Scroll down for the Serbian version

Dragon's teeth - tales from north Kosovo

For four years I served as EULEX’s coordinator for north Kosovo, during which I spent a lot of time traveling to the four municipalities.

This gave me the opportunity to visit many places - Trepča, Banjska, Sokolica - and to explore its diverse nature.

Most importantly, it gave me the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and positions - politicians, farmers, priests, miners, to name but a few.

There are also the friendships I made during that time.

Without all these people, there wouldn’t be this book. Their voices are the most powerful part.

The title of my book, 'Dragon's Teeth – tales from north Kosovo’, is inspired by three things:

First, Dragon's Teeth are fortifications used to block roads - a practice not unknown in north Kosovo.

Second, the shape of many of the hills dotted across the north resemble Dragon's Teeth.

Finally, the Greek myth of sowing dragons' teeth as a metaphor for conflict.

The book covers a range of topics, but I will focus on three main themes – diversity, history, and community and resistance.

Dragon's Teeth - Tales from North Kosovo is available to purchase online

Dragon's Teeth: Tales from North Kosovo


The first is diversity in north Kosovo.

What is specific about north Kosovo is its diversity – a diversity that is either ignored or unknown. Many people believe that the north is exclusively Serbian - that it is a homogeneous community.

People focus on the Main Bridge over the river Ibar, which has been and still is closed to vehicles - yet people regularly cross on foot.

And just 400 or 500 meters east there is another bridge that you can cross by car without any problems.

Those from the south come to the green market in the north, while those from the north shop at ETC supermarket in the south.

These two places alone encourage the flow of people from one side of the river to the other.

One of the main obstacles is in people’s minds.

The north is not closed.

In the chapter about Bošnjačka Mahala, I talk about the different types of relationships which exist on a daily basis - relationships that are now quite normal for those who live and work there. For one, people shop in two languages without any problems.

In Čabra, they told me that the village is even bigger today than it was before the war - although the north is supposedly safe only for Serbs. Sadly, however, many other Kosovo Albanians who were expelled from the north have yet to return.

Suvi do and Brđani have their own stories - of which I managed to share only a few.

But this diversity is not just about multiethnicity.

The Serb population in the north has changed - many have come from south of the Ibar, and many have left.

This is a point that I don't think I've portrayed well enough in my book. Every year, this part of Kosovo receives many new people – thousands of students who bring special and completely new energy and liveliness.

It is important to recognize and appreciate the diversity that exists in order to help change perceptions about north Kosovo.

Only then can we find the seeds of hope for a better tomorrow.


Another topic is the richness of the history of north Kosovo.

But many parts of this history seem to have been lost.

The history of Trepča is, in particular, a fascinating story.

You have to go back in time to the Saxon miners who were brought here because of their mining skills and experience.

The 1920s and 1930s were a time of rapid change for this part of Kosovo.

I remember a former colleague taking me to Stan Terg or Stari Trg on the south side of the Ibar. We went past the ruins of an old hotel, where we climbed uphill to an old swimming pool.

The diving board is still intact.

The legacies of the so-called 'English Colony' can still be seen in Zvečan today - tennis courts and bungalows built in the English style.

One fascinating figure is the American mining magnate of Irish origin, Alfred Chester Beatty, who founded the Trepča mines some 90 years ago.

Beatty sent engineers to find the old mines.

They studied old maps and various documents.

In the end, their discovery had a religious dimension.

Beatty told them to look for the remains of an old church, where the Saxon miners would pray to God before going underground.

And this is how they found the entrances to the abandoned mining shafts.

He really was a fascinating figure.

But today, when you talk to people in north Kosovo, Beatty’s legacy is forgotten.

People have no idea who he was.

In his museum in Dublin, Beatty collected a number of documents that are of great value to the Serbian Orthodox Church.

It is a collection of global importance that everyone in Dublin should see and study.

