O nás Pro dárce Pro dobrovolníky Kosovský deník Fotogalerie Odkazy
Tirana Diary 6 June 1999

Tirana 6 June 1999

We were lucky today, 4 volunteers arrived at the same time and with the same means of transportation, the German bus. Which again didn't reach Tirana before 12 o'clock (instead of 8 as it was scheduled to), but I get more or less used to that. I took a nice book with me and waited behind the national museum, together with about 70-80 Kosovars, who were sitting in the grass and on the stairs of the museum, in small groups. Obviously they were waiting for visits from relatives who are working (living) in Germany. It is in fact so strange, before it was a lot easier for Kosovars to go for a visit in Germany, as Yugoslavs they needed a visa, but for a limited visit that was not hard to get. So many of them went on holidays in Germany. And now they can't, now they are refugees, who have no identity anymore. Even when in their passport, which the Serbians police or para-milirtary took away from them stood a visa for Germany or another country they are still not able to go there, since how can what proof do they have?

I was talking some days ago with a Kosovar, who was studying in the States, he was in Pristina and was arrested almost in the beginning of the crisis. His documents were taken away from him and he was transported to Blace. There he had to wait for days to get into Macedonia, finally he didn't end up in Macedonia but in Albania, since in a nightly action the Macedonian police removed all the people from Blace and brought them to Albania, some six weeks ago. Now he is here in Tirana, trying to get back to the States, but he can't even get out of Albania into Macedonia, in order to visit the USA embassy in Skopje. Macedonian border police doesn't want to let him in since he has no official document and no proof that he just wants to go to Skopje for a few days and return back to Albania afterwards. As refugee you are really stuck here, it's not easy to get out.

The bus arrives and all the small groups stand up and gather around the exit of the bus, cries of recognition, tears of joy, people who haven't seen each other for a long time. People who were in fear for some weeks, not knowing what had happened to the others. People who lost maybe some parts of their families, but are happy that at least these relatives survived. Of course also some among them who came to join the UCK, still such volunteers are coming, in fact the UCK has started a new recruitment action last week. Not just abroad, where most of the earlier UCK volunteers came from, but also in particular around Albania in the refugee camps and on the Albanian radio.

Our volunteers looked a bit tired, they had a 30-hour busride behind them, but were like all other arriving volunteers full of stories of the adventures they had had so far. Since one of the volunteers brought a computer and 11 footballs with him, we had to rent a cab and filled that one up with all the luggage (everyone brought some extra things with them, toys, medicines, and more surprises which I will see in the coming days). Since the taxi was filled up we had to walk and so I took them for a short first stroll around the town. We just went around the corner of the museum, in my eyecorner I saw a dangerous looking convoy driving on the Skenderbeg square. Three small army trucks filled up with soldiers who where sitting not as normal with the back to the outside of the car, but the other way round, their rifles pointing out of the trucks, ready to shoot. The big automatic gun on the roof of the truck, was not as normal wrapped up, but armed, and the gunman was going with his gun around aiming at the people on the street. The bulletbelts, or whatever you call it were reflecting the sunlight. Obviously NATO troops, since Albanians and the UCK don't have such modern equipment (at least they don't ever show it here in Tirana), but since it was about 500 meters away from where we were I couldn't see from which country so fast.

They stopped in front of the Skenderbeg monument, so I decided to walk in that direction with the volunteers in the hope to find out who these crazy soldiers were. Up to now I hardly ever have seen such a demonstration of power by NATO troops. Walking towards the monument, I saw that some of the soldiers jumped off the trucks, still with their automatic rifles with them, and walked in the direction of the public telephones. The gunman on top of the truck was still acting if they were in the middle of enemy territory, with the possibility of imminent attack, ready to react to incoming fire. Sunday morning in the middle of Tirana on a square full of people, hope you get the picture.

The German volunteers asked me if I could recognize from which country this dangerous-looking group was coming, which just wanted to make a telephone call it seems. "Yes, from Germany". The German army is now also dressed up in almost the same camouflage uniform as the USA, but still, when a bit closer you can recognise the difference. These guys probably were new here in Tirana and were all the time in Macedonia before, at least I hope that that was the excuse for their totally idiotic macho behaviour. In Macedonia NATO troops are not so popular, so they drive around like this, but here in Albania people love NATO, at least most people do.

The rest of the day I spend with Ramona, my girlfriend who is visiting me, walking around Tirana. We went to the zoo, just to show her that the story I wrote about was true. There, however, we found four more animals I didn't recognise or hadn't seen (since they where somewhere hidden) last time I was there, namely a black panter (who was turning grey), one tiger, who looked very stressed, and two more lions. The park of the zoo was full of families who spend the sunday here, the richer families of Tirana will go to Dursi in the weekend, the poorer are staying in the heat of Tirana, and go here, or to another park, or spend their sunday around the artificial lake south of Tirana, near the swimming pool (where the biggest refugee camp is), the lake which is half empty, since the dam nearly broke two years ago. So in the park east of the lake also a lot of refugee families were spending their sunday afternoon hiding for the heat under the trees.

The peace treaty hasn't been signed yet, since I am hearing the same sounds as every night, bombers on their way to Serbia and Kosov@, at least that's what I think, it is kind of hard to follow what is going on from here. I got the information from Denmark, of all places, that Milosovic has until, tomorrow evening an ultimatum to sign. And than.... whatever, it is again a Balkan war, peacetreaty after peacetreaty, or peace talks after peace talks, and nothing really changes. I remember how the first General of UNPROFOR in Sarajevo described his job, "We are here to monitor the ceasefire and today there was no ceasefire to monitor". I think I wrote that sentence 7 years ago in another war in the same area.

But peacetreaty or no peacetreaty, that is not the question. The major question is, what will happen to these countries, and what will happen to their people. Since one way or another at some time the fighting and bombing will be stopped. In the meantime, what will happen to the refugees all over this region, not only in Albania and Macedonia, but also in Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia, everywhere there are (still) huge groups of displaced people and refugees. Living under different circumstances, not just the Kosovar refugees in Albania (and Macedonia) are living often in terrible situations, also Serbian refugees from Bosnia and Croatia are living in Serbia under in fact unliveable cirumstances already for 5-7 years by now. And then we are just talking about all the people who stayed in these countries, and not about the hundreds of thousands who left the former Yugoslavia and Albania in the last seven years to find safety somewhere else in the world. Now the problem is not solved by a signature, in fact the real work then has to start.

Got a phonecall today from the people in Vlora, they are doing fine. They are working in different camps in and around Vlora. They are in the midst of setting up some kindergartens, doing some really nice activities with children, Kathy said on the telephone, by the way the connections from here to Germany are better than the connections from here to Vlora. Working here is different from working in Croatia or Bosnia. Mike, the nurse in the group to Vlora for example turned out to be useful to work together with the doctors in the camp, since they have an understaffed medical group there. And they work with a small team in more than one camp, which was so different in Croatia, there everything seemed so clear and organised compared to here. Anyway I was glad to hear that they also were working in Camp 101 (why it is called that way I don't know), which is run by the Dutch and Flamish Red Cross. I wanted to contact them to say that volunteers were there, but even before I got the chance the volunteers already started to work there. Sorry I am Dutch and I somehow like it to work in a camp run by people from my country.

My country, your country, whatever, the volunteers working in Vlora are not dutch at all, as Balkan Sunflowers is not dutch, I am dutch, but that is my problem. Showing off our international background is important. The "dream" that it is possible to have a kind of United Nations from below, that is what it's all about.

I watch our plastic sunflowers in top of our building, my sleeping room and private working room, and think nice flowers, lets plant some more...

wam :-)