A respondent from Kamenica, a high school student during the war, remembers helping his Albanian friends when the Serbian army and police were in the town. A Serbian, he accompanied them every day to the bakery to buy bread and back to the house, to make sure nothing happens to them. During the violence in Kosovo in March 2004, his house suffered damage. However, the respondent believes that it was not his neighbors that did it, but Albanians who came from other places. He notes that before the war it did not matter whether someone was Serbian, Albanian or Gorani, and that ethnicity began playing a part only during the war. The interview, arranged by the Center for Historical Studies and Dialogue, was led by Alban Maliqi, of the Network of Peace Movement NGO from Kamenica.
Q: State your name.
A: [the website editors decided not to reveal the identities of the respondents for time being.]
Q: The date and place of your birth?
A: January 25, 1982.
Q: Your place of residence is Kamenica?
Q: Have you got friends among the ethnic Albanian community in Kosovo, how close are you to them and can you understand Albanian?
A: Of course. I was born in Kamenica and my family has lived in Kamenica for almost 270 years, so we have always had Albanian friends, and we still do today.
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: As far as my family is concerned, nothing has changed. The people with whom my family socialized before the war, we continued socializing during the war, and we still do today.
Q: Have your relations with your Albanian neighbors and coworkers changed between when Slobodan Milosevic came to power in 1987, and then in 1999, and today?
A: I can say that when Slobodan Milosevic was in power, I was quite young. From what I’ve heard from my parents, I don’t think much has changed. I am not competent to talk about that period that much.
Q: How important was ethnic background, being a Serb or a Muslim and socializing before, during, and after the war?
A: Before the war, I did not notice that it was particularly important whether you were Serbian, Albanian, Roma, Gorani… During the war, it was. Interpersonal relations were slightly disturbed, so at one time it was very important to which nation you belonged. Right now, I can say in Kamenica maybe it is important, but it is not stressed that much, people socialize, there are no problems.
Q: Do you know of any cases of interethnic marriages between Serbs and Albanians before, during and after the war? Are young Albanians and Serbs socializing and dating today?
A: I know of one example from before the war, our neighbors right there, the husband is Albanian and the wife is Serbian. During the war, I haven’t heard about it, nor recently.
Q: Can you give us an example of mutual support or assistance provided to you by members of the Albanian community?
A: Well, of course, there are many examples. Us and our neighbors always helped each other out, so right now it’s winter, when the firewood comes, when there’s work to be done around the house, a lot of examples, I don’t know…
Q: One concrete example of assistance, if you can remember.
A: Well, when a neighbor saw me chopping wood, he came to help me, even though I didn’t ask him to.
Q: And an example of someone helping you during the war or if you helped them?
A: Well, I have an example that during the war, even though I was only in high school, when the war started, when the Serbian army and police still controlled the area, I walked two of my Albanian friends every day to buy bread and I followed them back home, so that no one would bother them. That’s as far as I’m concerned. And of course, there came a point when all this changed and those friends protected me.
Q: What was the attitude of the Serbian authorities, the police, the civilian authorities, the army, towards the Albanian population during the war?
A: From what I know, there were expulsions, there were, I think, beatings of innocent people… I was relatively young, but I know examples of inhumane behavior. And humane, of course, but there was inhumane behavior.
Q: Did your neighbors try to protect you or did you try to protect them, provide them food or supplies during the war?
A: As far as my family is concerned, we never wronged our neighbors nor have they wronged us. Even today, those relations remain intact.
Q: Have you experienced any violence or property damage during the war? How did your neighbors react?
A: Since my house is right next to the road, there was an incident, when someone sprayed a line of bullets into my house, maybe inadvertently, this was on March 17, there was a lot of damage to the roof, the windows and doors on my house were broken. But I am sure that my neighbors did not take part in it, those were people who came from other places.
Q: Did you try to protect them or did the Albanians protect you when the Albanian forces gained control after the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army in 1999?
A: Well, to be specific, no one touched my family, there was no need for anyone to protect me.
Q: What are your memories of the socialist period?
A: Believe me, I have no memories at all. I don’t know, I don’t know what to say.
Q: Do you consider the socialist era to be positive and favorable in terms of Kosovo’s development?
A: Well, from what I know from doing research while I was studying, I know that there were a lot of investments made in Kosovo, but it all ended in corruption or, I don’t know, theft… I think that these investments were only nominal, that nothing significant was done, although the documents say, according to some research that I did, there are figures that a lot has been invested in Kosovo, but unfortunately I don’t think much has been done.
Q: Thank you very much.