The respondent, an Albanian man from Busovata near Gjilane, a former high-school teacher in Kamenica, says that relations between ordinary people changed a lot during the war, and that relations between next-door neighbors had cooled. However, he claims that good relations were reestablished after the end of the war. During the war, his Serbian neighbors advised him on how to behave and when not to go out so he would avoid possible attacks. He behaved similarly when the Albanian forces took over. He remembers the socialist period as a time of great progress in every sense, economic, social, educational. The conversation was arranged by the Center for Historical Studies and Dialogue and led by Besime Maliqi from the Network of Peace Movement NGO in Kamenica.

Q: As I explained earlier, I have a short questionnaire for you, which I’d like you to answer, related to what we have been talking about. First of all, can you tell us if you have friends among the ethnic Serbian community in Kosovo? If you do, how close are you and do you understand Serbian?

A: Yes, I had friends before and I still do.

Q: Do you understand Serbian?

A: Yes, I understand and speak Serbian very well. Even today, I communicate with neighbors and friends.

Q: Great. So did you socialize regularly, did you visit your neighbors during religious Christian or Muslim holidays before the war, during the war and after the war?

A: Before the war, we would usually visit our Serbian neighbors for religious holidays and receive them on our holidays, they came to see us and we went to see them. However, during the war, those visits stopped because my friends were too afraid to come, nor did we visit them. After the war, we started visiting each other again, so there is that communication between us.

Q: All right. You told me earlier that you were a teacher and you must have cooperated with your coworkers from the Serbian community. What did your cooperation look like while you were working, since you are now 72?

A: When I worked as a teacher, earlier, in socialism, as well as the Milošević years, up to the outbreak of the war, my cooperation with Serbian colleagues was excellent. However, even after the war, we maintained those good relations with colleagues and friends we used to have.

Q: Great. You mentioned the regime of Slobodan Milošević. Has anything in your relations with your Serbian neighbors and coworkers changed between when Slobodan Milošević came to power in 1987, and then in 1999, and today? That is to say, what do you think of the Milošević years?

A: When Slobodan Milošević assumed office in 1987 and up to 1990 we got along fine, however, starting from 1990 we have… they removed us… they were ordered to remove us from school facilities so we started working in private facilities. We did not communicate with them during the war, and after the war we re-established good relations with some colleagues.

Q: Good. How important was ethnic background, that is, how important was the fact that a person was Serbian or Muslim? How important do you think ethnic background is in this case?

A: Ethnic background was very important during the war, before and after the war. No one agitated the other, religious equality was welcome on both sides.

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

A: Before the war, there were countless instances of Albanian women marrying Serbian men, the other way around as well. During the war, this ceased; however, after the war those marriages began again, although they were less common, where Serbian women would marry Albanians, and vice versa.

Q: Good. Can you give us an example of support or assistance or mutual support provided to you by a member of the Serbian community? Have you personally had such an experience?

A: During the war?

Q: At any time.

A: Before the war, there was mutual assistance, and it all stopped during the war. However, immediately after the war, we started communicating again with our neighbors, coworkers and people we knew from before, we helped each other without any problems.

Q: All right. 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. How would you evaluate the attitude of these authorities?

A: Up to 1990 the attitude was, let’s say, good. However, after the 1990 there were misunderstandings, they did not treat Albanians, and especially teachers, fairly. They often controlled us while we worked in primary school facilities, they controlled our gradebooks, how we teach, they controlled the curriculum and so on, but after the war… However, some of my colleagues were treated badly by the army and police from 1990 until the end of the war… the Albanian population, and especially the educators who were laid off back in 1990.

Q: Yes. Did your neighbors try to protect you, provide food or other necessities during the war? Can you name such an instance when you were offered help, whether this was food or protection?

A: Neighbors did not offer us food, but during the war there were instances when they tried to protect us by giving us advice and instructions not to leave the house, because no one would attack us if we stayed inside. However, we were assaulted just the same, robbed, our property was damaged …

Q: I was just about to ask you that. Have you experienced any violence or property damage in the war? If so, how did your neighbors react, the ones with whom you maintained good relations?

A: Our property was damaged during the war. The house was robbed, part of the yard was damaged, things were stolen from the house. However, our neighbors told us that they did not do it, but someone else who they themselves did not know. They tried to help us at least by listening, however, we were hurt, robbed, and parts of our house were damaged.

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

A: Oh yes. Along with other neighbors, we tried to advise them not to leave their houses so they wouldn’t attract attention, and we tried to help them as much as we could. However, there was less violence against Serbs in our part of Kamenica.

Q: All right. One more question. What are your memories of socialism and do you consider the socialist period to be positive and favorable in terms of Kosovo’s development?

A: Yes, the socialist era was encouraging for the Albanian population of Kosovo as the economy began to develop and flourish, just like education, and the 1974 Constitution was also adopted, which played a very important role in Kosovo becoming an institutional part of the Yugoslav federation. So there was an element of the seventh or eighth republic in Yugoslavia. Six republics and two provinces. The Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo and the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina. So, the economy was decent, the schools as well, colleges began opening, which previously was not the case in Kosovo. This is when the economy began to develop rapidly.

Q: Great. Mr. [the editors decided not to reveal the identities of the respondents for the time being], thank you once again for taking the time to do this interview.

A: Thank you. All the best.

Image courtesy of aleksandarmiletic | MALI VELIKI LJUDI

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