TESTIMONIES

Posted December 23, 1999

CAN CHILDREN BE WAR CRIMINALS?
by Abe de Vries
(Translated from Trouw, Amsterdam daily newspaper)

"The sooner the Dutch 'Yellow Riders' leave
Orahovac, the better. They're worse than the
Germans," says Mirjana. "The soldiers are not so
bad, but the officers are terrible'', according to
Natasha. "They admit that they're only here for the
Albanians, not for the Serbs,'' says Simka.

Three women from Orahovac, who until recently lived there
or who have family there. This is their story, which differs
substantially from the one lieutenant-colonel Tony van Loon, the
commander of the Yellow Riders, has told. (Trouw, November 11).
His artillery unit will soon be replaced. [See Note # 1 at end]

The women read the interview with Van Loon. In their eyes
the Yellow Riders don't have even one reason to be proud of
themselves. "Dear sir,'' begins an open letter from the
Humanitarian Committee of Women from Orahovac, ''the fact that
you turned Orahovac into a test field where the Serbs - without a
possibility to leave because you pretend not to be able to give them
protection - are thus forced to stay imprisoned in a ghetto - should
not be something you should be proud of, nor should you leave
Kosovo with a clear conscience. To keep the Serbs as prisoners this
way is to deliver them to the mercy of terrorists. If this is the way
to
create a multi-ethnic society, than such a society existed also in
Warshaw during World War Two.''

In Orahovac 2500 Serbs and 500 gypsies live a terrible
life. They are packed into a few streets with only KFOR [NATO]
checkpoints separating them from the extremely hostile Albanian
majority in the rest of the town. They all want to leave for Serbia or
Montenegro. Only one thing is keeping them in Orahovac: the fact
that the Dutch don't want to guarantee their safety if they venture
out of the ghetto.

The Yellow Riders say they're searching for possible war
criminals amongst the Serbs. A lot of Serbian men are afraid the
KLA has put their names on a secret list of suspects, so they stay
where they are.

Mirjana (26), Natasha (27) and Simka (35) have difficulty
believing the Serbian police really murdered hundreds of Albanian
citizens in Orahovac and the surrounding villages. According to the
Yellow Riders, Serbian police reservists born in the area executed
perhaps some thousand Albanians in cold blood. Until now, 400
bodies have been found. Natasha: "There was a war going on. The
KLA attacked the army and the police, who were not saying: 'O
please, kill us.' I was in Orahovac myself when the war started. It
was a psychologically unbearable situation. While NATO bombed us
from the air, uniformed terrorists were everywhere in the city. In
Orahovac and the villages everyday Serbs were killed.'' Mirjana:
"A number of bodies that were found could belong to Serbs. Villages
like Velika Hoca, Retimlje, Zociste and Opterusa were mainly
inhabited by Serbs. In Retimlje alone 30 Serbs were murdered last
year. Where are the bodies of the Serbs?'' Simka: "People say all
kinds of things. It's because of the hatred Albanians have for the
Serb police.'' Natasha: "Let's say some Serbs did commit war
crimes. Do you think they'll be waiting in Orahovac for Kfor to
arrest them? Those who maybe really did something wrong are long
gone.'' Mirjana: "My husband was director of a municipal archive. If
he hadn't left on time, he would probably also now be considered a
war criminal. But he is not a nationalist. He fired some Albanians
because they didn't work well.''

The women do not understand why KFOR refuses to let
at least the children go. Until now only one convoy of 155 Serbs was
allowed to leave town. Guarded by Dutch troops, it was attacked by
a large crowd of Albanians in the vicinity of Pec. After that UNHCR,
the refugee-agency of the United Nations, stopped its humanitarian
evacuations in Kosovo. Natasha and Simka both tried several times
to take the children of their relatives back to Serbia. Without
success.

"Can children also be war criminals?'' asks Natasha.
"I've cried and I've screamed'', says Simka. "But this Dutch officer
just stood there and looked at me as through a mask. He didn't show
any emotion. Nothing. It was just not allowed.'' Simka recently
returned from a visit to Orahovac. She says the situation there is
worse than a couple of weeks ago. Many times there are days
without electricity, she says. The Serbs cannot buy food in Albanian
shops They rely on humanitarian organisations to help them.
Albanians block the road to Pristina, to stop a Russian batallion from
entering the town (the Russians are scheduled to replace the Dutch),
so all kinds of shortages exist.

Simka: "With winter coming, the Serbs are in panic.
They're afraid everybody will forget about them. Now they can still
drive to Velika Hoca, where many Serbs live, but the road is in bad
condition and nobody clears up the snow. They'll be stuck.''

A visit to Orahovac is only possible with KFOR
protection. Visitors have to leave the same day. The Serbs in
Orahovac are allowed to use a Red Cross satellite telephonefor one
minute a week. According to the women, the phone is bugged.
Mirjana: "The line is cut the moment someone says something
negative about life in Orahovac."

Mail can be delivered to the Red Cross, but the letters are
first examined by a censor. Relatives in Serbia get them with thick
black lines through the text.

Since the arrival of the Dutch soldiers more than 20 Serbs
from Orahovac have been kidnapped and 136 Serbian houses have
been burned to the ground. One of the missing Serbs is the husband
of a translator who worked for the Yellow Riders. In none of these
cases have the Dutch started an investigation, let alone succeeded in
bringing someone back, says Simka.

In 1998, some 50 Serbs were kidnapped. Nobody has
heard from them since. She asks why the Dutch, who arrested 11
Serb war crimes suspects, have never arrested an Albanian for war
crimes. The Albanian Ismet Tara is Orahovac's KLA-commander.
He would be the biggest criminal. Simka: "His uncle had the
reputation in 1941 of being the worst fascist in town. My uncle, who
was a Partizan, told me that.'' Mirjana mentions Sebajdin Cena, her
teacher at school. "My parents and I were at his wedding. My father
gave him his first job. He was recognized as one of the organizors of
the kidnappings last year.''

The Dutch, conclude the women, are one-sided,
anti-Serb and don't do a thing to improve the situation for the Serbs
in Orahovac. Natasja: "With them, every day is worse than the day
before''. Mirjana: "I don't think this [Dutch Col.] Van Loon will ever
sleep well again."


THEY PROVIDED "SECURITY" FOR THE SERBS UNDER OPEN SKIES
by N.Zejak

Blic, Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia, September 22 1999

Orahovac - After another exodus, 4,200 Serbs and Roma remain in
Orahovac, while there are still 1,180 Serbs in the nearby village of
Velika Hoca. More than 50% of the remaining Serbs and Roma in Orahovac
have signed a request to KFOR for an evacuation to Serbia and Montenegro
because the terrorists have destroyed their houses in Orahovac and
nearby villages.
"People cannot live in cellars, a church courtyard and under open skies
for ever. The Red Cross and the representatives of the authorities
haven't even provided tents, although the ethnic Albanians have received
them," says Golub Kojundzic adding that the local schools are not
working even though 450 primary school pupils, 185 high school pupils
and 72 students are expecting to continue their education.

"The fear that KFOR soldiers, based on anonymous accusations, would
arrest any one among the remaining Serbs and Roma in Orahovac, since all
of us are on the lists of suspects, is the basic reason for the demand
of 1,800 people to leave the town," says Dejan Vitosevic.

According to him, the organized terror, brake-ins into Serb apartments,
thefts of cars and arrests continue unabated. Since the arrival of KFOR,
35 people have been kidnapped and four murder victims were buried
without an autopsy and identification. Kujundzic stresses that the
locals have interpreted such conduct of the German soldiers as an
attempt to remove evidence of KLA crimes. He adds: "We demanded from the
Hague Tribunal investigators to conduct autopsies. They accepted and we
hope that all other suspicious localities in the municipality will be
explored".

According to the claims of 13 abduction victims who were released after
10 days in captivity, KLA has established its prisons in the former
Police station in Orahovac and the Fire-brigade Station.

