O nás Pro dárce Pro dobrovolníky Kosovský deník Fotogalerie Odkazy
Tirana Diary 20 June 1999

Tirana 20 June 1999

So I was again a bit too positive about my own country, it seems that a lot of other organisations are having the same idea, that refugees leaving Albania can take everything which was given to them along with them. Thus including the tents and the things in them. But in the swimming pool camp here in Tirana this already led to a clash with the police who is doing the protection there. When the refugees wanted to leave with those things the police said that they had to leave the things behind. Now the refugees don't know what to do. Are they allowed to take it with them, like the camp management said, or aren't they allowed to? Or has the police simply not been informed about it yet, and is it stopping the people at its own initiative? Or are only the people who are leaving in a more organised way allowed to take stuff with them? Since it is Sunday today the campmanagement wasn't reachable. And so we couldn't figure it out.

Although refugees are leaving still, a lot will stay it seems, people from towns like Peja (Pecz) haven't got anything to go back to. In that town the destruction has been so total that up to 70% of the houses is damaged and 40% or more can't even be rebuilt anymore. As far as the latest official reports say. It is maybe strange for you outside to realise but we, here in Tirana, are not very aware of what Kosov@ looks like at this moment, only when you have a television with foreign channels are you able to see what foreign camera teams who are running around in Kosov@ have been able to film, and we don't have television in our house. So we get our reports from refugees who have been looking at their houses, or have relatives who have been up there, and put a picture together of what has happened and what their houses look like.

Apart from that we get reports from other organisations, which have field teams in Kosov@ already, especially our contacts with IRC are very useful. Their field team is reporting back in great detail, so by reading it and knowing Kosov@ a bit I can get myself a good picture of the situation. Which is practical since I am planning what we can do in Kosov@, and that is not that simple. Nevertheless we are now still in Albania and it looks like we will stay here some more months. Besides, even if the project of Balkan Sunflowers will start anywhere else in the Balkan, there will still be enough refugees left for us in Albania to work with, and it is needed since most organisations are really leaving faster than anybody expected.

The situation in Przen seems to be quiet, that is actually a town where lots of people are returning to now, but in Pristina it is not safe yet, snipers in the evening make it impossible for anybody to go on the streets. How the situation is in the northern part is unknown, that is where the French are going. But untill tomorrow evening the Serbian army still has the right to be there. But the telephone system is working. That means of course the telephones which were there before the war and in houses which have not been destroyed. Before the war most telephones were in Serbian houses. Not many Kosovars had a telephone. But they always knew somebody who had one and via their self organised system they were able to get every message across. I mean the Kosovars had a total organisational system built up, parallel to the Serbian state system, with their own lines of communication, their own government, schools, hospitals, etc. Thanks to the restored telephone lines one of our translators had the luck today to be able to talk with her mother for the first time in more than two months, all that time she hadn't known whether her mother was still alive or not.

Some kids in one of the refugee camps in Tirana where our volunteers are working also got the message that their father is still alive today. But at the same time other, bad, messages are coming through as well, fathers and husbands which have not been found yet. And will maybe never be found. But people don't give up hope.

At the same time the Albanian newspapers more or less proudly announce that big groups of refugees are now in Serbia, but that Milosovic forbade them to come to the big cities. It should not be shown that the proud Serbs are running away. People are said to be complaining in Serbia, saying that Milosovic betrayed them.

Although it is sunday today we just got a huge delivery of leaflets which should be distributed around Albania. This material has just been produced last week and was put together in the last weeks. It is a nice and workable information leaflet for Kosovar refugees about what they have to do and where they can go when they are in Albania, which organisations they can contact for what. The big joke of course is that these leaflets are arriving at the moment that the people are leaving. Our translators from Kosov@ had a really big laugh about it. Those are the paradoxes of the moment.

Since we have started our work in camps three weeks ago I get requests from other organisations almost every day about whether we are able to start working in other camps too. And that is flattering in a way, but at the same time not easy, since we hardly have volunteers enough for the projects we are already running and also moneywise we are not so rich that we are able to support all this. At this moment I am concentrating a lot on the Way Stations. But we ran into some problems today already, the Albanian volunteers want to have money for going and working there. Some of them have now been active in Kukes for already three months without pay and that is hard for a student here from Tirana. It is similar as it was in Croatia and Bosnia, what can you ask from people who coincidentally live here and are willing to help, but are not willing to end up in financial misery themselves.

So we divided the tasks between the Albanian Youth Council and us, they try to organise money for their volunteers, we do the rest. That at least put some responsibilities off my back. Nevertheless I am a bit gloomy about their chances to generate money from any of the aid organisations around here. This sudden change of the situation means that all money allocated to do projects here is like money which is somehow thrown out of the window. Every organisation was just getting set up and getting their things in place to stay here at least over the winter and now this no longer seems to be neccesary anymore. Apart from all the camps, the money which is put in hiring staff and appartments and offices, too, is money they can use elsewhere and at the same time they have to build up a whole new infrastructure in Kosov@.

Downstairs I hear the volunteers are busy opening the boxes with all the teddybears and dolls we got the other day from Amurt, they'd like to know a bit what we have and what we can do with it. Each two or three minutes I hear roars of laughter coming out of the living room when they found something else. The last thing I saw was a teddybear dressed up in Swiss clothes and which indeed jodled too, wonder in which place in Kosov@ that will end up. From Amurt we have got a lot the other day, those Ananda Marga people really do a great job around here. I am impressed how a small group can get so many things going. They are so different from other "religious" groups working here. Yesterday in Mullat camp our volunteers bumped into the "dynatics" or whatever it is they are called. In reality they are the scientology church going from camp to camp and handing out the books of Hubbard, or whatever that guy is called.

The Germans in the group were rather surprised, in Germany this "church" is more or less forbidden. The problem of all those small religious groups here which are busy converting new people to their church is that they more or less disturb the balance between the three original religions here, catholocism, orthodoxy and islam. Those exist next to each other without any big problem, none of them will try to take believers away from the other. But since six years new groups came here and are actively and aggressively winning believers for their groups. And now due to the crisis they have expanded their "hunting grounds" to the refugees. Albanians and Kosovars are people who have lost almost everything, but here in Albania especially also their beliefs, at least their belief in the future, communism didn't bring it, and the eight years of capitalism weren't that great either. The experiences they had with the free market system, especially with the pyramid schemes (which are considered a normal part of capitalism here - in fact capitalism is seen here as the situation that you don't have to work and money comes in by itself, I don't know who told them it was like that) didn't really inspire the kind of trust that would make them still believe in it. Their churches promised a lot, but even their priests were involved in the pyramide-schemes. And now these new "churches" are coming, especially those from America, they have money and good ideas, so they are the hope for the future, if nothing else works why not try a new belief.

I have seen it happening all over the eastern countries, but I never saw it happening so aggressively in refugee camps. One of the main problems here is that people are more or less able to walk in and out of camps without the campmananagement being aware of it.

wam :-)