We Have The Right To Live

Interviews with Kosovo Serbian refugees

by Gregory Elich, Jeff Goldberg and Iman El-Sayed

Translated by Ileana Chosich

May 26, 2003


[Ed. Note: These unedited interviews, presented for the first time, are introduced by Gregory Elich. Elich has the original tapes in his possession.]

Four years ago NATO waged war against Yugoslavia in what was billed a "humanitarian" war. The lofty motives proclaimed by Western leaders had the hollow ring of hypocrisy for those on the receiving end of NATO bombs. In order to destabilize the last remaining socialist nation in Europe, the United States and Great Britain supported and armed the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a violent secessionist organization. The KLA embodied the very worst ideals. Deeply involved in the drug and prostitution trades, this organization routinely murdered and threatened non-Albanians, as well as those Albanians who desired to live in a multiethnic society. Its highest ideal was secession and the creation of an ethnically pure Albanian state. Before the NATO war, any Albanian who held a public job was a target of the KLA, and very often such individuals were simply killed. Similarly, Serbs, Roma (Gypsies), Turks, Gorans and others faced murderous attacks. Western aid built up the KLA into a formidable guerrilla organization that plunged the entire province of Kosovo into chaos.

Once NATO was victorious, it secured a commitment for the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from the province. Immediately, KLA troops poured across the border from Albanian and Macedonia, burning homes by the thousands and murdering and threatening all who did not support its racist program. Within days, nearly 200,000 Serbs were driven from their homes, 120,000 Roma, and a large majority of every non-Albanian ethnic group. As many as 150,000 Albanians who favored a multiethnic society were also expelled from their homes. Throughout the province, the KLA burned down homes and threatened people under the disinterested gaze of NATO troops, who did nothing to stop the carnage. Throngs of panicked people fled their homes and clogged the roads leading out of Kosovo, and entire villages were emptied before the KLA rampage.

With Kosovo securely under occupation by NATO's Kosovo Force (KFOR), no effort was made to deter KLA violence. The few non-Albanians who remained in the province could not walk out the doors of their own homes without being beaten or murdered. Children had to be escorted to school by KFOR troops so that they would not be killed. Those who fled Kosovo, only to return later, faced threats and worse. I was a member of a delegation that visited Yugoslavia shortly after the war, in August 1999. We talked with Albanian refugees in Belgrade who had been driven from their homes by the KLA after NATO occupation. These were men who held prominent jobs or government positions. That many government jobs were held by Albanians in pre-war Kosovo was the sort of inconvenient fact that Western media willfully ignored. One of the Albanians we spoke to who had been a government official, Chorin Ismali, eventually decided to return home to Kosovo. A year and a half ago, KLA soldiers armed with automatic rifles forced their way into his home and riddled him and his friend with bullets. His murder took place in front of his wife and children. As so often in these cases, KFOR made no effort to find the murderers. Unfortunately, Ismali's case was by no means unique.

Before NATO intervention, every nationality was represented in the government. The vast majority of newspapers were in the Albanian language and permitted to publish anything they chose, even secessionist and exclusionist viewpoints. Newspapers also were available in other languages as well. Students could receive an education in their own language. Under NATO occupation, Kosovo is a very different place. Nearly emptied of every nationality other than Albanian, those who remain risk death if they venture outside of their homes. All newspapers in languages other than Albanian were closed down. Even to speak Serbo-Croatian on the street is to risk death. Brothels abound, helping to fill the coffers of KLA crime lords. Women cannot venture outside their homes at night without risking being abducted and enslaved in a brothel. The drug trade flourishes unabated, totally ignored by KFOR occupation troops. This is the multiethnic paradise that NATO has sponsored. In truth, such proclaimed ideals were mere window dressing to win public support for a war of aggression and occupation.

