A Serb respondent from Kosovska Kamenica remembers very well that Serbs and Albanians have always helped each other. At the moment when the Albanian family was expelled from the house during the war, he did not remain indifferent, but together with his father, he did everything to help them return. He started acquaintances and friends among his compatriots, and together they managed to enable this Albanian family to return to their home. He saved two Albanians from Kamenica, a local imam and neighbor Agron Malići, from the hands of the Serbian paramilitary. This interlocutor, on the other hand, did not forget how his neighbors supplied him with food, when he was later threatened with the arrival of the Albanian authorities in Kamenica.

Q: Can you tell me your name?

A: [for the time being editorial decided not to disclose interviewees identities]

Q: Place and date of birth?

A: Kosovska Kamenica, November 16, 1973.

Q: Okay, I’ll go through some questions one by one, feel free to speak your mind. Do you now have friends among the ethnic Albanian community in Kosovo, how close are you and do you understand Albanian?

A: We are very close and I have a lot of friends, I understand Albanian but I don’t really speak it.

Q: Have you socialized regularly, go on family visits, especially on Muslim religious holidays, with your Albanian neighbors and coworkers, before, during and after the war?

A: Always, before the war and after the war, I was friends with them and I remain a friend.

Q: You mean on…

A: Yes, yes, on Bayram…

Q: And did you visit them for Muslim religious holidays, before, during and after the war?

A: Yes, yes, I visited them all the time, both before the war and after the war, and for Bayram and on festivities, and if an older man died, I went to offer my condolences.

Q: And weddings?

A: Lately, there have been no weddings, neither Albanian or Serbian.

Q: Has anything changed in your relationship with your Albanian neighbors and coworkers when Slobodan Milosevic came to power in 1987, and then in 1999, and the current period?

A: Nothing has ever changed in terms of my relations with my Albanian friends, everything has remained the same as before the war, and after the war and during the war.

Q: How important was ethnic background, being a Serb or a Muslim and socializing before, during, and after the war? Was it different being Serbian and being Albanian, what do you think?

A: For me, nationality was not important, I have always been friends with Albanians, I was born in Kamenica, it’s the same now as it before and after the war, I will always be a friend to my friends.

Q: Do you think it was the same to be Albanian during this period, was it the same whether you were Albanian or Serb?

A: Well, I don’t know how to answer that question, but here in Kamenica we all lived as one.

Q: But you can’t say there was no discrimination, it’s a known fact that when Milosevic came to power there was some discrimination, they were not exactly equal?

A: Not everyone is the same, all Serbs are not the same in that sense, just as not all the fingers on one hand are the same.

Q: Do you know of any cases of interethnic marriages between Serbs and Albanians before, during and after the war?

A: I never knew about that and I was not interested.

Q: And you know that Albanians were married to Serbian women, were there such marriages?

A: Yes, yes, there were cases like that, but it didn’t interest me.

Q: Do you thing young Albanians and Serbs socialize and date today?

A: I don’t know, because I’m a family man and I don’t go out much.

Q: Can you give us an example of mutual support, assistance or help provided to you by members of the Albanian community? An example of Albanians helping you before, during, or after the war?

A: They did help me, now I don’t know in what sense…

Q: In whatever sense you want.

A: In every sense they helped me when I asked, they always helped me.

Q: An example, a concrete case?

A: For example, let’s say, I planted an orchard of an acre or so, four friends came and helped me plant it and prune it and they helped maintain it for a long time.

Q: Before and after the war, did you have any problems with Albanians, some other Albanians, those who carried arms?

A: I never had a problem during the war. I live right next to the street, my house is six feet from the street, people pass by, they communicate every day and those groups used to walk by, not a stone was thrown in my yard. I’ve always lived got on with my neighbors, from beginning to end.

Q: What was the attitude of the Serbian authorities, the police, the civilian authorities, the army, towards the Albanian population during the war? In your opinion.

A: In my opinion, at the time, the police were harassing people in Kamenica. They were expelling them from their homes, I have an example of neighbors who were forced to flee to Gradjenik and then my father and I pleaded with some people, acquaintances, to intervene for them to be allowed to return home, several times, and those people returned home, they didn’t bother them again. (in a subsequent interview, the respondent specified that the Albanian family had been expelled from the village of Strezovce for 7 weeks during 1999. He intervened directly with a police patrol that evicted them from the house and later at the police station).

Q: Any other case?

A: I can’t think of another case.

Q: Did your neighbors try to protect you or provide you food or supplies during or after the war?

A: During the war, they protected me…

Q: Can you give an example, did they bring supplies…

A: At that time, we could not go outside, my buddies called me on the phone, asking me if I needed flour, sugar, oil and so on.

Q: On their own?

A: On their own, yes. And also in those so-called Serbian days, I offered them help…

Q: So it all comes back?

A: It all comes back.

Q: Have you experienced any violence or property damage during the war? How did your neighbors react?

A: To my property?

Q: Yes, or some violence inflicted on your family.

A: No, no my family suffered no violence, there was no damage, I lived there before the war, and during the war, and after the war, I never had any problems.

Q: Your neighbors would react if there was some… inconvenience, so to say?

A: I never had any trouble.

Q: Did you try to protect the Albanians before or during the war?

A: Yes.

Q: Give me an example, if you can.

A: Yes, many times.

Q: An example or two, if you can.

A: The first example of your late brother Agron, when he was trying to walk to the apartment in the center of town, he was stopped by Serbs, I don’t remember what street it was, he was stopped by someone from Kamenica, allegedly military men, two of them… and they wanted to beat him, I happened to be there, I defended the man, told them to let him go, and he went to his apartment. And another example, he is here now, is it Rogačica or…

Q: The imam?

A: Yes. I saved him the same way, but in return I’ve never had any problems with the Albanians in Kosovska Kamenica. I wanted to protect every citizen, regardless of whether he was Albanian, whenever I could.
What are your memories of the socialist period? What do you think socialism was like for us? We got along.
Yes, we got along, there were never problems of this national…

Q: Do you think life was better in socialism, before the 1990s?

A: Well from the eighties to the nineties it was nice. Well, after that it got worse and worse. But it’s not too bad now.

Q: Do you consider the socialist era to be positive and favorable in terms of Kosovo’s development? Did we have more jobs then, do you think?

A: Well, to me it’s the same. Both then and now. Those who worked then – they work now, those who didn’t, still don’t.

Image courtesy of Aleksandar R. Miletić

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