In the courtyard of the dormitory of the Pec Patriarchate: Radmila Grkovic, a victim of the March 17 violence, and Violeta Krstic
For more than five years residents of the Serb quarter of Orahovac have lived, as they themselves claim, on various lists - for entry to and exit from Orahovac, for humanitarian aid, monetary assistance and everything else - but also with the conviction that the resolution of the fate of this Metohijan village will be the model that will be implemented throughout Kosovo and Metohija. They say that there are many reasons for them to feel like guinea pigs because, with the exception of Prizren, where most of the remaining 46 Serbs are living in a German KFOR military base, the isolation of Orahovac and nearby Velika Hoca is practically unmatched anywhere in the southern Serbian province.
"After the arrival of international forces the Serbian part of town was gradually transformed into an enclave, the enclave into a ghetto, and life in the ghetto into a hell. Representatives of international organizations have no sympathy for our dissatisfaction with life in the ghetto, which they refer to by various euphemisms. They have suggested that we also use ‘more civilized terms', for example, ‘the Serb quarter', ‘the Serb or upper part of town' and even ‘the northern part of town', following the example of Kosovska Mitrovica, even though the geographical position of the Serb part of Orahovac bears no relation whatsoever to north on the compass. We now use their favorite term, enclave, as a concession to the sensibilities of the members of the international community," explains Dejan Baljosevic, the deputy head of the local UNMIK office for the communities of Velika Hoca and the upper part of Orahovac.
StatisticsAccording to Serbian statistics, in the past six years 18 Serbs have been killed, 60 wounded and 66 kidnapped in the municipality of Orahovac. In addition to Serbs, seven Egyptians and one Roma were also kidnapped. Before the war the KLA murdered nine Serbs; during the war it killed three more and one was killed in the NATO bombing. After the war four more Serbs were murdered. Before the war the Albanians kidnapped 39 Serbs and five Egyptians. During the war there were no kidnappings but after the introduction of international administration, 27 Serbs, two Egyptians and one Roma were kidnapped. After the war Albanian extremists in the municipality of Orahovac torched 233 Serbian houses. According to Albanian statistics, during the war 10,670 Albanian houses were destroyed.
"Everything Happened Like In A Movie"Even though the March 17 violence did not have the same scope in Orahovac as in the northern and central part of Kosovo and Metohija, during an attack by 2,000 Albanians from the lower part of town a Serb couple, Radmila and Stanisa Grkovic, were beaten up and their house in Vidovdanska street on the demarcation line was demolished.
"When the masses came, my husband and I were on the balcony. They were shouting ‘KLA, KLA'. The crowd consisted only of men aged 18 to 30. They carried flags, poles, stones, bricks... We quickly closed the door and went inside. They charged on the first floor [second floor in the US] and broke everything. Then they climbed up to our floor. One group was beating my husband, another was beating me. They dragged me until they snatched my purse with my documents and the money I was holding in my hand. I saw my husband was covered in blood. Three or four groups took turns. Each of them beat us. They dragged me down the stairs, punching and kicking me. They hit him with blunt objects. He was heavily beaten: his head, his entire left leg. He survived by a thread. The nerve in his left leg is damaged. He has just started to walk a little very recently. Everything happened very quickly, like in a film, in half a hour or so. The Kosovo police and the UNMIK police watched all this from a nearby house in the street. They did not have the strength to protect us," said Radmila Grkovic.
She and her husband were transferred to the hospital in Mitrovica only after two weeks of recovery in Orahovac. There they remained for more than a month. Upon leaving the hospital they received monetary assistance from UNMIK in the amount of 20 euros, which was handed to them by the mayor. Radmila Grkovic says she has˙ not filed charges against those whom she recognized in the crowd that beat them because everyone knows who they were but were pretending they did not. Their house was visited by Bajram Rexhepi, the prime minister of the Kosovo provisional government and has been partially repaired; however, the Grkovics do not want to return there. They are presently living in the former dormitory of the Pec Patriarchate. They say that their documents and money, 500 euros, necessary for further medical treatment and rehabilitation, have not been returned to them. They are happy that at least their 24-year-old son, who is currently in Belgrade, was not at home on March 17.
In Orahovac they point out that the Orahovac area, with its large number of purely Albanian villages where the Serbian police did not venture, was a stronghold of the KLA and its network. In the 1998 attack on Orahovac four Serbs were murdered and 39 abducted.
The present enclaves, the upper part of Orahovac and Velika Hoca, were created after the withdrawal of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Army and Serbian police from Kosovo and Metohija. The belief was that this was the best interim solution for the temporary self-defense of the Serbs during the filling of the so-called "security vacuum" and the deployment of KFOR troops.
"KFOR did not establish control checkpoints on the lines of demarcation themselves but always 20-50 meters inside the enclaves, abandoning Serbian families in front of the checkpoint to the mercy of Albanian extremists. As the enclave grew smaller, KFOR followed the Serbs and pulled its security checkpoints deeper and deeper to avoid direct confrontation with the Albanians. Now the Serbian part of town is separated from the Albanian part by a so-called buffer zone of torched Serbian houses," explained Dejan Baljosevic.
Serbs are now saying that the period during which German KFOR maintained permanent checkpoints and closed off side access roads with barbed wire was "a period of somewhat more relaxed and carefree life". KFOR's poor assessments that violence would decrease and frequent irritation with reporters who despite bans took photographs of the barbed wire, which became a symbol of the Kosovo Serbs' way of life, led to the discontinuation of security checkpoints. "They tried to convince us that they were doing it for our own good so we wouldn't have the impression that we were in prison," said local residents of Orahovac.
Albanians pass through the Serbian part of town freely on foot or in cars. "Except to provoke us, they also come to buy Serbian property for which they offer great sums of money. For many smarter and more moderate Albanians, this method is a safer and more effective way of completing the final phase of ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija," believes Dejan Baljosevic.
Baljosevic says that "the number of serious crimes has fallen but that's not the result of an improvement in the security conditions but the result of increasing caution on the part of Serbs themselves who, living under new rules that impose a life of high risk on the isolated enclave, are trying to keep the lowest profile possible in order not to attract the attention of extremist Albanians".
"Every Serb knows when and where he can move freely. He knows that he can till only land in the immediate proximity of the enclave and that he must go there with a group, never alone. He knows that he must not respond to the provocations of Albanians who entertain themselves by passing through the enclave looking for an excuse for an argument and assault. Having learned by past experiences that representatives of international organizations have little understanding for their right to a normal life, Serbs have resigned themselves to the situation, grown accustomed to their isolation, sinking slowly into gloomy Kosovo daily life, which Albanian political leaders and so-called intellectuals cynically refer to as the new Kosovo reality," says Baljosevic.
This reality, according to him, maintains a state of illusory balance due to which all three sides are superficially content: "The Albanians are happy that they can continue ethnic cleansing and discrimination against Serbs unhindered and unpunished. The international representatives are happy because they can represent this false peace as a success of their mission. And the Serbs are happy, in spite of the fact that the present situation is unfavorable for them, merely to still be alive."
Destroyed and demolished: Old cemetery
Orahovac is located in the Podrimlje [the Drim river valley] region, between Djakovica to the north and Prizren to the south. Like neighboring Velika Hoca it is renowned for its vineyards and wine cellars. One gets to Orahovac and Velika Hoca, which live like "connected vessels", by a convoy escorted by UNMIK police which leaves from Zvecan every Tuesday and Friday. Every second Saturday residents of Orahovac also have an outing to Gracanica, which they popularly call "the shopping tour".
All the convoys follow a route which was considered unsafe before and for some time after the arrival of international forces, and therefore partially closed to civilian traffic and, many claim, to police, too. The most dangerous is Malisevo, which in the past few years has undergone a transformation from a neglected village into a bustling town with decorated store windows and always crowded cafes in the center. The hot fashion item of the summer in the boutiques of this village, as well as in all others like it in Metohija, are glamorous ball gowns. Many shops of all kinds are called either "Teuta" or "Clinton". The stoning of Serb convoys in Malisevo is practically considered a natural phenomenon, and consequently none of the domestic passengers gets terribly excited over them, even though all incidents are regularly reported to the Committee for Security of the Orahovac municipality.
New historyKosovo Albanians are investing a lot in cemeteries full of plastic flowers, memorial complexes and luxurious restaurants with memorial tombs. "They are building monuments in the busiest locations in Kosovo and Metohija so that foreigners will see them. They are doing it to give us a guilty conscience and to constantly remind the international community that they have to behave the way they do because of what they went through under Milosevic. The popular thing now throughout Kosovo and Metohija is to organize school field trips where the teachers have the task of standing in front of each and every monument and instructing the students. They are turning the KLA members into heroes, poisoning their youth and fanning hatred against the Serbs," said Dejan Baljosevic.
Hot lineWith an appropriate escort, a combination of various circumstances and a lot of luck Serbs may have the fortune of passing the "hot line" Srbica - Glogovac - Malisevo in one go and undetected. This is something the Serbian police could only dream about while international forces accompanying Serbs avoid it as a rule. Safety on the roads is a relative thing and applies mainly to major routes even though there are really no rules. Albanians refuse to yield to convoys and escorts, so that international forces frequently have to eject those who have cut into the line of Serb vehicles. The route from Zvecan to Orahovac via Pristina leads next to garbage dumps and weeds. From Orahovac to Prizren neglected vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see. There is a lot of construction going on but most of the houses are empty or used to store hay, serving mostly as evidence for exaggerated claims regarding Albanian population numbers.
Until the arrival of the "internationals", as they call the foreigners here, both Serbs and Albanians spoke a common "Orahovac dialect" not readily understandable to non-natives. Now the Albanians use Albanian exclusively and the Serbs aspire to the literary standard of their mother tongue with a strongly discernable Orahovac influence.
Readers of Danas have missed out on an interview with Esad Haxhijaha, the mayor of Orahovac, whose sudden and brief vacation overlapped with the request of the writer of this article for an interview. Trapati Yogendra, the UNMIK administrator for Orahovac, explained with Indian diplomacy that "he doesn't give interviews and has always rejected similar requests by Albanian reporters in the past so he can't very well make an exception for the Belgrade media".
Although a short walk down the main street does not seem dangerous and in "safe" stores elderly Albanians will accept a conversation in Serbian, the simmering tension suggests that everyone here takes care not to create problems for either himself or others.
"I only see the lower part of town at night. When I see the lights, I remember that Orahovac has another part. During the day I know it no longer exists. It has been erased from our minds. You see a wall that doesn't exist. You know you can't go anywhere because you have to wait for a certain time and place in order to leave the town. It's an inhumane system but we are incredibly adaptable. Only when we go to visit central Serbia do we realize how we are living here," said Igor Saric, one of the editors of Orahovac's Radio Fokus.
Until you get used to the local conditions, life on the line of demarcation begins shortly after four in the morning with muezzin's call to the morning prayer from the minaret of the Orahovac mosque. There are four mosques. One is new and three are from before the war. One of the latter bears the marks of the 1998 clash. After the muezzin come the calls of the first roosters on the hill. Although neglected, upper Orahovac is a valuable environment no one is concerned about. The remains of old family houses, the customs and manners of its residents attest to a genuine urban culture.
The house of priest Baljosevic is the biggest and most beautiful in the Serb part of town. From the window of the highest floor there is a breathtaking view of the surroundings. A NATO flag flutters atop the Sahat Kula [Clock Tower], the symbol of Orahovac, as a compromise imposed by foreigners.
"For the Albanians the Sahat Kula, whose keys have traditionally been kept and which has been maintained by Serbian families, is a symbol of how they conquered the city and pushed the Serbs toward the old nucleus. Since the Sahat Kula can be seen from every part of the lower town, they wanted to show the lower town how far they had gotten so they hoisted an Albanian flag, which was promptly knocked down by the wind. They thought that the Serbs had removed the flag so they gathered in great number to place it by force on all four corners of the roof. KFOR found a compromise solution. In order to prevent arguments, they put the NATO flag," explained Dejan Baljosevic, the deputy chief of the UNMIK local community office for Velika Hoca and upper Orahovac.
According to him, no one has the keys to the Sahat Kula any longer. The doors are open and anyone can enter if they can manage to get through the sea of debris and remnants of barbed wire. For a time KFOR blocked the doors with sandbags and placed shock bombs all around to prevent the Albanians from entering.
The dispute regarding the Kula has also expanded to the official symbols. On all official documents Albanians use an emblem including the Sahat Kula, grapes, a grapevine leaf and the letter "R" for the Albanian name of "Rahovec". The Serbs asked that the letter "O" be added but this was not accepted. Although UNMIK has not signed the document on symbols, Orahovac Serbs and Albanians are still engaged in a silent "war" of logos on official documents.
Ljubisa Djuricic said that last year the Municipality received a letter from the Bureau of Statistics which proposed the standardization of settlement names in the Orahovac region prior to the census announced for 2004. Enclosed were proposed name changes which, according to Djuricic, affected 50 percent of present names with a clear Slavic and Serb origin.
Among the most drastic examples were Bela Crkva [White Church in Serbian], which the commission proposed to rename Fortese, Ratkovac - Drinas, Sanovac - Thanisht, Pusto Selo - Shkamaze... The Serbs appealed to former UNMIK chief Harri Holkeri on the matter, reminding him that neither municipalities nor the Kosovo provisional assembly have the legal authority to change the names of settlements, villages and city quarters.
One of the big problems of the Serb part of town is the cemetery. "They refuse to give us a new tract, and the old cemetery has been destroyed and demolished. Even if we could use it, locals are afraid that Albanians would dig up freshly buried bodies of deceased Serbs. Since 1999 Serbs have been buried in the courtyard of the church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, where we have opened a new tract," said Dejan Baljosevic.
Recently the fortified wall below the improvised tract on the main street collapsed and the new cemetery had to be urgently protected. Many saw this as a sign that "even dead Serbs are trying to get out of Orahovac".
Even though Serbs have asked for a new cemetery tract on the periphery of the upper part of town, OSCE has announced a campaign to fix up the old cemetery in the Albanian part of town. According to Ljubisa Djuricic, the old cemetery is to be fenced in, a gate will be installed, and all toppled gravestones that have not been smashed will be returned to their rightful places.
|How to stay: Igor Saric and Dalibor Vasiljevic|
The location of the once renowned Serb Cafe in the Serb part Orahovac now houses a "Serb mini city hall" consisting of the UNMIK Local Office, the Office for Social Welfare and the firefighting unit which, because of the number of fires in 1999 and 2000, was the busiest in Kosovo and Metohija. A few houses away is the OSCE local office, a satellite office of this organization in Orahovac.
The full name of the UNMIK Office is Sub-Office of the Local Office for the Communities of Velika Hoca and the upper part of Orahovac. It represents an integral part of the Municipality and employs the Serbs working in the municipal administration. With the upcoming Kosovo parliamentary elections UNMIK began to put pressure on these employees to go to work in the Municipality in the lower part of the city. They were given a short time to think it over.
We Never Talk To Each Other About How We Live"Since 1999 until today absolutely nothing has changed. Maybe a few things have been built but life has not changed. They're not killing us physically anymore; now they're doing it psychologically. I was 15 when all this began and now I'm 20. The higher ups need to understand that those of us here have lost relatives, property and, worst of all, a part of life. I lost five years; others lost much more. You know what's strange about us? I'm talking to you about how we are living but we never talk to each other about it. We always talk about something else," says Igor Saric.
Vito Di Kotor And Decani LibraryFree publications for the population of Kosovo and Metohija are also provided by KFOR and OSCE. The newsletter of KFOR's Multinational Brigade South-West in Serbian is called Prozor (Window), and Ditari in Albanian. The Serbian edition frequently carries Albanian articles without any checking of facts presented in them. Thus, issue 56 of Prozor carries an unsigned article regarding the adding of Visoki Decani Monastery to UNESCO's list of world heritage sites that not only uses the Albanian name of the monastery but states that this Serbian holy shrine, built in the 14th century as the endowment of [Serbian] King Stefan in Decani, was "initiated by monk Vito di Kotor from Montenegro, a Roman Catholic Christian, which is why the Western Catholic artistic tradition has left numerous traces and influences on the building". The same article goes on to note that the monastery library "contains numerous manuscripts from the 12th and 13th century whose importance as sources of medieval Balkan history should not be overestimated".