Four years have passed, and very few refugees have dared to return. The interviews you are about to read were conducted on August 13, 1999, only two months after NATO entered and occupied Kosovo. Like many refugees in Yugoslavia, they were housed in a hotel. As miserable as their circumstances were, the government was doing what it could to help. Yet the wretchedness of their lives was apparent the moment I walked in the door. The atmosphere cannot be described. It was like nothing I had experienced before, with an overwhelming atmosphere of pain and sorrow and the anger in the air was palpable. These people had lost everything they owned. Without exception, every single person I talked to had loved ones who had been murdered by the KLA. Many had lived through the terror of NATO bombing. The father of one girl aged 12 or 13 had been killed by KLA thugs. When I asked this girl for an interview, she was so overcome with grief that she ran from the room in tears. These people not only lost everything, they also had to endure the indignity of smug Western attitudes. As Serbs, they were deemed less than human, not worthy of any human compassion. On three occasions Western reporters had visited the refugees, insulting and treating them with contempt. It was assumed that as Serbs they deserved such treatment. By the time I arrived there, such experiences had made them quite reluctant about agreeing to be interviewed again.

Four years have passed, yet still these people remain refugees, without any vestige of hope. Not one of them can return to Kosovo without facing probable death. These are the stories of their shattered lives.

Greg Elich, May 20, 2003

· · · · · ·

Hotel Belgrade, on Mt. Avala.
August 13, 1999.


[Chosich]   What is your name?

[Djordjevich]   Goran Djordjevich.

[Chosich]   And where are you from?

[Djordjevich]   From Suva Reka municipality.

[Elich]   Why did you leave Kosovo?

[Djordjevich]   We had to leave because of the bandits.

[Elich]   What did they do?

[Djordjevich]   They threatened to kill us, so we had to leave. The moment NATO came we knew that we would have to leave.

[Elich]   Didn't NATO try and stop the KLA?

[Djordjevich]   We didn't believe them because they're all the same. First they bombed us and then the Albanian forces came with them. You see what's going on down there. They're killing Serbs all the time.

[Elich]   Do you still have family or friends in Kosovo?

[Djordjevich]   My parents, my two sisters and my brother are here. They all escaped to here.

[Djordjevich's mother]   Five of us are sleeping on the two beds, and two sleep on the floor.

[Djordjevich]   Just to survive.

[Djordjevich's mother]   You know, before the NATO aggression, we had no problems with the Albanians, but after the NATO aggression they started behaving aggressively.

[Elich]   Did you have a house in Kosovo?

[Djordjevich]   We not only had a house, but also our farm and our property. We just let the cattle free, and we fled. I drove the tractor from our village to Belgrade for four nights and five days. We had to leave because otherwise they would have killed us.

[Elich]   What day did you leave?

[Djordjevich]   On June 13th. When our army withdrew and NATO came in, we followed the army. You know, the Albanian bandits were there all the time in the surrounding forest and the moment NATO advanced, they just joined them and started terrorizing us.

[Elich]   What kinds of things did they do to terrorize the population?

[Djordjevich]   They were shooting at us, but we were the lucky ones because we were with the army, so we were safer, but the ones who left later were in jeopardy. Very soon after we left our house they came to the village and burned the whole village, razed it to the ground. They were firing and burning everything.

[Elich]   Which village was it?

[Djordjevich]   Sopin. Three kilometers away from Suva Reka.

[Goldberg]   Did you have any Albanian friends?

[Djordjevich]   Before this aggression, we had friends. When I was a student, we used to go to school together in the first class. We used to play soccer. There was no problem with our neighbors until this year.

[Elich]   Would you tell us your name please?

[Stojanovich]   Stana Stojanovich.

[Elich]   And what town or village do you come from?

[Stojanovich]   From Ljeshane, in Suva Reka.

[Elich]   Why did you leave Kosovo? What happened?

[Stojanovich]   Because we could not survive. We were terrorized. We were frightened.

[Elich]   The KLA terrorized you?

[Stojanovich]   Yes.

[Elich]   In what manner?

[Stojanovich]   They were shooting at us.

[Chosich]   They were also burning the houses?

[Stojanovich]   Yes.

[Elich]   What was NATO doing while they were burning the houses?

[Stojanovich]   They didn't stop them. They just let them do it.

[Elich]   What was life like in your village during the period of the bombing?

