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


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.


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

Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?