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Interviews

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The Interviews- Page 10

Danuš Dubovići

Watch a Video excerpt of the interview

 

"During the last war, I stayed here, with my wife. The whole Mahala was empty. We were here- just us and the dogs."

Kosovo Polje

DD: My name is Danuš Dubovići; I am from Kosovo Polje. We lived in Bresje*, for 45 years, and then we moved here.

(* Bresje is a Serb/ Roma enclave one kilometer south of Kosovo Polje.)

My father’s name was Dilji; He was also from Bresje. We are Roma Bugurdjije, and we are blacksmiths.

Did you attend school?

DD: In the past, we would finish only four or five years of primary school. My grandchildren attend Albanian schools. Before, we led difficult lives.

Tell us about your wedding. Did you know your wife before the marriage?

DD: Before (the wedding), we didn’t know each other. My father told me I was to be married, with some girl, and I had to do that. But now, it’s so much better, because the boy and girl know each other.

Where did the Bugurdjije originate?

DD: We are simply blacksmiths. I am Muslim.

How many children do you have?

DD: I have seven children.

During the last war, I stayed here, with my wife. The whole Mahala was empty. We were here; just us and the dogs. mp3

We celebrate Djurdjevdan. But to be honest, I don’t celebrate it anymore. If my children would like to celebrate Vasilica, that would be nice.

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Kadiše Curkoli

Watch a Video excerpt of the interview.

 

"Let me tell you about myself. I got married, and I had no idea who my husband was. We had never met one another. His family came to my home, to ask for my hand."

 

Kosovo Polje  

Where are you from?

KC: I was born in Pristina, and I lived there with my family for a long time. My family comes from there.

How old are you?

KC: I’m 74 years old. I have nine children: six daughters and three sons.

Let me tell you about myself. I got married, and I had no idea who my husband was. We had never met one another. His family came to my home, to ask for my hand. My father said to me:

‘Come out to meet some Roma from the village. They’ve asked about you, for their son.’

He said that because we were from the city. They were from Slovinje* Village.

(* Slovinje lies 20 kilometers south of Pristina, in Lipljan/ Lipjan municipality.) 

Soon another family came to ask about me, for their son. I didn’t know anything about them. My father told them to return soon, and they would make arrangements for the marriage.

When I heard everything, I began to cry; I was too young to be married. mp3

How old were you when you were married?

KC: I was 14 years old. I had six brothers; my mother died during the Second World War. But I’ll tell you about that later.

After the family came to ask my father for me, my cousin came to my home, and my father told him about the decision he made. My cousin said that he would find a good place to hold the wedding.

Mrs. Curkoli and a Friend: Kosovo Polje, April 2003

Two weeks later, my husband’s family officially asked for my hand. I was engaged for two years, and one day my husband’s family came to pick me up. They paid my dowry with Albanian money.*

(* Kosovo was under Italian military control during the Second World War; the borders the Italians set corresponded with the Albanian idea of a ‘Greater Albania-’ the equivalent of the Greek ‘Megali Idea.’ The Italian fascists encouraged Albanian nationalism as a counterbalance to the Slavs and Greeks; they allowed the Albanians their own currency.)

My wedding happened during the Second World War, and we encountered many problems on the roads, but we always solved those problems.

I have been married now for sixty years, and I’ve never had any big problems with my husband.

A bride must cry. The next day- a Friday- at midnight , she will color her hair with henna, and on Sunday the bride’s parents-in-law will give her new clothes, and gold jewelry.  

We didn’t wear a white dress, like today; we wore dimije*. When the bride first approaches her new home, her new mother-in-law will hold for her a pot full of sugared water. The bride will place her hand in the water, and then place her hand on the door.

(*Dimije are traditional baggy trousers for Muslim women. This dress was introduced by the Ottoman Turks.)

What does that signify?

KC: We believe that, if the bride does this, she will not have any problems with her new family, and her husband.  

On World War II:

KC: My father fought in the war- in a place called Lapatica*. He was there for only six weeks. A bomb fell near him, but he was very lucky; the bomb simply buried itself in the ground. Two years after the war ended, he died.

(*Donja Lapatica, Podujevo Municipality )

We were very frightened (of the Germans). All the children cried. I saw my mother, dead, on the street. But we didn’t have problems with the Germans for long; my father was a rich man.  

We stayed in Pristina for the entire war, but we were the only ones there; the Mahala was empty.

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Djafer Čuljandji

Watch a Video excerpt of the interview.

A note on Djafer’s surname, Čuljandji: this word, in Turkish, means of peasant origin, and is a pejorative term, likely assigned by a Turkish official. Please refer to Orhan Galjus’s Roma of Kosovo: the Forgotten Victims. Published in the Patrin Web Journal.  

"All I remember is that we didn’t have any bread to eat. As you see, we have this war now, but we also have food to eat and clothes to wear. Before, we had nothing."

Prizren  

"Roma celebrate Djurdjevdan, because we have always been very poor. The winters were hard; it was very cold, and we didn’t have wood to burn, like now. Even those working as blacksmiths were poor. So Roma celebrated Djurdjevdan because it meant that the spring was finally here."

Have old are you?

DC: I am 68 years old.

What was your father’s name?

DC: Salji.  

And your grandfather’s name?

DC: Sadri  

Were your grandfather and father from Prizren?  

DC: Yes; they came from Prizren.

Djafer & Wife, Circa 1960s

Can you tell us about their lives?

DC: What can I tell you? They told me many things about their lives. They were blacksmiths. In this Mahala- Terzi Mahala- we had a lot of blacksmiths.

