Page 979 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
P. 979

italian soldiers very quickly placed the church under protection and ran barbed wire around the churchyard in order to prevent albanian extremists from attacking the people. The international Red Cross organized an evacua- tion for all wishing to leave the town for central Serbia or Montenegro. Poljka stayed with five other elderly women, who decided to remain beside the church where they had been baptized and where they had prayed their entire lives. The women are all in their sixties and seventies: Nada isai- lović, Vasiljka Perović, Ljubica Miović, jelena Miović and Dragica Nikolić. each one of these courageous women will tell you her own sad story of how only a miracle saved her from certain death under the vicious knife of the albanian terrorists. “The KLa criminals placed a gun to my forehead and said they would shoot me in the head. i was so afraid thatallicouldtellthemwastodowhattheywanted,”says Nada isailović, who was thrown out of her own house near the bus station and subsequently moved to her brother’s house, close to the church. Nada goes to this house, com- pletely looted and now under round-the-clock watch by the italian soldiers, only to sleep. in the morning, accompa- nied by an armed italian escort, she goes to the church, where she spends the day with the other ladies. “Whenever i walk down the street, they swear and shout at me,” she says sorrow fully, “and once they threw a rock which struck meinthehead.”“Dozensofcarswithalbanianlicenseplates came to Srpska Street and took every thing away: furniture, clothing, televisions... every thing they found. When they were finished, they would set fire to the house and leave,” says Nada, recalling the first “post war” days. “it seemed that KFOR was unprepared to confront them, and so they just pretended they didn’t see what was happening,” adds another elderly woman through tears. Of all the women, Dragica Nikolić seems to have fared the worst: she was beat- en up by young albanian men, who dragged her from her small old house and then forced her to watch her house as it burned down. Dragica is always silent and her only hope is that she will be able to die in peace in the town where she was born.
Despite the almost hopeless situation in which they find themselves, these elderly ladies have not become dis- couraged. Poljka is the driving force of this group. always calm and collected, fully confident in God’s protection, she helps others as they struggle to endure the heavy burden of hatred which surrounds them. Unable to leave their refuge, the elderly women are completely dependent on the italian soldiers, with whom, over time, they have developed very cordial relations. Perhaps seeing their own sons and grand- sons in the soldiers’ role, the ladies frequently prepare cof- fee for them and bake an occasional cake. in exchange, the italians purchase food for the women. They give the sol- diers money, and the soldiers go to the nearby store to pur- chase basic necessities. Of course, they do not dare tell the sales clerk for whom it is they are buying the food or they would not sell any thing to them. immediately next to the
Poleksija Kastratović, one of the last remaining SerbsinDjakovica,heavilyguardedbyKFOR
churchyard itself there is a store which belonged to the church and which was leased to an albanian. Now the own- er is some one else altogether and he apparently has no in- tention of returning the store to its rightful owner, the church. “even this dog you see here,” says Poljka, “that’s our dog. The albanians recognize him and throw rocks at him when he goes out into the street. The other dog belongs to the italians;theyrecognizehim,too,andtheyleavehimalone.” in this strange environment, even dogs suffer unjustly.
in the beginning [after 1999], the albanian youths would throw garbage over the wall into the churchyard. “Once,” Poleksija says, “we heard an explosion and could see that a hand grenade had exploded right in the back yard. Thank God it didn’t hurt anyone.” after these incidents the ital- ians in stalled three watchtowers around the churchyard, which now resembles a little fortress, with barbed wire, reflectors and guards watching closely from their watch towers with machine guns. Poleksija says that some of their albanian neighbors are good people. “But they are scared to death of the extremists [and are too afraid] to help us openly. i know for sure that all of them do not hate us. We have not done any harm to any one and just want to remain close to our church.” Unfortunately, for Serbs even this much is very difficult and dangerous in present-day “Liberated Kosovo.” There are approximately 100,000 Serbs still living in several enclaves through out the province under military protection. Some of the enclaves, such as Orahovac, are true ghettos, while others are geographically separated by mountain ranges and rivers from areas inhabited by alba- nians. Outside these zones, there are no rights or freedoms for the Serbs. No one can guarantee their safety outside armored military vehicles. any one who wants to can kill you, and the perpetrators will probably never be found, for Kosovo is ruled by a conspiracy of silence. even though all albanians certainly do not approve of these attacks on the Serbs, the province is still ruled from the shadows by the extremists. The recently elected municipal officials are, as a
For Whom the Bell Tolls

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