War In The Balkans: They came with no possessions except sadness in their eyes

Dateline Pristina: Our second report from a journalist trapped in the city
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The Independent Online
Tuesday afternoon

MY PARENTS' house filled up with people last night. They were unknown to us and desperate to find a place to stay overnight. They are from Dragodan, a part of Pristina where only Albanians live.

In the afternoon, police entered every house in the neighbourhood - my father tells me there are around 600 - and expelled everyone. It took two hours. They just came in and cleared everything. We have no reports of anyone being killed, though there was some harassment. Armed men in black masks and blue police helmets came and said: "You have to leave." The same thing occurred in another part of town,

I saw it through my windows. People were running down the hill. They came with no possessions; they were not even allowed to take their IDs. They had almost nothing, except a sadness in their eyes. Even the pride that is well known among Albanians seemed destroyed.

Four families came to our building. At first they were scared: they did not know if they would find Serbs or Albanians. Then they met one Albanian, and another, and they felt they could find people to help them. My mother gave them water to calm them, and then tea and coffee. But still they were embarrassed to ask if they could sleep at our house. We have four families in our small apartment now.

During the whole night they stood in the window, looking in the direction of their houses, expecting to see flames. There was no burning, and last night was rather quiet: one Nato plane at 4am, and some detonations, and that was it. But police prevented them from going back to their houses today.

Tomorrow it will be a whole week since I have been able to see the town, and my friends; since I have stayed in the dark. The only view I have of the world is the computer in front of me, which I can use until 6pm while I have electricity. I look through the curtains, but do not pull them back.

I wonder where my friends are and all the people I knew in this town. I am forbidden to do the job which I have done for years. I know my life is in jeopardy because of it. My friend was killed yesterday, for one reason: he was a journalist. Baton [Haxiu] was the editor of Koha Ditore [the leading Kosovo newspaper], an excellent guy. His "thing" was exclusive stories and he always knew what was up.

What hurts me the most is that I had news that he was in a safe place. I sent a message to his family that he was OK, that they shouldn't worry. Now I have such a feeling of guilt. Thank God his parents' phone is not working, because I wouldn't know what to say. I really hope that it was a quick death, one bullet. I hope he wasn't beaten.

No one expected it would be this bad. Not even Baton - even though we had war, even though we expected retaliations. We always thought that this would happen in the villages. No one dreamed Pristina would look like this.

I have decided I won't stop. I feel the need to continue, even behind the shadow.

The television screens are full of images of refugees that have left. Well, they have survived and they might come back one day. But what about us - the people that remain inside the town that has really become a camp?

Some 300 vehicles full of people left this morning from Pristina. They have decided to escape, heading south for Macedonia. Who knows if they will be able to pass the border safely? But they are desperate to leave, and to be as far away as they can from this mess.

I don't feel that way yet. I don't think about dying. I will think about it tomorrow. For most who remain and intend to stay, they think differently. They feel that this is the price to pay for Kosovo. The only question now is who is going to make it through to the end. So some pride remains.They don't what to help "them" in their wish of emptying Kosovo of the Albanians.

This dispatch is from the `Balkan Crisis Reports' of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, which can be found at . The author's name is withheld to protect against reprisals