[Stojanovich]   Awful. We were frightened. Our village was not bombed. Bombs fell in the vicinity, but our village was not bombed.

[Goldberg]   What were the relationships like with your Albanian neighbors?

[Stojanovich]   We had good relations with our neighbors.

[Elich]   (addressing boy) And what is your name?

[Z. Stojanovich]   My name is Zhivorad Stojanovich.

[Chosich]   She's his mother. Did bombing frighten you?

[Z. Stojanovich]   No.

[Chosich]   He said no, but you see tears in his eyes.

[Elich]   Yes, I saw.

[Chosich]   He's frightened.

[Elich]   Do you still have friends or relatives in Kosovo?

[Stojanovich]   I really don't know.

[Chosich]   Everyone just tried to save his head so she doesn't know where they are.

[El-Sayed]   How is the situation now in this camp?

[Stojanovich]   We just survive. We are not hungry. We used to raise poultry.

[Chosich]   And all that is lost.

[Elich]   And you have no income now, then?

[Stojanovich]   No. Nothing.

[unidentified youth]   The American leader is very bad. He killed too many children. Too many bombs. Too many old men. He's guilty for too much death.

[Elich]   So you saw bombs kill civilians?

[youth]   Yes, I saw that. I was in Kosovo there. I was in Kosovo when the war started. When the American Air Force bombed and killed our children. They wanted to kill our children, not just our soldiers. They wanted to kill our people. For them, it was just a game

[Elich]   How did you happen to leave Kosovo? What happened to you?

[youth]   When our soldiers, our boys, started to withdraw from Kosovo, KFOR [NATO's Kosovo Force] came in. The first soldiers were American soldiers and German soldiers. They took the weapons from the Serbian people, and in front of our eyes, gave them to Albanian people to kill the Serbian people. We saw that.

[Elich]   You saw that happen?

[youth]   Yes. I saw that.

[Elich]   You saw KFOR turning arms over to the KLA?

[youth]   Yes. And giving them to KLA terrorists. You know, when KFOR came, many gangsters from Albania came to Kosovo and stole everything there, and destroyed everything there that was Serbian. Destroyed churches. We didn't destroy Albanian churches.

[Dragutinovich]   (Introduces her family, all eight of whom live in one room). My name is Mitra Dragutinovich.

[Elich]   How long have you been here?

[Dragutinovich]   On June 11, we escaped from Kosovo.

[Chosich]   They were following the withdrawal of the Serbian army, before KFOR entered. So they were fleeing from KFOR, actually.

[Elich]   What did you think was going to happen?

[Dragutinovich]   We knew that the moment the army left Kosovo, then the KLA would take over. The terrorists started threatening, killing, and shooting.

[Elich]   Do you know of cases like that in other villages?

[Dragutinovich]   Many people were wounded. I have a cousin in Prishtina, a doctor, and an Albanian woman wounded him. Our cousin is a pediatrician, and an Albanian woman came to his office with a child, and took a gun from her trousers and wounded him. He lost a kidney. He's now being treated at a hospital in Skopje. The pediatrician who was wounded is his [pointing to 80-year old grandfather] grandson from his daughter.

[unidentified woman]   Why did the Americans and the Germans come? Why did they come? Did they come to protect us, or did they come to massacre us, to drive us from our homes, to violate our women, and to kill our children? Why did they come? We were more afraid of KFOR than the Albanians. I can't believe that someone who had first bombed you for three months, every day and for 24 hours, that after that he will come to protect you. I wonder how Clinton can't be sorry for the children, at least. Are there children in your country? Does he know what it means to be a child? You know, we could retaliate. We could also organize terrorist actions and kill your children in the United States. But we are people with a soul. We would never, never do that to any American child, because we are people with a soul.

[Elich]   What was life like in your village during the period of bombing?

[unidentified woman]   It was awful. We were frightened. You know, we weren't afraid of the Albanians, because we were stronger. We were in our country. We were on our soil. But now, we are no longer on our soil, because we are occupied down there. Whoever they are, be they Americans, British, Germans, French, let them take care of their own problems at home, and we shall deal with our problems here, in our country, because this is our country.

