Remembering the victims of the Cross road and Bleiburg tragedy

Central commemoration on the occasion of the 73rd anniversary of the Bleiburg tragedy and the Cross road of Croatian people, was held on May 12th on Bleiburg field in Austria.

Translated by: Ksenija Ninić

The commemoration organizer was the Honorable Bleiburg Command, and the Liturgy was organized on behalf of Croatian Bishop’s conference (HBK) and the Bishop’s conference of BIH (BK BiH) by the Directorate of Chaplaincy for Croats Abroad, together with the Croatian Catholic Mission in Klagenfurt. The sponsor of the commemoration is the Croatian Parliament, and the co-sponsor is the Croatian People's Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


The commemorative gathering began with prayer at the Unterloibach cemetery, followed by a procession to the altar on the Bleiburg field, where the mass celebration was led by Msgr. Želimir Puljić, the Archbishop of Zadar and president of the HBK, in a communion with about 70 concelebrants, while liturgical singing was animated by the Cathedral Choir “Sv. Stošija” from Zadar. Along with the representatives of the authorities from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to the estimates of the organizers, about 10 000 pilgrims participated.

In a welcoming speech, the Director of the Chaplaincy for Croats Abroad, Dr. rev. Tomislav Markić welcomed the participants of the commemoration and thanked Msgr. Puljić for leading the mass., as well as to the bishop of the Gurk-Klagenfurt diocese Msgr. Alois Schwarz because he allowed them to celebrate this Mass in his diocese. He asked the present to pay their respect to all war and after war victims, especially those who have been killed without trial at the end of World War II, and their earthly remains were buried and hidden in known and unknown graves and pits.

”Here we pray for the peace and souls of the thousands of people killed and buried, without a name and grave, in mass graves”, Archbishop Želimir said at the beginning of the Mass, referring to the Tragedy of Bleiburg, which, as he said, is a torture metaphor, the persecution and death of a great number of Croats. “Therefore, here, every year, we mention in the prayers all known and unknown victims who were without trial and court dying in camps and graves: from Dravograd, Kočevski rog, Maribor and Tezna to Ogulin and Gospić, from Macelj's forests and Jazovka to Jasenovac and Glina, from Križevci and Bjelovar to Srijemska Mitrovica, Sarajevo, Foča, Zenica and Mostar”, said Msgr. Puljić recalling that the Church prays for the deceased in the churches and in the places where they were killed or buried, from the beginnings. He also said that this gathering was a sign of faith, prayer and respect for the victims of collective suffering committed by Yugoslav Partisans after the end of World War II., and that has been hidden, justified or diminished for decades.

Relationship to the Homeland

„All of us, dear pilgrims, this ceremony takes seven decades back. And while some wonder whether to go back to the past and think about what has happened long ago, the Lord in the Bible determines that some events are not to be forgotten and that they are celebrated every year (Ex 12:14, Ex 13:10). Memory is an integral part of the identity of the family, community and people. And holy mass, as a great memorial and a memory of the sacred feast of love, is especially the place of our immersing in the walk of memory and salvation history. It is a sign of our Christian responsibility for the face of the Homeland, which should be deferred in its decrees and laws“, said the Archbishop of Zadar, who underlined responsibility for the earthly and heavenly homelands, reminding of the sacred size of Leopold Mandić, whose feast was celebrated on that day.

He also pointed to the many prayers that rose to the sky in the face of the violent death of many places throughout Europe, and, in particular, as he said, of the 1,700 mass graves where our fellow countrymen were buried throughout Slovenia (600) and Croatia (850) , BiH (90) and Serbia (180). In this context, he read a few rows from the journal of a Jewish woman Etty Hillesum from 1943. who died in Auschwitz, and a fragment of A letter to an unborn child, from Ivanka Škrabec (wife of the Slovenian soldier), killed by the Partisans on June 3rd, 1942., together with a child in her womb. He thanked for her testimony and the fact that she freed her heart of the feeling of hatred for those who tortured her and strangled her.

„Thank you for encouraging us to look at Bleiburg tragedy with some other and different eyes; with the eyes of faith and warning, eyes of hope and trust. That is why Bleiburg is a warning and a call to look at past with the eyes of faith and with a glimpse into Him who guides the history of people and peoples“, Msgr. Puljić pointed out and also told us how the time we are living in is looking for new people, creators of the new world, new and different in Croatia and Europe. He said that Christians who are hoping, believing, and loving, who are being permeated by the spirit of the gospel, are able to live and witness peace, love and tolerance.

After the Mass Celebration, Prayer for Muslim Victims was headed by Idriz ef Bešić, the chief imam of Majlis of the Islamic Community Gunja.

During the commemoration, the program that was led by Tanja Popec, on behalf of the Croatian Parliament, the President of the parliament Gordan Jandroković spoke, and in the name of the Croatian parliament of BiH, the member of the Presidency of BiH, Dragan Čović spoke, as well as in the name of the organizers, the PR Ante Kutleša spoke.

At the end of commemoration flower wreaths were laid in the loving memory of the victims of the Cross road and Bleiburg tragedy.