Cabra : a village like many others...
Cabra (pronounce " Shabra ") is a small village twelve kilometers West of Mitrovica. A village like any other? not really ! what is special about it ? It is an Albanian village in a Serb zone of Kosovo. Before the war, there were 2013 inhabitants, 211 families, 253 houses, a primary school, a small dispensary, 3 shops, a local government office and many small workshops. You should know that in Kosovo, some kind of multi-ethnicity only existed in the cities. In the countryside, a village was usually either Serb, or Albanian. Mitrovica is the limit between two parts of Kosovo. A river splits the city in 2 : in the North one speaks Serb, in the South one speaks Albanian. Nowadays the bridges which span the river are still, occasionally, the scene of confrontations between the two communities. North of Mitrovica, almost all villages are Serb. Before the war there were only four Albanian villages: Kosutovo, Bistriça, Cerenja and Cabra. All four have been completely wiped out of the map.
The mayor of Cabra, Osman Ram, recalls :
"Serbian forces attacked on the 29th March 1999 at 3:25 in the morning. It was cold, snowing, raining and very dark. They attacked us with mortars. The people left the village having no time to put clothes or shoes on, so within 35 minutes the village was totally empty, but they went on shelling it from all sides for 3 days. Then they came and stole everything that was worth stealing and they set fire to all the houses. Since it was raining very heavily they had to make three attempts before they could burn some of the houses down, but they were not satisfied yet. They came back with 5 heavy bulldozers and smashed all the remaining walls. The people moved to Mitrovica and surrounding villages. On 25th April there was a big offensive on Mitrovica. More than 70.000 people were forced to walk to Albania, Montenegro and very few of them stayed in the mountains until the end of the war."
During the war, there were 18 people from the village killed (among them 2 teachers), 17 injured and 7 missing (among them 4 brothers Hasani), the oldest 32 and the youngest 12.
The three other villages underwent the same fate. Their inhabitants hope to return in the Spring and want to rebuild their villages. But at Cabra, people did not wait. Some families came back and are now living in 230 tents.
Prefab buildings are currently under construction and they will soon be operational. In the school, there are now 211 pupils and 13 teachers. It is not comfortable: the school is made of two tents, only one has a small wood stove. We are located in the mountain and outside the weather can be very cold (in January, -14° to -17°). The pupils follow the courses during 40 minutes, then they make gymnastics to get warm. The UNICEF gave the pupils a nylon rucksack, with 6 notebooks, an eraser and two pencils. We somehow manage by ourselves for the rest.
In the first class which we visit, professor Fetah Ferzi, his hat on , tries to give his course in spite of the cold. It is the eighth grade (the last of primary education here: the pupils are 13-14 years old). There is about 12 of them in the class. Three books in all and for all. It is hoped that they will print some in Pristina but in the meantime, they share. For nine years all Albanian books had been prohibited and destroyed.
In the other tent (small, hardly lit up but slightly heated), we find Felmi Alin, who teaches Albanian to 18 pupils. Only one book for the whole group. But a new prefab school will soon be built thanks to an English NGO: " Children on the Edge ". The village is lucky indeed to have Osman Rama for mayor. He has set his heart to the rebuilding of the village. He speaks English. Before the war, he was a member of the clandestine parliamentary assembly formed by the president of the LDK (Democratic League of Kosovo): Ibrahim Rugova. And he had been elected twice. He knows many people in the Kosovar political circles, and that helps. For the moment, in addition to his mandate of mayor of Cabra, he is director of a school in Mitrovica, a city where a great number of the citizens of Cabra were moved temporarily.
A few months ago, Olivier David and his team of CARE in Mitrovica helped the village to start the reconstruction by setting up a large white tent for the school and UNHCR tents for the inhabitants. Olivier is always on the spot and has agreed to be the middleman between Osman Rama, the teachers and the schoolboys of Cabra, and the Belgian or foreign schools that would like to ask them questions or to give them their support.