Nezavisna Svetlost, Kragujevac, Yugoslavia
Issue 250, July 8 - 15, 2000

Hieromonk Sava
Hieromonk Sava



“We are not in a position to blackmail anyone by our participation or nonparticipation in the administration. The representatives of the international community can easily say - we offered you an opportunity to help yourselves and you didn’t take it, therefore, you yourselves are responsible for your ruin”

Written by Gordana JOCIC

Through an intensive diplomatic campaign, the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija (SNC) has won the support of the ambassadors of the Security Council and the American administration, and presented the UNMIK mission with an already prepared document, the Agreement on Cooperation with the Serbs, which could not be refused. The significance of this document, in whose signature the Church played a huge role, is best attested to by the reactions of the Albanians following the document’s adoption. A typical example is Hasim Thaci who briefly withdrew from the Interim Administrative Council because of this agreement. We spoke with Protosyncellus Sava (Janjic), one of the closest associates of the bishop of Raska and Prizren, Artemije, about the strengths of this agreement and the current divisions among the Kosovo Serbs.

NEZAVISNA SVETLOST: The first written document in which UNMIK undertakes the responsibility for improving the living conditions of the Kosovo Serbs has been signed. This fact seems rather surprising: how can this be the first written document after one year of seemingly “aggressive” diplomacy, primarily on the part of the SNC?

FATHER SAVA: There have been many previous attempts to bind UNMIK in writing to certain steps which would improve the position of the Serbs. Unfortunately, this was difficult because it took UNMIK some time to comprehend the real situation in the field. Both UNMIK and KFOR came here with the conviction that their role was to deliver the Albanians from Serbian terror. The suffering of the Serbs, which to us is so horrible, was considered to be almost a “normal” occurrence.

We immediately sought to draw attention to our positions but quickly realized that this would be difficult. The first preoccupation of the mission was to bring the KLA under control as soon as possible to prevent Albanian extremists from coming into conflict with the international forces. It was not until wintertime that Dr. Kouchner began to devote more attention to the Serbs. At that time we began work on the Agenda for Coexistence and on local offices only with the greatest of difficulty.

The best example of the degree of UNMIK’s lack of awareness of the situation are the words of Dr. Kouchner, who came to Gracanica in autumn of last year and said that he wanted Serb children and Albanian children to go to school together and to play together. We tried to convince him that this would be extremely dangerous because the children would doubtlessly try to kill each other. Only later did he realize that schools and hospitals cannot be open to both communities because of the tremendous antagonism and hate which exist.

NS: The Agreement represents primarily the security interests of the Serbs still living in Kosovo. What guarantee is there that the new security forces will do a better job of protecting the Serbs than KFOR?

FATHER SAVA: We are not unduly optimistic because of this Agreement mostly because we are aware of the limited capabilities of the mission in Kosovo. One of the main priorities for KFOR and UNMIK is to avoid armed conflict with the Albanians. That is why I believe that it will be extremely difficult for them to decide on a more robust approach to establishing order in Kosovo. Nevertheless, by signing the Agreement Mr. Kouchner has publicly and in writing accepted responsibility for improving the difficult situation which he now sees and acknowledges completely. Our intent by this Agreement was to win the support of the UN mission and the American administration for a package of measures to protect the Serbs living in enclaves. Every failure to live up to this program will be exclusively the
responsibility of UNMIK and blame cannot be transferred to Serb “lack of cooperation”.

NS: Who are the Serbs who will be participating in the Kosovo police force?

FATHER SAVA: There is a great deal of interest in the Kosovo police. Our young men in the villages are unemployed and applied by the hundreds. However, the Albanians influenced the director of the academy and practically hand-picked who would be accepted for training. With the arrival of the American delegation headed by Jim O’Bryan, the situation has been reversed.

Our intent is to engage young Serb men and women within the framework of the police directly in the process of protecting security and order but under UNMIK control which will also neutralize possible manipulations by the regime and the ministry of internal affairs (MUP). In addition to Serbs in the Kosovo police we would also have a “neighborhood watch” system which consists of the existence of unarmed village watches and new systems of communication and observation in the field which would enable more direct engagement of the local Serb population.

NS: What next? Can something be gained from the next three months’ participation in the IAC?

FATHER SAVA: It is impossible during such a short period of participation and cooperation to correct a situation which will perhaps remain this way for years, all the more so because we inherited a completely catastrophic situation. Our results, therefore, cannot be measured in terms of some spectacular positive moves so much as by the fact that the situation would be worse if we had not gotten involved at all as we have initiated the resolution of very important issues and that we are constantly posing the questions of security and freedom. It is our intent to consolidate living in our enclaves, in short, to enable the survival of our community until the question of Kosovo is resolved in global terms.

Many people are telling us that we should withdraw and discontinue cooperation. Unfortunately, these people are not aware that our numerous communities, small enclaves and monasteries are directly dependent on the assistance of KFOR. We are not in a position to blackmail anyone by our participation or nonparticipation in the administration. The representatives of the international community can easily say - we offered you an opportunity to help yourselves and you didn’t take it, therefore, you yourselves are responsible for your ruin.

NS: The somewhat Nedic-like position of the SNC in the IAC has given cause to the regime to accuse the SNC of treason. Regardless of the fact that among the democratic forces it is clear, in principle, who betrayed whom, was there a sense of discomfort among the SNC when it voted to remain in the IAC?

