© 2002 Friends of Bosnia  

Saving History
Dr. Fejaz Drancolli
Dr. Fejaz Drancolli has an enormous job. As director of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments in Pristina, he has witnessed the destruction of hundreds of historic monuments throughout Kosovo by Serb forces. Now he is tirelessly cataloguing the damage and working with the new UNMIK Department of Culture to monitor the slow and painstaking task of rebuilding.

“I fear that I will die before I see one Kulla rebuilt,” said Drancolli. Kullas are unique Albanian-style stone mansions built between the 18th and early 20th centuries. Of the 500 Kullas existing prior to the war, 450 suffered damage by Serb forces intent on eradicating all traces of Albanian culture in Kosovo. Fortunately they were not as successful as they were in parts of Bosnia where, not only did they destroy mosques in Banja Luka and Foca, they carted away the stones and made a parking lot.

Of the more than 600 mosques in Kosovo, greater than 200 were damaged or destroyed during the war. Andras Riedlmayer, from the Cambridge-based Kosovo Cultural Heritage Project, documented how Serb paramilitaries burnt, bombed, and vandalized mosques—sometimes tearing leaves from ancient Koran manuscripts and writing crude anti-Albanian graffiti on the walls.

When we first met Drancolli in February 2000 at his office in Pristina, he was working in an unheated building without electricity. By the summer, the electricity was more reliable (barely), but Drancolli was fighting new battles with UNMIK who wanted to remove him from his beloved institute. In the photo at right, he is escorting us through Peja, jesturing in the direction of the Rugova Gorge, the impenetrable Mountains of the Damned, and a nearby mosque that miraculously withstood the war. On the far right is a Catholic Church, rare in most of Kosovo but not in Peja which is near the Albanian border. A half-mile up the gorge is the most famous of all Serb religious sites in Kosovo, the Patriarchate of Pec, now under continuous KFOR protection. Although Drancolli considers the Patriarchate an important part of Albanian heritage and has visited it many times, he is now
prohibited from entering.




Above: Dr. Fejaz Drancolli in Peja.
1) The Kulla of Zenel Bey, Peja. Built in the 19th century.
2) Interior of the Mosque of Sultan Muhammed the Conqueror in Peja. It was built in 1460 and heavily damaged and looted during the war.