O nás Pro dárce Pro dobrovolníky Kosovský deník Fotogalerie Odkazy
Tirana Diary 19 June 1999

Tirana 19 June 1999

When I visited one of the UN body offices this morning it was crisis there, this body is responsible for the mine-awareness coordination and as always they were just in the planning stage when the whole refugee movement north started. They wanted to be ahead of everything so apart from their normal crisis work they had already worked on a series of information leaflets for the moment that people would start to return. But this moment came a bit earlier than they had planned.

Most of the material is by the way almost the same as in Bosna i Hercegovina and Hrvatska (Bosnia and Croatia). Since the arms are the same, it is basically old JNA (Yugoslavian Peoples Army) materials and the newer types which were still under construction when the country fell apart. But anyway it is nice to see how they have more or less updated the children's comic books for the Kosov@ situation. In the Bosnian version you see a small short haired father with mother and two kids, in the Kosov@ version the guy has black and a bit curly hair and the family has five kids. When they presented it everybody had to laugh seeing the differences.

Anyway when we came into his office he was on the telephone, most of the time with his chef somewhere abroad. Complaining about the fact that nothing here works the way it should. "I have no working secretaries", he shouted in the telephone, "printers are just shut off without anybody telling us, whenever they run out of paper or ink they just start waiting until their delivery comes from Italy, which can take weeks". "Nothing, nothing, nothing, I ran out of paper, out of money and everybody wants them yesterday". He looked stressed. The people from the Albanian Youth Council who where with me, wanted to ask him for a lot of money to pay their volunteers, but seeing and hearing this I had the feeling that it was better not to mention that.

Five telephone calls later, when NATO and other important organisations had phoned and he had had to use all kinds of explanations why he, or rather his UN body, wasn't able right now to produce the material in the large quantities that were being asked for, he finally had five minutes for us. Apologising for the mess and the small amount of time he could give us. Anyway I told him that we also needed materials, but lucky us we were already on the list of getting it, without us even having asked for it. So somewhere next week every way station will get a huge amount of it and our office will too. Furthermore he said that we could get all material from the warehouse that we could use and that wasn't given away yet.

So by now we have about three truckloads of toys, toothbrushes for a whole town, only a tiny little bit of toothpaste (but Kosovar families are big they can share the toothpaste among each other, it was said), paper, paint, drawing pens. Now my big question is how to get that to those Way Stations, I put in a request at NATO for transportation, but considering the questions this guy at their desk was asking, I've got the feeling that either they won't be able to find the warehouse, or they won't find the seven way stations, or they'll fail to split the material equally among the seven stations. So most likely I will find either all the materials in Kukes or at the border with Kosov@, or I'll find at each Way Station a part of it, for example the 160 big boxes of toys at the first, the toothbrushes at the second, the toothpaste at the third, etc. I am a bit sceptical about this. But you never know I should be open for surprises.

In another UN body office we dropped in to get some other materials, they were just in the middle of a huge fight. "Fucking idiots, I think you are trying to drive me mad, I am in charge of communications around here, so if somebody ever got in their fucking head to order any more fucking communicators without me knowing it is getting....." (heard from his accent he was not even British, but Dutch), the other two in the room didn't pay the slightest attention to him screaming, the girl on the telephone was busy explaining a hotel reception somewhere in Italy that she would like to have a nice single room with a view on the sea and that she wasn't able to give the number of her creditcard for the confirmation since people in Albania don't have creditcards, they pay in cash, and that she would bring cash. The hotel person on the other side seemed not to be satisfied with that answer and the discussion went on, with her asking what was wrong with her money and saying that it is impossible to transfer money from Albania abroad so quickly. The other guy for whom we had come sat quietly behind his computer looking at long lists of things which are supposed to be in his warehouse but aren't or are not yet. At least that's what he explained to us. With the third guy in the corner still crying and telling that everybody was after him and was aiming to drive him crazy.

Yes it is not easy to work in Albania. Afterwards we went to find the warehouse of one of the two bodies, but were not successful, the map, which he had started to draw, but had never finished, was surprisingly drawn upside down, meaning the north was where on most maps the south is. For the rest all the roads were in the right place, but at the end of course no warehouse. Later we found out that the actual warehouse is on a total different side of the town.

People are leaving Tirana in huge numbers now, every morning a long march goes through the town in the direction of the minibuses and bus to Kukes. They come from the two bigger refugee camps, from the small collective centers and from host families. They like to leave early, since it is a long way to Kukes, hot, but above all bumpy and slow. Although everybody now has heard that if they wait just ten more days NATO and the Albanian government will support them with free transportation they don't want to wait, they want to see their house, before anybody else starts to use it or steal bricks away from it to rebuild their own house. The mutual trust in each other is not 100% it seems, but that can also be just a first reaction, not realising that the Serbs are not there anymore.

Later, back in the Sunflower house, volunteers from the first group to Vlora arrived, their first three weeks are over, two of them left from Vlora directly to Brindisi, one is visiting some friends elsewhere in Albania, one is staying behind with the new group who went down there two days ago, one already left two days ago and two, Mike and Kathy, arrived here today. Kathy actually should have stayed in Vlora, but she broke or twisted her feet and is now unable to stand. We tried immediately to organise something for her to stand with, since now she moves through the room behind a chair. But so late on saturday even in a crisis zone like this that is impossible.

They explained that the refugees in Vlora were a bit angry when they heard that Vlora will be one of the last towns to be evacuated, but that they still accepted it more or less. Not many people in Vlora had transport of their own, only a few came all the way down there with their own cars and tractors, most were brought there by NATO or Albanian governmental transport, so getting away from there wouldn't be that simple either. They have to wait until somebody comes and drives them back to Kosov@, most of the families are too poor to pay for transportation themselves anyway. Those who have money are already on their way. And of course some of the refugees in Vlora are not waiting to go back to Kosov@, but to go to Italy.

The Belgian/Dutch camp is fantastic, Kathy and Mike admit, even when the Albanian government declared something different some weeks ago, the people in the camp are happy, especially those who came from other camps which had visits from Albanian young guys in fancy cars all the time, they are happy that the Dutch take care that nobody comes in who hasn't got anything to do there. The school is doing well, the teachers are still there. And especially the promise of the Dutch/Belgian Red Cross that the refugees can take everything they have been given since they arrived in the camp, including the tent, the beds, the stove, etc, with them to Kosov@ and that the Dutch army will transport it up there for them made them glad. This so that they can build up a tent near to their house (the tents are winterised) if needed. This is so far the first organisation from which I hear something like that. The Dutch/Belgian camp is also one of the only camps in that area which is still growing, since all the smaller collective centers are being closed and people come together in this bigger camp.

Sunflower Volunteers also started to work today in a small collective center of Premiere Urgence on the motorway to Durres, about 18km outside of Tirana. In the center there are about 290 people brought here from the Dynamo Sporthall, and the reactions of the kids were fantastic, the volunteers were asked when they'd came back. But although PU has done its best, the place is and will be horrible. The rooms are nice, but the location at the motherway, with no playground or anything, in the full heat, is murderous. Luckily for these people they won't be staying there very long it seems, but what can you say, you never know what happens here, tomorrow can be a different story...

wam :-)