The Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic spoke at the opening of the exhibition on the First Balkan War.
THE FOLLOWING IS THE SPEECH OF THE SPEAKER OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA IN ITS ENTIRETY:
Dear Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Stefanovic,
Dear envoy of the President of the Republic,
It is a great pleasure for me to take part as the host in the organisation and opening of this exhibition and I would like to welcome you to the National Assembly as well as this exhibition, in honour of the great jubilee - the 110th anniversary of the First Balkan War. The National Assembly is the right place for an exhibition like this and the best place from which to revive the memory of one of the most glorious periods of our people and our state. The National Assembly is a symbol of our statehood and the people's will to build a free and independent Serbia. And that is why, 110 years later, it is the right place to remind us of and pay homage to all of those who, back in 1912, set out to ensure our state’s independence, autonomy and final liberation from the Ottoman occupation.
For me, the exhibition we are opening today may be a small, but an important gesture of our respect for our ancestors and their sacrifice which they built into the foundation of modern Serbia 110 years ago. This is only a small contribution to making sure we do not forget this glorious period in our history, because our generation must not allow it to happen. It is my wish is for this whole year marks the memory of those great days, because if it were not for them we would not have our state of Serbia or this National Assembly.
Let me repeat something I said during the election campaign a few months ago, so that there would be no objections of making promises in the campaign, which are promptly forgotten after the election. Personally, I and my friends from the party whose president I am will ask that 22 October, the day of the victory of the Serbian army in the Battle of Kumanovo, be declared a national holiday. It is one of the greatest dates in our history, it is the day when we liberated Kosovo-Metohija and, after centuries of occupation, reunited it with the state of Serbia. Our ancestors who fought and died in Kumanovo went into that battle with the cry - "Kumanovo for Kosovo", because those were the days when we were retrieving what we had lost in 1389.
For some reason, it would seem that we were hiding this great day from ourselves, as if we were ashamed of our glorious past, our children do not know what happened near Kumanovo 110 years ago, and that is our reality which we must change. We cannot fully explain why we continue defending Kosovo-Metohija with all our might to this very day, if we do not know what the Battle of Kumanovo was, what the First Balkan War was and why they are the cornerstone of our modern history.
That is why today's event is important to tear a key chapter in the construction of the state of Serbia from oblivion. That is why this effort of the Association of Volunteers of the Balkan and First World War and their descendants is important to help our national memory, 110 years on, to pay tribute to Duke Putnik and Duke Misic and all the other known and unknown heroes who bled in Kumanovo and Kosovo, giving back to Serbia what it had lost centuries before.
The least we can do to repay them is to mark this year by remembering their mission and their sacrifice, and let them be an incentive for us to do our best to preserve the heritage we were bestowed.
Finally, since we are in the National Assembly House, I would like to say that it is a symbol of the statehood of Serbia, but unfortunately it was built as a symbol of our oblivion, it was built as a symbol of Yugoslavia. Allow me to illustrate how great our misconceptions are with the example of the most famous unit in the history of the Serbian Army, the Iron Regiment, the most decorated unit which remained war ready from the First Balkan War until 1920. When King Peter died, his coffin was covered with the flag of the Iron Regiment, the commander of that regiment was killed on the Drina and his death was the inspiration for the "March on the Drina". After all that, after such heroism, in Yugoslavia, we named that regiment the Regiment of Matija Gubec. Of course, we should not erase history and we cannot. When you enter the National Assembly House you will see a statue of the Croatian King Tomislav in the hall, a statue of the Slovene Prince Kocelj and only then Dusan and Karadjordje. We did not move them away, nor will we, because it is history, but we should learn certain lessons from history, and that is that we should always take into account the interests of our people. That is why I would like to thank all of you for keeping the memory of the heroism of our people who gave everything they could for the reliberation of Serbia in the First Balkan War and all the victories in the two world wars.
Today, it seems cynical and hypocritical when many in the world say that Serbia needs to choose the right side, Serbia has always been on the right side unlike others! Unlike others who do not have as many flowers as they need to throw at the feet of the occupiers when they come to their cities. We never welcomed the occupiers with flowers, but with a heroic fight for the liberation of Serbia, of course with the desire that there would never be a need to give our lives for the freedom of Serbia, but to give our contribution to its development in peace.
I declare the exhibition open as a sign of remembrance of our great victims and heroes.