Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

From the diary of a Serb monk

Expand Messages
  • kosovo_au
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 9, 2002
    • 0 Attachment


      From the diary of a Serb monk
      (July 14- August 4)

      Text in PDF format with photos (920KB)


      July 14-18, 2002 – Zociste Monastery still in ruins

      It is with great anticipation that we awaited the first post-war
      liturgy at the ruins of Sts. Cosma and Damian Monastery in Zociste
      near Orahovac. This medieval shrine from the 14th century has lain in
      ruins for three years after being set on fire and subsequently blown
      up by Albanian extremists. I recall with melancholy the wonderful
      feast days before the war when a great number of people gathered in
      this shrine from the entire Prizren region. Not infrequently,
      Albanians and Roma came as well. Now there are almost no Serbs left
      here, with the exception of the nearby town of Velika Hoca, a few
      people in Orahovac and 67 souls in Prizren.

      The Albanians again provoked us by swearing and screaming during the
      entire length of the holy liturgy. Nevertheless, the service unfolded
      with dignity under strong KFOR security. To our great sorrow, in the
      afternoon we learned that the Albanians had entered the monastery and
      set fire to what little of it remained.

      Father Petar has been trying for days to enter the monastery and
      begin clearing the debris but KFOR persistently refuses to issue a
      permit. In the village next to the monastery there are troops from
      Turkey who are supposedly protecting the devastated church.
      Afterwards we learn that they, too, have departed. We sent two young
      monks in their twenties, Father Jovan and Father Marko, from Decani
      to assist Father Petar but it is becoming increasingly apparent that
      the Germans do not want to see the restoration of monastic life in
      Zociste. I ask myself how after a presence of three years KFOR is
      still unable to allow us to restore at least one of the 110 shrines
      razed after the war. It seems that KFOR is anxious to avoid the
      creation of new Serb enclaves. The Monastery of the Holy Anargyroi in
      Zociste remains in ruins without any hope of restoration in the near

      July 20, 2002 – Arrogance and hypocrisy instead of understanding

      A meeting with German Brigadier General Wolf-Dieter Skodowski in
      Gracanica was entirely unsatisfactory. I returned to Decani weary
      after two hours of riding in a vehicle of the German military police.
      Bishop Artemije once again asked the general to allow us to restore
      at least one of our destroyed shrines. His answer was negative.
      Instead of understanding, we encounter only the arrogance and
      hypocrisy of the world's mighty ones. For three years they have been
      promising us a multiethnic Kosovo but Kosovo has instead become
      increasingly a pure ethnic Albanian society. They are trying to
      convince us that the situation is better now than before, but we can
      hardly see any sign of progress. Quite on the contrary, the situation
      in certain areas has even deteriorated.

      July 23, 2002 –Kosovo, the Serbian archipelago

      Today we served in Osojane near Klina. Prayer in front of the half-
      destroyed church was an experience both disturbing and overwhelming.
      Nevertheless, during the entire service great joy and hope prevailed.
      For more than a year now Serb returnees to this Metohija village have
      managed to survive in near impossible conditions. Despite relatively
      modest means, slowly the houses are being rebuilt. We were especially
      delighted with the children, who bring hope of a better future to
      this until recently desolate valley. However, the residents of
      Osojane remain isolated, just like the other Serb enclaves. For three
      years the Serbs in this region have no freedom outside their
      protected enclaves.

      „Our conditions in this region most resemble an archipelago with
      several small- and larger-sized island enclaves between which we can
      travel only with a KFOR escort, as if by some sort of ferry,"
      explains the abbot of Decani, Father Teodosije, to a Spanish officer.

      July 23, 2002 – Remembrance of the massacre in Staro Gracko

      Today Bishop Artemije served a memorial service (panichida) in the
      village of Staro Gracko near Lipljan for the Serbs killed by the
      Albanians during the harvest in July of 1999, immediately after the
      end of the war. I will never forget the day when the priest from
      Lipljan, as white as a sheet, came to Gracanica Monastery to inform
      us of the massacre. We all headed for Staro Gracko with Bernard
      Koucher, who until then viewed the Serbs with prejudices. During the
      return from the village I felt that this tragedy had left a deep mark
      on him as well as on us. Several children were left fatherless. Now,
      I am told, the situation is not much better. The village is still
      besieged by the Albanians and the murderers were never uncovered, as
      in so many other similar instances.

