Infertile Grounds, 2008-2012
Inkjet prints, 95 x 120 cm
In the course of 1991 and 1992, a large number of innocent Serbian civilians were killed in Sisak by Croatian forces. The Serbian inhabitants of Sisak were deported and abused and tortured in places where units of the anti-terror units were stationed at the time: in the barracks of Barutana in Caprag, in the clinic of Jodno and in the Youth Brigadier housing estate of ORA in Galdovo. Here they were interrogated, tortured and liquidated before their bodies were thrown into the Sava. In some cases, entire families disappeared. The number of those tortured and /or liquidated ranges from 100 to 600, depending on the source.
Few charges have been brought to date. In July 2007 a charge brought by the community of Serbs in the Republic of Croatia against the government of the Democratic Unit of the Republic of Croatia because of the crimes of Sisak was rejected by the department of public prosecution. It was not until 2011 that Đuro Brodarac, former župan of the župe of Sisak-Moslavina, and Vlado Milanković, commander of a special unit of the Ministry of the Interior in Sisak, were arrested because of their responsibility for the war crimes against Serbian civilians in Sisak in 1991 and 1992. Drago Bošnjak was arrested under the charge of having been directly involved in the implementation of the crimes.
At the very beginning of the Croatian war of independence, members of the Serbian resistance and divisions of the Yugoslav People’s Army built a concentration camp in Bučje near Pakrac. The prisoners were housed in the buildings of the veterinary clinic. Approximately twelve women were held prisoner in a separate room. More than 300 members of the Croatian defence forces and civilians passed through the camp, which was in operation between August and December 1991. The prisoners were tortured, starved, beaten and humiliated. Twelve people were killed, and the fate of 41 other people remains unknown. The prisoners were taken to the prison of Stara Gradiška after the camp had been shut down. Eventually, in February 1992, they were exchanged under the supervision of the International Red Cross. To this day, nobody has been held to account for the crimes committed in the camp of Bučje.
Sandra Vitaljic: “Landscapes in the photographs from the Infertile Grounds series are marked by trauma, historical events and human experience. Woods, fields and rivers are part of folk tales and myths, but have also become part of a rhetoric legitimizing political systems and ideologies. Names like Jasenovac and Bleiburg went beyond their topographical referentiality, and each time they were mentioned included different possible interpretations and contextualisations.I was interested by places that political rhetoric had used copiously in inflammatory speeches during the 90s, places of institutionalised memory as well as those that had never been marked by a single memorial plaque. As after World War II, so after the war in the former Yugoslavia, the politics of memory labelled what needed remembering, and suppressed what it was desirable to forget.
In the Infertile Grounds series I endeavour to create a place of memory within the space of the photograph, an alternative memento that is not created by ideology, rather by the need to open up the space of remembrance for victims who are never going to acquire their own space in the official culture of memory.”