Albanian Daily News - Dec 08

A Small, uneasy peace in Kosovo

Albanian Economic Tribune

MATICANE, Kosovo - Aleksandar Todorovic rises to tend his garden every morning. Equally without fail, ethnic Albanian children cast stones.

The 66-year-old retired repairman and his 76-year old uncle are the only two Serbs left in this Prishtina suburb of 3,500 people. They live behind a rocky wall, hiding from even the children, guarded by NATO peacekeepers who are virtually their only friends.

"My grandfather lived here, and my grandfather’s grandfather lived here," Todorovic said. "I want to live here, and I want to die here."

Other Serbs in Prishtina have given up: an estimated 900 Serbs live in Kosovo’s capital. That’s down from an estimated 32,000 who were there before Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic launched a crackdown on ethnic Albanian militants.

In Maticane, the task of protecting the two men in their own personal enclave got so complicated it rose to the attention of British Lt. Col. Nick Carter, a battalion commander.

Carter said he had a "chat" with the elders of Maticane about safeguarding the two men, telling the local ethnic Albanian leaders that "if there is one little hair touched on their heads, I’ll know where to find you."

"They are now living a relatively normal life," he said.

Even so, the catalogue of harassment in Todorovic’s daily existence includes threatening phone calls and the theft of his chickens. Strangers bang on his door to try to persuade him to sell his property. He needs to have burly guys like British Lance Cpl. Stuart Rankin, 24, escort him up a hill to perform a simple errand.

"If I leave, I am afraid someone will burn my house," he said. "That’s why I stay at home."

Todorovic hasn’t had much trouble with his longtime neighbors, but has had concerns about the influx of people new to the area. Tensions around his house have eased a bit in recent weeks, however, because he made a concession. An ethnic Albanian family began squatting in a house he owns next door. He chose to let them stay until spring because he was moved by the fact the family has small children. Besides, his own family isn’t in a hurry to come back to Maticane.

The British soldiers acknowledge they can’t be there all the time. But to discourage troublemakers, they have been known to hang out at the Todorovic house, staying up late, making lots of noise, proving they are there.

Todorovic plainly adores them, and said that one British soldier even offered to take him home to Britain, because the young man had no family of his own. Todorovic dismissed the offer.

"I’ve been to Britain and I didn’t like it," he said with a smile. "Too much fog." (

[URL may be different next day if article is archived]