Don’t Go Speechless Into the Dark Night
”I know that one book cannot change much, that searching for the truth, in the present world, is only a ’fruitless intellectual game’, and that ’the Kosovo Gordian Knot’ could be ’resolved’ with a hit of an already swung sword of some powerful man of the world, for whom I doubt he would be able to show Kosovo on the map. However – in spite of everything – it is our duty to tell the truth. And there is sense in telling it. The language lasts and remembers longer than stone. A word is a principle of creation. And when everything else disappears, when we disappear, it remains the last point of defense of human dignity.”


Zoran BogavacThe capital book Silent Bells – Christian Heritage of Kosovo and Metohija by Zoran Bogavac, writer, publicist, journalist, was being prepared for press when he was asked for this interview, based on the read manuscript. The writer did not live to see the book published, just as he didn’t live to finish this conversation. ”Silently, in his style, on September 16, 2006, on his way from the editorial office home, he stole away from this earthly life.”
”Ignoring facts by those who decide about the destiny of Kosovo and Serbia is shocking”, said Zoran Bogavac during the preparations for this interview. ”Those who ’know everything about Kosovo and Metohija’, obviously know what they shouldn’t know.” He confessed that he wrote the book ”in a state of Great Resignation”, later explaining why in his answers. The National Review, in which creation and design Zoran Bogavac had one of the crucial roles, presents its readers excerpts from that unfinished interview.

• Resignation? Almost five hundred pages of resignation!?
I often quoted to myself the verse ”don’t go speechless into the dark night”, and the working title of the book, lost today in cyber-space, into which it was catapulted from my computer, was The Last Serbian Book about Kosovo and Metohija. The pessimism originates from the deep consciousness that one book cannot change anything, that, generally speaking, searching for the truth today in this world is nothing but a fruitless intellectual game, with its meaninglessness repeatedly being proven in different Serbian examples, that the ”Kosovo Gordian Knot” cannot be untangled. Resignation, however, has the deepest roots in the growing fear that the knot will be resolved with a hit of an already swung sword of some powerful man of the world, one of those for whom I doubt would be able to show Kosovo on the map of Europe. For my defense – why I still continued the work, which I deserted and put aside several times in rushes of heavy pessimism, the work which lasted for months, and why I, finally, accepted to publish it – I can state the last lines of the Banquet in Blitva, which go something like: ”The printing box with lead letters, so little, but still the only thing that finally remains to defend human dignity…”
By the way, Krleža, whom I just quoted, showed, while writing about the Kosovo problem, how much nonsense a clever person can write when prejudice (this is just a euphemism for something that could realistically be called Serbo-canibalism) starts to lead the pen in his hand. I myself feared of some invisible Devil sitting on my, the sinful Serb’s, shoulder, whispering me the words I’m writing.
I would be satisfied if some of the readers would confirm that my personal point of view (let’s say I could specify it as ”pessimistic humanism”) didn’t give the book too many black tones. Because, I basically agree with professor Nedeljković who warned, with deep wisdom, that ”Serbdom is in such a difficult situation, that no Serb has a right to pessimism”.


• You changed the working title of the book and it was published under the name Silent Bells, with a subtitle Christian Heritage of Kosovo and Metohija. Silent bells?
A bell is a Christian symbol, a bell calls for gathering in prayer, a bell signifies an alarm, bells are part of the Christian funeral ceremony, for whom the bell tolls – asked Hemingway. Finally, one of the most exciting sequences in the history of motion pictures for me is the one about bells created by Tarkovsky in Rublov. I was inspired by a medieval story from Metohija about two bells. One was dedicated to Virgin Mary – when it rang from the uplift where the Church of Virgin Mary of Hvostan was, it was heard afar and the bells of all Serbian churches in Metohija would ring back… The other bell had the image of St. Nicholas cast on it… The bells are known in science as Rodop’s Bells, after the Serbian aristocrat who gave them as a gift to the Metropolitan of Hvostan and to the Temple of St. Nicholas. During the Turkish invasion, the Serbs took them off from the bell towers and buried them. The bells spent centuries under the earth. Today, one is in the treasury of the Patriarchate of Peć, and the other was given as a gift to the Serbian Academy of Sciences by the Russian consul Jastrebov. He bought it from shepherds who found it by accident. Today it is in the National Museum. Rodop’s Bells haven’t rung for centuries; I doubt we will ever hear their sound again…
Finally, there is the story about bells from St. Mark’s monastery near Prizren, cast in Kiev, and given to the monastery by Sima Igumanov Prizrenac. Kabashi, the Shqip tribe that settled in the valley of the Prizren Bistrica, took off the bells and threw them into the abyss, above which the monastery rises. I imagined the sound of bells ”rolling”, before they became silent for eternity…
For me, silent bells became the symbol of Kosovo and Metohija.
Does the ”sound of bells rot” underground, or did we lose the ”inner hearing”, so we don’t hear the bells of Metohija?... There were 1.300 Christian Orthodox churches in Kosovo and Metohija until the XV century! An area where 1.300 bells used to ring…

