Address by the President of the Republic of Srpska Željka Cvijanović at the commemoration of the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Ustasha Crime – Genocide in the Jasenovac Concentration Camp and its largest execution site in Donja Gradina:
Dear Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska,
Dear President of the Republic of Serbia,
Chairman and Serb member of the BiH Presidency,
Prime Minister of the Republic of Srpska,
Chairman of the Council of Ministers,
Chairperson of the Council of the People,
Distinguished MPs, Ministers, Mayors,
Survivors of the camp and the families of the victims,
Representatives of associations originating from the Defense – Patriotic War,
Distinguished ambassadors and representatives of the diplomatic corps,
Dear citizens of the Republic of Srpska and the Republic of Serbia,
This year as well, we are marking the day of remembrance of the victims of the Jasenovac genocide together with the leadership of Serbia, united by pain, but also by the permanent obligation to save from oblivion this terrible place and innocent victims who were killed here in the most brutal and cruel way.
The anniversary we are celebrating today is without a doubt one of the most significant in our difficult, suffering, but also heroic history.
76 years ago, the last group of detainees embarked on a decisive breakthrough from the hell of Jasenovac’s death and suffering. In the days before the breakthrough, the death factory worked tirelessly following the intention of the Ustasha leadership to liquidate the remaining prisoners, and to erase and destroy all evidence and traces of the existence of the camp itself.
The same fate was destined for the entire Serb people in the Independent State of Croatia. Even in April 1945, although they themselves were aware that the final defeat of that dark ideology was approaching, the authorities of the criminal NDH persistently and thoroughly pursued the demonic policy of extermination of an entire nation from the youngest children to the oldest.
That speaks enough about the pathological hatred of those who will be remembered in history as non-humans who founded camps for children, whose brutality appalled even the notorious Nazis.
The most terrible testimony to that horror and monstrosity is precisely Jasenovac, and with it Donja Gradina, as a place of the most massive suffering, not of fighters, soldiers, but of innocent bare-handed people, ordinary people who had their families, their houses, fields and arable lands, their daily worries, their faith, and their human dignity, unaware that they would experience a hell unimaginable to the human race.
The last inmates set out on a decisive breakthrough, aware that the chances of survival were minimal, but they knew that even death on the path of deliverance was saving in relation to hell bounded by camp walls, wires and the bloody Sava River.
Only every tenth participant in the breakthrough survived, and thanks to their courage, as well as the sacrifices of those who did not survive, the truth about the Jasenovac death camps was given the opportunity to see the light of day.
That is why we are obliged to preserve the memory of them and to protect the truth about Jasenovac and the genocide of the Serb people in the Independent State of Croatia from all forms of historical revisionism, as well as from those who would build their own at the expense of our history.
Nurturing historical memory is important and necessary both because of the sacrifices and because of a brighter future that we can only build if we learn from our own mistakes and misconceptions from the past.
Therefore, we must never allow oblivion to cover our sufferings and our historical traumas for the sake of any politics, ideology, brotherhood, unity, or for the sake of the apparent peace in the house. Because, nothing is worth putting a bandage on a heavy, huge wound and pretending it does not exist because even in the 90’s, we saw that it would become infected again, and all forgotten or skipped lessons would come to fruition.
However, we learned one lesson well and we passed that exam on January 9, 1992, the day when the Republic of Srpska was created. The lesson that teaches us that the state is the only guarantor of our survival in this area, was paid so dearly in the recent and distant past that nothing could erase it from the collective memory.
That is why the price we paid defending the Republic of Srpska is huge, but it is lower than the one we paid in Jasenovac and throughout the NDH, when we did not have our own institutions.
For that reason, today, we have two basic tasks. One is to defend and strengthen the Republic of Srpska, because it is a guarantee that we will live as our own, and the other is to keep the peace and leave the coming generations a safe, stable and prosperous environment in which they can live with others without fear of some new conflicts and wars.
Unfortunately, there are still those in BiH who talk about wars with such irresponsible ease, as if nothing bad had ever happened to them or any other people in the war. These are the same people who call the people from Jasenovac, Drakulić, Prebilovci, Stari Brod on the Drina, Garavice, from the abyss of Herzegovina and Velebit pits genocidal and bad, without a shred of respect, without shame and disgrace.
And they are not the only ones. It is not uncommon for some international representatives in BiH to take it upon themselves to insult the entire Serb people and impose collective guilt on them for the events of the past war.
Regardless of the disincentive environment, we have our own path called a free, stable and strong Republic of Srpska. We want to live in peace and freedom, and everything we wish for ourselves, we wish for all other peoples living in our environment.
We want cooperation, respect and mutual understanding to replace quarrels and conflicts, because we know all too well what their price is. We want to be good neighbors and partners to each other, not enemies and opponents. However, it does not depend only on us.
We are looking to the future, but we have no right to forget the past on that path. This largest Serbian underground town, over which we are gathered today, obliges us to do that, as well as all the martyrs who rest in it forever. As long as we remember them and as we come, Jasenovac and Donja Gradina will not only be places of pain and sorrow, but also victories of life over death.
May the eternal remembrance be upon all the victims.