A camp for displaced Roma people in Kosovo
A camp for displaced Roma people in Kosovo



Reps 1-15, 16-30


I arrived in Kosovo at 1:30 p.m. on 21 May 2000. We could not drive through Montenegro. It is not possible to get a transit visa at the border of either Montenegro or Serbia, so we drove from Prague through Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Macedonia.

Report on the Romani quarter of the village of Preoce (Pristina), Kosovo

Date: 21 May 2000
Caste: Kovachi
Population: 370
Aid Agency: Caritas? People are not sure. Name of aid agency is not listed on UNHCR ration card.

As of 22 May no more food has been distributed in this village.

The Roma children in Preoce go to school. From 1st to 4th grade they go to the Serb school in Preoce. They are taught only in the Serb language. From 5th grade to 8th they go across the main highway to the village of Laplje Selo. They can not take the direct route because Albanians driving on the highway try to run them down. They must take a much longer route to cross the highway at a KFOR checkpoint.

The children coming from the villages of Lepina, Radevo, Batuse, Dobrotin, Gushterica, Livagje and from Pristina, have a school bus with a KFOR escort.

From Preoce there is no public transportation for the villagers. There are UNHCR buses from Grachanica to Babin Most (which stops at Pristina, Kosovo Polje, Obilich, Plemetina, Preluzhije) with a KFOR escort. In Pristina Albanians gather to threatened all Gypsies taking the bus.

There is a full-time doctor in Preoce, working from 7 am to 6 p.m. He is Serb. Twice a week (Tuesdays and Saturdays) a Spanish doctor from Medicine de Monde (Greece) visits the clinic and brings a limited supply of medicine. But this doctor has recently returned to Spain and his replacement brings no more medical supplies. I therefore donated half the medicine I brought from Germany to the Serb doctor in Preoce for him to use in this village for the Serb and Roma.

Seven families have a mobile telephone for emergency calls.

At night a KFOR tank patrolled around the village until one month ago, but there has been no KFOR security for one month except for the checkpoint on the main highway at the entrance to the village.

Biggest problem is that they no longer receive flour and oil. They receive no clothes, no shoes, no other aid. I therefore donated half the clothes I brought from Germany to the Roma in Preoce.

Most men in the village had a job before the war, but today not one man has a job. The men cant leave the village and work today. No Albanian will let them travel outside the village. Albanians will attack them if they leave their village.

Preoce is about eight kilometers from Pristina. Most of the men worked there before the war, or in the coal mine in Dobro Selo. Today it is impossible to travel there or work beside Albanians.

Many of these families in Preoce have relatives in the refugee camps in Macedonia. They have tried to make contact, to visit these families, but are hindered by the Macedonian police. Visits are allowed for only three days, during the day. No overnight visits are allowed.

In these Collection Centers, the refugees do not have enough food. No milk for the children, no money to buy shoes, clothes. They must have police permission to leave the collection center to go into town. UNHCR did not visit the Pretor collection center during the three days that Hisen visited his mother. The Kosovar Roma refugees have been threatened with expulsion from Macedonia on 28 June by the government.

Hisen Gashnjani would like an NGO identity card such as I have. He feels this would make it possible for him to drive the Opel Kadett around to Roma villages after I leave. If this is possible, please make one and try to send it with someone.

Paul Polansky
22 May 2000


Date: 22 May 2000

Location: Priluzhije (Mitrovice)

Population: Roma (see survey for exact number, it has not changed).

Aid Agency: The informant, Emini Aziz doesnt know name of aid agency. It is not mentioned on his ration card. His family of seven people have received the following aid:

Jan 18, 2000: 89 kilos flour, oil 7 liters, 7 cans of beef.

Feb 15, 2000: 84 kilos flour, oil 7 liters, 7 kilos rice, 2.1 kilos sugar, 9 cans of beef.

Feb 25, 2000: 3 liters of milk.

March 18, 2000: 14 liters veg. oil, 14 cans of beef, 3 kilos of beans.

March 26, 2000: 81 kilos of flour, 14 kilos of beans, 14 kilos rice, 7 liters of veg. oil, 2.1 kilos of sugar, 8 cans of beef, 1.4 kilos salt.

April 6, 2000: 84 kilos of flour, 14 kilos beans, 7 liters veg. oil, 8 cans of beef, 1.4 kilos of salt.

April 8, 2000: hygiene packet.

May 5, 2000: 84 kilos of flour, 14 kilos beans, 7 liters of veg. oil, 1.35 kilos of sugar, 1.4 kilos salt.

Security: Their village is protected by a KFOR unit from the UAE.

Transportation: see Report Number 1.

School: All Romani children in this village go to the local Serb school here.

Medical Aid: the village has a Serb doctor, who is on 24 hour call. The United Arab Emerints army unit also has medical clinic here and they will give any medicine they have.

Problems: The informant has no problems in his own village. The Roma cant go to any other village except Plemetina. If they go anywhere else, they must have a KFOR escort. The informant has a car, but is afraid to drive to Pristina, or any other village. No problem with KFOR, neither French nor UAE. Before the war, most of the Roma men in the village worked in the coal mines in Dobro Selo. They havent gone back because the Albanians would kidnap and kill them as they have done in other villages. The informant has a telephone but it hasnt worked for seen months. French troops bring a telephone once every two weeks for them to make calls for three minutes anywhere in the world.

Solution for Kosovo according to the informant: things arent so good. He has no freedom to go where he wants, to go shopping, to go to the capital of his country. This is not life for him. The only problem is that Albanians don't want Gypsies in Kosovo. Why don't Albanians want Gypsies? Do I know why? Roma are victims of before and now, between the Serbs and the Albanians. Albanians want the land of Kosovo only for themselves. They don't want Turks, Gypsies, Serbs or any other minority. If the Serbs didnt exist in this village, he couldnt live here. They protect the Roma. "I don't know what the Serbs think of us, but they don't kill us."

NOTE: how does the informant survive without working? He has a small blacksmith shop and he repairs wagon wheels, ploughs and farm machinery for the local Serbs.


Date: 24 May 2000

Location Visited: Struga 1 Collective Center for Kosovar Gypsy Refugees in Struga, Macedonia. This is suppose to be a UNHCR administered refugee camp although the status of the Gypsies here seems unclear as does the administration. Emilia Siminovski, a UNHCR representative from UNHCR headquarters in Skopje, visits the camp four days a week.

