nettime's_roving_reporter on Sun, 16 May 1999 22:43:56 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Corriere della Sera: D'Avanzo on Kosovo

This article was written by Giuseppe D'Avanzo, Italian journalist for
Corriere della Sera. It was published in Italy on Tuesday, 11 may 1999.

This translation was made for nettime.

KOSHARE (Kosovo) 

Arben, which means gold (Arben is proud of that), is sitting on the ground
in the wild hazel woods of Koshare, this wood that today is the frontline
of the UCK in Kosovo and the head of a 'protected corridor' opened after
twenty days of fights against the Serbs. Arben leans his chin on the stick
of his Kalashnikov, looks straight ahead of him and says (as if he's
dreaming while speaking): "Did you ever want only one small thing in life?
One small something on which seams to depend your happiness in life? I'll
tell you mine: I'll be happy when I'll be able to drink a tea in Gjakove,
in a small bar that I know. I'm already immagining that moment. I see
myself enter, choosing my table, the one in the corner near the window, and
I'll order my tea. It arrives heat and steaming, I drink slowly
appreciating every sip. I've my legs crossed, I smoke and I'm happy. I'm
again at Gjakove and fuck the Serbs… Better for you to stay here. You see
the flat country down there. In two days we'll arrive there, it's only ten
kilometers, Stay here and we'll go and drink a tea in that bar my second
tea of Gjakove, the first one I want to enjoy only by myself." 
When one goes more up, further than the wood, along the ridge of the
mountain, now that the fog has vanished and the sun is high up and the air
is clear as glass, one can see whole Rrafshi and Dukagjinit, the flat land
of Dukagjin and the order of the green meadows, and the regular stripes of
the white roads and the coloured spots of the villages and at the
background, in a golden flickering, Gjakove, Kosovo.
Arben is not an optimist or a day-dreamer. All thesoldiers of the KLA or
UCK believe they can win. With or without the Nato. With or without the
tricks of Slobodan Milosevic. With or without the filosophy of expectation
of Ibrahim Rugova. They believe to have the right on a victory because
Allah and God have been looking too long to another side. Between the
soldiers of the UCK, who are in the mountains since a year or on the
frontline since some weeks, to get here from the rich Europa where they had
been emigrated to is a conviction as hard as the rocks of these mountains:
it's time to live happily. And for this reason the UCK will never abbandon
their arms. If the eight or eightteen most influencive countries of the
world would ask them this, they won't leave their arms before they've got
what they call "the freedom of Kosovo". Which is not a slogan. It's a
formula which has very concrete significances and even too human.: "The
security of the cities and the houses, the tranquillity of the women, an
education and a future for the children." This is the story of a journey
between the soldiers of Ushtria Clirimtare e Kosoves and to tell this story
it's necessary to return to Tirana where it begins.


Unchangeable: "Leave it brother, what does it matter to you…" They may
change words but the answer is always the same. Think of something else.
It's not a whim to go to the north of the country, on the borders of
Tropoje and within Kosovo. There's one elementary reason in the running
times: it's there where the fights are. Not the technological warfare of
Wesley Clark who throws Belgrade in the dark of hell and reduces Serbia in
a blackened and smoking piece of something.
After the villages of Tropoje and Padesh and in Kosovo, between Decan and
Junik, a ferine war is being fought that nobody sees. Men against men who
go after eachother to kill eachother from hill to hill. There's also a
second reason to go there: it's necessary to grasp at least one bit of the
big intrigue of this very misterious war of Kosovo. What  the hell is the
UCK doing? Is it really existing or is it a Lost Army? Does it fight? And

There's no doubt that the UCK exists between Durazzo (Durres) and Tirana.
Each day Skanderberg square is crossed by buses with hundreds of
volunteers. The albanese who pass in front of the Opera stand still, greet
and wish them luck. The others, the young Kosovars, who came from Germany,
or Switzerland where they worked, shout and embrace to then turn away from
the square, unhappy and bewildered. Where you can see them, in Tirana, the
face of the Lost Army is young, pale, distressed, not warlike.