"We know for sure that 17 kidnapped people are still alive, but nothing
is known about the remaining 18. There is little use from numerous
promises by the German KFOR command that all the abducted will be
released. Because of fear of abduction, none of the Serbs and
Montenegrins leave the ghetto. Their access to the local Health center,
produce market and stores is also barred. No one, even with KFOR escort
has gone to visit the houses in the center of the town where 113 Serb
owned houses were burned. 342 people lived in these houses. More than
500 people were expelled from the apartments in the center of the town.
376 of them have moved to Gornja Mahala [upper district], while the rest
have mostly departed to Montenegro," says Dobrivoje Doric, the president
of the Board for the Finding of Missing Persons.

The situation of the Serbs from Zociste is the most difficult. All 55
Serbian households have been robbed and burnt. After the complete
demolition of the Monastery and Church of Kozma and Damjan there is
nothing in the village that would remind one of the Serbs. 185 villagers
have departed for Serbia while about 180 Serb children are still living
in the open in the Church courtyard. It is interesting, points out
Doric, that not a single ethnic Albanian has been arrested in spite of
229 serious crimes against Serbs, although the identities of the
culprits are known. Persons for whom there is evidence that they
murdered and abducted Serbs are freely walking around the town. The
murderer of Dragomir Simic has also been reported but he is still
running one of the largest storage rooms for building material in
Metohija in the center of Orahovac.

During the last month there were no serious incidents. The Serbs from
Orahovac go to Velika Hoca. The Serbs from Velika Hoca, the biggest Serb
village in Metohija, are selling produce on the market in the village at
high prices. On the other hand, the Serbs from Orahovac, pensioners,
teachers, former administrative workers, people who receive child
supplement and workers, since the arrival of KFOR haven't received a
cent. They are surviving on humanitarian aid that is distributed
irregularly. Two days ago three trailers of sugar, oil, flour and pasta
have been delivered by UNHCR to Orahovac. However, there is a shortage
of meat and food for babies. Water is available for two hours a day and
some ethnic Albanians are smuggling some goods. Bread costs 10 Dinars,
potato 20, and paprika 50. In the Albanian zone, the exchange rate
between the German Mark and Dinar is 1:25.

The arrival of Russians is for now off the agenda and the inhabitants of
Orahovac are convinced that is because Germans want to maintain
"ownership" of the most important economic asset in the region:
"Orvin's" vineyards and wine cellars with millions of hectoliters of
vintage wines.

 

No Visitors for Prisoners
Andelko Kolasinac, Stanko Levic, Vekoslav Simic and Nenad Matic are
under investigation and are held in the Prizren jail. They have, among
other, been accused of the murder of the owner of the gas pump in
Orahovac, Vahid Topojani. Nenad Matic, a former Serbian Police driver,
was arrested because he had allegedly stolen a car from Sulejman
Niftari, while the accusations were after the arrest extended to include
his participation in Topojani's murder. "That is impossible because
Kolasinac and Topojani were close friends," say the locals. They are
outraged by the refusals of the Germans to allow any one of the
prisoners to receive visitors.


The Women of Orahovac answer the Colonel
(posted to www.empoerors.com 11-23)

[Note from www.emperors-clothes.com: we encourage the distribution
of this article, but in full, including this note.]

"It is very special what the boys and girls have done here.
They have worked very hard and produced a good product."
(Dutch NATO Commander Tony van Loon defending NATO's
actions in the town of Orahovac, quoted in Trouw, 11-13-99)

Introduction
by Jared Israel

On October 23rd a mass meeting of the Dutch peace movement was
held in Amsterdam. The meeting was addressed by people from
various Dutch political parties, peace organizations and religious
groups and by Cedomir Prlincevic, the Jewish leader expelled from
Kosovo by the KLA and KFOR (NATO) this past June. (For his
interview, see Note #1 at end). I spoke at the meeting as well.

Mr. Prlincevic and I related what we had been told by Serbs from the
town of Orahovac in Kosovo. We accused KFOR (NATO) of having
turned Orahovac into a 'Warsaw Ghetto'.

KFOR Defends Orahovac Ghetto

On November 13, the Amsterdam daily, Trouw, published a lengthy
answer to our charges, based on an interview with NATO's Dutch
Commander in Orahovac, Tony van Loon.

The article gave one sentence to Mr. Prlincevic's 'Warsaw Ghetto'
accusation. Colonel van Loon was quoted agreeing that Dutch and
German troops have created a ghetto but argued, at length, that this
is a good thing.

Trouw had previously scheduled an interview with Mr. Prlincevic and
me but cancelled the interview and ran this piece instead.

To add some balance to the debate, we took excerpts from the
Trouw article and sent them to the Women's Humanitarian
Committee on Orahovac, in Belgrade. Here are the Colonel's
arguments and, in reply, the thoughts of Simka Kazazic and Natasha
Grkovic from the Women's Committee.

***

Excerpts from "Yellow Riders" by Abe de
Vries. Excerpts with comments by Simka
Kazazic and Natasha Grkovic.

[Note: these Dutch troops are called 'Yellow Riders' because there
is yellow coloring on their hats.]

To begin, a quote from Col. van Loon.

Article: "If it is possible for Albanians and Serbians to live together
somewhere in Kosovo then it is possible in Orahovac."

Simka comments: Some 4200 Serbs used to live in Orahovac. Now
the remaining 2400 Serbs and several hundred "Gypsies"
desperately want to leave even though by leaving they would lose
everything. Doesn't this show what kind of "living together" KFOR
has made "possible"? Doesn't this show that KFOR has made war
against a people?

Growing contact between populations?

Article: Col. van Loon says: "After five months we have renewed
contacts cautiously and with hesitations, but there are growing
contacts between populations. After a lot of persuasion from our side
we have established meetings between directors of different
businesses so that now we find the Albanian trash service is picking
up the trash of the Serbs and an Albanian store brings food to the
Serbian village, in the beginning with an escort but now on their
own."

Simka: It's news to me. I just came from a visit to Orahovac this past
Saturday. The situation I encountered was in fact worse - I repeat,
worse - than two weeks before. The Serbs were without electricity for
six days running. They got water once every two or three days for an
hour. They did receive some paprika [a commonly used seasoning]
for the first time since KFOR's arrival. I believe it was brought in by
a Catholic humanitarian organization. Too bad there's no food to
cook it with. Security, food, electricity, communications with the
outside world - all are unchanged or worse. We are thankful for the
paprika.

But Van Loon says things have improved. We should contact the
Orahovac Serbs at once: they will be stunned and pleased.
Unfortunately they are only able to talk to the outside world on a
satellite phone which KFOR lets them use one minute per person per
week. (That is not an exaggeration.) So I must await my next trip to
inform them of their improved conditions.

Natasha comments: I spent two months in Orahovac after KFOR
came in; then I escaped. I have been back since, under special
arrangement. So I can testify first-hand that Serbian people are not
allowed to walk to the store. Van Loon claims Albanians are
delivering food to Serb villages? He is making it up. The only food
Serbs get is from humanitarian relief groups.

If van Loon is telling the truth about Serbian leaders meeting with
Albanians, it is unknown to the Serbs. These leaders must have been
elected by KFOR. The legitimate Serbian representative [the
Mayor] was arrested and is being held in a KFOR prison with no
legal representation.

Reach out and touch someone…

Article: [As evidence that inter-group relations are improving, Van
Loon says:] Once again, some Serbs are phoning their Albanian
neighbors, for example to ask if someone might have put a land mine
in their house or their back yard…. People want to go on [with
normal life], a fact I have found very positive."

Simka: I had to read this statement twice. This is KFOR 's example
of improving relations? Calling up your neighbor to ask if by chance
he planted a landmine? Most encouraging.

Before KFOR came to Kosovo we had a fairly normal existence. It
got worse in July of 1998 when the KLA attacked, and there has
been tension since - but nothing like the sheer terror and privation
our families face now.

Natasha comments: My family and I fled our mixed neighborhood
after KFOR and the KLA marched into Orahovac. Shortly after that,
I called my old phone number. An Albanian answered the phone and
we spoke. This Albanian patiently explained that the KLA had given
him our house and furniture, so what did I want? Was this
conversation between a Serb and an Albanian a "positive" sign, an
example of "people wanting to go on?"

War crimes? Or preparation for a show
trial?

