“Days of Liberation” – Commemoration Recognizing the U.S. as a WW1/WW2 Ally – Rosalie Morton Park, Belgrade

It is truly an honor to be here with you today.

I wish to thank the Belgrade City Government, including the Office of the Mayor, and particularly Assistant Mayor Andreja Mladenovic, for organizing today’s event.

The friendship between the people of Serbia and America was forged in the crucible of the First World War.  Earlier this year, we commemorated 100 years since the day President Woodrow Wilson flew the Serbian flag over the White House as a symbol of America’s respect and solidarity for the enormous sacrifices of the Serbian people during that conflict.

Thousands of Serbian-Americans joined the Serbian Army as volunteers and fought alongside their Serbian cousins at Thessaloniki (Salonika).

Patriots like Mabel Grujic collected funds to support the Serbian people.  Great artists like Malvina Hoffmann contributed their works to enlist support for our Serbian allies.  Mihajlo Pupin organized American volunteer medical teams to support the Serbian people.

This small green area is dedicated to Dr. Rosalie Morton, who joined medical teams of doctors and nurses who volunteered to travel to Serbia and treat those who were wounded and sick, staffing the last remaining hospital in Belgrade as our common enemies rained artillery on this city.  Rosalie Morton stayed behind after the war to set up the first hospital in Belgrade for women, and helped train the next generation of Serbian doctors.

Philathropist John Frothingham stayed on to establish several homes for war orphans including one  whose founding in Vranje 100 years ago will be celebrated this week.

We were allies again in the Second World War.  Serbians paid a dreadful price for their resistance to the Nazis.  Despite this, many put their lives on the line to help 500 American and other Allied service members shot down over Yugoslavia until their rescue in Operation Halyard in 1944.

After Moscow expelled Yugoslavia from the Cominform and imposed crippling sanctions against a country just emerging from the horrors of World War II, it was American humanitarian help that again nourished this land.  And since the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, the United States has again come to aid the Serbian people, providing over one billion dollars in US assistance to hundreds of projects that span the depth and breadth of this great nation.

Today we commemorate the end of the war that saw untold suffering and laid waste to an entire continent.  We do so at a place dedicated to one American who committed her life to helping Serbs and Serbia survive.

But this location also echoes with sounds from other eras in the relations between our countries.  Behind me stands the newly renovated surgical ward of Dragisa Misevic Hospital, which suffered a major fire and was only re-opened recently.  Inside that building is a modern operating theater financed by a gift from the American people.

When we look back on the past century, we can be proud that we joined forces to win two world wars.  But there every friendship experiences difficulties.

Across this park is another part of the Dragisa Misevic Hospital – a sad reminder that our relations have not always been the best.  For a brief period in the nineties, the U.S. Government and Government of Yugoslavia under Milosevic found themselves on opposing sides.  And although we consider this an aberration in the long history of friendship and partnership between our countries, it is still a part of our common history.

In 1999, an errant NATO bomb tragically claimed the lives of three innocent, bed-ridden patients not 200 meters from where we stand today.

During the wars of the 1990’s in Balkans, tens of thousands of innocent civilians similarly fell victim to the senseless violence of war.

I’d like to add my condolences to the families of those whose lives were lost during the wars of the nineties, including as a result of the NATO air campaign.

Throughout their history, the Serbian people have become all too familiar with the pain and suffering of war.  Today, as we celebrate victory in World War, let us also remember all of the victims, and rededicate ourselves to seeking peace and reconciliation.

Thank you for coming today to celebrate our enduring friendship.