The other, the face of the combatant, one can immagine it from Tirana a bit
red of shame. Of what is known, the Lost Army has not defended one single
village, one single convoy of refugees of the ethnic cleansing. As asked by
Claudio Magris (Corriere della Sera, may 3) "How is it possible that we've
never heard of UCK men impeding a massacre, or tending an ambuscade to the
massacres or capturing someone? It's a good question. And as all the good
questions has its need for a good response. The one of the Major States is
only cinical: "In Kosovo the Serbs have 60.000 soldiers between Army and
Milicja and 50.000 armed civilians, 300 tanks, 600 armoured cars and
canons, morters, howitzers. No army or infantery could have made it. The
right thing to do was to remove, hide in the mountains to return later.
Don't you call that realism?" Better to find an other, maybe more authentic
answer between the soldiers of the UCK in the north of Albania.
Unfortunately no Albanese from Tirana or Valona likes to go to the north of
the country, to Bajram Curri, to Tropoje. 

Sali N. is not a talkative man. You know, the type of man that talks with
his eyes and a gesture of his hand and doesn't spoil words. Truthly he
prefers only three: yes, no, maybe. He's sitting in bar Europa on a square
without a name, in Tirana. He drinks his coffee aside two Irish soldiers of
the UCK who talk about women. The smallest one has a bend on his head and
the other one lots of black eagles tatood on his underarms. The small one
telss to the other of a blond woman and her soft breast. "Unfortunately, he
says, that she took me hundred dollars." The tatood one, answering, lauhs
scornfully: "Beautifull, yes. She took me only fifty dollars though." 
Sali N. has his face and his eyes and his hands immobile as stone when he
says "yes" to the proposal to accompany us in Kosovo. 


The region of Tropoje is no ones land. There's no State, no law, not even a
bad ruling, immoral, dirty and violent order, or what so ever. It looks
like after 50 years of communistic imprisonment which has eliminated every
freedom of thought and action, nobody knows anymore what to do with thought
and so deformed freedom of action in freedom to kill. At Bajram Curri
principal town of the region, the life of a man is worth a spit and, if you
don't have a weapon, you're a nothing. Who wants to go up there will have a
car, a driver and a 'good contact' (which reveals to be false) without any
sale, on the highest price because there's nothing that's not for sale in
Albania. Also the war, also the punishments, also the fear, also Tropoje. 
The departure is at 6 in the morning so there will be enough time to reach,
over a street with more holes than in a piece of Gruyere cheese, Lac,
Lezhe, the lake of Scutari, and from here along the coast of  deserted
mountains, Koman.

Koman is the name of the village and the natural basin (Liqueni i Komanit)
that one needs to cross through stoney gorges, enchanted ravines, terraces
cultivated with tomatoes and onions. The rusty ferryboat, moored to the
best on the warf, mostly leaves at twelve (there's no certain our). Today
there's time for a beer and a kebab. The bars are two. The bar aside of the
toilets is the cleanest one. 

In the bar, around the tables, Naser Reshami has his whole family aside
him. His daughters, their husbands and children. There are his brothers,
their wifes and children and the husbands of their daughters. They're more
than thirty. They're there to greet Krenar who's going to the war. Krenar
is dressed in the new uniform of the UCK, but he has no weapons. He's small
and black as an ember in a fireplace, with a curious pointed face. Pointed
nose, pointed his ears, pointed his chin. He doesn't look at all like his
father who's tall, lanky and thin as a nail. Naser, the father, is very
severe, maybe for his age (looks older than his 71 years), maybe for his
white qeleshe which corons his head.

Krenar, 35 years, left Holland where he lives since 15 years, for 'the
war'. He says 'war' without any kind of emotion. Krenar says nothing. Looks
at his father and keeps silent as if he waits for an answer of the old man,
as if not wanting to take his right to respond. The old man continuos being
silent. It seems as if he's still valuing the questioner and the
conversation. Than talks again his son: "I thought always to be able to
return happily to my village. But there's in fact only concern in this
eturn, but which is also allright, because if you've lost your house and
the shadow of your tree, also life becomes a negligible detail: you must
put it in the game to take back what they took from you." Krenar stretches
his pointed face in a resigned smile. 

