Family Affair: We fled to the woods to safety

Durim Kadiu, 18, and his cousin Tahir Selmani, 13, were

`ethnically cleansed' from their village in Kosovo last year, and later fled the country as stowaways on a lorry. They reached Britain in October and are now living in London, housed by Camden Council. Durim lives in one room in King's Cross and is studying an English and computer course at Kingsway College. Tahir lives with a Somali family in Finsbury Park and goes to school. Their case has been highlighted by Unicef which is fighting the proposed changes to the Asylum Bill which would cut back benefits for child refugees

Durim

We came to England in October before the world outside was so aware of what was happening in Kosovo. But it was a terrifying time. One day the Serbs came to our house in the village of Gjakove and threatened to kill us all, telling us we should go to Albania, that we had no right to be there. In front of me they beat up my father, so that he was badly injured and he knew it could be a lot worse.

So we fled into the woods with my brothers and sisters,and Tahir, my cousin, and his family. We lived there for two months and while we were away the police and army came and burnt our houses. My father and Tahir's father decided we should leave the country. They chose us because we were the youngest. They couldn't afford to pay for the others so they stayed behind.

We were taken to Macedonia and put on a lorry full of boxes. The driver didn't know we were there. We huddled together for comfort . I knew Tahir was very upset and frightened so I tried to comfort him, but I was frightened too because I had no idea where we were going or what would happen. The journey took eight days and we could only get out to stretch while the driver slept at night.

When the lorry arrived in east London at a warehouse we managed to creep off and the first night we slept out in a park. But next morning we were talking on the street and a man from Kosovo overheard us. He took us to his hotel and after that we were taken to Camden social services. We were put into a hostel in King's Cross but I didn't feel safe because there are many prostitutes and drug dealers and I didn't want Tahir to be there.

I knew I had to look after him, in a way I had to be a father to him. He is still so young and neither of us spoke any English. After a little while Tahir was taken to live with a Somali family and a place was found for him at school. I missed him a great deal because he was the only person I was close to in London, but it was also a relief because I worried about him living in King's Cross. Even now I am anxious about Tahir because I know he feels very sad. He can't speak to the other children in the family and he spends a lot of time alone in his room just thinking.

We haven't heard anything about our families since we left so we don't know where they are or whether they are alive. Every time I see the news with all the terrible things that have happened to our people I imagine it could be my parents and I think about what they might be suffering, or what my brothers and sisters might be going through.

I often want to cry but I know I must be strong for Tahir. I see him every day because I meet him when he comes out of school. I try to distract him so that he doesn't think about his parents but it's hard to know what to say because, of course, that's what we are both thinking about.

But we do go and play football and that takes our mind off things. At the weekends Tahir and I spend all our time together. We wander around because we don't have money to go anywhere and if we can afford it we have a pizza. We play basketball sometimes with other Kosovans living here in London. When I was looking after Tahir I got money for him and me, but after he went to the family it changed. Now I get pounds 21 a week in food vouchers. I go Sainsbury's and buy bread and cheese and tomatoes. There's no way of cooking at my hotel so I don't get to have hot meals. I try to make the vouchers last through the week, but I don't always manage and then I am very hungry.

The people here are kind to us and we feel very lucky that Britain let us in and that we are alive. We have applied for asylum and we were praying that we would be allowed to stay because it seemed that as young men we would certainly be killed if we returned to Kosovo. But I have heard that even when it is like this people are not always allowed to stay, or if they do they are treated as though they shouldn't be here. I don't know what to say about that. We didn't want to come here and ask to be looked after, but our fathers saw Britain as a place that would protect us. If the peace agreement is real then of course we want nothing more than to go back to our village and find our parents. But Tahir and I also talk about how frightened we are in case we find out that they have been killed or taken away.

Tahir

I didn't really realise what was happening when I found we were being put on the lorry. I was very frightened and I didn't want to leave my parents, but Durim took charge and made me realise that we had to do as we were told. I knew terrible things were happening to people all around us and it was even difficult going to school because the Serbs didn't want us to be educated. If they came to your house and found your schoolbooks or notebooks you could be beaten and sometimes beaten to death.

I liked it when I lived in the same room as Durim. Camden social services arranged that for us, but then we were on our own. When I wake up in the night having horrible dreams or feel very frightened, or when I think about my mother and father, I could tell him and he would comfort me.

But now I just lie awake feeling very sad. Sometimes I cry. Where I am living now there are two children younger than me but they don't speak English. The family makes me meals and I have a room where I go in the evenings.

We have another cousin here in London who takes me to King's Cross to see Durim every day for an hour after we have come out of school and he tries to help me with my homework for school. There are a few other Kosovan children in my school at the moment and they are now my friends. I know I can talk to them about how I feel and they know what Durim and me are going through. When we meet new refugees we always ask if they have any news of people from our village.

I don't speak enough English to make friends with the other children. I have never been invited to anyone's home but I do feel welcome here. And the people seem to be kind and they do seem to understand why we are here.

I don't know what will happen now but I am praying hard that my family are all right and that I will be able to go back to Kosovo soon and just live an ordinary life in our village.

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin