Hope on the Balkans Kosov@ Crisis 1999
Waiting for the saviours
Albanian residents nervously watched the Serbian celebrations from behind their curtains, but everyone in Kosovo is just happy to have survived.
By Daut Dauti
Just like their Belgrade cousins, the Serbs in Pristina also spent the night after Wednesday's settlement shooting rifles into the sky in celebration. According to the Albanian residents who nervously watched the "fireworks" from behind their curtains, most of the armed celebrants seemed drunk or just happy to have survived the NATO air strikes.
"This is the end. It's frightening. It is almost exactly as we imagined it," says Iliriana, an Albanian living in Pristina. "I can't tell you what is exactly happening because I can't get out. But early this morning I saw smoke coming from burning homes from the other part of the city".
Those Albanians who dared to move around, to buy bread or visit their relatives, reported that Serbian soldiers and other Serbs in uniform were leaving with their military equipment and taking their families with them. In the process, they were filling lorries with furniture. According to the city's remaining Albanian residents, who still outnumber the Serbs, the property has been looted from abandoned Albanian homes.
"During the daylight it is quiet", says Meti, Iliriana's husband. "We fear when dark comes." He stays awake each night, listening for Serbian police patrols around his neighbourhood. His close friend was a local journalist on a weekly news magazine published in Pristina before the war, and who still lives in fear of being discovered by the authorities. He was arrested by police a month or so ago, but the officers failed to identify him and let him go. On Wednesday night, as he has done many times over the past two and a half months, he had to move houses once. Meti hopes he will be in touch soon.
In the past fortnight Meti has felt able to move around Pristina, sometimes going to the town centre in the hope that he might meet some of his friends still left in the city. So far he has only met up with three, although he says Pristina is full of Albanians. "The majority of these are not from Pristina," he said. "They have come from nearby villages and were expelled from their homes a few weeks after the ethnic cleansing started."
In the centre he stands and chats quietly with people, but there is nowhere to go for a coffee. Albanian cafes do not exist any longer. There are only Serb owned restaurants and cafes where Albanians dare not venture.
Key targets like the Ministry of Interior building and the post office have been devastated, but parts of the centre of town seem to have escaped the worst NATO bombing. However, outside the centre and towards the suburbs it is a different story. There people are more nervous, and according to Meti, there are Serbs in uniform "waiting for victims".
It is not easy to be an Albanian--or a Serb--living in Kosovo and waiting for NATO to come.
To the Albanians, the waiting hours and days get longer and longer. NATO, even the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), will be their saviours. But many local Serb civilians are fearful. NATO soldiers have been repeatedly presented as an invading fascist army and the KLA as a terrorist organisation.
Meti doesn't want the good Serbs to go. But many have left already. He was talking recently to a Serbian woman whom he had known a long time. Her husband, a Serb born in Serbia, left Kosovo more than a month ago. "I don't understand why he did this," wonders Meti "There was no reason for him to fear. He has clean hands".
Daut Dauti is a Kosovo Albanian journalist and assistant editor at IWPR.
© Institute of War &Peace Reporting
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