13 yaear since the fall of Krajina – parastos in Canberra

parastosOn the 4th of August 1995, the Croatian Operation "Oluja" (Storm), an invasion of the Republic of Serbian Krajina, created the worst refugee crisis Europe has seen since World War II. In a few days, more than two hundred thousand Serbs, almost the entire population, fled their homes, and thousands of Serbian civilians lost their lives. The Serbs of Krajina, who had earned the right to their land through centuries of blood, sweat and tears shed defending Christian Europe, disappeared.

Their sacrifice has not been forgotten. On Monday, the 4th of August 2008, the Serbs of Canberra gathered at St. Sava Monastery in Hall to remember the struggle, suffering and defeat of the Krajina Serbs and to pray for their departed souls. Following the regular evening Vespers (Vecernje), a parastos was served by Father Ilija Dragosavljevic of Sv. Sava Church in Farrer and Father Seraphim of Sv. Sava Monastery. The service was highly emotional and moving, with all present gathered closely around the Zito and Kolac, including just as many children and young adults as the parents and elders. The active involvement of children in the service, with boys serving in the altar and young girls singing in the choir, shows us that the soldiers and civilians of Krajina did not die in vain, and that their memory will be eternal in the hearts and minds of Serbs all over the world. This idea was reflected in the speeches of Father Ilija and Father Seraphim, who spoke in Serbian and English respectively.

Following the church service, the people gathered in the small hall on Monastery grounds for a banquet in honour of the fallen, as well as a small "academy", organised by Mr. Sreta Dragicevic. Mr. Dragicevic gave a talk about the struggle of Serbs during the war in Krajina and the struggle of all Serbs for justice and truth. In the breaks between his talk, he introduced a young girl who was part of the exodus as a 4 year-old child, Marijana Miljus. Marijana recited two heart warming poems about the land, its people and their heartache at being separated from their hearth (ognjiste).

The gathering continued long after the banquet and academy had finished, with a mixture of the conversation and discussions of adults and the shouting and laughter of the playful children resonating throughout the hall. As Father Ilija mentioned after the parastos, whether or not the children fully understand why this day was remembered, they do understand that it has great importance and will slowly learn the reasons as they grow older. With this knowledge, they will continue to gather each year on the 4th of August just as we have this year, and ensure that the memory of the fall of Serbian Krajina and the long, historical struggle of its people for the Honourable Cross and Golden Freedom, will not be forgotten.

Ilija Bilic, Canberra, August 2008

Source: www.soc.org.au