As I wrote, Beatty salvaged three of the most valuable Serbian medieval documents, which had been part of the Serbian National Library in Belgrade until World War One.

These include the Gospel of the Monastery of Saint Nicholas (or ‘Nikoljsko Jevanđelje’), the oldest monastery of the Ovčar-Kablar Gorge in Serbia. Written by Sirinić Scribe Ravul in the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century, a microfilm copy was returned to the Serbian Orthodox Church in 2004.

There is also a copy of the ‘Minej praznični’ - a festival service book, similar to the ‘Book of Hours’ or ‘Breviary’ - printed in 1538 in Venice by Božidar Vuković’s printing house for the monastery of Petkovica in western Serbia.

Vuković, motivated by the dearth of Serbian liturgical books in the Ottoman conquered lands, made it his life’s work to safeguard the existence of Orthodox heritage.

I hope that in the foreseeable future, work will begin on revitalising the architectural remains in Stan Terg or Stari Trg, plus the remnants of the English Colony in Zvečan.

Sadly, internally displaced persons are still accommodated in Hotel Number Three in Zvečan, even though 20 years have passed since the end of the war.

Community and resistance

The last topic is community and resistance.

North Kosovo has a long and proud history of resistance.

This includes resistance to outsiders.

The former mayor of Potok, Stevan Vulović, told me how the locals resisted the Ottomans.

In the 1930s, the miners of Trepča united to protest exploitation – including poor working conditions and low wages.

The 2011 chapter on barricades highlights the real reasons why normal people joined the barricades.

Many wanted to fight for their own freedom.

This history of resistance is an important part of understanding north Kosovo.

One of the first acts of resistance to the Nazis in the former Yugoslavia occurred in north Kosovo.

On the night of July 30th 1941, a group of miners sabotaged the cable car that transported raw materials on the route Stari Trg - Zvečan.

There is also a unique and strong sense of community that exists in northern Kosovo - a sense of community that helps people cope with the constant uncertainty.

They depend on one another.

That uncertainty is not only related to security - it is the everyday reality of politics and government. Status, documents. Pensions, license plate disputes, healthcare, education, waste disposal.

People had to deal with this on their own.

Politics affects their daily life.

The community was formed through difficult times.

It affects people.

People are under constant stress and worry.

For many, this situation has had deep consequences.

Then, there is the community that is nurtured in places like Galerija Aquarius - those special spaces where people are united by love for theatre, literature, poetry, art.

So thank you again to Miljana and Aca, not only for this evening, but for everything you do. Conclusion

To conclude - while writing the book, I learned a lot about the north of Kosovo - especially after the book came out!

I apologize for any mistakes, omissions, or misunderstandings.

Maybe one day there will be a second or even a third edition.

I guess I will find out more about this place in the questions that will follow.

Although relatively small, the north of Kosovo is extremely complex.

Zmajevi zubi - priče sa severa Kosova

Radio sam kao koordinator EULEKS-a za sever Kosova četiri godine i proveo sam dosta vremena putujući u četiri opštine.

To mi je pružilo priliku da obiđem mnoga mesta – Trepču, Banjsku, Sokolicu – i istražim prirodu.

Ono što je najvažnije, dalo mi je priliku da upoznam ljude iz različitih sredina i pozicija – političare, poljoprivrednike, sveštenike, rudare.

Tu su i prijateljstva koja sam stekao za to vreme.

Bez svih ovih ljudi ne bi bilo knjige. Jer njihovi glasovi su najmoćniji deo knjige.

Naslov moje knjige, ‘Zmajevi zubi - priče sa severa Kosova’, inspirisan je trima stvarima:

Prvo, Zmajevi zubi se koriste za blokiranje puteva - praksa koja nije nepoznata na severu Kosova.

Drugo, oblik brda širom severa podseća na zmajeve zube.

Konačno, grčki mit da se seju zmajevi zubi kao metafora sukoba.

Knjiga pokriva brojne teme, ali rekao bih da su tri teme ipak glavne.


