Vukovar and Dubrovnik: On freedom, solidarity, peace and beauty today

Vukovar i Dubrovnik: o slobodi, solidarnosti, miru i ljepoti baš danas

iz-zraka-stari-gradCity of Dubrovnik from the air

It is today that we have to talk about beauty and about freedom, especially among the youth. We lost the art of living these notions because of political correctness watering down  the universal human values: because of beliefs that the beauty is solely and exclusively in the eye of the beholder, because of the lie that freedom is defined by some legislation created in dark rooms by some would-be people, described by Croatian Renaissance playwright Marin Držić in the 16th century.

These days, Croatia remembers great massacres and devastation which happened in 1991. 25 years later, Croatians are still mourning their fathers, husbands, brothers, sisters, girlfriends and wives. Many lives have been cruelly ended, many destinies are still full of questions. Do we have to continue? Yes, we do. But how? It is today that I am thinking about how and I wish to explain the how through the examples of two Croatian heroic cities. They are standing today, they are still standing proudly on the Croatian soil and they don’t let the hatred of the foregone – but never forgotten – days, to bring them down. Vukovar in the far east, Dubrovnik in the far south – two strongpoints where your freedom and mine was defended.


Ovčara cemetery

It is today, couple of days after the anniversary of Vukovar’s fall (18 November 1991) and couple of days before the anniversary of the cruelest attack on Dubrovnik in its long history (6 December 1991), that I don’t want to forget that there are still Vukovars and Dubrovniks, they are in Syria and Libya and in every place in the world where human dignity is being relativized, where it is forgotten that human dignity is intrinsic in every human being from conception to death, where there is systematic devastation of the thousand years old cultural heritage, heritage which is essential for understanding and integrity of the society and for the future of every individual. 25 years ago in Vukovar more than 3000 soldiers and civilians lost their lives in the attack of the Yugoslav national army and Chetnik troops, and 426 people are still missing. Those people were brutally raped and tortured to death. The graveyard erected on the site of the biggest mass grave in Croatia after the Second World War has 938 tombs. 200 Croatian soldiers were taken from the hospital and cold-bloodedly killed at Ovčara.
One of the people who was killed at that horrible place was Siniša Glavašević, a journalist who kept reporting every day from Vukovar during the attacks on the city. The notes he kept are published in the book “Stories from Vukovar”, a classic among the books which speak about human existence. “The town – it is you”, says Siniša in order to encourage people, to show them that those few stones still standing on the blood-soaked soil are still their town, “a town hidden in you so that the enemy can’t find it”. Siniša knew that people who are ripped out from their roots are easy target of manipulation because they are crushed by non-belonging. Their identity is erased by violence, their tradition melts like an iceberg under a desert sun, their freedoms vanish in totalitarian regimes which instrumentalize human lives. It is precisely why we, young people who decide to stay in Croatia today, to raise our families here and to develop professionally, want to remember with piety all those who were torn out from the roots and we want to tell them that we remain rooted in the identity whose foundations they anchored.

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Solider walking through the devastated City of Vukovar after the attack

That’s why today is the right moment to remind young people to make a choice to be free for excellence, so that freedom can be their means to exercise their mind and their will. Because in every man there is an inborn aspiration for the truth and the good, towards happiness and fulfillment. Therefore, it is not enough that our will to choose is free will, it has to be directed at something good, otherwise it will not give fruits of genuine freedom, because freedom entails living the good. So it is today – when some people suggest that Croatians shouldn’t organize memorial walk of honour in Vukovar for all the victims of the Homeland war – that we should tell young people that Vukovar is a symbol of freedom for excellence which can build a society of peace. But, to achieve peace we must live I-THOU relationship in reciprocity, in which I exist only in contact with THOU; where becoming I, I say THOU. It is relationship of solidarity in which we learn to carry the burden for the other person. We are bound to each other even if we do not know it. The landscape binds us, flesh and blood bind us, work and speech bind us. However, we are not always conscious of these bonds. When solidarity is born, this consciousness is awakened, and then speech and word appear- and at that point something that was hidden becomes manifest. All our bonds become visible. Then one person shoulders the burden of another.

And what can we say about beauty by which our world of peace, solidarity and freedom is saved? It was in 15th century when Leon Battista Alberti in De Re Aedificatoria, the most famous tract about the art of building, wrote “But Beauty will have such an Effect even upon an enraged Enemy, that it will disarm his Anger, and prevent him from offering it any Injury: Insomuch that I will be bold to say, there can be no greater Security to any Work against Violence and Injury, than Beauty and Dignity”. What happened then, at dawn on 6 December 1991 when the Yugoslav National Army began firing at Dubrovnik, a symbol of freedom and beauty, a city whose beauty was admired by Venetians and Turks since 1358?


