steve rhodes on Wed, 09 Jun 1999 00:24:22 -0700

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Syndicate: Poggioli & Fisk reporting from Kosovo

Sylvia Poggioli is now reporting from Pristina.  She
just got there Tuesday afternoon.  She filed a short report
on NPR.  I imagine she'll have more extensive
reports in the coming days.

 You can find her reports daily on the Kosovo page
that is linked from

In this dark land, liberation can only end in more bloodshed

>From Robert Fisk inside Kosovo 
Independent  (6-9-99)
(this URL is only good for a day or two)

If cliches were permitted in Pristina and its like, city of 
fear would not be good enough. There are rifle shots in the 
empty streets, loud, close to hand, from somewhere behind the 
15th-century Imperial Mosque. There is the constant roar of 
Nato jets and a thump of bombs in the hills around Kosovo's 
capital that changes the air pressure in Marshal Tito street. 
There are acres of looted houses, homes to the persecuted 
Albanians, two of whom I met - still I wonder at their courage 
- walking down the Corso arm-in-arm, a husband and his pregnant 
wife waiting for their day of liberation. 

And there are the Serbs, fearful of their future, unable to sell 
their homes, tens of thousands of them, still unable to grasp 
what Yugoslavia's "peace" with Nato really means. "The Albanians 
are coming with Nato," a girl said. "This will become an Albanian city." 

Nato, of course, is unconcerned by the fate of Kosovo's remaining 
100,000 Serbs - mostly civilians and innocent of the crimes of 
Serb militiamen - and is already talking blandly of their 
"probable" departure. 

First the Kosovo Albanians were "ethnically cleansed" by the 
Serbs. And in a few days - two weeks at most - the Serbs 
will be "ethnically cleansed" by Nato's Albanian allies. 

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair have both promised to protect 
Serbs as well as Albanians in this dark land. Both will fail. 
"Moving around is not safe - you have to know that," an army 
major told us frankly. And I have the impression that Pristina 
is already lost to the Serbs. 

As usual, there are the heroes. Two of them were the Albanian 
couple and another was a reservist soldier called Zoren Brankovic 
who runs the biggest key cutting shop in Kosovo. He pointed to the 
single-storey, yellow-painted house in Ruga Zejtaret. "My father was 
born here and I was born here and all the Brankovics lived in this 
small area," he said. 

And he pointed to the mass of rubble at one end of the street - 
Nato's work - in which his cousin had died. "No, I will never 
leave. This is my home - my very own home which belongs to our 
family. I have a brother here and a wife and three sons and we 
want to live here with our Albanian neighbours. The Albanian 
people of Pristina were never a problem - the money of the KLA 
and the mafia is the problem. Everyone came to my shop - 
Albanians, Turks, Serbs, Montenegrins." 

But that was then, and this is now. And walking past the 
bombed-out post office - Nato's work again - we found Marjana 
and her boyfriend, Nikola, arms draped around each other, she 
holding a rose on a long stem. "Why should I leave when this is 
my home and my country?" she asked. Nikola, who was at work in 
the Jugopetrol plant when Nato destroyed it in April, talked 
about the Orthodox monastery at Gracanina and admitted he wanted 
to marry Miljana. "They should never have stopped the war when 
they did," the girl said. And there was another of those loud, 
echoing rifle shots. Who was shooting at who, I asked? 

They shrugged. But I suspect their ignorance. I have a shrewd, 
unpleasant suspicion that the Kosovo Liberation Army are not 
waiting for Nato to enter Pristina to stake their claim. I think 
they are already here, amid the houses of the dispossessed, 
waiting to move before a single British paratrooper marches 
down Marshal Tito street. Indeed, not far from Urosevac - 
scarcely 15 miles from here - the Israeli journalist Ron 
Ben-Yishai drove into an ambush yesterday morning. He and 
his Serb driver, Ivan Cvejic, were wounded. The KLA fired 
20 bullets at a bus on the Pristina-Prizren road a few hours later. 

So what life is left for the Serbs here? For mile after mile 
yesterday, I drove alone through an abandoned Kosovo on the 
road from Raca, the Albanian homes long incinerated by the Serbs. 

Rumours are already moving through Pristina than the Serbian 
government will not allow the 100,000 Serbs to leave Kosovo, 
that the cities of central Serbia cannot absorb more refugees. 

A thunderstorm was darkening the skies as I approached Luzane. 
On the bombed-out bridge lay the skeleton of that terrible bus 
- the Pristina-Nis bus that Nato destroyed with a missile last 
month - with its steel roof frame and a boy's sodden left boot 
on the road beside it. Below, beside the river into which many 
of the dead were thrown - Serbs and Albanians alike - I found a 
tangle of mouldering clothes and a spray of plastic flowers, 
bright crimson and yellow and purple amid the real pale blue 
cornflowers of the riverbank, a token of remembrance to the 
death of both Serbs and Albanians, the last memorial to a Kosovo 
that might have been but never was. 

For they are still here, the Albanians; not many perhaps. But 
the couple we stopped on the Corso yesterday afternoon told - 
between frightened glances and the wife's nervous pleas to her 
husband to stop talking and leave - the story of the pst two months. 

"We spend all our time in a flat," he said simply. "Day and 
night. We just stay in, that is all. We move from house to 
house, from flat to flat, all the time, in case they come for 
us. My own brother has disappeared. I've been to the Milosevic 
police to ask where he is." At this remark I drew in my breath. 
Kosovo is not a place for the brave. "No, I couldn't find him," 
the man muttered. "I have lost my own brother" 

His wife muttered desperately again, a young woman, newly pregnant, 
a child conceived amid her people's nightmare. They turned away 
from us and walked quickly away, arm in arm, waiting for the 
tomorrow that Marjana and Nikola and Zoren Brankovic, deep down 
in their hearts, fear more than they can ever admit. 

Steve Rhodes

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