Informant(s): Ragip Berisha for the Ashkalij-Egyptians and Musli "Musa" Chatiri for the Roma, although more than a hundred men and women attended our meeting and spoke.

Population: 436 people (the majority young children) made up of Ashkalij, Egyptians and Roma.

Food: Everyone complained not only about the poor quality of the food, but also the lack of food. The last time I saw these people was the middle of November 1999. I was shocked at the sight of them. All have lost several kilos since leaving the refugee camp at Stankovac 2. They praised the food, hygiene and medical conditions in their former camp. Today they receive only one piece of fruit per person per week. They get no vitamins, not even the pregnant women or the anemic children. There is no milk, not even for the babies. They are given rice, pasta and beans to cook in a communal kitchen. There are normally bugs in the sacks of beans. Breakfast is always one hard boiled egg and four or five grams of cheese. They are not allowed to cook in their room.

Clothes & Shoes: An attempt has been made to provide some shoes for the smallest children, but most of them are still barefoot. No shoes are provided for anyone over the age of fifteen. I saw no clothes that would be adequate for the harsh winter conditions in this mountainous area.

Hygiene: This is the worst hygiene situation I have ever seen in Europe. There are only 6 toilets for 436 people (UNHCR in their own booklet on camp management demands a minimum of one toilet per 20 people). Water was continuously leaking from the roof of the bathroom I visited. The floor was covered in at least an inch of water. None of the faucets or toilets worked. Makeshift plastic pipes carrying the water could not be turned off, yet there was not enough water to carry off recent excrement in the toilet bowls. Since most of the young children don't have shoes, they always have to walk through this water to use the toilet. There are only 4 showers for 436 people.

Medical Aid: In their own words, they said the medical help was "zero." They have to buy their own medicines. They have to pay for a taxi out of their own pocket if they want to go to the hospital. At the hospital some Macedonian doctors refuse to treat them, saying UNHCR is responsible for their medical care.

Security: There is one Macedonian policeman on duty at the entrance gate to the hotel. I found him very strict but reasonable about allowing in visitors. I had to leave my passport with him, but was not restricted to the time I was allowed to visit during the day. I was told I could not take any photos. The Kosovar Gypsies are not suppose to venture more than 500 meters outside the hotel. Most don't even do that because they are afraid of the local Albanians.

Schools: There are no schools for these refugee children and UNHCR has made no effort to bring in teachers to keep up the education of these children. These children have not gone to school for over a year.

Transportation: none provided to visit relatives in other camps.

Communications: UNHCR provides no telephone service for these refugees to keep in contact with relatives. If they have money they can go to the telephone company and make calls, but most of the refugees have no pocket money at all. There is a telephone in the reception room to receive incoming calls. The telephone number is: 9938972-258. If the Ashkalij refugee David Berisha can be reached, he speaks some English.

Other Problems: (1) There is a washing machine in the basement of the building, but the Gypsies are not allowed to use it. They must wash all their clothes by hand. (2) Many ethnic Albanians living in Struga threaten the Gypsies when they hear they are from Kosovo. The local attitude is that the Kosovar Gypsies must have done something bad if they are refugees. The Gypsies are especially threatened in the local shops, mainly run by Albanians. (3) No press, not even the Macedonian press, have visited the Kosovar Gypsies, yet today when 2 families decided to return to Kosovo, UNHCR brought a journalist to photograph these families. Although these families were never nomadic, a horse was produced to doctor up the photo, to show "these Nomads"going home. (4) The Kosovar Gypsies in this camp have no idea who is trying to find a solution to their problems. The Macedonian government is threatening to expel them from the country on 28 June. These refugees have sent several petitions to UNHCR, UNMIK, Council of Europe and the Macedonian government, but they have never received a reply from anyone. UNHCR and OSCE representatives are trying to talk them into going back to Kosovo, but when the Gypsies ask if they will get their homes back, their jobs back, if they will have food and security, they get no reply. No one will tell them what is going to happen to them. Because of this, I found most of these refugees completely traumatized by their situation. They all say it is a torture to live like this, as if they were being tortured on purpose so that they would agree to return to Kosovo. The Romani spokesperson, Musa , asked: "Where are the people who fought for justice in Kosovo during the war? Why are they not now fighting for us, for our freedom?"

Summary: These Kosovar Gypsies expressed a deep gratitude to the Macedonian government for opening their border to them. But they realize they are in a poor country that can not afford refugees. 70% of the working population in Macedonia is living on state welfare. 12% of the working population is being paid less than the minimum wage. These Kosovar Gypsies expressed a deep desire to return to Kosovo when they have a home, security, schooling and a job. In the meantime, they would like to be protected in a third country where they would have enough to eat, and normal hygiene and medical conditions, and where their children could go to school. Renata Dubini, a UNHCR officer in Skopje, has visited these Kosovar refugees and agrees with them that UNHCR has made many mistakes in their case. But she offers no solutions and just tells them to "be happy." But it appears to me that the "rights" of these refugees contained in UNHCR's mission statement are being violated by the UNHCR staff in Macedonia. See below the mission statement of UNHCR as taken from their own web page.


UNHCR, the United Nations refugee organization, is mandated by the United Nations to lead and coordinate international action for the world-wide protection of refugees and the resolution of refugee problems. UNHCR's primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. UNHCR strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state and to return home voluntarily.
By assisting refugees to return to their own country or to settle in another country, UNHCR also seeks lasting solutions to their plight.
UNHCR's efforts are mandated by the organization's Statute and guided by the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.
International refugee law provides an essential framework of principles for UNHCR's humanitarian activities.
UNHCR's Executive Committee and the UN General Assembly have also authorized the organization's involvement with other groups. These include people who are stateless or whose nationality is disputed and, in certain circumstances, internally displaced persons.

Reproduced from http:/www.unhcr.ch/un&ref/missions/ms1.htm


Date: 25 May 2000

Location: Pretor Collective Center, Pretor (Macedonia), formerly a children's holiday center under the communists.

Informant(s): Ramiz Berisha, Baskim Berisha, Tahir Gara, Fatmir Berisha.

Population: 545 people (all Roma) in the camp including about one hundred small children. They are housed in two small hotels. The main building has 44 small rooms housing 83 families. There are 18 toilets in this building. The second building has 35 small rooms for 41 families. This building has 4 toilets.

