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ERP KIM Two reports from Aug 20 - Hard life of the first Serb returnees to Bicha village

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  • Snezana Lazovic
    INFORMATION SERVICE OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX DIOCESE OF RASKA AND PRIZREN KOSOVO AND METOHIJA We are enclosing two reports in English which appeared on Aug 20
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2002
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      INFORMATION SERVICE OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX DIOCESE OF RASKA AND PRIZREN
      KOSOVO AND METOHIJA

      We are enclosing two reports in English which appeared on Aug 20 in our Serbian
      language edition:

      Press release from Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija headquarters
      received from Dr. Rada Trajkovic

      RETURN OF EXPELLED SERBS TO KOSOVO AND METOHIJA MUST CONTINUE DESPITE PRESSURES
      FROM ALBANIAN EXTREMISTS

      Gracanica, August 20, 2002

      In the past two days in the village of Stupelj near Klina Albanian demonstrations
      have been held under the slogan "Do not allow Serb criminals to return." This
      development is yet another indicator that in Albanian society in Kosovo and
      Metohija extremists who are constantly inciting the local population to violence
      against Serbs still have the main word. Stupelj is located only two kilometers
      from the Metohija village of Bicha, where some 20 Serbs recently returned in
      anticipation of the return of 100 Serb families in the near future. Approximately
      200 Serb returnees have been living in the nearby village of Osojane for the past
      year.

      The Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija (SNV KIM) most strongly condemns
      this behavior which is in contradiction to the basic right of the expelled Serbs
      and all other expelled citizens to return to their homes as well as the wishes of
      the international community, which has accepted the responsibility under UN
      Security Council 1244 of making it possible for all displaced persons to return to
      their homes.

      Without the return of expelled Serbs to Kosovo and Metohija there can be no
      building of a democratic society in this region, there can be no integration of
      national communities and there can be no future for either Serbs or Albanians. The
      Serb people have expressed their willingness to participate in the building of
      democratic institutions in the Province through their political representatives
      but only if these institutions are to work on securing rights and equality for all
      citizens.

      By placing conditions on the return of the expelled for nonobjective reasons and
      collectively accusing the Serbs extremist Albanian factors are obviously
      attempting to stop the increasing intolerance of the international community
      toward these extremists, who for the past three years have persecuted innocent
      civilians, destroyed precious religious monuments and economically devastated
      society with organized crime and violence in the presence of the international
      community. It is obvious that the attempt is being made to use hate toward the
      Serbs and accusations against the Serbs for the recent arrests of KLA leaders to
      once again homogenize the Albanian population on the bases of extremist national
      ideas so that the international community, faced with civil arrest, will cease
      bringing the perpetrators to justice," stated Dr. Rada Trajkovic, the head of the
      Return (Povratak) Coalition caucus in the Kosovo parliament.

      It is the right of every expelled Serb or Albanian to return in peace and dignity
      to the place of his residence. This right must not be placed under any kind of
      conditions; if there are those who are suspected of having in any way participated
      in dishonorable and illegal actions, there are investigative processes and courts
      to address this. No one's responsibility can be prejudiced without an objective
      investigation and a court trial because every man is innocent before the law until
      his guilt is objectively proven. Promotion of the collective guilt of the Serb
      people after three years of the unprecedented terror conducted by Albanian
      extremists against Serbs, Roma, Bosniacs, moderate Albanians, even international
      policemen and troops, represents an unsuccessful attempt on the part of the
      extremists to free themselves of the responsibility which is clearly seen by the
      world today and condemned with full justification.

      The Serb National Council expects that the international community will do
      everything necessary to prevent the manipulation of ordinary citizens and that the
      process of returns for displaced Serbs, Roma and others will be intensified with
      the goal of building a contemporary democratic and multiethnic community.

      /end text/

      ===============================================

      Politika, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
      August 20, 2002

      IN BICHA, THE SMALLEST SERB ENCLAVE IN KOSMET

      Doncic Family Returns to Its Ancestral Home

      We have nothing left except the desire to stay and build a new life on our
      centuries-old homes

      By Marko R. Pavlovic

      After three full years as refugees on July 29 of this year 16 Serbs again walked
      along the unpaved road leading through their native village of Bicha in Klina
      municipality, Kosovo and Metohija. Nothing was left here of what they had left on
      June 17, 1999. Only memories and a stray stone or roof tile on the ruins of one of
      the houses of the 420 Serbs who formerly inhabited Bicha were there to remind them
      that this was their native village.

