had many Roma here, but as I said, they’ve gone, they’ve left their
homes. Some went to Serbia
and some went to Europe.
Those who could find a solution, a way to live here- they stayed. And
those who couldn’t, left to other places.”
lives near the top of the Gracanica Mahala. Every morning he walks down the
Mahala’s single dirt road. In the spring that road is deep mud. He stops and
talks to his friends; some days he pulls up a chair with them. They sit in the
sun and sometimes they have a rakija or a coffee. And Esat then takes his leave
and walks back to his home, his groceries banging against his right knee.
jokes. The life of your mother! Is his favorite expression. Esat likes to drink
a bit of beer while he says odd things about Roma and Albanians and Serbs and
his bedridden wife and guests laugh. He’s retired, with a miniscule pension,
and a home 13 km away that was taken from him. He feels it’s his job to laugh,
to put the humor into bad things, so that others may relax. Esat may not believe
his own jokes, but others do.
EF: I was
born in Pristina; I lived in Gracanica for almost 20 years. I then lived
in Pristina, but now I am here again, a refugee. I’m 60 years old.
were your parent’s names?
name was Haljilj, and my mother’s name was Bedrija.
did your father do?
He worked in Pristina. He had a lovely shop; he sold brandies, cakes,
chocolates… and my mother worked in Albanian and Serbian homes, to
give us everything we needed. After that, she found work in an ambulanta.*
was beautiful; you couldn’t tell that she was a Roma.
am Muhadjeri*, but there are many other types. As I said, now everything is
different, and people have changed.
is the difference between your dialect and others?
only difference between our language and other Roma dialects is pronunciation.
We still understand one another. We say maro*,
others say mandro*.
(* Maro/ Mandro- bread in
you tell us about the holidays you celebrate?
celebrate everything. First, as Muslims, we celebrate Bajram. We also celebrate
Djurdjevdan and Veljigdan. On Veljigdan
we color eggs for the children, so they’ll not be jealous of others. We also
celebrate the first of May.
have money to spend, we spend it; we don’t think about tomorrow.
Last year I bought three lambs, and we killed them. One lamb, we baked; that
morning some neighbors came to my house. We drank coffee and ate the lamb’s
kidneys. The next morning, we ate lamb for breakfast, with all our family. And
every year we wait for the visitors.
have to kill geese, turkeys and chickens. In the morning, one invited guest will
come. Others bake special breads.
you know any Egyptians or Ashkalija?
Egyptians didn’t exist before. Ashkalija? In their homes, they speak Albanian.
I’ve only heard of Egyptians in the past four years.
the difference between Roma and Ashkalija?
Egyptians side with the Albanians.
old were you when you were married?
I was 14 years old. I still live with my wife; I love her, and I married her.
us about your wedding.
father visited her family. Her father heard that we were in love with one
another. I had to pay 2000 Deutschmarks for her; she escaped from her family
home, and now I have children and grandchildren.
many children do you have?
have five children and twelve grandchildren.
you remember the Second World War? Did your father or grandfather tell you any
stories from that time?
was a baby when the Germans were here. They left me in the forest, I stayed
there. They forgot me. And when my parents came back to get me, they thought
they’d find me dead. I was born in 1943.
were you during the last war?
was here. We were scared; we hid in the shelters with many others. The first
night was frightening, because many windows were broken.
did you think then?
thought the bombing would not happen. But when I saw that it would, I was
scared. Many people died during the bombing.
wife is paralyzed because of the bombing. When NATO soldiers came here, the
Albanians took Kosovo in their hands. Everyone left the Mahala; everyone left
Fetahi’s wife suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her condition is a
direct result of the bombing, and her PTSD has aggravated Mrs. Fetahi’s
preexisting medical conditions. She is bedridden; her bed is placed in the
Fetahi’s visiting room, so that she won’t be lonely during the day.)
We had many Roma here, but as I said, they’ve gone, they’ve left their
homes. Some went to Serbia and some went to Europe. Those who could find a
solution, a way to live here- they stayed. And those who couldn’t, left to
Now some Roma have come back, and some are still there.
do you know of Roma history?
heard that we are from India. The people of India said that we should return,
but Tito wouldn’t let us do that. When Tito was alive, we didn’t have
problems; we had jobs. We didn’t have war, like now.
worked in the fields. We had to work in the fields, to pay for our weddings.
were you married? What customs did you follow?
could not go to our bride’s home, because the bride’s family would kill us.
We sent elders to do our talking, and if they want to give their daughter for
marriage, then we have to talk about the money.
I was betrothed, my wife and I lived in different Mahalas. If I saw her, I would
have to leave and go my way via a different road. We weren’t allowed to see
each other (before
the wedding) - that would have been a great shame for us.
had to do that; if my father were to see us together, he would kill us.mp3
And we weren’t allowed to say that we didn’t wish to be married. Now it is
different, and for us, it is a different feeling, because new parents don’t
know what they are doing. Before, our parents knew about everything. The most
important thing, though, is the same; the boy and girl must be healthy.
your fiancé came to your house for the first time, did you meet her, or did you
have to leave?
hid myself. That tradition was for good reasons; that’s what we believe.
you pay the dowry?
