"Marjan was being threatened for socializing with Serbs"

"I know that Marjan was being threatened for socializing with Serbs. This is what he told me; however, there may have been other things."

Source: UNS, Jelena L. Petkovic
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Marjan Melonasi at work (Photo: private archive)
Marjan Melonasi at work (Photo: private archive)

"At the time of his disappearance, I had already moved to Gracanica and we were not so close anymore. I could only infer from his behavior that somebody was threatening him because of something. For example, when we were supposed to go somewhere where we had gone before, he would not want to go, he would avoid it etc.," says Olivera Bernardoni Stojanovic, a friend of Marjan Melonasi, Radio Kosovo journalist, who was abducted on 9 September 2000.

On that day, after completing his program at 2 pm, he got into an orange taxi in the center of Pristina, across the street from the Radio, and he has been lost without a trace ever since.

- All of us have constantly been making enquiries everywhere, both at UNMIK and KFOR, but I have never heard that an investigation is being conducted, or that someone has taken his disappearance seriously. I have not found anything out, but I have heard stories about the town that he had disappeared in Vranjevac (a settlement that was a no-go zone for Serbs, populated by KLA members, who settled there after the war, which was considered a "red zone"). I have called his father and grandfather once, even they did not know anything. I have heard his mother launched a number of initiatives to find him, but I have never met her. To this day, I cannot understand why someone would kidnap him, kill him - says Olivera Bernardoni Stojanovic, who returned to Pristina from Aleksinac in June 1999, as soon as the Kumanovo Agreement was signed, in the hope of completing her philosophy studies.

Journalism aficionado

Upon returning to Pristina, instead of studying, she started working with Marjan Melonasi in the Swiss non-governmental organization Media Action International, "which gathered and trained young journalists in post-conflict areas and established radio stations."

- It was impossible not to be aware of the dangerous situation in which we lived and worked. We could not move freely, so Maki went grocery shopping because his Albanian served as a pass. We were facing threats and blockades everywhere, even though we had friends of Albanians who were helping us. I lived in the center of Pristina, in the apartment of a Serb police officer who had left Kosovo. At first, I was not aware that I was an additional target. Maki drove me from and to the apartment and he would walk me to the door every time, lest someone asked me something or I met somebody at the entrance. Since it soon became known that there were Serbs in the building, someone approached Maki after he had escorted me home and told him to order his Serb friend to move as soon as possible, and that there would be no other warnings. He was also told that his socializing with Serbs was very stupid - says Olivera Bernardoni Stojanovic, who moved to the Gracanica after this event.

About working with colleague Melonasi, she says, "they were both completely inexperienced, but completely in love with journalism":

- We worked day and night. I would "schlep" after him because he was fluent in Albanian and had a driver's license; he knew the town, the "crew", "good hang-outs". We literally went everywhere together. We are both a little bit "ornery", and we often "locked horns" about certain topics. He was interested in everything, both in the establishment of new institutions and the demining conducted by KFOR. He would go with KFOR soldiers from sunup to sundown, record, interview, and capture sound bites. Then we would download and mount this at night. He worked with both the Serbs and Albanians. He was not exactly the easiest person to cooperate with; he was a bit particular, but good, too good. One of those people who are difficult to reach, but when you "click", you become inseparable. He would also visit returnees in enclaves. When Swiss cows arrived at the Pristina airport (humanitarian donation), we "greeted" them, when maternity wards opened, we were hurrying there. I spoke English better and he Albanian, so editors always let us work together. He wanted to learn to do everything on his own. Both in the field and in terms of montage. He strived to work more, as often as possible.

In that period, in 1999, she recalls that the radio studio was their home.

- We ate, drank, slept, and worked there. I remember those crazy, creative discussions with him. When he went somewhere on his own, he stayed incommunicado, and then he would come with a heap of material, footage for fillers.

Eerie silence

News of murders and abductions were constantly circulating in Kosovo at the time.

- We took risks, we were aware of the dangers. Still, when you are 22 years old, nothing is so terrible. Sometimes we "faked" that we were foreigners, Romanians, for example. We often got into the car directly from the office or apartment to avoid meetings, questions. As I have already mentioned, he has helped me indefinitely in that regard.

- How did you find out what had happened to him?

- Well, simply, he did not show up all day, did not answer his phone. Nothing. Silence.

A dreamer and a broth of a boy

- Both Marjan and I had our weaknesses and strengths, so we combined them and functioned together. He loved music and "wandering" about the town. I recall us sitting in the car and drinking beer on a hill in Pristina with a great view of the town. He was an ornery dreamer, resourceful, a broth of a boy. That is how I saw him. He is a kid from Pristina, and almost all his friends left in 1999. I know that we also talked about that - Olivera Bernardoni Stojanovic recalls.

Olivera Bernardoni Stojanovic lived in Pristina and Gracanica until 2002. After that, she moved to Belgrade, where she continued working as a journalist. She has been living in Switzerland since 2012. She is the founder of La Suppa Company.

Crime

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