Food: soup, spaghetti, boiled eggs, cheese, and old beans that are pest-infested. Each person gets 500 grams of soya meat per month, and one apple every ten days. No other fruit is ever handed out. There was milk for the babies for two months, but this has now stopped. Supper always consists of soup, spaghetti or maccaroni. The soup is made from the water of the pasta; nothing else is added. The quality of the food is zero. During the winter about 70% of the children had anemia and skin problems from lack of proper food. The staff has good food, so do any humanitarian aid agency visitors. The manager of the camp owns a restaurant in town and the best food goes there. There is no communal kitchen. The food is cooked by the staff and given out like army chow but has practically no nutrients.

Hygiene: Soap and shampoo are in short supply. The refugees are not given enough toilet paper, usually only old magazines. Individual wet razors are expected to last three months. The refugees clean their rooms and toilets themselves. But they are seldom given cleaning supplies.

Security: There are two Macedonian policemen on duty at the gate at all times. The refugees have freedom to enter and leave the camp, but they can not go into the local village without written permission. There is an 8 p.m. curfew. No journalists are allowed to visit the camp. When the police heard that I was a writer I was told I had to leave the area, that I could not even stay in a local hotel. The police said that only visitors authorized by UNHCR are allowed into the camp.

Medical Aid: A doctor comes to the camp every day for two hours, three hours maximum, except for Saturday and Sunday when there is no medical help. If the refugees want to see a doctor at any other time, they must pay for a taxi and go to a local hospital. There is no medicine given except aspirin no matter what problem you have. If there is an emergency, the refugees must call a taxi. The local hospital will not send an ambulance and the refugees have no money to pay for a taxi.

Schools: Two months after arriving the children were taken to school, but now that has been stopped because there are no books for them, no room in the local schools. Some books have been given to the parents for them to teach their own children but there are no organized classes anymore.

Transportation: none.

Communications: There is a telephone in the camp but not for out-going calls. Friends and relatives are allowed to call in but only from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Other Problems: (1) The rooms are too small. There are normally 13/14 people in a room designed to hold four children. There are usually two or three families in each room who don't know each other. The rooms on average are 25 square meters. Some rooms are only half that size for nine or ten people. (2) UNHCR has met with the refugees only once since December (a month ago) for three hours to discuss their future. The refugees were told that only the Macedonian government could find a solution for them. The refugees asked about refugee status in a third country but UNHCR said that no country was offering refugee status for anyone from Kosovo since June of last year. (3) All the refugees are traumatized from their experience of having their homes burned and having to leave their homeland. No one will tell them what is going to happen to them. They are not leading normal lives and no one is trying to help them lead a normal life. They live in front of a resort lake surrounded by beautiful mountains but their life is far from idyllic.

Since the Macedonian police would not let me visit this camp, we had to hold our meeting in a nearby restaurant. Because there were other people present, they could not speak freely. So we went to the beach. They told me that many locals involved in the tourist business are objecting to their staying here, because they feel Gypsies in a summer resort will hurt the tourist trade. The refugees are only allowed to leave the camp in a 2 km radius and only then with written permission from the police. If the police find them drinking or smell alcohol on their breath, they are beaten. The camp manager is a Turk by the name of Hikmet Mustafovich. He owns a local restaurant and is a great friend of the local police. The Gypsies say he takes a part of every food shipment sent into the camp for his own business interests. The International Red Cross recently sent a large shipment of canned chicken, but the refugees only received one 275 gram can for every five people. The camp manager reported 275 cans "stolen." He also requested 10 tvs for the camp, 2 per floor; the refugees believe the tv sets arrived but they never received them. The refugees feel that Hikmet is either taking their supplies or selling them off and then accusing the Gypsies of stealing them. The camp manager has reported food, blankets and pillows which have gone missing, but these items are not in the camp. Gossip has been circulated by the Macedonian police in the local neighborhood that the Gypsies in the camp are killers and thieves from Kosovo. The locals I have spoken to say they have had no problems with the camp Gypsies.

UNHCR, to entice the local community to allow a Gypsy refugee camp here, promised to improve the local telephone line and other amenities, which they have done. But promises made to the refugees, such as better living conditions and better food if they would move here, have not been fulfilled. UNHCR now wants to relocate all the Gypsy refugees in the collective centers in Macedonia to a tent city in the Gypsy neighborhood of Shutka by Skopje. UNHCR staff believes that all Kosovar Gypsies used to live in tents and are used to the nomadic way of life, which is not true. Albanian refugees are still in Macedonia, but they are free to go anywhere, have tvs, plenty of food, and good living accommodations. The Minister for Social Welfare who is in charge of all refugees in Macedonia is Bedredim Ibrahim, an ethnic Albanian. Several of the camp Gypsies told me that they cannot wait any longer for a solution to their lives and wish someone would just come and kill them like the Gypsies were killed during World War Two. UNHCR and the Macedonian police are always threatening to take the whole camp to the border and deport them if anyone runs away from the camp. The refugees say they are more psychologically afraid today than they were in the camp in Kosovo. They are afraid to talk to anyone, afraid of the police, who are always threatening them if they protest about the living conditions. A recent thunderstorm frightened their children, because they thought they were being bombed by NATO again. Many Gypsy parents feel their children will never be normal again after living in these camps. Many of the Kosovar Gypsies in this camp have taken illegal jobs digging ditches and working in local construction for 5DM per day, when the local wage for Macedonians is 15 DM per day. They showed me their blistered hands and said they were working so they would have some money in case there was a health emergency and a member of their family had to be taken to hospital by taxi. The police and UNHCR refuse to take them to hospital in emergency cases. Many are also selling their own clothes outside the camp, to obtain cash for cigarettes and for taxis in an emergency. Some have been caught selling their spare clothes by the police and now have to appear in court to answer charges of selling clothes given to them by UNHCR.

Most of the refugees are desperate to return to Kosovo when it is safe to do so. They don't want to go to a third country forever, only until it is safe to return to their own country. If Kosovo is safe tomorrow, they will return tomorrow. One of the camp leaders, Mitzi Berisha, became totally blind about four months ago. He was operated on for a tumor and was told that with therapy it would be possible to regain his sight. UNHCR has refused to find him therapy here or in a third country, even though they have done so for Albanian refugees in similar circumstances. Many old refugees in the camp find it impossible to walk up four flights of stairs to their rooms and have to be carried by their relatives.