RC:Yes, we had to pay
for the girl.
you pay a lot?
I’ll tell you this: Many Roma have left the country to work; they have lots
of money, and we don’t. For them, the price is bigger. When I got married, I
had to work for two years to pay the dowry, but in my opinion, the money’s not
important. The important thing is the life of the couple, and that is what we
should care about.
don’t know. We know only that we are Ashkalija, and we are Muslims.
you know any Egyptians?
Before, the Egyptians didn’t exist
holidays do you celebrate here?
We celebrate Bajram and
Turkish/ Romanes for Ramadan)
you celebrate Djurdjevdan?
No, we don’t celebrate Djurdjevdan. We shouldn’t have this holiday. The
people that celebrate Djurdjevdan: we say that they’re Roma.mp3
On the first day of Djurdjevdan, the Serbs buy the biggest lambs, and that day
they don’t do anything.
you attend school?
never went to school. We were poor; we had to work. There were many different
schools then; Muslim schools, Albanian schools, and Serb schools.
Muslim schools RC refers to are Medressas- Islamic
schools where students learn to read and write Arabic and memorize the Koran.)
did you think of Tito?
That was a good period. Everyone who wanted work had the opportunity to work.
worked for 20 years, and that was a great time.
Beriša may be evicted soon; her landlord, a Roma who fled to Serbia
after 1999, has declared his intention to sell her rented house from under her.
a bluff; he’s asking 15,000 Euro. He’d be lucky to get 5,000 in a good
market. Mrs. Beriša’s from the city, and so is her husband; they’ve got to
have money somewhere. This attitude is common, especially in a village, and it
makes Mrs. Beriša’s life hard.
one great hope is that she can reclaim the apartment her family owned in Obilić
town. Her family could get out of Plemetina, and return to the city, where
there’s more opportunity, more things to do, more open minds.
however, is not a place for open minds. The Ashkalija have returned to the
Azotiku neighborhood there, and have settled in with few security threats. But
the danger is always there- especially if you’re a minority, and too many
people find out about you that don’t care for your presence. A Serb family
that refused to flee Obilić after 1999 held out until June of 2003, when
they were all beaten to death in their beds in the middle of the night. Their
home was then burned.
maybe she’ll get the apartment back, and then sell it, and move on- maybe out
of Kosovo, maybe not. She’s negotiating with the man who took over her
apartment after she ran from it. He’ll move, as long as he gets a 5,000 Euro
‘upkeep’ fee. This is the unofficial fee for all apartments seized in Kosovo
after the war. If you pay, you have no problems. If you don’t, and the UN
evicts the people that stole your place, they’ll return soon and set it on
fire. Count your blessings; at least you weren’t beaten to death.
name is Shaha, and my surname is Beriša.
from Obilić; I am a refugee. I’m here with my four children; three
daughters and one son.
you know your husband before you married him?
knew he would be my husband. I had a relationship with him, and I told my
father that I loved him. I was 18 years old, and my husband understood me.
finished primary school, but I had to stop after that. The secondary school was
too far from my home, and I had no transport. I wasn’t the only one who had
to stop going to school; many Serbian girls didn’t finish school either. Only
those who had transportation could go to school in Uroševac.
Ferizaj lies 36 kilometers south of Obilić/
you tell us about the holidays that you celebrate?
celebrate Bajram, Djurdjevdan, everything.
Vasilica I saw, from the elders, what they do, and we do the same things. On
Vasilica we bake bread with a coin in it; all the members of the family will get
a piece. The person that finds the coin will have a lot of money, and they’ll
need to carry the coin in their pocket for the entire year.mp3
Before, the old custom was to sell Sarma, but we don’t follow this.
Bajram, we celebrate better, because we are Muslims. There are two Bajrams- big
and small. On the big Bajram we bake cakes; on the small Bajram every family
with money must buy a lamb and give it to a poorer family.
Mr. Emini requested that we not videotape or photograph him.
wouldn’t sleep; while my children slept, I kept guard. I knew that I
couldn’t help them, and I couldn’t stand it. I could not sit in one place. I
wanted to save them, but I didn’t know how.”
First I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Ferki Emini, and my nickname is
Beco. I am the leader of Prilužje’s Roma. I was born on October 15, 1960, so that means I’m around
43 or 44 years old. I was born in Prilužje.
Right now I’m the leader* of Prilužje’s Roma. I had a regular job (before
June of 1999), but I don’t work anymore. Most other Roma are in the same
situation as me. I work privat*.
Roma leader represents a sole community, and many divided Roma communities have
competing leaders. The position is elected, by general consensus; leadership can
be revoked at any time by a group vote of all the Roma men in a community.
is a general Roma term for manual/ contract labor, and means anything from
recycling to digging trenches to more sophisticated trades, like carpentry.)
is your trade?
I am Bugurdjije, but I don’t have so much work as I had before the war. I
have to keep working; I want to earn money for my children.