Prva je raznolikost na severu Kosova.

Za severno Kosovo je specifična upravo ogromna raznolikost - raznolikost koja se ili ignoriše ili ne poznaje.

U današnjem vremenu, veliki broj osoba smatra da je sjever isključivo srpski – da je to jedna homogena zajednica.

Ljudi se fokusiraju na glavni most, koji je godinama bio I jos uvek je zatvoren za automobile – ipak ljudi redovno prelaze pešice.

Samo 400 ili 500 metara istočno postoji još jedan most preko kojeg možete preći automobilom bez ikakvih problema.

Oni sa juga dolaze na zelenu pijacu na severu, dok oni sa severa kupuju u ETC-u na jugu.

Ta dva mjesta podstiču protok ljudi s jedne strane rijeke na drugu.

Glavna prepreka je ona u vašoj glavi.

Sever nije zatvoren.

U delu knjige o Bošnjačkoj mahali pričam o različitim tipovima odnosa na dnevnoj bazi - odnose koji su sada sasvim normalni za one koji tamo žive i rade. Kao na primer shopping koji se odvija na dva jezika bez problema.

U Čabri su mi rekli da je selo danas čak i veće nego što je bilo pre rata – iako je sever navodno bezbedan samo za Srbe. Nažalost, međutim, mnogi drugi kosovski Albanci koji su proterani sa severa tek treba da se vrate.

Suvi do i Brđani imaju svoje priče – od kojih sam uspeo da podelim samo nekoliko.

Ali ne radi se samo o multietničnosti.

Promenilo se srpsko stanovništvo na severu – mnogi su došli sa juga Ibra, a mnogi su i otišli odavde.

Ovo je tačka koju mislim da nisam dovoljno dobro prikazao u svojoj knjizi.

Svake godine ovaj deo Kosova prima i mnogo novih lica a to su studenti koji unose posebnu I sasvim novu energiju i živost.

Važno je prepoznati I ceniti tu raznolikost koja danas postoji na ovom prostoru i promeniti percepcije o severu Kosova.

Tek tada možemo naći seme nade u bolje sutra.


Druga tema je bogatstvo istorije severnog Kosova.

Čini se da su mnogi delovi istorije ovog dela Kosova izgubljeni.

Istorija Trepče je, posebno, fascinantna priča.

Morate se vratiti u prošlost sve do saksonskih rudara koji su ovamo dovedeni zbog svojih veština.

Dvadesete i tridesete proslog veka bile su vreme brzih promena za ovaj deo Kosova.

Sjećam se da me je bivši kolega vodio u Stan Terg ili Stari Trg s južne strane Ibra i proveo pored ruševine starog hotela, kuda smo se popeli uzbrdo do starog bazena.

Platforma za skakanje je i dalje netaknuta.

U Zvečanu se i danas mogu videti legati 'Engleske kolonije' - teniski tereni i bungalovi izgrađeni u engleskom stilu.

Fascinantan je američki rudarski magnat irskog porekla Alfred Čester Biti, koji je pre 90 godina pustio u rad rudnik u Trepči.

Biti je poslao inženjere da pronađu stare rudnike.

Proučavali su stare karte i razna dokumenta.

Na kraju, njihovo otkriće je imalo religioznu dimenziju.

Biti im je rekao da potraže ostatke stare crkve, gde bi se mogli pomoliti Bogu pre nego što bi otišli u podzemlje.

Tako su pronašli ulaze u napuštena rudarska okna.

Bio je zaista fascinantna figura.

Ali danas, kada razgovarate sa ljudima na severu Kosova, Bitijevo nasleđe je zaboravljeno.

Ljudi nemaju pojma ko je on.

U Dablinu postoji njegov muzej, gdje je čuvao sve pronađene dokumente koji su od ogromne vrijednosti za pravoslavnu Crkvu.

To je prava svjetska kolekcija koju bi svako u Dablinu trebao vidjeti i proučiti.