These refugees say that for three months they had to live through the NATO bombing, during which time they were beaten by the Serb police, who thought they were Albanian. After the Albanians returned, they burned the Gypsy homes, forcing the Roma, Ashkalij and Egyptians to flee the country. Now the international community has abandoned them, and they don't know why. The KLA has now established itself in this part of Macedonia because of the large Albanian community here, and many Gypsies in the camp have received threats from them, saying that the refugees wouldn't be here if they hadn't done something bad back home. There are approximately 3000 Kosovar Gypsies in these six collective centers in Macedonia and already 7 have died because of a lack of medical attention. In the Stankovac II camp, which housed 23,000 Albanians, no lives were lost. Several refugees have asked me to try and find their families in Kosovo, to see if they are still alive, still there. No humanitarian aid agency, including the International Red Cross, is helping these refugees find their families. It was reported to me by one family in this camp today that no more Gypsies now live in Shtime, Kosovo. Two were recently murdered there and the rest have fled. The last time I visited Shtime in November 1999, I found many Gypsy families still living there.

Paul Polansky


Date: 27 May 2000

Location: the Romani community in Shtime (Ferizaj). Today there are only 9 Romani homes still occupied with about 110 inhabitants. The Roma have no information about the Ashkalij community in Shtime except that they (the Ashkalij) appear to have no problems.

Informant(s): Nurie Demiri, Kovachi Rom, and other Roma living in the house.

Food: Aid Agency delivering food to them is Mother Teresa Society. Demiri's latest ration card was issued on 29 January 2000. Their ration card has the following list of aid for their family of five people:

April: 60 kilos flour, 5 kilos rice, 10 kilos beans, 4 liters oil, 5 kilos sugar, 2 kilos salt.
May: 50 kilos flour, 5 kilos rice, 10 kilos beans, 4 liters oil, 5 kilos sugar.

Hygiene: UNMIK brings them hygiene materials (soap, shampoo, etc,) every two weeks on a Monday. Also some milk and fresh vegetables. Never any meat.

Security: Protected by KFOR. They have no problems in Shtime, only if they go to Pristina, which they never do, especially after the killings in January (see below).

Medical Aid: A local Albanian doctor tends to their needs. They have never been turned away. They have no complaints about medical aid.

Clothes & Shoes: They say they have enough clothes to survive, but most of the young children do not have shoes.

Education: Only two Romani children go to school in Shtime. They can pass for white. The other children, about thirty in number, do not attend school because the Albanians beat them up.

Shopping: They have no problems shopping in their neighborhood. They don't have much money for shopping but the Albanian shopkeepers do not turn them away.

Jobs: They can not go back to their jobs before the war, but they do make some pocket money by unloading humanitarian aid and doing "private" jobs for local people. The Finnish KFOR are rebuilding the main highway through Shtime. A large local workforce is employed in building the highway but no Gypsies have been given a job.

Transportation: They can take the local bus to Ferizaj, but that is the only nearby city they can visit. If they travel outside of the area of Ferizaj/ Shtime/Dubrava, they fear they will be killed.

Communications: They have no form of communication to contact relatives outside of this area. They have no telephone and KFOR/UNMIK provides no postal or telephone service for them.

Other Problems: On 30th of December last year, two young Romani men from the Shtime area were murdered by Pristina Albanians. Three Roma were driving from Shtime past Pristina to visit relatives when four Albanians in a white van pulled them over. The Albanians produced guns and asked to see the identity cards of the three Roma. When the Roma produced their identity cards, the Albanians ripped them up, then forced the Roma to abandon their car and get in the white van. They were driven to a woods near Gllogoc. On the way the Albanians gave them candy and fruit juice to calm them down. The Albanians told them not to go out at night and to behave themselves. But when they got to the woods, the Roma realized they were going to be murdered and fought back. One of them, Muharem Kopili, the biggest of the three, escaped. He was shot twice in the arm but still managed to get away. Later he heard two more shots (the shots that killed his friends). He walked two nights in the woods until he got back to his home in Dubrava. He reported the incident to the local KFOR. They refused to take down any details, even a description of the four killers. After the bodies of his friends were found, UNMIK and OSCE took a statement from Kopili, but the killers have never been arrested. Kopili's wife (who was visiting Shtime at the time we were there) told me this story. She said that her husband (who is 27 years old) could recognized these men. He saw their faces, but the killers have not been apprehended. The four killers looked to be between 27 and 35 years old. They kidnaped the three Gypsies when they were near the Obilich-Kosovo Polje intersection near the Pristina bus station. Not far away, on the same road, is UCK/KLA headquarters.

This is a translation of the newspaper article about the murders:

Date: 7 January 2000, in the newspaper KOHA Ditore, page 9:


Gllogoc, 6 January- On the 30th of Dec 1999 in the village of Trstenik (Gllogoc) in the woods of Bylykbashve was found two people murdered. The area of the murder was under the control of the Canadian KFOR. KFOR made photos of the murder scene. OSCE said the two men were brought from Pristina and killed in the woods. The police identified the murdered men as Vehet Demiri, 22 years old, a Rom Gypsy, from Shtime. The other was Shab Guliqi, 27 years old, also a Rom Gypsy from Dubrava, by Ferizaj. UNMIK police took information from another man who escaped from the murderers.

As our visit was ending, I was told that tomorrow in Dubrava a big meeting will being held by the Ashkalij there. The meeting is being organized by UNMIK and OSCE as a public relation exercise to show that Dubrav had no Gypsy homes burned during or after the war. The two main Kosovar Albanian leaders, Thaci and Rugova, will attend with Dr. Bernard Kouchner, the UN administrator for the Kosovo Protectorate. I told my interpreter Hisen that we must attend, but he said he feared going there because there will be a lot of KLA in attendance. The president of the Dubrava Ashkalij community, Sabit, was a member of the KLA during the war, that was why his village was never burned after the war. Sabit informed on many Roma, falsely accusing them of collaborating with the Serbs, to save his own family and village. I told Hisen we had to go visit Sabit today (Saturday) to see what the program is for tomorrow (Sunday).

When we got to Dubrava an hour later, we could find no one in the village who knew about the meeting tomorrow. If Sabit had arranged a public relations exercise with Thaci, Rugova and Kouchner, none of the Ashkalij knew about it.

