Memorial cemetery, Vukovar
Part of the main cemetery for Vukovar
in eastern Croatia
is a section with the dead of the Battle of Vukovar, including 938 bodies from a mass grave now marked by white crosses. In front of these stands one of the main local war memorials, which features an eternal flame.
More background info:
See under Vukovar and Croatia
What there is to see:
By the car park and main entrance
is a stone monument giving the cemetery's name next to a flagpole flying the Croatian flag. Nearby is another memorial stone, which turned out to have nothing to do with Battle of Vukovar
but commemorates some Bulgarians from another conflict (I couldn't quite work it out).
To get to the Homeland War memorial part of the cemetery from the main entrance you have to first make your way through the general part of the cemetery – which is just an ordinary cemetery with mostly rather ordinary graves (the black marble tombstone with little portrait photos style is very prevalent here).
At the end of the central avenue you come to a grove of trees and beyond this are two square plots of land covered with plain white-marble crosses
, reminiscent of those war cemeteries at the Somme and Verdun
or the D-Day beaches
. There are said to be 938 crosses
in total, the number of bodies found in a mass grave here. The crosses bear no names – but the rows of graves to the south are the named graves of the war dead, reburied in individual plots.
The website of the Memorial Centre
claims that this field of white crosses
marks the site of what was the largest mass grave
in Europe since WWII
. I'm not quite so sure, though. There are possibly places in Bosnia & Herzegovina
that were larger (Srebrenica
springs to mind, though strictly speaking the cemetery there is not a mass grave in itself, since the bodies buried at this site were found elsewhere and eventually reinterred there.)
In the centre of the memorial part of the cemetery, just south of the white crosses stands the main monument, a green metal block with a hollow centre that forms the shape of an “air cross” (in the standard Christian shape, not an Orthodox one). In the middle of that space an eternal flame is flickering away. There are usually fresh wreaths of flowers at the base.
As you walk further south through the named war graves you can't help but notice that many tombstones bear the same death dates, or ones very close together, between August and November 1991.
Beyond these graves are yet more rows of graves – but these are unused and empty plots. Maybe they were expecting to find yet more war dead in other mass graves? This could well be, since not all known victims' remains have been accounted for (plus there may be unknown ones too).
When I was there a coachload of teenagers were just leaving, apparently a school group on an compulsory memorial tour (I had seen those also at Ovčara
), and their bus was waiting on a separate car park just east of the memorial part of the cemetery. So maybe this is an alternative for ordinary private cars too.
All in all, this is one of the lesser war-related sights from a dark-tourism point of view, even though it is obviously of prime significance from a local commemoration perspective. But worth a short stop when exploring the area.
to the south-east of Vukovar
itself, just outside the city limits and ca. 1.5 miles (2.5 km) from the iconic landmark water tower, and about 2.5 miles (4 km) north of Ovčara
(as the crow flies).
Access and costs:
within easy reach by car (or bike) from Vukovar
Details: it's perhaps a little far from the town centre for walking it (plus the main trunk road wouldn't be especially pleasant to walk along), but by car or bike it's quick and easy. Just head out of town eastbound on the main No. 2 road, called Ul. Bana Josipa Jelačića here, and you'll soon get to the cemetery on the right. There's a large (free) car park by the florists that serve the cemetery, and from here a path leads all the way through the main cemetery to the memorial park at its southern end.
There is also a secondary car park just east of the memorial section. The approach road to this runs along the eastern flank of the cemetery, beginning at the flag pole by the main road. I did not use this, but presume it's available for the general public too.
The cemetery is open every day of the year, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in summer and only to 6 p.m. in winter (from 1 October to 31 March).
Admission free (naturally).
Time required: not long, perhaps half an hour (plus time to get there).
Combinations with other dark destinations:
the closest other site covered here is unrelated to the Battle of Vukovar or the Balkan wars, but easily reached along the No. 2 road just a few hundred yards further east from the cemetery and then along an approach road that's less than a mile long (1.4 km). It's the well signposted Vučedol Culture Museum
Also quite easily reachable from the cemetery is the Ovčara Memorial Centre
and the associated mass grave, first also eastwards along the No. 2 road, then on a signposted approach road leading south.
And obviously Vukovar
itself is only a short drive from the cemetery in a westerly direction along Road No. 2.
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
see under Vukovar
- cemetery 01 - flag by the entrance
- cemetery 02 - some Bulgarian memorial
- cemetery 03 - main part of the regular cemetery
- cemetery 04 - war cemetery
- cemetery 05 - white marble crosses
- cemetery 06 - central memorial monument
- cemetery 07 - with an eternal flame
- cemetery 08 - fresh wreaths
- cemetery 09 - graves of war dead
- cemetery 10 - plenty of empty spaces too
- cemetery 11 - over-shadowed path