For the people of Croatia, Vukovar remains a symbol of their struggle for freedom from Yugoslavia. It was the flashpoint for the violent break-up of the country; Vukovar was all-but razed to the ground in the autumn of 1991. Once a pretty port on the River Danube, Vukovar was destroyed by the besieging Serb guns, as Belgrade sought to halt the break up of the federation.
Vukovar lies on the border between Croatia and Serbia, and was picked by Belgrade as the place to make a stand. Three senior Yugoslavian officers, Mile Mrksic and Veselin Sljivancanin, and Miroslav Radic, were accused of being in command of Serb troops who rounded up Croat civilians and soldiers who had taken refuge in the town’s hospital.
Under a deal brokered with Belgrade, resistance fighters laid down their arms in the belief that they would be safe under international supervision. Instead, at least 264 people were taken away by the Serbs and executed in retribution for Vukovar’s defiance. Thousands of Croats still flock to Vukovar each November to commemorate the suffering of its people 16 years ago.