May 29, 2003

ERP KIM Newsletter 29-05-03

1. KFOR Soldiers attacked while guarding Gorioc Serbian Orthodox Monastery
2. Diocese of Raska and Prizren condemns attack on Gorioc Monastery
3. HISTORY IS REPEATING - Kosovo and Metohija in the travelogues of foreign visitors (end of 19th and the beginning of the 20th century)



Gorioc Monastery near Istok, April 2003


KFOR SOLDIERS ATTACKED WHILE GUARDING GORIOC MONASTERY

ERP KIM Info Service
Gracanica, May 28, 2003

On early Wednesday morning (May 28), just after midnight, unknown attackers opened fire on members of Spanish KFOR keeping guard in front on the gate of the Serbian Orthodox monastery of GORIOC (pronounced - Gorioch) located near the small town of Istok some twenty kilometers northeast of Pec. One of the soldiers returned fire in the direction of the attackers, who then fled in an unknown direction. An UNMIK police representative in Pristina confirmed this news for the ERP KIM Info Service. Information regarding the incident was also included in the official UNMIK police report for May 28.

According to Abbess Antusa of Gorioc Monastery, the sisters were awoken around midnight by deafening shots and the shouts of Spanish troops protecting the monastery. She later learned from the Spanish soldiers that around midnight a vehicle stopped near the monastery and at least two unknown persons got out who opened fire in the direction of the monastery gate and the sentry post where the Spanish soldiers were located. One of the soldiers returned fire and the attackers then fled, allegedly in the same vehicle. Abbess Antusa saw eight empty rifle shells in front of the sentry post which were probably fired by the Spanish soldier.

Abbess Antusa confirmed for ERP KIM Info Service that no one was hurt in the attack, although the nuns and soldiers protecting the monastery are visibly restless. Soon after the attack representatives of KFOR and the UNMIK police arrived at the monastery to conduct an inspection. An investigation is in progress. The commander of the Spanish military base near Istok refused to comment on the attack and referred representatives of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren to the UNMIK police headquarters in Pristina, which subsequently confirmed the information on the attack.

St. Nicholas Monastery, also known as Gorioc, was built in the 14th century by Holy King Stefan of Decani as an estate (metoh) of Visoki Decani Monastery. The monastery was located on the White Cliff just above the town of Istok. Today the monastery is the home of Abbess Antusa and six older nuns, as well as of 85 year-old Archimandrite Sava, who in his younger days restored the monastery and served as a priest in the parish of Istok. The original medieval St. Nicholas Church was restored several times in the 16th, 18th and, most recently, 20th centuries. During World War II Albanian Nazi units of Balli-Kombetar transformed the church into a prison where they kept and tortured imprisoned Serbs from the Istok region.

After the war in 1999 the monastery was placed under the protection of Spanish KFOR troops, who have secured this Orthodox shrine for the past four years. The nuns can only leave the monastery in military vehicles providing an escort for them when they travel outside the Province or to other Serb enclaves. The entire Serb population of the town of Istok and the vicinity of the monastery fled on the eve of the arrival of KFOR forces. The few Serbs who chose to remain in their homes were captured and killed by members of the KLA in the summer of 1999.
 


Gorioc Monastery church prior to restoration and expansion of bell tower


DIOCESE OF RASKA AND PRIZREN CONDEMNS ATTACK ON GORIOC MONASTERY

ERP KIM Info Service
Gracanica, May 28, 2003

The Diocese of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija most strongly condemns this morning's attack on Gorioc Monastery near Istok and expresses its concern due to a general deterioration of the security situation in Kosovo and Metohija. Although the results of a full investigation are pending, on the basis of available information confirmed by UNMIK police, it is clear that unknown persons bearing arms opened fire in the direction of the Orthodox shrine, obviously with the intent of provoking unrest and fear among the sisterhood. It is extremely concerning that the attackers were not deterred by the presence of KFOR troops protecting the monastery.

This incident once again confirms that Orthodox shrines in Kosovo and Metohija remain the targets of Albanian extremists who, since the war, have destroyed over 100 Orthodox churches and demolished numerous Serb cemeteries throughout the Province. Despite the persistent claims of some international representatives that the security situation is improving, frequent incidents and provocations continue to demonstrate the lack of fundamental security for Orthodox shrines, priests, monks and nuns. Of special concern is the fact that Albanian political representatives consistently ignore and even incite terrorist attacks against Orthodox shrines, thus openly aiding and abetting extremism.

