Croatia’s Vukovar After the Fall: Despatches from the Ruins

"No one will harvest the fruits of victory because there are none; all that is left is just the bitter taste of a hangover," said a report published in Belgrade-based Vreme magazine after the fall of the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar on November 18, 1991.

A team from Vreme entered Vukovar after its Croatian defenders surrendered, i the wake of a devastating three-month siege by the Yugoslav People's Army, Serb Territorial Defence fighters and paramilitaries. "The beautiful old town is completely destroyed, it looks most like Warsaw in 1945," they reported.

Their account of what they saw, written as a series of descriptive textual 'images', adds up to a powerful piece of reporting on what they called the "consequences of ideological and national [ethnic] intoxication" that led to the violent collapse of Yugoslavia.

"The pictures of Vukovar after the fall are pictures of our future," they warned, predicting the devastation that would follow over the next four years of bloody conflict in the Balkans.

IMAGE ONE Access to the town is via a street about two kilometres long, in which not a single house is worth repairing, and from what once was a beautiful, shady line of trees, all that is left is broken sticks for the fire. A giant tank moves through the street with a soldier peeking from its turret, wearing a diving mask with a breathing tube on his head. A little later, an armoured personnel carrier passes by, with a big pink balloon in the shape of a bunny rabbit merrily fluttering above it.

IMAGE TWO A completely destroyed house in Vukovar; only one wall is left standing, in which there is a door, and on that door, a faded sign saying: "Serbian house - don't touch!" A line of...

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