100th anniversary of the Battle of Kolubara

LAZAREVAC - The 100th anniversary of the Battle of Kolubara, the most important of the battles between the army of the Kingdom of Serbia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, was marked with full state and military honors at the memorial complex at the Church of St. Demetrius in Lazarevac, near Belgrade, on Sunday.

A liturgy for the victims was offered by Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej, and the ceremony was attended by Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, who was the first to lay a laurel wreath at the memorial ossuary in the church and pay his respect to the heroes of the Battle of Kolubara.

Also laying wreaths and flowers and paying their respects to the fallen Serbs were Chief of the General Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces, General Ljubisa Dikovic, Defense Minister Bratislav Gasic and Labor Minister Aleksandar Vulin, descendants of Duke Zivojin Misic, who was in command of the Serbian army in the Battle of Kolubara, representatives of the diplomatic corps and representatives of the association of veterans fostering the tradition of Serbia's liberation wars.

It is impossible to talk about the first year of the Great War, which engulfed the whole world one hundred years ago, without mentioning two victories by the Serbian army which decisively helped embolden the Allies on the way to the final Allied victory, President Nikolic said during the commemoration.

“The Battle of Kolubara was hailed as marvel by both conquerors and allies, and perhaps even by the Serbs themselves,” Nikolic said, stressing that the battle was being studied at military academies throughout the world as an example of military skills, courage of generals, and tactics and strategy.

"You cannot defeat the Serbs unless you have them divided. That is the message from our great ancestors from (the battles of) Kosovo, Kolubara and Suvobor, Kaymakchalan and Thessaloniki. The Serbs were then not weakening their strong people because they knew that by weakening the strong individuals you weakened your nation against the enemy,” said the Serbian president.

He compared the Battle of Kolubara to the biblical battle between David and Goliath, pointing out that “the small Serbia, great in its non-division, in its unity, waged a direct war against a vast empire, and indirectly, against four empires, and won again."

Nikolic said that the Serbian army had faced the Great War exhausted from the Balkan wars, decimated and frostbitten, hungry and barefooted, with rifles but no ammunition.
"The Battle of Kolubara is the flagship in the glorious and victorious war epic of Serbia's, and not just in the Great War. As well as being won by the skills of the military commanders, it was won by every soldier's personal sacrifice. During the battle they showed heroism, and after the battle a rare display of humanity. You could see what one was made of and what kind of mark they would leave for eternity,” Nikolic said.

He said that today, 100 years later, Serbia had the names and surnames of only 50,000 of those killed in the Great War.
“The remaining one million and 100 thousand are not on the same list, and we do we know where they are entered, if anywhere, either” Nikolic said.

He stressed that today, fortunately, we were fighting different battles, which called for different kind of wisdom and skill.
"We will win these battles by keeping the family vow to give our best, show our inherited virtues and love for the fatherland always and everywhere and on every occasion, because we have no right to betray our heroic ancestors," the Serbian president said.

"Serbia will be healed, and it would not have gotten sick had it always known who protected their country with fire and sword and life,” Nikolic said, concluding his address before those gathered with the words: “Long live Serbia!”

Photo Tanjug/R. Prelic