The commemoration was organised by the Bleiburg Guard of Honour and co-organised by the Croatian Bishops Conference under the patronage of the Croatian Parliament and the co-patronage of the Croatian National Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The joint wreath of the Parliament and Government was laid by Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković and Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman. The delegation included Deputy Speakers of Parliament Željko Reiner and Ante Sanader, member of the European Parliament Karlo Ressler and about 20 members of the Croatian Parliament.
The wreath of the Bleiburg Guard of Honour (PBV) was laid by Deputy Chairman Milan Kovač. He was accompanied by Honorary Chairman Vice Vukojević, Chairman of the PBV Supervisory Board Vladimir Šeks, member of the PBV Court of Honour Anton Sujić and treasurer Zlatko Goršanić.
Addressing the press after the commemoration, Jandroković said that this tragedy of part of the Croatian people, which occurred in May 1945, had been suppressed for 45 years.
“This crime, committed by the communist authorities of the former Yugoslavia, has been kept secret for 45 years and could not be discussed in public. This is logical because the perpetrators of this crime were those who represented the communist system.They suppressed the truth about this event and protected those responsible,” Jandroković said.
Tens of thousands of Croatian civilians and soldiers of the defeated pro-Nazi Independent State of Croatia (NDH) surrendered to allied forces at Bleiburg, Austria in May 1945, but were handed over by British troops to Yugoslav forces. Some were executed on the spot, while many perished during so-called death marches, known in Croatia as the Way of the Cross, on their way back to Yugoslavia in the second half of 1945.
Tens of thousands of people were killed “brutally and without a trial”. “We are here today to remember those events, commemorate and pay tribute to the victims and express our sympathy with their families,” the Parliament speaker said.
Noting that the crimes were committed in the aftermath of the Second World War, he said that “we remember those people regardless of their faith, nationality, party or ideological affiliation.”
“As a civilised democratic society, it is our duty to keep the memory of anyone who was killed without a trial and without evidence. We are doing it now and will continue to do so in the future,” Jandroković said.
As part of today’s commemorative ceremonies, Mass will be held in the Church of Croatian Martyrs in Udbina, about 200 kilometres south of Zagreb.
Responding to questions from the press, Jandroković said that police would certainly take action against anyone who might display Ustasha symbols at the Mass.
“I believe that everyone attending the Mass today will be there to commemorate the victims, remember those who were killed in a cruel and perfidious way. We are not commemorating or celebrating the defeated ideology and regime but are remembering the victims. We have a duty to do so, that is a civilisational achievement, and that is what every democratic and civilised country does,” he added.
PBV Deputy Chairman Kovač also emphasised that they were paying tribute to the victims who were killed “brutally and without a trial when there was already peace in Europe.”
Kovač recalled that the commemoration was taking place at Mirogoj because the Austrian authorities had banned it from taking place in the Bleiburg Field. He rejected the explanation of the Austrian authorities that commemorations at Bleiburg had celebrated the pro-Nazi Ustasha regime, expressing hope that this false accusation would be disproved on appeal.
“We did not celebrate any ideologies or regimes there but prayed for the souls of our ethnic kin as pilgrims, with rosaries in our hands,” Kovač said.
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