War In The Balkans: Children paint horrors from memory

Victims

THE DRAWINGS start the way any childish artwork begins: with a square house, some clouds, a tree. But look away for a few moments and the smoke billowing from a picture-book chimney is turned, with a few strokes of the green felt pen, into a roof ablaze.

Even the tanks and planes so beloved of boys with crayons have a sinister significance here. Art therapy in Kukes is pretty basic - paper, a coloured pencil or marker and fierce concentration - but the results testify to the horrors witnessed by the children of Kosovo.

Luljeta, 13, has drawn a road, a house and several figures in green ink - and great spreading stains of red. "It was in Meja I saw this," she says, pointing to one recumbent figure. "This is one man who was killed. I saw his blood spread out, and those are the people that were walking. I was walking." We have listened to numerous adult refugees describing the mass killings in Meja village. It is even more horrifying to watch the children paint their memories.

"Meja" is written at the top of Valter's complex drawing, which shows a road, a house, a figure with a gun. "That is a Serbian policeman, shooting Albanians," explains Valter, 11, matter of factly. Along the road crossing a river, he writes the words "police - 17 men". And then, "They separated the men on the bridge."

"My mother is here, but my father was separated in Meja," he says. "I don't know where he is."

In this tent, the noise level is relatively subdued, the children focused on the drawings, the Unicef counsellor watching and chatting and preparing drawings for display. Outside, there is laughter and shrieks as other children's groups play or recite poetry and sing songs.

"Men were separated from women - the Serbs are killing many people, killing people for nothing," recites Valbona, before running from the group and into the arms of a Unicef worker, Elvana Zhezha. "She told ... how scared everyone was when two shells exploded near by, and how her sister's husband was wounded," Ms Zhezha said. A few minutes later Valbona was back in the performing circle, dry-eyed. Several of the women watching, however, were in tears.

It is, say Unicef officials, a vital first step that children who have seen such horrors be allowed to sing, write and draw of their experiences. "It's very shocking how young the children are - children of six and seven sing stories about war and draw violent images of death and destruction," says Penelope Lewis of Unicef. "The first step must be to express what they have been through."

The children do know "normal" childhood songs and poems, but are simply not willing to perform them yet. The point of all these activities is to provide a distraction from boredom and depression, to get them playing and communicating with other children. "And through these activities, children have a natural medium through which they can express what they have been through," Ms Lewis says.

It is a wonder that the children, shy of speaking directly about their experiences to strangers, are still so friendly and smiling; few display signs of hostility. The Unicef counsellors are doing all they can to help them - but what they really need is help in returning home to a Kosovo that is free from the Mejas of this war.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Jodie Stimpson crosses the finishing line to win gold in the women's triathlon
Commonwealth games
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Biomass Sales Consultant

£20000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Java Developer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My Client are a successful software hous...

Senior Analyst - Financial Modelling

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...

MS Dynamics NAV/Navision Developer

£45000 - £53000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS DYNAMICS N...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game