Participating in the work of yesterday's gathering, held thanks to the support of the Republican senator from Ohio, George Voinovich, were representatives of the Armenian, Greek, Russian, Ethiopian and Serbian Orthodox Churches.
Expressing the hope that democratic changes in Belgrade, changes in the US administration and changes in the leadership of UNMIK in Pristina would contribute to finding "a democratic and peaceful solution for all problems both in Kosovo and in the south of Serbia", Bishop Artemije stressed the fact that since the arrival of KFOR in the southern Serbian province in June 1999, over 100 Serb churches and monasteries have been destroyed or damaged and also that two-thirds of the Serb population has left Kosmet due to pressure.
He warned that the new evils being committed by Albanians against the Serb residents of Kosmet are being carried out with the goal of "cleansing everything that is not Albanian" from Kosmet and thus "securing the recognition of an independent Kosovo by the international community, which would only serve as an introduction for the creation of Greater Albania".
Senator Voinovich, emphasizing the great role of Serb Patriarch Pavle and the Serb Orthodox Church in the changes which have occurred in Serbia, said that the Patriarch, without becoming directly involved in politics, was successful in uniting the Serbian people in that battle.
Despite the changes, some problems remain and the greatest of them is certainly Kosovo, said Voinovich. He advised that he had spoken with representatives of the Kosmet Albanians, Ibrahim Rugova and Hashim Thaci and that he had told them "to influence their compatriots to honor the second commandment of the Lord which says - Love thy neighbor as thyself."
The Serbs demanded the arrest of the Albanian murders and kidnappers who have murdered, wounded and kidnapped more than 20 Serbs from Sirinicka Zupa since the arrival of international peacekeeping forces in Kosovo and Metohija. Also, they demanded the replacement of present municipal administrator Charles Messier because of "his sympathies towards the Albanians".
As far as security is concerned, said Redjic, the deputy commander of Bondsteel had promised the Serbs that in the future their visits to central Serbia and return to Mt. Sar would be safer.
Colonel Camina promised that in the future every bus would include four KFOR troops as passengers; that there would be one KFOR vehicle for every three Serb vehicles in the convoy and that a helicopter belonging to international forces would fly over the column of vehicles.
In the meanwhile, in the center of Strpce more than 2,000 residents of Sirinicka Zupa held a protest meeting following the most recent attack by, Mayor Redjic stressed, forest bandits on the convoy returning from Belgrade to Mt. Sar with tragic consequences.
In addition to Redjic's speech to those gathered regarding the results of talks with representative of international peacekeeping forces and UN representatives, the Serbs at the protest were also addressed by Momcilo Trajkovic, the chairman of the Yugoslav Committee for Kosovo and Metohija.
He conveyed to the Ilic family the condolences of the president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Dr. Vojislav Kostunica, on the tragic death of Staja Ilic. Expressing his own condolences to the family as well, Trajkovic appealed for calm on the part of the protesters, saying that the Serbs of Sirinicka Zupa and of Kosovo and Metohija could as a whole survive in their ancestral homes only through peace and cooperation with KFOR and UNMIK.
Following the protest meeting, Trajkovic attended the funeral of Staja Ilic at the local cemetery in the hamlet of Sevce.
At the time of this writing, not a single incident has occurred in Sirinicka Zupa, which since last night has been protected by strong KFOR forces and UNMIK police that arrived last night from Kacanik, Prizren, the American base Bondsteel near Urosevac and Stimlje.
As a reminder: Last night's Serb protests did not end until about midnight. In a series of incidents, numerous civilians were injured and, according to the UNMIK and KFOR information service, more than 10 policemen and soldiers were injured by stones during last night's unrest. In these disturbances, UNMIK and KFOR advised, seven vehicles belonging to international organizations were destroyed.
Rada Babic of Nerodimlje and Dragana Velickovic of Strpce, who were injured yesterday during thee attack on the convoy, are i stable condition.
