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Page last updated at 11:18 GMT, Sunday, 13 July 2008 12:18 UK

Tales from the Belgrade-Kosovo bus

The stories of passengers on buses between Belgrade and two Kosovo destinations: the Serb-dominated town of northern Mitrovica and the ethnic-Albanian dominated capital, Pristina.

PETAR PETKOVIC

A 23-year-old Serb, on the Mitrovica bus, heading for Strpce, in southern Kosovo

I am going home to Strpce for the summer. I am originally from Urosevac but after the war in Kosovo I moved to Strpce with my family.

The Mitrovica bus, seen from the back seat
The Mitrovica bus, seen from the back seat
Not only my family, but also my cousins, and my friends are there - I have everything there except the house where I grew up, which is a ruin now.

If I were to have a family of my own, it would not be safe for us to live back in Urosevac, among Albanians.

I would not want to be worrying about whether my children - if I have some one day - were among Albanian children and what they might do to them. Maybe it would be safe now but that's one big "maybe".

I have just completed my first year studying mining at Belgrade University.

This year I worked as a night watchman, 12 hours every second day or about 200 hours a month, for 200 euros.

I was still attending the faculty every day. I was literally stealing every possible minute to sleep. But I made it through the year.

The distance is a problem, as is the money. It is difficult for both my parents and me.

I am constantly thinking about my home and friends and relatives who were injured in the war.

Why would I want to study at university in Pristina when I have my own university, in my mother tongue? And why would I expose myself to danger by living there?

I am in Strpce only six times a year so I hardly get any chance to make contact with Albanians. Anyway, if I made contact with some Albanian girl, she would break up with me because I'm away so much!

KURTA SALTAN

A 43-year-old Bosnian Muslim, on the Pristina bus, heading for a village near Prizren

I was in Belgrade for a medical visit, because I have a tumour.

Kurta Saltan
An Albanian doctor operated on me in Prizren but he told me I should go to Belgrade for radiotherapy.

I pay about 50 euros every time I come to Belgrade.

The doctors there respect me and treat me very well and I respect them. It does not matter whether I am a Bosnian Muslim or an Albanian.

The people in my village are mainly Bosnian Muslims but I have Albanian friends. The Albanians are very good to us.

I have been travelling back and forth on this coach for a year and a half now and have never seen any trouble.

All people are the same and Albanians and Serbs have been living together for a long time and should continue living together normally.

BISERKA DIMIC

A 32-year-old Kosovo Serb, on the Pristina bus, heading for Kosovo Polje, a Serb enclave on the outskirts of the city

I was in Belgrade to get a visa because my boyfriend lives in Australia. He is a Bosnian Muslim from Tuzla and I have to go to Norway so that he can come and marry me because he can't come here.

Biserka Dimic's hands
But I have been taking this bus for two years now with my Mum who needs treatment for diabetes.

I normally use Albanian doctors and my father, who has a heart problem, goes to a very famous Albanian doctor.

We have no problem using Albanian doctors in Pristina. They just do not have the treatment for diabetes.

I go to shop in Pristina every day. My Albanian is so-so.

I own a boutique and I have all my clothes supplied from Pristina. I have never had any problem trading with Albanians.

There are a lot of Serbian products in Pristina.

I never feel fear in Pristina but sometimes I do feel ashamed of where I come from because of Milosevic.

AHMET ALJIU

A 50-year-old ethnic Albanian on the Pristina bus

I used to work in Belgrade but the company has now been privatised and I had to do some paperwork connected with the privatisation.

Ahmet Aljiu
I have not worked for the company since 1999. I am in a private car parts company in Pristina now.

We buy our car parts from Serbia, Montenegro and Turkey. Politics does not get in the way of business.

On the other hand, while business does go on between Pristina and Serbia, it is not very significant.

I lived in Serbia for 18 years and it is quite normal that I should feel comfortable there.

I have many friends in Serbia. One of my children was born in Belgrade.

We just need a little time for things to get better. I can see no reason why Albanians and Serbs shouldn't work together.



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