Fwd: FW: [balkanhr] AIM: THE CROATS FROM KOSOVO HEADING FOR LIKA

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at SPAMhotmail.com
Tue Nov 16 12:52:36 MST 1999






>From: "Dimitris Desyllas" <shinos at europa.com>
>From: owner-balkanHR at greekhelsinki.gr

>
>aim/zag/trae/rm
>
>*** THE CROATS FROM KOSOVO HEADING FOR LIKA
>
>AIM, ZAGREB, November 11, 1999
>
>
>         One of the last acts of the tragedy called "human
>resettlement" happened on Sunday, October 31, day before the
>Memorial Day. On that day 293 Croats from Letnica, a place in
>Kosovo where Croats had been living for the last seven hundred
>years, have arrived to Croatia to Zagreb Airport Pleso. All they
>brought with them were some necessities which they could carry on
>the plane and those better-off had with them their savings and
>the figure of Our Lady of Letnica. According to the Croatian
>papers, they felt awful because they could not take with them the
>Church of the Lady of Letnica. Apart from being pathetic, that
>statement also had its political significance. Namely, it clearly
>showed that the Kosovo Croats did not intend to go back to
>Kosovo, i.e. that seven hundred years were crossed out for ever.
>
>         After the villagers of Letnica have moved out, the only
>remaining Croats in Kosovo is a small group of four hundred of
>them in Janjevo. It is to be expected that they will too, perhaps
>soon, move to Croatia. For, according to all reports, life in
>Kosovo is becoming increasingly hard for all the non-Albanians-
>all villagers of Letnica stated that unbearable pressure was the
>reason for moving out - while the policy of the Government of
>Croatia, which is hiding behind a constitutional provision on the
>obligation to assist Croats all over the world, is to create as
>ethnically clean Croatia as possible, as well as to have all
>Croats return to Croatia, those from Australia and these from
>Kosovo alike.
>
>         In that context, it is rather interesting that this
>entire operation of the resettlement of Letnica villagers to
>Croatia was carried out in utmost secrecy and under the highest
>political patronage. Namely, before they moved the villagers of
>Letnica have allegedly sent as much as three appeals to the
>Croatian authorities asking to be allowed to come with the
>explanation that the situation in Kosovo was becoming unbearable.
>After the arrival of the third appeal, a special delegate was
>sent to Kosovo - his mission was wrapped in a shroud of secrecy
>from the beginning to the end - Dr.Slobodan Lang, humanitarian
>issues advisor to President Dr.Franjo Tudjman who has
>successfully completed his mission. However, the international
>community also took part in that project.  Namely, the villagers
>of Letnica were first taken by buses to Skopje escorted by eight
>KFOR armoured carriers. They crossed the same border crossing
>Blace at which we saw rivers of Albanians this summer, first
>going in one and then in the opposite direction.
>
>         Even before this many people from Letnica have already
>moved to Croatia. Thus, for some of them, their arrival to the
>Zagreb Airport meant the reunion with their families. "After
>three years I will finally see my father, brother and his three
>children. When in 1996 I came from Kosovo to Croatia in a
>roundabout way, I did not dream that so much time will pass
>before we get together again", said Grgur Gegic whose entire
>family is in Croatia. "You cannot imagine how happy we are", was
>a short comment of Ljuba Gegic, an old lady who came with nine
>members of her family. Her husband stayed behind in Letnica to
>sell the livestock. "It would be great if we could hear the
>Letnica church bells in Croatia" said Viktor Kasic the priest who
>was unable to explain to journalist of "Vecernji list" (The
>Evening Paper) why have the Albanians harassed the Kosovo Croats
>although these same Croats helped them before protecting them
>from the Serbs.
>
>         However, the state media did not insist on that fact.
>Some even tried hard to hide it so that a greater part of the
>public was left in two minds whether the Kosovo Croats have fled
>from the Albanian or Serbian violence. In any case, this exodus
>has helped the weakened HDZ to show just before the elections
>that it was capable of providing for all Croats, even under the
>hardest conditions. From the moment they landed on Zagreb Airport
>onwards, the Croats from Letnica have certainly become and will
>remain the subject of political manipulations. As soon as they