[Cheko]   My name is Nikola Cheko, from Velika Hocha. It's in the vicinity of Orahovac. We were surrounded from the very beginning of the aggression on March 24. We were surrounded by the Albanians. No electricity. No water. No bread. None of the conditions necessary for life. No one is taking care of us. KFOR. Nothing. They couldn't care less for poor Serbs. They think we are stupid farmers, we'll survive somehow, and no one needs us, so KFOR simply forgets us. It's a shame. It's a shame for KFOR, for the United States, for Great Britain, for France, for Germany, for NATO, and all the big powers of the world. We are all human beings. We have the right to live. The nationality, the race and the religion are not important at all. A human being should first be a human being. A true human being is the one who is ready to help the victim in need. When one is in trouble, one needs help. I think that KFOR should open its eyes and see what's going on down there, and behave according to Resolution 1244 and the documents signed by our Yugoslav representatives and the UN representatives in Kumanovo. In Kosovo, it's not only Velika Hocha that is in trouble. There are many, many villages where people are absolutely in great need and dying. It's high time that we become human beings and behave like human beings in the first place. To first be a human being. Everyone is entitled to his or her own life. Let us be honest. Everyone wants to live. No one wants to be killed. Thank you.

[Elich]   Thank you. [Several people are then asked for an interview. All decline.]

[B. Lazich]   I have two brothers and eight cousins who were kidnapped.

[Elich]   Would you introduce yourself, please?

[many people shouting comments]

[B. Lazich]   I don't want to talk, because no one will help. Two of my brothers have been kidnapped. Eight of my cousins have been kidnapped.

[Elich]   The reason we want to interview you is because we also oppose the policy that brought about this misery. We think it is extremely important that we tell the American people what has happened because the American people don't know.

[unidentified woman]   You know, we are all [dressed] in black. My brother was a major. He was killed.

[Elich]   That's why we want to interview you, to tell people what happened.

[B. Lazich]   When Kosovo was part of Serbia, and when our army was there, the KLA took my brothers prisoner. They are farmers, and they were kidnapped from their home.

[Elich]   And where are they now?

[B. Lazich]   We haven't heard anything for a whole year. More than thirteen months, and we haven't heard a thing. My mother did everything possible and impossible, through the tracing service of the Yugoslav Red Cross and the International Red Cross. The International Red Cross informed us that my brothers were alive and that they would be exchanged.

[Elich]   But nothing happened?

[B. Lazich]   It was in July last year. Ten days after they had been taken prisoner. My mother even went to [Head of Kosovo Verification Mission] Mr. [William] Walker's office, and she was received by Mr. Walker but he didn't say anything. He probably knew where they were, and he probably knew whether or not they were still alive but he didn't want to say anything. He was beating around the bush. They were all beating around the bush, and nothing happened. They staged an investigation, but it was just for show.

[Elich]   How did you leave Kosovo? What happened?

[B. Lazich]   I left on June 11.

[Elich]   What happened?

[B. Lazich]   We followed our army. We knew what would be in store for us if we stayed. We cannot live with KFOR because of the bombing and because of the KLA. You know why there were so many kidnappings even before the bombing? Because the size of our army there was limited by the agreement. This is why they took advantage of the deficiency in our armed force.

[Elich]   What was life like in your village during the period of bombing?

[B. Lazich]   Awful. Awful. We were frightened, both of the bombs coming from the sky, and of the KLA. Before the war and the bombing, we had good relations with our neighbors, but when the bombing started, we knew what was in store for us, because we knew the intent of the KLA. We were afraid of the KLA, and we wouldn't allow our kids to leave our houses. They were all locked inside. We didn't allow the children to play outside at all. We were particularly afraid for the children. The situation was unbearable. We had to flee, to save the children at least.

[Elich]   I don't remember if I got your name. Your name?

[B. Lazich]   Biljana Lazich, from Sopin, in Suva Reka. This is my mother in law. Her brother's son, who was only 13 years old, was kidnapped and killed. There is a little girl here whose father was killed.

[Chosich]   What is your name?

