icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm
6 Feb, 2008 09:27

Serbs fear for their future with Kosovo set to declare independence

As the break-away province of Kosovo gets ready to declare independence, concerns remain over the status of the minorities living there. It's not just the safety of those who live there that's under threat, but even the tombs of the dead also need to be p

The situation in the capital city, Pristina, is a far cry from what it was during the war of ten years ago. Nowadays, when night falls, the coffee shops and bars are full of youngsters sampling the good things life has to offer – though this is not the case for all youngsters.

Before 1999 Pristina was an ethnically mixed city. Albanians, Serbs and Jews all lived together. But today these streets belong only to one nation.

No more than a hundred Serbs live in a city of half a million people. Most of them are old people with nowhere else to go.

Serbs are afraid to talk outside their homes because of the reaction of their Albanian neighbours. With nowhere to go, they stay at home and watch the news from Belgrade, so they will know when to run.

“We are always very careful when we go out. Whenever I climb into my car, I always look behind to see if some young Albanian is there. I’m always telling my family not to speak Serbian loudly because they can hear us and we may have problems,” said Miodrag Seslia, a Serb resident of Pristina.

“I’m always watching my son from the balcony when he goes outside and when the weather is okay I go out with him so I can take care of him. Sometimes Albanian youngsters come and they taunt him but nothing else. He only mixes with Serbian children. He does not have real friends here,” complained Miodrag’s wife Snezana.

The pubs and restaurants down the road are full but it is the Albanians of the city who’re living it up.

“After the war it was difficult because the blood was still on the roads, but not now,” said Ismet Krasniqi, an Albanian resident.

The UN agrees with the Albanians.

“I hear a lot of Serbian in the streets. And I think the reason why they are telling you this is based on the influence of Belgrade. Belgrade ministers come here and complain and try to influence people here who actually want to stay here in Kosovo but are being pushed by Belgrade to leave,” said Alexander Ivanko, UN mission spokesperson, Pristina

When most of the Serbs escaped from the city, the Albanians took their anger out on the only thing they left behind – their cemeteries.

In a Christian cemetery in Pristina you see only destruction. Most of the graves have been vandalised and the tombstones broken into pieces.

Whether there'll still be a place for those Serbs remaining in Pristina remains to be seen.