The conversation between our associates and an Albanian woman from Kamenica in the summer of 2021 indicates a bitter legacy of mistrust that existed and still exists between the Serbs and the Albanians in Kosovo. For example, she mentions the case of a nurse of Serbian nationality who was called by her neighbour in 1989 to help her brother who inhaled tear gas during the Albanian demonstrations. The woman stayed with her brother until he was better, but even then they did not speak to her. The interlocutor also mentioned the post-war pacification of the situation in Kamenica, when the Serb neighbours from the building where they lived offered to jointly pay for the property of their Albanian neighbours that had been destroyed or stolen. The offer was rejected because the Albanians were aware that their neighbours took no part in it.


Q: Name?

A: (the editors decided to hide the identities of the interlocutors)

Q: Place and date of birth?

A: dd. mm. 1978. Kamenica.

P: Residence, Kamenica.

Q: Did you have and do you now have friends from the Serbian ethnic community in Kosovo?

A: No.

Q: How close are you to them? How well do you understand the Serbian language?

A: We were very close; we lived in the same building.

Q: Do you understand the Serbian language?

A: I do.

Q: Did you regularly socialise and visit your Serb neighbours/colleagues during religious Christian or Muslim holidays, before, during and after the conflict in Kosovo?

A: Before the conflict in Kosovo, we lived as neighbours, but we didn’t visit each other, except during holidays of course, then we would exchange our traditions, for example, cakes for Bairam at our place or during their holidays.

Q: Serbian holidays?

A: Yes, Serbian.

Q: Do you cooperate… Did you regularly cooperate with your Serb neighbours/colleagues in farming, home construction or in factories before, during or after the war?

A: No, we have not had any such case. There are special cases, for example somewhere around ’75…a long time ago…In the building where we lived there were only Albanians, however, over time the Albanians moved out of that building and Serbs moved into it. They took away or…in one way or another…mostly Albanians lived in that building, but over time Serbs settled in. Around ’75-’76 there was a case that my parents told me about, where a voice was heard crying in the early hours of the morning. My parents went to see what was going on and found out that the neighbours’ baby had died. It was a young couple whose baby had died. I know that my parents were there for them during that difficult time since they were young. However, the same thing, although we did not have any relations, meaning we did not regularly visit each other and drink coffee together, the same thing happened during the demonstrations in ’89 when tear gas smoke entered our apartment and my brother, who was very young at the time, only one and a half years old, fell ill. However, that same neighbour who was a nurse, in that situation, right amid the demonstrations, came to help us. Even though we didn’t exchange a word with each other, as we were aware of the tense situation between us, she still came to our aid.

Q: Did anything change in your relations with your Serb neighbours/colleagues after Slobodan Milošević came to power in 1987 until 1999?

A: Of course, it changed, but not with all the neighbours. There were those who were nationalists, but there were also those who did not concern themselves with it, but still didn’t declare themselves either for or against it.

Q: How important was ethnicity, that is, the fact that someone was a Serb or an Albanian in the society before, during and after the war?

A: Before the war, the Albanians were occupied and very neglected, and only those who experienced that period can describe and tell…those who experienced it, because words cannot describe the situation back then, whether it was going to the store, or going to the doctor… you were treated as second or third class everywhere.

Q: Are you aware of any case of inter-ethnic marriage between Serbs and Albanians before, during, or after the war? Do you know of any cases where Albanian and Serbian youth still socialise and get together today? If so, can you name a place, cafe, disco or street where Albanian and Serbian youth socialise today?

A: I haven’t heard of any marriage. However, we heard about some extramarital affairs, but we never found out anything concrete. However, as far as marriages are concerned, no. And I think there still aren’t any.

Q: Do you know if the youth socialise somewhere?

A: No.

Q: Can you tell us about an example of support, help or mutual assistance provided to you by someone from the Serbian community?

A: Earlier, I mentioned a case where, although the situation was very bad, that is, the political situation between us and the Serbs, our neighbour who was a nurse came and helped my younger brother, even though we did not speak to each other – we did not communicate, yet she came and helped us. We went and called her, and she came and stayed until she was sure that my brother was better.

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

A: During the war, we no longer lived in the building I mentioned earlier, but we went to the countryside. Of course, we didn’t see military forces there, except when they were passing by along the road, but they…we were surrounded by Serbian forces, but we didn’t know. Sometime in the afternoon, they came with armoured and military vehicles. They broke into houses, they controlled us, but nothing bad happened. There were no murders, but the fear was immense because we heard gunshots from all sides and we didn’t know what was happening.

Q: What was the attitude of your neighbours who were members of the Serbian community?

A: Well, they didn’t blame Slobodan Milošević’s government too much. There were those who looked sorry, but there were also those who were participants, whose children took part in massacres and house demolitions.

Q: Did they try to protect you, to provide you with food or other supplies during the war?

A: As I said before, the day before the bombing started, we escaped from our apartment where we had lived until then and went to the countryside. They didn’t really help us.

Q: What was the treatment of the local Serbs in the post-war period, in the summer and fall of 1999?

A: During the bombing, our apartment was empty, and our neighbours, not all of them, there were exceptions, but some of them looted our apartment and as soon as the bombing stopped, we returned. Some of the neighbours were not there because they had fled because their children were responsible for criminal acts, while the other neighbours, who were not involved in such things, stayed and held a meeting in which they decided that they wanted to compensate us for the loss of the things that had been stolen. However, we did not accept that compensation from them because we knew that they were not the ones who had stolen from our apartment.

Q: How did you experience the beginning of violence against Kosovo Serbs in March 2004?

A: It was unnecessary. That was something that set us back a long way, something that we actually didn’t…

Q: Did you experience any violence or property damage during the war and how did your neighbours react to it?

A: As I said before, yes, we did. Some of the neighbours were sorry and wanted to pay us for all the things that had been stolen from us, but we did not allow it because we knew that they had taken no part in it, but other neighbours who were not there, they had committed theft.

Q: How do you remember the time of socialism? Was it a good or a bad period?

A: Well, it wasn’t a very good time because there were a lot of things that were restricted, but as far as education and maybe health care are concerned, I think everyone had equal treatment, except for those who had someone in their family who was engaged in some political activity at the time.

Q: Do you consider the socialist era to be positive and affirmative as far as the development of Kosovo is concerned?

A: No, I don’t think so.

Q: Thank you.

Image courtesy of aleksandarmiletic | MALI VELIKI LJUDI

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