BELGRADE – Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic laid a wreath at the memorial cemetery to the liberators of Belgrade on Sunday, marking the 69th anniversary of Belgrade’s liberation in World War Two.
“Had it not been for you, children would not be born in Serbia today, and they are born as honest and proud children of Serbia, which will never forget you. Thank you forever,” Nikolic wrote in the visitors’ book at the cemetery.
He also laid a wreath at the memorial to the Red Army troops who participated in the liberation. The writing on the wreath said “to the brave Russian comrades in arms.”
Yugoslav Liberation Army units commanded by General Peka Dapcevic and Red Army troops led by General Vladimir Zhdanov liberated Belgrade on October 20, 1944.
The operation to free the city started on October 12. It ended a four-year occupation that resulted in many deaths among the Belgrade population and extreme damage to the city.
The memorial cemetery dedicated to the liberators was opened on October 20, 1954.
An inscription at the cemetery says 2,944 soldiers of the Yugoslav Liberation Army and 961 soldiers of the Red Army died in the operation, adding that 1,386 Yugoslav troops and 711 Russians are buried there.
Zhdanov and Marshall Sergey Biryuzov, who led the Soviet front that included the Belgrade operation, died on October 19, 1964, when their airplane crashed on the mountain Avala, near Belgrade, as they were arriving to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the city’s liberation.
The place where they crashed is marked by a memorial.
Dacic: Forgetfulness leads to loss of freedom
Serbia’s Prime Minister Ivica Dacic laid a wreath at the memorial to Belgrade’s liberators on Sunday, saying that Serbia had to cherish the memory of the day when 69 years ago the Partizans and the Red Army liberated Belgrade from Nazi occupation.
After laying the wreath, he told reporters he wished to pay his respects on behalf of the Serbian government to all those who laid their life for freedom.
If we do not take care of our history, how will then our monuments throughout Europe be kept, he said, stressing that all countries that respected themselves held as important the dates related to the battle against fascism.
“Even with the sacrifices we made in the two world wars, there are often attemps at rewriting history and downplaying Serbia’s role,” Dacic pointed out.
“Liberators of Belgrade, Partizan and Red Army troops, deserve to be a part of the collective memory of the people of Belgrade and Serbia forever,” he wrote in the visitors’ book at the memorial.
Officials of the city of Belgrade, Serbian Armed Forces, Defence Ministry, World War Two veterans and diplomatic representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Azerbaijan also laid wreaths at the memorial. The national anthems of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Azerbaijan were played, besides Serbia’s, as their citizens were among the Red Army troops who liberated the city.
Belgrade was freed on October 20, 1944, after four years of German occupation, which brought much destruction and suffering to the city’s population.