2006-05-17 16:59:00
Embassy Pristina
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DE RUEHPS #0425/01 1371659
R 171659Z MAY 06




E.O. 12958: N/A


Sensitive, but unclassified; please protect





E.O. 12958: N/A


Sensitive, but unclassified; please protect

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Serbs and others who have returned to
Kosovo are more concerned about immediate economic
prospects, security, and freedom of movement than the final
status of Kosovo, though the future of the region is also a
source of apprehension for some. Many Kosovo Serb returnees
are middle-aged, and although they now find themselves
somewhat isolated in a land they once thought of as home,
they generally consider that living on their own property in
Kosovo is better than being a marginal exile in an
unreceptive Serbia. Subsidies will be necessary for
sometime to maintain many of the IDPs who return to Kosovo.

2. (U) During a visit to Kosovo, Belgrade-based regional
Refcoord and PRM/ECA Desk Officer spoke with three returnee
families, one in Vushtrri/Vuchitrn and two in villages near
Pristina, who had been assisted by the International
Catholic Migration Council (ICMU) with funds from PRM.
Refcoord also visited separately two returnee families in
Klina and one in Kos, a village near Klina in western
Kosovo, whose returns had been expedited by the Danish
Refugee Council (DRC) with funds from PRM.

A Roma family in Vushtrri/Vuchitrn

3. (U) In Vushtrri/Vuchitrn, a large town situated on the
main road between Pristina and Mitrovica, RefCoord and
PRM/ECA desk officer visited an Ashkali family whose house
had been destroyed during the March 2004 riots. The house
had been rebuilt and shared a narrow lot with another house
rebuilt for the beneficiary's brother. Both families had
four or five children. In the brother's family, a teen-age
son was confined to a wheelchair. In the beneficiary's
family an eight-year old boy was mute because of a
developmental disorder.

4. (U) Both houses had several rooms and were reasonably
spacious, though sparsely furnished. (Note. RAE (Roma-
Ashkali Egyptian) families generally eschew furniture,
preferring to sit against the wall on low banquettes, or
when eating, squatting or sitting on the floor around a low
wooden table. End Note.) A cheap TV flickered in the
background. The beneficiary expressed gratitude to ICMC for

its help and for his reconstructed house.

5. (U) The beneficiary said he had no work and depended on
handouts from his brother and neighbors in order to feed his
family. ICMC had given him a small chain saw to help
sustain him. He said that he had lent it to a friend, as it
was not the wood-cutting season. (NOTE: It was not clear
whether the saw had been loaned or sold in order to buy
urgent necessities. END NOTE).

6. (U) He said that he stuck fairly close to the mahalla
(the traditional RAE quarter in towns throughout the
Balkans),as he was still apprehensive about walking around
town to look for work. None of his children were in school
because there was no money for proper clothes (especially
shoes) and school supplies. Nor was there any medical
supervision available for the disabled child.

7. (U) According to ICMU personnel, the Vushtrri/Vuchitrn
mahalla was the only one significantly damaged during the
March 2004 riots. Numerous members of this family are now
in Germany, where they have received or are applying for

A rural Serbian village

8. (U) Priluzje is a small, quiet village located about ten
kilometers northwest of Pristina and about two kilometers
off the main road to Mitrovica. Houses are one story and
located on large lots. They are relatively old and their
pastel stucco exteriors contrast with the raw red brick of

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the largely unfinished multi-story, multi-family houses that
Kosovo Albanians are erecting everywhere in Kosovo, financed
in many cases by foreign remittances.

9. (U) ICMC assisted a woman and her daughter who had lived
in a neighboring village to return to her mother's house in
the spring of 2005. She said she and her husband left in
1999 and went to Nis with their twin children. She said she
left her husband shortly after arriving in Nis because of
spousal abuse and returned to Kosovo in 2005. Her husband
kept the son, who she had not seen in nearly six years,
though she is able to talk to him once a week on the

10. (U) Her mother receives a small pension. She receives a
small salary from working part-time in a kiosk in the
village and receives a small monthly stipend from a state
enterprise for which she had worked. ICMC bought her a
sewing machine, which she uses to generate additional income
as a seamstress. Total family income is probably slightly
under two hundred dollars a month. Her twelve-year old
daughter attends a local Serbian school. The house seemed to
be in good shape, with shoes neatly lined up on the front

11. (U) Priluzje has a peaceful air about it, though a
feeling of being slightly run down and not fully populated.
It is one of a string of interconnected, mostly Serbian
villages around Pristina and does not seem to have suffered
any major damage during the war or thereafter. The
beneficiary said she felt secure, though her life seemed to
be somewhat circumscribed. She said she knew a few words of
Albanian, but could not really speak it.

