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Mon 22 Aug 2011 11:00 BBC Radio 4 FM only

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 22 August 2011

For 87 days in 1991 the world watched in helpless horror as 2000 civilians, and volunteers from all around Croatia, defended the town of Vukovar against tens of thousands of heavily armed soldiers from the Serbian dominated Yugoslav National Army. The fighting had broken out in the wake of the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. Vukovar, on the banks of the Danube, became known as "The City of Heroes" for the almost countless acts of valour among the untrained volunteer army of defenders. Yet it also has a much darker significance. Not only was this the first town in Europe to suffer such devastation since the Second World War, but the pattern of the indiscriminate bombardment of civilians that characterised the Yugoslav wars, was first seen here. The siege also brought a new and terrible phrase into common usage. The first cases of organised ethnic cleansing took place in Vukovar. Former BBC correspondent Martin Bell, who covered the siege, returns 20 years later to find out how Vukovar and its people are recovering and finds Vukovar today is a shadow of its former self; haunted by the ghosts of 1991.

  • Vukovar at the siege end in November 1991.

    Vukovar at the siege end in November 1991.

    Still taken from Martin Bell report for BBC television.

  • Return to Vukovar

    Return to Vukovar

    The shell damaged water tower has not been repaired and remains a
    monument to the fighting.

  • Return to Vukovar

    Return to Vukovar

    The memorial at the site of the massacre at Ovcara farm.

  • Return to Vukovar

    Return to Vukovar

    Almost all of Vukovar has been rebuilt, but 20 years after the
    siege some buildings still show the extent of the damage.


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