Article: [Van Loon says,] "We have a pretty good picture of the war
crimes that have been committed here," said van Loon with his maps
and his organizational plans. Most investigation is done by forensic
teams from the Yugoslav ["War Crimes"] Tribunal, Scotland Yard,
the German Secret Service and our own Disaster Identification team.
If people say it is not right [ that most of the 400 bodies are
civilians], that in fact they are dead UCK [KLA] fighters - they are
simply wrong. We have found them [dead UCK fighters] but in small
numbers.

Simka: All I can say is: Serbs in Orahovac did not commit war
crimes. Nor did the police or Yugoslav troops. KFOR has kept our
relatives bottled up for five months while it conducts this charade of
"investigation" precisely because they have no evidence. None. If
they did have evidence, they would have been through in a few days.
The idea here is to break people's morale so that some may be used
as "witnesses" against arbitrarily-chosen "war criminals." Six of the
people they arrested were picked up at a KFOR checkpoint after the
International Red Cross negotiated their release from the ghetto
because they were ailing. They were a random group, selected by the
Red Cross! Amazing coincidence that all are dangerous war
criminals, isn't it?

In Orahovac and neighboring towns not ONE SINGLE mass grave
has been found. Some sporadic cases of murder may have happened
during the bombing - remember there was a war going on against the
KLA and some bad things happen in EVERY WAR, and in particular
in a war where common people are forced to defend their bare
existence, their homes and their property.

Prlincevic vs. van Loon

Note from Emperors-clothes: The paper then speaks of 400 Albanian
victims of war crimes. Later it goes on to refer to a statement made
by the Kosovo Jewish leader, Cedomir Prlincevic. (For Mr.
Prlincevic's interview, see Note #1 at the end)

Mr. Prlincevic was in Holland at the end of October. During his visit
he spoke at a meeting called to publicize atrocities going on in
Kosovo since KFOR occupation. The article refers to that meeting.

Article: The leader of the former Jewish community in Kosovo,
Cedomir Prlincevic, said recently at an Amsterdam conference that
the Dutch military has created a new Warsaw ghetto. [In reply] Lt.
Colonel Van Loon said: "They are in a ghetto. I am not going to
deny that. We guard the inhabitants; that is correct."

Simka comments: Van Loon says he guards us. Later he says he
restricts us because we're harboring war criminals - suggesting he
won't let us go until we give up these non-existent people. Which is
it? Protection or punishment?

The Warsaw Ghetto happened during World War II under Nazi
tyranny. We Serbs know all too well the history of WWII because
close to a million of us were murdered, alongside our Jewish
countrymen, in fascist death camps in Yugoslavia. The Orahovac
Ghetto is happening at the threshold of 21st century in so-called free,
democratic Europe.

"They are allowed to leave, but..."

Article: [Van Loon is quoted saying:] "Their liberty of movement will
of necessity have to be limited until the situation has been
normalized. They are allowed to leave but we cannot immediately
give them [armed] convoy protection; obviously, I would say,
because we are investigating whether there are war criminals among
them. They know who the criminals are but they won't tell us."

Natasha comments: Would it not be logical that if there were any
Serbian war criminals in Orahovac they would have run away before
KFOR came in?! And why are they [KFOR] not letting THE
CHILDREN go? Are they war criminals as well?? And by the way,
isn't holding Serbs against their will, under the worst possible
conditions including near-starvation and the constant danger of
attack, depriving them of property, arresting them without even a
pretense of legality - don't these things constitute war crimes?
KFOR should arrest themselves.

War crimes were committed in Orahovac by the KLA in July of last
year. They attacked the town, kidnapping over fifty civilians. Most
were dragged off the street or from their homes. One was my school
friend, Srdjan Vitosevic. He was on his way to the neighborhood
pharmacy to buy medicine for his new baby. Will KFOR discover the
bodies of these kidnapped people and use their poor bones as
evidence of Serbian war crimes?

Simka comments: It is simply not true that the Serbs of Orahovac
"are allowed to leave." I can say this with full responsibility:
because during three visits to Orahovac the Dutch KFOR troops
would not allow me to take out my sister and her three children. Last
time a German major openly told me that if I put them in the van in
which I came to Orahovac he would NOT provide military protection
for us although the military escort was there and would be provided if
I did not try to take the children out. When I asked why he answered
that he "can not guarantee security." After repeatedly asking how
come he can provide security to me but not to my sister and her
children (I said: "Is a bullet selective so it would skip me but hit my
sister?") he said that he has ORDERS to protect only the people
that came to visit Orahovac. He had orders not to protect those who
would leave.

School books and escorts

Article: [Van Loon:] "Nevertheless, [i.e., despite KFOR restrictions
on the movement of Serbs] small groups frequently go to Serbia for
their salaries and lately, for example, to collect some new school
books. And we give them an escort and later we pick them up again."

Simka comments: As I said above, Serbs cannot leave Orahovac -
not even in small groups - when they want to. They can only leave if
and when the NATO occupiers decide to let them leave. And as for
"escort" - look what happened to those poor people in the Serbian
convoy from Orahovac attacked a few weeks ago in the Kosovo town
of Pec. The KFOR escort and the Italian police assigned to Pec just
stood (or sat) by while the Serbs were viciously beaten and their cars
and possessions - everything! - stolen and burned. Only 2 or 3 of the
Dutch troops did anything, and even they did not use their weapons.
Obviously, this is KFOR's "mandate." Serbs are disposable.

If KFOR plans to set up a school for Serbian children (when? now?
far into the school year?) how will children attend? In bullet proof
jackets? Flack helmets?

These people live corralled in 400--500 square meters. They don't
have the most basic necessities - how could they worry about
school?! The colonel tells us a cruel fairy tale.

The problem of water supply

Article: Through so-called "social patrols" the so-called Yellow
Riders [Dutch troops] know what is going on in the population. They
discovered in this way that the Serbian children needed vaccinations
and that the water pipes in their area, which is at a very high
elevation, wasn't functioning very well because the pressure was too
low.

Simka: The Dutch "Yellow Rider social patrols" should be
re-named: "Yellow Riders of the Apocalypse." They are in a hurry
to vaccinate because the Serbs, due to terrible living conditions, are
contracting contagious diseases. The "Yellow" troops fear they may
get sick, hence the vaccinations.

Natasha comments: The Serbs get electricity and water by teaspoon.
Some every third or fourth day.

Simka comments: Concerning the matter of water: Orahovac is not a
wilderness. Nor is it Mount Everest. The town solved the minor
problem of getting water to elevated areas decades ago. Shortages
used to occur only during summer when some people used too much
water for their gardens, just as in towns elsewhere in the industrial
world.

So the "water problem" has nothing to do with elevation. The Serbs
are not getting water because the KLA Albanians are in control of
the water supply and they switch it off going to the small Serbian
Ghetto.

Article: When the Dutch recently tapped the telephone lines in
Orahovac they made a very interesting discovery. "There are still
real extremists among the Serbs [said van Loon.] Some phone the
Albanians and threaten: 'Wait till the Russians come and then we'll
get you.' Very clumsy."

Simka: What phone lines? I do not want to comment on this
statement. Not even a small child would believe it.

Article: Van Loon will leave Orahovac without regrets. "It is very
special what the boys and girls have done here. They have worked
very hard and produced a good product."

Simka comments: Under KFOR rule, large number of Serbs have
been kidnapped, murdered, some 136 Serbian houses have been
burned to the ground, nine Serbs have been arrested and more than
1200 succeeded to run away. Much for which to be proud.

Note # 1 - For the interview with Cedomir Prlincevic, the Jewish
leader expelled from Pristina (Kosovo) by the KLA and NATO, see
Driven from Kosovo: Jewish leader charges NATO complicity

Note # 2 - For the condensed version of the interviews with women
from Orahovac, see Save the families: The women of Orahovac
speak or go to
http://www.emperors-clothes.com/misc/savethe.htm


ORAHOVAC: CITY ON THE WAY TO THE GRAVEYARD
By Miso Babovic

Reporter, Banja Luka, Srpska, B-H, November 24 1999

"All those who did not move to the upper part of the city in time were killed or kidnapped. It was enough for an ethnic Albanian to point a finger at someone."
"I don't understand who wants this experiment in which people are used as guinea pigs; I don't know how it is possible for soldiers from civilized, democratic countries in which human rights are sacred to serve as guards in a concentration camp. I don't understand anything; I only know that that is exactly what is happening to the Serbs of Orahovac." Zorica Tomic, a 22 year-old native of Orahovac, until recently, a student in Pristina, now a "displaced person" in Belgrade, begins her story with these accusations.

