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12 Mar, 2010 06:26

Convent icon answers baby prayers in Kosovo

While much divides ethnic Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo, there is a place where both sides are united. A site in a convent in the mountains gives hope to couples of any faith or nationality struggling to have a child.

The Katanic family is one of hundreds across Kosovo who believe their children were born through divine intervention. Olga and Zoran tried everything for seven years before their neighbor sent them to a remote convent in Kosovo’s mountains.

“I’m a nurse, I’m dealing with drugs and treatments all of the time, but I know for a fact that my daughter was born because of the Holy Mother’s prayers,” shared Olga.

Today, they have two daughters, Elena and Maya, who, like many girls of their age, can spend hours playing. Their doll collection is the envy of their friends, but among these girly treasures stands one they wouldn’t exchange for anything. A picture of a statue they believe they owe their life to.

“It’s the Holy Mother of Sokolica. I was born on her day,” said Elena Katanic.

It was in the small medieval chapel, in front of the 14th Century Byzantine statue, that Olga Katanic begged the Holy Mother for her first child. And, as often happens in this chapel, her prayers did not go unheard.

It is not known how many couples the Holy Mother of Sokolica has helped to become parents, but gifts of jewelry left by grateful believers already form a massive stock.

While this spiritual refuge was built many centuries before tensions between Kosovo’s Serbs and Albanians erupted, it was not immune to the ethnic hatred. Notable pock marks were left by the wrath of Albanian peasants who stormed the convent some 30 years ago.

The most recent scare came in 2004 when dozens of churches across Kosovo were set on fire.

“At that time Danish soldiers – we were living under their protection – they came to our monastery in order to evacuate us,” remembered Sokolica convent’s abbess Makaria. “But we said no, because if we leave the monastery, Albanians would come to rob and put fire. We said that our lives were not so important. It was important to save the church.”

Yet, despite simmering tensions, Albanian couples, too, are coming here to ask for children. And in the years following Kosovo’s self-proclaimed independence, their number has even increased.

“There was a professor visiting, saying 'it is not so easy for me to believe in some miracles, but I saw many of them here. The Albanians are not Orthodox Christians but they are respecting very much our monastery because the Holy Mother is helping the people,” said abbess Makaria.

Built in the heart of Serbia, nowadays the Sokolica convent is surrounded exclusively by Albanian settlements. And while the many visitors belong to different faiths and pray to different gods – they all are asking for the same miracle.

Read also: Virgin Mary appears in Bosnia to reconcile world