Zagreb’s Homeland War Exhibition

CBR’s Editor Brian Gallagher had the following published in Hrvatski Vjesnik (Australia) on 13 June:

The Croatian History Museum in Zagreb is currently staging an exhibition in regard to Croatia’s 1991-95 Homeland War. The exhibition gathers together exhibits from the time giving an overview of the war. It is a useful corrective to disinformation and shows the realities of a war that was caused purely by Serbian aggression.

I visited it whilst in Zagreb, and the museum’s Jelena Hotko was good enough to talk to me about the exhibition.

One of its major aims is to present a truthful account of the war. Jelena pointed out that that it is not there to show someone in a bad light, but rather to remember what actually happened, and not to keep people in ignorance. As she says, there was much Serbian government manipulation of the war, but the exhibition is based upon on historical facts.

There are old uniforms, weapons, photographs, documents, videos and much else. Of particular interest are Yugoslav military documents showing preparatory exercises in 1986, giving the lie to disinformation about Croatia somehow starting the war  – in reality defenseless against one of the world’s largest armies.
On display is a list of people signing up for the military – a number of whom lied about their age. Men and women from all parts of Croatian life joined. One part of the exhibition remembers the legendary Croatian soldier Andrija Andabak.  Andabak, who was killed during the war, destroyed no less than 32 Yugoslav tanks during the war.

There are many personal items here. These even include video equipment, emphasising that fact that during the war Croatian TV cameramen had to rerecord over their tapes due to shortages of cassettes. A child’s coat from the war is present – the owner had never let it leave her until now. Unsurprisingly, many get emotional when visiting the exhibition.

Amongst the materials there are items showing support from around the world, including for example a letter from a refugee in Melbourne spreading information about the war. A war in which the international community stood by and did nothing – international reaction also being explored at the exhibition.

Jelena points out that Croatian school children can come to see things with their own eyes – they understand the war much more after having seen it.  There are foreign visitors too, of course. A group of Hungarian students visiting could not believe how such things so close to them occurred.

The exhibition itself is a temporary one. The Croatian History Museum has no permanent premises and thus runs high quality temporary exhibitions. It is to be hoped that the Museum is given permanent premises so that its exhibitions are placed on permanent display. The Homeland War exhibition does deserve permanent display, given the ongoing interest in the war, and the disinformation that surrounds it.

There is a wider message from the museum, one that should give many pause for thought regarding such wars some people think themselves immune from.  I leave to it to Jelena Hotko – “It can happen to you – don’t be so sure”.

* Many thanks to Jelena Hotko. The exhibition is open until late September. This exhibition will be of great interest and importance to readers of Hrvatksi Vjesnik – and it needs support by people visiting it. They also sell some excellent related items. Anyone going to Croatia this summer should go – and tell his or her friends about it.

The Croatian History Museum (Hrvatski povijesni muzej) is located at: Matoševa 9, 10 000 Zagreb. Many details can be found at www.hismus.hr

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