Castes & Clans : Site Profiles : Maps :  Photos : Links : Additional Reports : Contributors : CSD

Site Profiles: Interviewee Areas of Kosovo

Site Profiles: North & South Mitrovica/ The Camps | Gnjilane/ Gjilan | Bostan- Novo Brdo | Prizren

Gnjilane/ Gjilan

Gnjilane/ Gjilan lies 34 KM southeast of Pristina. The Roma population of Gnjilane resides in three enclaves: the Mahala (Lole Ribara), Abdullah Presheva and a small area near Marshal Tito/ Skanderbeg.

Security & Transportation
Many Roma areas in Gnjilane/ Gjilan town were completely depopulated after June of 1999. Several Roma were assaulted and killed. Others had their homes burned or were intimidated into leaving the town; Gjilan Roma IDPs live throughout Serb areas of Kosovo,
Southern Serbia and Macedonia .

In May 2001 homes were burnt in the mahala in anticipation of the return of two Roma families. More homes have been burned since. A woman was assaulted outside the OSCE election registration center in the mahala, and a Rom male was murdered in October 2001; the victim was slated to testify against two Albanians that had assaulted him earlier. His throat was cut instead. Houses were consistently burned in the Abdullah Presheva area. Assaults against Roma men, women & children were commonplace until early 2002. These extreme examples, coupled with consistent minor acts of violence against the Roma community, created an intense atmosphere of fear, tension, and mistrust. Roma are reluctant to report instances of harassment to police; few actions have been taken by police on behalf of Gnjilane’s Roma in the recent past. Roma still contend with taunts and the occasional stoning; Roma women have reported being sexually harassed by Albanian males.

Unemployment within the Roma community is over 95%.

The majority of Gnjilane’s Roma benefit from UNMIK social assistance. The World Food Program halted food distribution in Gnjilane in spring of 2002.

Electricity is intermittent. Water is of poor quality. The Mahala’s telephones still function. Mobile phone coverage is limited to Alcatel; too expensive for most Roma.

Gnjilane contains 150 uninhabitable Roma homes, and 400 damaged homes. The American Refugee Committee has repaired six of these domiciles. Over 300 Roma homes are occupied by Albanians.

Gnjilane minorities have benefited from an immense amount of NGO activity in the area. Income generation products have been run by Soros, the IRC, ARC and UMCOR. Balkan Sunflowers created a Roma Resource Center in 2000; it still functions. A kindergarten is on the second floor, and the basement is now an exercise room, constructed by the ARC. IRC has also provided reconstruction grants.

About half of Gnjilane’s Roma have completed primary school. Few went on to secondary school- most of them males.

Roma attended Serb schools before June of 1999. After, they were cut off from all educational opportunities.

In 2000 UNMIK established a remedial education program with the intent to integrate Roma children into the Thimi Mitko Albanian primary school in Gnjilane. Tefik Agushi, the then-community leader, countered this by claiming that the children would be in danger. UNMIK countered by arranging transportation to the nearest Serbian school, in the village of Gornje Kusce .

Agushi independently decided that the Roma remedial program would become a Romanes school. UNMIK’s integration effort lost community support, and UNMIK Department of Education, Science and Technology’s refusal to recognize the establishment of parallel education systems, (and Agushi’s oft-times “lack of transparency” in regard to finances), ensured that the new Roma school- the ‘Blue Door School-’ received no funding or recognition.

The school has now been recognized by UNMIK. Classes are now conducted by two Serbian teachers and untrained Roma volunteers. 65 children, aged 7- 17, are enrolled. The school fosters isolation; there is no option of continued education.

Other students attend school in the Serb village of Gornje Kusce . UNMIK provides transportation.

Additionally, Balkan Sunflowers runs a kindergarten in the Mahala. They also offer homework assistance, computer and foreign language instruction. The Soros Foundation instituted an adult literacy program.

Demographic Information




Under 18





Roma 2001




Roma 2002




Roma 2003




The Gnjilane Roma claim that 7000 Roma lived in Gnjilane before 1999.

~15 Roma IDPs from Pristina and Uroševac/ Ferizaj live in the Mahalas.

Home  |  Background  |  History  |  Culture  |  Interviews  |  Clans & Castes  |  Site Profiles  |  Maps  |  Photos  |  Additional Reports  |  Contributors  |  Links  |  Site Map

Who We Were, Who We Are: Kosovo Roma Oral Histories
©Bobby Anderson 2003-2009. All rights reserved.

This project was made possible by the generous financial support of the Open Society Institute Roma Culture Initiative.

Additional thanks to all other
donors & implementers

This study may be freely distributed, in whole or part, so long as the source is cited:
Who We Were, Who We Are: Kosovo Roma Oral Histories © Bobby Anderson 2003-2009
Is there something you feel we're missing? Do you have any comments, suggestions, or need additional information? Please write Bobby Anderson at bobby@balkanproject.org