BELGRADE – Zlatibor Trajkovic, Radmila Trajkovic’s husband, was burned by Albanians in Kosovo Polje on March 17 2004. In two-day violence more than 800 Serbian houses, 9 schools, 35 churches and monasteries, among which 18 cultural monuments, were burned and demolished writes “Vecernje Novosti”.
“That March 17, as if some evil was in the air. We Serbs, who remained in Kosovo Polje, unfortunately had no idea this would be fatal for all, and especially for my family.”
These are the words with which Radmila Trajkovic (70), whose husband Zlatibor (62) was burned by Albanians in Kosovo Polje, begins the story of the event which, as she said, she will not be able to forget for as long as she lives. The event she thinks about every day, but also dreams about almost every night even after 12 years.
“Although Albanians have attacked almost everything that was Serbian, we in Kosovo Polje until afternoon did not know what was happening in other communities,” said Radmila. “About an hour after noon Albanians began to gather in the streets, so my husband and I went to the house of our neighbour Zoran Grujic, where UNMIK policemen lived, because we believed we would be safer there. However, when after a few hours everything around us began to burn, and when we saw that the Health Center was in flames, my husband suggested we should run.”
And while they, holding hands, went out in the street, they were very quickly surrounded by Albanians, she said.
“They were like bees in a hive,” said Radmila. “We were surrounded on all sides, and they began beating Zlatibor almost immediately. In the crowd appeared Albanian neighbour who pulled my hand and somehow got me away from the crowd. Although I fought, because I wanted to stay with Zlatibor, he somehow managed to pull me away and drag me to the house where there were two brothers, their two sons, one of their wives and a six-month-old baby…”
And while she explains how her husband was poured with gasoline and set on fire as soon as they were separated, and he was completely conscious, Radmila said that she and her relatives with a six-month-old baby spent six hours hidden in a shed behind the house. KFOR members saved them during the night and drove to UNMIK station in Kosovo Polje, and then to the administrative crossing at Merdare. And the killers were still at large.
Radmila’s story reminds that exactly 12 years have passed since the greatest pogrom of Serbs in Kosovo. In only two days, March 17 and 18, Albanian extremists expelled more than four thousand people from their ancestral homes. 19 civilians were killed – eight Serbs and 11 Albanians killed in conflict with UNMIK and KFOR. Fatal balance included 935 injured. Before the “face” of the UN, which had the task of ensuring peace in Kosovo, six cities and nine Serbian villages were completely ethnically cleansed.
In the two-day wave of violence, more than 800 Serbian houses were burned and destroyed, nine schools, several Serbian cemeteries… In synchronized and massive attacks on everything Serbian in the province, which UNMIK described as “well organized and orchestrated”, Albanian extremists specifically attacked Serbian holy shrines, writes the daily. They destroyed as many as 35 churches and monasteries, among which 18 cultural monuments.
“The March pogrom was planned and designed to expel the Serbs from Kosovo,” said Goran Rakic, mayor of northern Kosovska Mitrovica for “Vecernje Novosti”. “We must always remember this tragic event for entire Serbian nation, we must always remember and remind the international community that at the time almost nothing was done to protect Serbian population in the province.”
The motive for the attack was the campaign of Albanian media in which the Serbs from the village Zupce were accused of drowning two Albanian boys from the village of Cabra, near Zubin Potok, in the river of Ibar.
“UNMIK’s investigation quickly determined that the accusations were false,” said Slavko Simic, president of the list “Srpska” in the Kosovo Assembly. “Any kind of motive, even a non-existent one, was enough for the attack on the Serbs in the province. But it is terrible that the situation since then, when it comes to security, has not changed much.”
After the false news, several thousand Albanians went on foot from Pristina to Caglavica, until then inhabited mainly by Serbs. This was followed by protests of Albanians in the south part of Kosovska Mitrovica. Among the first victims were Borivoje Spasojevic (53) and Jana Tucev (36).
“Everything that happened that day, only strengthened our desire to stay in Kosovo and not allow Albanians to complete the ethnic cleansing and expulsion of Serbs from Kosovo,” remembers the son of killed Borivoje, Dragan Spasojevic (44).
He says that he does not intend to leave his ancestral home, he started a family and has a four-year-old girl.
Albanian attacks did not stop the next night, snipers in the surrounding hills and thrown bombs wounded several people. Serbs had tried to defend their homes. Caglavica was followed by attacks on Serbs in central Kosovo, Lipljan, Kosovo Polje, Obilic… A scene is remembered from Lipljan – at the eyes of immobile and sick mother at the doorstep, Nenad Vesic (46) was killed from automatic weapon.