      In the Serb cemetery of Dragodan near Pristina, the exhumation of
      Serb bodies has been unfolding for several days now. Some of the
      bodies have already been identified. They are the bodies of Serbs
      discovered by KFOR after the war and buried in this location,
      supposedly until conditions were right for their identification. In
      actuality, not one Albanian post-war crime from that time was
      investigated. The families of the missing await with dread the latest
      news even though we all now subconsciously know that none of the more
      than 1,200 kidnapped Serbs is still alive.

      July 25, 2002 – Peace for neither the dead nor the living

      Today we received news that a Serb convoy was stoned near Milosevo
      close to Pristina and that several vehicles were damaged.
      Fortunately, no one was injured. Only a month ago in the same
      village, the priest from Babin Most accompanied a group of visitors
      on All Souls' Day and they found almost all the graves had been
      vandalized. These incidents are not considered significant by the
      international forces in Kosovo and Metohija and are usually not
      reported in official press reports. It seems that it is necessary for
      someone to be murdered for the news to make it to the front page. The
      desecration of graves, the stoning of nuns and fragile, elderly women
      are regular occurances tolerated daily in order to put pressure on
      the remaining Serbs to depart from Kosovo and Metohija.

      The desecration of graves is a frequent occurence in our region of
      Metohija. Not far from Pec, in the villages of Brestovik and Siga,
      almost all the Serb graves were found dug up and the bones of the
      deceased were literally scattered around the cemetery. Father
      Radivoje Panic and Dr. Gordana Subaric filmed a shocking documentary
      film regarding this incident called „The Wind from the Grave".
      Despite all appeals to the international authorities, this horrible
      act of barbarism is being repeated at other cemeteries. I ask myself
      what the living Serbs have to hope for when even the dead have no

      July 26, 2002 – The miracle of Holy Archangels

      We finally greeted the 650th anniversary of the founding of the Holy
      Archangels Monastery near Prizren. I remained in Decani this time,
      impatiently awaiting the arrival of the brethren and the bishop, who
      were scheduled to come to the monastery with their escorts after the
      festivities. The bishop arrived late because the UNMIK police driving
      him in an armored vehicle took a wrong turn at Djakovica and
      apparently went as far as the Albanian border. I would not be
      surprised to learn that they entered Albania proper undetected since
      there is no longer any border between the province of Kosovo and
      Albania. Abbot Teodosije arrived with the Decani brethren only four
      hours later because Italian military transporters took them on an
      alternate route by way of Brezovica and Pristina due to the anti-Serb
      demonstrations in Prizren. We gathered together that evening and
      exchanged impressions from the celebration which, despite the rain,
      took place with great dignity and spiritual joy.

      Especially noteworthy were comments regarding the explosion heard in
      the Holy Archangels Monastery immediately after liturgy as many
      people still hovered in the church entrance. Later we learned that
      the Albanians had planted strong explosives some one hundred meters
      above the monastery in order to invoke the collapse of a part of the
      hill with a huge cliff directly on the monastery yard, thus burying
      the attendants. It is not difficult to imagine the extent of the
      tragedy had more than a mere one hundred grams of the total of 9
      kilos of highly volatile explosives planted on the hillside actually
      detonated. We praised God who, in answer to the prayers of the Holy
      Archangels, prevented yet another tragedy and spared many human lives.

      July 30, 2002 – Accomplishments of the sisters of the Pec Patriarchate

      Early in the morning today our brothers, Father Stefan and Father
      Ksenofont, left with an Italian military escort for the village of
      Bica, not far from Osojane, where an initial group of 14 expelled
      Serbs had returned the previous day. This is the second village in
      Metohija where Serbs returned after spending the last three years as
      refugees. In the afternoon, when the brethren returned to Decani, we
      reviewed the digital photos of this completely devastated village
      where revitalization efforts are now being made. After Father Stefan
      served the first holy liturgy the monks toured what remained of the
      village where even the fruit trees had been cut down by the
      Albanians. The sisters of the Monastery of the Pec Patriarchate
      brought lunch.