In Orahovac there are two postal systems, that of Serbia and Kosovo. Both have their offices. The main task of the Kosovo Post Office (PTK) is to charge customers in upper Orahovac for phone use and to collect payment, exclusively in euros. "As far as electricity and water are concerned, although they supply us irregularly, all the Serbs will pay their bills only when we see proof that 80 percent of Albanians are paying their bills," the Orahovac Serbs say categorically.
There is also a primary medical care facility in the Serb part of the city, which is an integral part of the Orahovac Health Center. It employs a general practitioner and, as of recently, a dentist. A similar facility exists in neighboring Velika Hoca. In more serious cases patients are transported to the hospital in the Serb part of Kosovska Mitrovica on days when the convoy is regularly scheduled.
The German non-governmental organization "Students For Life" opened an Internet club in upper Orahovac in order to break through the media and information blockade of isolated Serb youth. The French NGO ADSI helped with the opening of the children's nursery school Baltazar, which recently began to receive funding from the municipal budget.
The elementary and general secondary schools formerly located in the lower part of town are now housed in the modified building of the former July 4 Culture Hall in the Serb part of Orahovac. Dositej Obradovic and Vuk Karadzic Elementary Schools, which still exist separately on paper, have been merged into a single school. Secondary school students from Velika Hoca travel to and from school with the school minibus, which was donated in 2001 by the Japanese government.
At the end of 2001 the organization World Vision also built a multiethnic elementary school called Buducnost [The future] using the money of the Japanese government at the intersection of Albanian, Roma and Serb parts of the city. The school is attended by Albanian, Roma and Egyptian children, while Serb parents will not enroll their children in Buducnost. They believe that security in the city is inadequate, and that "insistence on a multiethnic school is just political marketing with the goal of satisfying ambitions of the international community".
Orahovac buys its goods in several private shops. Saturday is market day in the lower part of the city and Bulgarian, Romanian and omnipresent Chinese traders and their goods gather in the square in front of the church in Orahovac. The number of cafes has been reduced to two: Amor and Blue Lagoon, with service comparable to that in Belgrade.
Local residents obtain newspapers and magazines during visits to northern Mitrovica and Gracanica, or in the OSCE office, which gets Blic and Danas, sometimes with a few days' delay. Danas is not highly regarded because popular belief has it that Natasa Kandic, the director of the Humanitarian Law Fund, owns the paper. In addition to Radio Television Kosovo and Albanian TV stations, residents of Orahovac can also watch Radio Television Serbia's First Channel and BK TV.
In the Serb part of Orahovac there is a Local Information Center, one of five established by UNMIK throughout Kosovo and Metohija. Stanoje Brkic and Zvezdan Moravcevic publish reports regarding events throughout the Prizren region in the Serbian language biweekly "Danas i Sutra" [Today and Tomorrow], which is distributed for free to Serb readers throughout the Province.
"Once a week we get a vehicle from the municipal administration which we can use to get out and distribute our paper. There are few Serbs here and it's difficult to move around and get any sort of news. For security reasons we could not travel to Prizren, Sredacka Zupa and the few Serb settlements left for a month and a half after March 17," explains Stanoje Brkic.
That normal news coverage for Serbs in this part of Metohija is pure fantasy is also confirmed by Radio Station Fokus where for the past five years five young radio enthusiasts have been volunteering their services and cooperating with all Serbian language radio stations in Kosovo and Metohija and central Serbia, including ANEM. "The procedure for getting an escort is to file a request stating where we want to go 72 hours in advance; that is followed by an interview during which we have to explain why we are asking for an escort; thus, there is no way we can react immediately to an event," says Igor Saric.
According to Dalibor Vasiljevic, the music editor, Fokus also has problems with Internet service and consequently rebroadcasts Radio Belgrade's daily news in its own news program. "Once a week we have a KFOR magazine, a review of events in the Prizren region. We play all kinds of music. We work from 10 in the morning to midnight but we have problems with electricity blackouts. We don't have enough money to buy fuel for a generator," says Vasiljevic, a car electrician by trade, driven by circumstances in Orahovac to dedicate himself to music.