[D. Lazich]   Dobrila Lazich. Before the war, he [the 13-year-old boy] came to see his relatives. First he came to see one aunt and uncle, and then he went to visit the other aunt and uncle, and between the two houses he was kidnapped and killed. It was before the bombing, in September 1998.

[Goldberg]   Why did they do such a thing?

[B. Lazich]   They're terrorists. To destroy the Serbs. To kill the Serbs, or drive us out of Kosovo. Albanians had all the rights in Kosovo. They lived very well. They lived much better than we did. They had all rights; they were privileged even. But they were instigated to hate the Serbs, and this is now the result. They had all the rights. They had schools in their language. They had doctors, medical care, everything.

[Antich]   My name is Stana Antich.

[Chosich]   Her story is very sad. When they contacted William Walker in person, he said, "Yes, your son is kidnapped. I will liberate him, but you must go instead of him."

[Elich]   Go to the KLA?

[Chosich]   Yes. You must replace him as a hostage.

[Elich]   William Walker?

[Chosich]   I would like her statement in Serbian.

[Antich]   In Prishtina, when we went to William Walker's office to kindly ask him to intervene with the KLA, he said, "Okay, he will be liberated, but you go instead to replace him as a hostage."

[B. Lazich]   The boy was only 13 years old. How could he be guilty to anyone? He's just 13. My brothers were farmers. They were not soldiers. They were not policemen. They were plain farmers, tilling the soil. They just want to destroy us all because we are Serbs. Yes, to drive us out of our homes and our property. They did awful things to us. I have a brother in law, who was beaten to death, in Dragobilje.

[Elich]   By the KLA?

[Chosich]   By the KLA.

[B. Lazich]   Dobrivoje Savelich was beaten to death.

[Elich]   When was that?

[B. Lazich]   In Velika Hocha, before the war, during the verification mission. The mission knew they were taken prisoner, and they communicated to us that they were alive and well, but finally we got their dead bodies. His brother was returned alive, but unconscious and very severely beaten.

[Elich]   What did the verification mission do in response?

[B. Lazich]   Nothing. Nothing. They were just sitting idle, waiting for them to beat them to death. They didn't intervene. They didn't come to help us. They just came to help the KLA. Not us, but the KLA. For example, had they come to help us, they probably would have found my brothers, alive or dead. They cannot simply disappear. They even burned people alive [reference to Klecka, one of several KLA execution sites discovered in August 1998]. The whole world knew that, but no one wanted to condemn the KLA for these crimes. They put all the blame on the Serbian police, constantly accusing them of persecuting the Albanians. That's the way it is.

[Filipovich]   My name is Dostena Filipovich. I am from Ljeshane. Everything that was in our house was our own property. We never took anything from anyone. We sent our three children, our two sons and daughter, to Serbia. We wanted to protect them. They were driving the tractor. My husband and I, as elderly people, stayed back to protect and defend the house. Since there were few Serbs who stayed behind in our village, some Albanians started molesting us, threatening and firing guns in front of our windows. So we decided to leave our village. We took only hand luggage and our cow and went to a neighboring Serbian village. We had to leave our house.

[Goldberg]   When did the refugees start leaving Kosovo?

[Filipovich]   On the 14th of June. You see us. We have only what we are wearing. We had a lot of poultry. We had a lot of cattle. We didn't let them loose. We just locked them in the stable and the chicken coop, expecting to return. You know, our army was leaving, and KFOR and the Albanian forces were moving in, so we followed our army. You remember I said that we decided to go to another Serbian village, but when we arrived there, the people there were also fleeing. Since the roads were jammed, we couldn't move fast, and we wanted to go to Brecovica, but the roads were so jammed that we couldn't move from Prizren. Even though KFOR was in Prizren, the KLA attacked us in Prizren, firing on our column.

[Elich]   And KFOR did nothing?

[Filipovich]   Nothing. Nothing. Just watching and laughing. Watching and laughing. Since we couldn't move, we returned to the Serbian village of Novake. We stayed overnight, and around 3:00 AM, gunfire started from the surrounding area, so we decided to flee to another village. This was a mixed village, Albanian Catholics and Serbians. When we arrived in that village, three KLA soldiers wearing different colors of caps came, together with KFOR. KFOR should be ashamed. I think they were Germans. They had two tanks. They said, 'Come here, come here.'