(The Kosovars who we've seen at the border just after the nightmare of the
massacre, crying and desperating, once safe and still far away from a couch
which is worth that name or from a watertap, or a stove, do they refind
their silent and compound dignitywhich not indulges to the undergone pains.
Once far away from the Serbian ferocities, the Kosovar can tell to have
seen kill its son without a tear. The pain of what has happened is too big
and the mourn too precious to show in public).

The old man smokes. Listens to his son. He caresses him with his eyes.
Offers sigarettes and lightens another one for himself. Says: "I'm proud of
my son and I'm glad that he decided to go back to fight because we're on
the end of a story and, in the following one there's no place for us, with
Milosevic. In the history that now begins there's only place for one of us:
or we'll be distructed, or Slobodan Milosevic will be distructed." The old
man goes to the soil of the question. He doesn't say: or we or the Serbs.
He says: or we or Milosevic. Naser knows that his pains of today find a
reason not in the present Serbs in Kosovo, but of Milosevic in power. It's
an answer to keep in mind in Kosovo). "Our problem, says Naser, is not to
scatter over the world as a husk on the treshing-floor. That's why I'm
proud that Krenar has left his Dutch wife and is here to defend his people
and me, I'm his past, and his house is his future."
The old man has finished. I ask him what he said to his dutch wife, did she
share his decision? Krenar stands stiff and says: "I'm a Kosovar and I'm
not being told by my wife what I should or not do."


In Bajram Curri there's a big street, houses on the side, a hospital, an
abbandoned anfitheater, the school, the monument for the hero (Bajram
Curri), the cemetry, a restourant by the name of Monna Lisa (bad), waist
everywhere, emaciated dogs, and tiny cows slowly walking. And above all
there are jeeps without numberplates (stolen at Tirana where those arrived
after being taken from Italy or Germany). They're the jeeps of the bandits.
They point the sticks of their Kalashnikovs and some times, as if it were
deshboard toys, handgranades.

That it's better to keep away from the jeeps without numberplates, one
understands quickly by himself. Unfortunately it's the jeeps that don't
stay away from you. In these places there's no television network, or
information agency which is not being rubbed. Short list. BBC, of
landrover, television camera's and computer; Associated Press of two
landrovers, television camera's, computer, satellite-telephone, 250
thousand dollars; Newsweek, photocamera's, antibullett jackets, money; also
Turkis t.v., France tv, The Independent, Guardian, Express… The Osce lost
in the last month two jeeps. Also the UCK paid its price to the bandits in
the form of three satellite telephones and one jeep. 

They're the fastest in their attacks. The 'off the road' without
numberplate closes the car of the guests. In the time of two 'eye-flickers'
you find yourself with the loop of a mitrailleur in your mouth. You
understand rapidly (even not understanding albanese) what you're ought to
do: get out of the car. You do it in a hurry. One of the bandits
immediately sits at the steering-wheel and takes everything with him. If
things go allright the police will search for the car and restitute it. But
it's then necessary to pay the bandits in cash, as well as the police. As
it's clear the bandits have their agreements with the police (they earn 60
dollar a month) and it can happen to see that sympathetic Ismet in the
morning bandit between bandits, and in the evening in his blue jacket,
policeman bteween policemen. 