While there, we found Kopili, the young man who had escaped the murder of his two friends. He was now in Dubrava visiting his parents. He confirmed most of what his wife had told us, but said he was not wounded. He had run so fast through the woods, the branches and brush had cut him badly around the face and arms. He said he wandered in the woods for almost two days before he found a KFOR unit. He took them and the UNMIK police to the murder scene where they found the bodies unburied. He was taken to Pristina to give more information to UNMIK police then driven home to Dubrava. One of the men killed was his bother-in-law. He said the killers were between 27 and 30 years old. All four were Albanian. They drove a white van. His own car has never been found. Neither have the killers although he gave a good description of them to the UN police.

Kopili is one of the blackest Gypsies I have ever seen. It is easy to see how he was spotted and stopped by the Albanians. I asked him several questions about Sabit but Kopili appeared too scared to say anything. After coffee, we met a man who said Thaci, Rugova and Kouchner were coming to Ferizaj tomorrow and might come to Dubrava to show the press a Gypsy community that had no problems because they knew how to behave.

Paul Polansky
Preoce, Kosovo
May 27, 2000


Date: 28 May 2000

Location: Lapje Selo (Kovachi Rom and Serb village 8 kilometers south of Pristina)

Informant(s): Gjemal Eminoviq, factory worker in Lapje Selo and Romani leader of the community.

Food: Geneva Red Cross brings food about every six weeks. It is not enough, but we are very grateful for what they do bring. His ration card for his family of five people was issued on 6 January 2000 and has the following information on aid:

8 Jan: 44 kilos flour, 4 kilos rice, 4 liters oil, 800 grams salt.
19 Feb: 44 kilos flour, 4 kilos rice, 8 kilos beans, 4 liters oil, one kilo sugar, 500 grams salt.
18 Mar: 48 kilos flour, 4 kilos rice, 8 kilos beans, 4 liters oil, 1.2 kilos sugar, 800 grams salt.
2 Apr: 3.4 kilos oranges
30 Apr: 35 kilos flour, 7.5 kilos beans, 3 liters oil, 700 grams sugar, 750 grams salt.
266 May: 35 kilos flour, 2.5 kilos beans, 3 liters oil, 500 grams sugar, 250 grams salt.

Hygiene: Only once did they receive soap, hygience materials, about a year ago.

Security: Village today is protected by Norweigein KFOR. They are very much respected by all the people.

Medical Aid: Serb doctor lives in the village and attends all emergency cases. The nearest clinic is in Grachanisa or Kosovo Polje that will attend Serbs and Roma. The local doctor does not have enough medicine for the people; no humanitarian agency such as Red Cross, Medicine du Monde brings them supplies.

Clothes & Shoes: They do not have enough clothes or shoes, especially for the children and they have no nearby place to buy such supples. They cant go into Prisitina without fear of being killed, so most of the children are without shoes and proper clothing.

Education: They have a school in the village and everyone (both Serb and Roma) goes to it.

Shopping: Grachanica is the only place where they can go shopping. They go their in their cars in convoy.

Jobs: There is a local factory still running and many of the men still work here. The average wage is about 100 DM per month.

Transportation: There is no bus to go to other villages. There is a school bus to bring children to school.

Communications: About 95% of the homes have a telephone.

Other Problems: During the war and after the war, no one left. But they have some Serb and Roma refugees living in private homes. The only real problems they have are with Albanians driving on the main highway from Pristina. Sometimes the Albanians stop to threaten them.



"Micky" as he is known to everyone is a school teacher during the week, and a barber on weekends. Not only all the Kovachi Roma come to him for a haircut, but also all the Serbs in his village of Lapje Selo. He teaches mechanics at the local high school to students between the ages of 12 and 16. Micky is also president of the Romani Association of central Kosovo. This is a non-political cultural organization. I interviewed Micky on 28 May 2000.

PP: How many Roma, Ashkalij and Egyptians lived in Kosovo just before the war?

ME: In my opinion, all the censuses and all the reports on Roma, Ashkalij and Egyptian inhabitants of Kosovo have always been underestimated because the majority of these people, my people, were afraid to call themselves Majupi. I truly believe that before the war there were almost 500,000 people who were Majupi.

PP: How many "Majupi" live here today in Kosovo?

ME: That is very difficult to say. In some towns such as Grachanica, the Majupi are actually returning. In other places where there is a large Albanian population such as Pristina, Pec, Mitrovice, and Orahavac the Majupi are still leaving. But I think only 10% of the Majupi people are still here in Kosovo today, maybe less.

PP: I see and hear that there is no danger for you in your own village of Lapje Selo. But are you still afraid to travel on the road, or to go into Pristina, the capital of Kosovo?

ME: Yes, it is true, we have no problems, no danger of attack in our village from Albanians. But it is still too dangerous to go on the highway if you have dark skin. It is impossible to go into Pristina. Majupi are still kidnaped and killed if they are found on the streets in Pristina.

PP: Do you think Kosovo will ever return to being a normal place to live, where Albanians, Serbs and Majupi can live together?

ME: I think so. It won't happen over night. But I believe that in four or five years, life will be almost back to normal. After all, Kosovo is our land too. We were here before the Albanians. We came after the Serbs, but we were here before the Albanians. It is our country too. Don't forget, the Turks had Kosovo for over 500 years. It was the Serbs who got took it back from them, not the Albanians.

PP: Have your ancestors always lived in Lapje Selo?

ME: My father's ancestors have always lived here for as far back as anyone can remember. But my mother's side of the family comes from Crkvena Vodica by Obilich.

PP: Do you still have relatives in Crkvena Vodica?

ME: No one lives there now. Before the war there were 97 Romani homes, but after the war the Albanians burned them all down. Most of my relatives from there are now refugees in Macedonia. My mother wants to go back and take photos of the ruins of her family home, but I am afraid to take her. I have a car, but I wont drive it on the highway. Too many Roma have been stopped by Albanians and never seen again.

PP: Did most Majupi have a job before the war in Kosovo?

ME: Yes. Most worked in construction or in the mines. Others worked on farms. Some had very good jobs. I personally knew two Romani medical doctors and several teachers. The Majupi have always been the backbone of the labor force in Kosovo.

PP: Why did the Majupi leave Kosovo during the war, after the war?

ME: The Roma don't like war. They don't like to fight. We have always left a country at war. That is our history, the history of our people and why they have always had to move, to avoid a war. We live for our music, not for someone else's war.

PP: Does anyone else in your family have a job besides yourself?

