Posted December 23, 1999
sooner the Dutch 'Yellow Riders' leave
women from Orahovac, who until recently lived there
women read the interview with Van Loon. In their eyes
Orahovac 2500 Serbs and 500 gypsies live a terrible
Yellow Riders say they're searching for possible war
(26), Natasha (27) and Simka (35) have difficulty
women do not understand why KFOR refuses to let
children also be war criminals?'' asks Natasha.
"With winter coming, the Serbs are in panic.
visit to Orahovac is only possible with KFOR
can be delivered to the Red Cross, but the letters are
the arrival of the Dutch soldiers more than 20 Serbs
1998, some 50 Serbs were kidnapped. Nobody has
Dutch, conclude the women, are one-sided,
Blic, Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia, September 22 1999
- After another exodus, 4,200 Serbs and Roma remain in
fear that KFOR soldiers, based on anonymous accusations, would
to him, the organized terror, brake-ins into Serb apartments,
to the claims of 13 abduction victims who were released after
know for sure that 17 kidnapped people are still alive, but nothing
situation of the Serbs from Zociste is the most difficult. All 55
the last month there were no serious incidents. The Serbs from
arrival of Russians is for now off the agenda and the inhabitants of
Visitors for Prisoners
from www.emperors-clothes.com: we encourage the distribution
is very special what the boys and girls have done here.
October 23rd a mass meeting of the Dutch peace movement was
Prlincevic and I related what we had been told by Serbs from the
KFOR Defends Orahovac Ghetto
November 13, the Amsterdam daily, Trouw, published a lengthy
article gave one sentence to Mr. Prlincevic's 'Warsaw Ghetto'
had previously scheduled an interview with Mr. Prlincevic and
add some balance to the debate, we took excerpts from the
from "Yellow Riders" by Abe de
these Dutch troops are called 'Yellow Riders' because there
To begin, a quote from Col. van Loon.
"If it is possible for Albanians and Serbians to live together
comments: Some 4200 Serbs used to live in Orahovac. Now
Growing contact between populations?
Col. van Loon says: "After five months we have renewed
It's news to me. I just came from a visit to Orahovac this past
Van Loon says things have improved. We should contact the
comments: I spent two months in Orahovac after KFOR
van Loon is telling the truth about Serbian leaders meeting with
Reach out and touch someone
[As evidence that inter-group relations are improving, Van
I had to read this statement twice. This is KFOR 's example
KFOR came to Kosovo we had a fairly normal existence. It
comments: My family and I fled our mixed neighborhood
crimes? Or preparation for a show
[Van Loon says,] "We have a pretty good picture of the war
All I can say is: Serbs in Orahovac did not commit war
Orahovac and neighboring towns not ONE SINGLE mass grave
Prlincevic vs. van Loon
from Emperors-clothes: The paper then speaks of 400 Albanian
Prlincevic was in Holland at the end of October. During his visit
The leader of the former Jewish community in Kosovo,
comments: Van Loon says he guards us. Later he says he
Warsaw Ghetto happened during World War II under Nazi
"They are allowed to leave, but..."
[Van Loon is quoted saying:] "Their liberty of movement will
comments: Would it not be logical that if there were any
crimes were committed in Orahovac by the KLA in July of last
comments: It is simply not true that the Serbs of Orahovac
School books and escorts
[Van Loon:] "Nevertheless, [i.e., despite KFOR restrictions
comments: As I said above, Serbs cannot leave Orahovac -
KFOR plans to set up a school for Serbian children (when? now?
people live corralled in 400--500 square meters. They don't
The problem of water supply
Through so-called "social patrols" the so-called Yellow
The Dutch "Yellow Rider social patrols" should be
comments: The Serbs get electricity and water by teaspoon.
comments: Concerning the matter of water: Orahovac is not a
the "water problem" has nothing to do with elevation. The
When the Dutch recently tapped the telephone lines in
What phone lines? I do not want to comment on this
Van Loon will leave Orahovac without regrets. "It is very
comments: Under KFOR rule, large number of Serbs have
# 1 - For the interview with Cedomir Prlincevic, the Jewish
# 2 - For the condensed version of the interviews with women
Banja Luka, Srpska, B-H, November 24 1999
"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:
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
Blic, August 4 1999
(Blic [Blitz] is an independent daily newspaper from 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
"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.
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
"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
Blic, Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia, December 7, 1999
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.
NEW YORK TIMES
Strangers in a Familiar Land: The Serbs of Kosovo
By STEVEN ERLANGER
Kosovo -- Zivko Maksic walks around this
Maksic, 54, is almost philosophical about his narrowed world.
Maksic is a beefy man who looks pale, ill and exhausted. He
have no access to the town, that's the hardest thing," Mr.
Serbs in this last remaining Serbian village near Pec are
fact, there is shooting nearly every night, an effort to scare the
other night, when a grenade
the easygoing Italians are popular here. Residents cannot
Serbs here are O.K.," the Italian captain said. "Our problems
the windows of a nearby shop, there was a pathetic collection
like the rest of Kosovo, is overflowing with goods from
the only vegetables available are those the residents can grow
have been a few protected convoys to Pec, Mr. Maksic said.
Yugoslav government helps a little. Pensions are paid on time
than farming, there is not much to do here. The only
of the tension has stemmed from the return of Serbs to
the end of October, about 600 Serbs were living here, about 60
a report by the human rights division of the Organization for
general, the Serbs here deny deep feelings of guilt or
outside the village are some burned-out homes where
When told how bizarre that sounded, Mr. Jovovic shrugged.
Jeremic, 45, and no relation to Radomir, said the
course he knew the Albanians suffered, Milijanko Jeremic said.
kicked at the grass. "We're not pessimists," he said, then
Radulovic, 65, said there was nothing good for anyone
lots of pressure on us," he said. "They provoke us. That
there was an eerie screaming. In the center of the
Dakic, 57, fixing the tiles on his roof in the rain, barely looked
he stay in Gorazdevac? Mr. Dakic said: "Well, my wife wants
have three daughters, however -- 16, 19 and 20. "And what
about the Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, who had
about his Albanian neighbors? Mr. Dakic looked upset. "We
stopped, then asked: "Why did NATO come? To push the
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.
Serb-owned house is being burned to the ground. Veton, a local
makes me very sad, I am Albanian, but I don't like to see my city
Prizren was left virtually unscathed during the war.
many other towns and villages throughout the province the
German K-For troops who have been in control of the area since July,
50 murders a week
have been numerous attacks on Serbs by Albanians throughout Kosovo
UN figures have shown a murder rate as high as 50 a week.
Veton Nurkolari says the house fires in Prizren do not fall in to
is the fear of local government of the return of the Serbs," he
in a city where the buildings are so densely packed, fires do
of the cities oldest buildings have been gutted, including 18th
of such a deliberate campaign to rid the city of Serbs is hard to
September, Veton Nurkolari and four other activists formed a campaign
burnings were brought to a complete halt. A week later they resumed,
of groups of men setting buildings alight, youths and children
July there have been 34 arrests made in the 80 towns and hamlets
day and night, there are patrols but I think it is rather easy to
result is that 97% of the Serb population has left Prizren and the
its human rights report, the OSCE concludes that fires "have been
Schwendele also says the problem is the lack of any real local
is problem for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo to work with an
few houses left to burn, the sight of smoke rising from Prizren is
feel that Albanians have lost a great great opportunity to show to
Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia, November 11 1999
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.
Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia, November 11 1999
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.
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.
of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke (Lucindan; October 31)
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.
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.