If I can stay in my home, even for one night, I can die happy



From Kosovo

Svetlana Nikolic has seen her home in Prizren, Kosovo be destroyed two times during riots in 1999 and 2003, forcing her and her family to flee. Now she has returned to Prizren, where her house is being rebuilt through Danish Refugee Council's (DRC) Serbian urban return project.

Svetlana Nikolic leads us to her house in Prizren town in Kosovo. She arrived in March together with the other beneficiaries of DRC's urban return project. "I walk up this hill every day. Once in the morning and then around 7pm we gather by the old stone bridge at the foot of the hill to look at our homes."

This is the second time 70-year old Svetlana sees her house being rebuilt.

"In 1999 my family and I fled Prizren after our house was burned to the ground, and in 2003 after my husband’s death I returned by myself. My house was reconstructed then, but in 2004 during the riots it was destroyed again."

She recalls the events of the night when she was forced to leave everything behind for the second time.

"I was hiding with other women in my house. People came looking for us, but we were hiding in the basement and they left again. Later that night we snuck out of the house. On our way we met a man. He was Albanian, and he said he would help us. He let us into his house where we stayed the night. He had a family and it could be risky for him to shelter us. His daughter called a contact from KFOR (NATO Forces in Kosovo), to pick us up and bring us to the KFOR barracks."

For one year Svetlana lived at the KFOR base with her son and his children. After that they were housed in Brezovica collective centre near Prizren until she returned to Prizren in March to wait for the completion of the house.

"I have no worries for myself. If I can stay in my own home even if it was only for one night, I can die happy. I worry only about my son. He has two children and he is unemployed, so he and his family will stay here with me."

Since 2011, DRC Kosovo has facilitated the first organized Serbian urban return project ‘Sustainable Return to Nenkalaja / Podkaljaja’.

In collaboration with local partners, municipal authorities and the local community, DRC assists the return and reintegration of 10 displaced minority families and individuals to the Nenkalaja / Podkaljaja neighbourhood in Prizren.

Following the success of this first round of returns, DRC Kosovo is now in the process of rebuilding the homes of another 13 Kosovo Serb families and preparing for their social and economic reintegration into the local community.