The respondent, an Albanian man from Kamenica, says he never experienced anything bad from his Serbian neighbors. As he says, he would always remember their help when Serbian paramilitary units appeared. Not long after, when the situation changed politically and Albanian forces entered Kamenica, he had the opportunity to repay them. He encouraged them and influenced their decision to stay in their home and not flee. He promised to protect them in any way he could. The interview, arranged by the Center for Historical Studies and Dialogue, was led by Besime Maliqui of the Network of Peace Movement NGO from Kamenica.
Q: Hello again. Thank you for your time and for agreeing to do this interview. I will introduce myself again, I am Besa from NOPM from Kamenica. As I explained earlier, the purpose of this interview is to discuss arrangements or so-called “besa” between Albanians and Serbs from 1906-1907 onwards. The aim is to eliminate prejudice and stereotypes on ethnic grounds, as a path to coexistence between Albanians and Serbs. We have a short questionnaire. First of all, can you introduce yourself and tell us where you are from?
A: Hello. I am [the website editors decided not to reveal the identities of the respondents for time being.] I am from Kamenica.
Q: All right, [Respondent’s name]. Can you tell us if you have friends among the ethnic Serbian community in Kosovo? How close are you and do you understand Serbian?
A: All right. First of all, I speak Serbian well. So, I can communicate and I have no problem with that. I had Serbian classes it in the first and second grade. As for whether I have friends from the Serbian community, the answer is yes, I do and I occasionally see them. As for whether we are close, we are, because they are also our neighbors who live nearby.
Q: All right. Did you and your Serbian neighbors socialize regularly, visit each other on religious holidays, Christian or Muslim, in the pre-war period, during the war, and after war?
A: As for socializing before the war, I will start with the prewar period, my family and I used to visit Serbian coworkers. We also visited them on holidays such as Easter, Christmas… Our Serbian neighbors always brought us presents for Easter, for example, Easter eggs and other things, and that was common before the war. However, during the war, due to the situation and new pressures, we could not maintain these regular visits, while after the war this became rarer, so we did not visit or receive them regularly, because some neighbors had already moved out or moved to another place, and so on.
Q: All right. We mentioned the period of conflict in Kosovo. Can you tell me have your relations with your Serbian neighbors and coworkers changed between when Slobodan Milošević came to power in 1987, and then in 1999, and today? So, from Slobodan Milošević’s coming to power, has anything changed in your relationship with your neighbors?
A: No, because, like I said earlier, Slobodan Milošević was already in power during that war, and we had excellent relations with our neighbors, so our relations did not escalate. There were such cases, but it did not happen to me. After 1999, nothing happened in particular that I could point out. However, as for today, our relations with our Serbian neighbors and coworkers are very good.
Q: All right. How important is ethnic background, in your opinion? That is, how important is the fact that someone is Serbian or Muslim among your community, in your relations with the Serbian community, during, and after the war? How important is that to you?
A: All right. As for ethnicity, whether someone is Serbian or Muslim, I personally think that we cannot make such a division, because my contacts with the Serbian community both before and after the war, I won’t say during the war, because it was a time of unrest, so we were in some way estranged, but there was always companionship, both before and after the war. Therefore, I could say it there was an advantage in being a Serb or a Muslim.
Q: All right. Have you heard of any cases of interethnic marriages between Serbs and Albanians before, during and after the war? Also, do you know of cases of young Albanians and Serbs socializing today? Or maybe in the past?
A: As for inter-ethnic marriages between Serbs and Albanians before the war, I believe there were those, but I don’t have exact information, I personally don’t know of any, but I believe these marriages did exist. I also have no information about the wartime period, and the marriages after the war, I have no knowledge of that. However, as far as Serbian and Albanian young people are concerned and whether they are friends, I think that not only young people socialize, but also middle-aged people. As for young people, they participate in various activities. I believe that schools organize different activities through which they socialize. They also hang out in the park, which was renovated, that the Serbian community… that everyone uses, it is used by both the Serbian and Albanian communities. Also, Albanians and Serbs go to the same food market where they buy, sell and supply themselves with groceries.
Q: All right. Can you give us an example of mutual support or assistance provided to you by a member of the Serbian community? Have you personally had such an experience?
A: Yes, there are many instances that I have personally experienced. At the moment, I can name two or three instances. We have Serbian neighbors help us with various things, different everyday work around the house, such as how to plant fruit trees, how to prepare certain dishes…
Q: Traditional food?
A: Traditional food and preserves that are prepared in the fall, at which the Serbian community excels, in my opinion.
Q: All right, [Respondent’s name]. What was in your opinion the attitude of the Serbian authorities, the police and the army, towards the Albanian population during the war of 1999. Can you tell us something about that? How did you experience that?
A: Yes. Because the 1990s were very chaotic, unstable and bad, the attitude of the Serbian authorities in that period, the police and the military that is, towards the population was very bad, but I think the directives and instructions were coming “from above”, starting with the leadership of Slobodan Milošević.
Q: Okay, [Respondent’s name]. In that case, did your neighbors make an effort to protect you, provide food or other necessities during the war, since you mentioned that you live in neighborhood where Serbs also live?
A: Yes, my two neighbors, who still live near me, protected us, especially when the Serbian paramilitary forces arrived, that is, Arkan’s forces. They protected us and this is something we will never forget.
Q: All right. Have you experienced any violence or property damage during the war? If so, how did your Serbian neighbors react?
A: Yes, some of our stuff was stolen in 1999. Our Serbian neighbors were angry and frustrated because of that and they thought it was wrong, that it was done by some “hooligans” who they did not know either.
Q: Okay, [Name]. Did you try to protect them when Albanian forces took control after the Yugoslav army withdrew in 1999? Did you, as a neighbor, try to protect your neighbors from the Albanians in that case, so to speak?
A: Yes. In principle, we talked to our neighbors about how they don’t need to flee Kosovo because, although the Albanian forces took control, we told them that we would protect them, that we would at least put in a good word, because they also helped us during the war.
Q: All right. Since you are 41, could you tell us something about the socialist period? I don’t know how much you remember of this period or how much information you have about that era. Also, the next question is whether you consider the socialist period to be positive and favorable in terms of Kosovo’s development? What are your memories of that period and do you think it was positive in terms of Kosovo’s development?
A: All right. As for the memory of the socialist period, perhaps I could mention that the socialist period had…
Q: Yes, [Name]. Take your time.
A: All right. As for memories of the socialist period, I think that the most beautiful thing from that time was the period when we were pioneers, when all the students of the school would put on that beautiful scarf and cap, so we went for walks in parks and field trips, where we would take part in cultural activities. As for positive things in terms of Kosovo’s development, I don’t think I can point out anything concrete because that was the period when I was growing up and I don’t have that much information that would be useful to you.
Q: Okay, [Respondent’s name], that’s it for the interview. Thank you once again for your time and agreeing to do this. I wish you all the best.
A: Thank you. It was a pleasure. All the best.