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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 November 2004, 22:51 GMT
Kosovo brick factory builds bridges
By Nick Hawton
BBC News, Kamenica, Kosovo

The Borovoci brothers who run the brick factory
The Borovoci brothers will not let politics interfere with work
Workmen shout as a lorry reverses in a muddy factory yard - just like in any other brick factory.

But here, near the town of Kamenica in Kosovo, just 4km (2.5 miles) from the border with Serbia proper, something quite extraordinary is happening. Albanians and Serbs are working together.

In a province ravaged by ethnic conflict, where the two main communities barely talk to each other, this is a unique place.

"We had some initial problems from extremists who didn't want to see Serbs and Albanians working together.

"But with help from American troops stationed nearby we eventually turned them away," says Mustafe Borovci, one of the two Albanian brothers, who run the company.

"One of the conditions to work here, for both Albanians and Serbs, is that they don't talk about politics in the workplace," he says.

Kosovo, which technically remains a part of Serbia and Montenegro but is in practice run by the international community, remains deeply divided between its majority Albanian population and Serb minority.

Factory foreman Radmir Stojanovic
I don't like politics - we are all people, Albanians and Serbs
Radmir Stojanovic
Foreman

In March this year, Albanian mobs attacked Serb communities and churches in the worst outbreak of violence since Nato bombed the Serbian security forces out of the province in 1999.

Most Serbs live huddled in small enclaves protected by K-For troops, unable to travel freely. But this is not the case in the municipality of Kamenica where the brick factory is located.

Foreman Serb Radmir Stojanovic, 40, says relations between the workers are excellent.

"I don't like politics. We are all people, Albanians and Serbs. We have the same rights," he says.

"I try to be the same boss and have the same relations with Albanians and Serbs," he says.

Sirens

Part of the secret is that the region did not experience much fighting during the war.

Albanian guerrillas did not really operate in the area and the Serb security forces were relatively restrained.

Priest Dragoljub Stevanovic
Priest Stevanovic says there has been little evil in this area
On the edge of town is the Saint Nicholas, Serbian Orthodox Church. The priest, Dragoljub Stevanovic, 69, says relations are not perfect.

During the riots in March, he scared away some Albanians from the Church by using a battery radio and making the sound of a police siren.

"But that was unusual," he tells me. "There's been no evil in this area. Relations are better than anywhere else in Kosovo.

"Serbs and Albanians visit each other's shops and cafes. There is just more tolerance here."

In October, elections were held for the Kosovo Assembly.

The vast majority of Serbs boycotted the poll because they feel their rights have been ignored by Albanian politicians and by the international community.

Model?

Back at the brick factory and it is lunchtime. Today it is cabbage and sausage.

Serbs and Albanians sharing the same canteen. Shemsi Krasnici, 40, an Albanian, is taking a break from his job of heating up the bricks.

Albanian worker Shemsi Krasnici
The most important thing is to do a good job
Shemsi Krasnici
"What happens outside the factory doesn't really influence our relationships inside," says Mr Krasnici says.

"This is a privately owned enterprise and the owner requires lots of work so we have no time to really discuss politics since we are busy working.

"The most important thing is to do a good job, get along well and keep the job," he says.

The international community is keen to highlight cases like Kamenica, hoping they can prove a model for other areas to follow.

But with final status talks on the future of Kosovo likely to begin next year, tensions could rise across the province.

The challenge for the international community will be to try to maintain areas like Kamenica and avoid the bad blood that has dominated the relations between both communities for so long.


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