Bombing of Dubrovnik

That day about 2000 grenades fell on the narrow town area, 53 people were killed and more than 180 civilians and soldiers were injured (in only one day!). Monuments of the highest category carrying white UNESCO flags were destroyed – the heritage and identity over a half of millennium old. Sponza, the Jesuit church, town bell, port, renaissance palaces, they were all damaged. Could it be that beauty failed? No, the relationship of reciprocity failed and the reason subordinated itself to will, striving only for power and rejecting good and truth. “Human life deprived of beauty is not worthy of being called so”, said famous Mexican architect Luis Barragán in his acceptance speech on the occasion of receiving the Pritzker Architecture Prize. To be insensitive to beauty is to deny your own humanity. Insensitivity to

“Human life deprived of beauty is not worthy of being called so”, said famous Mexican architect Luis Barragán in his acceptance speech on the occasion of receiving the Pritzker Architecture Prize. To be insensitive to beauty is to deny your own humanity. Insensitivity to beauty of life and to what makes life worth living – like freedom, peace and solidarity – results in wars, results in ideologies which deny inborn human dignity, results in crazy version of freedom which consequence is not living the  excellence but exercising power.

It is today, when we, young people listen to the stories of the Homeland war, and some of us remember their young father with a gun on his shoulder, going to defend his people, it is today that I wish to remind the young people from Croatia and the whole world to strive for good, which has the same value for the state and the individual, but also that they don’t forget that it is more divine to achieve this freedom for peoples and the states, as says Aristotle. Whatever the conditions we live in might be, we shall never give up on freedom for excellence, on what is good, true and beautiful, so that our dignity can be realized in all its potential which strives to excellence.

Baš je danas potrebno govoriti o ljepoti i o slobodi, osobito među mladima. Izgubilo se danas življenje tih pojmova u nekim politički korektnim relativizacijama univerzalnih ljudskih vrednota: u uvjerenjima da je ljepota samo i isključivo u oku promatrača, u laži da o slobodi odlučuju neke legislative proizvedene u mračnim sobama ljudi nahvao kako bi ih naš Držić sigurno i danas nazvao. Hrvatska se ovih dana sjeća velikih masakara i agresorskih razaranja koja su je zadesila 1991. Nakon točno 25 godina Hrvati još uvijek oplakuju svoje očeve, muževe, braću, sestre, djevojke i žene. Mnogi su životi okrutno završeni, mnoge su sudbine još uvijek pune pitanja. Trebamo li ići dalje ? Trebamo. Ali kako? Baš danas razmišljam kako i želim to KAKO predočiti upravo na primjerima dvaju hrvatskih gradova heroja. Oni danas stoje, još čvrsto stoje na hrvatskom tlu i ne dopuštaju da ih mržnja minule – ali nikad zaboravljene prošlosti – uništi. Vukovar na samom istoku, Dubrovnik na samom jugu – dvije točke s kojih se nadljudskim naporima branila tvoja i moja sloboda danas.


Groblje na Ovčari

Baš danas, nekoliko dana nakon obljetnice pada Vukovara (18.11.1991.) i nekoliko dana prije obljetnice najokrutnijeg napada na Dubrovnik u njegovoj dugoj povijesti (6.12.1991.), želim ne zaboraviti da još traju Vukovari i Dubrovnici, traju u Siriji i Libiji i na svakom mjestu na svijetu gdje se relativizira ljudsko dostojanstvo, gdje se zaboravlja da je ono intrinzično svakom čovjeku i da postoji od trenutka njegova začeća do trenutka njegove smrti, gdje se sustavno u korijenu siječe baština stara tisućama godina, ona baština koja je čovjeku nužna  za razumijevanje i integritet u društvu, ali i za budućnost svakog njegovog pojedinca. U Vukovaru je prije 25 godina u naletu Jugoslavenske narodne armije (JNA) i četnika život izgubilo više od 3000 branitelja i civila, a danas se traži još 426 nestalih. Ti ljudi mučeni su i silovani dugotrajno i brutalno dok ne bi izdahnuli. Na mjestu najveće masovne grobnice u Hrvatskoj nakon Drugog svjetskog rata, podignuto je groblje za 938 ljudi. 200 hrvatskih zarobljenika odvučeno je iz bolnice i hladnokrvno ubijeno na Ovčari.

Jedan od ljudi ubijenih na tom strašnom mjestu bio je Siniša Glavašević, novinar koji je izvještavao svaki dan iz Vukovara tijekom agresorskog napada na hrvatski grad Heroj. Sinišina zapažanja zabilježena su u knjizi “Priče iz Vukovara”, klasiku među djelima koja govore o ljudskog egzistenciji. “Grad – to ste vi” kaže Siniša kako bi ohrabrio ljude, kako bi im ukazao da je ono malo kamenja što je ostalo stajati na zemlji natopljenoj krvlju i dalje njihov grad, “grad skriven u njima samima da ga krvnik ne nađe”. Znao je Siniša da ljudi iščupani iz korijena postaju lako podložni manipulaciji jer su shrvani nepripadanjem. Njihov se identitet briše nasiljem, njihova tradicija kopni kao ledenjak na saharskom suncu, a slobode im nestaju u bespućima totalitarnih režima koji instrumentaliziraju ljudske živote. Upravo zato mi mladi koji danas odlučujemo ostati u Hrvatskoj, ovdje podizati svoje obitelji i profesionalno se razvijati, želimo se s pijetetom sjećati svih onih koje su iščupali iz korijena, želimo im poručiti da mi ostajemo ukorijenjeni u identitet kojem su oni učvrstili temelje.

