The respondent, a Serbian man from Berivojec, will always remember the March 2004 pogrom and how his Albanian neighbors stood by his family when they were in danger of being attacked and expelled from their home. Thanks to the neighbors who came to their aid without a second thought, they are still in their house to this day. Marko did not forget how as a boy he played football and basketball with his Albanian friends, before the war. He remembers the dramatic moment when his wife gave birth and his car broke down. His next-door neighbor helped him again and lent him his car without a question asked. Marko says that the period of war should be forgotten and one should look only ahead.
Q: Introduce yourself, pleas, tell us are you married, do you have children, where are you from?
A: I am married and a father of two.
Q: What is it like to live in Kosovo and in Berivojec in particular, given that it is a multiethnic place?
A: We have been living side by side with Albanians in Berivojec for many years, we’ve never had any problems, we are cooperating and I can say that the coexistence in Berivojec and Kamenica is at quite enviable.
Q: Have you or anyone close to you had Albanian friends?
A: Of course, as a kid, I had Albanian friends, I stayed in touch with some of them and I still see them, some went abroad, but from time to time we talk to each other through social networks, we keep in touch.
Q: You say you have children, would you mind if they had Albanians friends their age like you had you were young, and as you still do, and as your parents did, so that this friendship continues the same way?
A: Of course not, as a young man I was friends with Albanians, I would never discourage my children from socializing with them, my parents also had Albanian friends, it went from generation to generation. My kids are small now and don’t understand the importance of coexistence, but when they reach their teens, I would never forbid them to socialize with Albanians.
Q: Have you ever experienced any trouble from Albanians, of any kind?
A: No, no, I haven’t had any problems so far, we even helped each other a couple of times, since I have Albanians in the neighborhood.
Q: Have you ever helped an Albanian in any way and has an Albanian helped you?
A: Of course we’ve helped each other, a couple of times I lent my Albanian neighbors farm vehicles to work their land. They also helped me out, on one occasion when my children were small and sick, an Albanian neighbor lent me his car to take my child to the hospital.
Q: Do Albanian friends visit you for your religious holidays and do you visit them for Eid, for example?
A: This used to happen, for a short period it stopped, but a few years ago I had a friend from Kamenica who came to visit a couple of times, so nothing out of the ordinary, all according to our tradition, the way we Serbs celebrate our holidays. They acted like any other guests, like our relatives, just like anyone else, they were glad to be there, it was on a very friendly level. I have to say that I also went to their Eid twice, they behaved quite normally, they were welcoming, there were no problems, so just like everyone else. I can explain the customs they practice on their Eid later.
Q: What was the attitude of Serbian authorities towards Albanians, do you think they treated them the same as Serbs?
A: Well, I am relatively young, I remember those pre-war events as a young man who was not particularly engaged, I did not follow those political events, but from what I’ve heard from my parents, everyone who obeyed the law of our state of Serbia before the war, the Serbian police treated them fairly, it was not aggressive towards them. I must say that some of our Serbs who violated the law, the Serbian state treated them in accordance with the law.
Q: Is ethnicity important to you, in terms of socializing with someone?
A: No, it doesn’t matter to me, there are people who look at unkindly, but I always say that my parents raised me not to look at any religion differently. I grew up in a family where I was raised to respect every good person.
Q: Did your parents socialize [with Albanians] before and during the 1998-1999 war?
A: As I said, before 1998-99. there was a bit of a disruption in that friendship between us and them, but my parents kept in touch with them during those pre-war and war events.
Q: Do you speak or do you understand Albanian?
A: As a young man, I understand Albanian quite a bit, I can’t really have a casual conversation with Albanians, but I understand what they are saying, not so much that I can always reply, but it is important that we can communicate and maintain this contact.
Q: In what language do you usually communicate with Albanians?
- Well, in most cases we speak Serbian, because most of them know Serbian, but there are times when one of my Albanian friends brings a friend who doesn’t know Serbian, so I say a couple of words in Albanian to him or my Albanian friend translates in that case.
Q: What is it like to live in Kosovo?
A: It is not easy to live in Kosovo right now, it is not like in other cities, in other western countries. Kosovo is multiethnic, at least our municipality is. Unemployment is high, young people have trouble finding a job, like me, I worked in two private companies, I was let go because the company closed. Now I don’t have a job and we young people have trouble finding work.
Q: Do you visit Albanian cafes?
A: Of course, I go with my family, sometimes with my Serbian friends, sometimes together with our Albanian friends. I have no problems, the staff in these restaurants and cafes is helpful, I never had any problems.
Q: You did not experience any inconvenience in Albanian cafes because you are Serbian?
A: No, on the contrary, I know a lot of the owners, some are a bit older than me, some are younger, I go there for a drink with my family, friends, of course I try to be respectful, I do not show any revolt towards them or their nationality, so why would there be a problem?
Q: You said that your parents were friends with Albanians and that they would come to visit, would they bring their children, did you play with them back then?