[Elich]   I'm sorry, who said 'Come here'? KLA or KFOR?

[Filipovich]   KFOR. KFOR said 'Come here, so we could see who you are.' Just to count us, to count the women and children.

We spent two nights in that village. Serbs were not allowed to stand guard. Only local Albanians were allowed to stand guard. Then KFOR called all the Serbian men to surrender their weapons to KFOR. KFOR then handed all the weapons over to the KLA. After two nights we decided to leave. KFOR organized our column. One tank was in front, and the other in back. And then we noticed that a lorry full of Albanians came. They were our neighbors. They smeared their faces so as not to be recognized, but we recognized them all the same. They wanted to plunder us. To be honest, KFOR did not allow them to do so. We were honest people. We didn't have any trouble with the neighbors. We didn't take anything from anyone, so our consciences were quite clear. We thought that we should be protected, as honest people. First KFOR collected all our weapons, so we were easy prey. Before my eyes, the KLA killed my uncle. Actually, they slaughtered him with an ax, and left his body. They didn't bury him. They cut him into pieces.

[Elich]   What was his name?

[Filipovich]   Radomir Milovanovich is the slaughtered one.

[Elich]   And when did that happen?

[Filipovich]   When KFOR came. KFOR was already there. I don't remember the exact date. KFOR isn't doing anything. KFOR simply doesn't prevent the KLA from doing anything. They can do anything. They can slaughter us, skin us, burn us alive, anything. They just simply sit and watch. And do nothing. We were not allowed to protect ourselves. We were driven out of our own homes. We were unarmed. We were at the mercy of the KLA terrorists. Without Clinton, without outside support, our neighbors wouldn't dare do that. They had support from KFOR. They gave them arms. They took the arms from us. We left our homes, with our naked souls, nothing else.

[Bozhe Antich]   I have experienced a great tragedy. It's difficult for me to talk. My name in Bozhe Antich. I am from the village of Sopin, in the municipality of Suva Reka. The KLA killed my brother's son. He was 42 years old. They killed him because he was a Serb. They killed my best friend, a mechanic. His name is Rancha Antich, from Ljeshane village. They also killed Dr. Boban Vuksanovich, director of the heath center in Suva Reka. They also killed my daughter in law's brother, 32 years old, just because he was a Serb. He was killed 200 meters from his home. They were neither soldiers nor policemen. They had no political influence. They were not in politics. They were ordinary workers. Mechanics. They went to the monastery to repair a machine there, and the road was bombed. They were on the way to the Holy Trinity monastery, a very old monastery from the 14th century [Note: after KFOR entered Kosovo in mid-June, KLA soldiers looted and burned this historic monastery, and in July they demolished it with explosives]. They left Suva Reka, on the way to repair the machine. It's four kilometers from Suva Reka. The KLA ambushed them, first killing the driver of the car. Then they pushed the car down over a cliff. Several of the passengers of the car were wounded. The terrorists were not satisfied with killing the driver, the doctor and my cousin. They wanted to kill everyone in the car. So when the car came to a stop at the bottom of the hill, they followed the car and killed my other nephew with 16 bullets in his body. [Shortly after the murders, when the investigating judge visited the site, KLA soldiers also murdered him.]

This is not a new story. The Albanians didn't start this just today or yesterday. They were supported by the Americans, by the British, by Germany and Italy. It dates back many years. Once they were sure that they would be protected - they way they are - actually, they received financial support from the countries I named. They bought a large amount of weapons. Then they set up their illegal army. The purpose of organizing that army was to kill all the Serbian people. I'm deeply convinced that all the NATO members, the countries that prepared this tragedy for many years should be really ashamed. Clinton in the first place, because he was their leader, and he financed these activities. Although he never visited Kosovo, he believed all the lies that were presented to him. [NATO General Michael] Jackson, [NATO General Secretary Javier] Solana visited Kosovo, [NATO General Wesley] Clark also, and [US Secretary of State Madeleine] Albright. They all deserve to be brought before The Hague tribunal together with Clinton, who never visited Kosovo. Even today, without NATO support, they couldn't do all the crimes that they are doing. I don't know whether anyone has mentioned this, but the most tragic thing is that in KFOR there are a great number of Albanians from Germany and Switzerland wearing KFOR uniforms. That's true. They are now guides for KFOR. All these persons I have mentioned should be ashamed, because we are first of all human beings, regardless of our race, ethnic origin and religion.