That's how the world turns in Bajram Curri and there's nothing to do
aboput it. The place of negotiations, whatever nature they may have, is
the bar of the hotel Shkelzeni, zero stars, 20 rooms, a Turkish toilet, an
old oildrum on the place of a lavabo, and a watertap that (every once in a
while) drips some water into the oildrum and from here into the turkish
toilet. The bar on the contrary is dignified isf onedoesn't give too much
importance to Kreshnik, who serves beer and Raki, with a russian 7,65 in
his holster and a walkie talkie (whatfor you ask yourself) vast in his
left hand. The bar of Shkelzeni includes in its 20 square meters Bajram
Curri and more. There's a bearded, fat Talebani and the murderer of Azem
Aidari for example. Aidari was the right hand of Sali Berisha, prsident of
the Democratic Party. Maxhun (let's name him so, we'll never know) killed
him in the centre of Tirana with a pistolshot. Berisha tried to throw over
'the socialist murderers of Fathos Nano'. Albania as thrown for some days
into chaos while Bajram Curri crashed in a rise crisis. No one in Bajram
Curri was so stupid to not know that Maxhun had killed Azem Aidari for a
family revenge and he didn't stop there because he killed after that
another three times and no-one is really sure that he's really satisfied
now. Maxhun drinks tea and chats in happy company. Everyone is damned glad
there, in the bar of Shkelzeni, where one can count, under the eyes of the
observators of the Osce, with their endless patient looks, the coming and
going of four police forces. The albanese police, the military police of
the UCK, the rounds of the winning bandits, And more, the uniforms of five
armies: the albanese, the special forces of the albanese army, the UCK, a
very elegant Danish squad with hair of the very, very dandy explorator,
the privat milicias of the family clans (fis). Only the whores fail.  In
compense there are the journalists that since the war begun seek the
camps, the trienches and the troups of the UCK. To find a trace it's
necessary to go further north. To Babina, Papaj, Padesh, and in Kosovo
between the villages of Dubovil and Isniq, where, as they say at
Shkelzeni, the UCK succeeded in breaking the Serbian lines. It's a war
that the albanese sell, and the journalists must buy. Everyone buys the
war that he wants, because at Bajram Curri are no antibiotics, hygiene, a
sincere smile, but wars are there in abbondance. One can choose between
the four in action. Throatcutters against throatcutters for an
'of-the-road' or a hundred dollar bill. The throatcutters against the fis
of Tropoje, for their reputation. The fis against the fis, for the power,
The UCK against the Serbs, for their freedom.


Too many wars at Tropoje, that's why it's difficult to say who wanted to
kill Fatmir Haklaj. Where it the throatcutters? Or the fis? Or the Serbs?
It was a Thursday at the beginning of May and 7.30 in the morning. Fatmir
is a name that in Bajram Curri is only pronounced in a whisper. Fatmir is a
legend for friends, and a nightmare for his enemies. He's young, beautiful,
generous, has the courage of a lion, they say. At the same time he's Robin
Hood and the sherrif of Sherwood I seem to understand. Fatmir is the head
of the special forces of the albanese borderpolice. In the first four
months of 1999 at Bajram Curri not one state salary arrived, no pensions
for elders, not even one lek in the only bank. The valory van became
regularly assalted and rubbed and the nurses, the teachers, and the small
shop-owners didn't know anymore what to do. Fatmir then played all his
cards and respectability of his fis. He armed thirty men who with eight
jeeps went to withdraw that tresure which, for the first time was consigned
intactly into the bank, with all the lek on the right place. 
Is it herefor that the throatcutters or other fis want Fatmir dead? Or is
it the Serbs on the oter side of the frontier that want to get rid of this
man who let's pass through too many arms, and ammunition towards the
recoveries of the UCK? In the bar of Shkelzeni everyone has an answer
behind a glass of cognac. Sali, who's the uncle of Fatmir and hates cognac,
doesn't exclude that it were the serbs.

Fatmir came down from the mountains in his Land Rover and four men escort.
In the curve he becomes trapped by a burst of kalashnikov fire. Fatmir
turns out of the car and answers to the firing, his back towards the stoney
rocks. And that's the emboscade. In the rocks is being put a lod of
tritolo. A telecommand makes it explode. Fatmir and two of his men have
their faces devastated by the splinters. Eduard Haklaj, the 19 year old
nephew of Fatmir lies already turned over the jeep, killed by the first
kalsahnikov fire. Eduard Haklaj will be sepelled in the clan's village,
where all are named Haklaj and Sali, before going to the border with
Kosovo. On the hillock which looks out on the houses there are 300 men
packed one against the other, sitting on tallons. They look like pigeons.
There's not one woman. The long row of brothers and uncles and first
nephews of Eduard awaits, standing on their feet, the guests that pass as
in a corridor of cheeks to kiss and hands to press. After ours of
meditation without a tear, the father of Eduard stands up and everyone
behind him, in an indian line, follow him over the meadow, onto the
court-yard of the farmstead, to the coffin with the corps of Eduard. Eduard
has his face reduced to a black grater and it seems as if the smell of
explosives is still around him. Everybody is looking slowly to the done
torment as if they print it in their memory and to not forget the difigured
face of the boy that they soon will revenge. Sali says: "Before were
going into Ksosovo, we'll go to the 'Good Man'."