"I am sick of hearing it and sick of saying it - a displaced person. I'm not displaced; I have been betrayed and destroyed... The Serbs of Kosmet mean so little to this regime that they cannot even obtain the refugee status. They say you cannot be a refugee in your own country but they don't say how it is possible to experience what we are experiencing now in our own country. There was more humanity in the derogatory ethnic Albanian term for Serbs - shkinje - than in this cold, bureaucratic 'displaced persons', which is what we are called now by those for whom we were, until recently, ethnic brothers and sisters from the holy Serbian land. But the greatest tragedy of all is that my only wish is that my whole family - because I am here by myself - can leave Orahovac and become 'displaced persons', too."

"People were loading their children into the truck to get them, at least, to Belgrade. KFOR took all of them off the truck at the checkpoint."

Assistance: The Association of Single Mothers of Zemun [a suburb of Belgrade] is the only organization that offered help to the natives of Orahovac in Belgrade; besides providing humanitarian aid from its own reserves, it shared with these unfortunates its office space as a place for them to meet and exchange information. Among the regular visitors are the few people who managed to leave Orahovac after June 15 (when the Serbian Ministry of Interior Police and the Yugoslav Army withdrew from the city) in one of two convoys organized by UNHCR and the Red Cross, as well as people who came in one of the many earlier waves of Serb migrations from Kosovo, since they saw the province only as their own grave. The only topic of conversation is their loved ones who remain in Orahovac.

In this city, more than two thousand Serbs (approximately 1,500 in the city itself and approximately 900 in neighboring Velika Hoca) are being held against their will by German and Dutch KFOR troops. At the same time, the local Albanian population does not allow Russian troops to enter the city, even though according to an internal agreement among the multinational forces of KFOR, it lies within the Russian area of responsibility.

"Unlike other people, I don't see a possible arrival of the Russian troops as a real solution. I suspect that this crazy situation in which we Serbs from Orahovac have found ourselves is the product of the indirect convergence of the interests of the Serbian regime and KFOR," says Zorica and explains:

"German soldiers have brought electricity from their generators to the tents of the Albanians who are holding the city under a blockade and refusing to allow the Russians to enter. This is how they created the right conditions to hold us by force in this artificially multiethnic city. The Russians have no interest in entering the city because they would have to allow us to leave this concentration camp, and then they would appear to have failed to protect the Serbs. On the other hand, it is in the interest of the regime to have the imprisoned Serbs of Orahovac counted in the total number of Serbs remaining there. To whom else would they 'send' the overflowing truckloads of humanitarian aid every other night on the Serbian Radio Television [state-controlled national TV]? Despite the supposedly great quantity of the shipments, the Serbs in Orahovac have received literally two kilograms of potatoes and a small bag of onions each."

Pera Peric: Our discussion is joined by a man who arrived in Belgrade only the previous day in some manner which he refuses to discuss.

"It is a catastrophe down there. We have been feeding children mainly with pasta for months. We haven't even seen any fruit or milk. The only humanitarian assistance that we receive from the foreigners is flour, five kilograms per person, oil and macaroni. There is no medicine; there is not enough medical staff. We have no contact with the world; all six ham radio operators were arrested as soon as KFOR arrived, and here they tell me that they say on the news how the radio operators are sending us information. Everyone is lying and stirring up trouble at our expense. KFOR opened a shop for us in Gornja Mahala [upper quarter; it's on a hill] - that is the only part of Orahovac where there are Serbs now - in which they sell only candy and beer. A beer costs one German Mark, and for one Mark they want 35 Dinars."

The man, who cannot give us his name because his family remains in Orahovac, describes the situation in the city:

"Our only contact with Donja Mahala, where there are only Ethnic Albanians now and where they have everything, is by way of the Roma [Gypsies], approximately 1,000 of whom remain in Orahovac. In the beginning they, too, were killed and kidnapped but they collected money and gave it to Ismet Tara and Sebajdin Cena, local KLA leaders, and now they leave them alone. These Roma buy merchandise in Donja Mahala [lower quarter] and bring it to the Serbs in Gornja Mahala to resell. But what's the use when people have no more money to spend. All the Serbian houses in the lower part of the city were looted and set on fire. They would set one house on fire every night. Everyone who did not move to the upper part of the city in time was killed or kidnapped. They are constantly arresting 'war criminals'. It is enough for an ethnic Albanian to point a finger at someone. They even arrested a man who never handled a weapon in his life and whom we used to tease because he had been released from military duty. His name is Budimir Baljosevic."

The man tells Reporter that KFOR in Orahovac is located in the Ethnic Albanian part of town in the houses of the Shehu family, wealthy natives of Orahovac. KFOR rents the houses for a hefty amount. These houses once housed the Yugoslav Army staff headquarters "but then they were not rented." "KFOR soldiers walk around with notebooks and record everything but they almost never intervene. I don't understand what kind of defense it is when they record in a notebook that you have been killed or kidnapped or your house set on fire. They're not scribes; they're soldiers, damn it. All of their translators are Ethnic Albanians, who swear at us in front of them and tell us that KFOR is on their side and that we should go to Serbia. Not that that is a problem; the people would go to hell, if necessary, to save their necks and their sanity. But they won't let us leave," says this native of Orahovac, who says of himself that he "was lucky enough to get out" and responds to our request for his name with a shake of his head. "Don't ask me how; don't ask for my name. I still have family down there; they'll kill them. Think of any name, write that this is what Pera Peric [John Smith] said."

"It's not that I'm defending my own neighbors, but the majority of crimes against the ethnic Albanians were carried out by those who came from Serbia during the war."

Children: Ljiljana Simic had the misfortune to satisfy one of the criteria for a place on the UNHCR convoy. Namely, besides the ill, that convoy included people who had had a family member killed since KFOR's arrival. Choking on her tears, she fails to complete the story of the murder of her husband Dragoljub, who was killed in front of their house. But she collects herself again to say something which, she says, is very important to her.

"I left with two unmarried daughters; I have two more daughters who stayed with their children in Orahovac. Many other children remain there as well. They are the ones whom I worry about the most. For God's sake, at least save those children. They are not going to school; they are psychologically destroyed; they watch their parents as they go crazy; it is all too horrible. The people with children will go crazy if something is not done right away."

Ljiljana Simic tells about one unsuccessful attempt of the natives of Orahovac to evacuate the children from the besieged city:

"When a convoy came from Belgrade, they organized a three-hour-long visit by relatives from Serbia. When the time came to leave, many people loaded their children into the truck to get them, at least, to Belgrade. KFOR took all of them off the truck at the checkpoint, 16 kilometers from Orahovac, and sent them back. Children were screaming, crying; one little girl, she is eleven, told them through tears that she was too young to be a war criminal. The children had heard that we were not allowed to leave until war crimes were investigated."

War crimes: The only person who agreed to talk about the most difficult topic, without which this story would not be complete, was Zorica Tomic:

"The Serbs committed a lot of crimes, too, but not as many as the foreign media claimed. No one wants to talk to you about this because as a result of what is happening to us now, we can only see ourselves as victims. I try to be objective, even though I know it is impossible to be completely objective. It's not that I'm defending my own neighbors, but the majority of crimes against ethnic Albanians were carried out by people who came from Serbia during the war. All of these people, as well as the few local people with blood on their hands, left a long time ago. The Serbs who remain in Orahovac are truly innocent. That's why I can't understand how someone can call crimes against them acts of revenge, nor do I understand why they don't at least permit them to leave, to leave everything they have but at least to stay alive. If the present situation continues, the only multiethnic places in Orahovac will be the mental asylum and the graveyard."


Blic, August 4 1999

(Blic [Blitz] is an independent daily newspaper from Belgrade)

Aleksa Simic, a Serb from Orahovac, talks about the fate of the remaining Serbs in that town
ORAHOVAC - CAMP FOR REMAINING SERBS

by Z.K.

