Fr. Sava

NIN [Independent Weekly News] is an opposition weekly from Belgrade.

Fr. Sava, deputy abbot of the Decani monastery

Bloody Tracks

by Svetlana Djurdjevic-Lukic

NIN, Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia, 7/8/99

Various military formations were active in Kosovo. Unfortunately, they participated in mass expulsions of the population which otherwise would not have fled.

Father Sava, the deputy abbot of the Decani Monastery and the secretary of the Raska-Prizren bishop of the Serb Orthodox Church Artemije, has been an active participant in the contacts between the Serb Orthodox Church and the representatives of the International Community. An unquestionable moral authority, Fr. Sava talked to NIN about a very important and delicate topic: crimes committed against Albanians.

The interview was made before the meeting and agreement of the delegation of the Church and Serbs from Kosovo with the Albanian community led by Hashim Thaqi, and large disturbances during celebrations of the anniversary of the "Kacanik Constitution".

At a press conference in Pristina, Fr. Sava said that in the last days of withdrawal of the Army and paramilitary forces from the Decani region "there was chaos". He gives details in his interview for NIN:

Municipal authorities from Djakovica, Decani and Pec, basically, fled head over heels. They left the people to settle accounts for their misdeeds, especially those made in the last two months. Together with the regime from Belgrade, they systematically carried out violence against Kosovo Albanians, as well as against the Serbs, who were also mistreated and robbed at the very end. I am talking about violence and human rights violations carried out by the Milosevic's forces. It would not be appropriate to say that these violations were carried out by the Serbian regime, because this was not done on behalf of the Serb people, but on behalf of a group of individuals. They have tricked and drawn into a catastrophe the [Serb] people, which neither wanted nor now wants this. Various military formations were active in Kosovo. Unfortunately, they participated in forced expulsions of the population which otherwise would not have fled the province. In most cases they did not flee because of the bombardment, but because of systematic deportations, looting and other sorts of violence. We have been finding daily bloody tracks of that violence and the unfortunate Serb people in Kosovo must now account for it.

NIN: Who committed those crimes?

That needs to be investigated. The crimes could have been committed by members of regular or irregular units, members of the Yugoslav Army or some other units. Above all, I believe that the Serb people has the obligation to develop democracy and critically examine that period. The people who are responsible for crimes, which today draw retaliation and crimes against the Serb people, should be tried. I would prefer if they could first face the justice of their own people, and only then the International Tribunal. In any case, such crimes must not go unpunished because they represent a horrible shame and disgrace for everything that is holy and honest in the Serb people. The policy of Mr. Milosevic and Mr. Seselj has shamed and disgraced all that is holy and honest in the Serb people. Wherever they "defended" the Serbs, only corpses, death, destruction, ashes and, unfortunately, Serb graves and empty Serb homes were left behind. From Krajina to Kosovo and Metohija. Unfortunately, the
predictions of the Serb Orthodox Church turned out to be true.

NIN: Mass graves with Albanian victims are not only the product of the Western propaganda?

I think that the International Community, by which I above all mean professional United Nations teams, will establish what has happened here. We believe that the truth about it will be fully uncovered. The number of victims, mass graves, and where they are. We will find out the facts about that soon. Now, that is not a matter of propaganda but of material evidence which has been fund daily - reports, photographs, films of these killing fields, numerous corpses, unfortunately mostly of women and children. The Serb people must learn about this tragic truth.

The worst situation was exactly in the places such as Pec. The town of Pec was systematically destroyed, not by NATO bombardment, but by systematic arson attacks and looting of property. Everyone who lived there and visited knew what was going on. That is the sad truth about Kosovo and Metohija, although few are prepared to openly talk about it. However, the Serb people must face that truth and do what is necessary as soon as possible. The Serb Church has said what is necessary: president Milosevic's regime must depart from Serbia forever and a contemporary democratic society must be established. Otherwise, the curse which has been following the Serb people with president Milosevic's regime will continue to sow evil both in Serbia and Montenegro. We can expect even greater suffering, years spent in poverty, uncertainty, and isolation. Simply, there is no future for the Serb people, nor the whole region of South Eastern Europe as long as such dictatorship survives in Belgrade.

