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Zagreb, capital of Croatia, was first founded in 1094, and itdeveloped initially as three separate cities - Gradec, Kaptol and Donji Grad. These three towns fought each other for years,not unlike the warring parties of the Balkans of today (but perhaps with less barbarity than the Yugoslav successor wars of the early 1990's). Zagrebfirst became Croatia's capital in 1557, and once again becamethe capital with the declaration of independence in 1991. The Croatian Serbs rebelled immediately, with the help of the Yugoslav Federal Army. They had argued that they were never consulted whether they want to live in a Croat state, and that all Serbs should live in a common Serbian state. A brutal6 month-war broke out which led to the bombing of Zagreb, historic Dubrovnik and other major cities, and the occupation of one-thirdof the country by Serbs living in the Krajina region of Croatia.

Vukovar 1991
Meanwhile, the war spread to Bosnia-Herzegovina. An uneasy peaceresumed in Croatia during which the Croats built up their Army,ready to tilt the whole balance of power in the Balkans. On 1May 1995, four weeks before my arrival, they launched a suddenoffensive which captured the Western Slavonia region in lessthan 40 hours. This sparked off the shelling of Zagreb whichled to a few deaths.

Cars aflamed in Zagreb
And on 4 August 1995, the Croatians launched Operation "Storm"which recaptured most of the Serb-occupied territories in Krajinain 4 days, including Knin, capital of the Serbian Republic ofKrajina, which fell in less than 24 hours. Thus, with the exceptionof the Danubian region of Eastern Slavonia, the four years-existenceof the Krajina Republic had come to an end. What is more significant is that the 600 years of Serb settlement in Croatia and the Krajina region have come to a tragic end. Thousands of Serbs are forced to leave the region where their ancestors once stayed. Once an example of multiethnic diversity and harmony, the successor states of former Yugoslavia have blown those ideas apart, either intentionally or unintentionally. As many I have met explained, ordinary people do not hate each other. It was the personal ambitions of leaders - whether Serb, Croat or Muslims - that led to so much disasters, chaos, death and so on... For one who comes from a multi-ethnic state (Singapore), this message was not lost on me. How do we maintain racial do we live together peacefully...and how not to be influenced by extremist leaders and fall into traps of self-destruction...

See the Croatian stamp issued to celebrate the fall of Knin. Note the Croatian flag above the Knin Fortress where King Tomislavonce stayed.

Click here to look at frontlines of Croatia & Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995

I first read about Croatia in my secondary school days, not longafter the death of Marshal Tito. I have come to admire this remarkableman, a dictator no doubt, but he managed to unite Yugoslavia'sdiverse and warring peoples together under his iron arms. Today,all that he had created has fallen apart. Thousands have died,families split apart, home destroyed, and dreams torn apart. No doubt that each of the South Slav nations now have an internationallyknown identity, this identity had come with a heavy price, asa Croatian girl I met on a train said. And she missed her Serbianand Montenegrin friends, whom she said, might never be in Croatiaagain...

Marshal Tito : Click here to go to interesting site on him

Anyway, the decision to come to Croatia, was, in the opinion of many friends, a reckless one. In fact, the Romanian girl Imet at the train ticketing agency in Vienna thought that I wascrazy. But my desire to visit this country had grown ever sinceI have seen pictures of the beautiful Croatian coast and islands,and of the cities of Dubrovnik and Zadar. And I was tempted tovisit Medjugorje, the pilgrimage site in the Croatian controlledpart of Bosnia (Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna), and wantedto find out more information about reaching there.

Beautiful Zagreb...

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