FATHER SAVA: We did not feel like traitors for a single moment. In every conversation and at every meeting we are clearly representing the interests of the Serb people and sharply criticizing the UN mission and KFOR. But our criticism is not based on arrogance and fiery rhetoric intended to satisfy the frustrated readers of newspapers. We strive to make criticism constructive and we always offer our cooperation and preparedness to assume personal responsibility in order to improve the situation. I would not use the analogy of the period of Nazi occupation and General Nedic. I would sooner use the example of Germany following the Second World War. We in Serbia need an Adenauer but also a Nurnberg for the whole Balkans which will bring all the Balkan butchers from Zagreb to Belgrade, from
Sarajevo to Pristina, to the sentencing bench.

Within a few years our army will be a part of NATO Forces, and our country will be a part of United Europe. Those who now hold the monopoly on patriotism and are quick to point a finger at us and all those who wish to live among other people will find themselves on the rubbish heap of history, and some will even find themselves behind bars. What is tragic is that only because of the catastrophic policies of Belgrade Albanian extremism remains in the mainstream and is maturing into classic Nazism in the presence of the entire world. While Milosevic was setting fires and fanning the flames here, the Westerners were holding philosophical talks with Surroi and Rugova because they considered the Albanians in Kosovo to be people ready for democracy and for Europe. Now it is becoming increasingly apparent to the West that many Albanian leaders don’t know how to be different than Milosevic and that their model is more the untamable outlaw Adem Jasari ,whose picture can be seen all ove! r Kosovo, than Ghandi.

NS: After the most recent events political divisions in Kosovo are apparent. Can these divisions inflict harm on the begun processes?

FATHER SAVA: Divisions among the Serbs come not only from different ways of fighting but also from different goals. While the regime seeks to destabilize Kosovo to draw attention away from Belgrade and enable state propaganda to scoff at the failures of the West, in Mitrovica a regional and local politics is being led which only sees the reality of the territory north of the Ibar River.

The SNC and Bishop Artemije as their goal see the whole of Kosovo within the framework of a democratic Serbia and Yugoslavia but not like before, through the domination and colonial behavior of Belgrade, but in completely different and equal relations. Our goal right now is the physical survival of the people in enclaves until a consolidation of our country and democratic changes comes about. When this time comes we will strike to renew the connection between Serbia and Kosovo in a democratic manner within the framework of a modern civil society integrated into Europe. The independence of Kosovo is not only unacceptable to us because Kosovo would formally cease to be a part of Serbia but first and foremost because, on the basis of everything that we have seen so far, this would be a fascist-like creation tailored only for Albanians and among them, only those who enjoy favor among the veterans of the KLA.

NS: What do the Serbs in Kosovo really think of the decisions of the SNC and what is the real political power of the opponents of its policies? Who are the signers of the petition submitted to Patriarch Pavle?

FATHER SAVA: The Serb people in the Province is still politically disoriented, in shock and despair. Many are unaware of the new reality or simply wish to forget it, expecting the return of the army and the police each day. Unfortunately, the state media are continuing their disinformation campaign and supporting the strengthening of collective autism and amnesia. For the entire month of May, the story was that Milosevic would have a coffee in the Grand Hotel on June 12. But he didn’t come. Fewer and fewer people believe Milosevic. However, since the regime still pays the salaries of a large number of people in public offices, many of them remain loyal to the SPS for purely material reasons. Their personal opinions are extremely critical of the regime but they don’t want to lose their salaries and pensions. The group
of Serbs which went to see first Sainovic and then the Patriarch in some mysterious fashion failed to appear at either Gracanica or Gazimestan when the Patriarch ! himself came to Kosovo. This is the best indicator that this is a group organized to produce a show in front of the Patriarchate for the state media.

They complained that they could not pray to God in Gracanica and then they did not come to liturgy served by the Patriarch himself. Thank God the Patriarchate immediately denied the already prepared Tanjug report regarding the alleged support of the Patriarch for this group, which was actually a delegation of the SPS. The Serbian Orthodox Church headed by the Patriarch gave its whole-hearted support to Bishop Artemije at the most recent Holy Synod of Archpriests. Perhaps many people are not aware of this but the Bishop would not dare to engage in these kinds of activities and travels without the blessing of the Head Archpriest and the Synod which has the full right to forbid him to engage in this type of activity if they find it necessary. There are increasingly more people who are realizing their earlier mistakes and joining the SNC. In recent weeks several boards were founded in various villages of central and eastern Kosovo, most especially in the region of Leposavic and Zvecan where our members have difficulty taking action because of threats by the private guard of Oliver Ivanovic.

NS: In conclusion, what can be said to those who may be thinking of returning to Kosovo? Where exactly should they return and what can they hope for?

FATHER SAVA: In all honesty, the return of Serbs to Kosovo depends most on the dynamics of political events in Belgrade and Pristina. Until general changes occur on these two political scenes, the return of Serbs to Kosovo and Metohija will be very symbolic regardless of how much we strive to encourage this process. As a first step we have selected the creation of a coordinational body - the Joint Committee on Return - which brings together UNMIK, UNHCR, KFOR, OSCE and the SNC - in order to prepare the field for returns in a multidisciplinary manner.

The main obstacle remains the extremely poor security situation which will be extremely difficult to correct if relations between Belgrade, New York and Pristina do not stabilize. In short, the implementation of Resolution 1244 is possible only after the departure of the regime. Until them, I am afraid that Kosovo will be increasingly distant from Serbia and Yugoslavia. We will strive to slow down that process but without a democratic government in Belgrade this process cannot be stopped.

Translated by S. Lazovic (July 24, 2000)

Fr. Sava in visit to the remaining Serbs in Pristina