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

Tirana June 1999

Most of the activities at this moment are aimed at restructuring the Balkan Sunflowers project so that it can help the refugees in the best way. Therefore I am in daily contact with all kinds of organisations trying to find out what is happening and what we can do best. Sometimes this goes well and sometimes it seems that everybody has gone. "She is not here, she is out to have a coffee, I don't know where and how long" - I got this answer today at least ten times looking for people of different organisations. And it was at different times of the day as well. I must say that the whole NGO community is in a kind of chaos at this time. Everybody is running around and trying to link up some things, get their camps closed and wrapped up. Get people with special needs to more collective centers. You hear stories from camps where everybody has left, even the protection, the medical staff, the campmanagement, where there were still some elderly handicapped people who stayed behind. They were only found by coincidence. And then people are just out and having a coffee. It is hard to gear up those dinosaurs. After the intensive crisis situation, where there was a lot to be done and things were easy to get organised, they have a way to get bureaucratic again and drop back into their normal routine.

Once that has happened it is hard to gear up again when another crisis takes place. Like now, all things had become stabilized and then suddenly these huge movements. People are totally taken by surprise. And to wake up out of bureaucracy is hard. Everywhere you meet people from big organisations who don't believe that the whole repatriation will go the way NATO and UNHCR have planned it. They have this feeling that in about ten days it will all be over. All people who are able to move will have moved by then, mostly on their own initiative. Nevertheless the absorbing capacity of Kosov@ is not so high. NATO has only half of its troops in place. And most of the country has not been made safe yet. It sounds nice if you read the articles in magazines like the Times, with nice diagrams and drawings of how KFOR will secure every house, but at the same time you know that this is just wishful thinking of people behind desks, making nice plans, but out of touch with reality.

Tomorrow for example the first train transport will take place, from Tirana 250 people will be transported to Mjede near Shkodra by train and from there by buses to Kosov@, but at the information meeting about this transport it was not clear whether the transit center in Mjede is now working or not. It was not even clear whether tents are there to provide these people with a place to sleep. This may sound a bit strange, but it's the reality.

It is a bit like what is going on everywhere. Receiving refugees seems to be an even less chaotic thing as transporting them back at this speed. Especially all the wounded, (mentally) handicapped and ill people are a big problem now. The hospital in Prizen is working, but it has hardly any equipment, and it has only space for the people with shotwounds and those who trod on mines in Kosov@ now. The country is simply not ready to receive people who are in need of medical treatment, it was said today.

Our volunteers are handling this crisis fantastically. For sure it is not easy for them not to know how many people will still be there every time they enter the camps they are working in. Nevertheless they show a calmness and a patience which is remarkable. Of course they had other things in mind when they prepared themselves to come here. But hey, this is a crisis region, nobody can expect that everything is like it seems on the television and in the newspapers. Coming here really means finding out that the reality is slightly different.

Some people are saying the crisis is over, the refugees are returning, but I have the feeling that those people don't realise that the crisis has just began again. On the other hand it is a fantastic time. Everywhere you meet Kosovars who are returning to what they now call a free country. The whole civil society has to be rebuilt. New ideas can be realised. As somebody of UNICEF said today, this is the chance for the Kosov@ youth council to play an important role in the rebuilding of their country. To be part of that is a nice feeling.

On the other hand I feel so sorry for Albania. At this moment so many NGO's, including myself, I must admit, are fed up with this country sometimes. I must honestly admit that this is the hardest country in the Balkan I have ever worked in. I have never seen anything like this before. Don't worry, I like it, I am a bit tired sometimes, when things are going totally different than I had hoped for, but it is also inspiring. Si

wam :-)