FIRST SERB RETURNEES ARRIVE IN OSOJANE
two years of refugee life in collective centers in central Serbia, the
first group of Serb returnees returns to their destroyed homes in Metohija*
RETURN TO OSOJANE
night of August 12 and in the early morning of August 13, UNHCR, UNMIK
and KFOR organized the return of 54 previous residents to the village
of Osojane near Klina who for two years have been living as displaced
persons in central Serbia. The returnees returned on two buses which arrived
at 4:30 a.m. in front of the village school where UNHCR prepared the terrain
for tents and the basic infrastructure for their stay. The bus arrived
with an unprecedentedly strong military escort by Italian and Spanish
KFOR troops who met the Serbs in their armored transporters at the Savine
Vode crossing near Pec. Like all other Serb convoys, this one, too, arrived
in the early morning hours to avoid possible attacks by the Albanians.
Upon arriving in their destroyed village, the residents of Osojane were
received in the damaged school building in which an improvised dining
hall had been set up.
The return of the
displaced Serbs of Osojane is the first organized return planned by UNHCR,
UNMIK and KFOR. The Osojane Valje includes the region of several Serb
hamlets whose inhabitants in the first days following the end of the war
and the arrival of international peacekeeping troops fled before the Albanian
extremists and found temporary refugee at several locations in central
Serbia, mostly in collective centers. In the meanwhile, local Albanians
led by extremists from the Kosovo Liberation Army looted and set on fire
all Serb houses in the valley and seriously damaged the new church whose
construction was in the final phase. From the first days, there was work
on the organized return of the people of Osojane, which would enable the
beginning of a broader process of returns of Serbs who fled from their
homes in Kosovo and Metohija. Unfortunately, to date is has been impossible
to organize returns because security conditions still remain extremely
difficult and unpredictable.
According to estimates,
within the village of Ostojane itself it will possible to repair only
five or six houses of the 120 destroyed in the first phase despite the
fact that there is material for about 30 houses. For the restoration of
the remaining houses more time will be needed because the damage is significant.
Besides this, the returnees found nothing of their personal property in
their destroyed homes while many have not been able to even see their
homes due to the danger from landmines and remain within the confines
of the temporary reception center near the school. KFOR forces in the
near future will be actively working on demining the entire valley in
order to provide unhindered accesses to all houses and properties.
The intent of UNHCR
is to have the first group of returnees create basic conditions in the
near future for the arrival of other men, women and finally children,
for whom the the damaged St. Sava School in the village will be renovated.
For purposes of renovation, basic construction material has already been
gathered and the biggest resources now missing is manpower.
Considering the current
security situation, Osojane and the surrounding villages will most likely
share the fate of the other Serb enclaves in Kosovo and Metohija. Every
trip outside the protected zone will be very risky and will be possible
only with the armed escort of KFOR. The first several months will certainly
be the hardest until crops are sown and conditions are created for the
production of basic foodstuffs and a more or less normal life.
This is also a great test for the international mission, which according to UN Security Council Resolution 1244 is responsible for providing for the return of all persons displaced from the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, and for their free and secure life. To date, the international community in essence has failed to make Kosovo free for all and the majority of the non-Albanian population in the Province lives without basic human rights, in enclaves surrounded by barbed wire and tanks. On the other hand, NATO has not only failed to disarm the Albanian extremists as foreseen by UN Security Council Resolution 1244 but they are engaging in almost everyday attacks on Serbs, Bosniacs and Romanies, and actively participating in destabilizing the neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Tomorrow, August 14, 2001, on the religious holiday of Holy Maccabees (the beginning of the fast before the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos), the first Holy Liturgy was served in the village of Osojane by His Eminence the Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral, Amfilohije, with the assistance of the Right Reverand Prior of the Monastery of Visoki Decani, Teodosije, Hieromonk Petar Ulemek of the Monastery of Djurdjevi Stupovi and Hieromonk Jovan Culibrk from Cetinje. The Holy Liturgy was accompanied by the singing of the nuns of the Monastery of the Pec Patriarchate who, together with the monks and nuns of other Metohija monasteries, remained after the war to share the fate of their suffering people who remained in Metohija.
On behalf of the Serbian
Orthodox Church, Bishop Amfilohije greeted the returnees and encouraged
them for the great challenge facing them. In his sermon, the Bishop compared
the suffering of the Serbian people with the suffering of the Jews according
to the Old Testament, recalling the words of the psalm "If I forget
thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning" (Psalm 137:5).
He then emphasized that Orthodox Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija have their
ancient shrines which must under no circumstances be forgotten. Just as
Holy King Stefan did not leave the Decani laura with his monks, so, too,
did the nuns of the Pec Patriarchate, Devic and Gorioc remain in their
environment protecting their shrines. Bishop Amfilohije emphasized their
example as an incentive to the refugees to endure in their choice and
to be prepared to endure through all trials which await them. Bishop Amfilohije
extended his special thanks to the commander of the Spanish forces which
protect the village and who have expressed a great desire to assist the
returnees in resuming their life in Osojane. The Spanish officer approached
Bishop Amfilohije and accepted his blessing, kissing his hand, while Bishop
Amfilohije accepted a Spanish flag as the gift of the KFOR unit commander.
The monks and nuns of Decani, the Pec Patriarchate and the entire Diocese
of Raska and Prizren will take care to regularly visit and assist the
returnees. The Church, which remained with its people after the war, is
ready to welcome returnees and assist them in renovating their villages
The returnees spontaneously chose the Day of the Holy Maccabees as their village patron saint's day; consequently, following Holy Liturgy, the first patron saint's day festive bread was blessed. Following the blessing of the bread, the people and the priests visited the village cemetery under armed KFOR escort; unlike many other Serbian Orthodox cemeteries throughout Metohjia, this cemetery has not been desecrated. Candles were lit in memory of the deceased and the weeds which covered many graves were cleared.
OATH IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH
Afterwards the people expressed the wish to visit the Church of the Holy Archangel Gabriel for the first time; the church was seriously damaged in the post-war period and cannot be repaired. Those present confirmed the willingness of the residents of the villages to construct a new parish church yet again in the same location. This demonstrates that only by restoring life to our abandoned villages is it possible to restore our destroyed shrines which have suffered together with our people.
The newest Serb enclave
in Kosovo and Metohija began its life with prayer and the hope that the
day will soon come when it will again be possible to live and work in
peace. As never before these brave people need support and assistance
to survive in a terrifying place.
Text and photographs: Monks of Decani Monastery
HOW TO HELP?
For all additional
information regarding assistance to the people of Osojane through the
Serbian Orthodox Church, please contact: The Monastery of Visoki Decani
(Hieromonk Sava) firstname.lastname@example.org
Read information about the Decani Monastery Relief Fund in US which has been supporting the suffering people of Kosovo and Metohija in last three years thanks to donations of many God loving people all over the world. Regular reports are issued on the Internet by Fr. Demetrios Serfes (US), the President of the DRF.
Osojane Valley and the destroyed village showing the roof of the former
the ruins two years after the end of the war in Kosovo
Serbian Orthodox church in the deserted village of Osojane, Kosovo