09 July 2007

The Serbs from Banjska

BBC News Serbian, Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - Published at 23:41 GMT

In the village of Banjska in the municipality of Vucitrn there are twenty Serb households with a total of about 120 members.

By Tanja Vujisic, BBC correspondent in Kosovska Mitrovica

120 Serbs from Banjska live mostly from UNMIK social assistance

There isn't a single food store in the village today and 60 year-old local resident Sasa Jocic points out that Serbs in this locale, once a rich producer of fruits and vegetables, now live from social assistance.

"Ninety five percent of the residents here have no jobs. What are we living from? That's a very good question. For example, my father receives an UNMIK pension and some form of social assistance. Some people with children receive children's supplements and that is their basic revenue for living. Except for the Red Cross, we get no help from anyone, neither governmental nor non-governmental organizations. At first they did help but now everyone has turned their backs on us, why, I don't know," explains Sasa Jocic from Banjska.

Freedom of movement

He emphasizes that what he and other residents of Banjska miss the most is freedom of movement.

If freedom of movement existed, he says, everyone would live from the fruits of his labors and they would not be dependent on social assistance.

"If we had the freedom to work because we formerly lived from the sale of agricultural products in Kosovska Mitrovica, Zvecan and Kosovo Polje, and our earnings were very good. I once owned three-four cows, and today I have none. I have to buy every single liter of milk," says Sasa Jocic, a resident of Banjska in Kosovo.

Young people

There are only a few young people presently living in the village, and they are thinking about leaving their native village because they have nothing to hope for, stresses Nebojsa Jocic.

"It's difficult, no one has any money. Everything is a problem and I'm thinking about leaving this place. In five years nothing has improved. Why would it improve now? Things are getting worse and worse. Even those that had jobs have lost them now," explains Nebojsa Jocic.

Whatever happens, we're staying

Unlike Nebojsa, Sasa Jocic assures us that the older residents have no intention of leaving.

"We will stay even if we are the last ones on the planet to do so. We are completely certain that we are staying. To the last breath. That means, God forbid, if everyone is slaughtered, we may stay dead but we certainly will not leave while we are still alive."

Sasa says they have no contact with their Albanian neighbors because they have experienced many things that have disrupted relations.

"We ignore them, and they ignore us. Since 1999 we have had murders and kidnappings. There is non-stop theft. That means that all remains is our bare souls."


Eleven year-old Ana Dancetovic is one of 12 pupils who travel daily from their village to the elementary school in Kosovska Mitrovica.

She says that children of Albanian nationality from the village don't bother them but that she has no intention of associating with them.

"No, only when there is snow and we skate. They tell us: We won't bother you and so on. We have no contact with them. They've torched many houses and stolen many things."


Seventy year-old Ljubica Dancetovic lives alone with the 40 euros per month she receives from UNMIK social assistance.

"Presently I live alone. Those of us who are retired receive what UNMIK gives us and I have nothing else. Those of us who receive this get nothing more, that's it - social assistance."

Nevertheless, Grandmother Ljubica and all the other elderly residents of Banjska are more optimistic than the young people.

"God be praised, things will get better," says Grandmother Ljubica from the village of Banjska in Kosovo.