March 30, 2003
BISHOP ARTEMIJE VISITS PRIZREN AREA SERBS
ERP KIM Info-service
On Saturday and Sunday, March 28 and 29, Bishop Artemije of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija visited the remaining Prizren area Serbs and welcomed the first Serb returnees to the village of Novake. Traveling with Bishop Artemije and his closest associates was a medical team from Gracanica including nun Irina of Gracanica Monastery, who is a physician; and Presbytera Svetlana Stevic, the director of the NGO "Majka Devet Jugovica", whose representatives regularly visit Kosovo and Metohija and distribute humanitarian aid primarily through the Diocese of Raska and Prizren. Mr. Randjel Nojkic, a member of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija, also visited the Prizren area with Bishop Artemije on behalf of the Return (Povratak) Coalition.
SREDSKA - SREDACKA ZUPA
Bishop Artemije and his associates visited ten Serb returnees in the village of Sredska, approximately 15 kilometers south of the city of Prizren. They are primarily older people who are living in extremely difficult conditions. In conversations with Bishop Artemije they complained that no one cared about them except the Church and that they feel that Belgrade has forgotten them as citizens. Bishop Artemije appealed to them not to leave the village but to remain as the germ for the return of the rest of the Serbs to Sredacka Zupa. Among the returnees are one physician and one nurse who care for the elderly. On behalf of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren Bishop Artemije presented them with a Lada caravan vehicle for use as an ambulance for which the village has a great need. With this vehicle the physician will be able to assist elderly in nearby villages, Prizren and the village of Novake. The Serbs of Sredska say that their Muslim neighbors - the Torbesi - welcomed them warmly and that they expect the return of the remaining Serbs from this area. Upon returning to their village the Serbs of Sredska found not one of their houses undamaged. Fr. German, the Abbot of the nearby Holy Archangels Monastery, and Presbytera Svetlana Stevic who directs the NGO "Majka Devet Jugovica" (Mother of Nine Jugovic brothers) visit the Serbs in Sredacka Zupa regularly. This NGO is currently organizing the distribution of the large humanitarian shipment which arrived this winter from Russia and which has largely already been given to the most at-risk Serbs.
PRIZREN - FIRST ARCHIERCHAL LITURGY IN TWO YEARS
On Saturday evening in Holy Archangels Monastery near Prizren Bishop Artemije heard the confession of the monks and received Archimandrite Parthenios from Thessaloniki who brought humanitarian aid from Greece. On Sunday morning Bishop Artemije traveled by German military armored transporter to Prizren where he served the first holy archierchal liturgy in two years in the Orthodox Cathedral of St. George. With the assistance of clerics from Greece and the Diocese of Raska and Prizen, Bishop Artemije ordained Fr. Benedict of Holy Archangels Monastery as hieromonk and his monastic brother, Fr. Barsanuphius, as hierodeacon. This was also the first ordainment in the Prizren Cathedral since the end of the war in 1999. About 20 mostly elderly Prizren Serbs of the total of 68 Serbs remaining in city attended the holy liturgy. Before the war 8,300 Serbs lived in Pec; the majority of them left the city in June of 1999 when Bishop Artemije himself was forced with the remaining Serbs to temporarily withdraw from the diocese see and relocate to Gracanica Monastery to organize the life of the Serb community in those difficult times. After the liturgy Bishop Artemije learned in conversation with the present believers that the remaining Serbs today have complete freedom of movement in the city, that they are free to enter Albanian-owned shops and to use the Serbian language, which is rarely the case in other parts of Kosovo and Metohija. Nevertheless, following numerous crimes in this region in which dozens of innocent people were murdered, the Serbs remain cautious and convinced that the presence of KFOR is very important. Recently a Serb bus began traveling along the route from Strpce on Brezovica to Prizren twice a week for the use of Prizren and Brezovica Serbs. The bus is unescorted and so far there have been no incidents. The most recent incident occurring in this area was the planting of explosives above St. Archangels Monastery in the summer of 2002.
VISIT TO SERB RETURNEES IN VILLAGE OF NOVAKE
At the conclusion of his visit to the Prizren area, on Sunday morning Bishop Artemije visited the first Serb returnees to the village of Novake, some 20 kilometers east of Prizren. The Serbs fled from this village in June of 1999 after which the Albanians looted and set fire to all the houses. A week ago with the assistance of German KFOR the first 45 Serb returnees returned to their village and began working on the rebuilding of their destroyed homes. Most of the returnees are working-age men and women who hope to be able to bring their children by the beginning of the next school year. The residents of Novake say they are very happy with German KFOR which has provided them with the most assistance. Unfortunately, they were unable to hide their dissatisfaction with the Belgrade government's lack of interest for their needs. So far no one has visited them or given them any form of assistance. There has also been no assistance forthcoming from UNHCR, claim the residents of Novake, who arrived a week ago in a virtual wasteland. The returnees are presently housed in the former school which has been adapted for their temporary use. The only other building still standing is the village church, whose interior has been completely destroyed by explosives planted by Albanian extremists. All the grave markers found in the local cemetery have been broken; fortunately, none of the graves of the deceased have been dug up as in other locations. Since their arrival the locals have restored some of the grave markers and cleaned out the interior of the Church of Holy Apostles, which will be refurbished for regular services in the near future.
Bishop Artemije's visit made the returnees
very happy. The Diocese plans to actively join in assisting these people
as it has already done in the villages of Osojane and Bicha in northern
Metohija. The residents expect to be joined soon by the first returnees to
the nearby village of Smac. The rebuilding of destroyed houses is
scheduled to begin on April 1. Under the auspices of German KFOR the
construction work is to be carried out by a local Albanian company which
will employ Serbs from the village and provide them with wages for their
work. If the rebuilding process continues according to plan, the residents
of Novake can expect to spend the next winter in their rebuilt homes.
There is a lot of work to be done as the Albanians have cut down all the
orchards and other trees in the village, and transformed a part of the
village into a public garbage dump. The wells are polluted and the
infrastructure is completely destroyed. The local residents took advantage
of Bishop Artemije's visit to issue a public appeal for assistance to all
Serbs at home and abroad to contribute to the rebuilding of this village
and others in the Prizren area in order to rebuild the life of the Serb
The villages in this area, including the town of Velika Hoca, which survived the turmoils of war with its 500 local residents, are mentioned as early as the 12th century in the Charter of St. Simeon Nemanja as properties of Chilandar Monastery [on Mt. Athos]. There is hardly a stone in this area which does not hide the remains of an ancient Serbian church or cemetery. For this very reason, the rebuilding of the life of the Serb community in the Prizren area is the responsibility of the entire Serb people and the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Diocese of Raska and Prizren therefore appeals to all Serbs everywhere to come to the aid of their suffering brothers and sisters who seek to rebuild their lives in their centuries-old home.
SMD, ERP KIM
interested in providing assistance to Serb returnees in the Prizren area
may contact Fr. Ezekiel (Stakic) of the Diocese of Raska and
Prizren, Gracanica Monastery, at
Decani Monastery Relief Fund will
also support Serb returnees in Novake and elsewhere in Kosovo and
Metohija. For more information on sending donations from the U.S. please
contact Fr. Nektarios Serfes, Boise (ID)
Info-Service is the official Information Service of the Serbian Orthodox
Diocese of Raska and Prizren and works with the blessing of His Grace
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