Also the soldiers of the UCK, before they go to Kosovo, pass first to visit
Njeri i Mire, the Good Man. There's no street, it's a rocky path that
climbs on the side of the mountain. When finally it comes out to the
meadows of Bucaj, the grave of Rexhep Beli, the Good Man, is to be seen far
away, protected by a roof of red stones. Rexhep Beli was a bektashini, a
non-orthodox muslim. On both sides of the schpetare mountains he's loved
and honoured as padre Pio in Italy. As padre Pio, the Good Man was
omnipresent. Enver Hoxha put him seven times in shackles, and for seven
times, on the same day, Rexhep Beli returned to his village. It's said that
you could talk with him at the same our in Koman, as on the other side of
the mountains, in Peje in Kosovo; on the lake of Fierze, and in Gjakove. He
had always a good word and good advise, his glance protected you of 
misfortune. There's an immage of Njeri i Mere besides his tomb. Rexhep Beli
had a long black beard and black were his eyes. His black eyes were very
sweet, as are the eyes of brother Fatmir who since eightteen years guards
the tomb, prisoner of the deep silence of the mountains and an innocent and
gentle insanity. On one side of this tomb is a letter that Ahmed, the son
of Beli, has left before leaving to America. 'I beg you sorry/ the night
was long/I wanted the light of the sun/ I dreamt your hand'
The soldiers of the UCK climb up to the teqe di bektashi, to the sanctuary
of the Good Man for a blessing. They turn three times at bear feet around
the tomb. For three times they touch their hands touch on the stone. Fatmir
awaits them with a bottle of water from the stream that flows around the
teqe. The soldiers drink a long sip. No-one believes in miracles but,
"where they go everyone needs the hand of Beli on his head." Fatmir hasn't
understood (or better than everyone else) where tose men go, because to
everyone he says: "Love the others if you want to be loved."

The tractors which, fourty days ago went down fleeing from Kosovo with
women, children and elder people, today over that same streets pass lots of
men with weapons. They climb over the path between Bucaj and Padesh, border
between Albania and Kosovo. If you're sitting on the border of the path,
you see three generations of Kosovars go up in the mountains on tractors,
by hundreds, packed shoulder to shoulder, with their heads dandling. Baskim
has 19 years and a real serious expression on his face, unclear if it's out
of fear or sleep. Myslym is 68 years. He holds an old musket tight and
makes the sign of victory. He smiles and is the most happy one. Feka has 45
years and comes from Sweden: "I'm not making myself illusions, the war will
be long. This year he will go. I went away from Kosovo in 1991 when
Milosevic closed the schools, the university, the libraries, and forbid us
to speak or read albanese. I wanted an education for my kids, if that was
not possible in their own language, they neither would have it in serbian,
as wanted by Milosevic. So it would be worth to let them have an education
far away, didn't matter which country, or what language, it would be the
language of the country that could offer me work. Now I'm back, on my age
with a gun in my hands, because I want to see my children have their
doctorate at the university of Pristina. That's the first thing to do: once
won the war, to reopen the university of Pristina.

Along the path that climbs to the frontline, one can see the knotty hands
of the farmers, the hands without callus of the engineers, the delicate
hands of medical doctors, the unconstrained impudence of the workers, used
to the well being of Germany (very many, talk german between them). In the
midst of thiese hands, faces, humours and desires, think that the UCK has
also mysterious origins, maybe it's also financed (as they say) by doubtful
trafficking, but today the medieval massacres of Milosevic have made it a
peoples army. How could the Kosovars not refind themselves here, on these
mountains, after the slaughters.As for the Armenians, as for the Kurds,
also for the Kosovars is worrth the paradox of a destiny that the more they
get divided by violence, and the more the diaspora scatters them, the more
they'll feel the desire to stand close near each other.


