I cannot give it a name but it seems like hell

by a Serbian woman from Kosovo
Translated by Petar Makara

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The following was written by a Serbian woman from Kosovo and sent to us by a mutual friend in Belgrade. We have only used the author's initials because she's returning to Kosovo (by the time you read this she will be back) and she faces real danger from KLA killers.

Her description of the situation in Kosovo is consistent with everything we have read, in other first hand accounts, and even in Western mass media. For instance:

  • "Many Serbs have been abducted. Others are murdered. It's the same for all minorities in Kosovo now. The criminals are rarely arrested unless caught in the act. There is no functioning legal system here." Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, "THE NATIONAL MAGAZINE 9/27/99

I cannot give it a name but it seems like hell
September 30, 1999

I am sitting here with my close friend Z.O. who came a few days ago to Belgrade to take some medicine back to X {a town in Kosovo}. She writes:

"I am here maybe three days already but I still feel really awkward. The people on the streets, the Serbs, they are free. I can speak Serbo-Croatian here but back there I can't. {Note from EC: people found speaking Serbo-Croatian in Kosovo can be arrested by the KLA}Still I turn around to see if anyone is following me or if there is someone studying my face to detect whether I'm Serbian and maybe kidnap or kill me. It's a strange feeling. Some chill of fear blows deep inside; can they see that? I must not show it.

This fear is not simply panic, nor is it fear of death. Rather, it is some kind of fear you develop of people because you are not the same. If they see that you are alive and different they will kill you; so you hide your glances.

It's an overwhelming experience. It must be from God. Someone told a story about a man who was never satisfied with life so God gave him many tests but it didn't help. He went from one misery to the other but he always thought the current evil was the worst, that it couldn't get any worse. But eventually he learned: greater evil is always possible. I can't see how in Kosovo it can get worse. That is, it could, but if God gave all of this evil to punish Serbs for something I think the punishment has been sufficient.

Down in my Kosovo all Serbs, all who stayed, are on the Albanian list for liquidation, probably because they are still there, on their own land. The children are in jeopardy, the old people, the crippled people - that's mostly who's there - and a few young adults. What kind of life do we have in Kosovo? When will it get better? Or will it improve only when we are far away, when we become those who were from Kosovo?

Every day some old grandfather, some man is kidnapped, some old lady on the street is killed, some children are discovered missing, a bomb is thrown, a mortar shells houses. There are lots of wounded. It's not a war. It is our glass dish, from which they pull us one by one as if playing some kind of lottery.

Maybe I should be happy that I'm alive and writing this but I'm not. It hurts a lot; the whole body hurts.

What aches in me is the little girl who a few days ago flew into my embrace with a shout "They beat my grandfather in the street." We had a tough time calming her down, telling her that her grandfather would be ok, but we didn't know that. Two young men attacked him in front of his building - 50 yards from a place where KFOR {NATO}soldiers were. They even stole her Mickey Mouse hairpiece with the Mickey Mouse ears that were glowing, that was a gift from some English officer. They took a watch from the old man and beat him.

What hurts me is the fear of the woman who couldn't open the door to some KFOR soldiers in front of her flat. In a panic she called us on the phone. "You don't know who they are; they may not be the soldiers. Maybe they came to take me away, slaughter me, don't leave me alone." We tried to convince her for half an hour. We called the soldiers over the radio and gave them some code words to tell her so she finally could believe and open the door for them.

I feel sick from the calls I get when, from the other side, I hear the sound of splitting wood, the crashing noise in my phone receiver as the door is broken down - immediate action is needed, and what can we do?

My friend M.H. moves her children everyday to a different safe place; she tells them she is making some parties for them; we call it that, trying to calm them down; but the children are few. Perhaps many are locked in their flats for safety and we don't know they exist.

Pristina {capital of the Serbian province of Kosovo}is left with only 300 Serbs; they are fleeing everyday. In 10 days only those who are working for KFOR will be left and those who are working for foreign organizations, less than 50 of them. The Serbs there don't have food; they don't have money. And what would they do with money? A Serb is not allowed to buy anything at the market. He or she can buy something only when accompanied by soldiers, so that those who are selling have to give things to them. To bring to these people even the smallest parcel of food gives one heavenly feelings woven with nausea and helplessness. You give a person a piece of bread and you know that it will not be enough for them, but he's more than happy and is kissing your hands

Above Kosovo there are no clouds, only thorns and on the ground no air to breath. All of this I don't wish on anyone, not on you, even if you lack the empathy to comprehend, not on anyone, because I cannot give it a name but it seems like hell. ***

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