Priest Trajko Vlajkovic with family The young Priest Trajko Vlajkovic lives with his family in Urosevac, an ancient Serbian town in the south of Kosovo and Metohija. The church and the mosque are a few steps away from each other there, and the Orthodox priest and the imam are good friends. The main trouble, according to Fr. Trajko, is that the church is empty. There are most often only three parishioners at services: Fr. Trajko’s wife and two children.
Fr. Trajko Vlajkovic and his family are the only Serbs in the once Serbian town of Uroševac. The very name of the town changed after the Serbs had left (or, to be more precise—had been forced to leave)—its Albanian name is Ferizaj. After the war and subsequent pogroms, hundreds of Orthodox families had to flee their native land to save their lives. The overwhelming majority of the population of today's Ferizaj/Urosevac are, of course, Albanians. It is impossible to hear Serbian speech here, with the sole exception of the Vlajkovics’ house, which is next to the church. It is unsafe to speak Serbian outside their house.
It is not easy to be an Orthodox Serb in the once Serbian town founded by the holy King Stefan Uroš V (1336–1371). However, there is a kind of symbolism here: Uros, the last king of the Nemanjic Dynasty (or the Holy Nemanjic Vine, as they say in Serbia), was famous for his meekness and humility.
But it is very hard to live in isolation, surrounded by quite unfriendly neighbors. Therefore, Fr. Trajko considers his family’s friendly relations with the imam of the adjoining mosque a real miracle. He says that the imam is one person who is happy to help him and who can really be relied on.
“The fact that we live a couple of yards from each other alone obliges us to treat our neighbors respectfully and kindly. Even if we are of different faiths, this should not be a reason for hatred,” Priest Trajko says. “We go to see each other and greet one another on our holidays. It was very touching when our neighbors came and wished us a happy Nativity and Pascha. May God grant that goodness will live in the hearts of all inhabitants of the region!"
But not all residents of Urosevac share such beliefs. Walking in a cassock on the town streets, which is so natural for Serbia, is simply dangerous for a priest here. The two children of the Vlajkovics play only at home or in the yard. It is better not to tempt fate and go to play, for example, football or other games in another place. And they never walk to school. The nearest school where lessons are held in Serbian is twelve miles away. “Nothing can be done!” the priest says. “Of the 13,000 Orthodox Christians expelled from here none returned. And this is more than twenty years after the war. What can’t be cured must be endured.”
The church in which Fr. Trajko serves is empty even on Sundays and great feasts. Serbs from the surrounding villages come to the town to buy or sell something at the market, but, as the priest notes with a deep sigh, not to attend services. However, despondency is absolutely alien to his nature. He quotes the ever-memorable Patriarch Pavle of Serbia: “God has not given us a sword or a gun to force people to be Christians. He has given us His Word. Those who have ears to hear will hear. This is our weapon. God’s path is not easy, but it is honest. It presupposes an incessant struggle with ourselves, with our passions, with falsehoods and with satan. This is the path through suffering, through love for ourselves, for our neighbors, for all living things, even for our enemies. The reward at the end of the journey is eternal heavenly glory in the Kingdom of God.” And Fr. Trajko adds: “So I cannot make the Serbs remember the church. But I will always remind them about the church and about Christ.” He is positive that St. Uros, in whose honor the church is dedicated, protects his family through his prayers. “It seems that everything is quite simple here: our small family takes care of the church, and Christ keeps us through the prayers of the saint.”
And this church is “a sufferer, like St. Uros, like Christ Himself,” the priest notes. Over the recent decades it was desecrated several times: first during the 1999 war, then in 2000 when a grenade was thrown into it, and then in 2004, during the so-called “March pogrom”. “But the church is waiting for the parishioners to return here and for the Serbs to remember that they are Orthodox. It seems that then the saints who look at us from the icons will weep with joy. I wish all of us such joy, such triumph—not military, but spiritual triumph. Christ will arrange everything—both in our lives and in the life of Serbia, provided that we stay close to Him. This has been well demonstrated to us by the saints of the Nemanjic Dynasty.”