In the afternoon hours a meeting was scheduled between the chairman of the Yugoslav Committee for Kosovo and Metohija, Momcilo Trajkovic, and local leaders of political parties and organizations from Sirinicka Zupa.
by Mirjana KUBUROVIC
Generally sparse in his praise, especially of books that seek to peer into the soul of the monastery and its monks, Bishop Artemije said of the book which Dragan S. Tanasijevic entitled "Guardians of Sacred Treasure" that it is needed both by today's generations of Serbs and by generations yet to be born.
What would qualify this book's inclusion in the treasury of eternal values? The fact that the author of the Decani black and white photo study, or study of light upon darkness, has saved from obscurity this moment in time when Decani, an imperial treasure, both is and is not what it was before. It is because even now the endowment of Emperor Stefan of Decani still gathers monks within its walls, the guardians of these ancient holy artifacts and its artistic and spiritual treasures. But it also is not because the monastery, a holy site for all the local peoples, Serbs and others, the Orthodox and the Muslim, now cannot be reached freely but only with a special permit and with an armed KFOR escort. The holy site is under constant guard.
All this is recorded and preserved for the ages in a photo monograph whose text is published in Serbian and in another six languages (Greek, Russian, Italian, German, French and English). The 106 black and white photographs bear witness to the past and the present and open the path to the future. Because, as Dusan Milovanovic writes in the introduction to this beautiful and practical book, in Decani more than in other monasteries, there is a successful and harmonious joining of monks' tradition with the achievements of modern technology. Father Sava sent more information into the world on Kosovo and Metohija by the Internet than all of Serbia. "That is why these Decani monks, the majority of whom entered the monastery with a university degree, are not only monks who pray to God for the absolution of sin of the sinful and humiliated Serb people and not only guardians of this magnificent and noble monastery and its defenders from every form of evil, but also true heroes of these present times," wrote Dusan Milovanovic.
Speaking on behalf of the publisher, Dusan Vidakovic said that the book reflects the need to finally state openly "what happened to this part of the Serb people and to the Serbs in general" because facts have been hidden and mystified. The author has perhaps the greatest right to shed light on the subject because he was a member of the general staff of the Serb Krajina Army and a witness of the fateful events that led to the catastrophic result.
The editor of the book, Dusan Milovanovic, offered similar arguments, with this highlight: "It is tragic that at that time we allowed ourselves to be led by immature and irresponsible leaders who were only capable of leading us into a national catastrophe".
One of book's promoters, retired General Dusan Pekic, presented a somewhat different perspective on the basic thesis of the book. He praised the author, who worked on the basis of accessible documentation from the archives of the Krajina Army; however, Pekic nevertheless stated that Knin in fact fell in Knin and that Milosevic only sacrificed Krajina during the final negotiations in Dayton in order win the recognition of the Republic of Srpska! In Pekic's opinion, Krajina's cause was harmed the most by extremists who prevented the activities of Jovan Raskovic, the first leader of the Krajina Serbs, who sought solutions that would enable the survival of the Serbs within the framework of [an independent] Croatia.
Captain Dragan was sharply critical, although seemingly for no valid reason, of the Krajina Army. He believes that in the book [militia] volunteers are cast in an unnecessarily negative light and that their lack of discipline was primarily the Army's responsibility...
Military analyst Ljubodrag Stojadinovic assessed the book by saying that it is controversial both in terms of its quality as well in its efforts to attest to the fact that Krajina was handled in the worst manner possible. The end result could only be as good as the political clique, war profiteers and other losers would allow and all this was connected with Belgrade and Milosevic. "Actually, Belgrade fell in Knin!" said Stojadinovic, and Kosmet followed as a matter of course.
Savo Strbac, the director of Veritas documentation center, believes that the value of this book lies in the fact that it is based on military documentation; however, in order to have a comprehensive view of the truth, new investigations and other perspectives are also essential. It is not true that nothing was good about Krajina, emphasized Strbac. Consequently, he said, he was surprised by the fact that the author at times seems to have succumbed to attempts to satanize the Serbs. The tragedy of Krajina must also be viewed as a consequence of international events. "Knin fell in Belgrade and in Pale but also in Washington, London and the Vatican because we were a small toy in the hands of the big players," he concluded.
