Remembering the Vukovar Massacres

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During the war for the former Yugoslavia, the town of Vukovar was among the most devastated by fighting between Serbian and Croatian forces. Houses bear clear signs of the fierce shelling that took place, and the town’s now bullet hole-ridden water tower rests as a reminder of the siege and the cruel fate that befell the town and its citizens until now. The battle of Vukovar lasted for 87 days, during which many people were stuck in the town, finding refuge in cellars or public bomb shelters that also hosted makeshift hospitals. After entering the city, Serbian troops were alleged to have taken civilians and wounded soldiers from these hospitals into the Ovčara farm where they massacred them.

Today, Vukovar remains a divided town. War crimes committed there remain unsolved and the people who committed them, unpunished. Steve Gaunt, a former Croat mercenary who took part in the fight for Vukovar, now works as a historian and explorer for the local museum. He talks of his experience of the war, of Vukovar's troubled present, and of the struggle for normality faced by people who still live side-by-side with those they used to fight.

On February 4, 2015, the International Court of Justice dismissed claims of genocide committed by Serbia and Croatia during the Yugoslav war, that took hundreds of thousands of lives in the early-1990s. The court cited a lack of evidence that the massacres constituted genocide - a difficult claim to prove because the prosecution must be able to prove the intentions of the perpetrators.

Shotlist

  1. 00:00: SOT – Steve Gaunt, former mercenary
  2. 00:06: M/S Army ship from Army museum, Vukovar
  3. 00:10: M/S Interior of army ship, Army museum, Vukovar
  4. 00:14: D/S Tank tracks, Army museum Vukovar
  5. 00:18 W/S Tank used during the war, today in Army museum Vukovar
  6. 00:25: W/S Interior of a bus used for evacuation of wounded soldiers from battlefield. Army museum Vukovar.
  7. 00:33: M/S Steve Gaunt shows one of his photographs from the war.
  8. 00:42: D/S Steve Gaunt shows newspapers where his photos from the conflict were published.
  9. 00:46 W/S Steve Gaunt at his home in Vinkovci
  10. 00:52: D/S Steve Gaunt showing ancient coins he found with metal detector in cooperation with the local museum.
  11. 00:59 W/S Group of students walk in front of exhibition of photos from war, Vukovar
  12. 01:08 W/S Reflection of workers in a glass building in center of Vukovar
  13. 01:17 SOT Steve Gaunt, former mercenary
  14. 01:23 W/S An abandoned house, hard damaged by shelling, which wasn't repaired yet.
  15. 01:29 W/S A tank on the Vukovar street as commemoration of war.
  16. 01:34 W/S A reflection of pedestrians in the river, Vukovar
  17. 01:39 M/S Men in a coffeehouse in the centre of Vukovar with reflection of the street.
  18. 01:51 W/S Heavily-damaged water tower of Vukovar, a symbol of war.
  19. 01:55 W/S Modern buildings in the centre of Vukovar with a reflection of the bird.
  20. 02:01 W/S Commemoration of patients of the hospital, killed by Serbian troops, hospital building Vukovar
  21. 02:06 W/S Small museum in the hospital building, in the cellar where the war hospital used to be, Vukovar
  22. 02:16 W/S Reflection of the street of Vukovar in the glass windows
  23. 02:28 W/S War cemetery, Vukovar
  24. 02:35 SOT Steve Gaunt, former mercenary

Script

  1. soundbite (English)
    Steve Gaunt, Former mercenary: In 1991 I worked here in Croatia and in northern Italy as a tourism manager. When at the end of the season the tourist went home, I decided to stay and join the Croatian army. Vukovar fell on the 18th of November 1991. The war continued, but in June 1992 I stepped on a mine. I was out of the war. I lost a foot. Rather than sit around, I quickly looked for something to do, and became a photojournalist. Now I work as an explorer for the [Vukovar Army] museum. I look for Roman, medieval, ancient sights which are in danger, discover them with the metal detector and I rescue artifacts for museums. What we saw in the war was that lots of people ran away, but many people stayed and all they wanted was a life of normality. The shells fell in the afternoon and in the morning you saw people putting the slates back on the roof and even planting in the garden. I remember, once there was an attack in Vinkovci. I was running and jumped to a trench with my rifle. I looked to my side and there was a woman taking leaves off the vegetables. Her husband was planting potatoes. All the time were shells over their heads. They were trying to force normality. They didn't want to runaway and hide anymore. They’d been in the cellar all winter, and it was time for a new life to start. And it worked. People were doing normal things. It was wonderful. Strange and wonderful. Vukovar came back to Croatian control through diplomacy rather than war. So a very unusual situation exists here today. Serbs, including those who committed war crimes, still live here. But we still don't know who is responsible for certain atrocities like the massacre of patients in the hospital. Serbs and Croatians are living together in the same town and they are looking at each other questioningly: Who is he? What did he do during the war? People are very suspicious. A lot of people suffered here and they don’t have, as Americans say, closure. They have just this strange living-together, which has been forced on them by UN. And nobody likes it.