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Kosovo: Exodus

In all of them soaring the same hope, going back home as soon as possible, although there is nothing left…

At one step from the 21st century, in the modern Communitarian Europe, the ghosts of hunger and fear take shape in the exodus of thousands of Kosovar Albanian that have been expelled from their lands by the Serbian troops.

Confusion, hopelessness and anger become one single feeling and mixes with hunger, resignation, fear and sadness in a flowerless spring in the context of the progressive Europe of the end of the century.

Albania, the poorest country within Europe, unconditionally welcomes its Kosovar Albanian brothers who are trying to escape from the Serbian “ethnic cleaning”. The refugee camps spread throughout Kukes, Tirana, Dürres, Kavaje, Shkodra, Tropoja, Valbona…; in all of them soaring the same hope: “…going back home as soon as possible, although there is nothing left…”.

They’re living in a hell: the Serbian, their threats, torture, death, pillaging… and at the end of the day, there’s only one purpose: safe the life. The getaway becomes a nightmare: the cold, hunger, fatigue… and fear, omnipresent, seizing every inch of their bodies; resembling to the way that dust and mud stick to the shoes during a long journey. There isn’t a break from all this, only those who can’t resist it anymore and die are allowed to rest. The door that foretells the end of the tunnel opens at the glimpse of the frontier, but if the land-mines scattered by the Serbian explode, the door slams shut again. It is only when they explain it that you can understand the tears appearing in their frightened eyes. The refugee camps are a world of stares, few words and a lot of pain. 

Children don’t play. They patiently wait sitting on their beds, and protecting each other from the pain and from the desperate shouts of the young woman laying two beds away from theirs. They don’t ask, they just queue to get the only slice of bread of the day for today and, who knows, maybe also for tomorrow… They look at it as if to say: “…don’t ever finish…”. There are no fights, they clean the mud from their shoes and share their misery with the elderly, who try that children don’t ever forget how to smile. Leutrim is 10 months old, he won’t remember anything if Miraven, his mother who is 27, finds her other three children aged 9, 6 and 2, lost while they were escaping from Kosovo. She is also waiting for the safe return of her husband who had to sign up for the UCK guerrilla. But if she doesn’t succeed, Leutrim will grow up with the despair of his mother’s empty and lifeless gaze.

They, the children, are the most fragile and innocent ones; but as sad as it is, no one, not the young nor the elderly, not women nor men, not the civilians nor the soldiers; would be able to escape from this macabre game, a spiral of infinite pain and uncountable consequences. No one has bothered to release them from this heavy slab, built out of injustice and hate that falls over both dead and alive. Meanwhile, we’re comfortably witnessing this misery in our TVs in a First World Europe, which claims to be politically correct, communitarian and, above all, “pro charity”.

This is not a past story that took place some years ago: nowadays the Albanian are beating the Serbians of Kosovo with the same strength that the Serbians beat them hardly two years ago. Languages and cultures may change, but the faces in pain and the landscape are always the same.

Report done in Albania: April 1999

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