The Latest News From the Diocese
summer 1998

Contents:

Zociste monastery attacked by KLA / A protest to Washington Post
The statement by Bishop Artemije / Accounts of abductees from Zociste/
Devic nuns under alert / Zociste monastery free again /
Devic nuns relieved after 8 months of blockade
News on the abducted Serbs from Orahovac Area

Zociste Monastery
The occupied monastery is free again
Chronological News:

THE PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE USE

The Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren

Prizren, July 22, 1998

Yesterday morning, July 21, 1998, at 04.30 AM CET, the armed units of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) attacked the monastery of SS Cosma and Damian in Zociste (Zochishte) village near Orahovac, in the restive province of Kosovo. The attack lasted 45 minutes and was undertaken by the light artillery and machine guns. At that time in the monastery there was a brotherhood of seven monks, one elderly nun and about 30 Serb refugees from the neighboring villages who had found shelter in the monastery after the attack of the KLA on their villages.

Two grenades damaged the refectory of the monastery and the monks immediately ran in the church for prayer. After the prayer the abbot, Fr. John, waved the white flag and the brotherhood surrendered to the KLA units without any resistence. The KLA soldiers searched the monastery and took the monks with the civilians to an empty school building in the neighboring Albanian village. The monks say that they were not beaten but they suffered great fear and shock. After several hours there appeared a team of the International Red Cross and the KLA set the monks and the elderly civilians to them. Alltogether 35 persons were set free. The monks are now in Gracanica monastery near Pristina but were not allowed to take the reliquaries and their personal things from the monastery which is still under the control of the Albanian armed units. There is no information about other damage in the monastery. It is also not known what happened to other Serb villagers from the area.

This is the first attack by the KLA on a monastery of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and this incident has arroused great concern in the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Diocese of Raska and Prizren protests against the armed attack on an a civilian and religious object and believes that such incidents would not occur in the future and that the monks will be allowed to go back to their monastery.

The Information Service of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren



The Letter of Protest to Washington Post

07/24/98

In the Thursday (July 23, 1998) issue of the Washington Post there appeared an article: Kosovo Town is Destroyed So the Serbs Could Save It by R. Jeffrey Smith, WP Foreign Service, Page A21

In this article there is a following passage referring to the events in Zociste monastery which was attacked by the KLA units.

"The Kosovo Liberation Army, which gambled here by trying to hold out against vastly superior Serbian firepower, today released to the Red Cross 35 Serbs it had captured at a monastery at the edge of the city and interrogated at a rebel command post Malisevo, to the northeast. The group included eight Serbian Orthodox priests who the rebels said were all armed at the time of their capture."

Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren has immediately written a refutation of this incorrect information and asked the editors of the WP to pay more attention to the objectivity and the other side of the truth. I am enclosing the letter by Bishop Artemije.

hieromonk Sava

- --------------------------------------------------------------------

THE WASHINGTON POST Washington DC

Dear Editor,

With great distress we have been following the tragic events in Kosovo, especially in Orahovac region. Many times we have pointed out that the tragedy in Kosovo is not the tragedy of Serbs or Albanians, but the tragedy of simple, everyday people of Kosovo who are squeezed between two disasterous ideologies and trapped in the vicious circle of violence. Both Serbs and Albanians are forced to fight the war they do not want.

We are very sad that in your today's article (WP July 23, 1998) about the events in Orahovac you reported an incorrect statement by the KLA in which our monks of Zociste monastery were accused as having been armed. Nowhere in your article it was mentioned that the monks DID NOT make any armed resistance to the attackers. Neither it is said that the monastery was attacked by mortars and machine gun fire although there were only monks and refugees inside who did not make any provocations.

While the grenades were shot at the monastery the monks and the people prayed in the Church. After the prayer, since there was no resistance, the KLA stopped with their fire and Fr. John, the abbot, surrendered with his little flock peacefully.

They were treated rather correctly by the KLA but suffered great psychological pain and fear. Later they were brought to a room where weapons was put in front of them and a KLA soldier shot the scene with his camcorder.

It was done in order to give an impression that the monks were armed so that the Church could be accused of supporting the violence, although the peace efforts by our Church are known all over the world. Just a few days ago I met Ambassador Gelbard in the Hague and informed him about the constant attempts of false accusations in the Albanian media as well as the threats to our monasteries. We are proud to say that our position is supported by the US Administration which sees in our Church an important factor of peace in the region.

I kindly ask you in future to hear the other side of the truth as well. It is a pity your reporter did not have time to talk to our monks and the refugees who were attacked in the monastery but only with the Albanian victims. In tragedy the victims cannot be divided into the Serb and Albanian because in suffering there are no differences and all deserve compassion and sympathy. Also, we feel that there is no Serb or Albanian truth but the truth of suffering Kosovo people who are all victims of extremists on both sides. The people of Kosovo, no matter if they were Albanians, Serbs, Romas or Turks, need peace and the media can help this just cause with their objectivity and balanced approach to the truth.