NIN: Is seems that the regime is trying to place the responsibility for the loss of Kosovo on the Serbs from Kosovo who, supposedly, refused to stay there although the Serbian state nicely provided then with the protection by the International Forces, and fuel and food for the return to their homes.

That is a manipulation. Above all, after everything that had been done, especially in the last two months, many Serbs simply could not await the return of the Albanian population. Some because of the direct responsibility in the process of the systematic deportation of the Albanian population, extermination of their identity, and destruction of cultural heritage, and some, being innocent, because of the fear that they would become victims of an uncontrolled revenge. These people were manipulated for years. They were misled. I have earlier said that the Kosovo Serbs are hostages of the Belgrade regime. For years they have been given unrealistic promises, and in the field everything was done to ensure that Serbs do not stay there nor have an opportunity to do so. The whole story about the return is pure propaganda: people are practically sent to their death or are forced to return to Serbia proper after only a few days. The return of these people to such an environment, in which there is no basic security, is totally unrealistic. But, the responsibility for the lack of security and the current situation does not fall on KFOR (after all, these people arrived here a few days ago and are having difficulties finding their bearings in the new environment) but primarily on those who have made the conditions for current mass murders, slaughter, and revenge rapes. That is the consequence of what has been done for ten years, and especially during the last two months, by the regime in Belgrade, which is now celebrating its bloody victory, while it has left the people to its own devices. In practice, the only ones standing by the people are those who have been condemned as traitors and disgrace of the Orthodoxy and the Church for years - the Church itself.

NIN: It seems that the representatives of the International Community see only the Church and several local opposition politicians as relevant representatives of the Kosovo Serbs?

Besides the Church, the people who wish to fight for the survival of the Serb people in Kosovo and Metohija are getting organized and working to unite their forces. Of course, it is not desirable to totally cut the links with the Serbian state, but until it is free and a democratic regime does not appear there, I am afraid that Kosovo and Metohija will remain cut off. The International factors do not wish to have contacts with the representative of the authorities which are responsible for the current situation. Therefore, the future of Kosovo and Metohija, the survival of the Serb people here directly depends on the democratic changes in Serbia.

NIN: It also depends on whether the local Serbs will manage to form an organization capable of defending their interests.

It is definitely necessary to organize and make contacts with Kosovo Albanians, promote a clear platform for common life, based on what the Church has been advocating for years. That is the platform of a modern, democratic society which will not be based on various manipulations with history, but above all on the realization that the future of the Serb and all other peoples is in the integrated Europe, Europe of transparent and soft borders. Our future is not in isolation and states cocooned in false myths and delusions. That is the only chance for the survival of our people in Kosovo and Metohija. But also for the Albanian people in Kosovo. They can choose the road of democratization, towards Europe, and at the same time the road towards all those democratic forces in other regions, especially Serbia and Montenegro. I hope that the other direction, the return to the ideas of "greater Albania", which, as well as the ideas about "greater Serbia", and "greater Croatia" are discredited ideas from the past, will be abandoned. Unfortunately, at the end of 20th century, these ideas have brought us to one of the bloodiest conflicts in this region.

NIN: What was the atmosphere in the contacts with the representatives of the International Community? Do you have an impression that they care about the Serb people in Kosovo?

Based on what they are saying, we have the impression that they would like the Serbs to stay. The very fact that they requested a meeting with us indicates some sort of concern. They could have chosen to simply ignore us. However we expect better protection from KFOR. We expect better attention from the international media, because the Serb people is now going through its Calvary and that Calvary is taking place in front of 20,000 KFOR soldiers and several thousands of journalists. I think that something like that is unacceptable. And as the world protested against the violence against the Albanian population, it should also clearly and openly raise its voice against the violence carried out against innocent Serb population which has remained in Kosovo.