General Sekulic, as the author and direct witness, recalled the Croatian Operation Storm. In the middle of the offensive that attacked the territory of the Republic of Srpska Krajina from all sides, a telegram arrived in Knin from Belgrade: "Hold out for ten days!" This did not mean that military or any kind of other help was on its way; it meant the intentional exposure of people to massacre, something the regime at the time needed to collect new points.
The book was published by the German publisher "Nida Verlag" which also publishes the [Serb language] daily Vesti in Frankfurt.
by M. LAKETIC
More than 11,000 books in the Serbian language were first shredded on the factory production lines and then further processed. Books in other languages (English, German, French, Russian, Czech, Turkish...) relating to Serbian culture were also not spared.
The owner of this company, certain B. Gjelali, sold 18.7 tons of books (in the form of processed raw material, that is, waste paper) to a priest in Vladicin Han for 129,000 dinars. Djeljalji transported the books from Mitrovica to Vladicin Han on January 19 of this year.
Workers saved approximately 1,000 books purely by accident when the last bale became untied before it was tossed into a cooking kettle. The supervisor of the Mitrovica library, Olivera Stevic, informed us that approximately 500 books damaged by dampness were delivered to the northern part of Mitrovica while another 500 were taken home by Fokus employees and are currently being returned.
While the supervisor of the library visited Vladicin Han, her colleague Dajana Gocmanac visited the library in the southern part of the city with a KFOR escort and representatives of their liaison agency SIMIK. The self-appointed director Mustafa Hajrulahu was informed by members of UNMIK of the arrival of librarian Dajana Gocmanac.
During talks with Gocmanac and international representatives, Hajrulahu constantly claimed that Serb books were kept there as well as the Albanian ones. However, the experienced eye of Mrs. Gocmanac could not help but observe the empty shelves. Missing from the shelves in the supervisor's office which is now occupied by Mustafa Hajrulahu are the following representative editions: the collected works of Dostoyevsky, numerous encyclopedias and books on the history of the Serb and Montenegrin peoples without a publication date which represent literary, cultural and scientific treasures. Remaining on the shelves was only the Koran translated into the Serb language, an atlas of the world published in Zagreb and one copy of the Larousse encyclopedia.
Jastrebov lived for about 30 years at the end of the 19th century in Kosovska Mitrovica and Prizren, researching and writing numerous ethnological, historical and other cultural works on Serb and Albanian development. His writings were denounced by Albanian historians in the 1980's. His works most probably ended, like others during the time of Hitler, on the pyre.
Serbs employed in the Mitrovica library during the last year and a half insisted before SIMIK and UNMIK's agency for cultural development that books in the Serb language be transferred from the southern to the northern part of the city. Their requests were forcefully rejected with the explanation that multiethnic Kosovska Mitrovica would share one common library.
However, because of the irresponsible behavior of representatives of the international community, all Serb books and others, regardless of what language they are written in, which relate to the development of Serb culture, were destroyed at the end of January.
It is worth adding that Mrs. Svetlana Panceva from Bulgaria is in charge in UNMIK for culture and responsible for the preservation of Serb books. This is something she is obviously not doing.
We also remind that the Serb books have disappeared from the libraries of Prizren, Pec, Djakovica, Podujevo... Nothing is known regarding the fate of the university and national libraries in Pristina.
"For a long time I refused to be a member of the Joint Committee for Returns because in the beginning its function was illusory, that is, it was a smoke screen by the UNMIK administration for all the failures and omissions toward the Serbs. However, the Serb National Council (SNC) of northern Kosmet and its team of experts created a concrete plan for the return of the expelled in the region of Klina and Istok municipalities and the Mitrovica area."
