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The Interviews- Page 13

äelja Bajrami

Watch a Video excerpt of the interview.


"We have music, and if somebody doesnít have music, then theyíre nothing."

Plemetina Village

Where were you born?

SB: I was born here.

What kind of Roma are you?

SB: I am Egyptian.

We have music, and if somebody doesnít have music, then theyíre nothing.

Life here is terrible. No one can celebrate any holidays, because no one has any money.

What kind of Roma live here?

SB: Every kind of Roma.

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Svestenik Emil

Svestenik= priest. Emil did not give his last name.

Emil requested that we not videotape him.


"They have many children. And why not? Thank God! But if you donít have the necessary things, itís tragic."

Bostan- Novo Brdo

Bostanís Roma call Emil Srpski Cigani- a Serbian Gypsy. Some say it because itís simply a name theyíve heard others use. Others say it with anger. Emil is an Orthodox priest who cares for the now-depleted Orthodox flock of Bostan and the surrounding villages; many Serb houses here have been destroyed or occupied. Bostanís Roma are Muslim; there arenít enough Serbs left to make a congregation. So the Svestenik acts as a caretaker for an old church whose front gates are covered with dried, smashed eggs. Some locals regard the church as a leftover from an earlier regime. Their children vandalize it.

Emil hails from northern Serbia, where Roma have been sedentary for 200 years or more. He is, culturally, educationally, and economically a Serb, or at the least a northerner; he and the Muslim Roma of Bostan grew up in different worlds.

Emil's Church

Emil's interview became, in the end, a plea for us to look into the case of a Roma professor who cannot secure work in the new Kosovo because of his race. Emil mentioned the man's name; we knew him. He was a professor at Pristina's Roma school until its demise in 1999. He was the only Roma PhD in Kosovo. Emil denounced the racism of the new authorities- both internationals and locals. Even a brilliant Roma couldn't get a fair break. Emil suggested that we interview him.

We did not tell Emil that we knew the professor well. We lied and promised we'd look him up. Two years before I tried to hire that professor for 500 Deutschmarks a month- a competitive wage, more than a judge's monthly pay. The professor skipped two interviews; we gave him one last chance, and he blew that too. UNMIK Gracanica educational officials had tried to employ him as well. He was chronically late and did no work. They were forced to let him go. The professor was an unemployable because of his conceit and his habits. But he played the racism card- one of the few Roma in Kosovo that had absolutely no right to. In a province where Roma have little chance of securing work outside that which involves wielding a shovel or pick, that professor was the one man who had all the weapons of education and connections at his disposal. But he would do nothing but sit in his sweatpants and whine about the injustice of it all.

We recognized that the professor had a story to tell, and we sought to interview him weeks before we came to Emil. He opened the door of his home, heard our pitch, and demanded a few hundred Euro for his time. We wouldn't pay; he shut the door.

Emil was as seduced by the professor's story as we were, years before. Emil's a good man, in a tough parish that is not his home, serving a flock of the depressed and near-dead. Tough as his situation is, he still had time to plea for his friend, and I regret lying to him and pretending not to know the professor.

SE: You can call me priest Emil of Bostan.

Where are you from?

SE: Iím from the Vojvodina*. I came here eight years ago.

(* The Vojvodina is the northernmost area of Serbia- a predominantly Hungarian region.)  

Did you attend school?  

SE: I finished school in Sremski Karlovci, and later I worked in the Vojvodina. I now work here, as a priest.

Do you know many Roma here?

SE: Of course. I have Roma friends. Roma are mainly Muslim; they have their own religion, different from the Orthodox. But that is not important; the most important thing is that weíre all people.

Everyone has their own religion, but as I said, we are people. Some Roma are really smart, and they live better. But too many Roma are uneducated. Thatís a kind of bad religion. Seventy or eighty percent of Roma are uneducated; they donít care about school. Many of them donít have regular jobs.

They have many children. And why not? Thank God! But if you donít have the necessary things, itís tragic. This is a big problem in Serbia . 



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Mihrije Lugović

"I knew those songs once, but Iíve forgotten them."

Kosovo Polje

How old are you?

ML: I am 67 years old. My fatherís name was Demo, and my motherís name was Azemina.

Where are you from?

ML: We used to live in Gjilan*.

(*Gnjilane/ Gjilan- 36.5 kilometers southeast of Kosovo Polje)

In the past, on Djurdjevdan, we would go out early in the morning and we would swim in the river; before, it was better than now.

My father would sing many songs about Saint Vasilija*. I knew those songs once, but Iíve forgotten them.

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Mikra Kurta

Mrs. Kurta is an IDP from Crkvena Vodica.

Watch a Video excerpt of the interview.


"Our neighbors; we never had problems with our neighbors."

Plemetina Village

Mikra Kurta and her family fled Crkvena Vodica; they squatted in an abandoned home in the Plemetina Mahala. The previous tenants had fled abroad in 1999.  

The owners returned from Germany in 2003. Mikra and a dozen others were evicted with a few dayís notice. They moved into a roofless, gutted home on the Mahalaís edge; several locals stretched a tarp over the place where the roof used to sit.

How old are you?

MK: Iím 75 years old.

Where are you from?

MK: I used to live in Crkvena Vodica, but now we live here. We owned six properties (in Crkvena Vodica), but the Albanians burned and destroyed them. Albanians burned all the homes there- not just my homes.

How long did you live in Crkvena Vodica?

The only Picture Salvaged from Crkvena Vodica

MK: I lived there for 45 years.

Did you have many Serbian and Albanian neighbors in Crkvena Vodica?

MK: Yes, we lived with Serbs and Albanians there. Our neighbors; we never had problems with our neighbors.

How old were you when you were married?

MK: I was very young when I married.

A Destroyed Home in Crkvena Vodica


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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