ME: My father still works at the factory in Lapje Selo. Now he has a month's holiday so he is building himself a small blacksmith shop in our backyard. That is our family profession, the profession of our ancestors. He has always worked part-time on weekends as a blacksmith but now he wants to have his own shop and leave the factory.

PP: So your family is confident that there is a future in Kosovo?

ME: Yes. We believe in our country. We believe things will return to normal. It will take time. But in four or five years we believe we will have a future again.

Paul Polansky
Lapje Selo
May 28, 2000


Date: 29 May 2000

Location: Kosovo Polje. About 1,900 Ashkalij and about 474 Roma still live here according to our informants.

Informant(s): Qerim Gara, president of the Ashkalij Association of Kosovo Polje. Over fifty Ashkalij attended our interview. Only the president spoke, but everyone present appeared to agree with everything he said.

Food: They don't know the name of the aid agency supply their food.. It is not written on their ration cards. The food comes from UNHCR but the Gypsies don't know who distributes it. The Gypsies say they don't get enough to eat. They all certainly looked very thin to me, much thinner than when I saw them the end of October.

Aid noted on ration card of Naim Peqani of Kosovo Polje (family of nine):

21 Jan: some children's blankets, 100 kilos flour
6 Feb: 9 kilos beans, 9 liters oil, 1 kilo salt
12 Feb: one can of sardine or beef (150 grams) per person.
12 Feb: ½ cubic meter of wood per family
12 Feb: 900 kilos of coal per family for the entire winter
28 Mar: some clothes per family (normally one pair of pants for the men, and boots for some of the children).
27 April: 4 kilos potatoes, 2 oranges per person, 100 kilos flour, 27 kilos beans, 1 kkilo salt.
22 May: 100 kilos flour, 18 kilos beans, 10 liters oil, 1.2 kilos salt.

Hygiene: They have received no soap or hygiene products since my visit the end of October. They say that a lack of soap is their biggest problem at the moment. Osfam delivered the last supply of soap to them the end of October and promised to come back every two weeks but hasnt returned since the last delivery in October.

Security: They are protected by Norweigen KFOR. Also the UNMIK police make some patrols. They are grateful for this security but feel it is not enough. Albanians are still threatening them in the center of town and on the highway. Yesterday a Gypsy car broke down on the highway from Kosovo Polje to Pristina. Every Albanian car that passed them stopped to threaten them, to tell them to leave the country or they would be killed. The Albanians did not attack them because there was a constant flow of KFOR traffic but none of the KFOR vehicles stopped to help them.

Medical Aid: Medicine du Monde has a clinic here two times per week for about ten hours a day, but there is no hospital here for major cases. Medicine du Monde does not have enough medicine to give to most of the sick people. Many Gypsies here require injections but they have to go to Pristina University hospital to get the medicine and they are afraid to go on the highway to Pristina. They have no KFOR escort to Pristina hospital ever.

Clothes & Shoes: They are desperate for clothes, especially shoes. By the time our interview was underway there were over fifty Gypsies attending. All showed me their broken shoes, and ragged clothes. Most children in the town do not have any shoes. Red Cross brought a truck load of shoes, but only for the right foot. Since the Gypsies could not wear only one shoe, they used the shoes to heat their stoves.

Education: They have their own Gypsy school. But many children who live a long distance from the school refuse to go because Albanians throw stones at them on the way to school. There is no school bus and no KFOR escort for school children.

Shopping: The Albanian shopkeepers here refuse to serve anyone with a dark-skinned face. If the shopkeepers recognized someone with a white face who is Gypsy, they tell them to get out of their shop. Yesterday an Ashkalij woman tried to take a taxi to the hospital in Pristina and was told by the Albanian driver that he recognized her as Gypsy and wouldn't take her.

Jobs: Before the war, everyone in Kosovo Polje worked, but since the end of the war the Albanians wont let them go back to their jobs.

Transportation: There is no public transportation. Even if there was, no one would go to Pristina, the nearest big city. They know that any Gypsy found on the streets of Pristina will be kidnaped and killed.

Communications: No one has a telephone in their home, but a few have mobile telephones to receive in-coming calls. No one has the money to buy a telephone card to call out.

Other Problems: Last week four Ashkalij families came back from Macedonia. They didnt have a home to come back to, but relatives gave them a room. No one has come to help them rebuild their homes or give them food. The Gypsies in Kosovo Polje have 200 burned homes (88 Ashkalij and 112 Roma). UNHCR has promised to bring them building materials but to date the Gypsies have received nothing. A Japanese organization, UNHCR and the Red Cross have all promised aid to rebuild their homes but to date nothing has been done. They have Gypsy refugees here from Peje and Podujevo, whose homes have been burned. These people have nothing to live in, they are living in rubble in Kosovo Polje. The president asked for special help for these people.

The biggest problem is that they are not free to work, to shop, to travel to other communities to visit relatives.

I asked for an address to send them clothes from the United States. The president said he has a postal address for the Red Cross in Kosovo Polje for aid packages, but told me not to send anything there. The Red Cross does not want to help them. The Red Cross never turn over anything sent to them by their relatives abroad. He told me to send all aid to:

Skender Batali
Lagje 29
38210 Kosovo Polje

In order to win Albanian sympathy and support, many of the local Gypsies are wearing red and black KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) t-shirts. But this has not prevented them from being beaten or helped with humanitarian aid.


Date: 29 May 2000

Location: Kosovo Polje, home of Querimi Halil.


Until thirteen days ago, Qerimi was a Kosovar Ashkalij refugee in Macedonia. He escaped kosovo on July 18th and was interned as a Kosovar refugee in the UNHCR camp Stenkovac 2 by Skopje with his family of eleven people. He left Kosovo because of threats by Albanians in Kosovo Polje. He was afraid his family would be killed. He had worked for seven months in Switzerland and saved enough money to build a three story home on the outskirts of Kosovo Polje. While he was in Macedonia his parents home was burned. His home was only looted, not burned.

PP: Why did you come back to Kosovo?

QH: I came back because I was told by UNHCR that Kosovo free now. I love my homeland. Before the war my uncle and I had a small construction company. We built homes. Since UNHCR said Kosovo was now free and I could return without problems, I came back with the idea of restarting my construction company.

PP: You spent the last eight months in the collection center, Struga 2. What were conditions like there?

