Frankfurt, Germany (Serbian language émigré newspaper)
FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF SERB RETURNS TO THEIR HOMES CELEBRATED IN OSOJANE
METOHIJA*, A LAND BOTH HOLY AND 'CURSED'
*Metohija (from Gr. metohia - monastery lands) - traditional Serb name for the western part of today's UN adminstered Province of Kosovo, between Pec and Istok in the north and Prizren in the south
Out of 2,000 pre-war inhabitants today there are approximately 250 well-protected returnees, including 55 children, living in Osojane - About 60 people are still living in prefabricated tent-huts covered with nylon tarp
By Radmila Loncar
"You were most courageous and we know that bravery always bears good fruits. It is to your credit that you are the first who last year dared to return here where not a single house was still standing. Today you have more than 50 inhabited homes and over 20 in the final stages of construction. When you arrived last year, there were no children; today I see over 50 of them. This is a sign that our Serb community in Kosovo and Metohija has a future in this region, not only an illustrious past. May God grant that the end of year brings the return of all those who have yet to return to their centuries-old homes."
In a homily during the celebration of the one year anniversary of Serb returns to Osojane, these are some of the words of Bishop Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral, who blessed the 250 local residents.
Bishop Amfilohije added that the return of the Osojane Serbs further encouraged recent returns to the village of Bicha, as well as those who are due to return this fall to Siga, Brestovik, Ljevosa and a few other places in the holy and sacred land of Metohija.
Village with 55 children
Osojane is a Serb village in a Metohija valley bearing the same name located between Klina and Istok, towns in which today no Serbs remain. It is a part of Istok municipality. Before onslaughts of Albanian extremists it was completely abandoned and destroyed after the deployment of KFOR in the summer of 1999. It differs from many similar places in Kosovo and Metohija in that it is the destination of the first Serb returnees during the three years of international administration of the southern Serbian province. Out of 2,000 pre-war inhabitants today there are approximately 250 well-protected returnees, including 55 children, living in Osojane. They are protected by Spanish KFOR troops.
"After several unsuccessful attempts, the first group of 54 Serbs in Osojane returned the night of August 12 of last year with a strong escort and unprecedented security by Spanish and Italian KFOR troops. Our return was organized by UNHCR, UNMIK and KFOR. The Pec Patriarchate and the monks of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren and the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral also helped. They housed us in tents, and then moved us into the tent-huts and life began," says Gojko Djuric, one of the first returnees and head of the local office.
55 houses inhabited
During the past year, says Djuric, 72 houses were constructed. So far 55 are inhabited while the rest will be completely finished and ready to be moved into within a matter of days.
However, 60 people are still living in groups in prefabricated tent-huts covered by nylon tarp. These huts have a single room furnished with two-three beds and an equal number of chairs.
New returnees are also coming. On Wednesday evening, the first anniversary of the returns, a full bus of them arrived. Individuals from the "tent-hut settlement" use a common prefabricated kitchen and a shared, improvised bathroom with no heated water. The village has a local administrative office, an elementary school, a first-aid station, a store, a café and the essential KFOR base housing the Spanish troops which protect it.
"They are good to us, even though they are not Serbs. We cannot complain. They help us. Some of them are learning a few words of Serbian so we can communicate more easily. You can see for yourself that they don't mind coming to our celebrations. They don't mind a shot of good plum brandy or joining us in a Serb folk dance," says Milivoje Repanovic, a local senior.
Sweet scent of everlasting
His granddaughter, seven year-old Stojana, shyly passes out small bouquets of sweet-smelling everlasting to the visitors from Belgrade as mementos of the flowers found in Metohija fields and reminders to come back and visit soon.
The local residents of Osojane are hospitable and well-meaning. We saw for ourselves how much they like to receive visitors. They greet their visitors with (the traditional Serb) bread and salt, and with open hearts.
During the celebration of the first anniversary of their return and in honor of the village patron saint's day, Holy Maccabees (the beginning of the fast before the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos), Holy Liturgy was served by Bishop Amfilohije and the monks of the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral and the Diocese of Raska and Prizren in the churchyard of the destroyed Church of the Holy Archangels. The bishop then gave Communion to the faithful and was especially delighted by the children, who waited patiently in line to receive Holy Communion.
"Metohija is a land both holy and 'cursed' because only after have you have been forced to leave do you realize what you have lost and that you must return here. There is no other place where you can live and survive," adds Gojko Djuric with a sigh.
The entire village came to the patron saint's day feast, as did guests from neighboring Serb enclaves, political representatives from Zubin Potok, representatives of the Yugoslav Secretariat for Religions, who presented an icon and an icon lamp for the village church, as well as Momcilo Trajkovic, a member of the Serbian Parliament, and reporters from Belgrade, whose visit was made possible by the Secretariat for Religions.
The local residents rotate the feast bread with the bishop (in accordance with Orthodox custom). He recites a prayer which is followed by a thunderous response by the men which echoes to heaven: "O, Lord, have mercy. Grant us mercy, o, Lord!" Tears gather in the eyes of the guests. Everyone senses that this prayer lives in the hearts and souls of the Osojane returnees as a plea to God to help them survive in their sacred land of Metohija.
The music did not stop nor the dancing until late into the night of August 13 in the Osojane elementary school. Both young and old were on their feet and everyone sang almost every song there is dedicated to Kosovo.
Translated by S. Lazovic
1.Locals in front
of the damaged church in Osojane
U OSOJANIMA PROSLAVLJENA GODINJICA POVRATKA SRBA U ZAVICAJ
METOHIJA SVETA I "PROKLETA"
Od 2.000 metana, koliko ih je bilo pre pocetka rata, sada u Osojanima ivi oko 250 dobro cuvanih povratnika sa 55 svojih maliana Oko 60 ljudi jo uvek ivi u montanim drvenim kontejnerima, prekrivenim najlonom
nekoliko neuspelih pokuaja, prva grupa od 54 Srba u Osojane se
vratila u noci izmedu 12. i 13. avgusta prole godine, pod jakom
pratnjom i nevidenim obezbedenjem panskih i italijanskih vojnika
KFOR, a povratak su nam organizovali UNHCR, UNMIK i KFOR. Pomogli su
takode Pecka patrijarija i monasi Eparhije rako-prizrenske
i Mitropolije crnogorsko-primorske. Smestili su nas u atore, potom
preselili u kontejnere i ivot je poceo - seca se Gojko Ðuric,
jedan od prvih povratnika i predsednik mesne kancelarije.
i novi povratnici. U sredu predvece, na dan prve godinjice, stigao
ih je pun autobus. LJudi iz "kontejner naselja" koriste zajednicku
montanu kuhinju i zajednicko improvizovano kupatilo u kojem vodu
greje samo sunce s neba. Selo ima svoju optinsku podkancelariju,
osnovnu kolu, ambulantu, prodavnicu, kafanu i, neizbenu
bazu KFOR gde su smeteni panci koji ih cuvaju.
unuka, sedmogodinja Stojana, buketicima mirisnog smilja stidljivo
dariva goce iz Beograda - da ih prate carobni mirisi cveca sa
metohijskih polja i podsete da im ponovo dodju u goste..