O nás Pro dárce Pro dobrovolníky Kosovský deník Fotogalerie Odkazy
Tirana Diary 18 June 1999

Tirana 18 June 1999

It is one o'clock now and I am sitting at my balcony, about 4 blocks away some Kosovars are having a huge party. I missed the big "Thank you NATO" concert on the Skenderbeg square yesterday, but now I enjoy the homelamd songs fully. Yes it is like a big party, people are happy that they can go back now, at last they have their own country.

"When are you going (back) to Kosov@", that is about the most asked question in this country at this moment. Most of the summer schools have stopped working in the last few days, both because of the fact that the children are not really interested anymore, and that their teachers are busy with other things, like packing their things and planning their trip home. They have survived almost ten days, but now when children come in in the morning they might hear that their teacher has just left for Kosov@.

Same with the NGO's: just now we have established good contacts with some, half of them have packed up and gone to Kosov@. We are running around and visiting NGO warehouses, and were completely surprised by the number of goods which have been in this country already for some weeks, or even months. And which are now coming out. Today, for example, we have collected some tons of toys and candies for the Way Stations, and big piles of women hygiene things, which we hadn't been able to get for weeks. Beds, tents, and even computers, no problem, take as much as you need. Most organisations don't know how fast they should get their warehouses empty, it's more expensive to ship things from here to Kosov@ than to ship in new materials to Macedonia and transport it into Kosov@ from there anyway, the roads are better and Skopje is much closer to Pristina and the better roadsystems of Kosov@.

Every time you are entering caves of Aladin, finding things even the NGO's didn't know they had. Funny all those weeks we tried to get those things and everybody said they didn't have anything of that kind and now it is there in great numbers. Goran and I had a long talk today about what will happen to all that stuff when the refugees have left. What will happen with all those beds for example which organisations have supplied camps with, or have just been made by local companies. Suddenly nobody has any use for them. We can get beds now even to put in our volunteer house.

Local NGO's from Albania are trying to hook up with Kosovar groups in order to maintain a working contact, and to be able to go in to Kosov@ when needed: to continue what they have started here and to stay connected. Partly out of real honest involvement, partly because their income is slipping away. All those foreign NGO's were a good source of income in the last two months and when they have all left there isn't much work for them anymore, and not much money coming in either.

The snowballing is now in high speed, those who said two days ago that they won't leave in the next two months are now planning to leave next week. Almost as if they're afraid to be the last one leaving Albania and being trapped here in the winter. In one of the refugee camps here in Tirana where our volunteers are working they have been watching television with the refugees this afternoon, seeing the first pictures from their home towns. Big cries of joy with every familiar building they saw which was not destroyed. In Djakovica or Djakovar the radio is still, or again, working, the townhall has some kind of town council back in place, the post office is working again. Especially this last one got a lot of applause, since some of the women here used to work there. So they know now that they can go back to work first thing after they return.

I was wondering when I hear all of this what kind of system is working there, who is paying those people and with what money that is done. I am sure that Dinars are no longer the currency they are using, probably, as far as I know Kosov@, they will use the DM again as a national currency. Wonder what new currency will come there, a new state, a new currency. And that is just the top of the iceberg. Maybe even a new flag, at this moment their national flag is the same one as the Albanian flag. After watching the television for example one of the teachers went out and bought an Albanian flag and showed it to every person and every child in the collective center she lives. They all kissed the flag. This female teacher by the way had been a member of the illegal Kosovar parliament before, she spent eight months in jail. Now people know that it is safe to go back home, or at least that the Serbian authorities are no longer in place, they start to tell you the stories. Before they were not sure what could happen and whether whatever they would tell wouldn't be told to the Serbs as well. They had lived so long with this feeling of being afraid and without freedom, that it is hard to suddenly realise that they are free.

Most of the people in this collective center are also planning to return, the parents work on their cars, the children say that they would rather stay, some come from small villages and they had never lived together with so many other people and so many other kids to play with before. And the building they live in is not bad either, furthermore there are these nice internationals who pass by and do nice games with them, so in a way they are really enjoying it. But what can they do, their parents want to go back. Their parents know what they are going to find in Kosov@, they have seen some things already on television, how badly their houses are damaged, but they have to go, they don´t want to be like a piece of furniture, doing nothing all day. In Kosov@ if they can't work on their own house they can work maybe on somebody else's house, or maybe they can be useful in another way. Our volunteers are making the last pictures of them in Tirana and bring them to the fast-developing place in the hope that the picture will be ready before the people on it have left.

They know of the danger of the mines, even the little kids do, they heard all those stories about what happened in Bosnia, nevertheless yesterday another 20 accidents at least occurred with mines. Some of the volunteers wanted to know how these mines look like and what will happen after you have seen them. Both questions are impossible to answer, mines are there in all forms and shapes. Selfmade types, all kinds of boobytraps, grenades, shells, handgrenades, clusterbombs, mortars, guns, pistols. And people who return from Kosov@ told about how they saw little kids of 12-14 years old dressed up as UCK soldiers, fully armed (maybe they were indeed UCK fighters), but such things would really put the message across that all those things are dangerous. It is more like a big playing ground, rather than with plastic guns you can play with real ones. And which boy hasn't been dreaming in the last three months to be a UCK hero and wouldn't like to have a real weapon in his hands once.

And what will happen if you see such a thing. Basically all that we try to tell children is, don't touch it, put a kind of marker in the neighbourhood and get an adult. What the adult is going to do with the thing is up to him or her, the best thing is to report it to the OSCE or KFOR. And what will happen then depends on what it is and where it's lying. I mean they have only limited demining capacity and the roads are the first priority. So a mine in a garden or something like that might lie there for some weeks, or more. The demining of the fields will take even longer. And even so some farmers still think that they are in time to have at least one harvest this year, while I don't think that there is the capacity to demine all their fields. So probably Kosov@ has to live on humanitarian aid this year. And of course some people will start their own demining, by shooting at them to make them explode. The really brave ones will try if they haven't forgot that what they have learnt as soldiers many years ago. Those ones being responsible for the high amount of casualties in the last days.

In the evening I had a meeting with about 20 young Kosovars from different Kosovar Youth councils. I explained the idea of the way stations to them and what our and their function there will be. They are ready to go, helping their people in their return. Explaining everybody about the mines, rather now than waiting for two more days. Also we have found a construction group among them, which will do the building of small playgrounds at every way station together with Sayid. He will have to teach them very quickly, since he is leaving on thursday next week, for the States, not for Kosov@. It is a big operation and it is hard to mobilize so many volunteers suddenly, but with the help of the Albanian and Kosovar youth councils, it will work, I am sure. In the beginning most of the work will be done by the Kosovars, but since they are also leaving for home we need to be quick in taking over and within a week or so, way stations will also be opened in Kosov@. So Balkan Sunflower volunteers seem to arrive sooner in Kosov@ than was expected. But so does everybody.

wam :-)