Dejan Anastasijević was one of the best journalists in Serbia, an editor of the BBC in the Serbian language and a journalist of the weekly Vreme for many years. He was also the first journalist from Serbia to testify against Slobodan Milošević in The Hague.
As a young journalist, he came to Vukovar right after the fall and witnessed firsthand the horrors of war. In 2016, he wrote a shocking story for the VICE portal about his experience on that fateful day. Dejan remembered every detail vividly and even today, twenty-five years later, he can still recall images of what he saw that day.
One of the most striking memories that stayed with him was the image of a man lying face down in the thick Slavonian mud, with tracks of caterpillars over his back. The man had probably been there for days and looked more like a soggy cardboard figure than a human being. Afterwards, Dejan saw many more corpses: until the fighting ended, no one bothered to put them away or bury them. Some pigs roamed freely through villages in search of food.
The most corpses were found in front of the Vukovar hospital where they were left side by side like logs due to constant mortar attacks and snipers. When Vukovar was “liberated,” Serbian state television tried to falsify history by claiming that it was Serbian civilians who were killed by Ustashas. This shameless propaganda continues even today but has only added to Dejan’s bitterness towards official history-telling efforts in Serbia.
Dejan also recounted how drunken riotous crowds stormed into Vukovar after resistance ceased, killing and raping civilians without any control or restraint from authorities. One particularly gruesome memory is when soldiers put on snow-white “Fred Perry” tennis shirts over their muddy uniforms and rode around town with umbrellas and advertising balloons attached to their vehicle, looking as if they were having fun while committing atrocities.
Despite all this horror and violence, Dejan managed to write a story about Maria, whose full name he forgot but whose family was killed during her rescue attempt by Ustashas who pretended to be rescuers but actually used her for sex slavery while flaunting their heroism around town. After several days of rampage by various paramilitaries, Niš paratroopers finally entered town and called out people hiding in houses and basements to come out unharmed with weapons if they had them – which most did not have because they had already surrendered or fled elsewhere