Igor Saric claims that Fokus is "a part of life in Orahovac" but that he does not see his own future in it any more. "I've graduated from secondary school. I had a strong desire to stay. This radio station is a part of me; I was born here; but after March 17 and some other incidents, I don't think there is any point in staying. We have no opportunities here, no jobs. We're all 20 or so years old. It's stupid to ask for money from our parents when they themselves can barely make ends meet," says Igor Saric.
Most customers are Albanians: Stanislav Stojanovic, potter
"After the arrival of the international mission in Kosovo and Metohija the entire industrial zone of Orahovac, all agricultural and industrial facilities remained on the other side of the line of demarcation in the lower part of the city and inaccessible to the Serbs. Since 1999 no one has attempted to reinstate them in their jobs because their companies are undergoing a privatization process. "We complained to the Agency for Privatization. There are not enough jobs for the Albanians, either, and barely 15 percent of them are employed," says Dejan Baljosevic, the deputy chief of the UNMIK Local Community Office for Velika Hoca and Orahovac.
According to Baljosevic, the remaining Serbs live from pensions, social assistance, and by renting their houses to foreigners. In Velika Hoca the situation is even more difficult because there are not as many foreigner renters who, as a rule, prefer to live in Serb settlements. The wine industry is also going through difficult times. In Velika Hoca about 30 percent of the vineyards once belonging to Serbs are being cultivated; in Orahovac it is only 10 to 15 percent.
"We can travel from upper Orahovac to Velika Hoca at our own risk. We always go in groups. Some act as sentries while the others work. Many people don't know what happened to their property located further away from the city and in the hills. We lack escorts for regular pruning, spraying and harvesting of the vineyards," say the Orahovac Serbs.
OSCE advisory roleThe OSCE department for democratization in Orahovac covers three municipalities: Orahovac, Djakovica and Malisevo. "Each of these three municipalities has its own characteristics and its own problems that are a priority. Malisevo is a rural municipality where only 2,500 people live in the town. A lot is being done there on information distribution in the villages, which are presently cut off from municipal institutions, which is also the case in other municipalities. In Djakovica there are a lot of minority communities but no Serbs. There work is being done on returns of the Roma community, many of whom are currently displaced in Podgorica [in Montenegro]. In Orahovac we have a problem with the return of the Serb community, which is currently also being addressed by the Committee for communities, whose job it is supervise decisions and actions of the municipalities, as well as to ensure respect for rights of all communities in the municipality," says Alexandra Simpson. She adds that in the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Kosovo and Metohija OSCE will have an advisory role for which a special department will have responsibility. "In Orahovac we have local elections officials who are working together with municipal officials. Everything is up to the people and local politicians who need to see what they need to do in order to get people to vote. Our job is to ensure that they know the law and their jobs when they are elected to the institutions," notes Simpson.
Pottery and tarambukasOne of the few trades that has survived the new living conditions in Orahovac is that of the potter. Stanislav Stojanovic, a potter from Orahovac, learned his trade from his father. He used to live with his family in the lower part of town. "We were the only Serb house among the Albanians. They were good neighbors and my main customers. They also delivered my materials. When we moved here into a friend's house, they came from the Solidarites organization and asked me whether I wanted to work in my trade and provided me with the necessary machines. I fixed them up a little. I am not working as much as before because in this crisis it is difficult to obtain clay, oxide, glaze... Before 100 euros would pay for a truckload of earth from Djakovica, now they are asking for 400. The problem is that there is also no demand," says Stojanovic. He says that Albanians are still his main customers. They buy only ceramic parts for chimneys, which Stojanovic sells for four euros, although he claims he could get at least twice that at the farmer's market. "Serbs buy mostly earthenware pots, so-called 'kalenice', which they send to central Serbia. Here everyone already has them. My pension is only 5,800 dinars [$80] and we are a family of five. I have three children going to school. I could not survive just with my trade. Out of the ten of us, only one other brother and myself are potters. He moved somewhere close to Gornja Batocina and went completely bankrupt. There is no work for him, he has no income and he has four children. I don't have enough to help him because we are barely making ends meet," says Stojanovic. His tarambukas [vase drums] sound better than their popular Arab counterparts. "Not everyone knows how to make tarambukas. I was fortunate that an Albanian who played the tarambuka in an Albanian orchestra taught me how to make them. Later, circumstances forced me to learn how to mount the skins. One needs solvent, a young goat's skin, which gives the best sound, that needs to be tanned, dried, soaked and prepared," explains Stojanovic.