The UCK has three camps in this segment of Albanese border. At Babina
there's the military police dressed in black. In Papaj the trainingcamp of
the recrutes. But it's in Padesh, which for weeks has been the first line,
where the war begins. There's no roof or wall intact in the village, bombed
by serbian morters, systemized on the mountain on the other side of the
valley. For years the poor house out of stones in the shadow of a cipress
was the fold of the flock of the old Bislim. Since fifty days it's the
hospital of the medical doctor Time Kadriaj, a woman. She's beautiful, 31
years, fleshy lips and elegant behaviour. "I'm in the mountains since the
facts of Prekaz," she says. (In Prekaz the militias killed in march 1998
thirty women and children). "Now that the war has begun - continuous Time -
I do what I can. Here we give first aid to the wounded, who we than, when
possible, transfer to the hospital of Bajram Curri or Tirana." Time is in a
hurry to return to her work in the dark of the cave which is full of silent
soldiers. With a somewhat painful grin she adds: "No humanitarian
organization has send us one box of medicines, emostatic strings, a gram of
morphin, a cord for the sutures. I find that unexplainable."
There are two curves in the path above the village. Less than 200 meters
without cover, good in the sight of the serbian postations. Necessary to
move fast. After the two curves, protected by a rib of rocks, there's the
command of the third oprative group of commander Rrustem Berisha. 

The camp is just awakening, unwillingly. The first Pinz-Gauer go up, loaded
with milk, onions and ammunition. When they get down there it comes up to
the troops that will go to the front. The soldiers wash themselves as good
as possible in the stream, drink tea, smoke. They all move slowly and numb,
if one doesn't consider Arnaud Pajllard, a Parisien proud of his appartment
on Rue Ernest Lefevre. He moves exited forward and backward. Maybe too
much. Maybe he drunk, or maybe has a damned will to put his hand on his
gun, the fool. It's cold and there's a heavy and thick low hanging fog. I
think it's luck because the serbs will have blind eyes in this cotton-wool.
I say it to Fadil Murati who's engraved his name in the calcium of the
kala. Fadil looks at me and smiles. "No, it's the serbs that exploit the
fog to protect themselves. We have them up there between Junik and Batusa
straight in the middle. We up there, they down below. When the fog
vanishes, we fuck them every now and then, towards Gjakove." Rexhep Bonjaku
sits aside of us and listens. He's older than Fadil and seems thoughtful. I
offer him a sigaret. He lights it. I ask him what he thinks of the
'peace-plan'. He looks at me and says: "Of the disarming of the UCK? This
is not your war, this is our war. We initiated it by ourselves. Now that
also the Nato understood, or finally wanted to understand the game of
Milosevic, we're glad to be in good company. But it won't be the Nato to
tell us when to stop. We'll stop when we'll have obtained our goal, the
albanese Kosovo. 

Rexhep takes a drag of his sigaret, looking at his dirty muddy shoes. The
sigaret does not seem to relax him. He looks up and says: "I don't like
making war, I hate to do this and I don't ask for anything else than to
finish this shit . I don't want, though, that it ends before my father can
return in Kosovo, that my daughter may speak albanese, that my wife can be
cured in a hospital getting the same attention as reserved for the serbs,
because it is like this that Milosevic reduced us: without houses, schools,

The soldiers agree with Rexhep's words. It's cold and they stamp their feet
on the ground to warm them. For a while everyone is having it's own
thoughts and no one talks. Shaip breaks the silence as if following his
anger: "…and then, how is it possible to believe once again Milosevic to
make agreements after having seen the refugee-convoys." I find the courage
to say that maybe that convoys and villages could have been protected by
the UCK. They all rase their heads and look at me. Shake their heads and
look at me. Selim asks me: "Do you know who was Agim Ramadami?" I know,
it's the name on a grave on the cemetry of Bajram Curri, Ramadami commanded
the 131st brigade, he died april 11th . The tension slackens and everybody
is glad of that. 