Blacksmithing goes s kolenanakoleno (family to family). My grandfather was a
blacksmith; he taught my father, and my father taught me. And I teach my
work, is something very important. Roma are all poor. My family are blacksmiths;
I started this work when I was 12 years old and now I can say that I am a
professional. I work with my brothers and my sons.
My father wanted me to be married; my mother was against this, but my father was
persistent. My oldest sister was already married; I was the second one to go,
and my father told me I’d be married. I did not know my wife; my father
investigated. He went to my bride’s home, to see what type of people they
were. After he approved it, I met them, and the arrangements were made.
you have any problems with your bride, considering that you didn’t know one
another before the marriage?
Listen: I’ve been married for 23- 24 years, and I’ve never hit my wife*. We
never had any big problems; we respect each other, and we teach each other.
There are always some little problems, but thanks to me, everything is fine. All
of my children are good; they respect us, but we respect them; we respect their
decisions as well. Everything is fine.
Please note that spousal abuse is not a readily recognized concept in Kosovo.)
kind of Roma are you?
We are proper Roma- Bugurdjije. And we speak Romanes.
you know where Roma originated?
once read a book on Romani history. We came from India; this is what the older Roma
also told me. There are many shared words between Romanes and the Indian
languages*. An example is pani-
water. We cannot be Egyptians; we are from India.
bears distinct similarities to the Indo-European Panjabi,
Dardic and Gujarati languages of northern India.)
my mother told it, we celebrate Djurdjevdan, Vasilica, Božić
(Christmas) and Veljigdan (Easter).
Djurdjevdan, Roma begin their preparations a month before. In their homes they
paint and clean up;* when the day arrives, we buy a lamb, and our children help
us kill it.
is serious cleaning. The women of a Roma household will empty the entire home,
stack the goods and furniture outside, and clean absolutely every centimeter of
Djurdjevdan we cannot kill any other animal; it must be a lamb, and it must be
that because it is a very special day.
We’ll kill chickens, or geese; that is the custom. If you have, say, five
sons, then you must kill five geese; three sons, three geese. But people cannot
do this any longer (because of the cost). We celebrate with our families; the
women have some additional work in the home, but that’s not for us; it’s for
them. They must make Sarma that night. And Sarma has to boil all night, and be
ready at eight in the morning; we’ll be awake the whole night with them,
morning, my family will go to visit my uncle and sister at my mother’s home.
But they have to buy the Sarma.
youngest daughter-in-law will be the one to cook the Sarma; my mother can cook
it well, but she no longer has to. The cook will name the price that must be
paid for the Sarma.
Deutschmarks… actually, Euro now, DM are no longer… we will make a deal with
the cook over the Sarma, and before the negotiations are complete, no one can
begin eating. The head of the house will give the money for the feast. We will
light a candle, and place it near the bread, and that is the custom of Vasilica.
you sing songs on Vasilica?
Roma are always making music.
there any special songs sung on Vasilica?
There are some special songs, but we usually just listen to the radio.
There is one special song for Djurdjevdan. On that day, as I said, we kill a
lamb, and celebrate for three days. In our village we have one musician. We’ll
have other parties, and sometimes we invite Roma from Plemetina- especially the
youth- to join us. The Serbs will join us as well.
Christmas is for the Serbs, but we celebrate this day as well. We buy fruits,
for the children, and the eldest member of my family has to go out to bring hay
in our home; he scatters it on the floors, and we lay blankets over it and sit
in a circle.
all chant pile, pile, pile* – which
means we’ll have many new animals in the coming year.mp3
And after that we share the fruit among our family; nuts, apples and others.
Serbian for chicken)
Christmas morning, the old Roma custom is to visit our neighbors, very early,
and bring wood as a gift. We wish them a merry Christmas, and they invite us in
for coffee and meat.
were you during the NATO bombing?
was working on the day the bombing began. When I returned to work, for the
second shift, an Albanian friend told me that NATO would begin bombing all
military installations at . I don’t know how he
knew, but it was the truth; at exactly 8 the bombing started. It was terrifying,
because our village had a military aerial (radio tower). I thought NATO would
bomb us. We were very afraid.
sound of the alarms was really bad. We couldn’t bear the sound. We had to
leave home, and we’d think, now they’re going to bomb us. Now they’re
going to kill our children.
wouldn’t sleep; while my children slept, I kept guard. I knew that I
couldn’t help them, and I couldn’t stand it. I could not sit in one place. I
wanted to save them, but I didn’t know how.
Prilužje’s Roma leader, can you tell us what problems Roma here deal with?
be honest, I try, and I do my best, to help Roma here. And some of them are
grateful. But Roma are Roma; if the result is not very big, if the quantity of
help isn’t huge, then they are not grateful. I watch television, and I saw the
war in Iraq; I know that we do not have a
lot of help here, but they (*Internationals), are doing their best to bring us
help, especially in our village. In other villages, the situation is worse. Twenty
days ago an American organization came here. They brought us food, clothes,
shoes and school supplies. Thanks to one soldier’s friend we received that
help. But again, we need aid.