Kosovo brick factory builds bridges
Kosovo brick factory builds bridges
By Nick Hawton
BBC News, Kamenica, Kosovo
Workmen shout as a lorry reverses in a muddy factory yard - just like
in any other brick factory.
But here, near the town of Kamenica in Kosovo, just 4km (2.5 miles)
from the border with Serbia proper, something quite extraordinary is
happening. Albanians and Serbs are working together.
In a province ravaged by ethnic conflict, where the two main
communities barely talk to each other, this is a unique place.
"We had some initial problems from extremists who didn't want to see
Serbs and Albanians working together.
"But with help from American troops stationed nearby we eventually
turned them away," says Mustafe Borovci, one of the two Albanian
brothers, who run the company.
"One of the conditions to work here, for both Albanians and Serbs, is
that they don't talk about politics in the workplace," he says.
Kosovo, which technically remains a part of Serbia and Montenegro but
is in practice run by the international community, remains deeply
divided between its majority Albanian population and Serb minority.
In March this year, Albanian mobs attacked Serb communities and
churches in the worst outbreak of violence since Nato bombed the
Serbian security forces out of the province in 1999.
Most Serbs live huddled in small enclaves protected by K-For troops,
unable to travel freely. But this is not the case in the municipality
of Kamenica where the brick factory is located.
Foreman Serb Radmir Stojanovic, 40, says relations between the
workers are excellent.
"I don't like politics. We are all people, Albanians and Serbs. We
have the same rights," he says.
"I try to be the same boss and have the same relations with Albanians
and Serbs," he says.
Part of the secret is that the region did not experience much
fighting during the war.
Albanian guerrillas did not really operate in the area and the Serb
security forces were relatively restrained.
On the edge of town is the Saint Nicholas, Serbian Orthodox Church.
The priest, Dragoljub Stevanovic, 69, says relations are not perfect.
During the riots in March, he scared away some Albanians from the
Church by using a battery radio and making the sound of a police
"But that was unusual," he tells me. "There's been no evil in this
area. Relations are better than anywhere else in Kosovo.
"Serbs and Albanians visit each other's shops and cafes. There is
just more tolerance here."
In October, elections were held for the Kosovo Assembly.
The vast majority of Serbs boycotted the poll because they feel their
rights have been ignored by Albanian politicians and by the
Back at the brick factory and it is lunchtime. Today it is cabbage
Serbs and Albanians sharing the same canteen. Shemsi Krasnici, 40, an
Albanian, is taking a break from his job of heating up the bricks.
"What happens outside the factory doesn't really influence our
relationships inside," says Mr Krasnici says.
"This is a privately owned enterprise and the owner requires lots of
work so we have no time to really discuss politics since we are busy
"The most important thing is to do a good job, get along well and
keep the job," he says.
The international community is keen to highlight cases like Kamenica,
hoping they can prove a model for other areas to follow.
But with final status talks on the future of Kosovo likely to begin
next year, tensions could rise across the province.
The challenge for the international community will be to try to
maintain areas like Kamenica and avoid the bad blood that has
dominated the relations between both communities for so long.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/11/13 22:51:44 GMT
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