Vukovar: The Search for the Missing

The International Commission on Missing Persons has accounted for roughly seventy percent of the missing from the Balkan wars of the 1990s. This success has given hope to the families of the thousands still missing — even as the likelihood decreases that the missing will be found.

AIRED: 3/28/2017 | 00:03:46
Read Transcript

Missing-person investigators have so far accounted for 70 percent of those who disappeared during the Balkan Conflicts of the 1990s.

Disruptive as mass grave exhumations are they nonetheless give survivors hope that the remains of their loved ones will one day be found.

Nowhere is its hold more evident than evident than Vukovar, Croatia.

Several massacres took place here early in the Balkan Wars of the 1990s.

Survivors and witnesses often gather at memorial services like this.

Manda Patko's husband banished during the siege of Vukovar in 1991.

She has spent the intervening years searching for him attending memorial services and closely following the work of missing person investigators here in her native Croatia.

It is indescribable to lose someone you love and when the loved one just disappears in the midst of war and you can't bury a body then there is no justice.

This means a lot to me the work of the missing persons investigators.

From the moment they started looking for the mass graves, they told us they want all the victims identified and buried properly.

At least so that the families can calm their souls.

And I don't want to say that they will sleep soundly but maybe a little easier.

Manda's search recently brought her to an abandoned slaughterhouse outside Vukovar.

Croatian authorities excavated the grounds after human remains were found in the soil among the animal bones.

We learned that in 1996, soldiers and leaders of the army of the then Yugoslavia killed 200 men in this area and concealed the bodies in mass graves at this slaughterhouse.

Veljko Grujic is director of the Croatian Commission for the missing.

Over the years, animal remains were buried on top of the murdered men.

The task now is to identify the human remains and return these remains to their loved ones.

Over the past 20 years the process of locating mass graves and identifying victims has been stop and go.

Certain governments are not willing to share information that will help pinpoint the graves and identify the victims.

One thing is certain unfortunately and that is that we won't find all the missing persons.

The human remains discovered at the slaughterhouse were identified and given to the next of kin.

There were no signs of Manda's husband.

I never really thought they would find my husband's body here. He didn't belong to this part of town. He belonged to a different part of town but you never know.

The Killers moved the bodies around and where they moved them only they know but they won't say.

Every day I think about him and every night I pray for him.

I'm Christian, so I say a prayer every night.

If he's alive, it's for his health, and if he isn't, then for his soul.