O nás Pro dárce Pro dobrovolníky Kosovský deník Fotogalerie Odkazy
Tirana Diary 15 June 1999

Tirana 15 June 1999

The movement north and south is happening at this very moment, more and more refugees have decided to jump on the bandwagon and go north as far as possible and wait there until they can leave the country for Kosov@. In order to support this repatriation CARE international, together with UNHCR has decided to start a project called "Way Stations". Almost 60% of the refugees, by the way doesn't have any means of transport of their own, for some days already you can see small groups standing at the roadsides waiting for big or small mini buses going north; in the near future, the state of Albania, in cooperation with UNHCR and NATO, will start to supply transport possibilities for them. The other 40% have cars, trucks and tractors. In the camps you see the men working on their cars and tractors to make them ready to start moving as soon as it is possible.

To facilitate this and to help the refugees in their exodus up north CARE will install on eight places in the country these so called "Way Stations". This means places where there is petrol, water, technical help for the broken cars and tractors. Medical supplies, refreshments and food for the people. At each "way station" also a parking lot with shade will be provided so that refugees can sleep in their cars there as well if they want. Thanks to NATO these places will be safeguarded.

This is not an action only from CARE and UNHCR, but it will be a joint activity from all NGO's who can supply either mechanical help, food, medical help and so on. So today there was a special emergency meeting about it in the pyramide. I went there in order to find out if anybody thought about the children and teenagers on this huge trek north. Like their parents they will be sometimes on the road for ten or more hours, just sitting in this bloody hot sun. Of course the bigger NGO's will do their best to provide them with water and food, but what if they finally can leave their tractors and cars. What will be there for them to do. And what will be there for them to do during all these hours of travelling.

So after somebody from "Save the Children" said that they will take care that in every "Way Station" there will be a well-baby area, where mothers can wash their babies and get food and so on, I declared that the Balkan Sunflowers (together with the Albanian and Kosov@ Youth Councils) will take care that in all "Way Stations" there will be a place for children and youth. I had had contact about this with them yesterday evening already and I had talked with IRC about funding, so I was able to back up this promise.

Today I have been running around between the different organisations collecting toys, teddy bears and paint and all other kinds of stuff in order to supply these places with materials they can use. This idea came to me when I was thinking about those highway restaurants along the highways in Europe and America, for example the McDonalds, where you have Ronald McDonald taking care of the children. The reaction of the others was perfect, they started to plan us in immediately, providing us with more tasks, like taking care about spreading information about landmines and bombs awareness.

But to be able to also run these children and youth places we need a lot of volunteers, every station needs at least five international people, plus three Kosovars and two Albanians (the last two groups are now settled in, on thursday we will have a meeting with the first twentyfive who'd like to help). It must be people who can get on their feets as soon as a small convoy of tractors arrive and have ideas about what you can do, sing songs, do some games, play football or volleyball, etc. It will be very different from working in camps, since people will only stay there for one night or maybe even only half an hour. And new groups will be arriving all day long. But it is neccessary that we can give those children something to do, to get them active after sitting for hours and hours. And to get them away from the cars and their parents, when the cars are getting fixed for the next part of the exodus.

Furthermore it is needed that ideas are created what those kids can do on their journey. Maybe we can provide childrens books or lists of questions they have to answer before they come to the next station. An advantage of doing activities in these "way stations" is that almost all Kosovars will pass through them in the next two and a half months. They will travel over the golden, the copper and the silver road, these next few days NATO and the Albanian government will mark the roads, NATO won't be able to repair all those roads in time, but still people will travel. Our volunteers in the camps are also explaining that the movement from the camps is starting, not big yet, but lots of people are already talking about it. One major problem is at this moment what the Russians will do. The Kosovars don't want to return to Kosov@ when Russian troops have to safeguard them, "Russians are just Serbs in camouflage" is what people say.

