Macedonia and Kosovo After the Military Operations
by Antonina Zhelyazkova Translated from Bulgarian by Violeta Angelova
I. Approaches to the research and methodology
II. Social specifications of the respondents
1. Albanian refugees in the camps and in the private houses in Tetovo
2. Albanians in Macedonia and Albanians in Albania. Their social relations with the Kosovars
3. The Macedonians
III. Psychological portraits of different ethnic and social levels
1. Albanian refugees in the camps and in the houses of Tetovo
2. Macedonians and Macedonian society as a whole
III. Psychological portraits of different ethnic and social levels
1. Albanian refugees in the camps and in the houses of Tetovo
The period from 16th to 20th June set as a premise a comparatively calm and balanced emotional state of the respondents in the camps. Conditions in the camps are good and there is no tension caused by daily discomfort.
The Kosovars are filled with emotional enthusiasm and gratitude towards the USA, for their support of independent Kosovo. That is why it was a surprise when, in the subsequent answers, they pointed out Deutsche Welle as the radio they listened to most of all and trusted most of all. The broadcasts of Deutsche Welle in Albanian language have a significant advantage over BBC, Free Europe and the Voice of America, even over the broadcasts of Radio Tirana and the Albanian transmissions of the Macedonian Radio. Several persons mentioned that they listened to the transmissions in Albanian language of Radio Bulgaria. Judging by the Bulgarian transmissions of Deutsche Welle during the war, it is obvious that this radio station is offering more varied points of view, their comments are easier of access for listeners with differences in their views. Just as a parallel, I’d like to remind that before the fall of Zhivkov’s regime, Deutsche Welle was the radio the Turks and the Muslims in Bulgaria listened to.
The respondents’ ideas about Western Europe and the USA are different. Most of them know Europe well through their own experience or the stories of relatives and they have quite a realistic idea how far they could rely on aid and support from the European countries. Their ideas about the USA are nonrealistic as well as their expectations for a “horn of plenty” that will pour into the freedom-loving and independent Kosovo. To our questions “Why do you leave these clothes in the camps?”, they answered, “When we reach home the Americans will give us more!”; “Will the Europeans help for the restoration of Kosovo?”, - “A little, maybe, Albright said they should help as well!”
Regardless of all they have suffered, the optimistic spirits are prevailing gradually turning into euphoria. The tenacious desire for an urgent return to their homes and to participate in the restoration of Kosovo has been motivated by the idea that this is the only (for decades past) chance for the Kosovars to obtain their independent state and to build their life keeping to their own understandings. Their readiness to participate in the rebuilding of a free Kosovo eliminates the traditional attitude of quick personal prosperity via emigrating to some West European country. The respondents maintain that even part of the refugees who were transferred to the West according to special lists as well as part of those Kosovars who have been working for years in the European countries, will come back to take part in the rapid restoration of Kosovo.
Part of the expectations are not realistic, especially as regards the rates of the political stabilization of the region, i.e. quick holding of elections, understanding among the leaders, civil management of full value, magic opportunities of the western protectorate, etc., as well as the restoration of the family material losses (e.g. ruined houses, ruined business, crop failure, lost livestock, etc.).
We include in the unreal self-evaluations and expectations the obvious myth about “Kosovo as the richest land in the Balkans” and therefore so dispute and longed for by all. The respondents, mainly the better educated, are inclined to speak on this topic starting from the rich agricultural produce, the factories and the plants, the Kosovars as the most industrious people in the Balkans, going so far as to the exaggerated mineral resources, i.e. diamond and gold mines, ores, rare metals, etc. By the way, at the beginning of the war, Bulgarian respondents with "shadowy business" connections animatedly discussed the reasons for the USA's interference, i.e. the diamond and gold mines in Kosovo, the eldorado of the Balkans.
In spite of the extreme circumstances, the collective ideas of the Kosovar Albanians for power, self-management and authority have not changed which makes them believe that the Albanian leaders will have to obey the elders of the clan and to try to achieve understanding among them. The comments about the new leaders of UCK were accepted with assent but with the remark that, if necessary, the young leaders would stand to attention before the elders of their families.
The prevailing part of the respondents chooses the ideal variant as regards the Kosovo leaders: to come to an agreement, not to split, and to solve the fate of Kosovo together. To our persistent question “who would they choose if the leaders did not get along together”, most of them pointed out Rugova without any hesitation. They believe that he had been forced to negotiate with Milosevic, they like the fact that he is moderate and has always endeavoured to avoid victims. On the basis of this prevailing assessment, however, one cannot make political prognosis as it is obvious that the opinion of the Kosovars will be talked over, manipulated, etc. after they return to their native places. This was stated in outspoken terms and with irritation by one of the political leaders of the Albanians in Macedonia: “Now they do not know the truth. When they go back to Kosovo they will find out
who is the real leader and who is the traitor.”
It was a surprising discovery to perceive among the Kosovars a deeply hidden yugo-nostalgia. The old and middle aged men underlined during our long talks the positive aspects while living in Yugoslavia, especially at the time of autonomy. It was a significant memory for those who studied or worked in ethnically mixed environment, and Serbs, Albanians, Bosnians, Croatians, etc. gathered in one place, studied and worked together making no difference of their ethnic or religious origin. The calm life, the opportunities to work in Europe and the accumulation of personal wealth, all this was narrated with nostalgia.
