09 November 2006

Young Serbs in Kosovo

BBC IN SERBIAN (UK), Monday, October 16, 2006 Published 23:35 GMT By Tanja Vujicic, BBC Kosovo

Orahovac and Velika Hoca are Serb villages in Prizren municipality, home to about 1,200 Serbs and Montenegrins.

Prior to the summer of 1999 there were many more but the majority, especially of the younger population, moved away. Now, the number of young people between the ages of 14 and 18 in both villages is less than one hundred.

They have completely different problems than their peers living outside the province, the greatest of which, they emphasize, is freedom of movement. 30 students in four grades of secondary school

I find 16 year-old Tijana Stolic from Orahovac in the neighboring village of Velika Hoca, where she says she comes because there are more of her peers here. She attends the second year of the secondary school in her village, where the total number of students in all four grades is thirty.

"We all know each other. When we go somewhere, things look a little bit strange to us. In Orahovac we have less room than there is here in Velika Hoca. In my village we have an area of some 500 meters, one church and the houses close to it. It's only there that we have freedom of movement."

Tijana says that she has never walked the one kilometer from Orahovac to Velika Hoca in the past seven years.

"We can go by ourselves but only by car and we have no protection to ensure we are safe. You can go anytime you like but there is no protection going or coming back. We have no escorts."

Young people, and peers for friendship

Besides school and two cafes, young people have no other place to go with their friends.

Tijana frequently visits relatives in central Serbia and she explains the differences in everyday life.

"There you have more friends. You can go places whenever you want and come back. In short, everything is free. But here you have to be home at eight and now it gets dark earlier, which is horrible."

What Tijana misses most is freedom. Eighteen-year Dobrosav, a visitor from Velika Hoca, agrees.

"What I miss most of all is that there is no freedom of movement. And second of all... love. There aren't that many girls here; there are few young people, mostly older people."

Despite the fact that he says he misses freedom and love, Dobrosav has no intention of leaving his home town.

"It's a little boring, it's true, but nevertheless it is better to be in your home town that to go anywhere else. One loves the place one is from more than anywhere else in the world, at least in my case. I could never leave this place. Here I know what kind of person everyone is, whether I should associate with them or not. After all, a village is a village..."

Extremists still a threat, Serbs inured to hardship

Taking into account that numerous Serbs have been kidnapped from Orahovac and Velika Hoca, houses set on fire and that threats by extremist Albanians still exist, I ask Dobrosav whether he is afraid to live in such circumstances.

"We have grown used to it; we're not afraid of anything anymore. A gunshot means nothing anymore; it's all become a habit. If anything happens to anyone else, it will happen to me, too; I can't run away from that. Everyone's destiny awaits him."

Tijana: Invitation to young people from Serbia

Tijana Stolic from the beginning of this story says that she wishes that young people from central Serbia would come to visit Orahovac and Velika Hoca.

"All of us here in Kosovo would like to be friends with them. We are not responsible for what happened here. We wish that they would come and visit us sometimes, that they would visit so we can be friends."

Every school year both villages are enrolling fewer elementary school students because their parents are sending them to family outside Kosovo, convinced that living conditions there are not good for anyone, especially not for children.

(Translated by sib on October 17, 2006)