O nás Pro dárce Pro dobrovolníky Kosovský deník Fotogalerie Odkazy
Tirana Diary 17 June 1999

Tirana 17 June 1999

If anybody from the States reads this diary and knows a batallion called the "Seabees", they can tell their commander back in the States that they really should start to check out the material this batallion is driving around with. Yesterday on the way back we again had to wait for at least 15 minutes since one of the "Seabees" trucks was broken down. This must have been the fifth or sixth time that I have seen them standing at the road side. six or seven trucks, mostly loaded with containers or tanks or so, with some twentyfive GI`s on and around it. When they are standing at the road side like yesterday, it looks like a remake of some of those Vietnam films, they are lying on the loaded platform of their trucks, cigarette hanging half out of their mouth, M16 loosely in their hands, looking bored like hell and one of them trying to organise the traffic. Which an American should of course never do in this country, since they instantly create the biggest traffic jam you can imagine, everybody would like to take a look at the American army, the army of the paradise, the liberators of Kosov@.

Armies are by the way another main obstacle on the road to Kukes, besides those of the USA there are the Italians who are working on the road, doing maybe 200 or 300 meters of road per day, since in the few times that I went up until Kruja I have seen them working on almost the same spot every time. Maybe half a kilometer further, and since the Kukes road is almost 200 km this repair work can take ages and is certainly not in place before the big refugee exodus will start. In fact the big exodus is already in motion. Yesterday it must have been 2000 persons an hour leaving Albania at the the border post near Kukes. And this is going on 24 hours a day. On the border UNHCR and border control are still trying to get some registration done, but it is too late, people are not interested in it anymore, once they are there they drive on. The repatriation is going as uncoordinated and as unregistrated at this moment as the arrival two months ago. Nobody knows how many people, and from where and to where are leaving Albania at this moment.

Going into a heavily mined country, with boobytraps everywhere, at drinking places, in old cars, in houses, under military helmets, in teddybears, on sportfields. Yesterday 26 incidents alone where recorded, at least 15 of them were deadly. The most vulnerable part of the population are children of course. They are wandering around and want to see everything they left two months ago and are also interested in all those new things in the familiar environment which the different armies have left behind.

Some people who were on the border post arrived back in Tirana yesterday evening, in fact they where in Kosov@ some days and looked at Pejo, Djakovica and Prizen, and of course the villages in between, as far as they are on the main roads. The situation is as expected, not one single house in the villages undamaged, strange was that in the town center of Prizen most houses are hardly damaged at all, but for the rest it is a black country. On the street everywhere little parties of people returning, finding relatives still alive.

And that is a miracle, since every day the knowledge about new huge mass graves is getting bigger. Knowing this, it is hard for our volunteers to give answers to children in the camps who ask them if they think if their fathers who had to stay behind in Kosov@ are still alive. Or rather the children are telling that soon they will return to Kosov@ to see their fathers.

What do all these refugee movements mean? Already people started to send email messages that they are ready to come as volunteers in the beginning of July, but now would like to know if there are still refugees in Albania by that time. I can ensure everybody that there will be refugees in the Balkan for the next couple of years, it will take at least some more months, even with this rate of returning, before all refugees have left. But even when they have left Albania and Macedonia it doesn't mean they are back in their houses, most likely there will camps in Kosov@ soon.

At this moment almost 40.000 people must have left Albania in the last four days, since this spontaneous return started and snowballed on some estimations were made on how this would go on. Nobody really knows, but based on other similar situations it is expected that about 20% of the refugees will now return spontaneously, which is to say almost 100.000 people. Most of them will not be families, but the men of the groups. They will go and check out their houses, indeed it is a going in and out of Kosov@ at this moment, returning back, explaining how it looks, trying to contact other members of their families (lots have relatives in Switzerland and Germany) in order to collect some money, then the men will return and make at least one room inhabitable for the family.

And that last part, repairing, will take a while, there are no building materials in Kosov@ yet, at least no new ones. In fact there is hardly anything in Kosov@, no electricity, no telephones. And of course no police, no towncouncils, no structure. Not apart from the NATO troops and the UCK forces, who are not willing to disarm themselves as long as there are still Serbs in Kosov@ or 'semi-Serbs' - Russians, that is - at least.

The whole future of Kosov@ is unclear, how the political situation will be, who will be responsible, in fact what is Kosov@, at this moment in time it is still a province of Serbia, and in fact it is determined in the treaty that the legal authorities can return after all the armed Serb forces have left. Legal authorities in this case meaning the police and town councils, being Serbian. Whether that will really happen is a big open question of course, although not all Serbs have left Kosov@ yet it is a big question whether they won't leave in the next few weeks, when more and more Kosovars start to come back.

The picture is strange, 2 months ago you saw long lines of sad people leaving Kosov@ in the direction of west and south, with nothing with them, just what they could carry with them. Now those people are returning, happy, although their houses are destroyed, but they are back in Kosov@ and now you see long lines of sad looking people leaving Kosov@ to the north and the east. new refugees in the Balkans, Serbia gets another 100.000 refugees more. Besides those who already are there from Croatia and Bosnia it means that there must be far more than 300.000 refugees in Serbia. You never ever hear much about it. Not in Serbia either it seems. People who worked with refugee kids in Serbia in the last few years explain that the situation of them is almost even worse than the situation in some of the camps here in Albania. So there is a need for Balkan Sunflowers as well. So maybe you want to come to this area to help poor refugees from Kosov@, meaning Albanians and you will end up helping Serbians. But that is the reality of the Balkans. Let's hope this madhouse will stop and that the remaining undamaged parts of former Yugoslavia will stay undamaged. Up to now only one former Yugoslav republic didn't have war yet, let's pray it stays that way.

I had a full day today, planning the youth and children activities on the Way Stations is a bit of work, especially since it has to come out of nowhere. Problem will be how to get all those materials and volunteers to the Way Stations when the roads really are going to be as jammed up as some people expect, in that case it will be near to impossible. Unicef will help us to be able to at least do some basic mine-awareness information activities on those Way Stations. I hope we get everything up and running by monday. It is not going to be easy. At this moment there is hardly any emergency money in this country, all the funds and things were allocated to camps and refugee centers and as long as nobody really knows what is going to happen, no organisation wants to withdraw money away from programmes which have sometimes not even started yet, but are still in the planning stage. It is a strange world.....

wam :-)