Page 976 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
P. 976

Monk andrew Wermuth
this scene-it seemed completely out of time. Getting out of the vehicle, we were hurried behind the sand-bagged en- trance. in the street and from the surrounding buildings everyone was staring at us and some were shouting. ap- parently it is not often that visitors come here, to the last remaining Serbian enclave in Djakovica.16
entering the courtyard, we were met by six much-suf- fering but presently rejoicing faces. Having greeted us, they led us into their home-a traditionally built house of logs and earth, of which parts of the walls were crumbling due to time and negligence. But within, everything was cozy, and its shabbiness made it all the more endearing. in the spirit of Serbian hospitality they immediately served us cold water, lukumi, coffee and a shot of rakija17 for those who desired it. We began our discussion-or rather, they poured out the sorrow that has been their existence over the past two years. There was Vasilica, a native of Djakovi- ca and an especially robust character: “i was born here and i will die here!” She showed us pictures from Crucified Koso- vo, a photographic document of the 107 churches in Koso- vo destroyed by terrorists. One point she was especially in- tent to get across was that the terrorists are not only blowing up the churches, but they are then taking the time to carry away the rubble so as to completely wipe away from the face of the earth any possible reminder of the Serbian heri- tage on this soil of Kosovo. Quietly standing beside Vasilj- ka was the more gentle Poljka, who, after twenty-two years as a school teacher, was fired two years ago for being an Or- thodox Christian. She has lived in this very church house for thirty years. and there were the sisters, jela and Ljubica. Ljubica in Serbian is the diminutive of Love. it is interest- ing that both women and men (Ljubiša) in Serbia are called by this chief virtue of the Christian Faith.
Our elderly hosts told us that the only ones who visit them are the Dečani monks who come and serve them Ho- ly Communion. i was especially touched by Nada, who lives across the street in an atmosphere so violent that, if she were to walk onto the street alone, it would only be a matter of time before she was killed. even under the escort of the soldiers, she is verbally abused when she crosses the street. With tears she told us how she had lost everything, her only remaining family being refugees in Belgrade. Her sor- row seemed to fall close to despair but was not unto death, since her faith-perhaps without her fully realizing it-car- ries her through. For me, this was a moment to feel Serbia’s genuine pain and suffering. again unknowingly, there stood before me six brave Confessors in the form of old and sim- ple Serbian women.
Together we visited their much-cared-for chapel. i prayed that mercy would not abandon these courageous strug- glers and that their witness would somehow strengthen
17 See the article “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” Dečani Monastery.
Lokum (lukumi) is a sweet candy and rakija is a kind of Serbian brandy. These are both commonly served to guests.
me. just as we were about to leave this Golgotha, a big italian soldier came running toward us, his countenance all aglow. Seeing me and perhaps thinking i was a Dečani monk, he immediately asked, “is abbot Teodoslje coming?” “No,” our guide (also an italian soldier) replied. “We were just there [in Dečani].” Realizing that i was not a Serb, the big italian soldier began telling me in his broken english: “abbot Teo- dosije is a great man! We worked a lot together during the war...” Bassu-for such was this soldier’s name-had been in Kosovo longer than most of the soldiers: about two years. He was very jubilant and excited to be meeting again with an Orthodox monk. To conclude our brief but heartfelt exchange, he loudly proclaimed in front of all his comrades, “For me, Orthodoxy is the best!” apparently, Bassu had also found something in the Serbian Orthodox people-some- thing that one doesn’t hear about on the television, that is, a deeply warm, loving and forgiving Christian character.
Beyond the outskirts of the ancient city of Prizren lies the monastery of the Holy Archangels, first built in 1351. in 1615 the monastery was burned by the Turkish Muslim leader Sinan Pasha, and the stones of the St. Nicholas Church were taken to Prizren for the construction of a mosque. Within the past ten years, a new chapel has been built dedicated to a new St. Nicholas—St. Nikolai Velimirović, also known as the “new Chrysostom” for his gift with words.
We arrived at the monastery at dusk. The front gate was guarded by German troops. Quietly we entered the enclosure and found the monks at prayer. They were sing- ing the Vespers service in their small chapel. On the hand- carved, wooden iconostasis we were blessed to venerate an original, hand-painted icon of St. Nikolai, who as a bishop and professor in Belgrade was once the mentor of a young Russian ascetic by the name of Hieromonk john-the future archbishop of San Francisco, St. john Maximovitch.
Upon completion of the service, we eagerly greeted our newly found brethren. already i had sensed something akin to our small skete in alaska—just three brothers gathered in a rather forlorn spot, forgotten as it were by the rest of the world. We had much to talk about. Their love for one of the founders of the St. Herman Brotherhood, Fr. Seraphim (Rose), served as common ground. We also discovered that, like the brothers in our alaskan skete, they carve wooden crosses. The oldest brother was quite accomplished in this craft, despite never having been formally trained. He had originally come to Kosovo from the Black River Monas- tery. it is his duty to carve tonsure crosses18 for all the monks and nuns in Kosovo.
18 When monks and nuns give their life vows to live in chastity, poverty and obedience, they are presented with a hand-held cross during the service. The cross is a physical reminder of Christ’s words, if any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Mt. 16:24).

   974   975   976   977   978