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The interpreter’s ghost: Return to Pristina

June 1999: Robert Fisk returns to Pristina, where he meets The Independent’s Albanian interpreter, who he thought was dead

Saturday 22 January 2022 21:30
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<p>A line of ethnic Albanian refugees flee on a small road in the mountains near Kacanik, about 60km south of Kosovo's capital, Pristina, March 1999</p>

A line of ethnic Albanian refugees flee on a small road in the mountains near Kacanik, about 60km south of Kosovo's capital, Pristina, March 1999

I shall call her Nartila. I recognised her only from her eyes, hunted, frightened and wide with shock when she saw me in the little shop-smashed street. A year ago, Nartila was The Independent’s Albanian interpreter. Yesterday, in the pristine laneway with its channel of sewage flowing through the old Albanian street, she was a ghost.

I had thought she was dead. So had she. “Is it you?” I asked. “I don’t know,” she replied. “Is it me?”

I could describe our walk of half a mile through Pristina, across roads, quickly and in panic, whenever she neared a Serb police or militia station. I could tell how we arrived at an Albanian home where two whole families, clustered in fear – one of the women desperately sick – lived in terror.

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