A region sprinkled with churches, like a summer sky sprinkled with stars”?
Not a single stone remained of many temples. The list is endless. Kosovo and Metohija today, at the beginning of the XXI century, are the only spot of ”cultural Europe” where a real cultural genocide still continues. Destroying churches during wars was a horrible crime even in medieval Serbia. For such criminals, Dušan’s Law Codex predicts ”killing, then hanging” – a double death penalty!
However, destroyed churches continued living in the collective memory of the language. The language betrays those who destroyed churches, abducted the land, drove away their neighbors. Among the Shqip villages, even today there is hardly any which doesn’t have the toponym Kisha, or Are kisha – used as a name for a place where a church and the land belonging to the church used to be. Language lasts longer than stone!
Or, for example, Vorat Shkijeve – a Shqip term for a place where grass and weed erased Serbian crosses a long time ago. A grave of a Serb.
Even in Serbica there is not a single Serb today!
Two great temples, Holy Archangels of Prizren and Banjska, if they hadn’t been robbed, would perhaps be on the UNESCO lists of world heritage before Dečani and Gračanica. King Milutin built Banjska for his grave church, it was the richest and most ornamented medieval monastery – the whole interior was covered with gold sheets. The gold was scratched from the walls, the temple turned into a mosque. Sinan-Pasha built his mosque in Prizren using the stone from Dušan’s Archangels; some broken stone plate testifies that the pilgrim was right when he claimed that the mosaic floor in the Holy Archangels was famous in the whole Byzantine world.


• Although the subject is large and multilayered, although it lasts for a very long time, there is an impression that everything about Kosovo and Metohija could be told through the story of its temples, those who built them, who prayed to God in them and suffered together with them?
Yes. We cannot even mention all of them in this conversation and perhaps it would be needless, since, as the poet says, those temples are within us, we carry each of them in ourselves, even when we are not aware of it.

• What is the opinion of the competent international organizations and institutions about the obvious extermination of traces of Serbian Christian heritage in Kosovo and Metohija?
The Christian heritage in Kosovo and Metohija isn’t only Serbian, but first-class European heritage! This should always be explicitly said in these times when nothing is implied any more.
The first delegation of UNESCO ”experts”, who visited the Kosovo and Metohija cultural monuments damaged during the war (bombing of Serbia by NATO), concluded that some damaged objects should be immediately repaired: four mosques, one fountain, two old Albanian village towers and – one Serbian monastery. That report was later ”misplaced” and declared unofficial. It was signed my Mr. Mustafa Omar. The first country that offered financial help for renewing the historical monuments in Kosovo and Metohija, according to the list from that report, was Saudi Arabia.
Since the NATO troops entered Kosovo in the summer of 1999, only during the first two years of ”peace”, 107 Orthodox temples were destroyed (the number later went up to 200). One third of them were registered as Serbian cultural heritage, and service was regularly held in half of the destructed temples. International law calls this crime against cultural heritage. KFOR ignored our requests to save the Serbian churches and monasteries, and one of the UNMIK chiefs made up a nice bureaucratic jest: the Hague Declaration on protection of cultural heritage refers to the countries that signed it, not international organizations! With an additional note that the Hague declaration from 1954 regards war circumstances, and since peace is currently ”raging” in Kosovo… Pure cynicism.

• After the enormous amount of material you studied, after almost 500 pages you wrote, after so much contemplation and thinking, what is, in your opinion, the essence of the Serbian-Albanian relations or conflicts in Kosovo and Metohija?
Any serious and deep historical analysis of Albanian-Serbian relations in Kosovo and Metohija lead to the conclusion that the basis of the conflicts is the cultural-civilization difference of two nations, with one being the carrier of the European, Christian, and the other of the Oriental, Islamist idea. What is happening in Kosovo and Metohija today is a historical paradox: Europe is on the anti-European side!
Still, it is nothing really new in the history of European politics and diplomacy. Didn’t the same thing happen during the reign of Emperor Dušan the Mighty, when Christian Europe rejected the several times repeated offer of the most powerful ruler of the Balkans that the Serbs will even accept a religious union with the Pope, if the Pope, with his moral authority, mobilizes the Christian armies of Europe against the ”ismailians”, and make Dušan the captain of this crusade? In complex intrigues, lasting for ten years, the European monarchist and Catholic circles didn’t see their interest in withstanding the Ottomans, but in weakening Dušan’s Empire. Islam was closer to them then Christian Orthodoxy. Fascinated by their political ”crafts and slyness”, they waited for Serbia to bleed, so they would take their pieces from that bloody feast, like vultures. We know how the story continues. And, how would Serbia and Europe look today if someone had been willing to listen to Dušan’s vision of the Serbian and European future?


Churches of the stone they throw at us
”Devič, the monastery of the Branković family, had been destructed by the Albanian hand, then rebuilt by a Serbian hand, then destroyed again… And in 2004, in the ’March tribulations’ which, in European history, can only be compared to the pogroms of Hitlerians against the Jews (that same date, the German parliament adopted a law on depriving the Jews of their civil rights, and the law on humane killing of fish in German fishponds, using electricity instead of a hammer), the shrine of St. Joanikije was desecrated, and the only thing one can say before the destiny of that sanctity is the verse dedicated to the Saint: ’Teach us, St. Joanikije, to build churches of the stone they throw at us!’”


The past getting more uncertain
• Doesn’t the subject of cultural genocide” in your book dominate other forms of terrible genocide against the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija?
I don’t think this is more benign than a ”real genocide”. To me it even seems worse: cultural genocide also includes genocide of the living force, but in terms of premeditation, it is much more despicable – it is not only wiping out a whole nation, but also everything else that makes it a nation. Its historical identity is canceled, its past stolen, its ancestors killed. The surgical amputation of the soul is performed.
Before the uncertainty of the present and the unknown future, now even the past is no longer certain nor ours. It will also be determined by the new masters of the world!

The cultural genocide also destroys the ”beautiful Serbian stubbornness” which spoke through Desanka Maksimović when she stated: ”Even if only one Serb remained in the world, he alone would be a nation!”




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