Despite everyday provocations, more than 2,000 Serbs still live in Lipljan. These Serbs, stresses Ivanovic, "must be protected in order to, at the same time, protect a link: the area where they live is connected to the Sitnica Valley, where several thousand more Serbs still live".
"There were no returns due to lack of security even though UNMIK and KFOR promised they would provide it. For us safety is an existential issue and not the political issue that international intermediaries believe it to be. Returns in and of themselves increase the level of safety and if there are no returns, in the end we will all have to leave. In five years, under this kind of pressure, there will be no more Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija," believes Ivanovic. "As a modern, new and democratic state, we need to be more open in including the international community in resolving this issue in a manner that will provide us with a realistic perspective."
"Because representatives of KFOR and UNMIK are frequently replaced, we are always forced to begin our story from the beginning with the new people. No sooner do they gain an understanding of the essence of the problem, their tour of duty is over, they leave and we are spinning in a circle. Another problem is that they don't understand Serbs, partly as a result of indoctrination and partly because they stay in Pristina where our problems cannot be seen. Because there are no more Serbs in Pristina; the few that are there are individuals, translators or serving in some other capacity. These Serbs are escorted by police and so their safety problem is solved. On two or three occasions we asked the UNMIK administration to relocate several departments from Pristina to the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica. If UN representatives associated with Serbs, they would have direct understanding of our problems," says Ivanovic. He adds that frequently "representatives of KFOR in some concrete cases see that Serbs are victims of Albanian unruliness; however, they quickly gloss over it."
At the end of last month, relations between KFOR and the Serb National Council, which were decent earlier, began to grow cooler. Two weeks ago, the members of KFOR conducted a night raid of the SNC's offices.
"Even though they expected to find heaven knows what, on that occasion they found nothing. But in any case that was a conscious provocation aimed at provoking a reaction on our part. However, this turned out to be a rationalization; it was, by the way, the first raid of a political party or association in Kosmet. It all seems stranger still if one keeps in mind that some Albanian political parties that have ties to terrorist organizations have never been raided. KFOR is aware that some associations are in possession of great quantities of weapons but they have not conducted searches of their facilities," emphasized Ivanovic.
In the fall of 1999, four Albanian young men who participated in the destruction of this holy site became psychologically ill. One of them died seven months later and the number of Albanian vandals from Zociste and neighboring Opterusa who became ill increased to 12, the Albanians in the committee to restore the monastery recently told Father Milenko. The locals are convinced that the Albanian people have fallen under a curse.
Historians claim that the Church of the Holy Healers Cosmas and Damian was built at the beginning of the 8th century and restored several times. The most recent renovation with a semi-round vault and a wide narthex was built on the foundations of the old church. The donors (13th century) were senior church officials as this monastery was the seat of the diocese at that time.
During the past ten centuries, this monastery has been the sanctuary of the ill who came to worship before the holy relics. After the arrival of the Turks in the Balkans and the Islamization of the Albanians, the locals of Zociste and all of Metohija honored the tradition of protecting this monastery. The monastery brotherhood, in accordance with the wishes of the Muslim faithful, permitted Albanians who were ailing to sleep on the lounge before the chest containing the holy relics and prayed for their recovery.
The last time reporters of Politika visited the monastery in September 1998 they were witness to an Albanian pilgrimage to the Church of the Holy Healers when the prior at that time, Jovan, prayed for the recovery of an Albanian woman.
However, ten days later, Albanian terrorists kidnapped Prior Jovan and seven monks. They were released four days later by the kidnappers following the intervention of the OSCE and the International Red Cross. At that time the monastery was not physically damaged; however, the church was desecrated and all valuables were looted from the residence hall and the church treasury.
After release from a private jail for Serbs, set up by the terrorists in Malisevo, the brotherhood spent the night in Gracanica and, without a moment's hesitation, again returned to Zociste. Prior Jovan was soon appointed as head of the monastery of Celije while Father Romilo was appointed to the position of prior.