BELGRADE - Orahovac is now a camp for Serbs. German soldiers are supposedly protecting about 4,500 Serbs in one part of the town, but the quality of their "protection" is illustrated by the fact that since the arrival of KFOR troops the so called KLA has kidnapped more than 40 Serbs and Roma. The kidnapings are a daily occurrence. The victims are usually
returned a few days later: slaughtered, murdered and mutilated bodies in plastic bags. Every day, a house is set of fire and the owners are not even allowed to try to put the flames down, but are instead forced to watch their houses burn. Roads around Orahovac and elsewhere in Kosovo are under full control of the so called KLA gangs. They have lists with names of people who, according to their information, looted or served in our Police or Army, says for Blic Aleksa Simic from Orahovac. His brother Vasa managed to get him out of that town together with his family three days ago.

"I have heard from many people that Albanians have been sending groups to Serbia proper to search for the people who are on those lists and have hurt some of them. I know that such things happened in Kragujevac, Kraljevo, and Krusevac," says Aleksa.

In Orahovac, Simic continues his story, there has not been water and electricity for months. A four member family receives daily a loaf of bread, four tea bags, sometimes a can of soup and some canned food. People mostly drink rain water, because they have to queue for the small amount of water supplied by KFOR from truck cisterns. Queuing for water is
dangerous, because these queues are frequently targeted by terrorist sniper fire. The Serb Orthodox Church, says Simic, has been doing all in its power to help the citizens of Orahovac. The assistance is limited because of the lack of money, but it is precious, as well as visits by priests, since they are the only source of news.

"Serb houses have been burned and looted. Those who are still alive sleep on bare ground or concrete in storage buildings, in the church and around it. Some of my neighbors, old and exhausted, have been sleeping for two months in a truck," says Aleksa Simic. After eight years of service with the Police reserves, he managed to get out of Orahovac with his wife, who is about to give birth, mother and two suitcases. Two of his houses in Orahovac have been burned.

Simic claims that unless something is done soon, Serbs in Orahovac will be exterminated. Many of them are ill and unable to receive medical treatment. They cannot be evacuated together because both KFOR and the Serbian state do not allow them to do that. The only way to escape the hell of Orahovac is to escape, or have the relatives, who can offer accommodation submit a request to KFOR for individual evacuation.


Sirinicka Zupa in the Strpce Municipality has Received About 2,000 Displaced Persons from Other Parts of Kosovo


HOTEL FOR REFUGEES
by K. Kapisoda

Blic, Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia, December 7, 1999


About 11,000 Serbs in Sirinicka Zupa in the Strpce municipality and Brezovica have been living surrounded by Albanians for months. "These people, even if they wanted to, have nowhere to go to, since none of them have any property in Serbia proper," says for Blic Zoran Boskocevic, the director of hotel "Molika" in Brezovica.
According to him, the situation in Zupa is very bad. "It's totally dead," says Boskocevic. "No one can predict when there will be electricity. Sometimes the power is cut for 14 hours, then it's on for an hour or two and then gone again. At one point we were without electricity for 52 days because Albanians had demolished pylons. Phone lines have been cut, there is no radio nor TV signal of any sort, since all repeaters were destroyed during the bombardment. The only contact with the rest of the world goes through ham radio operators, who have a lot of problems because of jamming and threats".

Boskocevic says that they receive food via humanitarian assistance, in convoys which arrive twice of thrice a week. Regardless of such a bad situation, Sirinicka Zupa, which has only 12 villages, has received about 2,000 refugees from Prizren, Urosevac, Stari Kacanik and surrounding villages. They have been accommodated in hotels, private homes and holiday homes. "Humanitarian assistance arrives irregularly and is sufficient only for bare survival. Now we urgently need assistance in clothing and footwear," emphasizes Boskocevic.

As far as the cooperation with UNMiK is concerned, there are only individual contacts. Since the arrival of KFOR, nothing has been normalized. In an attempt to change the situation, UNMiK and OSCE have suggested that the ski season be opened, since the ski resort in Brezovica was the center of economic activity in this region. However, it is not clear whether there will be electricity which is necessary for the functioning of the resort and how many guests would arrive.

"UNMiK and OSCE promised to urge their workers to visit Brezovica and we shall open our facilities for the Catholic Christmas [some Eastern Orthodox churches, including the Serb Orthodox Church, celebrate Christmas based on the Julian calendar, on January 7]. Brezovica ski resort is capable of organizing everything, but it is doubtful that there will be electricity, although we have a promise from the U.N. civilian administration that our municipality will not experience power cuts," says Boskocevic.



THE NEW YORK TIMES
December 18, 1999

GORAZDEVAC JOURNAL

Strangers in a Familiar Land: The Serbs of Kosovo

By STEVEN ERLANGER

GORAZDEVAC, Kosovo -- Zivko Maksic walks around this
village as if he were taking exercise in a prison yard. An
electrician, he used to work at the beer distillery in Pec, about six
miles away, but now it is too dangerous to travel there. In fact, he
cannot even tend his fields, less than a mile from the village.
When he tries, neighboring Albanians shoot at him.

Mr. Maksic, 54, is almost philosophical about his narrowed world.
"The land we have that's close, we work that," he said. "But the
land farther on isn't safe. We tried to work it but they attacked
us."

Mr. Maksic is a beefy man who looks pale, ill and exhausted. He
and his friends Radomir Jeremic, 36, and Sinisa Jovovic, 22, were
standing chatting idly on a recent day, under a low roof against a
freezing drizzle.

"We have no access to the town, that's the hardest thing," Mr.
Jovovic said, referring to Pec. He is single, but cannot possibly think
about getting married. He had a girlfriend in Pec but "that's finished
now."

The Serbs in this last remaining Serbian village near Pec are
surrounded by hostile Albanians and guarded by Italian troops from
the international peacekeeping force that arrived in June. The
troops have checkpoints at every road into the village to protect this
enclave of "multi-ethnicity" in western Kosovo, but they do little
patrolling.

In fact, there is shooting nearly every night, an effort to scare the
Serbian villagers, and Albanians often cut off the electricity.

The other night, when a grenade
went off and broke the windows of the last operating coffee shop, the
Italians were nowhere to be found, Mr. Maksic said. When asked
about the attack, the Italian captain, who would not give his
name, asked in apparent innocence, "Oh, is that what happened?"

Still, the easygoing Italians are popular here. Residents cannot
imagine how they could live without the protection.

"The Serbs here are O.K.," the Italian captain said. "Our problems
are with the Albanians."

In the windows of a nearby shop, there was a pathetic collection
of goods, all from Serbia: vodka and fruit brandy, filthy cans of
tinned fish, some salt, cheap cigarettes and "Only!" brand cola
and orange soda.

Pec, like the rest of Kosovo, is overflowing with goods from
Albania and Macedonia. But the Italians say they have better
things to do than to shop for the Serbs of Gorazdevac. German
troops do bring in fresh bread from a bakery they have restarted
in their zone, near Prizren.

But the only vegetables available are those the residents can grow
or preserve. There are no newspapers, nor access to any
Serbian-language media -- print or broadcast.

There have been a few protected convoys to Pec, Mr. Maksic said.
"But they attack the buses with stones," he said. "Two buses went
through Pec and they broke all the windows, and now people are
frightened to go."

The Yugoslav government helps a little. Pensions are paid on time
but do not go very far. A truck convoy comes about every 10
days, bringing supplies and animal feed, but it is not enough.

Other than farming, there is not much to do here. The only
factory in town, which made cheap shoes, shut down five years
ago. The peacekeepers sometimes pay residents 2 German marks
an hour (about $1.10) to clean up common areas or about 5
marks an hour (plus fuel) if residents provide their own tractors.

Part of the tension has stemmed from the return of Serbs to
Gorazdevac. Some fled at the end of the war and have come
back; others have come from other parts of Kosovo. Some have
come to stay; more have looked around, then left again.

By the end of October, about 600 Serbs were living here, about 60
percent of the population before the war this spring, but many
Kosovo Albanians are convinced there are war criminals among the
Serbs who use the protection of the peacekeepers' convoys to
cover their movements. The peacekeepers have been reluctant to
escort Albanians through Gorazdevac, even from nearby Pocesce,
whose only access road to Pec runs through here.

