Tuesday, June 21, 2005

For Serbs, a slow road back to Kosovo - The Christian Science Monitor

Six years after the war, only 10 percent have returned to their hometowns, to live side by side with Albanians.
By Eleanor Beardsley | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
KLINA, KOSOVO – Milorad Pavlovic took only five minutes to make the decision to leave Kosovo in June of 1999. But it has taken him six years to come back home.
Today, Mr. Pavlovic, his wife, Milorada, and mother, Jelena, are one of just two Serb families who have returned to their homes in the western Kosovo town of Klina.
During that summer of 1999, an estimated 180,000 Serbs like Pavlovic fled Kosovo as NATO troops poured in to the province and 800,000 Albanians returned from their exile. Despite the United Nations' efforts to help Serbs return, fewer than 10 percent have done so.

Klina is a case in point. While 60 percent of the town's properties used to belong to Serbs, Klina today has become an Albanian town. Serbian is no longer heard on the streets and a large mural glorifying the Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army adorns the front of the community center.

In the years of their absence, squatters took the Pavlovics' belongings, and today, their apartment walls are still bare. The family sits drinking coffee on a few sparse pieces of furniture. But none of that matters, says Pavlovic.

"We are just glad to be home again," he says. "This is our house and Kosovo is our fatherland. My ancestors have been here for 600 years. Everything I own and everything I am is here, nowhere else."

Before the war, Pavlovic worked as a company driver and claims most of his clients and friends were Albanian. Life was "terribly good" then, he says.

But things are different now.

A dusty, one-street town, Klina suffered significant damage during the war. Despite a building frenzy, its town hall remains a bombed-out shell. But it is the invisible damage that prevents the town from healing. Thousands of Klina Albanians were killed by Serb forces in the conflict and more than 100 people are still missing.

Klina native Seremb Gjergi says that the town's missing Albanians have been a real impediment to the return of Klina's Serbs.

"There are a number of families that have more than one relative missing," says Mr. Gjergi.

"And this is blocking the part of the town that says we must reconcile. When you talk to someone else who has a missing relative they say listen, I'd love to help on reconciliation, but I don't know where my son is. First, I want to know where my son is."

But Gjergi says the Pavlovic's return is a big step. David Hally, an American who works with the UN Office of Returns here, agrees. He says the biggest obstacle to bringing Serbs back to Kosovo is not Serb fear, but Albanian fear. "Albanians were afraid that we weren't just going to bring Serbs back, but that we were going to bring Serbia back to Kosovo," says Mr. Hally. "But when people began to understand the distinction, some of the resistance went down."

This is not the first time the family has tried to come home. In October 2003 they returned to another one of their three properties. When they found a squatter there, they told him he couldstay and were even willing to give him his own room. But within a few hours, crowds gathered around the house and began to throw stones.

"Helicopters were circling overhead and the internationals were urging us to go," says Pavlovic. At first the family refused, but they finally acquiesced when an Italian military commander came to the house to convince them.

In April of this year the Pavlovics' made their second attempt - this time to Klina. So far there have been no problems. As Pavlovic heads out to buy milk, he points to the houses of his former Serb neighbors. While he hopes they will return someday, for now, Pavlovic says he's ready to build a new life with his Albanian neighbors. Fluent in Albanian, he stops to engage an astonished shop boy in conversation. "Many people don't want to talk to us," he says. "But from what I hear, this is normal. The ice has to be broken and this can't happen overnight. We do understand this."


Chris Blaku said...

What a sad story. What a sad excuse for journalism. The CSM should pay a little more attention to the fact that this entire situation would never have occurred if it were not for the aggressive behavior of the Serbians in Kosova, not the Albanians.

Anonymous said...

These people are more than welcome to come back. If they have not taken part in any of the many attrocities in Klina, then they are more than welcome back to their homes. Kosova belongs to all those who live there.

Having said this, where on Earth is CSM getting these statistics? Serbs were not a majority in Klina. That's complete and utter rubbish. You could say that there was a large Serb community in Klina but definetely not the majority.

Anonymous said...

It's not a sad excuse for journalism just because it doesn't portray Serbs as aggressors, uncivilized, or instigating violence.

Anonymous said...

Thus its false...cause that is what they are...how much moreproof do you want? Or will you be convinced when you actualy see them do it

Anonymous said...

Make no mistake, I'm not disagreeing, nor do I need any more proof to be convinced. I'm disagreeing with the "sad excuse for journalism" comment. Although, it's sad to see that you think those labels should be uniformly applied to 100% of Serbs.

Anonymous said...

Yes Im guilty of applying the label to 100%, you're right it is unfair especialy that in the recent days some have shown to be quite fair and willing to distance themselves from the loonies.

As for the journalism comment, difficult to say, CSM sometimes has excellent articles and other times just falls quite low in quality. Journalism quality is an oppinion, in my oppinion :)

Chris Blaku said...

Don't assume I believe it is a sad excuse for journalism because it does not portray the Serbs as aggressors.

It is a sad excuse for journalism because it bases its numbers, facts, and events on the word of two obviously pissed off Serbian refugees. The Serbians were never a majority in Kline, nor in any part of Kosova in its entire history. For them to state that an estimated "180,000" Serbs left Kosova is outrageous, 180,000 Serbs never even LIVED in Kosova. These are figures supplied by the Belgrade Government, a Government well known to fabricate history, numbers, and facts to cater to its political will.

I resent Serbians playing the victim card when the obvious fact of the matter is, this would have never occurred if they did not support their state's barbarous attack on Albanian civilians. This story is a sad excuse for jounralism because it lays the blame for the lack of reconciliation on the Albanians, and portrays the Serbs as if they are angels, when they themselves brought this upon the nation.