Some of the Albanians I have talked to in the last few weeks are now in a heroic mood, now is the time to liberate the Albanian brothers in Greece, Montenegro and Macedonia as well. NATO will help us to create a Greater Albania like it existed before the Slavic tribes came here. They only came as early or as late as the 6th and 7th century, before that we, the Illyrians, were here, so we have the oldest rights. This is normal, they say, finally we will get what is ours, since 6 or 7 centuries we have been under foreign occuption, now it is our time. There is not much to discuss, it's like that and not different. When I start arguing that when we in the Netherlands would start to claim the same kind of things, or when every other tribe in Europe will claim "rights" they once had in history, we will end up in a terrible war, they just say that we should, since it is our right like it is theirs.

It is not night yet, but I am already sitting on my balcony writing today's diary, a few hundred kids are playing football in the evening, it surprises me always since it's still at least 31 degrees celsius out there. I am writing my diary since tomorrow I won't have the time for it, I will leave to travel up north in the early morning (I am leaving around six) in order to see the refugee camps in Burrel, not so far away, but still travelling up and down will take most of the day.

Downstairs from the open window I hear how the volunteers discuss the work they did today. They had a full day. In the morning the whole group started in Mullet, the older women in the group (there are four, between 50 and 63) were busy with the young mothers, babies and little kids, doing the most elementary kindergarten work you can think of. Like little games, singing a - German, in this case - song (Father Jacob). The three guys were out with the younger teenage boys playing a game of football, introducing some real rules, and the three younger women (24-43) were out with the teenage girls doing hair decorations. In the afternoon the older women did games with the kids of school-going age and the rest of the group came back to Tirana and worked in some smaller refugee centers in town, doing basically the same thing.

They are discussing on this moment the problems they are facing working with these young kids, as soon as the term Kosov@ falls these kids show a kind of special reaction. Kosova - the name already is holy. If you hear the songs they are listening to, they are like Wagner operas, the same type of music, the kids know these songs by heart. Almost ten years of an underground Kosovar education system has produced a strong nationalistic awareness, which is not so easy to deal with. I can remember when I was a little kid, I was born ten years after the second world war, how people still had this enourmous respect for our national anthem, when it was sung you had to put your hand on your heart and stand there, almost as stiff as a soldier and feel tears coming up in your eyes when you saw the Dutch flag going up the pole. These kids are reacting even stronger to it. Now, almost 55 years after the second world war this national feeling has cooled down significantly in my country. But it is still rising here, for the first time in ten years Kosovar teachers can openly teach.

Kosov@ is a new nation, and Kosovars feel strongly about it. Their national feeling is high. And I am sorry to say it, but the Albanians are having the same type of nationalism. I can't even count anymore the number of times I have heard in those almost five weeks that I am here now, that Hitler was a great example for them. The amount of swastikas I have seen in the last weeks is unbelievable, more than in Croatia, which had also this strong nationalistic feeling. Historically by the way, one of the most notorious, through its cruelties, SS-batallions was the Skenderbeg batallion, next to the Ustasha (Croat) SS troops and the Muslims (from Bosnia). This is not always easy to cope with, but it is the reality, in a way, we even have created it as Europe.

Reconciliation is a strange word at this moment in time, they can hardly imagine that it will ever be possible to live together with Serbs again, in the coming years. Only a handful Kosovars are realising that somewhere in the future these relations have to be normalised again, but as said it is only a handful and it won't be easy.

There is one thing I want to write about some more today, and that is the stream of questions I am getting from people who have heard that all Kosovars are muslim. Apart from the fact that that is not true, there are Catholic Kosovars, and Orthodox Kosovars too, the essential thing for them is that they are Kosovars. It is the same thing I was repeating over and over again in Bosnia. Muslims in this area are not fundamentalists, they drink, they wear mini-skirts, they go to discotheques and they don't go to the mosques very often. This is Europe, the Illyrians (Albanians) have adopted the Muslim religion like the Muslims in Bosnia, as a pragmatic thing, the Turks (Ottomans) ruled the country and you were just better off calling yourself Muslim. So please start to understand that we are in Europe and not somewhere in the Arabic countries, the laws of Mohammed are not ruling these countries. If somebody comes here forget about these Islamic rules, people, even those who call themselves Muslim, are getting offended by it, they can't understand why everybody is so busy with the Koran, when they are not.

wam :-)