QH: I had no problems. The conditions were okay. I had no problems shopping. I got on well with the Macedonian people there. My daughter worked for Oxfam there and I worked for UNICEF. I got a certificate for participating in a Teacher Training Seminar organized by UNICEF.

PP: When we visited Struga 1 we found the hygiene conditions very bad. What were the hygiene conditions like in Struga 2?

QH: Struga 2 did not have so many people as Struga 1, so the conditions were better. In Struga 1 there were too many people for the size of the building.

PP: Did UNHCR pressure you to come back to Kosovo?

QH: No, I volunteered to come back after UNHCR told me Kosovo was now free.

PP: Are there many people who want to come back?

QH: Yes, there are many Roma, Ashkalij and Egyptians who want to return to their homeland. If they had a home, they would all come back.

PP: What do you plan to do in Kosovo?

QH: Let me show you a project I have. I have a project I designed with UNICEF to help get our children back to school and how to overcome the problems they have. Hyigene and education must go hand in hand. I hope to get this project accepted for Kosovo Polje. I know it is impossible to put this project into operation today with the Albanians still trying to drive us out, but some day I hope the situation will be stabilized and we can go forward.

PP: You have been back here for 13 days. What problems have you found in Kosovo Polje?

QH: The main problem is that I found my house partly destroyed. Tiles missing from the roof. UNHCR will give me nothing. I have no blankets, no beds, no stove. UNHCR has the information about my house but they have yet to visit me, to see how difficult it is to live in a partly destroyed home.

PP: Did UNHCR tell you they would help you if you came back?

QH: UNHCR told me only that Kosovo was free, that I could come home. They only promised to bring us here.

PP: Do you think it is safe to go to Pristina?

QH: I am afraid to go there.

PP: Do you feel you are free to travel anywhere outside of Kosovo Polje?

QH: No. I wont go outside of this town.

PP: So you are not free yet?

QH: No, not yet. I heard in Macedonia that Kosovo was free now. That's why I came back. But in 13 days I have found that the country is not free yet for Gypsies.

PP: Are you getting any food, clothes, help of any kind?

QH: So far we have not received our ration cards. We registered but have received no food yet, nothing.

PP: How have you lived for 13 days here?

QH: From Macedonia I brought some flour, some rice, some money. UNHCR gave us $100 per adult and $50 per child to return to Kosovo. We hope this will last until we get our ration cards.

PP: How many people are living in your home now?

QH: There are eleven of us here now. We are trying to repair our home, especially the roof so it doesnt rain on us.

PP: Despite the problems, you have found here-such as the lack of freedom to travel-are you happy you came back?

QH: No. I am not happy. My mother who is sick says it was a big mistake to come back (Note: at this point she started to cry). Yes, it was a big mistake to come back.

PP: If you had the opportunity to return to Macedonia now, would you?

QH: Some of my family wants to return today. Others want to stay. All our relatives are here. I want to be with them. That was the main reason we came back. If all our relatives had been with us in Macedonia, we never would have returned.

PP: How did you find your relatives here, in what condition?

QH: I was surprised to see they were living in such bad conditions. No job. Very little aid, very little food. They don't have enough money to buy cigarettes. If I would have known how bad it was here for them, I too would never have returned.


Date: 30 May 2000

Location: Mitrovice. South side there are 40 Ashkalij families; all the Roma and Ashkalij on the north side have gone to the Zvechan refugee camp.

Informant(s): Bajram Avdiu, president of the Ashkalij association of Mitrovice.

Food: For two months they have received no aid. The local aid agency is Mother Teresa but that society has stopped delivering to Gypsies in this area.

Nexat Bamtiri's ration card for seven people reads:

29 Jan: 50 kilos flour, 7 kilos rice, 14 kilos beans, 3 liters oil.
22 Feb: 50 kilos flour, 7 kilos rice, 14 kilos beans, 4 liters oil, 2 kilos sugar.
31 Mar: 50 kilos flour, 7 kilos rice, 14 kilos beans, 4 liters oil.

Nothing since although Mother Teresa (Nena Tereze) received three days ago a large shipment for the Albanian community.

Hygiene: An aid agency from Arabia brought them one kilo of detergent for clothes one month ago. That is the only hygiene material they have had in one year.

Security: French KFOR last year made daily patrols through their neighborhood, but since the New Year the Polish KFOR are in charge of this neighborhood and they never make patrols. The Ashkalij never go out anymore because of a lack of security.

Medical Aid: Last year for the last three months they had medical aid from Medicine du Monde France came to visit them on a regular basis. But again since the New Year there has been no medical attention. They are afraid to go to the local Albanian hospital. If Albanians see them in the street they threaten them and ask why they are still in Kosovo. The nurses in the hospital also threaten them. During the bombing the Serbs terrorized us, now the Albanians are terrorizing us. We are between two fires. We have been here forever, but now we are told this is not our land and we must leave.

Clothes & Shoes: The French always looked after us. We got clothes and shoes from them, but now that the French are leaving we get nothing. They visited UNHCR, UNMIK and other aid agencies. They always promise but we never receive anything from them.

Education: The kids are going to school, but when they go outside with the Albanian kids they are teased and threatened. The children always come home from school in tears. Sometimes they are beaten.

Shopping: Only one shop in town who knows they will sell them food. All other shops refuse to serve them. They are afraid to go in the streets.

Jobs: One son and one son-in-law have been accepted into the Kosovo Protection Corps. They were back by the French KFOR for these jobs. These are the only two Majupi in the K.C. So far they have no problems. The Albanians don't want to see them back at their old jobs.

Transportation: There is no public transportation for them. They are afraid to go on the city buses because of threats by Albanians. If they have to visit a relative, they have to take a taxi with a driver who knows them.

Communications: They have a telephone in the president's house; there are two other phones in the other 39 homes. The telephone number here is: 028-31547.

Other Problems: What is their biggest problem? Food. They haven't had food for two months. The next biggest problem is to find a job, to be able to work. This is what the president of the Ashkalij of Mitrovice says in a very loud voice. UNMIK said the 12th of April that all Gypsy refugees must come back to Kosovo by the end of August. He feels this is impossible. They have no homes for the people to come back to. Over 3,000 Gypsy homes in Mitrovice have been burned down since the end of the war. UNHCR, UNMIK and OSCE have visited them on many occasion to see how they are getting on, but after promising to bring help, aid, they never do.