A: Yes, they would bring their children, and I remember those gatherings when I was a kid. It was difficult for us to communicate then, but our and their parents would translate for us and tell us we should play and not argue, that they are our friends like any other friends from school, so that there was no problem. As children, it is important that you get along in those games, there were disagreements, but it is all normal for children to sometimes quarrel over some of their games.
Q: How did you play, in which way? Did you know the language then, did they know Serbian?
A: They didn’t, like I didn’t know Albanian, we played outside, mostly when the weather was good, we played football and basketball, we couldn’t communicate very well, but it didn’t matter, it’s important that as a child you win in those games and be better than your friend.
Q: You never thought of them as Albanians, but as ordinary people?
A: No, I always viewed them as friends from school, I didn’t think of Albanians any differently than any other neighborhood kinds, we played together, there were no ethnic problems.
Q: Do you know of a multiethnic relationship between a Serbian man and an Albanian woman or a Serbian woman and an Albanian man?
A: Well, in the 21st century this is not strange at all, in my town there are a couple of people who married Albanian women from Albania, have children with them, started families. It works, they opted for that multiethnic life, it is important that there is love and that they get along. Their children usually have Serbian names and go to Serbian schools, so there is a kind of multiethnic life that is enviable.
Q: Do you know of any relationships, dating?
A: There are a couple of cases where boys and girls from Serbian towns are going out with Albanians, they do not hide it. They visit both Serbian and Albanian cafes, it’s their decision, they see it as the most normal thing. I support it and as I said, I have never had a problem with this outlook, it’s their life, it’s what they decided and I find it normal that they are dating and forming families.
Q: You mentioned that you had some help from Albanians, can you tell us more?
A: There were all kinds of help, I lent them farming vehicles to work their land. They also helped me a couple of times in some cases, in addition to lending me a car, there were other kinds of help. When I had things to do in Albanian towns in Kosovo after the war, going there was no joke, I went with them, they took me to finish some paperwork, I’ve never had problems in those cities, they were nothing but helpful. They introduced me as their friend, a Serb who lives and works with them.
Q: Did you continue that friendship that your parents had with Albanians, have you remained friends with their children?
A: Well, you know, I have some friends who used to visit me until recently, and they still stop by for a cup of coffee. I went to visit them during Eid and their other holidays a couple of times.
Q: Can you tell us a bit more about their customs, when you visited them during Eid and other holidays?
A: You know, I will briefly tell you about me and my wife visiting them during Eid. Like us Serbs, they too have a patron saint’s day. They have some customs, they are very hospitable, just like in our country when we invite guests for our holiday, they do that as well for Eid. With them, it looks a little different, they insist that you try a bit of everything that’s laid on the table. They have a habit of sitting on the carpet with their legs crossed, at least that was the case with my friend when I went. They were hospitable, respectable, it all passed in a very pleasant manner.
Q: You mentioned an example when your Albanian neighbor lent you his car, to drive your wife to the hospital when she was giving birth. Can you talk more about that, considering that it is a very nice gesture by the Albanians.
A: It’s a really amazing thing, I was delighted. It was late in the evening about one past midnight, my car broke down, I couldn’t drive to the hospital. I called my next door neighbor, an Albanian, and he lent me his car without a word. I still can’t forget that because it was such a situation that I needed a car right away. I also helped, but with that gesture he showed that there really is coexistence between Serbs and Albanians in our town.
Q: Have you ever been to an Albanian wedding?
A: I remember as a child that my parents went, my father that is, someone from his friend’s family was getting married, I remember that as a child. We were in that Albanian restaurant with other guests, we felt welcome. There were no problems, no one tried to provoke us because we are Serbs, because you know how people behave when they drink, but really, I have nothing bad to say. I remember as a child I played with their children and there was no problem.
Q: How do you remember the events of March 2004? What was the attitude of Albanian neighbors towards the violence against the Serbian community?
A: At that time I was a young man, I remember it was horrible, I won’t forget that while I live. But I will also mention that our neighbors, Albanians, came to our aid in 2004. I can say that some of them protected us from their fellow Albanians who were getting ready to attack us and literally drive us out from our homes. They then stood behind us and told them that we were good people and that we had never created any problem for the Albanians. They told them that we are honest and fair and that we should not be viewed as this or that nationality, but as people who live there and who lived together before and who helped each other in the most normal way.
Q: At the end of our conversation, what would you say to both Albanians and Serbs, or to all people in Kosovo?
A: I can tell all people of Serbian and Albanian nationality that Kosovo should be an example of coexistence between Serbs and Albanians and all other nationalities living in Kosovo. I want to say that we should all live together and cooperate, leave the war behind, including the pre-war and post-war period. It’s 2021, we need to look to the future, to live and cooperate both privately and in business. I can say that we should look to the future for our and our children’s sake, so that tomorrow they can live and work together.