After the burning down and destruction of the monastery of Zociste, the monks were temporarily sent to Crna Reka where they and other monasteries of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren heard word of the intent to restore the church which made them happy and filled them with hope of returning to the holy site that was spiritually active for 14 centuries.
For more information on destroyed and desecrated Serbian shrines, please see the publication "Crucified Kosovo"
In addition to expressions of condolence to the families of the victims, political parties, associations and individuals sharply condemn the international forces, especially KFOR, for failing to rein in terrorist gangs and disarm Albanian extremists.
In a statement of the executive board of the Serb National Council of Kosovska Mitrovica, it is said that they have repeatedly warned that spring this year in Kosovo and Metohija could come early and be bloody but representatives of the international community, especially KFOR and General Cabigiosu, do not want to understand this.
"The chain of terrorist attacks is growing in length. Kosovska Mitrovica, Strpce, Crepulja, Podujevo - while KFOR silently stands by and watches as these tragic events occur. They will probably continue to do the same thing until there is not a single Serb or other non-Albanian left in Kosmet."
We unconditionally demand that KFOR finally comprehend that without the Serbs, the international mission in Kosovo and Metohija cannot succeed. Instead of holding histrionic press conferences, General Cabigiosu must finally focus all of his attention on the security situation or leave the office of KFOR commander in Kosmet as soon as possible, says the SNC of Mitrovica statement.
According to the statement of the Socialist Party of Serbia this crime "is directly related to the proposed federal law on amnesty which emboldened the Albanian terrorists to continue committing crimes".
"The common goal of all these frequent attacks is to force out the remaining Serbs and Montenegrins and. The attacks are a clear message to those wanting to return not to do so. Today's attack is a response by Albanian gangs to the Serb offer to resolve issues in the south of Serbia and in Kosovo and Metohija through peaceful means," emphasized the member of the federal parliament, Veljko Odalovic [of the Socialist Party of Serbia].
The statement of the Yugoslav United Left emphasizes that this act of terrorism once again confirms that "the international community through its tolerant approach has emboldened the Albanian separatists to continue the merciless killing and intimidation of the non-Albanian population and further ethnic cleansing of the southern Serbian province".
At the moment when the Serbian Government is undertaking all measures toward the resolution of inherited problems in Kosmet and the south of Serbia through a policy of restraint and tolerance in a very tense situation "this failure to act on the part of KFOR forces further complicates the situation in these areas and leads us to question the reason for the existence of these 'observer' forces," emphasizes the Civic Alliance of Serbia.
We expect that the Albanian community in Kosmet will finally summon the strength to disown the extremists among its ranks "because that is the only way of avoiding a spiral of violence", says the statement of the Socialdemocratic Union.
The escalation of violence by terrorists in Kosovo and Metohija demands a final and explicit reaction by the international community, which is, according to UN Resolution 1244, responsible for securing the safety of all citizens in Kosovo and Metohija, the information service of the Democratic Socialist Party advised.
The deputy Prime Minister of Serbia and leader of the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians, Joszef Kasza, last night condemned the bomb attack on the bus at Podujevo and said that he and the Hungarian people condemn every form of violence and terrorism, adding that "in no case" can acts of violence be justified.
"These are not 'extremists' nor 'armed Albanians', as they are now called, but terrorists and Nazis, and the reason why 'passengers and citizens' were murdered is exclusively due to the fact that they were Serbs," assesses the Serb Renewal Movement.
"All the official diplomatic plans and moves of the Serbian Government and the international community for the resolution of the serious conflict in Kosmet and the south of Serbia and concrete proposals for the establishment of standards and the establishment of the foundations of multiethnic coexistence in accordance with international standards of democracy and recognition of rights of all national communities in Serbia and Yugoslavia have been answered with yet another repulsive crime! At the same time, this represents a perfectly clear response and - if greeted with silence - an unpunished perfect crime," emphasizes the Writers' Association of Serbia.