destroyed after the war in Musutiste
Other houses which are undamaged are Albanian, summer 2002
Svetlost, Kragujevac, Yugoslavia
Issue 366, September 28, 2002
RETURNEES TO KOSOVO
DID I DO A GOOD JOB DESTROYING YOUR HOUSE?
Return of expelled from Kosovo is no longer controversial; what
is controversial is how Albanians will respond who say they have nothing
against returns but devastated Serb houses and property
By Miodrag MILOJEVIC
KFOR commander Bush was unyielding; his deputy, Austrian Major Karashi,
was no better. In negotiations which began as long ago as July 31 of
this year in the UNHCR office in Prizren and then continued in the municipal
assembly, Serb returnees from the village of Novake asked for KFOR protection.
If granted, the entire population of the village was prepared to return.
More precisely, the Serbs were not asking for special protection, only
two-three soldiers who would be in the village around the clock. Bush
and his deputy Karashi, however, offered occasional patrols and, as
an all-day security measure, a cell phone.
The Serbs from Novake are satisfied with UNHCR and UNMIK but not with
KFOR. In UNHCR’s opinion, it is too early for the entire village
to return. For the beginning it would be best to have an expedition
of some 15 people who would constantly rotate.
The “Zavicaj” Association of Displaced Persons from Kragujevac
and “Sveti Spas” from Belgrade with the mediation of UNHCR
organized the first visit to the destroyed Serb village of 95 houses
in July of this year. At that time UNHCR took it upon itself to investigate
the possibility of return. Work on the restoration of the Serb houses,
it was precisely agreed, is supposed to begin on the first of March
of next year. It would be logical for the first returnees to show up
in the village at that time. However, the foreign mediators are asking
that the Serbs show up in the village immediately and that they spend
the winter under tents because this is a condition set by the donors.
If the village remains empty until March, the donors will not invest
a cent in the restoration of the homes.
At a recently held meeting in Lapovo, it was agreed that the first group
of 15 people would arrive in the village on November 1. The meeting
was attended by representatives of UNMIK and UNHCR. Representatives
of KFOR were not present because according to the UN resolution they
have no freedom of movement outside the territory of Kosovo. The meeting
was attended by displaced Novake residents now living in Mladenovac,
Lazarevac and Kragujevac – in short, by the entire village of
The talks continued in the Prizren municipal assembly. Participants
included the civil administrator, non-government organizations and the
mayor of Prizren, an Albanian, who said that he “in principle
does not oppose the return of a limited number of Serbs but is afraid
that a more massive return would irritate the Albanians”.
settlement in Western Kosovo and Metohija, summer 2002
In Prizren there is a seven member municipal committee responsible for
returns composed exclusively of Albanians. It will supposedly take care
of the return of Serbs from Prizren and the vicinity. The reproach of
the Serbs that there is not one Serb member on the committee was not
taken into consideration. Thus, an ethnically pure commission is responsible
for building a multiethnic society.
As things stand the Serbs, after all this time, are before the gates
of Prizren itself! First returns would begin to the villages for security
reasons and in the near future about 20 Serbs are expected to walk into
the city itself. First there will be one day, so-called “go and
see” visits and when conditions are right, real returns will commence.
For a start the residents of Novake, as they have been promised by Miss
Chris, the UNHCR director, will receive housing under tents, an electrical
generator, water in canisters, food, blankets, beds and stoves. KFOR
conducted talks with Albanians from some Prizren villages and they did
not in principle object to the return of the Serbs. However, the four
member commission for returns to the village consisting of Jovan Krstic,
Krunoslav Janicijevic, Vladimir Nikolic and Ljiljana Janicijevic, wanted
this to be confirmed by the Albanians from all the neighboring villages.
They had never appeared in the chambers of the Prizren municipal assembly
before which caused additional insecurity.
The village of Novake was not randomly selected. First, the village
is surrounded by Catholic Albanian villages none of which was burned
down during the war. On both sides, the Serb and the Albanian, there
were no casualties during the war. When the Serb returnees who come
to visit their property appear, kisses and embraces are exchanged; their
Albanian neighbors invite them to their homes and greet them on the
road. Of course, the unspoken question remains unanswered: is this all
a theatrical presentation? The surrounding villages of Ceparce, Spinadija,
Valeza, Trpenica, Lesane, Smac (a mixed Serb-Albanian village), Gornja
Srbica, with 14 Serb houses, were not set on fire. But what about the
Albanian villages which were set on fire not far away?