A visit to a mixed village near Pristina

12. (U) Novo Selo is a mixed Albanian-Serb village near the
aging power plant in Obiliq/Obilic, about eight kilometers
from Pristina. Kosovo's north-south rail line from the
northern municipalities through Mitrovica and Fushe
Kosovo/Kosovo Polje to the Macedonian border runs through
it. A railway signalman in his early fifties and his wife,
both ethnic Serbs, have recently returned to their home
here. The railroad is far less active than before (although
UNMIK currently runs daily passenger trains to Mitrovica and
back to provide IDPs with a secure mode of transportation)
but most of the previously Serb workforce has been replaced.
He says there is little prospect for his reemployment,
though he remains hopeful.

13. (U) Nonetheless, he still receives a partial wage from
the national railway administration in Serbia. His wife
also receives a partial salary from a state enterprise that
no longer operates. They have about an acre of land, which
they plan to cultivate. Their son is studying railway
signalization in Serbia. They claim that he would come back
if there was the possibility of employment, but realize that
his future probably lies outside of Kosovo.

14. (U) The couple left in 1999. An Albanian neighbor
looked after the house, so it wasn't badly damaged.
Nonetheless, a number of articles (stove, refrigerator) had
been removed by unknown parties. These had been replaced by
ICMC. Relations with Albanian neighbors were cordial (cups
of coffee) but not intimate. They understood "some"
Albanian, but could not really speak it. They were not
apprehensive about their security, but did not venture into


15. (U) Kline/Klina is a large town about 60 kilometers from
Pristina, about two-thirds of the way toward Peja/Pec. It
is a center of Kosovo's Albanian Catholic community, and the
town is dominated by the high, modernistic spire of a
Catholic church, an anomaly in a land dominated by minarets
(many of them new) and Serbian Orthodox basilicas (most of
them old). To the West, behind Peja/Pec, lie the high
mountains, still snow covered until the summer, that

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separate Kosovo from Montenegro and Albania.

16. (U) Because of various atrocities committed in western
Kosovo, by Serb forces, the area had been unreceptive to
Serb returnees. Rame Manaj, the former mayor of Klina who
is now an advisor to President Fatmir Sejdiu, however, had
encouraged IDPs to return, even though he lost six family
members during the conflict, most of whom remain missing.
Returns to Klina town started in March 2005 and until now 32
Serb families have returned. Only one returned family left
Kosovo again. Some 181 individuals have returned to Klina
municipality, making it one of the most successful in Kosovo
for returns. The municipality has also implemented its own
project for return to Klinavac village. Most of the
families who returned to Klina town have been individualized
returns supported by DRC with USG funding.

17. (U) One Serb couple DRC has helped to return came back
to a modest, older one-story house behind a larger, newer,
damaged structure near the center of Klina. The man, in his
mid-fifties, had built up a successful business repairing
automotive electrical systems in Klina for nearly thirty
five years. Indeed, the three-story structure in front of
the house had served as his home and workshop. Now he does
repairs in the small yard beside his original house.

18. (U) The beneficiary and his wife had fled to Nis in

1999. In 2001, they moved to Fushe Kosovo/Kosovo Polje, a
large town now virtually a suburb of Pristina. His
intention had always been to move back to his property in
Klina, and he did so in the fall of 2005. His wife had
worked as a school aide in a mixed community outside of
Klina, but no Serbs had lived or worked there since 1999.

19. (U) Business was not booming, despite two income-
generation grants from DRC. According to the beneficiary,
many local Albanians were reluctant to patronize him for
fear of what the neighbors would say. He said that his few
customers were KFOR personnel and Kosovo officials who did
not have to care what their neighbors thought. Any money he
earned went to rehabilitating the larger building, but full
rehabilitation will require reestablishing his customer

20. (U) Nonetheless, he had several sources of income. He
received 100 euros a month from the Serbian government for a
disability; his wife received 40 euros in social assistance
a month, also from the Serbian government. With the aid of
the municipality, he had regained ownership of two small
commercial properties (kiosks, really). In addition, he
owned a sizeable woodlot outside of town. He said security
considerations prevented him from going there on his own,
and that someone had already cut down all the trees.