Zivorad Grkovic, a former deputy in the Serbian Parliament, says that the remaining Serbs in Orahovac are divided "into poor people and people who have a back up, many of whom have already built houses in central Serbia".
"Ninety percent of those remaining are elderly people whose families have already been moved to central Serbia, and who stayed behind to sell the land and house. A second group are those who are receiving salaries: educators, medical and municipal staff, 70 percent of whom have built houses in central Serbia. They can't find a common language with someone who is receiving a miserable social assistance payment, let alone with those who have nothing. There has been no assistance of any sort since April. There is no money, no freedom, no electricity, no water... So far the Serbian Government has paid three months of compensation for laid off industrial workers; it still owes eight months. It's 5,800 dinars each. I really don't know if one can survive with that much money. God forbid if we should start paying water and electricity," says Grkovic.
"I've gone to the Coordination Center. I've bombarded the various ministries with stories about life here. They're not interested. I am especially surprised by Mr. Covic, who has created such divisions among the people. Last year he came and told us decisively: 'Those who want to go can go; those who want to stay can stay.' Before he used to talk so much about how Serbia stood behind us and in front of us. Unfortunately, Serbia has done nothing yet for Kosovo. Instead of helping the Serb people, our politicians just give bombastic statements when the Albanians kill some Serb or when it's election time," says Zivorad Grkovic categorically.
Alexandra Simpson of Britain, the head of the team for democratization of the OSCE department for democratization in Orahovac, says that things are not all black and that there is an initiative by Albanian private business owners to employ workers from the Serb community in their factories. In Orahovac there are currently two Albanian private farms, one producing wine and the other roof tiles, which are looking for Serb workers. The Albanian language press wrote about it but the Serb side suspects it is "a marketing ploy on the part of Albanians who want to get loans to begin working because many foreign investors provide loans only for multiethnic projects".
"Nevertheless, we see this as a positive initiative in which we can assist. At the end of the last year we worked with the municipality to draw up a plan for the integration of municipal officials from the Serb community back to the Municipality but March 17 had a negative impact on the situation. We don't provide donations but we invest a lot of effort in assisting the establishment of contacts," says Simpson.
She notes that OSCE in Orahovac currently has a concrete project, a Youth assembly whose participants are secondary school students. "We took care to also include children from the rural communities. During the training process they will learn about the functioning of democratic institutions. A joint camp will be organized for children from 10 municipalities where this project is being implemented. Our goal is for young people to have a defined position regarding their needs so that they will participate in the work of the municipalities and resolve their problems. After the first meeting everyone went together to a park in the city," emphasized Simpson.
At the beginning of August the Youth center founded by the German NGO "Students for life" celebrated its fourth anniversary of work. Both Serb municipal representatives and Serb youth, for whom a satellite office of the Center has been opened in the upper town, were invited to attend the main celebration held in the headquarters of the Center near the bus station in lower (Albanian) Orahovac.
Handshakes and greetings exchanged with the hosts, all of whom speak Serbian was the extent of the Serb-Albanian social mixing with the exception of an Orahovac reporter who briefly joined the Serb group.
The situation did not change after the "mandatory" formal ceremony, where all the speeches were in Albanian and without translation despite the fact that at least half of the guests were Serbs. International representatives had their personal translators at their side. After the formal introduction, accompanied by discrete easy listening music, the hosts started blasting latest Albanian pop hits, thereby filling the gap between the Serbs and the Albanians. Those familiar with local conditions claim that when Albanians visit the upper part of town they behave differently and far more casually. All things considered, it is hard to overcome the impression of most residents of Orahovac that it was all "a costume party for the cameras and a photo op".