Twenty-five years ago, Croatia was a warfront and fighting for independence. There are more than 1,922 who went missing after the war, and while the battle is over, the families still carry the pain of not knowing the fate of their husbands, brothers, and sons. Most people have long forgotten about them. But their families didn’t forget — and neither did we.
Every person has a story, and the hardest stories are those that remain unfinished. As Croatia’s No. 1 media outlet, 24sata is constantly fighting for the rights of the common citizen, raising awareness about important social issues without compromise.
We wanted to raise the nation’s awareness of the people who went missing during the Homeland War by telling their stories as part of a campaign.
The project started on the 25th anniversary of the fall of Vukovar, the Croatian heroic town. A five-minute documentary marked the beginning of our “Gone but not forgotten” series. It was broadcast every Sunday on all 24sata platforms — video, print, and Web. Each episode was an emotional and heart-breaking story about the unknown fate of one missing person through their last photos, places they were last seen, stories, emotions, and hopes of their loved ones. Since day one, the Gone series was under the high patronage of the president of Croatia.
After a year, touching stories and photos of Gone families were published in a book titled The Gone with all the materials and evidence collected thus far. After raising awareness about the Gone, we took the campaign to a higher level. In 2018, we extended our search and named August 30 the International Day of Missing Persons, dedicated to all missing persons from the Croatian Homeland War.
Our symbol of the Gone was a black silhouette, representing the person who was violently taken away from his family. A special print edition of 24sata was filled with black silhouettes, along with the cover photos of every article on the 24sata Web portal.
Facebook was flooded with profile pictures containing black silhouettes and special Facebook frames devoted to the Gone. For one day, thousands of Croatians — including hundreds of influential people from all spheres of society, from political figures to athletes, artists, and retired generals — made their profile pictures disappear in support of our search.
Families of detained and missing persons from the Homeland War organised a press conference with the highest-ranking politicians, who gave their support. All of our activities led to one place: the digital Weeping Wall of the Gone with personal photographs, videos, and stories.
The campaign raised awareness on all platforms. We made a follow-up on Memorial Day of the fall of Vukovar, as a reminder that our search is still going on. On that day, a print edition of 24sata was published without images to symbolise how lives of the Gone families are empty without their loved ones. It was accompanied with touching messages from the families of the Gone in online articles, Facebook, and Twitter posts.
We also used guerrilla marketing in the biggest cities to mark public places with black silhouettes and prints of the Gone to further emphasise the campaign. A second book was published with the latest collected photos and documents about the missing persons.
Our search has awakened Croatia and raised awareness about the Gone, who became an important national topic across all media channels. The Missing Persons Administration continues to systematically search and check information received from people who know something about the Gone.
And the most important results: We found two missing persons after publishing their stories, while 21 more were found in 2019 due to efforts by the Missing Persons Administration. Our search for the remaining Gone continues.