21. (U) The beneficiary's son lived nearby in Niksic,
Montenegro. The son wanted to return to Klina with his
family, but there was no Serbian school in the town for his
children. The beneficiary spoke good Albanian, as did most
Serbs who lived in towns in western Kosovo. (NOTE: Serbs in
villages in Kosovo with compact Serbian populations tend to
be unilingual, while Serbs who lived as minorities in
Kosovar towns often know Albanian. END NOTE.).

Kaffeeklatsch in Kline/Klina

22. (U) The next beneficiary family, a woman and her
unmarried son, lived next door, so our first interlocutors
joined us there. The beneficiary's husband could not return
from Serbia with them because of various medical problems.
A neighbor joined as well. Coffee was served and a bottle
of rakija soon appeared. No one was under fifty except for
the widow's son, who was in his thirties. Like the first
beneficiaries, they had returned in October 2005.

23. (U) The house had not been greatly damaged and was
sparsely furnished. The family said that part of the deal
in getting it back was to allow the Kosovo Albanian family
that had occupied it illegally for a number of years to take
the furniture. DRC had helped replace some of the
furniture, but the house continued to feel strange as a
result. Still, she said, living in your own house on your

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own property was better than trying to pay a high rent in
Serbia. Serbia, she said, had done nothing to help her.

24. (U) The family's sources of income were hard to
determine, though they derived a rent of 50 euros monthly
from a small store they owned. The wife had taught in a
primary school located fifty yards away from her house where
her husband also had worked as a custodian. The school was
now completely Albanian; there was no place for her there.
She said her husband had been shocked by the state of the
school when he visited Kline/Klina.

25. (U) Normally the municipality did not provide firewood
to residents, but did because of this family's poverty. The
municipality had also replaced some windows in the house
that had been broken in a stoning incident March 1. The
beneficiary reported occasional mild harassment when walking
the streets of Kline/Klina. After her neighbor, reportedly
well off, had left following a long plaint about her
difficulties in reclaiming additional illegally occupied
property, she remarked bitterly, "The fortunate always
demand more."

Primitive Idyll in Kosh/Kos

26. (U) Kosh/Kos is a mixed village of scattered homesteads
in Istok/Istog municipality that straggle along a ridge and
in the valley below. Ethnic Albanians live in the valley
and on the first part of the ridge. In 2004 DRC assisted
the return of some 38 Serb families (130 individuals);
another 25 heads of families returned on May 9, 2006. Most
of the houses were extensively destroyed in 1999. Thirty
eight houses have been reconstructed and another 25 are
underway. Here DRC has helped a family with four school-age
children return.

27. (U) The family had been living since 1999 in a
collective center in Kragujevo and had returned with DRC's
help in August 2005. The husband had a low-paying job as a
boiler tender while they lived in the collective center, but
did not make enough to move his family away from the center.
The wife described conditions in the collective center as
"not at all nice."

28. (U) The other families in the village gardened, kept a
few cattle, and survived on pensions, partial salaries from
state enterprises, and other subsidies. The father (absent
during the visit) had the only paying job among the
returnees, which was driving a school bus from Kosh/Kos and
other nearby villages to Osaj/Osojane, where there was a
Serbian school. (There were only five other children in
Kosh/Kos, though a sixth was on the way.) The job netted
the family slightly less than 100 euros a month. Twice a
week a KFOR bus assured Serbs in the area of safe transport
to Mitrovica, about 50 kilometers away. (COMMENT: On May 9
and 12 youth in the town of Runik/Rudnik in neighboring
Skenderaj/Srbica municipality threw stones at two buses
carrying Serbs from Osaj/Osojane to Mitrovica. END

29. (U) The family owned an eleven-hectare woodlot, but most
of the trees had been cut down while they were living in
Kragujevo. Consequently, the municipality had provided them
with firewood as well as a small food allowance, which was
being reduced. The wife regretted that no one in the family
spoke Albanian.

30. (SBU) COMMENT: Many of the Serb returnees are middle-
aged and without children. Most are glad to be back in
Kosovo, but note they are lonely. They hope for better
times, and although they do not know what final status will
bring, feel secure for the moment. Because of their
property, life for them in Kosovo is preferable than a
marginal exile in Serbia. What is striking is the intricate
system of small support payments (pensions, social
assistance, partial salaries),mostly from Belgrade, that
help them survive, although RAE families have less access to
them. Should these payments be stopped for any reason, a
lot of these returnees who already live on the margins could
be in real trouble.

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31. (U) U.S. Office Pristina clears this cable for release
in its entirety to U.N. Special Envoy Ahtisaari.