|PRIZREN AFTER THE BOMBS|
June 16, 1999
Charles Krause reports from the town of Prizren as Kosovars return home.
CHARLES KRAUSE: The flood of returning refugees began early yesterday at the Macedonian border and overnight from Albania. By this morning, tens of thousands of men, women, and children, shell-shocked, but determined and joyous, were on their way home. (Singing) U.N. refugee officials at both borders made every effort to warn the returning Kosovars to be extremely careful. But already at least two of the refugees have been killed, and it's the border crossing points that are especially dangerous.
JOE HEGENAUER, UNHCR: I mean, the message that really has to be passed to the people who are coming back now is it's just not secure in a lot of areas due to land mines, booby traps. There's still military moving around inside Kosovo, phasing out. It's not safe at the moment.
|Crossing the borders.|
CHARLES KRAUSE: Both the U.N. And NATO had hoped the more than one million Kosovar refugees would wait, at least until Serb military forces had withdrawn from Kosovo before returning home. But today at Kosovo's border with Albania, there was no effort to stop the refugees.
RELIEF WORKER: Then they should wait for us; we will take them.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Indeed, U.N. refugee official Stafina Mastura was so affected by the plight of one family who had already walked seven hours to reach the border, he arranged for transportation to get the family home.
Many of the refugees were heading for Prizren, Kosovo's southernmost city located just 15 miles from the Albanian border, a graceful and historic city where Albania's first independence movement was born more than 100 years ago. Prizren has emerged from the recent fighting as a stronghold of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Miraculously, the city also emerged largely intact. Both armed KLA soldiers and German KFOR troops patrolled the streets. Victory was in the air, and Prizren had the unmistakable feel of a liberated city. Besa Pupa is a high school teacher.
BESA PUPA: I feel wonderful today because finally I am free and Albanians are free, too. We're not scared anymore. We don't have to live in shelters anymore. We don't have to hide our children anymore. So we are wonderful. We can't believe it. It's too good to be a reality.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Afrim Baraliu was also a teacher who spent the past three months hiding in the mountains near Prizren. Because of his age, 24, Baraliu was a principle target of the Serbs who were apparently determined to secure their control over Kosovo by wiping out a whole generation of Kosovar men.
AFRIM BARALIU: From my family, only my brother isn't here. The Serbian police has taken him. He is 21 years old. We don't know anything for him. My village had 150 homes. From these homes, only 24 boys were there.
CHARLES KRAUSE: And what happened to the rest of the people in your village?
AFRIM BARALIU: What happened? From 24, from 24 boys that were at my village, six of them are killed by Serbian police.
|Living in peace?|
CHARLES KRAUSE: The withdrawal of Serb military forces from Prizren is now complete. And most of the city's 15 to 20,000 Serb civilians have left with them. Reportedly, there were a number of minor incidents over the past several days that convinced the Serbs they would not be safe or welcome in post-war Prizren. But no one was killed, and whatever happened to the Serbs, it was nothing like the terror and atrocities visited on the Albanians. Today as Catholic Relief Services and the World Food Program distributed flour and cooking oil to needy Albanians, some of the horror stories began to emerge. Fatima Kruziu, married and the mother of two children, said the Serbs had even gone so far as to deny food to Albanian families.
FATIMA KRUZIU: The towns have very, very much, but the Serbian people didn't give to us. When I go to buy food, something that -- they always said, no, you're Albanian, no -- only for the Serbian people.
CHARLES KRAUSE: So the Albanians were rationed. They weren't getting much food.
FATIMA KRUZIU: No, no. Never, never.
CHARLES KRAUSE: How do you feel today?
FATIMA KRUZIU: Oh, very, very, very happy. Very happy. We wait this day very much, very much. And now we thank America, thank NATO.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Do you think that the Serbs and the Albanian people are going to ever be able to live here again together?
FATIMA KRUZIU: Never. Never. I hope. For me never. And my children. God give never Serbians here.
CHARLES KRAUSE: In Prizren today, the international relief agencies distributed more than 20 tons of food to hundreds of families in just a few hours. But it was nowhere near enough.
DAVID HOLDRIDGE, Catholic Relief Services: We are not going to --
KOSOVAR WOMAN: We are interested just only for two today, not for five years.
DAVID HOLDRIDGE: We're not going to go away. It's finished for today.
CHARLES KRAUSE: David Holdridge is a veteran of crises in the Balkans and now heads Catholic Relief Services in Kosovo.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Is Kosovo ready to receive this?
DAVID HOLDRIDGE: No. They're not ready, but they're going to come anyway. They're not going to come anyway, because they're going to come to Prizren, and Prizren is going to swell with many times its normal population before the war started, and people are basically going to be five, six in a room. It's going to put tremendous pressures on the city. The villages outlying here can't accept many of the people where they would have gone from here because they've been destroyed or their homes are severely damaged. But you're not going to keep people in Albania once the news gets back that the security situation here is okay.
CHARLES KRAUSE: But, in effect, is Kosovo facing yet another humanitarian crisis if all these people move from there back here without food and without shelter?
DAVID HOLDRIDGE: It's going to be a race for the humanitarian agencies to get up to speed as fast as possible. This was difficult, as you saw. And it's not the way we like to do it at all. It gave us a sense of the need that there is in this town for food and other non-food items.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Is the KLA -- have you had contact with the KLA? Have they interfered or gotten involved in this at all?
DAVID HOLDRIDGE: The only thing the KLA did today is when the crowd started growing beyond our expectations out here, just to tell it the way it is. They came over here and they had a calming influence on the crowd.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Now, that the Serb withdrawal nears completion, and the KLA's future role as an armed force in Kosovo has become an urgent and complicated question. This afternoon KLA Commander Zafir Berisha told us that, yes, the KLA will disarm, depending on how the term is defined.
ZAFIR BERISHA, KLA Commander: (speaking through interpreter) To be disarmed, you will not see anymore armed soldiers in the street or in public places, but that doesn't mean that we will not keep weapons anymore. What we will do, what our mission is going to be, we will help NATO forces and we will help the civilian population to know exactly and precisely where the mine fields are and to cooperate with NATO.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Earlier this week, the KLA established its command headquarters in the center of Prizren. And today, flushed with victory, its soldiers were already helping to run and to govern the city.