Liberation Of Kosovo: Inside Kosovo - Serbs' time is up after 1,000 years

IN THE square at Velika Hoca the men of the village were gathered under a sprawling tree, idling away the day, fearful of the future. They know their time is up. "We cannot go anywhere. We cannot go into town to shop, we cannot work. This is no way for us to live," said Vidosav Cukaric, the former headteacher of the local school. "There is nothing to stay for. There is no life, there is no freedom."

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said yesterday that at least 71,000 Serbs had fled Kosovo in the past two weeks.This extremely conservative estimate represents at least a third of the original population. It also represents a failure of Nato's commitment to creating an environment in which both Serbs and Albanians feel safe.

The villagers in Velika Hoca certainly do not feel safe. There has been a village here for 1,000 years but in all that time no Albanian has lived here. That seems about to change. Even here, perhaps the biggest 100 per cent Serb community in Kosovo, the people are leaving.

It is easy to understand why. There is just one road into the village, deep in a valley close to Prizren in south-west Kosovo, and that is protected by a unit of Dutch soldiers who have set up roadblocks with tanks and barbed wire. No vehicle is allowed to enter or leave the valley without first being rigorously searched.

"Without us the people here would be dead. I don't think they would stand a chance on their own," said one of the Dutch soldiers, who have set up their roadblocks where the Serb special police guarded the village.

The locals seem to agree. Once a village of about 1,400 people, up to a third of the population has left, either to Serbia or Montenegro. Mr Cukaric said: "We will go anywhere that is safe. We don't want to leave. It's really hard that we have to go but we have to think of the young people. I feel that I will be letting down my ancestors but this is a bigger thing. How can we stay?"

The history they would be leaving behind makes the villagers feel so desperate. There are 13 Orthodox churches, six still holding services, and they are full of treasures dating back more than 500 years.

Every day Father Milenko administers to the villagers. "I cannot talk about politics without the written permission of the bishop," he said. "All I know is that without love and hope we have no life."

The priest's wife said: "This is all holy land, the land of the church. That is why it will be so hard to leave."

But this land also has darker echoes. There are strong rumours among the Albanian population that it was villagers from Velika Haca who were involved in the massacre at nearby Velika Krusa, currently being investigated by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Mr Cukaric side-stepped such questions. "For the past 10 years the Albanians have not wanted anything to do with the Serb state or the Serb people."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all