Press Release Synod No. 1003, Belgrade, May 5, 1995

In these May days, during which Europe and the World commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the victory over Nazi fascism, in Jasenovac and its vicinity (where during World War II more than 700,000 Orthodox Serbs among others were murdered in the sight of the whole world) nowadays the last remnants of the surviving Serbs in Western Slavonia are being persecuted and annihilated.

As far as we know, over 1,500 were killed on May 1 and 2 of this year, most of which were women and children - in Jasenovac; Okucani; while fleeing on the road for Bosanska Gradiska; at Bela Stena (here alone about 500 women and children were shot); while swimming across the Sava River.

We do not know the number killed in those same forests where once the Ustashis - Croatian Nazis - killed them during World War II.

New rows of desperate refugees have filled Bosanska Gradiska, Nova Topola, Aleksandrovac, Laktasi, Lijevac Polje; they move along the roads towards Banja Luka and further on to Serbia (6,000 have been registered so far). In the neighborhood of Pakrac, on Gavrinica and Omanovac, in Poklonica at least another 6,000 civilians have remained, surrounded by the Croatian Army, among whom are approximately 1,000 children and 1,500 soldiers, who are completely encircled, facing full destruction.

As of yesterday (May 4, 1995) no humanitarian international organizations were allowed access to this area, under the pretext of their security, but actually in order to allow time for cleaning up the traces of crime, and an undisturbed completion of this solemnity in blood over the blameless inhabitants in the area of Pakrac, and thereby in all of Western Slavonia, which had earlier been ethnically cleansed [of Serbs by Croatians in 1991].

During the ethnic cleansing in 1991, the Serbian population from 280 villages, in the so-called "Small Rascia," was completely destroyed and expelled; and now on May 1 and 2, the remaining 65 villages, and all the parishes of the Slavonia Diocese, were destroyed.

All the clergy with their Bishop Lukijan escaped, except for Fr. Leontije Alavanja, who together with his people is encircled on Omanovac. The clergyman Sava Pocuca received six wounds from Croatian soldiers, and now is in critical condition in the Banja Luka hospital.

Along the Sava River corpses of those killed are floating, in the same way as they did during the "work" of that first Jasenovac, one of the most cruel concentration camps of Nazi Europe.

One should really keep in mind that Western Slavonia has observed all international agreements starting with the Vance Plan, and looked forward to a peaceful solution of its problems. People had trust in the international community, in the protection of UNPROFOR, in the protection of Yugoslavia, which by its signature on the Vance Plan guaranteed its security.

Tragically, it is positively known that the forces of UNPROFOR [UNITED NATIONS] were informed of the attack of the Croatian Army on the very eve of the attack, at 9:00 PM (April 30, 1995). They got out of the way, gave up their check points to the attackers, and thereby became accomplices to this ghastly massacre of innocent people. The massacre still goes on.

According to the latest news, received today around 10:00 A.M., a merciless massacre of men is going on around Pakrac. Corpses are being burnt. Women and children are being taken to unknown places. Even Mr. Akashi was not allowed to approach that region.

During the bombing of Bosanska Gradiska, the center of the town was destroyed, as well as numerous houses where mostly Serbian refugees from Zenica and other places [in Bosnia] found shelter. Little Diana and Nemanja Sojic, recent refugee children from Slavo nia, found death under the ruins. Diana's body was discovered without her head, except for her scalp, cut off by a cement pillar as with a scalpel.

Consequently, while the victorious countries and those that were defeated in World War II celebrate the victory of Nazi-fascism, Franjo Tudjman and Alija Izetbegovic are ready for an active participation, on May 9, in the solemnities in Moscow and elsewhere, and while FR Yugoslavia solemnly celebrates May 1 and is preparing itself for the victory celebrations, Western Slavonia and her Serbian Orthodox people experience the final agony.

The slaughter of Jasenovac continues after fifty years in the sight of the entire world.

It is evident that what happens in Western Slavonia is only the first act of what is being prepared for the people of the Serbian Republic of Krajina and the Republika Srpska, in the presence (and with the cooperation?) of UNPROFOR and NATO, of democratic Europe and America, and other human and humanitarian factors of the international community.

From- Office of the Holy Synod of Bishops

Origin: OrthodoxUSA -Tallahassee, Florida (1:3605/7)