A freedom fighters monument was unveiled in Nevesinje at the town square on Wednesday by Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik, Minister of Labour and Protection of Veterans and Disabled Persons Milenko Savanovic, Mayor of Nevesinje Milenko Avdalovic, a mother of two fallen veterans Dusanka Kuzman, and a son of a fallen veteran born after his father’s death, Momcilo Vukovic.
Dodik said Nevesinje was a town of heroes and place of freedom defence during the 1990s war and throughout history and a symbol of freedom in a wider Serb territory.
“This monument which honours all the fallen of the wars waged in these parts through history is a unique opportunity to show there are no divisions here. We must pay our debts by staying here, by building here,” said Dodik
He said the reconstruction of a sports hall began in Nevesinje on Wednesday and that the Government of Republika Srpska would allocate BAM450,000 for the arena and the cultural centre. He also said the rehabilitation of the local roads and construction of a water supply plant would resume.
A hydropower plant complex Gornji Horizonti is built in Nevesinje, said Dodik, which will help improve the living conditions there.
Efforts will be invested in giving employment to children of fallen veterans, Dodik pointed out and added he would make sure that ten children of fallen veterans got a job at the Gacko Thermal Power Plant during his visit there later in the day.
Dodik announced he would bring in new investors who would create around 200 jobs in Nevesinje.
Bishop Grigorije of Zahum-Herzegovina and the Littoral consecrated the monument and said it was worthy of Nevesinje by the person who made it and how they made it, and by what was inscribed on it.
The bishop said the monument was not just a “reminder and a symbol, but also a monument to reconciliation because there are no divisions into these and those in wars, in uprisings and rebellions, because everyone fought for freedom and for our life.”
“We mustn’t stand united just in war, we must also be human in peace and bring progress to this beautiful area,” said Bishop Grigorije.
Minister Savanovic said all events from the glorious history were inscribed in the monument in Nevesinje, from the Nevesinje Gun / Herzegovina Uprising, 1885-85/, to Herzegovina Uprising /1882/, to the Balkan wars, the First and Second World Wars and the 1992-95 defence and homeland war.
“Most of the time freedom was our wishful thinking but we have always mounted a struggle for freedom, for faith and for our homeland. Freedom is a constant we must fight for in both war and peace. In peace time we must fight with unity and economic development and if, God forbid, there is another war, we will stand united then too,” said Savanovic.
He said everyone had attacked Herzegovina in the past.
“Who dare call us aggressors when on St Mitar’s Day /Mitrovdan, Nov 8/ in 1992 and 1994 the Serb holy buildings and Serb homes, Serb families were under attack. When we were united, the people, the politicians and the Army were united in defending this area and our freedom,” said the minister.
A total of 470 best veterans from the 8th Motorised Herzegovina Brigade of the Army of Republika Srpska had given their lives for freedom, said Savanovic.
Mladen Ivanic, a member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina from Republika Srpska, said the Nevesinje people and brigade, the unit which managed to defend the whole Herzegovina, had been courageous on St Mitar’s Day.
“The outcome of the homeland war would definitely have been different had the Nevesinje Brigade not won any victories and that’s why we are grateful to all the people who defended Republika Srpska. This monument shows some kind of unity and what this area had given through the history of the Serbs,” said Ivanic.
Milomir Savcic, head of the Srpska Veterans Association, which celebrates its patron saint’s day on Wednesday, said that St Mitar’s Day was a tribute to two glorious battles of the Herzegovina Corps, especially of the Herzegovina Brigade and the 2nd Light Infantry Brigade.
“Today we pray for our fallen veterans, for the wounded and for all the surviving veterans to have a better life,” said Savcic.
“This monument prompts me to say it is time, a need and an inevitability to unite. Dangers and challenges are great and it is time to reach an agreement and a plan about national issues,” said Savcic.
Nevesinje Mayor Milenko Avdalovic said it was a monument to freedom, as without freedom there could be no state.
He pointed out that the figure of a warrior symbolised the struggle for one’s home, people and freedom, and the cross above it symbolised the continuity of the Serb Orthodox entity in the Serb Herzegovina.
St Mitar’s Day is a day of suffering in Nevesinje, as well as a festival of freedom, said Avdalovic, recalling that many people had been killed in the Mitrovdan battles of 1992 and 1994, defending their freedom and their families.
Thanks to those battles, the Serb Herzegovina survived and Republika Srpska was created, he said.
The monument in Nevesinje is a masterpiece of sculptor Miodrag Zivkovic, the author of the monuments at Tjentiste in BiH, and Kadinjaca and Sumarice in Serbia.
Wreaths to the monument were laid by President Milorad Dodik, Minister Savanovic on behalf of the Government, a delegation of the National Assembly, BiH Presidency member Mladen Ivanic, Serbian Ambassador to BiH Stanimir Vukicevic, a delegation of the Veterans Association, and several delegations associations formed as a result of the homeland war as well as east Herzegovina mayors.
The unveiling ceremony was attended by representatives of the Entity executive and legislative authorities, Serb representatives in the BiH Parliamentary Assembly, mayors from Montenegro, war-time commanders, as well as numerous local residents.