And God answered, “You want to know how this could happen? Here, I’ll show ya.”

Sunday letter in the UK Observer: My life in a Kosovo Serb enclave

I am a Kosovo Serb who has spent the prime of my life living in an enclave (’Serbs fear renewed bloodshed in Kosovo’, World, last week). It has been difficult. Also, it has not been very popular to report about people such as us. It is only now that most of your papers briefly mention that some 120,000 people live a life that the Jewish community lived at the end of the 1930s.

My old home is just 40km away from the enclave, but still I cannot go and visit what was left of it after it was burnt down by Albanians in 1999. If I want to become a mother, there is nowhere to give birth, I have to travel outside of the enclave, some 150km to Kosovska Mitrovica. Last night, a house of a Kosovo Serb was burnt down in the city of Pec, in western Kosovo.

And it won’t stop. What I cannot understand is why peace-loving and forward-looking citizens of Europe do not raise their voices against this major injustice.

Mila Balasevic

Below are excerpts from a translated Italian interview with German writer Peter Handke. (Thanks to translator Tim Fenton):

In Kosovo, There is Only Hate
by Tommaso Di Francesco

…There are no human rights, nor democratic guarantees. The remaining Serbs are not even allowed to tend their graves, they are living in terror. And the EU, headed by the Slovene Janez Janza, a leading criminal of the Yugoslav drama, will recognise its independence, otherwise the Albanians are threatening a new war.

Peter Handke lights candle with grieving Serbian woman at Orthodox cemetery in village of Retimlje (Photo by Darko Dozet, April 2006, Kosovo-Metohija, Serbia). Visit to the Christian cemetery alongside Serbs exposed Handke and his friends to verbal attacks and insults by the local Albanians. — Byzantine Sacred Art blog

…He is one of the most politically incorrect of writers, practically persecuted by the cultural institutions of the world, as when two years ago in Germany his award of the “Heinrich Heine” prize was rescinded, or straight afterwards in France La Comédie Française dropped one of his plays from their programme.

Moreover only two months ago Handke has won a case for defamation against Il Nouvel Observateur which had written, mendaciously, that he had laid a red rose on the grave of Milosevic.

What is his crime? Peter Handke is accused of being pro-Serb, now, during Nato’s bloody “humanitarian” bombing of former Yugoslavia and in the period of the interethnic war.

TdF [Francesco]: …[A]fter eight years of NATO occupation and administration by [UN], do the conditions expected for independence, that is to say democratic guarantees, respect for minorities and human rights, actually exist in Kosovo?

PH: I don’t recognise these conditions. I was in Kosovo in April and I have been there four other times recently. I remained truly struck by what I saw in the enclaves of Velika Hoca, a village with a large Orthodox church, and then in Orahovac. They are two enclaves near each other and there one understands how the Serbs are living, how they spend their time, robbed of every possession, forced to go out only at four in the morning, terrorised all the time.

The Suddeutsche Zeitung, speaking of a Serbian enclave, has unbelievably written: “The Serbs pretend to be afraid”. You see, it’s ideology, their minds already made up. No, the Serbs are not “pretending to be afraid”, they are simply living in terror and they have suffered so many murders in this period.

There are no longer Serbian cemeteries outside the villages as elsewhere in Serbia. In Orahovac the cemeteries have been transferred to the centre of villages, within the enclaves…even the ordinary tending of graves is impossible when those who do it may end up murdered and the gravestones themselves are often destroyed.

I have seen only hate in Kosovo. It is NATO that has created this tragic and unsustainable situation, NATO that bombed the whole of ex Yugoslavia. And now NATO and the European Union insist that it is necessary to grant independence because, otherwise, they know that the Kosovar Albanians will kill again and threaten a new war.

But how does one come to deserve independence not by right but because one threatens violence and another war? What democratic logic is this which has been brought to bear by Europe and the US? Even worse they have never let up in eight years from murdering and terrorising. It’s enough even to see a Serbian symbol, a bus or a coach as it approaches the most beautiful monasteries in Europe like Decani or Gracanica, then even the children, in an automatic reaction, throw rocks.

A few days into NATO’s war Le Monde and also newspapers on the Left had headlines “All out terror in Europe. 50,000 victims”. There were a lot of victims but from both sides and many moderate Albanians killed by the KLA. In the end the Hague Tribunal found the graves of two thousand bodies for the most part fallen in combat. But not the fifty thousand or the “five hundred thousand” with which the New York Times headlined.

TdF: The supreme Court of Pristina itself on 6th September 2001 has recognised in an important ruling that there was violence from the Serbian militia but not a “genocide”, declaring in the process that they had evidence that the the flight of eight hundred thousand Albanians was motivated by fear of the NATO bombings which actually caused massacres – “collateral damage” – among that same Albanian population. Then there was the KLA leader Ramush Haradinaj: Carla Del Ponte herself has said that he is a “butcher in uniform” and she has charged him with the slaughter of Serbs and Roma from 1998 (before the staged massacre of Racak). And now the European Union is ready to recognise the ethnic independence of Kosovo under the leadership of Janez Jansa, now prime minister of Slovenia and rotating president of the EU, who boasts an “acquaintance with the problem”…

PH: It’s all very well for Janez Jansa to boast connections with the KLA, he is among the greatest criminals the Balkans have ever known. He who glories in the “patriotic war”, who did not hesitate to kill in cold blood 20 conscript Yugoslav soldiers – many Slovenian – who were waiting on a military lorry, murdered like dogs…

TdF: And yet all these “experts” and these media types have up till now stayed quiet about the exodus of a million Serbs, chased out of the Croatian Krajina, from Bosnia Hercegovina and from Kosovo. Refugees who will not return to their birthplaces again and constitute a tragedy for the new Serbia. Why this silence? Not to mention the Kosovar Roma now scattered across the shanty towns of the Balkans and around Europe…

PH: During my “winter trips”, I have been many times in hotels which house refugees, in Negotin, Fruska Gora, Bor, Nis. I have written a long report asking among other things for the journalists to tell the story of the Serbian refugees. When you enter one of those hotels you see people seated crosslegged on the ground, the whole day in a daze, until they resort to drink. With the old women who strive to keep their dignity and that of the children around them. They are waiting to die or to flee, living like the emigrants of the last century in America. And despite this there are some young people who paint, to eat and to describe existentially what they have become.

If I were a journalist I would live for months with those people, like Ryszard Kapuscinski did. No one’s doing that. In Germany there are study grants in some cities for young writers who as guests describe their experience for a year. I have made this proposal: let’s send them for a month to be among the Serbian refugees. Not a single writer has put himself forward, they prefer to get a prize of two thousand Euros for talking about cookery. I am beginning to despise the young writers…