The Diocese also wishes to express its solidarity with the attacked members of KFOR who are protecting Gorioc Monastery and appeals to representatives of the UN mission and KFOR to reinforce protection of Orthodox monasteries and churches, especially in those parts of the Province where these Serbian Orthodox shrines are completely surrounded by Albanians.

HISTORY IS REPEATING

Foreign travellers visit Old Serbia (Kosovo and Metohija)
during the Turkish rule

From Pec to Novi Pazar - an extract from the picturesque travelogue by a Russian 19th century traveler Alexander Gilferding . Gilferding is focusing especially on the position of the second-class Serb Christian population in a priviledged Albanian-Turkish Moslem community.

Pec /Albanian and Turkish: Ipek, is quite a big city. It has been estimated that around 4.000 Moslem and 800 Christian families live there. From the latter, a few households belong to the Roman-Catholic church. The Moslems and Catholics are Albanians, and the Orthodox are Serbs. The majority of the Serbs can speak the Albanian language. The Moslems move about armed constantly, while the Christians are forbidden to wear arms in the city. They are usually exposed to various insults and oppressions. The Pec monks go in the bazaar unwillingly during the day time, especially on a bazaar day, and when there are a lot of people. If on those days monks have to go through the city, they avoid crowded streets, and sometimes they take a road round a settlement. Christian women wear white kerchiefs, the same as the Turkish women do. If they didn't do so, they would be exposed to humiliation and insults in the streets. It was really unusual to see a group of ostensibly Turkish women, with kerchiefs on their heads, enter a church and cross themselves. But, the Albanian women in villages do not cover their heads, and they walk bareheaded, like the Moslem women.

HELPLESSNESS OF THE OTTOMAN STATE TO IMPOSE LAW AND ORDER IN KOSOVO-METOHIJA

I've already described the difficult position of Christians in Pec. Daily, they suffer various insults and oppression by unrestrained and hot-tempered Albanians. I give credit to the new Pec governor Hurshi-aga /a fat, merry fellow, who joined the army long ago, and is very similar to some of our army majors, an experienced old soldier and bon vivante, who is doing his best to restrain and punish Albanian willfulness, and who deserves to be praised by Christians. But, what can be done by just one man, even with the best intentions, in the middle of and armed mass which knows nothing about the law and the courts, and which is accustomed to unlimited self-determination and tyranny, in one word, which is - according to the local proverb - afraid "a little of God, not at all of the Czar"? The situation would be quite different if the Pec leader could have at least one detachment of soldiers. But, in the whole of Old Serbia, the Turks do not have a single soldier, and all the executive power of the Pec governor consists of two or three dozen of guards, recruited from among those same Albanians who need to be constantly restrained.

Alexander Gilferding
Visit to Visoki Decani Monastery in 1859

LIFE OF DECANI MONASTERY MONKS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE 19TH CENTURY

In the evening I was quietly sitting in the monastery and conversing with the hosts when I suddenly heard a loud boom! boom! at the door. "It's nothing," the monks replied to my question what was the noise. "The Albanians have come to spend the night here. They have worked in the fields all day and they don't want to go home or it seems too far to them. That is why they stopped here to see us instead. They will lodge downstairs with your servants? They will eat supper and drink brandy, of course, free of charge." "How many of them have arrived?" "Now there are only 20 but in the past mobs of a hundred or more have come." "And why do you let them in?" "What else can we do? They would kill the first one they saw on the other side of the monastery fence." After these words they showed the traces of the bullets me on the ceiling of the Abbot's room - a sign of the Albanians' displeasure when he failed to please them. When there is a wedding in one of the neighboring villages, the Albanians came to the monastery and take riding horses, destroying the animals in their haste. They take spoons and dishes, and frequently also ask for the brocaded vestments, interlaced with gold threads, to decorate the bride during the festivities... (excrept from the text by A.F. Gilferding)


Pec at the end of the 19th century

Through the Land of the Serbs - travelogue by an Englishwoman  Mary Edith Durham who travelled around Serbia and Montenegro in the beginning of the XXth century. We are presenting two extracts covering her visit to "Old Serbia" - Pec and Decani, with picturesque impressions from the monasteries and contacts with the people.

