accused Belgrade of ethnic cleansing and killing of 20,000 Croats during the war and seeks reparations for war crimes, torture, the displacement of civilians and destruction of property. Serbia claims to want to address this issue out of court, but Croatia will not withdrawal their lawsuit from ten years ago. In response, Serbia’s counter-suit states that Croat forces committed war crimes and genocide against the civilian population during its offensives on Serb-controlled territories, including the expulsion of as many as 250,000 Serbs from Krajina towards the end of the war. The suit from Belgrade also includes a detailed report of the relationship between the two countries that dates back to World War II. The lawsuits fuel tension between two nations applying for EU membership.

I believe that people need truth before they can move forward. In Yugoslavia, Tito suppressed information about World War II in order to maintain peace among the ethnicities. Forced to live in silence, Serbia now brings up the atrocities of Jasenovac concentration camp in international courts over 60 years later. At first I want to dismiss these lawsuits on account of two countries holding grudges. After more consideration, I think Serbia and Croatia need to confront the past. They need to have a dialogue to promote understanding before either country can have a future in Europe. I wish this dialogue took place ten years ago, but memories of the past will not disappear. In the future, after discussion and time to heal wounds, I hope that Serbs again vacation in Croatia.

The coast of Croatia

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  1. From my travels to both Croatia and Montenegro over the last few years it seems that memories of the atrocities that occured are still very fresh and alive. It takes generations to come to terms with the suffering and loss which many feel it would be wrong to forget. The past is past and can not be changed but in order to learn from the past one must not simply try to forget it. The real winners of the continued tit-for-tat law auits will be the lawyers.

      • natalie
      • July 20th, 2010

      i was on holiday in croatia last wk,what a beautiful place,the scenery is amazing! ,we were in cavtat,we went to dubrovnik and to medjigoria 4 the day,driving thru bosnia herzigova u cud see the affects of the war,derilict buildings,houses getting rebuilt and sum not finished and just left there,its really sad all the innocent ppl that died there and 4 what?i know they got their independance,such a waste of human life!im im from ireland 🙂

        • Christine
        • July 22nd, 2010

        Natalie, I’m really glad you enjoyed your holiday through the former-Yugoslavia. I love these countries. The war certainly was a huge waste of human life. Thanks for reading, and I hope you continue! Best from Bosnia, Christine

    • lisa
    • September 9th, 2010

    Christine,

    I went to the Balkans last year in March with my parents, and we were for in a complete surprise. I fell in love with the ex-Yugoslavian countries that I can’t wait to go back again, maybe someday before they decided to become part of EU.
    I’m so glad to have accidentally found this blog, someone who shares the same excitement as I am about the Balkans.

    Cheers,
    Lisa

      • Christine
      • September 12th, 2010

      Dear Lisa, Thanks for such a nice comment. I love to hear that people share my interests in these countries. I hope you continue to read and comment on the blog! Thanks again… Christine

    • bella
    • September 27th, 2010

    croatia is a wonderful place i come from croatia.
    see i will say good night luckanoch

    • bella
    • September 27th, 2010

    Croatia has butiful city`s not like australia`s city`s thay are bizzy with peopel

      • melissa kennedy
      • November 4th, 2010

      Im from South Australia and our streets aren’t busy with people, i hate that people only ever go to Sydney and Queensland, as a local I avoid these tourist traps. If anyone goes to Australia i suggest Tasmania for quiet subtle beauty and South Australia’s Kangaroo Island. Both are great interpretations of real Australian culture

        • Christine
        • November 8th, 2010

        I’m not sure what this has to do with symbolism in the Balkans…

    • Kevin Walker
    • October 13th, 2010

    There is a wonderful book about how nations with decades or centuries of conflict can work towards resolving political hostility in the hopes of preventing it in the future. I just recently read it : An Ethic for Enemies, by Donald Shriver (1998).

    It would be most helpful in the Balkan area and a helpful read in general. BTW, my wife and I plan to move to Croatia (from the US) sometime next year – thanks for the pics!

      • Christine
      • October 17th, 2010

      Dear Kevin,

      Thank you very much for the recommendation. I have not read the book but it looks very interesting. At this point I’ve spent about 9 months living first in Serbia and now in Bosnia…and I plan to stay at least until the end of next year. I’ve had great experiences and find the people in the region very hospitable and friendly towards Americans (I’m from Philadelphia). Will you be working in Croatia? Best of luck on your move and I hope you keep reading.

      Christine

    • Christian
    • December 7th, 2010

    I LOVE Croatia and have spent significant time there. I also married a Croatian girl. My wife’s family is very old Croatian, with a few Serbs married into the family.

    FYI the only people Serbs (living in Croatia) are afraid of are OTHER SERBS! You know, the ones who believe the whole region should be run by Serbs.

    FYI #2 WikiPedia is your friend …USE IT PLEASE!

    • Rebeka
    • December 14th, 2010

    its sad that this stuff still happens now but you need to understand Its a two way street… Croatian people where hurt just as badly as Serbian people where if not worse, and if a Croatian crosses into Serbia they are harshly mistreated. I am Croatian,part of my family lives there still,whom I visit every chance I can.both sides are still bitter it wont be resolved any time soon. and its true a lot Serbians do want Croatia to be ruled by Serbs but it doesn’t mean all of them do.you need to look at both sides to get the full picture.

      • Tomislav
      • April 20th, 2011

      ok im going to come out with the truth and i am a Croat

      We Croatian s massacred 300 Thousand to 700 Thousand Serbs,Roma,Jews and Non-Fascists

      Its true and im only coming out i love both countries

      Another thing alot of Croatia’s coastal line and centre were Serbian lands

      But as my dad tells me

      Serbs and Croats are same people, only thing is we converted to Roman Catholic while they kept their orthodox faith

      Simple as that and Ante Pavelic stirred everything up and the ustasha

      Serb-Croat relations before 1910 were like two Brothers

      Trust me

    • Kristijan Torok
    • December 17th, 2010

    The part about the rental cars is true if you are from Croatia and go to Serbia. In fact, I rented a car in Hungary before and they said if I go to Serbia, I forfeit the insurance because too many vandalisms occur there against non-Serbs.

    Also, while it is true that Tito suppressed dialogue about WW2 atrocities, it had more to do with him protecting himself. If he decided that he wanted all that out in the open, then he would have to answer for the crimes of his own Partizans that history has almost forgotten.

    • Ana
    • February 25th, 2011

    And you, dear lady, want two countries, two peoples to love each other, to get along, to have a peace with each other, by writing such an article?!?! People like you, who are so bias ( I am 100% sure that you know a lot of Serbs, maybe you are one in disguise, but don’t know any Croat who would explain to you certain historic facts),do provoke, do write lies and is really sad to even get a chance to publish it.
    Once again, dear lady, Serbs attacked Croats, Serbia attacked Croatia! There was no war on the land of Serbia. Only on the land of Croatia. And once again about that nonsense of Croats making atrocities on “poor” people in Krajina: they left because their beloved president Milosevic told them to go, hoping to make a “scene” and in the future call it genocide, as they are doing that today on this “fair and just” court in Hague.
    Shame on you!

  1. January 24th, 2010
  2. May 26th, 2010
  3. January 2nd, 2011

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