Donja Suvaja (near Srb), 3 June 2021 – On 1 July 1941, the Ustasha, led by Maks Luburić, brutally tortured and murdered women, children, and elderly villagers in the village of Donja Suvaja. We are raising this monument on the 80th anniversary to mark the memory of their lives and their horrible death, but with belief in the idea of the victory of man over hatred”. These words were inscribed in the monument raised in the organisation of the SNC, next to the names of 290 victims.
The Donja Suvaja crime was one of the first mass Ustasha crimes against women and children, and it was followed by an entire campaign of cleansing the Lika region, ultimately igniting the uprising of the people of Lika.
During the commemoration preceded by a church memorial service at the revealing of the monument, presidents of antifascist associations and Milorad Pupovac, MP and president of the SNC, addressed the local community including descendants of victims and the survivors of the crime.
Among 290 names of victims whose names are inscribed on the monument, the majority were women and children, while the rest were infirm elderly people. This crime, committed in the space of two hours, was the first in the series of crimes that followed (Gudovac, the May crime in Glina, Veljun). What sets it apart is the fact that Maks Luburić decided to take a step further by killing not only men but also women and children and by doing it in the worst possible manner, by slaughter and massacre. “Between 29 June 1941 and the beginning of July, all the worst methods and acts seen in wars were applied here, including persecution and forced displacement of the population”, emphasised Pupovac, adding that the “crime in Donja Suvaja, Osredci and Bubanj was one great evil, unfortunately not the only one that happened in Lika, where the first Ustasha death camp of Jadovno was established. In less than two months of its existence, it took tens of thousands of human lives.”
On this occasion, similar to marking the memory of Jadovno 1941, Milorad Pupovac voiced concern at the fact that “Croatia still does not know whether or not to strip the right of public and official use the Ustasha greeting “For the Homeland Ready” (FHR), which represents the most disgraceful greeting in the Croatian history and the most disgraceful expression of the Croatian people’s striving for freedom.”
“Today at this place, at the place where women and children were killed, we will say that this greeting has neither been nor can it ever be anything other than the symbol of hatred and crime. The symbol of terrible hatred, because only passionate hatred could lead to the murder of this many “folks”. This has not been a ‘death factory’ such as the ones that could be found in some other nations in WW2. Donja Suvaja was a horrible crime of hatred. The crime of extermination,” Pupovac added.
In his address, the SNC president praised the government’s decision to pay much more attention to antifascism this year. This was demonstrated in Brezovica, the location where the first partisan detachment had gathered in 1941, but Pupovac emphasised that everyone should be aware that “the flesh and blood of this movement, which is considered one of the largest in Europe, was exactly here. Souls of these women, children and the elderly – as well as their family members who never gave up until the area of freedom expanded on 27 July to the entire former country, including Croatia – are our antifascism.”
He reiterated that all who had committed crimes on “our” side “were very quickly halted and consumed by the idea of freedom that was not based on hatred and crime, and which in the end allowed forging the brotherly alliance of Dalmatians and the people of Lika.”
Pupovac appealed to the high-ranking officials of this country who have been white-washing crimes and criminals from the most recent war with various ceremonies only because they were ‘our boys’ – not to relativize crime “because this offends all of us, citizens of this country, who do remember”.
The monument in Donja Suvaja was raised within the framework of the program of remembrance culture by the SNC’s Department for culture and thanks to the resources from the Croatian Government’s Office for human rights. The author of the monument to the victims of crime from 1 July 1941 is David Kabalin and the entire construction was done in cooperation with the population of Donja Suvaja, led by the SNC’s editorial team made up of Milan Radanović, Marija Crnogorac and Aneta Vladimirov.