Selim indicates a point high up on the mountain. "You see that small
valley, behind that point of the rock that looks like the profile of a
woman? It's where's the pass of Morini. Commander Ramadami with his brigade
kept it open for days. Thousands of the villages of the flat country of
Dukagjini saved themselves passing over there. The commander defended it
untill his last ammunition, and when that was finished the serbs killed him
and his whole brigade."

It's time to go. The Pinz-Gauer, machines that could climb every mountain
as if they've got nailed wheels and elevator motors, did return. The first
troops leave, singing 'victory, victory for Kosovo'. Singing gives courage.
The second troop shouts even stronger victory. In our Pinz I slide aside
Baskim, the boy. I thought he was a new recrute. "I'm a veteran," he says
and he's not joking. "I'm with the UCK since Racak." (the 15th of January
1999, the serbian milicias killed fifty civilians in the village of Racak,
seventeen corpses were mutilated). I ask Baskim when we'll cross the border
with Kosovo. Baskim doesn't answer. He has big hands. He's put the gun on
his legs and touches the wooden parts of it.


On the short trip Baskim doesn't say a word. The fof vanished a bit and we
can see ahead fifty eters now. The path goe down and the Pinz throws itself
in a wood of  beeches and almonds. "Here, we are at the border." The border
lays in the middle of the wood. Baskim indicates a small piramid upside
down under a wild cherrytree. Here Albania, there serbian Kosovo. Here the
albanese, over there for ninety percent albanese. Here they talk albanese,
just like there. And over here and over there they've got the same
literature, the same music, the same dances and songs and the same
admiration for the Good Man. What is it the border of, that upside down
piramid of cement on the sides of the path? Baskim knows how to answer:
"Over there one doesn't die, on this side, one does."

The Pinz still moves downwards into the valley in a rotten movement,
impossible to foresee it. Caracolating arrives it finally to a barrack that
until two weeks ago was under control of the serbs. The fire-line is more
ahead, in the direction of Batusa. 

Koshare in Kosovo is vast in the hands of the UCK. In the camp they're
flagging. The soldiers stand in a row how they can and know. One foot here
and one there. Some with hats, some with bends, or an iron helmet. Who with
12 mm. american rifles, who with the old Ak-47 of Enver Hoxha's arsenals.
Who with a knife on his belt big enough to cut the throat of a pig, and
who's got a book bound in his belt. None of the soldiers semms to pay
attention on the objects spread around, and I, who'se never seen a battle
camp, look at the trenches where untill some days ago fought the serbs, and
the accumulated objects in the mud, the puddles, in the excrements of the
horses. There's a coat with blood on it lying on the serbian eagle and the
red, blue and white flag, a pornografic magazine, a crossword-puzzle
magazine, a Morava sigaretpacket, a Mitros fleshtin of the Fabrikakonzervi
di Sremska Mitrovica, razorknifes, toothbrushes, toothpaste of the mark
Bonident, and socks with wholes in them, cases of artillery ammunition, and
nearly covered by a cloud of flies, a horse carrion. Captain Aquila ("My
family is probably still in Kosovo.") guesses my thoughts , indicates the
hill and says: "We burried them up there."

The corpses is one of the preoccupations of this stinking war. Aquila
sustains that "the serbs burn the corpses of their enemies, we burry them
with their name written on a piece of paper, put in a bottle of glass
besides the corpse, we gather their letters and the possible documentation.
Everyone, after the war will have the right to cry for their own deads on a
cemetry and not in the mausoleums of the unknown soldier."

The documentation in the camp of Koshare is in the hands of Nevrus Hasani.
Nevruz, before he got fired when it became forbidden to study albanese
language, taught literature. He's an easy-going man, with big moustaches
and a round belly. From reading the letters, he's convinced that "the boys
of the serbian army don't want to fight. They understood that they're
fighting an injust war. Those boys don't feel Kosovo as serbian, they know
it's albanese." Nevruz turns some letters around in his hands: "Read this.
It's of a soldier who writes to his girlfriend. The date is the 3rd of
april this year." The letter is stained with blood which covers also the
name of the soldier.