Anonymous said...

Chris your knowledge of history is either incredibly lacking or you are a liar.

At the end of WWII Kosovo's SErbian population was over 300,000. During the Greek-Turkish war of 1897, 400,000 Serbs were kicked out of Kosovo.

YOu should read more about this subject in order to learn teh true facts instead of relying on propaganda.

Chris Blaku said...

Please spare me your falsified history and your poor excuse to salvage a horribley distorted history in your favor. There were never more than 150,000 Serbian inhabitants in Kosova, EVER. The number presented in the imaginary expulsion of Serbs in the Greek-Turkish war is as falsified as the expulsion itself. Moreover, Serbia's population figures within these times are provided by the Serbian government, who has been proven time and time again to have altered history. Ottoman documents and census reports have never clocked Kosova's Serb population at over 100,000, much less the half a million you claim to have been deported. Serbian reports in 1897 claimed this mass expulsion, in order to lay claim to their illegal expansion into the province 15 years later. Serbian reports in this time period also claim their blood linkage with the Illyrians, a proven lie, history on the battle of 1389, most of which has proven to be false, and the denial of genocide in the area of the Albanians in Kosova, which we know now to be false.

The reality is, upon Serbia's invasion of Kosova in 1912, MILLIONS of Albanians were deported into Turkey. Hundreds of thousands were displaced from north of Kosova, into Kosova. According to recorded British documents of visitors in the area, at least 25,000 were killed in 1912 alone, and hundreds of thousands displaced. Moreover, in the 60's, on two separate occasions, the Serbians deported 500,000 Albanians into Turkey, claiming they were leftover Turks from the Ottoman empire, for a total of ONE MILLION deported. The documents in Turkey prove this, as well as the living survivors of this mass expulsion whose stories may be told today.

I welcome an argument on history, as your falsified Serbian bullshit holds no ground against the truth.

Anonymous said...

Chris I love the way you write, but less of the BS word ;) those belong in the Serbian dictionary.

Chris Blaku said...

Thank you, and you are right... Sometimes I get fed up with their bullshit though.

Anonymous said...

Wow what a bunch of hooey. Serbs never numbered over 150,000...LOL! According to every census since WWII, Serbs always numbered WELL over that.


Do keep in mind that from 1974 until 1989 (when Kosovo had complete autonomy) these population surveys were conducted by Albanian authorities.

As for a million Albanians being expelled to Turkey, that is ridiculous. A quick look at any of the surveys carried out by the Austrians or Turks will show you that Kosovo's entire population was roughly half a million at the turn of the century. Where do you get this ridiculous BS you are spouting? I'm not trying to be rude, I am honestly curious as to why you are so misinformed.

Furthermore, the majority of Kosovars expelled by Serbia to Turkey in 1912 were not Albanians, but Muslims Slavs.

Chris Blaku said...

They were Albanians expelled under the guise of Turks.

Cencus reports may have well been done by Albanians, however the superiors in the Yugoslav government had complete control over the publishing. Every census since World War 2 is inaccurate.

At the turn of the century, accurate population numbers were not reliable due to Ottoman occupation and Young Turk aggression.

Turkish documents reveal this to be true- as well as the Greek deportation of over a million Albanians from within their borders, documented by British diplomats visiting the region.

Chris Blaku said...

The deportation was carried out as a mass refugee replacement effort by Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey. In return for their generosity all three nations receieved grants from Europe as well as numerous foreign loans for their falsified acts of good will. The deportees were alleged to be Turks, and anyone who could not get half a dozen landowning Albanians, proven to be Albanian through lineage, to sign off on their Albanian bloodline in the 1960's was deported.

Anonymous said...

So your theory is that the Kosovo population censuses that were conducted by the Albanian authorities were tampered with by some Serb in Belgrade? Are you aware that the authorities in Belgrade consisted of, in addition to Serbs, also Croats, Slovenes, Muslims, and even Albanians? It would have been inconceivable for some Serbs to tamper with the data. And even if a Serb somehow managed to do it, it would not have gone unnoticed by the Kosovo authorities and they would have raised a complaint. No such complaint was ever made. Thus we can conclude that the census data from WWII onwards are either a) accurate, or b) biased in favor of Albanians, since Albanians were the only ones who had the chance to tamper with this data.

Do you still want to maintain Serbs were never more than 150,000 in Kosovo? Or are you ready to get serious?

It's worth noting that the 1991 census is only an estimation since the Albanians boycotted all Yugoslav institutions that year.

Chris Blaku said...

It is clear you live under the misinformed and ignorant assessment that Yugoslavia was some sort of democracy where Albanians actually had a voice in opposing Slav aggression. You act as is the Albanian officials in Kosova had any real powers, and were able to condemn or speak against violations in Kosova by the Slav officials in Yugoslavia, who were tied directly to the Government. I still strongly maintain that there were never more than 150,000 Serbians in Kosova- and all estimations on Albanian population are an estimate or conviniently altered to suit the needs of the Yugoslav state.

Ferick said...

Listen up guys. The statement "Klina is a case in point. While 60 percent of the town's properties used to belong to Serbs" may in fact be true. You all remember that Serb authorities evicted Albanians from their properties and presented it as a gift to colonizers who were brought in from Serbia and Bosnia. So what we are talking here is about %10 of people in the Klina municipality owning over %60 of property. You can see how Serbia was an "equal apportunity land owner" state! :). CSM failed to mention that.

Chris Blaku said...

CSM fails to mention a lot of things in this article, and their writers are usually far better informed.

Chris Blaku said...

CSM fails to mention a lot of things in this article, and their writers are usually far better informed.