The feud with the Serbs is deep and will be long lasting. All respondents declared emotionally but categorically that they could not live with the Serbs, but they added “for the time being”. The desire for revenge and vengeance can be easily perceived among the refugees, and especially among those who have lost members of their families or among the youth between 16 and 20 years of age. In general, the radicalism of the youngest boys was obvious. Even some young women uttered threats for revenge. The attempts to remind for the good-neighbor co-existence from previous years met the habitual stereotype: “My neighbors Jovan and Militsa are good people but the Serbs are bad”, or “They did a lot of evil to reconcile on the basis of our childhood memories.”
Among the elder Kosovars with higher education, even if they suffered heavy losses, the answer was: “Right now it is not possible to live together, but in several years the business contacts will be restored and the relations will gradually normalize. The economic logic will call for this”. The basic bearers of attitudes of intolerance are the youngest people as well as the illiterate people but this is not related with the burden of the suffered losses because the educated people as well as the older ones admitted that now or later, life would have its own way and they would communicate with the Serbs. This is a perspective for resignation and not for reconciliation.
The rupture with the Romas, who even in the beginning of 1998 had been used by the Serbian police and army to plunder and maraud in the Albanian estates, is dramatic. With unleashing the war, according to the statements of the respondents, they committed much heavier crimes, i.e. treacheries. It is quite inadmissible and unforgivable for the Kosovars that the Romas buried the victims in mass graves, thus desecrating the bodies without observing the most needed rituals.
Kosovars are intolerant towards the Turks as well. They explain this with the fact that the Turks collaborated with the Serbian authorities. In fact, the Albanians feel a sort of ethnic superiority as regards the Turks (the same attitude was registered among the Albanians in Macedonia). They consider them people of lower quality, and they even are inclined to think that these are not Turks in fact but Albanians converted to Mohammedanism (a thesis that is not new for the Balkans in various versions).
In the course of our research we did not face any case with a raped woman, nor did we hear similar stories though we spoke about the most intimate things with women of different ages. There was even a Women’s committee in the Radusha camp, which facilitated the life of the women and organized them for different activities but they did not mention this as a problem either. The anthropologists, on their side, who worked with the men, after strengthening their confidence and the friendly relations, were also informed about some intimate issues and their advice was sought but no cases of raped women were mentioned. We were left with the impression that if there were such cases in the course of the war, they were isolated and not a mass practice. Our team did not feel any tension on this topic although we were told dramatic stories of losses, violence and humiliations.
The conclusion is that the Kosovars are in a highly excited, euphoric state which is very easy to manipulate. Very often, in the course of our discussions, the respondents wept for anger, sorrow or gratitude. The fact that they were not in a position to observe some of their obligatory traditions and rituals, as the rituals of hospitality, for example, plunged them into despair. An old man wept when I had to leave the tent after one-hour talk without his having treated me. He shouted to his sons, “Bring a glass of cold water at least”. Then we made a settlement by compromise that he had been my guest, so I took a box with sweeties, and promised to be his guest at his home in Prishtina.
It is entirely in the hands of the leaders where to direct this piled up super- emotionality and energy for freedom and independence, for prosperity in the future. It can very easily be plunged in a constructive direction but it could also be directed towards revenge, political polarization and vandalism.
The attitude towards Bulgaria and the Bulgarians is positive; one can feel the strong respect as regards the democratic achievements. It has been evaluated quite precisely that the Bulgarians are poor, they express their sympathy, but according to their value system this is not the most important thing. Bulgarians are evaluated as the most reasonable and democratic people in the Balkans. Well known are the facts for a good ethnic understanding in Bulgaria. There is no offence as regards the fact that we did not accept refugees because this is considered the right decision by the Bulgarians (it was right for both the Kosovar refugees and for Bulgaria). The medical teams and the Bulgarian military men who had achieved good living conditions in the Radusha camp and inspired a sense of security, (there were 30 pregnant women who expected their birth terms; some of them had not been examined by a gynaecologist for the last 4-5 months, and others - never before), built up the good image of Bulgaria and the desire for trade and cooperation in the future. The fact that we fulfilled each of our promise given the previous day, was met with satisfaction because their original positive attitude towards the Bulgarians was confirmed and this spread immediately through the entire camp. The team set the start of many friendships, some of them holding future perspectives.
It was surprising that the Kosovars did not express a sense of gratitude towards the Macedonians who gave them shelter and took care of them. They answered unwillingly to the questions referring to their attitude towards the Macedonians. Stress, offence and negative feelings had piled up in them from what they suffered in Blatse. Even those, who had not crossed this point as deportees, knew in details about the sufferings of their compatriots and they nursed bad feelings. Only a few young respondents (about 18 years old) said in an offhand manner, “Macedonians are not good people”, but catching them with the question whether they would trade with Macedonia, the respondents answered affirmatively (with some exceptions only), “We have traded with Macedonia and we shall trade in the future”.
The Albanians from Macedonia are not willing to give an opinion about the Macedonians: “We live together normally. But you can see, our politicians reached an agreement. Now everything is OK”.5th July, 1999Sofia