In a report by the human rights division of the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe, Gorazdevac is called "perhaps
the most delicately balanced single issue" in western Kosovo. "It
was also the most likely to initiate violence," the report concluded.

In general, the Serbs here deny deep feelings of guilt or
responsibility over the mistreatment of Albanians by Serbian troops
and militias, or at least they do not express such feelings to a
foreigner. "The Albanians started this long ago," Mr. Maksic said.
"They wanted a Kosovo republic, to leave Yugoslavia. They asked
for too much."

Just outside the village are some burned-out homes where
Albanians once lived. The Serbs say they know little about what
happened. Mr. Jovovic suggested that the Albanians "moved out
on their own," and that to prevent having Serbs use the houses,
"they burned them themselves."

When told how bizarre that sounded, Mr. Jovovic shrugged.

Milijanko Jeremic, 45, and no relation to Radomir, said the
problems all stemmed from "two policemen who came from Serbia
during the war, and they made all the problems." The villagers, he
insisted, were guilty of nothing. He shrugged. "It was war."

Of course he knew the Albanians suffered, Milijanko Jeremic said.
But now, he said: "All the Turks, the Croats and the Serbs are
being pushed out. It was a war, and a nasty war. But should only
one people live here now? Is that what America wants? I have
nothing in Serbia. My house and my country are here." (Serbs
often call local Muslims Turks, a relic of Ottoman rule.)

He kicked at the grass. "We're not pessimists," he said, then
laughed. "Of course, we're not big optimists, either."

Bozidar Radulovic, 65, said there was nothing good for anyone
during the war. "But now we're in a bad situation," he said. "We
live like in a quarantine, on a reservation." He pointed down the
road to the coffeehouse, where the grenade exploded.

"There's lots of pressure on us," he said. "They provoke us. That
shop was the only place we go out and they bombed it. We're
afraid to go anywhere."

Suddenly there was an eerie screaming. In the center of the
village, in a yard, Mr. Jovovic was helping Mr. Maksic slaughter a
pig. As the blood pumped from its throat, the pig continued to
squeal.

Aco Dakic, 57, fixing the tiles on his roof in the rain, barely looked
up at the sound. He said about 10 houses of Serbian families had
been burned on the outskirts of the village, and about six
belonging to Albanians. His wife helped hold the ladder.

Will he stay in Gorazdevac? Mr. Dakic said: "Well, my wife wants
to stay. Anyway, where can we go? We don't have anywhere else
to go. Whatever we have, we have here. For 35 years, whatever I
could earn or build is here."

They have three daughters, however -- 16, 19 and 20. "And what
kind of life will they have here?" Mr. Dakic asked. His wife turned
away. He swore an oath. "We don't know anything," he said
bitterly. "We have no information."

Asked about the Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, who had
been popular with Kosovo's Serbs, Mr. Dakic said: "That's a
political thing. I don't want to get into it."

What about his Albanian neighbors? Mr. Dakic looked upset. "We
were fine, almost like brothers," he said. "But the Albanian leaders
and our leaders needed to find a common language, not violence."

He stopped, then asked: "Why did NATO come? To push the
Serbs out? I can't understand why they can't put things in order."



BBC NEWS
Friday, 10 December, 1999.
By Nick Wood

SERBS FEEL THE HEAT IN KOSOVO

Veton Nurkolari is looking up the hill at a familiar sight.

Smoke is rising from the old quarters of Prizren, Kosovo's oldest city.

A Serb-owned house is being burned to the ground. Veton, a local
photographer and human rights activist, has seen this scene repeated
virtually every day since Nato backed K-For troops entered the province
this summer.

"It makes me very sad, I am Albanian, but I don't like to see my city
being damaged, turned into some very ugly place, and by my own people,"
says Veton.

Prizren was left virtually unscathed during the war.

Unlike many other towns and villages throughout the province the
Yugoslav Army and paramilitary forces did not set light to houses and
shops.

Now German K-For troops who have been in control of the area since July,
say there are few Serb-owned houses left standing.

50 murders a week

There have been numerous attacks on Serbs by Albanians throughout Kosovo
since the end of the war.

UN figures have shown a murder rate as high as 50 a week.

But Veton Nurkolari says the house fires in Prizren do not fall in to
the category of Albanians seeking revenge on their neighbours. He claims
it has been a highly-organised campaign with a clear political aim - to
rid the region permanently of Serbs.

"It is the fear of local government of the return of the Serbs," he
says. "They say it's better if there are no Serb houses, than having
empty Serb houses to which they can come back one day."

But in a city where the buildings are so densely packed, fires do
contain themselves to just one part of the population. Many lanes are
too small for fire teams to gain access, and the blazes have spread to
both Albanian and Turkish houses.

Some of the cities oldest buildings have been gutted, including 18th
century Albanian house listed by Unesco as a World Heritage Site.

Powerless soldiers

Proof of such a deliberate campaign to rid the city of Serbs is hard to
find. But local Kosovar leaders have shown there are able to control the
situation.

In September, Veton Nurkolari and four other activists formed a campaign
group called Art Media Performance to stop the house burnings. Leaflets
were distributed, and talks were also held between K-For officers and
local community leaders.

The burnings were brought to a complete halt. A week later they resumed,
and this time with a difference.

Instead of groups of men setting buildings alight, youths and children
now do most of the work, leaving soldiers powerless to act.

Since July there have been 34 arrests made in the 80 towns and hamlets
that make up the Prizren region. But Major Thomas Schwendele, a press
spokesmen for the German Army, says there are simply not enough soldiers
and police to prevent the fires from taking place.

"All day and night, there are patrols but I think it is rather easy to
burn homes if the population is not against it. The older people do not
prevent the children from doing it," he says.

Serb exodus

The result is that 97% of the Serb population has left Prizren and the
surrounding area. The figure for the rest of Kosovo is 50%.

In its human rights report, the OSCE concludes that fires "have been
used to signal to the international community and the moderate part of
the Kosovo Albanian population who is in control."

Major Schwendele also says the problem is the lack of any real local
government in the region. While the UN officially runs the councils, it
is clear that local politicians are the ones who wield power in the
community. Working with them to tackle the problem is proving difficult.

"It is problem for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo to work with an
administration that does not exist officially, but nevertheless exists
on the ground."

With few houses left to burn, the sight of smoke rising from Prizren is
becoming less common. The partial destruction of the city has left Veton
Nurkolari doubtful about Kosovo's future.

"I feel that Albanians have lost a great great opportunity to show to
all of the world that we are a civilised nation, and that we can run and
rule this county, I am a little bit afraid that this big chance has been
missed."


The Albanian Threat
By Vesna Colic

NIN, Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia, November 11 1999

"Kosovo is currently ruled by the collective blindness and desire for blood vengeance of the Albanian population, and KFOR is becoming an accomplice of Albanian terrorists and ethnic cleansing. Plans for the creation of "Greater Albania" are the greatest threat to Balkan security, and the Balkan Stability Pact contains promises which will never be kept."
We interviewed Dr. Wolf Oschlis of the German Federal Institute for Research and International Studies of the Eastern Countries based in Cologne. Dr. Oschlis is considered to be one of the foremost German experts and analysts of developments in southeastern Europe. Since his most recent research concentrates primarily on Kosovo, this was the main reason for our discussion, which took place last week in Cologne. Professor Oschlis was first asked to assess the current situation in Kosovo and the accomplishments of KFOR since the time it assumed the administration of this province. He said:

The situation is so horrible that even the most pessimistic prognoses pale in comparison. If I were cynical, I would quote German poet Gottfried Ben who said: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." Everything that the international community does and plans through KFOR, UNMIK and other organizations, is certainly with good intentions but in reality is has brought exceptionally poor results. This can be supported by many arguments: that which the intervention was supposed to prevent - catastrophes, ethnic cleansing - gained momentum only after the NATO intervention and the current presence of 50,000 NATO soldiers is not succeeding in securing order and security in Kosovo, as was promised. On the contrary, only several days ago I stated on a television show that Kosovo is currently ruled by the collective blindness and desire for blood vengeance of the Albanian population, which is directed toward all non-Albanian peoples, and that all this is taking place in front of the eyes of KFOR, which is thus becoming an accomplice of Albanian terrorists and those who are carrying out ethnic cleansing.

