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Dudik Memorial Park

Vukovar, Croatia
1 of 6Roberto Conte

After Vukovar's liberation in April of 1945, some of the mass graves at Dudik were exhumed during war-crimes investigations and the remains of roughly 400 bodies were found. These remains were respectfully re-interred at a new memorial crypt built at Victims of Fascism Square in Vukovar. In 1978, Vukovar's town council and veterans organization created a committee to initiate the construction of a new expansive monument complex to be built at the Dudik site to honor its victims still buried there undiscovered. Bogdan Bogdanović was contacted personally by the Mayor of Vukovar. When the phsyical construction of the monument began, Bogdanović employed skilled stonemasons from Pirot, Serbia and local coppersmiths who had recently constructed the roof for a Catholic church in Vukovar. After two years of construction, the complex was opened to the public during a ceremony on June 26th, 1980.

The memorial consisted of a 1 hectare sized complex whose central element was five 18m tall stone-block and copper cones. The lower half of the cones are constructed of stacked diorite blocks, while the upper half of the cones are covered in copper sheets over a wooden frame. These cones are set within the grove of mulberry trees where the mass graves were found. Just to the north of the cones lay 27 large diorite stone blocks carved into a stylized 'boat' shape, laid out in a seemingly random pattern. As far as the 'random' placement of these stone 'boats' around the memorial site is concerned, many sources recount a story that Bogdanović settled on the location for these positions by gathering a group of local Vukovar children and instructing them to arrange themselves around the mulberry grove as if they were ships. After the children were situated, Bogdanović marked these places as the location for the stones.

With the onset of The Croatian War of Independence in the early 1990s, this monument began to fall into disrepair and destruction. During the Battle of Vukovar, which was an 87 day long siege waged by the Belgrade-led Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) starting on August 25th, 1991, the complex was significantly damaged, with many of the cones left nearly or completely destroyed by shells and bullets. In addition, many of the site's original mulberry trees were cut down or leveled. During the siege, roughly 90% of the city of Vukovar was destroyed and well over 1,000 civilians were killed. The Battle of Vukovar was by far the largest conflict during the 1990s wars in Croatia.