Vukadinovic's house was among around 900 Serbian homes and religious sites that
were destroyed in several days of frenzied Albanian rioting in March 2004. Nineteen
people on both sides died.
Violence erupted after the drowning of three Albanian children in the tense and
divided town of Mitrovica. The tragedy sparked wild rumours of Serb complicity
in the deaths, sending crowds of enraged Albanians surging into Kosovo's Serbian
Faced with international condemnation of what looked like a pogrom, the Kosovo
government allocated an emergency budget of 12 million euro to rebuild Serb property
in villages such as Svinjare/Frashėr, where about 120 homes were burned.
Behxhet Brajshori, who was placed in charge of the reconstruction project, offered
all the affected families a 2,000 euro cash bonus on top of the reconstruction.
But government aid has not tempted the Serbs back to Svinjare/Frashėr. Today,
only four of the 40 families who lived there before the March riots remain.
Vukadinovic is one of them. Her house is one of the few Serb-owned homes that
does not have a "FOR SALE" sign outside.
Instead, a sign on her home bears the logo of the Kosovo Provisional Institutions
for Self-Government, PISG, indicating they sponsors the repairs to the house.
Most other Serbs in the village used the reconstruction aid to repair their houses
and then sell them. They mostly left for the northern, Serbian, part of Mitrovica.
Vukadonovic's newest neighbour is Zeqir Rushiti, an Albanian in his fifties.
He recently moved into a house that used to belong to Serbs.
He and five brothers sold their assets in northern Mitrovica and bought six houses
from Serbs in Svinjare/Frashėr.
Government officials are well aware that a process of large scale "swapping"
of homes is going on between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo, and that it is changing
the ethnic map of Kosovo for ever.
"Our ministry doesn't have any exact information," Nazmi Fejza, deputy minister
for refugee returns, told Balkan Insight. "But it is true that Serbs are selling
the houses that were rebuilt with government aid and Albanians are buying them
on a massive scale."
Members of both ethnic groups say their main motive is security fears.
"We were forced to sell homes in the north because we weren't safe," said Rushiti.
"For over seven years we couldn't move about freely and nobody cared."
Adem Mripa, who lives in Mitrovica's so-called Bosniak quarter, which lies uncomfortably
between the town's opposing Serb and Albanian communities, says he well understands
why home owners want to swap properties.
"People are tired of this situation and most have had to rent homes for years
now, as their property lay on the 'other' side of the river," he said. "Most Serbs
do not dare go to the southern part of Kosovo, while most Albanians do not dare
to go to northern Mitrovica."
Vukadinovic is something of an exception. After she returned to her house following
the March riots, she experienced no problems with her new Albanian neighbours.
"Conditions here are not good, for we don't have a doctor, public transportation,
or a school," she said. "But my life is not in danger. There have been no [ethnic]
incidents here since March 2004."
Vojislav Jovic is one of the other four Serbs still living in Svinjare/Frashėr,
along with his wife.
He dismisses claims that the Serbs are selling up solely on account of fears
for their security.
"Serbs are not running away because of pressure to find safety," said Jovic.
"They are selling their properties because they see a good opportunity for a big
While some hardline Albanians and Serbs may welcome the idea of total separation
of the communities, deputy minister Fejza says the process is harming Kosovo.
"Taxpayers' money has been spent on this project," he recalled. "We are just
draining donors' money, which could have been invested in capital projects for
the sustainable return of Serbs."
Fejza blames the UN development programme, UNDP, which manages reconstruction
funds, for part of the waste.
"When they signed contracts for the renovation of the destroyed homes, they did
not want to think about whether these renovated houses would just be sold, or
not," he said. "The focus was all on rebuilding an exact number of burned houses,
not on looking at other elements that might attract Serbs back after the riots."
UNDP officials reject the criticisms. One pointed out that before the reconstruction
process started, all the stakeholders concerned, including UNDP, the UN authority
in Kosovo, UNMIK, the government and the citizens involved, signed agreements
forbidding people to sell rebuilt houses for a certain period of time.
On the ground, both Serbs and Albanians have ignored the provisions.
Rrahman Hasani, head of the village in Svinjare/Frashėr, says much of his time
is now spent on meeting the Albanian newcomers who are swiftly buying up almost
all the 120 or so repaired homes.
"The Kosovo government invested over millions of euro in rebuilding these houses,
which are being sold uncontrollably," said Hasani.
Local politicians say it is hard to stand in the way of such basic rights as
the freedom to buy and sell real estate and to live where you want.
"Trade in property is something we can't stop," said Ulpiana Lama, spokesperson
for Agim Ceku, Kosovo's prime minister. "It's the citizens' will."
But Arben Gashi, a local government expert, is worried. "These rights are allowing
for the creation of ethnic enclaves and creating ethnic borders within Kosovo,"
In the meantime, Vukadinovic, wakes up almost daily to find new Albanian neighbours.
People bother her every day with offers to buy her house. "I receive many offers
and good prices, but this place is important to me so I won't sell it," she said.
"I have no reason to sell my house. As long as I live, I can live here just fine."