'They have stolen everything. TVs, telephones, furniture, even clothes'

Kosovo was mourning the murders, looting and arson that shattered the fragile reconciliation process of the Albanian and Serbian communities when the Nato secretary general flew in this week to declare that such violence would not be tolerated again.

Kosovo was mourning the murders, looting and arson that shattered the fragile reconciliation process of the Albanian and Serbian communities when the Nato secretary general flew in this week to declare that such violence would not be tolerated again.

But for Radijka and Liyana, two women driven with their families from their homes in the capital, Pristina, by a baying mob, all that meant nothing. Huddled in the sports hall of a school in Gracanica - one of the few remaining Serbian enclaves in the former Yugoslav province - they were angry, confused and full of foreboding.

These were among 1,200 Serbian civilians "cleansed" from their homes in the towns and villages by Albanians and now herded into makeshift refugee centres.

Neither woman wanted to give her surname because they feared retribution. "It is the second time that I have had to run away like this, hiding, frightened for our lives,'' said Radijka, 41. "After the war in 1999 I fled with my husband and children from Llubljana to Pristina. We thought things were getting better, and we were safe there. Now this has happened. I don't know what is going to happen to us, but I cannot face a third time of this. We cannot go back to our homes, it is simply not safe there.''

Radijka, her 49-year-old husband, Mirko, and their three children were at home in the YU Apartments in the centre of Pristina, inhabited solely by Serbs, when a crowd of about 2,000 surrounded the building about 5pm on Wednesday.

For the next eight hours they and their neighbours were besieged by groups of men hurling bricks and Molotov cocktails. The attackers broke down the doors and attacked many with knives and baseball bats. Dozens were injured, and at least one man, Dragan Smiliavic, a United Nations official, is critically ill with stab wounds.

The Serbs were eventually rescued by a unit of Nato's Kosovo Force. Some are now at Slim Line, the military barracks in Pristina where the newly arrived British troops have also taken up residence. Others are at Gracanica, among 10,000 fellow Serbs.

Liyana, 40, her 44-year-old husband, Zoran, and their five children were also part of the exodus. She, too, does not want to go home. "What is the point? They have stolen everything, TVs, telephones, furniture, even our clothes. A policeman has been to our flat, and he said there is nothing left. What they had not taken, they had smashed,'' said Liyana.

"It is all very well for Nato to say now that they have sent more troops. But they were not there when we needed them. And they'll leave in a few weeks' time. If we go back to our homes, who will protect us then?''

A representative of the United Nations mission in Kosovo came in with photographs of the refugees' homes, many of them burnt after being ransacked.

A frail woman of 82, sitting rocking on a camp bed, stared at the photograph in her hand and would not let go. "She has no family. They smashed down her door and got in. Will you send her back for another experience like that?'' a Serbian Red Cross official asked.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links