B92 looks at life in K. Serb enclaves

GRAČANICA -- Kosovo's Serbs living south of the Ibar River are rarely mentioned unless there's an incident or an official visit, our reporter says.

For those living outside the Serb-dominated northern parts of the province, security remains the number one issue.

B92 went to one such so-called enclave, where Serbs, constrained to living within a 10-kilometer radius within which they have the freedom of movement, are attempting to organize a meaningful life for themselves and their families.

Gračanica, known worldwide for its medieval Orthodox Serb monastery, is a mere ten minute drive from Priština. However, this town has become prominent in the region not for its cultural landmarks, but because of politics.

This Serb enclave, which, apart from Gračanica itself, consists of several other villages, is considered by its residents to be a part of Serbia.

The town itself has population of over 10,000 people. Teachers, doctors and technicians who driven out of from Priština after the 1999 war are a part of the town’s community today.

They travel around Kosovo only in emergency situations and during the day. The enclave Serbs have mostly organized their lives in such a way that all their needs are satisfied within the ten kilometer circle of the protected area.

Gračanica has an elementary school, several small stores, an open market and a police station that employs ethnic Albanians and international police officers, who do not speak the language.

Radmila Trajković is the director of the local Healthcare Center, placed in the central part of the town – next to the UNMIK HQ.

“There is a Kosovo Police Service station, but unfortunately, due to Mr. Samardžić's decision, no Serbs are employed there,“ Trajković said.

Since the memorandum between the EULEX and UNMIK has been singed UNMIK’s offices are closed, while Serbs do not cooperate with EULEX.

District Chief Goran Arsić says he fears for the safety of the Gračanica population, because they are left to their own devices.

“None of the EULEX representatives have asked for a meeting in order to establish any type of cooperation. But, we would most certainly have said no,” Arsić told B92.

“Our relation with international representatives is very stereotype. They have taken upon themselves to reconstruct an elementary school here in Gračanica."

"The American government has invested in the renovation, but when the time came for the opening, the director feared showing up with a U.S. diplomat,” Trajković said, adding that had he done a thing like that "at the time they recognized Kosovo, he would have been perceived as a traitor“.

She said that the U.S. government "invested a lot of money in the school, which was something the state could have done if it wanted to".

Meanwhile locals say that they feel safer after Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence, because the government in Priština wants to show itself to be respecting human and minority rights.

In spite of that, they fear that their safety is jeopardized, and that no one takes care of them.

"We still don’t know where we are, what we are and what will come next. It’s one uncertainty after another,” one resident said.

"There is always the fear that something will happen. It’s like the calm before the storm,” another described.

Trajković, formerly of Priština, has been living in Gračanica for almost ten years now. She says that she often goes to the monastery, only a couple hundred meters away from the Healthcare Center where she works.

Trajković says that for her, "it replaces the opera or the theater".

“I am alone. I spend a lot of time reading. I have found something which is virtually my motto for staying here. There’s this story about a Jew who, because of the crime he committed, was sentenced to death. Yet he wept and smiled at the same time. He said, I’m crying because I know that I will die tomorrow, yet I smile because the Jews will return to Jerusalem,” Trajković allegorized.

"It’s the same with me,” she says, “I may be killed tomorrow, or a day after, because there have been mass murders, yet I smile, because I believe that Serbs will return.”