Vjekoslav Zugaj


Only since the establishment of a denocratically elected government in Croatia has it become possible to reveal the complete historical truth about Gradiška and its inhabitants. Even though numerous written, sources have been destroyed or are unreachable, the history of Stara Gradiška and its surrounding villages, with the preserved material remains, give evidence of a rich and glorious, but also tragic history. The settlement was formed on the ruins of a nearby ancient settlement, Servitium, and there are records of its uninterrupted historical continuity over more than a thousand years. The first records of Gradiška, as a Croatian settlement and port, go back to as early as 1295. After the Turkish invasion of Croatian territory, Gradiška was a fortification for several centuries and eventually it was turned into a prison. Thousands of prisoners lost their lives within the walls of Stara Gradiška as it was used as a prison, penitentiary and detention camp for almost two centuries.

The statements of surviving prisoners arouse dramatic memories, warning that imprisoning people for different political opinions or, even worse, for racial, national or religious differences, should never happen again.

All the victims of Stara Gradiška deserve the right to be remembered with dignity. After the War, for Independence, the destroyed ruins of the fortification and prison should gradually be turned into a protected memorial and research centre where people interested in the protection of human rights in the democratic and free Republic of Croatia would gather.


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