In ’97 everything pointed to war. An Albanian from Smac, Zef Cetaj,
was marrying off a son. To his friends from Djakovica he first introduces
the best man while the second man according to rank is a Serb from Smac,
Stanislav Zaharijevic. No one is surprised that a Serb played a key
role in an Albanian wedding. On the Zaharijevic’s patron saint’s
day feats, six or seven Albanians were always seated at the table. However,
the Albanians last wished the Serbs a happy Orthodox Easter on April
11, 1999. Since then the connections have been completely broken.
The Serbs from Novake and Smac claim that they are the ones who looked
after the surrounding Albanian villages during the war. However, after
their expulsion the village of Novake was leveled with the ground while
in the ethnically mixed village of Smac not one foundation of a Serb
house remains. Were these villages looted, set on fire and destroyed
by the same Albanians whose homes were looked after by the Serbs? The
answer would appear to be yes. Recently a Serb from the village of Novake
and his guest, a neighbor from a nearby Catholic Albanian village were
discussing this topic in Kragujevac. The question of destruction of
houses came up. The Albanian jumped up as if burned:
“It wasn’t us; it wasn’t us, neighbor! It wasn’t
us; it was some stranger...”
The Albanian neighbor had come to inquire about the sale of Serb houses
On June 15, 1999 the Serbs from the village of Novake fled to the neighboring
village of Smac. They spent two days and two nights there; then they
were disarmed by KFOR and the KLA. KFOR then lined them up in a convoy
and escorted them to Serbia along with the Serbs from Smac. That was
on June 17...
The Belgrade newspaper “Blic” previously published a photograph
taken from a helicopter showing how the Albanians were destroying Novake.
There is a man in the photo but his face is not clear. Someone thought
of cutting out the photo from the paper and magnifying it. Then everything
became clear. They recognized Sokolj Cetaj, a farmer from Smac, the
father of two sons and four daughters.
Dejan Petkovic knows Sokolj very well:
“I just can’t believe it! Every time I entered the village
store, Sokolj would offer me a drink /a sign of hospitality/...”
When the KLA introduced a curfew for Albanians, the only person in Smac
who did not obey it was Sokolj Cetaj. He remained with the Serbs until
late into the night even though the other Albanians locked their homes
at eight o’clock. Now the Serbs are asking themselves whether
Sokolj perhaps had “special” privileges – or tasks?
Serbian tomb near Prizren, summer 2002
What irritates the Albanians
Be as it may, different times arrived and Sokolj Cetalj “plowed”
16 Serb houses, destroying them totally. Finally in those locations
he sowed clover.
When a delegation of returnees from Smac arrived for a visit to their
native village, the Serbs were welcomed by Sokolj Cetaj. He greeted
them and exchanged kisses as if they were members of his closest family.
And when he gave one local resident from Smac a liter of brandy for
a safe trip home, he could not resist asking him: “Did I do a
good job destroying your house?”
“I don’t know anyone who could have done it better,”
the other replied.
A few days later some Albanians informed their neighbors in Serbia that
Sokolj made an appearance on Prizren television criticizing those Albanian
families “who went to welcome the Serb murderers”. Our source,
who has daily contact with some of his Albanian neighbors –every
Serb has “his” Albanian contacts – says that the crux
of the matter is the following: some Albanians were not only on good
terms with the Serbs but also with the former Serbian authorities. When
they found themselves in an awkward position as a result of a change
in the government, they were forced to provide additional proof of their
loyalty. This is why they set on fire, looted and plowed everything
Serb, thus becoming worthy of joining the ranks of the “real”
The most active member of the committee for returns, Jovan Krstic, says:
“We are not afraid of the Albanians from the neighboring Catholic
villages. We protected them during the war and none of them were killed.
But what about the more distant Albanian villages where there were casualties
in the war? What about the Albanian extremists?”
The Church of the Unmercenary Healers /Sts. Cosmas and Damian/ in Novake
appears whole – from the outside. However, the inside of the church
has been demolished and vandalized; the church bell has been stolen.
The Serb returnees, when they come, light candles even in a church in
this state. The well in Krstic’s yard is completely full of debris.
Everything which could be removed has been taken; the fruit trees have
been cut down; the foundation of the house is barely visible in the
soil. Only the dogs stayed in the village after the departure of the
Serbs. Jovan Krstic says:
“In order to enter the village the Albanians must have killed
the dogs. We searched the former streets after three years in search
of at least one skeleton of our dogs. No luck. We will find them one
day when we empty the debris from the wells...”
Translated by S. Lazovic (October 7, 2002)
Desecrated Serbian church
in Smac, near Novake, Summer 2002
Service of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren
Kosovo and Metohija