The boy writes: "Dear Mira, I would escape from here, but I don't have the
courage. Vuk had that courage, but they took him and gave him twenty years
of prison. I do nothing but thinking of your eyes and your hands that
caress my face. You're my only thought. I want to return home, I want to
have children with you. Jedina, write me." Nevruz folds the paper with
care. "The boy never sent his letter, he died the same day." Nevruz then
takes another lettre and as a kind of prologue, explains that behind the
poor boys sent to Kosovo there's a ferocious and bloody serbian bourgois.
"Read here, the letter that january 30th, also the our written down, doctor
Mihajlovic Bojan, Strpce, ul. Dolina Ljubavi, tel 0290.70.089 has written
to his brother." Nevruz sets up his voice. Reads: "Dear brother, I'll say
only one thing. When you get away from there bring me an albanian corpse, I
want to cut of it's throat because here with us there are still no albanian

The professor Nevruz has only read one fragment of the letter. I ask him to
read it all. He blushes and puts the letter away. I insist. Nevruz gives
in. That what the doctor Mihajlovic Bojan wants to say to his brother is
not in that tricky frase. Reading the whole letter it gets clear that
Mihajlovic on that same 30th of january had written his brother also in the
morning, he went to the post-office and had sent the letter. Returned home,
he found out to have copied an incomplete adress. He had returned again to
the post-office, but then found out that his letter was in the hands of the
censors. He got taken by panic, writes a second letter. "The censurers
opened my letter and, dear brother, I had written lots of stupidities and
so, at 17.51 hour and sixteen seconds I write you a second letter." Nevruz,
busy with his propagandistic way out, seems not to understand that the
panic for censorship and the 'stupidities' written are a scandal to throw
right in the face of Milosevic and not the ridiculous annotation of butcher
on the hunchback of the serbs. I remember the old Naser at Koman and ask
Nevruz if he's fighting against Milosevic or the serbian people. He
answers: "I've nothing against the serbs. We always lived as neighbours in
peace, except for the last ten years. I fight against the politics of

The commander of the Koshare camp is named Isuf Haklaj. A small man with a
sharp and twisted face. An energetic and go-ahead person. "We are ten
chilometers into Kosovo now. These are good days for us." He's interrupted
by the rumble of a morter. "Ours. We're at ten chilometers from Gjakove…".
It's said that the UCK still hasn't unified it's commando. It's said that
Sulejman Selimi guides the regions of Llap, Mitrovica, Vucitru, Drenica,
Dragobvilje, Ferizaj. While Dukagjin is under the command of Ramiz
Hajredinas. Is it true? During the night the Nato bombardments fill the
country side with rumbles and bombs. Is there a coordination between the
air attack of Nato and the ground attacks of the UCK? Isuf Haklaj cuts
short: "No questions of military character. No demands at all. We've got
one only chain of command and this must be enough. Shut your mouth and
let's go to eat."

The mensa of the camp is right beside his tent. It's full of soldiers, and
still they're coming in. Tired faces, hollow eyes. Between them, they talk
with low voices. Who from the frontline has come down to the camp goes to
sit without hesitation or excitement on the long tables. Immediately
there's someone who gives them a cup and a piece of bread. For each one
there's beansoup with two small pieces of lamb and some vegetables. The
lunch goes like that, no happinnes, much composure. They eat in silence.
It's the commander to break this silence: "Tell me, why are the Italian
communists allied with Milosevic?We can not understand why the italians who
always helped Albania and the albanese, now make lots of stories with us,
abbandoning us in the worst moment of our lives." I don't know what to
answer and then, Isuf  does not even expect an answer. He bows his head
over the cup and eats in a hurry. I say, as much as to say something: "No
political questions sir commander."

Arben sits in front of me. Listens to the answer. He finds it ridiculous
and senseless. He laughs. Then he asks: "Did you ever want only one very
small thing in life? I only want to drink a tea, down there in Gjakove."

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