We can't go back as long as the KLA has KFOR protection, a shield for their murderous activities. If someone is human, he should at least be sorry for the little children who have been murdered. Because all the children of this world are children in the first place, regardless of their religion, race and ethnic origin. What is the future of our children now? They have no homes. They have no schools for now. We were not poor people. We had our property down there. We had houses. We had land. For example, in my case, I worked for 33 years. Now I am a beggar. I have nothing. Our country, Serbia, is in deep economic crisis. Serbia cannot help. What is our future?

All those supporting these criminal activities, committed by Albanian terrorists, should face the truth and see in us human beings, because we are human beings. We are honest and hard-working people.

[Elich]   We need your name first.

[Jovanovich]   Sava Jovanovich. [he is showing photographs throughout his interview] This is my village. This was destroyed by NATO. Very interesting. All the Albanian houses are standing, and bombs have hit the Serbian houses. This is my house. My courtyard. This is KFOR, the Germans. This is how they protect my house. This is an Albanian, stealing my belongings, and here is KFOR protecting him.

[unidentified youth]   Actually, they were all KLA, and KFOR lent them their [armored] vehicle. The KLA were just using the KFOR vehicle with the permission of KFOR.

[Jovanovich]   We are four brothers, and our father. You see they took everything - the tiles, the windows from the house. They demolished the house. They didn't burn it, they demolished it. You see 'UCK' [Albanian initials for 'KLA', graffiti on his demolished home]

[Jovanovich]   And here, in Albanian, you have this message: 'Return of Serbs prohibited'.

[Goldberg]   So are you saying that Serbian houses were targeted by the planes and Albanian houses were not?

[Jovanovich]   Yes. Yes.

[Goldberg]   When were you forced out?

[Jovanovich]   On June 11. We all left together. Some left on the 11th, some on the 12th. But, actually, it was an exodus. This is my house, the house where we used to live: my parents, my wife and I, and my three sons. This is my brother's house. All my brothers are neighbors. This is all our property with the four brothers together and houses next to each other.

[Goldberg]   Was anyone hurt in your family?

[Jovanovich]   My father decided to stay to protect the houses. I asked about my father, and they told me, "We don't know anything. We have no news from him. We don't know."

[Elich]   You haven't heard from him since?

[Jovanovich]   No. No news at all.

This is where I had my granary. They first took everything, all the wheat, and then they burned down the granary. They also plundered the wheat and corn from my brothers' property, and then burned down the building. We had about 15 cows, 20 pigs, and lots of poultry. Now we have nothing.

In my view, Clinton is responsible for all this. His politics actually. Together with Germany. They are responsible for this damage. They are also responsible for my father's life, because he stayed behind to save the property, because this is our life. My father remembers the stories from his grandfather, from the time when he lived while the region was still under the Ottoman Empire. And my father lived under German occupation during the world war. They didn't have to leave their homes. Now is the first time we were forced to leave. It is worse than under the Ottomans and the Germans.

[Elich]   In Western reports, Western leaders are saying that members of the KLA can become part of the new police force. What kind of police will these be?

[Jovanovich]   This is impossible, because they hate the Serbs and they are against the Serbs. This is not possible.

[Elich]   That's what KFOR says they want to do.

[Jovanovich]   We want our army and our police.

[Goldberg]   What was your relationship with the Albanians like before?