      Despite their own difficulties, including daily subjection to stoning
      and other provocations, these elderly nuns remain resolute and
      persevering, assisting returnees and preserving the Serb presence and
      faith in Pec, where they are now the only remaining Serbs. In order
      to protect them from the stones thrown daily by the Albanians from
      the road above the monastery, Italian troops have recently installed
      an improvised barricade of sandbags along the north wall; however,
      this has not stopped the stones from easily flying over the new wall.
      Nevertheless, the sisters there remain brave, as do the nuns in the
      other convents: in Gorioc and Devic, where they survive in almost
      complete isolation, and daily provocations and threats by the
      Albanians. The courage of these women, in many instances greater than
      that of the men, is quite remarkable.

      July 31, 2002 – Five Serb houses blown sky high

      Dr. Rada Trajkovic informed me shortly before noon of the Albanian
      attack in the village of Klokot near Vitina, where a series of
      explosions destroyed five Serb houses and wounded two U.S. soldiers.
      This was yet another real indicator of the security situation about
      which UNMIK and KFOR representatives talk about daily with such
      pride. Only days ago, the U.S. media had praised the security
      situation in this area of Kosovo and Metohija. Thank God there were
      no victims, even though the terrorists succeeded in creating much
      fear and unrest among the Serbs of the Kosovo Morava River Valley
      (Kosovsko Pomoravlje). Like before, UNMIK and KFOR, fearful of
      insulting the Albanians, failed to call the incident a terrorist
      attack. The same position was taken during the previous attacks in
      which Serb lives were lost. If anything similar had occurred in some
      location in the United States, the bomber planes would already be in
      the air. Serb victims, however, seem to be altogether insignificant a
      loss for the global interests of the world powers.

      August 1, 2002 – The prayer of Grandma Poljka

      Grandma Poljka (pronounced Polyka) (Poleksija Kastratovic) from
      Djakovica called us today by telephone to tell us that UNMIK planned
      to take her and the five other remaining Serb elderly women from
      Djakovica "for daily test walks", supposedly in order to "accustom"
      the Albanians to their presence so they would ultimately leave them
      alone. Absolutely incredible! For the past three years these six
      frail, elderly women have lived in the small parish home next to the
      old church in Djakovica in complete isolation and under the
      considerable protection of Italian KFOR troops who have transformed
      the churchyard into a veritable small fortress; now, suddenly, they
      want to take them out for walks in the streets. These elderly women
      are extremely courageous and every day, during morning and evening
      prayers, they ring the old churchbell. I remember Poljka telling me
      once how the Serbs built this church during the Turkish occupation in
      a single night, because that is how long the Turks gave the local
      Serbs to erect their "infidels' place of worship". Upon liberation
      from the Turks in 1912 the Serbs expanded the church and some 10
      years later, Poljka was christened there. Today the elderly woman is
      the last remaining protector of the church from which she says not
      even death can part her. Immediately after the end of the war, an
      international organization tried to transfer the elderly women to a
      senior citizens' home but they would have none of it, remaining
      instead in the small, delapidated parish home. The Decani brethren
      regularly go with Italian military transporters on Sundays to serve
      the holy liturgy. The Albanians frequently provoke these elderly
      women and the mere appearance of one of them in the street, even with
      a military escort, invokes a barrage of flying stones and curses. Now
      it appears that internationals want to free themselves from this
      responsibility and the elderly women are being coerced in every
      possible way to „integrate" into a society which for the past three
      years has given them nothing except humiliation and insults.
      Actually, it is not difficult to conclude that the very possible
      intent is to expose these elderly women to such daily psychological
      pressure and trauma so they will eventually leave of their own
      accord. Only some 200 meters away from them lie the ruins of the
      Church of the Holy Trinity blown up in August 1999 when the
      Albanians, the elderly women say, celebrated all night following the
      destruction of the Serbian church. In the exact same location only 60
      years ago, an older Orthodox church containing a memorial mausoleum
      dating from World War I was also destroyed by Communist authorities,
      who used the ruins of the church to build, among other things, a
      public toilet. History repeats itself in horrendous fashion.