Sincerely Yours Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren



The Statement of Bishop Artemije to Radio Prizren

Prizren, July 26, 1998

It is well known in our country as well as abroad that I, as a Bishop of Raska and Prizren, have been trying so hard that the issue of Kosovo and Metohija is resoleved by dialogue and democrastic methods, without any use of violence. In all my contacts with foreign diplomats as well as in my interviews I stressed as a positive trait among the Albanian rebels that our churches had never been attacked, although Devic monastery in Drenica is completely surrounded by KLA and cut off. I am sorry to say that in my future contacts I would not be able to speak in that way because it is my duty to point out that one of my monastery was attacked without any reason and my spiritual children driven away. It was an attack on our monastic community and the Serbian Orthodox Church in general.
What I feel as a great injustice is that for two years the representatives of our government have not shown readiness to listen to my views for the solution of the Kosovo problem. But despite of that we shall perservere in our efforts to find the peaceful solution for Kosovo and Metohija.


The Accounts of Men Abducted from Zociste Monastery
Serbian Ministry of Information report

July 26, 1998

"While the rebels were attacking Orahovac, in these three villages (Ratimlje, Zociste, and Opterus), our Albanian neighbours surrounded us. We were under attack for two days and one night. I saw eight Serbs from Opterusa and 15 from Ratimlje, with their arms roped on the back, with Albanians taking them somewhere away. Here in Zociste, where over eight hundred Albanians and about 70 Serb souls live in one community, we were in a state of total exhaustion. There was shooting all around us. Before the rebels broke into our community, all young men left for the neighboring Serb village of Velika Hoca, to join the local defence there. The old men, all sick and weak, left for the monastery. Together with the monks, there were 35 of us. The next day, Tuesday morning, armed Albanians arrived and packed us on a bus which happened to be down in the village. They took us for a ride, lasting about two hours, to some place in Drenica, as they told us. Yet, after we came there, I recognised that we were locked up in the local school of Banja, near Malisevo," 86-year old Vukadin Krstic from Zociste told us. Over twenty hours, together with another 26 old men, seven monks and one nun from the monastery of Zociste, he was hold captive by terrorists.

Prior of the monastery Zociste, Father Jovan, and the monastery brotherhood are now in the monastery of Gracanica. Yesterday, he stated the following to our paper.

"Before they took us captive, they were attacking the village and the monastery for several days. Yesterday morning they broke into the monastery precisely at the time when in accordance with the monastery codex , we officiated the holy service and special prayer to St. Kozma and St. Damjan. During the holy service shells were hitting the roofs of the monastery dormitory with 27 Serbian old men inside. One shell hit the chapel. We took no heed of their attacks, though there were over five hundred them round the monastery."

"They packed us on a bus, " Father Jovan goes on, "together with the exhausted old men, among whom there were also four stroke-affected men, and took us all to some village."

"There, in the school building, they made us sit down, and displayed infantry weapons in front of us. We were told this would serve for the needs of the Albanian TV and the Internet. After they filmed the scene for propaganda purposes, they started hours-long investigation. They harassed us most because we gave our monk cassocks to three civilians, in order to save them. These men were our guests: one was the father of one of our monks, second was his mother whom we represented to terrorists as our novice, and the third was a student of theology school from Pristina, 16-year old Trajkovic. Before they released us, they told us that the monastery of Zociste is not Serbian, but belongs to Albanian Orthodox church, and that we would do the best to go away from their land," Father Jovan accounts.

One of the old men from Ratimlje, barefoot, and in clothes he had on while feeding cattle in the stabling, fled to the monastery.

"Those were our neighbours who took us captive, I know them all from before. Some of them we were addressing with: my good man, yet now our good men have betrayed us and our good relations have gone to nothing. Down in the village I had 17 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren, and now who knows where they are… I could have never guessed that my neighbours would buy off my house, estate, and vineyard so cheap, for a song. Let them have my cattle, cows, calves, poultry, only that they release my children whom they took somewhere away," the old men accounted, whose name shall not be quoted out of understandable reasons.

An old women, unable to move, named Ljubica, added to this:

"What is the point of life, when my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are kept captive by Albanians. I was born 1910, I wish they had taken me instead."

The International Red Cross did not communicate how it came to their mediation and setting free of these Serbs and monks. However, we learnt from their drivers that "over there, near Malisevo," there are more imprisoned men, mainly young. Today, in front of the office of this humanitarian organisation in Pristina, a large number of Serbs rallied, all cousins of Serbs abducted in Orahovac, about whose fate still nothing is reliably known.

