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A Visit to Varvara, Village in Tearce Municipality

Originally published by Albanian language daily newspaper Fakti from Skopje

The cohabitation  continues again

"No matter what happened, and it happened without our fault, but things will return to normal, because we have always had cohabitation with our neighbors from our villages, especially with the villagers from Neproshteno, Slatino, who are our first neighbors and with whom we always lived well. I think that things will calm down, it will all get better and we will be able to live together again," Bogomil Stamenkovski from the village of Varvara says.

The village of Varvara is in the Tearce municipality, located on the Sar Mountain on 700 meters above the sea level. The village has 52 houses with 72 households. The villagers mainly deal with agriculture and similar activities, there is one orthodox church, asphalt streets, and an old elementary school building. This is a village with few permanent residents, and the population grows during the weekends. The last year war also hit this village, leaving some deep scars, but the villagers Macedonians believe that there is no future without cohabitation with the Albanians.

A Day With The Villagers Of Varvara

We have visited the village of Varvara along with a team of journalists and representatives of the OSCE office in Tetovo. Mile Serafimovski, President of the community, told us about his activities for reconstruction of the water supply network.

Varvara is a mountain village, it has 57 houses and 72 households, but not all of them live there due to the well-known reasons, such as the lack of infrastructure, school, maybe some local factory etc. We should also mention that this village is close to the town of Tetovo, so practically every weekend all the villagers return back home.

"Now, due to the events that happened, we have problems with the water supply, electricity supply, but I believe that this will be resolved by July 1 and the life will return to normal," Serafimovski says, adding that "we have provided the water supply by ourselves, we also have electricity for quite some time. The road to and through the village is asphalted, so I can freely say that regarding the infrastructure we are doing well." However, he adds, "the lack of economic facilities resulted with the fact that the village is currently populated only by elders during the entire year, who deal with agriculture, but only in their house-yards because here we have no tractors. It is interesting that every year we pick up about two tons of hazelnuts, which is a good earning. We also have cows, pigs and so on."

According to Serafimovski, Varvara is a good role model for cohabitation among the different ethnic groups. "Although the war happened, still any Albanian can come and be our guest. As everybody knows, all Albanians read Fakti daily, so I believe that the frequent communication among the Macedonians and the Albanians can enrich and improve all of us, and I absolutely believe in this, because what I am saying here for Fakti also refers to all other media outlets," President of the Varvara community Mile Serafimovski says.

The Tensions Have Calmed Down

Bogomil Stamenkovski, also from the village of Varvara, says that the cattle's breeding was the main activity in the past, adding that the villagers also dealt with vegetable growing and engineering. "for the time being, the life is returning to normal, first of all in regard to some activities concerning the infrastructure, such as the repairs on the electricity and water supply networks. The tensions are calming down, and the villagers have started to return to the village," Stamenkovski says.

Regarding the repairing of the electricity network, he points out that it was completely repaired, adding that the houses are still in darkness because the electricity meters have been damaged. However, as he says, the villagers were promised that the electricity supply would be soon re-established.

They have received assistance from the Danish Refugee Committee and from the UNHCR. Regarding the last year conflict in this region, he says: "whatever happened-happened, without our fault, but things will return to normal, because we have always had cohabitation with our neighbors from our villages, especially with the villagers from Neprosteno, Slatino, who are our first neighbors and with whom we always lived well. I think that things will calm down, it will all get better and we will be able to live together again."

Another citizen from Varvara, Todor Avramovski, expresses optimism that all citizens would return, which in his opinion will eliminate the fear, still present among them: "the villagers' fear is obvious; they want to come back to the village, at least to spend a night here, but still there is a dosage of fear. However, let us hope that what the international community and the local authorities have started will be successfully implemented, such as the repairing of the electricity network. We also hope that the damaged houses will be repaired and that we will be able to continue with our lives here."

Avramovski lives in Tetovo. "I live there, the Albanians are like my family, during the conflict we have not had and misunderstandings or disputes, and we still live in harmony, so I hope that the future will be even better."

Life Started To Return To Normal

"Varvara is one of the villages in the Tearce municipality, located on the mountain and is quite old. But in the last few years, the villagers started to migrate, and only seven or eight have remained in the village; all others are in Tetovo or Skopje because they have jobs there," mayor of Tearce municipality Lokman Elezi told our newspaper. As he said, permanent residents of the village are seven elderly persons. As he says, that is a naturally rich place, with plenty of water and grass for the cattle.

"There are possibilities for growing vegetables and fruits, and these activities were present there in the past, however the people have migrated from the village, although during the summer and during the weekends many of them return. The villagers started to return in huge numbers, especially after the situation calmed down."

Elezi reported that he had two separate meetings with the villagers from the mountain villages like Varvara, Brest, Jelosnik and Prsevci, where different problems were tackled and the possibilities for the people to return at least during the weekends were reviewed.

"This is what is actually happening now, and the villagers have their community president with whom we contact in order to review the existing problems and needs," he adds.

According to Elezi, the assistance in food and other products like seeds, is not distributed for three months already. "Considering the fact that Varvara is a mountain village, meaning corn cannot grow there, such assistance was not distributed. The other aid was distributed through the Red Cross. We had lists of users for every populated area, regardless if they were accommodated in groups or in private or rented premises. Assistance was provided to all citizens that needed it, regardless if they were in Tearce or in Tetovo," mayor of Tearce municipality Lokman Elezi says.

During the last year crisis, the villagers of Varvara abandoned this village, seeking for shelter somewhere where it was safe. Although this village is populated with Macedonian population, its citizens hope that things will become better because, in their opinion, there is no other way out except in cohabitation.

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