In the past, all the people were poor. We had 65 blacksmiths in Terzi. They made knives, door knockers, door handles and other pieces. The best blacksmiths were Arlija,* and they made axes. Their work was very professional, and we called them big blacksmiths. Prizren’s Roma are usually small blacksmiths, because they make such small things.   mp3

Did you become a blacksmith?

DC: No. I worked as a blacksmith under my father, but when my father died I began to make windows. I was in Pula ( Istria , in Croatia ). I stayed there for ten years, and there I finished primary school. I had one older brother, and he told me I should get married, and I did that. I told my brother: ‘Okay.’  

I was 22 years old when I was married.  

Did you know your future wife?

DC: I knew her, but I’d never spoken with her. Our tradition is that the older people in the family will visit the girl, because they know all the families- their reputations as well. They ask the question. I sent an older cousin to her house.  

What was their answer?  

DC: They agreed with the match, because our family had a good reputation.

What was the bride-price?

DC: We still had to pay… and with that money, we could have bought a nice home in Terzi Mahala.

Tell us about when you went to pick up your bride.

DC: In the past, we had a carriage and horses. The carriage was covered. When a man went to pick up his bride, everyone- uncles and aunts- came with him. When my family went, we had a limousine.  

All the Roma in Prizren speak Romanes; we also have Ashkalija here, but they are also Roma. They come from the villages, from Albanian villages, and in those places they had to speak Albanian. They understand Romanes, but they cannot speak it.  

Djafer's Wife

On holidays:

DC: We are Muslims here; we celebrate Bajram and Djurdjevdan.  

Roma celebrate Djurdjevdan, because we have always been very poor. The winters were hard; it was very cold, and we didn’t have wood to burn, like now. Even those working as blacksmiths were poor. So Roma celebrated Djurdjevdan because it meant that the spring was finally here. We sacrifice a lamb; that is our tradition.

Grandchildren

Do you collect Kukureg and Dren, like the Roma do in other places?

DC: Yes, we do that. We have one place (a Turbe) where the women draw water. If a woman has no children (due to infertility), then she must go there. The other women will mix the flowers with the water for her.  mp3 They would go there at 3 or 4 O’clock . The Turbe will bring you good health.

In Gracanica, some Roma celebrate Vasilica. Do you celebrate Vasilica here?

DC: We didn’t celebrate Vasilica before; no one did. But my neighbors began to celebrate Vasilica, and so I started to celebrate as well. But we don’t have to.  

Do you know about Roma history?

DC: Listen: Roma are from India . Everyone in this Mahala comes from India , and from India they went to Turkey .  

Do you remember the Second World War?

DC: I cannot remember any bombing, any violence. All I remember is that we didn’t have any bread to eat. As you see, we have this war now, but we also have food to eat and clothes to wear. Before, we had nothing.  

Did you have problems with Serbs* before?

DC: No, we had no problems with the Serbs.  

(* The Serbian population of Prizren town has almost entirely fled. The Serbian quarter of the city, immediately south of the Prizren Bistrica River and overlooking the town from Shadërvan, was entirely looted and burned soon after the war ended in June of 1999. German KFOR assisted in a mass evacuation of the town’s remaining Serbs in July of 1999; the evacuation was led by the Serbian Orthodox Bishop Artemije.

DC: When Tito was alive, everyone worked. We had many Roma in school.

What did you think about the last war?

DC: It was a really bad situation to be in.

Prizren's Serbs flee with German Protection. Photo Courtesy of Decani.yunet.com

Rexhep 'Redjo' Skenderi

Watch a Video excerpt of the interview.

 

"All the Roma left. In Pristina we had 3,000 Roma, but now, not one family remains."

 

Plemetina Village

Redjo laid on his son’s couch for the winter, buried in wool blankets. The past few seasons have passed like this. His breathing is labored; he says his heart is weak. Redjo’s son, Medo, cares for him; Medo also cares for several children in Plemetina. He is their father now.  

Some of the children are orphaned; some have parents who are too poor to feed or clothe them. In a place where social assistance does not exist, communities care for their youngest members. This tradition once existed in America and Western Europe ; in some pockets of the east, communities continue to fill in the blanks the state has left. They usually do it better than the government.  

RS: My father’s name was Demalj.

I was five years old when he died. I worked as a servant in the homes of Serbs and Albanians. We had to work; we were poor, and we had to earn money for food. Some Roma worked as blacksmiths. My mother was 25 years old when my father died. mp3

Before, we didn’t now who we would be married to. If you went to ask for a girl’s hand, you were not allowed to see so much as her little finger. If a boy’s father and mother liked a girl, then the boy has to like her too.

Have long have you lived in Plemetina?

RS: I was born here.

Where were you during the NATO campaign?

Redjo's son on his wedding day: 1960s

RS: All the Roma left. In Pristina we had 3,000 Roma, but now, not one family remains. Many have left; some to Serbia , and some to Germany . mp3

Can you tell us about Ashkalija and Egyptians?

RS: We were all blacksmiths. Egyptians didn’t exist before. As for Ashkalija, they learned Albanian, and no longer wished to speak Romanes.

How old are you?

RS: I am 75 years old.  

Do you remember the Second World War?

RS: It was different then. For one soldier, the Germans would kill an entire village. But Roma could go everywhere; now, if we go somewhere, the Albanians make things difficult for us. mp3

Tito gave us all our rights. The right to everything.

How old were you when you were married?

RS: When I was married, I was too young. mp3

The Red Star & Islam:Roma with a Yugoslav Flag, a Case of Beer and a Sacrificial Lamb.
The Bajram, Plemetina, circa 1950s. 


A communist flag, a case of beer and a sacrificial ram: Islam, Yugoslav-style. The Bajram, Plemetina, 1960s.

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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