Fernando del Mundo arrived in Kosovo for UNHCR shortly after
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic agreed to allow humanitarian
agencies free access to the regions war-affected people. Following
are highlights from his diary about what happened next:
August 16: Attempted to deliver emergency supplies to 100
displaced people in Decane but by the time we arrive they had
vanished. Returning to Pristina, we see groups of 100-200 people
along theVistrica River and local aid workers say there are 10,000
homeless in the area. It is still summertime and fruits and
vegetables are plentiful but the signs of war are everywhere: rotting
crops, the carcasses of machine-gunned livestock, clusters of ruined
August 18: A Kosovo Liberation Army commander accuses UNHCR
staff of being spies as we try to deliver aid to 20,000 people in
central Kosovo. A local doctor is treating 100 people per day, 90
percent of them children stricken with diarrhea. Their distended
bellies remind me of Africas malnourished children.
August 25: Three Mother Teresa Society workers are killed when
seven tractor trailers loaded with UNHCR emergency supplies are
blasted by artillery rounds. Passing by Pagarusa, a 34-year-old
mother tells me the child she is carrying was born in the woods five
weeks earlier. She is still looking for her two other children who were
separated from her when her village was shelled.
August 29: Two colleagues and I visit Senik which was hit the day
before. Houses still smoulder. Tractor trailers filled with food and
personal possessions are ablaze. At least 17 people were killed in
the attack. The villagers ask us to stay on to deter snipers as they
bury their dead in the rain. Among the victims is a two-week old
baby who died of starvation because her wounded mother could not
September 1: Orahovac was abandoned in July, but the government
says 30,000 people have returned from the woods and things appear
normal with shops open. It is the first sign that people, though still
scared, are going back.
September 4: There were 5,000 people on a hill above Sedlare 24
hours ago, but today the place is empty. It is like this throughout the
summer people moving in and out of villages, from one place to
another. It is difficult to even keep track of this constant swirl of
September 9: Thousands of people have fled to the Pec region. A
colleague and I try to estimate numbers packed into cars, carts and
tractor trailers bumper-to-bumper but we give up after walking three
kilometers. Shell fire is getting nearer and an old man begs, Please,
could you do something to stop the shelling. As we leave soldiers
and tanks are gathering a few kilometers away. When we return the
next day, all the people have gone.
September 11: Houses in the town of Barane are burning. Police
emerge from some homes as we drive by. One carries a television
set. Further on, the villages of Celopek and Kostradic have been
damaged by the fighting and are empty.
September 19: After three previous attempts we reach villages
north of Pristina which have been engulfed by a four-day government
offensive. Ten thousand people have fled. In Dobratin, 30 of 70
houses have been torched. The villagers are stoic. The next day they
are very agitated; they have just found the charred remains of three
people burned in an outhouse.
September 21: KLA soldiers have been helping old men, women
and children from Kacanol mountain village northwest of Pristina.
One 70-year-old man wandered the woods for five days looking for
his family of eight. Another is on the verge of tears; a six month
supply of wheat he bought with money sent by a brother in Germany
has been burned by soldiers.
September 25: A military offensive is at its height. Houses are on
fire in villages in central Kosovo. We pass a convoy of government
trucks with signs pasted on them Social Humanitarian Aid of
Kosovo and Metohija. The wind whips up the tarpaulin on one truck,
revealing blue uniformed police crammed inside.
September 26: High Commissioner Sadako Ogata visits Resnik 25
kilometers north of Pristina and talks with some of the 25,000 people
who fled a military sweep in the region. As Ogata sloshes by in the
mud, one portly old man in a woollen skullcap mutters: It is a
shame for Milosevic to put his people in a situation like this.
September 30: Three Red Cross workers lie dead or dying on a
sunlit hill at Gornje Obrinje after their car hit a land-mine. People try
to attract a Yugoslav helicopter by waving Red Cross flags. My
colleague, John Campbell, a veteran British soldier, turns on his
vehicles headlights to attract the chopper. It is too late for one
wounded doctor who died moments before.
October 27: Serbian troops pull back from positions in Kosovo
following a peace agreement that 2,000 verifiers of the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe will oversee. The atmosphere
is like Liberation Day. People return to their homes for the first time
in months. Relatives embrace each other weeping. At Malisevo, the
purported capital of a liberated Kosovo, a guerrilla commander talks
to reporters as government troops withdraw from a garrison just a
November 3: As snow begins to cover the mountain tops, the last
of an estimated 50,000 most vulnerable people encamped in the
hills, go back to their villages. But many find their houses destroyed.
There are still 200,000 people displaced in Kosovo.
November 9: The war is never far away. Several hundred returnees
at Opterusa in the Suva Reka municipality flee again. Five KLA
guerrillas are killed in a nearby ambush three days later.
November 19: Velika Hoca is a mainly Serb village and local Serbs
flash the thumb and two finger sign of defiance. Over coffee and local
brandy a couple say Albanian villagers have fired on them but there
have been no major confrontations. The housewife says her village
has been spared thus far because there are 13 churches here and
God has protected them from the bloodletting.
December 4: All but two houses in the village of Lodja have been
destroyed by war-planes, artillery and mortar fire. The mayhem is
reminiscent of Warsaw during World War Two. A sign in Serbian is
scrawled on a wall at the entrance to the village that roughly
translates Lodja does not exist anymore.
December 14: Despite the October cease-fire, the spiral of violence
ratchets up. Masked men spray gunfire at the Panda Cafe in Pec,
killing six Serbian teenagers playing pool. Along the frontier, soldiers
kill 34 armed Albanian intruders.
January 16: Forty-five people are massacred in the village of Racak
in Stimlje during a Serb sweep. The strikes are triggered by KLA
assaults on policemen and the kidnapping of eight soldiers and five
Serb civilians. More than 30,000 ethnic Albanians are again on the
move. There is no sign of a political breakthrough and there are
again threats of NATO airstrikes.
January 21: Despite the renewed fighting, some areas are stable.
Malisevo was emptied in July and its 3,000 residents were afraid to
go back because of a heavy police presence. Following the
deployment of the international monitors, however, more than half
the people did return, including Ramadan Mazreky. He considers
himself lucky because none of his extended family of 45, including
25 children, were harmed in the fighting.
January 28: Travelling along dirt tracks in the snow covered valley at
Velika Reka we can hear the rattle of gunfire and occasional mortar
blast as government forces pursue another offensive. A KLA
commander sweeps by and says, we are not giving up one inch of
our positions. At the nearby village of Bradas a group of men say
that 20 percent of the people from each village in Kosovo have
already fled abroad. More are thinking of getting out. How many
more people must die before NATO acts? demands one old man.