Tirana 25 Mai 1999
The day started with three more interviews with Kosov@ refugees, I think by
now I am almost able to imagine what has happened there, from some of the
people who were involved. Got more and more descriptions of which
para-military group was active where. The white eagles, part of Arkans
brigade, were heavily active in the middle of the country it seems - the
descriptions seem very close to some brigades I have seen in Pakrac in
western Slavonia in late 1994. They don't have the reputation of being
soft. Parts of this brigade marched into Vukovar in the winter of 1991
singing that they would make sausages of the Ustashes (Croatians).
I heard bad stories about the foodsupplies some people are (not) getting
here, but also that it is getting better. It is hard to hear between the
lines, to understand what is true and what is rumours, to know what are
facts, and what are fears. Again it is so diffecult to cope with the place
people are putting you in, they put all their hopes into you, and I am just
a guy wondering around on the streets of Tirana.
After that I went with a group of young volunteers from the Albanian Youth
Council to a camp about 15 km south of Tirana. Every day a group of 12 or
so people from the Tirana Youth center are going there. They are on
highschools and university and doing their best to bring something of
normallity into these camps. Last week they f.e. organised a discussion
between Albanian guys and Kosovarian about going to fight in the UCK. The
Albanians of this group are really afraid of all those young guys going to
the front, on the other hand they can understand it so perfectly.
Among the people in the small mini bus was another foreigner besides me, a
monk from a Japanese Buddhist group, which also likes to send volunteers here.
On the way to Mullet we talked a bit, he knew SuncoKret, since they have
been visiting refugee camps in Croatia in 1994 and every place they came
they bumbed into SuncoKret volunteers. he was talking about them all the
time, telling that something like that should happen here. But I didn't
explain who I was. Since I was eager to find out how a buddhist would react
on what he was seeing and push him a bit talking to the local people
instead of talking to me.
On the way to the refugee camp the youngsters were joking a lot, and singing
songs I didn't understand, but were explained to me as being love songs
towards the girl sitting in front of the mini bus. Kind of making jokes
with her. They radiate at least a lot of energy, full of power these kids.
The camp is a former army camp, or is still an army camp, that didn't
became clear to me, it´s security is not police, but Albanian army. I still
have to get used to this fact that every bigger camp has armed guards
standing around it. They rather look like prison camps instead of refugee
camps, but that is not the reality. If these guards weren't there much more
things could happen. Always get into your head that refugees don't have to
be necessarily poor, allthough most of them didn't come with anything (but
still some people were able to get some jewelry with them), and that they
are an easy target. Besides from the direct money, people can see money in
the girls, I must admit that Albanian women, and in this case I am not only
talking about locals, but also those coming from Kosov@ are the types with
could heat up western european men very easily.
This sounds a bit sexistic, but let's be honest, the trade of women is going
on, it is a reality which everybody has to face. And really these are
mostly not the worst looking girls around. I have been thinking a long time
before I wrote this, since it sounds like a macho, looking at girls all the
time, but I decided to write it this way to make it understandable. I am
man enough to understand it. Hope you understand.
It were not only local Albanians which came with us, also some guys from
Kosov@, this was simple to see since they where wearing the same t-shirts
as the poeple in the swimmingpool camp here in Tirana, namely from an
Israelian organisation called "Histramut", until now I have seen those
t-shirts only in the swimmingpool camp. By the way although the camp in
Mullet is runned by the Norwegian People Aid organisation their clothes are
coming from a dutch organisation, half of the camp was wearing obvious
Dutch commercial t-shirts.
I was in a mood of just observing, just looking at what are these Albanians
are having for a program. But once at the refugee camp I realised that they
changed the actual programme totally. They had planned to make a big clean
up of the camp and prepare some parts to put sun- and other flowers into a
kind of planning meeting for the next weeks and a culture event for us. For
something more than an hour we were entertained by songs and poems, Ging
from songs like:
"I love my mother
I love my sister
I love my homeland
I love kosova
and one day I will make it free"
to love poems about their boyfriends they are missing, since it is
impossible to trace them, if they are alive or not, nobody knows.
When this was over, I must be honest they sing beautifull it could last
for hours if you ask me. The more pragmatic (this word is not existing in the
Albanian languages, honestly) people came up to me explaining what they
need, like football dresses, volley and basket balls, a small camera and so
on, I didn't promise them everything but somewhere I hope that we can
materialise it. Just on the side line when somebody knows where to get
10.000 swimming suits it would help us a lot. The Kosovarians now at the
seaside haven't had or weren't able to take this with them.
After this culture part the poor small japanese was nearly runned over,
since he brought his camera and everybody wanted to have his or her foto
taken. All this time I was looking with an half eye at some long haired
hippies distrubuting candies. Later I talked with them, they were from a
french organisation called rock&food, who organise concerts in France to
raise money to bring here as humanitarian aid, they had collected 9 mini
trucks full and bring it to Kukes, in this camp they brought candies and
some other things today.
Furtheron I had a very funny conversation in Croatian, we agreed that the
languages was Croatian and not Serbian with some people coming from
Pristina, about football and the how Ajax was the best in Europe. I was
surprised how much I could explain in this language, understanding I am used
to, but I normally never spoke it. But I also was surprised that the younger
kosovarians didn't understand it. They only understand Albanian and only in
the kosov@ dialect, although teaching in Albanian was already forbidden in
Kosov@ for some years, all the official education was in Serbian (which is
not so different from Croatian or Bosnian).
After all this I asked the girl from Tirana who was translating all the
time to go for a coffee in the cafe. She looked at me if I was mad, the
coffee bar was in town she said, 5 km away. No, I replied, I saw a coffee
bar in this camp. No way she said, I have been here 15 times or more and I
haven't seen one. She was really surprised when I took her into one of the
buildings which indeed had a coffee bar inside, with almost 50 people in it.
She wanted to know how I knew it, I told here that I have been in many
camps and that I am trained in warzone, so I have my eyes and ears open.
That when I visit a camp I don't ask much but just look around and see. And
that I know something about balkan mentality. By the way it was the
cheapest coffee bar I ever went in this country, 15 lek for coffee, in
Tirana the cheapest place asks 50 lek.
On the way back the Japanese asked me who I was, I told him my name and what I
had in common with SuncoKret and we ended in a coffe bar in Tirana, me
explaining somebody who is already longer in this country then me how this
country is ticking. Later in the evening a nun from this catholic
organisation I met on Friday at the weekly rotary club meeting
called. Say to me religions can bring people to war, I am talking here to
buddhist, mormons, qaukers, ananda marga, jahovas, salvation army, zen
buddhists, different catholic organisations, mennnonites, different protestant
churches, islamic, antroposhic, orthodox and I am from origin a jew.
Explain me war are because of religion.....