Medjugorje & The War

When the apparitions were first reported, the village of Medjugorje was located in the country of Yugoslavia…a country taken over by the communists at the end of World War II and ruled by Josip Broz Tito. Early visitors to the village reported helicopters circling overhead as they climbed Apparition Hill….an attempt to intimidate them.

Most of the population of Medjugorje were ethnic Croatians, and the authorities were naturally nervous about any nationalist aspirations to overthrow them. The presence of the Croatian flag near Saint James Church in Medjugorje was definitely considered a danger to their authority.

As Communism crumbled in Europe in the late 1980’s, Yugoslavia broke up along its republics’ borders, at first into five countries:  the republics of Montenegro and Serbia became the country of Serbia and Montenegro, also known officially until 2003 as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY).

Ethnic divisions boiled over and war followed.  There were some small attacks leading up to the war, which was mostly and then started on April 6, 1992. The war ended on December 14, 1995 with the Washington Peace Accord.We will not go into it here, but many war crimes were committed and the destruction was widespread.

The nearest large city to Medjugorje was Mostar, only about 30 miles away, with a population of about 100,00.  It was ethnically diverse, with Croats, Bosniaks and Muslims all have signifcant numbers.  Mostar was the most heavily destroyed city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, homes and businesses alike as well as the famous bridge that had survived centuries.  Perhaps more distressing was the destruction of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in the city.  You can see that destruction in the images below…..and yet someone has come later and written “MIR”, the Croatian word for peace, on the back wall.  Today, of course, the church has been entirely rebuilt.

One of the photos above contains the wreckage of war that was placed in front of the Monastery at Siroki Brijeg.  This is the monastery where Father Jozo (the original pastor in Medjugorje) used to give talks and blessings to pilgrims.  The wreckage was there to remind everyone of the war, we suppose.

And yet, despite the fighting, the war never reached Medjugorje.  It was a surreal feeling in 1993-1996 to be sitting in a sidewalk cafe in Medjugorje having a capucino or Karlovačko beer while friends and relatives back home had an image of you hiding in a foxhole.

Stories were told of a fighter jet that tried to bomb Saint James Church in Medjugorje but was suddenly enveloped in a dense fog just as it was making its bombing run.  So far as we know, the only reported death in the village was that of someone’s cow.  And yet many from Medjugorje and the surrounding towns did join the fight, primarily as members of “The Citluk Brigade”, named after the nearest town.

In 2003 its official name was changed to Serbia and Montenegro. This state dissolved when Montenegro and Serbia each became independent states in 2006. m Then Kosovo proclaimed its independence from Serbia in 2008.

The country where Medjuorje is located is called Bosnia & Herzegovina:  one country with two names.  And, of course, Medjugorje is one of its most famous attractions.