Speaking on Tuesday at an unveiling ceremony held in Mirogoj Cemetery, Zagreb, Minister of Defence Dr. István Simicskó said that remembrance is an important part of the culture of respect, because those who do not respect their ancestors and national values are unable to respect other nations and their cultures.

Together with Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krsticevic, the Hungarian Minister of Defence unveiled a memorial plaque in honor of 450 Hungarian soldiers killed in action during the First World War.

The minister pointed out that civilization has entered a period of epochal change. “Today, Europe is going down the road of decay, mainly because day after day, it cuts itself off from its Christian roots and therefore loses its soul”, he emphasized. As he said, the Hungarians and the Croatians must show that they stand up for Christian values. “Because they have learned that they need national awareness, the awareness of humans and that of God”, he said. He called everybody to pray for the fallen soldiers, the homeland, the survival of the Croatian and Hungarian people and Europe’s future. He underlined that joint commemorations like this give everybody the kind of spiritual growth that gives us strength to face the challenges of the future. He was of the opinion that the two nations will need each other in the future too. The Croatian and the Hungarian people have a common destiny and a common future, too, which they can build only as friends, he added.
In his speech, Damir Krsticevic also pointed out that the Croatians and the Hungarians are two nations bound by friendship and a thousand-year history. As he said, having learned the lessons of the First World War, we must strive for peace and build a better future for coming generations. He underlined that “this commemoration is a shining example of the friendship between the Croatian and Hungarian people and their bright future.”

Unveiled in honor of 450 Hungarian soldiers killed in action during World War I, the memorial plaque was erected by the Hungarian Ministry of Defence and the Embassy of Hungary in Zagreb on the initiative of President of Hungary János Áder, who visited Zagreb last year and went to the cemetery together with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic to pay tribute to the Hungarian soldiers. Altogether 3697 of the troops wounded in the First World War died in Zagreb hospitals. Of them, 3297 are buried in a common grave of Mirogoj Cemetery: more than 1000 Croatian, 450 Hungarian, 110 Austrian and 330 Serbian soldiers. The exact number of the Czech, Slovenian, Bosnian, Romanian and Montenegrin victims remains unknown to the present day.

During the First World War, as there were no military cemeteries at the time, they were first buried separately. In 1927, however, the municipal council of Zagreb made a decision to exhume the remains and bury them in a common grave because the old gravesites had long been neglected. Finally, a monument was placed on the common gravesite in 1940, but had no inscription on it for decades. The documents of Mirogoj Cemetery from1974 contained the only reference to the fact that the monument marks the grave of soldiers fallen in the First World War, but there were no records on the number of the fallen or their nationality. In 1994, during the Yugoslav War, the Association of WWII Croatian Domobrans (Home Defenders) placed an inscription on the monument, but only in honor of the Croatian troops. For a long time, the public was completely unaware of the fact that among the buried are also soldiers of other nationalities, including Hungarians. It was historian Boris Kukic who shed light on this fact. After doing extensive research in archives and public records, he published his results in 2014.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister/MTI)