KNIN, 5 August 2020 (Hina/CW) – Croatia is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Victory & Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Day of Croatian Defenders today.
Celebrations on Wednesday are being held to commemorate the military victory on 5 August 1995, known as Operation Storm, when the Croatian army took over a self-proclaimed Serb entity in Croatia.
Operation Storm was a combined military and police operation that ended a Serb armed insurgency and restored Croatian sovereignty over occupied central and southern parts of the country, paving the way for the peaceful reintegration of eastern Croatia in January 1998.
The offensive was launched at 5 a.m. on August 4 along the line running from Bosansko Grahovo to the south to Jasenovac to the east, the front line being more than 630 kilometres long. Within the next 84 hours slightly less than 10,500 square kilometres of territory, almost a fifth of the country, was liberated.
The operation culminated on August 5, when the Croatian Army’s 4th and 7th Guard Brigades liberated Knin, the heart of the Serb rebellion, displaying a 20-metre-long Croatian flag on the town’s fortress at noon.
About 200,000 Croatian soldiers and police took part in the biggest operation of the Homeland War. According to the Homeland War Memorial and Documentation Centre, 196 Croatian personnel were killed, at least 1,100 were wounded and 15 missing.
Operation Storm marked the end of the war in Croatia, created conditions for the peaceful reintegration of the eastern Danube River region, helped break the siege of the northwestern Bosnian town of Bihac, and enabled the return of refugees and displaced persons.
Thousands will gather today in the town of Knin where the focus of the celebrations will be.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Veterans’ Affairs, Tomo Medved, issued a message calling for a dignified celebration of the “crown of our victory.”
“Dear Croatian veterans and members of Croatian veteran families, honourable members of the families of Croatian defenders who were killed or went missing or who have passed away, dear citizens of Croatia, I congratulate you on Victory Day, Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Croatian Veterans’ Day and the 25th anniversary of the military-police operation Storm,” Minister Medved said in his message.
He said that 25 years ago “the Croatian people showed the entire world their courage, unity, resoluteness and strength.” He recalled that under the leadership of the first Croatian president Franjo Tudjman one-fifth of occupied Croatian territory was liberated and the Croatian people clearly showed that they themselves decided on their own future.
He underlined that the Croatian flag on top of the Knin Fortress signified the realisation of a historical dream – a free Croatia.
“We pray for the 241 defenders killed or missing in Operation Storm and remember all those who were killed or went missing on that long path to final peace. We pay our respects and express our gratitude to all Croatian defenders, the founders of Croatian statehood, who invested themselves for the sake of the Croatian people and their homeland,” Medved said.
“Let us be proud and dignified in celebrating the crown of our victory. The unity that we built then is our strength. Let us nurture it for the generations to whom we leave our legacy of a free homeland,” he said.
President decorates HV generals, HVO guards brigades
The President of Croatia and Commander in Chief of the Croatian Armed Forces, Zoran Milanovic, at a ceremony in Knin on Tuesday evening, presented medals to the Croatian Army (HV) generals and Bosnian Croat HVO guards brigades for their contribution to the liberation of Croatia 25 years ago.
“There is time for everything. Twenty-five years after a great victory in the Homeland War, it is time for us to get together and repeat that a small group of good people did a great thing for a large group of people, putting themselves, their lives and safety, in jeopardy,” Milanovic said in an address to a reception held on the Knin Fortress on the occasion of Victory Day, Homeland Thanksgiving Day, Croatian Veterans Day and the 25th anniversary of Operation Storm.
He said that the war that was imposed on Croatia was just and inevitable, and that “never, despite certain lapses, did we fall into an abyss of moral catastrophe.” He also said that there had been attempts to portray the Croatian war of liberation as a criminal enterprise, but “luckily they failed”.
Milanovic said he was honoured to decorate the Bosnian Croat units. “It is our debt of honour,” he said.
“Today, 25 years on, we are here. We are looking back, but most of all we are looking forward, aware of all the challenges, traps and unknowns. What I can say with a deep conviction is that the wars are over and that Croatia won them. Long live Croatia!” the President said.
Gotovina: It’s never too late to do good
Retired General Ante Gotovina said that a lot of time had passed since the war, “but it is never too late to do good, to do right.”
“Dear friends, with your courage and your selfless dedication to the country at that fateful time for our people, through the unity of us all, we built a Croatian army capable of defending itself, ending an imposed war and creating conditions for lasting peace,” Gotovina said.