ZAGREB, August 5, 2019 (Hina/Ured Presjednice) – The celebration of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day, Day of Croatian Defenders and 24th Anniversary of Military and Police Operation “Storm” has taken place in Knin on Monday.
The day started off with a wreath-laying and candle-lighting ceremony at a monument dedicated to Croatia’s victory in the 1995 Operation Storm, the first in a number of events that marked Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Day of Croatian Defenders and the 24th anniversary of the combined military and police operation that ended an armed rebellion of local Serbs, helping restore state sovereignty in occupied central and southern parts of the country and enabling the peaceful reintegration of eastern Croatia in January 1998.
A joint wreath was laid at the monument by President and Armed Forces’ Supreme Commander Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and the leader of the national association of the families of Croatian defenders killed or gone missing in the war, Ljiljana Alvir.
The ceremony was followed by an address by Grabar-Kitarovic, Plenkovic and Jandrokovic, after which the three state officials headed for the Knin Fortress overlooking the town to attend the traditional hoisting of the Croatian flag there and a ceremony at which the names of Croatian soldiers killed or gone missing in the 1995 operation were read out.
The Croatian Air Force aerobatic team The Wings of Storm performed a display above the Knin Fortress during the ceremony.
The programme at the Knin Fortress also included a performance by the Croatian Navy harmony singing group “St George”.
After the ceremony at the Knin Fortress, participants in the event attended a religious service for the homeland in a local church.
Address of the President of the Republic and Commander in Chief of the Croatian Armed Forces Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović at the celebration of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day, Day of Croatian Defenders and 24th Anniversary of Military and Police Operation “Storm”:
Dear Croats and all Croatian citizens in the Homeland and around the world, Dear Croatian defenders, dear Mrs. Alvir, Dear families of the fallen, died and missing Croatian defenders and civilians, Dear Speaker, Deputy Speakers and Members of the Croatian Parliament, Dear Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers and Ministers, Dear Chief of the General Staff, generals, admirals, officers and non-commissioned officers, members of the Croatian Armed Forces and Ministry of the Interior, Special greetings to war commanders including the commander of Vukovar Mile Dedaković, Dear State officials, County Prefects, Mayors and Heads of Municipalities, Dear residents of Knin, Esteemed participants of this all Croatian celebration,
We stand here today in the place symbolizing a magnificent moment in which Croatian freedom is no longer just a dream of generations, but a moment in which Croatian freedom becomes reality and an undeniable fact.
Each time I am in the royal Croatian city of Knin, I have an overwhelming feeling of reverence because I know that here, on this day 24 years ago, a new page turns in the history of the Croatian nation with bloody victims and the selfless limitless sacrifices of all our defenders, doctors, nurses and all Croatian patriots.
The vision of our first President Dr. Franjo Tuđman, one of a free, independent and democratic Croatia and our flag, our banner that proudly flew over this fortress has become reality. And then, 24 years ago, a powerful message was sent to the entire world.
And this message is that we, Croats, are a proud nation and that we have an undeniable and indivisible right to decide our fate by ourselves and that no one gave or presented this right to us, because it has always been ours and we are prepared to defend it from anyone and with all available means. Now and forever.
This message was articulated by the first President and demonstrated by our defenders with their unselfishness. “Sve za Hrvatsku, Hrvatsku ni za što.” [All for Croatia, Croatia for naught.]
Given the responsibility that is part of the institution of President of the Republic, as the first Croatian woman President, I have the honour, special honour to bow deeply, earnestly and in the spirit of faith before all the defenders who gave up their lives, their health, before those whose children were left fatherless, before the widows, the mothers who lost their sons, the sisters who lost their brothers for our freedom.
I came here to express gratitude on behalf of all of us although I know that none of our defenders defended our homeland Croatia expecting thanks, but many of you gave up your lives selflessly for us to be able to build and develop Croatia today, preserve our identity and tradition, to give opportunities to new generations that were given to us by the freedom you have won for us.
Furthermore, I feel the need to say that, although there are many politicians present including myself with the greatest obligation as head of State, President of the Republic of Croatia, this celebration is not intended for politicians, but we are here to show humility and gratitude and gather enough courage to face ourselves and ask whether each one of us has done everything for Croatia to be more successful, prosperous, freer for each Croat, man and woman, each citizen of our homeland.
We must answer this question. I believe that it is the duty, the mission of new generations and a reply to this question is expected, not in words but in deeds. Therefore, my obligation as President of the Republic is the greatest and this is a question with which I start each new day.
However, this is also a message to all Croatian politicians and all citizens of our homeland. This is what is expected from us, not personal interests and empty promises, not discord, not hard words that foment apathy, hopelessness and divisions.
Because twenty-four years ago we fought for the right to take our fate into our own hands, to make decisions about Croatia and Croats in Croatia and we are those who bear this responsibility. All of us. Because this is our homeland, our only and eternal homeland. And therefore, I will quote our hero and general who said: “The war is over, let us turn to the future”.
The defenders gave up their lives, their health, everything so that we are able to stand here today, under the Croatian banner in our own free and democratic State. Therefore, we have the obligation to make Croatia a country where work is valued, where human dignity is unquestionable for each and every citizen, where the Croatian identity is formed and the tradition is developed in freedom that stimulates initiative, learning and creativity, not destruction. This is our responsibility, and this is my offer today. As the defenders made the dream of an independent and free Croatia come true, so it is our task to make Croatia a prosperous and free country in which life and every person is valued.
Because in the Homeland War we fought for life and love as our Christian faith and tradition teach us, against hatred and destruction.
It is up to us to act today.
With this wish and with faith in the success of our dear homeland, I cordially congratulate everyone Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day, Day of Croatian Defenders and 24th Anniversary of Military and Police Operation “Storm”.
Eternal thanks to you!