[Jovanovich]   You know, it was not very bad, but there was pressure all the time. We really didn't feel completely free down there. But listen, it was absolutely bearable until they got support from Clinton. During Tito's time and communism, it was bearable. But the moment Clinton came to the political scene and gave them support, it became unbearable. A very difficult situation started when the breakup of Yugoslavia began, so it's political. We know that the Americans wanted to turn Albania into their military base, and then gradually, through Kosovo, occupy Kosovo and then Serbia. We know that. And then the Albanians were incited to terrorize us, because it was part of the project.

[Goldberg]   How did they incite the Albanians to terrorize you?

[Jovanovich]   They had support. They started molesting us, threatening us. They were armed. They had a lot of money. They were very rich. They bought very expensive, very modern weapons. They were promised their own republic. They were promised a greater Albania. Through drug dealing, they got rich. But who allowed them to deal the drugs, in many countries? Someone could stop it. Kosovo has always been Serbian. Even the Turks knew it was Serbian territory, although it was under Turkish occupation, part of the Ottoman Empire. Really, I cannot imagine that Kosovo may be part of greater Albania. Clinton knows very well that Kosovo is the Serbian cradle.

[Chosich]   This is where Serbia was born as a state.

[Jovanovich]   This is all the doing of Clinton and his entourage. That's very plain. Our stories are actually the same, because the problems are the same, and the sources of the problems are the same.

[Elich]   Thank you. I think I'd like to interview a child next. [children are gathered]

[unidentified woman]   This is our future.

[Goldberg]   What is your name?

[A. Lazich]   Aleksandar Lazich.

[Elich]   Are you from the same family?

[A. Lazich]   We are neighbors.

[Elich]   Why did you leave Kosovo? (no response, despite urging of parents) Anyone can respond.

[B. Lazich, mother]   Why don't you tell them that they have kidnapped your uncles?

[S. Lazich]   No, I'm frightened to say.

[N. Lazich]   My name is Nikola Lazich. I am 8 years old. I fled Kosovo first because of the bombs.

[Elich]   Bombs were dropping near your home?

[N. Lazich]   In the vicinity of our house. I had to flee the Albanians.

[Elich]   Did you see anybody's home bombed? Neighbors?

[N. Lazich]   Yes. NATO bombed.

[Elich]   How did you feel whenever you heard a jet fly over?

[N. Lazich]   Yes we did. We were frightened. They were bombing all the time.

[Elich]   All the time? Every day?

[Chosich]   Every day. Yeah, awful. Even 36 hours without stopping.

[Goldberg]   How did it affect your life?

[N. Lazich]   Before the bombing, our life was good. During the bombing, we were in the cellar all the time. We couldn't play.

[Elich]   Is your home still standing?

[N. Lazich]   We want to go back to play and to go to school, and to live in freedom.

[unidentified woman]   But unfortunately, our adult neighbors are all now members of the KLA.


About one month after we returned to the United States, I read an article from the Yugoslav press concerning these same refugees. Sava Jovanovich had learned of his father's fate: "I heard that Albanian robbers hanged my old father who didn't want to leave, at his doorstep."

· · · · · ·


FOOLS' CRUSADE: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions, by Diana Johnstone (Book Excerpt)

The Balkans and Yugoslavia on Swans


Gregory Elich is a consultant in technology, an independent researcher, a journalist, and an activist.

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This Week's Internal Links

FOOLS' CRUSADE: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions - by Diana Johnstone (Book Excerpt)

Diana Johnstone's "Fools' Crusade" - Book Review by Louis Proyect

Diana Johnstone On The Balkan Wars - Book Review by Edward S. Herman

Diana Johnstone And The Demise Of 'Yugoslavism' - Book Review by Gilles d'Aymery

Selective Recognition and the Dismantling of SFR Yugoslavia - by Konstantin Kilibarda

Lessons From Yugoslavia: Blueprint for War? - by Jan Baughman

Making War Out Of Nothing At All - by Aleksandra Priestfield

Embedding The Truth - by Deck Deckert

Courage And Cowardice - by Richard Macintosh

An Awful Lawful World: Who Wins, Who Loses - by Philip Greenspan

Accomplishments - Poem by Sabina C. Becker

My Appearances - Poem by Gerard Donnelly Smith


Published May 26, 2003
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