>came to Croatia, Government representatives announced that they
>would settle in Lika. Quoting the decisions of the Croatian
>Government, the "Vecernji list" wrote: "The Ministry of the
>Interior will speed up the procedure for issuing citizenship and
>personal documentation and the Agency for Legal Trade and
>Mediation will purchase family houses to be given to exiled
>families without any compensation and a right to claim the
>ownership after ten years". Deputy Minister for Immigration,
>Development and Reconstruction, Lovre Pejkovic, promised everyone
>that everyone would get adequate accommodation.
>
>         Already the next day the media announced that the
>villagers of Letnica would end in Srb, a place in south Lika,
>which according to rumours should soon change its name. It turned
>out that there was an earlier plan to settle the Kosovo Croats -
>admittedly in two apartment buildings - in Srb, because the
>Bosniac Croats could not have been moved there as it was heavily
>ruined after the "Storm". According to records of district
>authorities, over 150 flats in Srb are mostly state-owned because
>the Serbs who have fled from the "Storm" have lost all rights to
>them. At the moment there are 1,200 returnees inhabitants of Srb,
>exclusively of Serbian nationality. It is anticipated that that
>number will grow during winter, and even more in spring, since
>the process of return is not over yet. Moreover, it could acquire
>large-scale proportions in spring because of the NATO bombing of
>Serbia. That is probably why the HDZ authorities plan to settle
>the Kosovo Croats precisely in Srb. Local elections are scheduled
>to be held in Croatia in two years time and already now in
>several communes in former Krajina the Serbs are a demographic
>majority so that some officials have openly asked - what was the
>purpose of "Storm" anyway!
>
>         The treatment of the Kosovo Croats is interesting in
>another respect. Namely, while the Croatian Serbs are prevented
>from returning to the country and from voting (they are the only
>community from the former Yugoslavia which cannot exercise any of
>its political rights anywhere), the Kosovo Croats who are without
>citizenship, have been brought to Croatia by a special plane and,
>if plans of the state leadership progress as envisaged, will move
>into other people's homes. According to the official explanation,
>as already mentioned, these flats were once the property of Serbs
>who left them abandoned for more than three months without any
>justified reason, and therefore lost any right to them. However,
>the Croats who had abandoned their flats during the war did not
>lose their tenant's rights as their reasons for leaving were
>considered to be justified.
>
>         Since basically they both left because of the war, one
>conclusion comes to mind: either the Serbs should not have gone
>into exile as nothing could have happened to them during the
>"Flash" and "Storm", or they are all guilty. However, since over
>400 civilians perished during the "Storm" in the South and North
>sector (according to the confirmed HVO data, but the guess is
>that there were as much as 650 killed) it is more than clear that
>the exiled Serbs had a very good reason to flee.
>
>         The resettlement of Croats from Kosovo in Lika is
>announced for spring as there is no chance that the authorities
>will manage to repair apartment buildings (which the Croatian
>army and police mostly demolished without any military reason)
>and make them habitable for the cold Lika winter. That means that
>the project of resettling the Kosovars will fall under the
>mandate of the next government which could easily consist of
>members of today's opposition. They have recently reiterated that
>they plan to abide by all international agreements signed by
>Croatia and have expressed their wish for quicker integration
>into European associations. The continuation, be it even as an
>epilogue, of the ethnic-political engineering in regions to which
>a large-scale return of the Serbs is expected in spring, is
>certainly not a thing which representatives of the international
>community will eagerly support. The example of Kistanje, where
>new houses had to be built for Croats from Janjevo, shows that
>such engineering is too expensive. That is why "final
>destination" of Letnica villagers is still open to question. One
>thing is certain - they will never return to Kosovo and the
>majority of them will remain in Croatia.
>
>#BORIS RASETA
>
>
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