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Vojnik hoda devastiranim ulicama Vukovara nakon napada

Zato je baš danas vrijeme da podsjetimo mlade da biraju biti slobodni za izvrsnost, da sloboda za izvrsnost bude njihovo sredstvo kojim vježbaju svoj razum i svoju volju u čovjeku urođenom stremljenju prema istini i dobru, prema sreći i izvrsnosti. Nije dovoljno stoga da naša volja koja može odabrati ovo ili ono bude samo slobodna volja – ona mora biti usmjerena na nešto dobro, u suprotnom neće dati plodove prave slobode jer prava sloboda podrazumijeva življenje dobra. Zato je danas – kada neki ljudi nahvao žele reći da cijela Hrvatska u Vukovaru ne treba iz godine u godinu organizirano odavati počast palim žrtvama Domovinskog rata – potrebno govoriti mladima da je upravo Vukovar simbol slobode za izvrsnost kojom se gradi društvo mira. Međutim, kako bi se mir postigao, potrebno je živjeti JA-TI odnos kao odnos uzajamnosti, u kojem JA nastaje jedino u dodiru s TI; u kojem postajući JA, ja govorim TI. To je odnos solidarnosti u kojem učimo nositi teret drugoj osobi. Mi smo povezani jedni s drugima, čak i onda kada toga nismo svjesni. Povezuje nas krajolik, meso i krv, rad i govor. Kada se rodi solidarnost probudi se i svijest o beskonačnim vezama koje nas vežu i koje se onda manifestiraju kroz riječi i djela. Sve veze postaju vidljive i mi spremno nosimo teret za drugoga kao i on za nas, baš kao što su ga nosili tijekom rata naši branitelji i civili, za nas i našu slobodu.

A što reći o ljepoti po kojoj se spašava taj naš svijet mira, solidarnosti i slobode?  Još je sredinom 15. stoljeća Leon Battista Alberti u De Re Aedificatoria, najpoznatijem traktatu o umijeću građenja zapisao da je ”ljepota ona vrijednost koja ima moć razoružati i najljućeg neprijatelja, stoga ne postoji veća sigurnost za bilo što što čovjek radi nego učiniti to nešto lijepim jer ljepota i dostojanstvo odbijaju ozljede i nasilje od sebe”. Što se onda dogodilo 6.12.1991. kada je JNA vojska započela u zoru paljbu na Dubrovnik, simbol slobode i ljepote, grad čiju su slobodu poštovali Mlečani i Turci još od 1358.?


Bombardiranje Dubrovnika

Toga dana na uže gradsko područje je palo oko 2000 topničkih projektila, poginulo je 53, a ranjeno više od 180 civila i branitelja (samo tog jednog dana!). Uništeni su spomenici nulte kategorije s kojih su se propisno vijorili bijeli barjaci UNESCO-a, nasljeđe i identitet stari pola tisućljeća. Stradala je Sponza, jezuitska crkva, gradski zvonik, luka, renesansne palače… Zar je zakazala ljepota? Nije, zakazao je odnos recipročnosti i tako se razum podredio volji ne stremeći za dobrom i istinom već samo za moći. “Ljudski život bez ljepote nije vrijedan nazvati se ljudskim životom”, rekao je poznati meksički arhitekt Luis Barragán prilikom preuzimanja Pritzkerove nagrade koja se svake godine dodjeljuje u području arhitekture. Biti neosjetljiv na ljepotu znači odricati se onoga ljudskoga u sebi. Neosjetljivost na ljepotu života i onoga što život čini vrijednim življenja poput slobode, mira i solidarnosti dovodi do rata, dovodi do ideologija koje čovjeku niječu urođeno dostojanstvo, dovodi do sulude inačice slobode čija posljedica nije življenje  izvrsnosti već provođenje moći.

Baš danas, u razdoblju kada mi mladi slušamo priče o Domovinskom ratu, a poneki od nas se sjećaju svog mladog oca s puškom na ramenu kako odlazi braniti svoj narod, baš danas želim mlade iz Hrvatske i cijelog svijeta podsjetiti da streme za dobrom koje je doduše jednako bitno za pojedinca i državu, ali i da ne zabrave da je to dobro ljepše i božanskije postići narodu i državi, kako to kaže Aristotel. U kojim god uvjetima živjeli, ne zazirimo od slobode za izvrsnost, ne zazirimo od dobroga i istinitoga i lijepoga kako bi se naše dostojanstvo ostvarilo u svom punom potencijalu koji teži izvrsnosti.

Written by Anita Ruso from WYA Croatia Chapter.