Page 446 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
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Bishop atanasije (jevtić)
Serbs are being transferred to albanian cemeteries in or- der to increase the number of allegedly killed albanians.
in the northern part of the Province, where approxi- mately 60,000 Serbs lived in Zubin Potok, Mitrovica (north), Zvečan and Leposavić, including a few smaller enclaves south of the ibar, there has been increasing consolidation of the clear division between the albanian and Serbian zones. Thanks primarily to the correct behavior of French KFOR, the infiltration of the albanians across the ibar into Northern Mitrovica and Zvečan, where the Serbs are in- creasingly consolidated and better politically organized, was prevented. even though the influence of the Belgrade regime was never weak in these areas, the Serbian Nation- al Council for Northern Kosovo has become a leading po- litical force.
in the middle of the month of july a new, more intense wave of violence began. The night of july 23 the still un- completed cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Djakovica, which had already been desecrated numerous times by fires and the dumping of garbage, was completely leveled with dy- namite. according to testimony by eyewitnesses, the alba- nians spent the entire night celebrating around the ruins of this most beautiful of newly built (on old foundations) of Orthodox churches in Kosovo and Metohija. The town it- self was already emptied of Serbs with the exception of the elderly ladies whom we have already mentioned in the old church. in Gnjilane on july 24 the monument to Holy Prince Lazar was destroyed and six unidentified bodies of Serbs were found in the dumpsters of Gnjilane Hospital. Serbian monuments next to the Cathedral in Prizren were destroyed on june 15, 1999 and soon thereafter all Serbian monu- ments throughout the Province. This albanian infernal hatred for the Serbian Church, culture, history in Kosovo and Metohija is inexplicable. Only undemocratic upstarts, usurpers and occupiers demonstrate such behavior.
However, the greatest tragedy of those first weeks of general terror and violence against Serbs was the massacre of 14 Serbian peasants in the village of Staro Gracko, Lip- ljan municipality, in the afternoon of july 23, 1999. alba- nians, most probably from the neighboring village of Stari alaš, killed these people in the early evening hours as they harvested their crops in their fields not far from the village. This crime was never solved by KFOR and this only served to prove once again that the international community, by its indecisive stance toward the albanian extremists, un- wittingly became their passive accomplice in the ethnic cleansing of Serbs, Roma and other non-albanian inhabit- ants from the Province.
(During this period a consciousness matured among Serbs close to the Church regarding the necessity of some degree of political organization with the goal of better protection of the population, since the Milošević regime through its surviving structures was doing practically nothing for the people. The extent of the Serbian tragedy in Kosovo and Metohija was even blatantly concealed in the public media. in September
1999 the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija was formed as a non-party organization for the purpose of coordinating the work of the Serbs in the Province together with the Church, as the only institution active in all Serbian areas which, thanks to its work before the war and contacts with the international community, enjoyed great moral repu- tation and influence. at that time the Serbian National Coun- cil of Northern Kosovo and the church-people’s council in Gnjilane were already active; thus, the first task of the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija was to form local boards as quickly as possible in other parts of the Province which, together with the parish centers, would enable better coordination, the systematic collection of information regard- ing persecution and a unified position before UNMiK and KFOR. Representatives of the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija participated from the very beginning in the work of the so-called Kosovo Transitional Council only to withdraw from this body after the decision to transform the KLa into the Kosovo Protection Corps, as a sign of protest against the legalization and institutionalization of a funda- mentally terrorist organization which bears primary respon- sibility for war-time and post-war violence against the non- albanian population. The Serbian National Council of Koso- vo and Metohija, founded in the meanwhile, would return to work with the interim administrative Council of Kosovo only in spring of 2000 after the international administration in the Province would finally show greater and more sincere interest in Serbian problems and take some concrete steps toward the goal of improving the life of the Serbs (the adoption of the so- called Program for Co-existence which foresees, among other things, the forming of Serbian local community offices as the inception of Serbian administration in Serbian areas and the drafting of plans for refugee returns). During the entire period of its work, the SNC experienced great obstruction and pressure from Serbs loyal to the Belgrade regime. Bishop of Raška and Prizren, who as- sumed the role of president of the SNC, made maximum ef- forts that this organization should never act at the party level but instead that it should connect its people with the Church and patriotic democratic forces in Serbia in order to enable the survival and continuity of our people in these centuries- old Serbian lands under newly created conditions).
During the course of the autumn and winter of 1999, as well as in the first months of 2000, the situation in the field showed no signs of improvement. even though the inten- sity and number of attacks on Serbs significantly decreased, this was not the result of an improvement in the situation but of the simple fact that almost all the remaining Serbian population in the Province lived in enclaves under the mil- itary protection of KFOR or had already left. There was no freedom of movement and the Serbs were completely iso- lated in their enclaves. Under these conditions it was not easy for the albanians to attack Serbs, even though inci- dents continued most frequently in cases of decreased cau- tion and attention and when individual Serbs decided to travel without military escort. What is observable during

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