The church originating from the 8th Century

The monastery of Zociste is one of the oldest churchesof the Serbian Orthodox church. It was built in the early Christian time in the 8th century. In the monastery chapel are safeguarded the holy relics of St. Kozma, and the monastery itself is dedicated to saints Kozma and Damjan, popularly known as the Holy Medics because of their wonder-working deeds.

To this monastery both Serbs and men of different religion, Albanian of Catholic or Islamic faith, used to come looking for cure. After a prayer and a stay beneath the reliquary of St. Kozma, many have left out cured. It was just recently when Milan Jankovic, photo-journalist of our paper, took a picture of an Albanian girl with a serious disorder, from a village near Djakovica, sleeping beneath St. Kozma's holy relics. After three-day prayer and special praying service officiated by monastery prior, Father Jovan, and monastery monks, this Albanian girl who until then could not walk, went out alone on her own legs, without her parents' assistance, to their car parked in front of the monastery.

Prior Jovan's orderly kept diary, recorded numerous such examples.


The Nuns of Devic Convent
under alert


The nuns in Devic Monastery live in great fear after the recent attack on Zociste monastery. Devic is completely surrounded by the KLA units. So far the monastery has not been attacked but the nuns have taken some meassures of precaution bricking up their windows and securing the wire fences. One of their economic buildings near the monastery has already been looted by the attackers.

 

Reference Sites:

Devic monastery web Page
The Pilgrimage to Devic Monastery

 

Links and reports:

SS Cosma and Damian Monastery Page
The News from the Raska and Prizren Diocese, Serbian Unity Congress

 

THE LATEST NEWS

THE MONASTERY IN ZOCISTE IS FREE AGAIN


Dear friends,
In these moments of suffering in Kosovo and Metohija, we would like to share the latest news with you. Our monastery in Zociste is free and the Divine service will be served there again.

For your information the Albanian guerilla (KLA) attacked the Serbian Orthodox Monastery in Zociste, Kosovo on July 21. During the attack the monks and the refugees did not make any resistance but gathered on prayer in the church. After the prayer the monks and the refugees surrendered to KLA and were given over to IRCR a day later. Many other villagers who did not find refuge in the monastery in time were arrested and taken away to KLA camps.

This afternoon we received an information that the police reentered the village again and that the KLA retreated from Zociste and neighboring villages. I have just talked to Bishop Artemije and he told me that Fr. Myron reported from the monastery and tomorrow, God willing, he would be serving there the first Holy Liturgy after 60 days of occupation. There is no damage in the monastery and the church was not desecrated, thank God. The special prayer will be offered for the local Serb villagers abducted by the KLA and all the suffering people in
Kosovo. At the moment nothing is known about the abducted Serb villagers from Orahovac area, and we all fear that they were killed. Even the IRCR has no information about them. Among the abductees there are elderly people, women and children.
Saint Cosma and Damian, the patrons of Zociste monastery, pray for us
all!

In Christ
hieromonk Sava

PS The names of 40 Serb villagers abducted from Orahovac area. Lord Jesus Chirst have mercy on them: (surname+name)
Djinovic Dusko, Baljosevic Djordje, Dolasevic Dusko, Jovicic Damian, Vitosevic Srdjan, Baljosevic Tomislav, Baljosevic Sasa, Kostic Lazar, Kostic Todor, Kostic Miodrag, Kostic Svetoslav, Kostic Dimitrije, Kostic Vjekoslav, Kostic Ljubomir, Kostic Mladen, Kostic Nebojsa, Kostic Zivko, Kostic Srecko, Kostic Vitomir, Bozanic Novica, Bozanic Nemanja, Bozanic Bosko, Bozanic Mladen, Burdjic Miodrag, Burdjic Spasa, Banzic Spasa, Simic Srecko, Nikolic Cvetko, Nikolic Rajko, Lazic Veselin, Lukic Sinisa, Jelic Aisa, Jelic Dragomir, Cabarkapa Cedo, Djoric Djordje, Stanojevic Krsta, Vitosevic Srecko, Simic Ivica i Fildjokic Milorad.



THE LATEST NEWS FROM DEVIC MONASTERY
Devic Nuns Relieved after 8 months of blockade

Devic Monastery in Drenica
Devic Monastery

Devic: August 18, 1998.
After eight months of living under a blockade by the KLA the access to the Serbian Orthodox monastery of Devic in Drenica was normalized again on August 5. The nine-member sisterhood of this Serbian monastery is relieved after months of molestation, Blic daily writes in its today's issue. The monastery abbess Anastasija says: "I have been in Devic monastery for 38 years, but there has not been a more difficult period in my life than these past eight months. We believe that a person without faith could not have been able to endure all the things we have endured". Abbes Anastasija said that not a single window was left whole on monastery farm facilities. She also complained that eggs from hen-houses were stolen, fences burned, agricultural machinery taken away, and that the monastery was shelled during the retreat of the KLA, which made damage on the church roof.
-END-



NEWS ON ABDUCTED SERBS FROM ORAHOVAC AREA

News on abducted persons from August 4, 1998. Reuters
Aug 06, 1998

Kosovo Serbs plea for return of abductees

PRISTINA, Serbia, Aug 6 (Reuters) - More than 50 relatives of Kosovo Serbs pleaded on Thursday for the return of family members they say have been abducted by ethnic Albanian separatists.