It was promised on several occasions that Kosovo will remain an integral part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia but practically Kosovo has been separated from both Serbia and Yugoslavia, which is apparent from the many, for now, small steps such as the introduction of a customs system, the German mark and the separation of Kosovo from the Serbian system of distribution of electrical power, but all these small steps are multiplying and fortifying Albanian separatism and irredentism. When I hear today that Hashim Thaqi says that an independent Kosovo was promised to them and that, unless they get it, they will slowly lose patience, I consider this to be a threat of war. In any case, it is my opinion that a war between the KLA and KFOR is unavoidable, that perhaps it has already begun.

There is some speculation that whoever gets Trepca will also get Kosovo. In your opinion, how accurate is it to say that the most important interest is that of the multinational corporations, and that the renewal and reconstruction of Kosovo is in fact a project dedicated to the accumulation of a healthy profit?

I absolutely disagree with this. Trepca is a huge conglomerate in which practically nothing is going on anymore. Several years ago I read that Trepca was manufacturing beehives. Trepca and the other great conglomerates actually were only succeeding in producing a deficit, and they were kept alive economically only by huge subsidies paid by Belgrade. We know the real situation from reports published in Ekonomska Politika and other serious financial periodicals. What actually brought in a profit was retail sales and craftsmanship, which were always in the hands of the Albanian population. On the other hand losses of unprofitable companies had to be "covered" by the Serbs. There is a very developed "gray" economy and it is not known what financial relationships exist in it because those who are employed by it are not registered anywhere. What Romania used to say about itself is also applicable to Kosovo: "We are a small country with great natural resources." It is well-known what the potential natural wealth of Kosovo would be. In the ground are deposits worth 240 billion dollars, agriculture could bloom, there are 45,000 hectares of forests but unfortunately, Kosovo today has become hell as a consequence of multiethnic conflicts.

NATO bombs helped it to become this, as well.

Of course, although the consequences of the bombs are grossly overestimated. I think that the bombs that were dropped on factories and industrial conglomerates working at a third of their capacity could have only speeded up their demise. If we Western Europeans and the Serbs succeed in reestablishing rational communications and if we formalize a plan for reconstruction, then the problem will be easily resolved. We are talking about facilities which were constructed twenty years ago with European money and according to European blueprints. All right, then; we will take out the old blueprints, add new money and begin with reconstruction which will mutually benefit both sides. Because if we wish security in Europe and stability in the Balkans, then that costs money. The only consolation is that, in any case, every war is more expensive than reconstruction.

How do you assess the future of the entire region and the consequences which may affect Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro?

I can best answer this in the following manner: it is a question of whether we will see a horrible scenario or an even more horrible scenario. When I am in a bad mood and I am asked this question, I usually respond that we have a choice between three or four wars: one would between KFOR and the KLA, a second among the Albanians themselves because their conflict among themselves is growing ever more intense; a third would be similar to the one from 1912 - a Balkan coalition would be created which would wage war not against the Turks, but against the Albanians, who are now well on the road to becoming a danger for the whole Balkans.

Of course, I am not talking about every single Albanian (after all there are six million of them), but I certainly am talking about some of their representatives, such as, for example, the former Albanian president, Sali Berisha. Not long ago he was talking about anti-Albanian racism in Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and northern Greece. In his opinion, the Albanians can combat such racism only by founding an Albanian federation which would be united with its motherland, Albania.

Practically, this means the exact opposite of what the international community is planning, which is that Kosovo should be autonomous but not independent. This would be a blow to European security and to its well-developed mechanisms which were affirmed in Helsinki in 1975, on the basis of which, for example, the unification of Germany was made possible. An attack on the entire Balkans can be directed, planned and provoked. The federation about which Berisha was talking, so-called Greater Albania, would mean the destruction of Macedonia, great damage to Montenegro, not to mention Serbia, and first and foremost would lead to the loss of northern Greece which is, not to forget, a member of NATO.

The Balkans are, you see, very closely connected especially when their security is in question. I see the greatest danger today appearing on the Albanian side, especially among the radical Albanians such as Sali Berisha and Hashim Thaqi.

To what extent can the Balkan Stability Pact help?

The Balkan Stability Pact which was proposed by German minister of foreign affairs Joschka Fischer in the middle of April is another one of those good intentions that have so far produced no concrete results. The main problem is that the Pact reflects the desires of the Balkan countries for integration as soon as possible into European structures and North Atlantic organizations, that is, for entrance into the European Union and NATO. This is understandable and the Pact leaves the possibility of these countries joining European organizations open.

However, nothing will come of this. NATO is already in dire circumstances, even more so the European Union and its members. In these organizations the voting mechanisms are very complicated, the stated goals are now already very difficult to achieve and the problems would be even greater if they were to accept new members. Therefore, I see a certain lack of sincerity in the Pact; promises are being made when it is known in advance that they will never be kept.

It appears that what the Bulgarian minister of foreign affairs, Nadezda Mihajlova, stated on one occasion is correct: "The southeastern Europeans are hostages of the internal reforms of the European union." This is the cruel reality of this well-meaning initiative. Stability is sought but it will not be achieved. I am afraid that destabilization will even be increased as a result of the frustration of various southeastern Europeans.

How do you assess the current humanitarian situation in Kosovo, the refugee drama in Serbia and the surrounding countries?

It is a tremendous, multiple tragedy. 300,000 Serbs, Montenegrins, Roma, Turks and members of other nationalities have been expelled. They do not know where to go. If I understood the reports appearing in Vreme, NIN and Republika correctly they have not been welcomed by the regime in Serbia. Children were unable to enroll or enrolled only with the greatest of difficulties in the schools. Those who remain in Kosovo are in a hellish situation. The Albanian journalist Veton Surroi calls this a systematic and organized Albanian terror against everyone who is not Albanian, that can only be called fascism. If an Albanian makes such an open and critical declaration, then it must be taken into serious consideration.

In many areas, the tragedy of a lifetime continues. Ten years of completely erroneous Kosovo politics, in which Serbian repression and the Albanian boycott supported each other, are apparent in various spheres. The so-called parallel structures of the Albanians in fact contributed to the non-existence of any structures. I expect horrifying statistics in the fields of education, illiteracy, and terrible consequences in terms of health. Even earlier it was well-known that due to the Albanian boycott of Serbian health institutions, an increase occurred in the number of those suffering, for example, from child paralysis and hepatitis B. In short, the war continues, it continues at a horrifying intensity and I see no end to the suffering.



WITH SOULS AT READY


"The Albanians cannot believe their eyes and ears: two Serb women walking with flowers toward the church escorted by foreigners who supposedly came to defend the defenseless Albanians from the Serbs. Albanian men are confused; women and children are more aggressive."
By Mitra Reljic

NIN, Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia, November 11 1999

We used to visit the Gracanica monastery from time to time. On those visits we would also stop by the church in Kosovo Polje, to see Father Radivoje and pick up a few drops of happiness. We lit candles. Beeswax candles for each other's health and salvation. Then, not always in the same order, for those closest to us and in our thoughts. Then, with a prayer to the Lord, for those who worried: brothers, sisters, and friends. For all the unfortunate and homeless Serbs. A fresh candle for those still living.

More beeswax candles lit in silence. For the peaceful respite of those long and not so long ago deceased. For parents Julija and Velicko, Maja and Milos, Drago - a martyr from Sarajevo, and Bora, whose eternal home in the Pec cemetery has recently fallen into darkness. A fresh candle for Sasa, Istvan, Dragan, Nenad, Goran, Srdjan, Mrdjan. For all the Mladens who died in vain. Together, a fresh candle with a prayer that Ivan's "eyes shaded by loneliness" convene with the angels.

The Church of St. Nicholas in Pristina has been on its own for four months. Serbs do not go there anymore. They are afraid to go. If they do, they are bound to be accosted, stoned, killed - or worse yet, kidnapped and tortured. Only Father Miroslav remains there alone in silence, without the faithful and without his family. His four children have been sent away, each their separate way.