SUFFERING OF CHRISTIAN POPULATION IN OLD SERBIA (KOSOVO-METOHIJA)

The story of Old Serbia is one of uninterrupted misery. The suffering of the Christian peoples in the Balkans is no new thing. It began with the advent of the Turk, and will continue while he remains. As long ago as 1690 the intolerable lot of the Serbs of Old Serbia induced no less than 37,000 zadrugas (family groups, including uncles and cousins) to migrate to Hungary. The Albanians then spread over the vacated lands, which they have been permitted to harry with impunity ever since. A small unarmed Christian population "regulated" by Albanians is not merely unable to rise, it is unable to cry loudly enough to be heard, and there was no foreign consul to make reports. It was not until the Russians (who with extraordinary diplomatic skill lose no opportunity of winning the love of the Slavs of the Balkans) forced Stcherbina into Mitrovitza in 1902 that any light was shed upon the condition of this hapless land. The Albanians promptly shot him. The Christians regard him as the man that died to save them, and cherish his portrait. Until Stcherbina came they lived in a state of terror, and all that the tax-gatherers spared the Albanians looted. Owing to his death, the Government had sent the Nizams to subdue the Albanians.

DECANI MONASTERY - "IT LIES PRECARIOUSLY ON THE BLOODY EDGE OF THINGS"

The monastery (Dechani), which lies about 1500 feet above sea-level, appeared as a white church surrounded by outbuildings at the entrance of a magnificently wooded valley, through which flows a small river, the Dechanski Bistritza, the one slope rich with stately chestnuts and the other fir-clad. Robbed of its broad lands, which have been swooped on by the Albanians, who at the time of my visit made further progress up the valley impossible, it lies precariously on the bloody edge of things, and only the wonderful white marble church tells of its former glory. It was being used as a military outpost, and twenty-five Nizams and an officer were quartered on the monastery, which had also a guard of its own, a set of Mohammedan Albanians, who were said to be very loyal. They looked like a wild-beast show, spoke nothing but Albanian, had the most elegant manners, and I was never allowed outside the monastery gate without a couple of them.

Pilgrimage to Devic Monastery - another text by Edit Durham with impressions from her visit to the Monastery of Devic during a religious celebration - sabor.

Around Kosovo - a text by Mary E. Durham in which she describes the city of Prizren and her travel from Prizren to Gracanica and Mitrovica.

Old Serbia and Grachanitsa Rebecca West - from her famous book: Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

Kossovo speaks only of its defeats. It is true that they were nullified by the Serbs of Serbia, who snatched their own liberty from the Turks under the leadership of Karageorge and Milosh Obrenovitch in the early nineteenth century, and pressed on, against the hostility· of the great powers, until they gave liberty to Old Serbia and Macedonia in the Balkan wars. But of this triumph Kossovo says nothing, for the battle which gave it to the Serbs in 1912 was fought not there but at Kumanovo, some miles to the south-east; and even after that it knew defeat again, for here the retreating Serbian Army was bombed by German aeroplanes as they fled towards the Albanian border, and though they pursued their enemies across it when they returned three years later it was without spectacular event. Here is the image of failure, so vast that it fills the eye as failure sometimes fills as individual life, an epoch.

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon - Rebecca West (additional extracts)

Rebecca West versus Edith Durham
Two Englishwomen who approached the Balkans with too much heart

The two authors who disliked and criticised each others' work represented the two opposing poles: while West was a Slavophile and a Serb admirer, Durham was a Slavophobic and anti-Serb; while West was inclined to think that lessons can be learnt from the Balkans, Durham stubbornly maintained the air of superiority. For Durham, the Serbian Byzantine heritage carried negative connotations (since it was usually equated with the Oriental, therefore backward), while for West Byzantine heritage constituted an inseparable part of European culture - the Balkans were precisely the place where this heritage was best preserved, the place where the true reflection of European values was to be found.

Nevenka Martin - University College London
A critique on the book by M.E. Durham "Through the Land of the Serb"

DECANI MONASTERY OLD PHOTO ALBUM


ERP KIM Info-Service is the official Information Service of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren and works with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Artemije.
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