``I want my brothers back. They have killed my father but I want my brothers alive,'' said Zivka Kostic through tears.

Her two brothers are among 171 Serbs who have been reported abducted by separatists since the beginning of March when clashes began in Kosovo, a Serbian province with a 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority.

International observers say most public attention has been paid o the plight of ethnic Albanian refugees, tens of thousands of whom are now cowering from the fighting in Kosovos hills.

But, they say, the fighting has taken its toll on both sides.

The desperate Serbian families protested outside the media centre in Pristina, Kosovos provincial capital.

They accused international agencies and local authorities of not helping them in their search for their fathers, sons, husbands and brothers.

``What are they (the international organisations) doing? What is the state doing? I want my husband and the father of my three small children back,'' said Zivana Patrnogic from Velike Hoce near Orahovac.

``No one cares about us,'' she said.

Patrnogic said her husband was abducted during an attack by ethnic Albanian separatists on July 16 from a medical centre in Orahovac where he worked.

``My husband walked to work every day and was not afraid of anyone as he was helping all the people equally,'' she said.

``I just want him back, my children have nothing to eat, I cannot work,'' she said.

The protesters also planned to protest to U.S. officials in Pristina.
---------------------------------------------------------------------

Dated : August 06, 1998 at 13:12:42
Subject: AP photograph

An unidentified Serb woman comforts Radmila Savelic, left, Thursday, Aug. 6 in Pristina, the capital of Yugoslavia's Kosovo province. These women are part of more than 40 Serbs from Orahovac, the village 31 miles southwest of Pristina which was the scene of fierce battles in July between Serb forces and Albanian rebels of Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). They arrived in Pristina to complain to Serbian authorities and international the Red Cross about their 140 relatives allegedly kidnapped by the KLA during fighting.

AP Photo/Srdjan Ilic
--------------------------------------

B92 News:
Pristina August 6, 1998

According to the special reporter of B92 Radio, Antonella Richa, a group of 50 Serbs whose family memberw were abducted in Orahovac came to Pristina today in organization of the IRCR. From July 17, since the armed Albanians attacked villages Ratimlje, Otprerusa and Velika Hoca, as well as during the fights in Orahovac, it is not known what happened to 30 Serbs whose relatives came to Pristina. The women which were abducted were set free but the men were taken in unknown direction. Only the Serbs from Zociste village managed to flee
in time but still cannot go back to their homes. After the talk in the American Information Center and the Provincial Government office where, as we heard, the minister Andrea Milosavljevic received them, it is still not known what is the result of their today's appeal. Nevertheless, they managed to tell the journalists what happened to their relatives.
- I am from Ratimlje village, municipality of Orahovac. We did not leave
but sixteen of us from Retimlje were forcefully driven away while one
man was killed. All men were taken away.
-
- I am a son of the deceased Andjelko Kostic. We were attacked by the
Albanian terrorists and our neighbours
-
Beatrise Weber from the IRCR tod us about the official records about the
abducted persons.
We know for 138 cases of abducted Serbs and 400 cases of abducted Albanians who are supposed to be inprisoned. It is very difficult to say how many Serbs were kidnapped during the offensive in Orahovac. We have record about 50 Serbs who are thought to be abducted." On our question, whether is it possible for the IRCR to get into contact with them and help them, Ms Weber answered that it was extremely difficult because the situation had been changed. She added:" We have to make new contacts with both sides and ascertain where these people are. Then we have to visit them and help them to get into contact with their families." Ms Weber pointed out that so far the IRCR has managed to set free the abducteed Serbs from the KLA only in two occasions.

---------------------------------------------
WOMEN AND CHILDREN RELEASED FROM THE KLA CAMP:

Pristina July 31, 1998
Jovanka, Borka, Radoslav, Bojan, Roksanda, Slavka, Snezana and the 13 months old baby Ninoslav Baljosevic from Orahovac were set free after 14
days of imprisonment in the KLA run camp in Junik. They believe that other Serbs who were abducted in Orahovac are still alive. These 8 Serbs belong to the group of 59 Serbs who were kidnapped by the armed Albanians during the recent fights in Orahovac area.
(Politika news)
---END----