On Friday, October 29, 1999, Darinka and I agree to visit our forlorn church. The next day, we telephone Dragan Stefanovic to ask him if he can take us to the other end of the city. Left homeless himself, Dragan has not lost hope nor the willingness to help others. As always, he agrees without comment.

In the evening we decide that, unless the soldiers refuse to escort us in this manner, we will walk to the church. It is 30-40 minutes away on foot, at a good pace. By moonlight we go to talk to a representative of the occupying forces.

Escort, Escort, Escort...

In front of the KFOR outpost in our neighborhood, we meet John, the same man who, immediately following the arrival of the second group of the British Royal Regiment, stopped by with a group of soldiers and advised us that we can expect an escort (armed accompaniment) from them at any time. In contacts between the international forces and the Serbs in Kosmet during the past few months, escort has become the most frequently used English word. Serbs ask for an escort when they move. An escort to their apartment from which they have been evicted. An escort for the children's school bus. An escort to go to the store. An escort for writers from the village of Merdare [on the border between Serbia proper and Kosmet] to Gracanica. An escort, an escort...

John recognizes us. "She's a writer?" He is checking his memory, turning his gaze to Darinka. They accept our intention to walk to the church on foot, record all the pertinent information and promise us that the escort will come to pick us up at 8:15 a.m.

We awake early and go in front of the house to pick flowers. The same flowers that were planted and carefully tended by Miljana and by grandfather and grandmother Bozic from Sarajevo before their second flight to exile. We choose the color of the chrysanthemums. We also find rosebuds still resisting the morning chill. We check the clock. It is already half past eight. We descend to the KFOR outpost. The soldiers, who obviously have just awoken, are preparing themselves for their daily duties. One of them approaches us with a smile and shows us his watch. It is only half past seven. Of course, "in an abnormal time, watches must be abnormal as well, but how are we to know," the poet says after we have figured out that during the night clock's were set one hour back.

We return to wait for the agreed time. We are expecting the arrival of one, or at most two, young men in uniform who will unobtrusively walk with us to the destination on the other side of town.

Day of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke (Lucindan; October 31)
At exactly 8:15 a.m. four of them come accompanied by a translator. They assume their positions at a respectful distance from us. We all set out for the Church of St. Nicholas: they with their rifles, and the two of us with our souls at the ready.
Darinka and I walked in the middle of the road. Next to us, David to the left and Martin to the right side. Behind us, Mark and Andrew, with graying hair. Andrew is obviously their commanding officer. A young Albanian translator, Driton, is walking with them.

The escort keeps pace with the speed and direction of our walking. I am wondering whether a member of the British Army has ever supposed that he would earn his daily bread by, among other things, escorting two Serb women from one side of Pristina to the other to a Serb Orthodox church. To tell the truth, they do this with consummate professionalism. The four of them keep at a sufficient distance not to impede us in any way while at the same time staying close enough to be able to prevent any surprises.

The Sunday morning, St. Luke's Day, is pleasant. We pass through the Aktas neighborhood. This is where Darinka used to live. The people whom we see in front of the building and who most probably recognize the poet, their former neighbor, are obviously surprised. We speak loudly and speed up our pace. The escort adjusts its step according to our "command". Thanks to this marching pace and our good spirits, from somewhere an association to Mayakovsky comes up and I begin to recite out loud.

Darinka remembers the Serbian cult poem: "The French boat is setting sail..." This is a spontaneous liberation of imprisoned Slavic tongues, despite the conviction of local "fathers of the nation" that they had forever banished them from these Pristina streets. The young people from the escort do not hinder us. They know what they are supposed to do. They are alert and firmly clutch their automatic weapons. They, obviously, do not share the opinion of the administrator of the world order who justified the murder of a Bulgarian by saying that the murderers had the impression that the murdered man spoke in the Serb language.

"You are beautiful," we greet the confused passers-by on the busies part of the road, between the marketplace and the mosque. The syntagm "You are beautiful" was recommended to us by the painter Dragan Lubarda who suggested that we speak it upon meeting with every living being.

They cannot believe their eyes and ears: two Serb women walking with flowers toward the church escorted by foreigners who supposedly came here to defend the defenseless Albanians from the Serbs. Even an Englishman, no matter how indifferent he pretends to be, must have soon realized and silently admitted (because Madeleine still will not let him embrace it) with whom he was dealing.

Albanian men are confused; women and children are more aggressive. Many Serbs from Pristina have personally experienced this confusingly rare social phenomenon. Many women respond with curses whenever they hear a word in the Serb language. They are not discouraged from doing so even by the infants they carry in their arms.

"You are beautiful."

To our elevated greeting, we receive the response:

Qure, shkija! A qivsha none... (extremely vulgar words in Albanian)

Along the way we notice that the "Student" restaurant has been burnt down. It was, for the local conditions, a relatively nice place usually frequented by Serb students. The owner was a Goran. He must have been disloyal to someone. In general, most Gorans have remained in the city. All of them know the Albanian language and their family names have been Albanicized. They will do. The other Muslims have been expelled. They spoke the Serb language.

We arrive in front of the church. At the church gate we find two soldiers. A chill overtakes us: the church is closed. The soldiers tell us that Father Miroslav is somewhere in the neighborhood. They call him. The priest, the lonely guard of God's temple, approaches us with a smile and a welcoming greeting. Although it is not customary, we both kiss him three times on the cheeks [a traditional Serb greeting]. We enter the church. We light candles. This time, for our consolation. For St. Nicholas. We kiss icons and leave candles. One each for both of us.

Father Miroslav invites us to his parish home. He offers us coffee. We would rather talk. The host serves us with brandy. We show him photographs taken in the recently opened Ikonos gallery, the embryo of the Serbian Cultural Center in Pristina. On every one of them is our granite stone, the cross-bearer, discovered in Bistrica by the Pec Patriarchate quite some time ago.

New Victims

Father Miroslav dictates and Darinka records the names of the remaining Serbs in the entire Pristina parish. In Valjevska, Rijecka and Sarplaninska streets a total of twenty souls belonging to the Trajkovic, Tisma, Djordjevic, Popovic, Simic, Drmoncic, Sekaric, Plecas and Mitic families. Until yesterday, Sarplaninska street was also the home of Danka and Tihomir Petrovic but two nights ago a bomb was thrown at their house and they had to leave. On the same day, at 7:15 p.m. Radovan Kukalj was murdered in front of his apartment in Obilic. First they shot him, then they finished him off with a metal bar. He passed away on the way to Kosovo Polje [where the only health facility in the Pristina region accepting Serb patients is located], says Father Miroslav.
The priest's phone is disconnected. We learn that he has problems getting bread. The new KFOR representatives, he says, are not very interested in him. They do not visit him; they have no translator.

We say goodbye to Father Miroslav at the church gate. The escort follows us according to the same pattern as before. Along the way we stop at a shop. One of the escorts enters with me. They know me well here as I shopped here regularly during "normal" times. There are customers and supervisors who watchfully observe to make sure that Fatosh does not serve any Serbs. To save the shop owner trouble, I address the salesclerk in English. She glances at the soldiers with a shy smile, then approaches me and quietly, in good Serb, asks:

"What else would you like?"

We arrive home in good spirits, feeling healed. We invite the kind escorts for coffee and a cup of tea with milk. In the Ikonos gallery Darinka gives a brief lecture on history. Andrew, the escort leader, turns the pages of the War Album with its photographs of Serbian warriors from 1914 to 1918 with interest. Martin inspects "Kosovo Crucified", the newest document on the destruction of Serbian churches and monasteries from the arrival of the so-called "peacemakers" until the present day. We learn that, unfortunately, a new and expanded edition has already been prepared.

We see our guests off. We call Father Panic, the Vukovics, the Delibasics. In vain. Phone connections with Kosovo Polje are down again.

"Daro!" [familiar form of Darinka] Gavro's voice under the balcony announces his arrival. "Open up! I've brought groceries - vegetables, milk, bread..." "Things have not been like this since the crow turned black," Gavro is in an epic mood as he talks about high prices and the difficulties involved in getting the essentials. We talked like family, even though we have known each other only a few days. That is what kind of man Gavro is.