Janjevo and Letnica are the main places in Kosovo where there are still Croats living today. The villages are located in the south east of the country, namely in the municipalities of Lipjan and Vitina. The Croat people of Janjevo, called the Janjevcis, have lived in Kosovo for seven centuries. They settled in Kosovo in the 14th century and were originally from the Republic of Dubrovnik. Throughout centuries, they have maintained their Roman Catholic faith and beliefs and the church has played a big role in the preservation of their national identity. Even though the Janjevcis have lived outside of their mother country all this time, they are still more or less untouched by the culture of the area around them and they have had uninterrupted connections with their mother country.
Photo: RNEIn 1991, the Croat population in Janjevo was 2859, according to the Population Census of SFR Yugoslavia. Twenty years earlier, they were almost one thousand more.
Located between Kosovo’s mountains, Janjevo was an idyllic town where the inhabitants enabled its economic development and growth through craft and trade. The houses they used to live in are now mostly empty, or illegally inhabited. Many of them are rundown. The Janjevo Association in Zagreb assumes that only 300 people remain in Kosovo (2004), most of them poor and elderly people.
The community in Janjevo is led by the local Catholic priest, Don Mate. The church and Don Mate care about their congregation, organizing local reconstruction and rehabilitation projects, as well as taking care of the community’s spiritual needs. Ambassador Braathu visited Janjevo on All Saints Day the religious day commemorating the deceased. A moving outdoor service was held, attended by hundreds of people, many of them having travelled from Croatia in order to remember their forbears. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful service for the many people who attended it.
In the end of the article, there is a gallery with photos taken in Janjevo on this occasion.
Another Croat community in Kosovo is in Letnica, the municipality of Vitina. In 1999, there were 4331 Croats in Vitina. Twelve years later, in 2011, the number had decreased to 40 persons. OSCE (2011) knows of only four Kosovo Croat returns after the 1999 conflict.
According to OSCE (2010), remaining Kosovo Croats in Vitina perceive fear in speaking Croatian openly in certain public spheres. As of 2010, Kosovo Croats have no representatives in the municipalities were they are minorities. An OSCE report of October 2011, presents a worrying picture of the socio-economic situation for Kosovo Croatian community in Letnica, along with their lack of representation in the municipality. The organization states a need for an outreach to the Kosovo Croats, and a need to improve their access to services as health care and public utilities.
The majority of Kosovo Croats are elderly. They live isolated and in relatively bad conditions. Of the 40 people living in Letnica, only four of them are fit to work. This leads to bad living conditions for the community. Lack of running water and often power cuts does not make it better for the communities in Janjevo and Letnica, especially during the cold winter months.
OSCE Mission in Kosovo (2010). Communities Rights Assessment Report. Second Edition. December 2010. Available here
OSCE Mission in Kosovo (2011). The Kosovo Croats of Viti/Vitina Municipality: A
Vulnerable Community. October 2011. Available here
Siljkovic, Zeljka and Martin Glamuzina (2004). Janjevo and Janjevci – From Kosovo to Zagreb. Department of Geography, University of Zadar.
Lipjan. Photo: ECMI Kosovo Vitina. Photo: ECMI Kosovo