The respondent, an Albanian man from Kamenica, remembers well how his Serbian neighbors had saved him several times in the 1999 war and stood up for him. He remembers when an armed group of Serbs arrested his wife and him, but his neighbors immediately intervened and managed to get them released through negotiations. This is not the only example offriendly neighbors coming to the rescue in times of crisis. Their Serbian neighbors supplied them with food, and they intervened with the authorities when his house was shot at with automatic weapons and a grenade thrown into his yard. Thanks to the intervention of friends, this type of aggression ceased immediately. When the circumstances of the war changed and Albanians took over, he had the opportunity to repay his friends and help them when they found themselves in trouble. The conversation, arranged by the Center for Historical Studies and Dialogue, was led by Besime Maliqi of the NGO Network of Peace Movement from Kamenica.

Q: Good afternoon.

A: Good afternoon.

Q: State your name, please.

A: [the website editors decided not to reveal the identities of the respondents for the time being.]

Q: When were you born?

O: September 30, 1973.

Q: Place of residence?

A: Kamenica.

Q: Do you havefriends among the ethnic Serbian community in Kosovo? How close are you and do you understand Serbian?

A: Yes, I do have many friends. We are very close. Also, I can read, write, understand and speak Serbian fluently.

Q: Did you socialize regularly,did you visit each other on religious holidays, Christian or Muslim, in the pre-war period, during the war, and after war?

A: Yes, I had many friends with whom used to socialize before the war, during the war and after the war, and with whom I still maintain relations: I also visited them on Orthodox holidays. I would say that I still visit them, but less often.

Q: 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?

A:Yes, there were some changes in relations with individuals, but those changes were not thatsignificant. I’m talking about relationswith some Serbs, but not with our Serbian neighbors in the period we mentioned. I can say that the situation was not the same as when Milošević was in powerup to 1999, but after that, it can be said that the situation has changed, relations have changed for the better.

Q: Did you and your Serbian neighbors and coworkers socialize regularly, visit each other on religious holidays, Christian or Muslim, in the pre-war period, during the war, and after war?

A. Yes, me and my Serbian neighborshave socialized before the war, during the war and after the war. Our families always visited each other, and we would visit members of the Serbian community for Easter. You could say that this situation had changed somewhat after the war because the dynamics of life had changed, and that is why I am no longer able to visit them as much as I used to for the holidays.

Q: How important was ethnic background, the fact that someone was Serbian or Muslim, before the war, in the war, and after the war?

A: You could say that was of great importance, because being a Serb during the war, before the war and after the war was a privilege because they aspired to different things, while during the war, especially around 2000-2003, they were,I don’t want to say victims, but, part of the terror, or not of terror, butexpulsionsand various injustices.

Q: Have you heard of any instances of interethnic marriages between Serbs and Albanians before, during and after the war? Are there cases of young Albanians and Serbs socializing today?

A: There were a lot of those before the war. I would say that before the war there were dozens of Serbian-Albanian marriages, but I do not remember such cases during and after the war. However, as far as young people socializing, it started… it started after the war, but there are impediments. So, the main obstacle is the language barrier, which is quite noticeable. However, they use English to communicate, because only the older generations understand or can speak and communicate in the relevant language, i.e. in both local languages.

Q: Can you give us an example of mutual support or assistance provided to you by a member of the Serbian community?

A: Yes! I remember it well, during the war, that is, right after the war, an armed group of Serbs and Roma seized me and my wife and they wanted to arrest us, but one of my neighbors, also a Serb, immediately stepped out of his house and he intervened by negotiating with that armed group for my release. After ten minutes of negotiations, they released me and my wife. There were other cases. I remember once a group of Roma robbed houses, they would steal everything froma house, and when I found out who those Roma were, I went to them. When I went there, those Roma surrounded me, and several Serbs saved me from a physical conflict. There are other cases, but at the moment I can’t really remember them.

Q. What was the attitude of the Serbian authorities, the police and the army, towards the Albanian population during the war of 1999?

A. The attitude of the Serbian authorities in general, that is, the attitude of the police, civilian administration and the army, was hostile. However, the police and the army were the most hostile, while the civilian administration not so much, but it was unjust and discriminatory. The police and the army were violent and there wereorganized expulsion of people from place to place without any reason, at least that’s what it looked to the Albanian population at that time.

Q: Did your neighbors try to protect you, provide food or other necessities during the war?

A: Yes, in most cases our neighbors protected us, especially from the paramilitaries, they gave us food and groceries that they bought in their own name, and then brought them to us. There were cases when they helped us or bought things for us.

Q: Have you experienced any violence or property damage during the war? If so, how did your Serbian neighbors react?

A: Yes we have. My house was shot at several times with automatic weapons and hand grenades were thrown, and we were robbed as well. However, my neighbors reacted decisively, reporting the case to the then authorities, the police and other administrative authorities, and as a result, these attacks stopped.

Q: Did you try to protect them when Albanian forces took over after the Yugoslav army withdrew in 1999?

A: Yes, I protected them several times from Albanian forces because the Albanian armed forces were trying to take away their weapons or demanded weapons from them. Sometimes they even wanted to rob them and take their belongings, but I immediately stood up for them and told them how they protected and defended me during the war, and that they should not attack them.

Q: What are your memories of the socialist period?

A: You can say that it was a good and fair time for everyone, there was work for everyone and there was social equality. Unemployment was low, healthcare was good,and many other things as well.

Q: Do you consider the socialist period to be positive and favorable in terms of Kosovo’s development?

A: Generally speaking, the socialist era has been positive and favorable in terms of Kosovo’s development mostly since ’74. right up to 1985, because in that period there was a faster growth in Kosovo in terms of economic development, employment and equality, while before that it was not so noticeable.

Q: Thank you for doing this interview.

A: Thank you.

Image courtesy of aleksandarmiletic | MALI VELIKI LJUDI

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