      August 2, 2002 – The ruins of Prizren churches

      Today is St. Elijah's Day and finally I managed to tour the destroyed
      Orthodox churches in the Prizren region with a group of friends from
      KFOR. We visited Gornja Srbica, Smac, Ljubizda, Novake, Recane,
      Musutiste, Dvorane and Popovljani. Everywhere we go, the scene and
      the sorrow are the same -- devastated churches, some of which
      survived five centuries of enslavement under the Turks only to be
      destroyed in the first months of an international protectorate.
      Tombstones are, as a rule, broken everywhere. I returned to Decani
      shaken and worked late into the night arranging photos on the
      computer and writing my report. So many things are happening these
      days that I simply do not have the time to regularly update our
      Internet site. Many email messages arrive daily from interested
      parties all over the world and every one of them deserves a response.
      The monastery generators are working almost without interruption
      because after the damages in the thermoelectrical facility in Obilic,
      the little electricity we were getting was reduced to an almost
      insignificant amount.

      August 4, 2002 – Another „working" Sunday

      Yet another typical Sunday in Decani. Father Ezechiel and Father
      Serapion are busy all day with numerous visitors who come to visit
      the church and our iconography studio. The majority of them are
      foreign officers and their friends who come to visit them. I sit on
      the terrace and talk with a group of foreigners. They are amazed and
      simply cannot believe what I am saying, because from the
      international perspective the situation in Kosovo is „showing signs
      of significant improvement". Today, they say, an occasional Serb can
      safely venture down the main Pristina street of Mother Theresa. Of
      course, the foreigners do see the crowded Pristina streets and cafes
      and frequently, as a result of all the noise and clamor, they miss
      out on the story of the remaining 200 Pristina Serbs, living in
      complete isolation as if they were in catacombs.

      What is more, recently some of the leading figures in UNMIK and KFOR
      have been increasingly inclined to believe that the Serbs themselves
      are creating a state of paranoia through their self-imposed
      isolation, thus provoking the Albanians. One hears with increasing
      frequency that Serb enclaves should to be dismantled and the Serbs
      forced to integrate into society. Knowing the situation in which we
      are now living, it is obvious to us where this is leading and that,
      if this occurs, the exodus of the remaining Serbs in Kosovo and
      Metohija will ensue. I was recently informed of this intent on the
      part of UNMIK by an international official, who explained that the
      Albanians in Decani are complaining that the monks are supposedly
      denying them their basic human rights because they, the majority of
      the population, cannot freely move in the area of the monastery due
      to the presence of KFOR. I really could not believe what I was
      hearing. It turns out that 30 monks who are living under a kind of
      house arrest pose a danger to the 60,000 people in the municipality.
      Thus, once again it is the Serbs who are creating problems,
      presumably by their very presence, thus preventing the Albanians from
      fully experiencing their newly gained freedom. Of course, it is
      hardly necessary for me to say that for many Albanians, Kosovo would
      only feel truly free when the last Serb has left this region forever.
      According to the same logic, the nuns of the Pec Patriarchate are
      also to blame for living like prisoners within the walls of their
      monastery under military guard, and that is probably why they are
      stoned on a daily basis by the frustrated Albanians (sic), as is
      Sister Poljka, who rings the church bell every day to announce that
      there is still a living Serb soul in Djakovica. These ideas would
      probably be considered unbelievable and all too ironic if we had not
      received a letter from a senior international official the other day
      in response to our appeal due to the provocations to which the
      elderly women in Djakovica are subjected. The following is a direct
      quotation from the letter:

      „Don't you think that the curses and stones which you mention are
      being thrown at the old women are in fact acts of young people who
      are behaving in this inappropriate manner precisely because of the
      strict and unaccepting isolation of the women aforementioned? Don't
      you think that the only way to stop these acts is by ending their

      Weary of argument, I descend to the church for evening services. The
      afternoon sun illuminates the centuries-old Decani frescoes while
      long summer shadows creep across the polished Decani marble. Suddenly
      the worry disappears and spiritual joy takes its place on the faces
      of the young monks as they sing old church hymns. I think to myself,
      in a special elation:

      The Christian faith which helped the Serbs of this region survive
      five hundred years of Turkish slavery is truly marvelous. As long as
      this faith is alive, there will be Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. This
      is the faith which sustains our nuns, our returnees, our old grannies
      in Djakovica, and those of us in Decani. A few days ago, an Italian
      officer asked Grandma Poljka and the other old ladies what they will
      do when KFOR leaves one day and they are left alone. Poljka answered
      calmly: „What men cannot do, God can do... No one's candle ever
      burned till dawn*."

      (*Old Serbian saying)

      Copyright Visoki Decani Monastery, 2002.
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.