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Site Profiles: Interviewee Areas of Kosovo

The Northern Municipalities- South Mitrovica, Čezmin Lug (North Mitrovica), Žitkovac (Zvečan) and the Warehouse (Leposavić)
Site Profiles: North & South Mitrovica/ The Camps | Gnjilane/ Gjilan | Bostan- Novo Brdo | Prizren

The Northern Municipalities- South Mitrovica  & Čezmin Lug ( North Mitrovica )

To View North and South Mitrovica, Click here

The Roma/ Ashkalija/ Egyptian IDP camps of the northern municipalities lie in Leposavić, Mitrovica and Zvečan. Žitkovac lies a few kilometers north of Zvečan town, near to the now-closed Trepca mining complex (and its landscape of slag heaps); Čezmin Lug is to the east of North Mitrovica town; and the Warehouse lies in Leposavić town.

The history of the camps

Most Roma IDP camp dwellers originated in Mitrovica south, which hosted one of the largest Mahalas in Kosovo before June of 1999. Between 6000- 7000 Roma lived there. The primary southern Mahalla- on the banks of the Ibar River- is now a gutted ruin. With 650 destroyed homes, it is the largest still-destroyed residential area in Kosovo. 354 Roma have filed property claims for their burned residences there with the UN’s Housing and Property Directorate.

The South Mitrovica Municipal Government seeks to bulldoze the area and either build new homes or create a park. This will ensure that displaced Roma and Ashkalija will never return to the south. The municipality’s determination to see this plan occur is being blocked by UNMIK. Mitrovica passed a self-serving ‘declaration’ affirming the right of return, and then declared they would build apartments but with no preferential allocation to the Roma who actually own the property, and have been rotting in prefab camps across the river for the past four years.

Other camp IDPs originated in the villages of Stari Trg and Prvi Tunel. Many Roma who fled abroad have returned to find themselves in secondary displacement in one of the camps. KFOR halted a mass-return attempt to the South Mitrovica Mahala in 2000; this move averted what would have resulted in heavy bloodshed, especially in light of the volatile Mitrovica environment in 2000.

Security & Transportation

South Mitrovica- church under armored guard

Although the majority of these IDPs are Roma, their primary language is often Albanian- making them targets of abuse and harassment from Serb radicals in the north. In Žitkovac, several Roma were beaten and threatened with guns in early 2003. A Roma family was assaulted; the mother was urinated upon. In Čezmin Lug, gangs of Serb youths have assaulted Roma. These incidents are rarely reported to the police; the Roma fear retaliation. The Warehouse inhabitants have less security concerns; still, UNHCR notes that Serbs call the police when Roma partake in their own public religious events, including funerals.

Those that speak Serbian can move about with little concern. Again, language defines ethnicity as opposed to simple appearance: it shows ‘whose side you’re on.’ Before the war’s end, many North Mitrovica were driven from their homes by Serbs.

Camp residents cannot cross to south Mitrovica without serious risk. South Mitrovica is radical; a Bosniak in south Mitrovica was recently beaten to death when he was overheard speaking Serbian. The last 20 Serbs in south Mitrovica live in the Orthodox Church, under 24-hour guard.

32 Roma families remain in Sitnićko Naselje; the remains of this Mahala’s Roma homes are occupied by Albanians. Two Roma families live elsewhere in town. Roma there are subject to less abuse, but are still threatened. Their children attend Albanian schools, and they have access to shopping areas and Mitrovica’s health care facilities.

Economy & Infrastructure

A few Roma in these camps are employed by NGOs- often as cleaners. Roma males engage in private manual labor; some children recycle. There are no shops or trades practiced in the camps. Norwegian Church Aid attempted to start a ‘Roma car wash’ in Čezmin Lug; the attempt failed.

90% of camp Roma receive social assistance from UNMIK.


Albanian-speaking Roma children in the camps are cut off from Albanian-language education. Those with the requisite language skills attend Serbian schools. Česmin Lug children attend the Branko Radićević School in North Mitrovica . Žitkovac children were banned from the nearest school, in Zvečan; 32 Roma children are bussed to Branko Radićević. Many of the children are in segregated classes. Some have been picked on or struck by Serb children for speaking Albanian to one another.

Balkan Sunflowers provided remedial education to Žitkovac children until June of 2002. Belgian Caritas provides the same service in Leposavić. Similar programs occur in Čezmin Lug.  

North Mitrovica- Destroyed Albanian Homes

Demographic Information




Under 16

Žitkovac 2001




Žitkovac 2003




Česmin Lug 2001




Cesmin Lug 2003




Warehouse 2003




South Mitrovica




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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