Kao što sam napisao, Biti je spasao tri najvrednija srpska dokumenta, koja su do Prvog svetskog rata bila deo Srpske narodne biblioteke u Beogradu.

Tu spadaju Jevanđelje manastira Svetog Nikole – ili ‘Nikoljsko Jevanđelje’ – najstariji manastir Ovčarsko-kablarske klisure u Srbiji.

Tu je i primerak ‘Mineja prazničnog’ štampana 1538. godine u Veneciji u štampariji Božidara Vukovića za manastir Petkovicu u zapadnoj Srbiji.

Vuković je bio podstaknut oskudicom srpske bogoslužbene knjige u osmanskim osvojenim zemljama, pa mu je životno delo da sačuva postojanje pravoslavne baštine.

Nadam se da će se u dogledno vreme početi raditi na revitalizaciji pre svega ostataka arhitekture u Stan Tergu ili Starom Trgu i u neposrednoj blizini Kosovske Mitrovice, na jugu, a ujedno i ostataka Engleske Kolonije u Zvečanu.

Tako su u Hotelu broj tri, naprimjer, još uvijek smještena interno raseljena lica iako je od kraja rata prošlo 20 godina.

Zajednica i otpor

Poslednja tema je zajednica i otpor.

Severno Kosovo ima dugu i ponosnu istoriju otpora.

Ovo uključuje otpor prema autsajderima.

Bivši predsednik opštine Zubin Potok Stevan Vulović ispričao mi je kako su meštani pružali otpor Osmanlijama.

Rudari Trepče su se tridesetih godina ujedinili da protestuju zbog eksploatacije – loših uslova rada i niske plate.

Poglavlje o barikadama iz 2011. prikazuje prave razloge zašto su se normalni ljudi pridružili barikadama.

Mnogi su želeli da se bore za sopstvenu slobodu.

Istorija otpora je duga i važan je deo razumevanja severnog Kosova.

Jedan od prvih akata otpora nacistima u bivšoj Jugoslaviji dogodio se na severu Kosova.

U noći 30. jula 1941. godine grupa rudara je sabotirala žičaru kojom su se prevozile sirovine na relaciji Stari Trg - Zvečan.

Takođe postoji jedinstven i snažan osećaj zajedništva koji postoji na severu Kosova – osećaj zajednice koji pomaže ljudima da se nose sa neizvesnošću.

Počevši od predratnog perioda do 2004. godine i povratka strahova i strepnje.

Proglašenje nezavisnosti Kosova 2008.

Barikade iz 2011.

Noviji incidenti.

Ljudi ovde žive sa u konstantnoj neizvesnosti.

Oni zavise jedni od drugih.

Ta neizvesnost nije vezana samo za bezbednost – to je svakodnevna realnost politike i vlasti. Status, dokumenta. Penzije, ostavinske rasprave, skole zdravstvo, odlaganje otpada.

Ljudi su morali da se nose sa ovim sami. Politika utiče na vaš svakodnevni život. Zajednica je formirana kroz teška vremena.

To utiče na ljude.

Ljudi su pod konstantnim stresom i brigom.

Na mnoge je ta situacija ostavila duboke posljedice.

Zatim, tu je zajednica koja se neguje na mestima kao što je Akuarius – tim posebnim prostorima gde ljude spaja ljubav prema pozorištu, književnosti, poeziji, umetnosti.

Zato još jednom hvala Miljani i Aci, ne samo za ovo veče, već za sve što radite.

Da završim – dok sam pisao knjigu, naučio sam mnogo o severu Kosova – pogotovo nakon što je knjiga izašla!

Izvinjavam se za sve greške, propuste ili nesporazume.

Možda će jednog dana biti i drugo, pa čak i treće izdanje.

Pretpostavljam da ću u pitanjima koja slede saznati još više o ovom mestu.

Iako relativno mali prostor vrlo je komplikovan.

Explore related stories

View all stories