      Among the returnees are 15 members of the Doncic family, ranging from the
      youngest, Boban, some 30 years old, to the only woman among them, Slobodanka,
      responsible for cooking and cleaning, to the oldest, 84 year-old Dragic Doncic.
      They returned of their own free will, they said, because this is where their roots
      lie and they have no intention of living away from their land.

      "This place has been remote for the past 1,000 years but nevertheless we are
      returning," said Stojan Doncic as he stood in front of a pile of trash and debris
      which used to be his house. The road to Bicha is a winding one, full of potholes,
      leading from Klina into the gently rolling hills of Metohija. In this fertile
      region there were once two other Serb villages in addition to Bicha in which,
      according to Stojan Doncic, not a single foundation of the former houses in them
      remains.

      Horrible spectacle

      "The graves have been destroyed; in some cases, they have been plowed under. The
      wells are filled up. There is no electricity or drinking water. Even the Turks did
      not do anything like this during their 500 years of rule," said Stojan. The house
      of his birth was destroyed in February of this year or two and a half years after
      the arrival of international forces in Kosmet. This region was inhabited by some
      of the most extremist Albanians and only two kilometers after a nearby hill lies
      the native village of Hashim Thaci.

      Only ruins remain

      The Italian KFOR troops who provided our escort likewise could not remain
      indifferent before the horrific scene of violence toward everything reminding of
      the existence of the Serbs in this region. General Adriano Skedi, the Italian
      military attaché in Belgrade and high-ranking officers of the Italian contingent
      within Multinational Brigade West, based in Pec and with Bicha in their area of
      responsibility, could see for themselves the great desire of Serbs from Kosmet to
      return to their centuries-old homes as well as the degree to which that is at
      present impossible.

      The only building remaining in Bicha, apparently because the terrorists ran out of
      dynamite so they only smashed it up with sledge hammers, today serves the Serb
      returnees as a place to rest and cook lunch. This part of the work is mostly taken
      care of by Slobodanka while her husband Radomir and the other Doncices spend their
      days clearing the terrain in order to rebuild the destroyed buildings with the
      help of the Spanish soldiers who protect them.

      "We are living in tents right now. We were promised much but none of it
      materialized. We sleep on the earth; living conditions are difficult; our water is
      brought in water trucks. Despite everything we have the desire to remain and build
      a new life on our centuries-old homes," explained Stojan Doncic, adding that it is
      necessary to obtain machines and tools for working the land, as well as to create
      conditions for the return of children to the region. He said that the closest
      school and medical clinic is 12 kilometers away. If they want to go to Serbia to
      visit their family, it takes a month to prepare and their only connection with the
      world is a single cell phone.

      Uncertainty and fear

      "This cannot be considered freedom of movement or a normal life," said Stojan,
      shaking his head, his eyes roaming across the earth in search of some invisible
      particle. He quietly says that Serbs must begin to return to their ancient homes,
      that this is not easy but that it must be endured. He knows that only the most
      courageous will be able to do it; he is aware of the situation of the Serb people
      in Kosmet. Stojan Doncic is the former chairman of the Klina municipal executive
      committee; he was the last of the former municipal officials to leave the region
      and the first to return.

      After the withdrawal of the Yugoslav Army and Serbian police in June 1999 the
      Albanians kidnapped several Serbs from Bicha and the surrounding villages. Only
      one managed to escape through a window and tell the story of the torture they
      endured while imprisoned. According to his eyewitness testimony, all kidnapped
      persons were later killed.

      As twilight falls the local residents of the smallest Serb enclave in Kosmet and
      their "hosts", the Spanish KFOR troops, prepare for the night which always brings
      insecurity, tension and fear.

      While passing through Klina upon our return to Pec we see the remnants of two
      tanks se on fire at a gas station and traces of Serb houses and businesses, as
      well as roadside "monuments" to KLA terrorists, each bearing a high flying
      Albanian flag. Peonies no longer bloom here.

      Translations S. Lazovic, KDN

      =====================================

      Information Service of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren
      Kosovo and Metohija
      erpkim@...

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