Back 3 - Next 

1999: Revenge – The Serbs Pay the Price

A fresco of St. Symeon, a famous Serbian saint, in the badly damaged cathedral of the Holy Virgin of Lyevish, beg. of the 14th century. Copyright by kosovo.net
A fresco of St. Symeon, a famous Serbian saint,
in the badly damaged cathedral of the Holy Virgin
of Lyevish, beg. of the 14th century

Immediately after the end of the bombing in June 1999 hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians began flowing back into Kosovo while thousands of Serbs took flight. (Read Branislav Krstić's account in his ESI profile) Judah witnessed several instances of revenge, of houses and villages being put to the torch. In Mitrovica, Meli Uka, a 22-year old Albanian student sipped coke and watched a column of fleeing Serb families packed onto cars and on tractor-trailers and told him: "They wanted Albanians out and now this is our revenge. I am very happy about it and I never want them to come back. Now we are free."

In Vučitrn (Vushtrri in Albanian) Albanian families swarmed through the Serbian Orthodox priest's house. Mothers manoeuvred sofas down stairs, children roamed about with hammers smashing religious pictures while others piled food, church candles and anything else they could carry on to wheelbarrows. When they were done they moved on to the church. A girl with a manic expression on her face smashed the windows. Women tugged on dark red velvet altar cloths and precious icons crashed to the floor. A man struggled to wrench the chandelier from the ceiling.

Outside, two French soldiers from the Kosovo Force, KFOR, the newly arrived international peace force which has NATO at its core, looked on amiably. Up the road a Gypsy house was on fire. Albanians accuse many Gypsies of having 'collaborated' with the Serbs. At that moment the local French commander drove past. According to the sticker on his jeep, his regimental motto was 'Avec le sourire' He said: 'Our job is to reassure the population'. I said it didn't look like he was reassuring the few remaining Serbs. He replied, sans sourire, 'The orders are to let them pillage.' I said: 'That's mad.' He said: 'Of course it's mad, but those are the orders.'

[pp. xvii-xviii]

Kosovo: War and Revenge. 2002, Second Edition. [Yale University Press]

 Back 3 - Next