For the first time since the war, after about 30 years, Orthodox lithium passed through the streets of Vukovar on Sunday.
The Serbs marched from the Church of the Holy Father Nicholas from the city center to the Dunav for the consecration of the restored Epiphany Cross. The cross was erected here at the end of the 19th century and was demolished in the 1991 war. An important Orthodox landmark has been restored, thanks to the long-awaited goodwill of the city leadership.
Lithia has taken hundreds of Serbs to the streets who, after nearly three decades, have taken their prayers out of the temple under a clear sky.
– The column, which returned to the church after the cross was consecrated, was provided by the police and everything went well – says Deputy Mayor of the City of Vukovar from the Serb national minority and President of the Democratic Union of Serbs Srđan Milaković.
He does not hide the joy of rebuilding the cross but says that this act cannot be called an important step in inter-ethnic relations in a city where war wounds are still visible in some places. There are innumerable problems that Serbs are pressing, but the biggest is the poor discourse in public, the labeling and marginalization of Serbs, in every sense.
He cites the registration of schools in the Serbian language and Cyrillic script as an example of the great torment of Serbs in this part of Croatia. In Vukovar, this has somehow been resolved, but in the surrounding municipalities – Borovo, Trpinje and Negoslavci, the Serbian villages that surround the town – it is not yet.
– Schools cannot be registered in the language and script of the Serbian national minority. We currently have a problem with textbooks for first and fifth grade, which are not available in Serbian and Cyrillic scripts. The ministry has poorly organized this work, so there are no textbooks in Serbian in these classes yet, children are working without textbooks – explains Milaković.
The Deputy Mayor cites employment as a special problem for Serbs in Vukovar. In the public sector, Serbs are still not desirable, although by law there should be so-called proportional employment. They do not exist either in city, county, or state governments.
This is best exemplified by his example.
– I personally have almost no communication with the mayor, in fact, I have not been in the last two years at all, especially since the protests for sanctioning war crimes. And when it comes to war stories and the sanctioning of crimes against Serbs, that has remained at absolute zero, with no progress. Even in public it is very difficult to talk about it and break the barriers when it comes to the truth about these events – Milaković points out.
He adds that the Serbs, in order to speak about these problems, mostly lack media space. Although there should be a minority news station on state television, Serbs have to settle for one broadcast.
“When they heard their language in the media, people would start to feel free, and other topics would open up,” he says.
– One of those topics is the incidents that occur when it comes to the younger population. They happen relatively often and are classified as juvenile delinquency and clashes by fan groups, and in fact many of them have an inter-ethnic character, which is an attempt to hide – Milaković points out.
However, the Epiphany Cross was restored, and the Serbs passed the city with their clergy and church flags thirty years later.
– It gives hope that even if their consciousness changes, and how much it will change, it depends first of all on themselves, – said the deputy mayor of Vukovar.