Date: 30 May 2000

Location: Pristina (Brigodaeranis)

Informant(s): Mehmet Jashari. His family have not been outside their home in over one year.

Food: ADRA brought rations once a month from November to February but have not been back since then. ADRA did not give them a ration card.

Hygiene: They have not received any supplies since I got OXFAM to bring them soap and shampoo in November. OXFAM have not been back since them.

Security: Dutch KFOR visited them two months ago and brought some flour, onion, sugar, salt, coca cola and some candy for the children. A KFOR patrol is often on their street.

Medical Aid: No medical team has been to see them since we took a Spanish doctor to check out the whole family last November.

Clothes & Shoes: Dutch KFOR brought them some clothes when they visited but not much. They are in desperate need for clothes and shoes.

Education: The kids do not go to school. Although they live in the center of Pristina, they are afraid to go outside. The school is less than a kilometer away, but they fear their children would be kidnaped if they were seen in the streets of Pristina. The father attended school there 20 years ago.

Shopping: There are 18 people in this family but the only one who can go out to buy is a fifteen year old who can pass for white. The rest of the family is afraid to go outside.

Jobs: The last time any member of the family worked was in 1992. They worked in a small linen factory as a foreman. Serbs and Albanians worked in the factory, but they didn't want any Gypsy there. His brother cleaned a gym until three years ago; then he worked in the construction business. They did odd jobs for people until the bombing started.

Transportation: There is public transportation in Pristina but they are afraid to use it.

Communications: They have no telephone, no communication with anyone. Their only visitors are the odd KFOR patrol.

Other Problems: During the bombing they were afraid of the Serbs. Now they are afraid of the Albanians. No one has come to the house to threaten them. People in the neighborhood know they are here. What is their biggest problem? They are afraid to go out of their home. They have heard on the radio that Gypsies found in Pristina are kidnaped and killed.


Date: 31 May 2000


Location: Pristina---U.S. Office (United States Department of State) and WFP (World Food Program)

My first meeting was with Laurence Jones, Refugee Officer, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, United States Department of State.

We met at 8 a.m. at the United States compound across from Oxfam on Dragodan Hill overlooking Pristina. I gave Laurence a copy of the Survey of Gypsy Communities published by the Society for Threatened People and told him this survey had been instrumental in getting food aid to the Kosovar Gypsies since last November and for convincing the German government not to send Kosovar Gypsies back to Kosovo until it is safe to do so. I told him about my efforts to lobby Washington DC politicians and government offices seeking refugee status for the Kosovar Gypsies, especially those in Macedonia who face expulsion on June 28th. I also explained how the situation for Gypsies today in Kosovo was not improving and that in the last week I had found food aid had been cut off in many Gypsy communities.

Laurence was sympathetic to the plight of the Kosovar Gypsies but felt refugee status for them was out of the question. He was sure the United States government would not allow them in even for a temporary stay. He felt the only solution was to provide better aid and protection for them in Kosovo and to somehow get a program going to rebuild their homes. He agreed to speak with his colleagues in Macedonia and to arrange a meeting with them for me. He also agreed to pass on the project I have for putting roofs on the 14,000 burned out Gypsies homes in Kosovo. He has only visited the Ashkalij community in Kosovo Polje and knew nothing about the Kosovar Gypsies and their culture. He was under the stereotypical impression that they were nomadic and had collaborated with the Serbs during the war. He did not know that the Serbs had a concentration camp for Gypsies at Grachanica during the war.

Yesterday I had a meeting with Karen Levine of the Political-Economic department of the State Department in Pristina. Hisen and I took her to Crkvena Vodica to view the 97 burned out Romani homes there (mainly the homes of the Kosovar Roma refugees in Macedonia), then to Plemetina to meet the Kovachi community there, then to Mitrovice to meet the remaining Ashkalij community (40 families out of a pre-war population of 3,000 families). American State Department personnel are only allowed to travel outside of Pristina in armored vehicles, so Hisen and I were treated to a ride her in chauffeur-driven 8 ton armor-plated Chevy Suburban. When we returned to Pristina we took Karen to an Ashkalij family who have not been outside their ghetto home in Pristina in over a year. There are 18 members of this family and the only one they send out for food is a fifteen-year-old girl who can pass for white. Karen was much taken by the situation of the Gypsies and promised to do all she could to help us. She is the one who arranged the meeting with Laurence today and with WFP (World Food Program) this afternoon at 2 p.m. to see if we can get food aid back to the Gypsy communities who have been cut off from all aid in the last two months.

At 2 p.m. I met with Susan Bradley of the U.S. State Department who accompanied me on my meeting with WFP. She works half the year in Washington DC and half the year in Pristina. She introduced me to Laura Linkenback, head of the Sub-Office of Pristina for WFP. I told both ladies about my concern that food aid to Gypsies in Kosovo was being cut off, at the very least reduced. I told them UNHCR was forcing Gypsies to return to Kosovo but it would be a failed policy if food was reduced or withdrawn at the same time. I told them about finding a family in Pristina who had no food from ADRA for four months, and that Mitrovice had no food for two months. Laura admitted that food was being cut back if monitors felt people did not need it. Obviously this was not the case with Gypsies. Laura agreed to check into this and report back within a week. She promised not to cut food aid to Kosovar Gypsies if they needed it. Susan expressed her concern about UNHCR policy of not wanting Serbs to return to Kosovo but forcing Gypsies to return. She said it didn't make sense. She felt Gypsies should be sent to a third country until it was safe to return to Kosovo and offered to see what she could do to help. She felt the State Department head in Macedonia could help. This woman (Culpepper?) is coming to Kosovo next week and Jones had already agreed to get me a meeting with her. Laura then told me that there was a welfare program being started up to provide small sums of cash to old-age pensioners who had nothing and people who had a physical disability and couldn't work. She said these forms were already in the social welfare centers of most cities. I told her that most Gypsies couldn't travel to these centers and asked for forms to hand out. She said that was impossible, they could only be handed out by aid agencies authorized by UNHCR. It sounds like a catch-22 problem for Gypsies. We finished our meeting with Laura promising to get back to me within the week about the problems of reduced aid to Gypsies. She personally was going to monitor and to rectify it.


Date: 31 May 2000

Location: Vuchitrn (Vushtrri).

Informant(s): Bajram Qizmoli, Ashkalij butcher in Vushtrri, and several Ashkalij neighbors and relatives we found in his uncle's home where Bajram is now living.

Food: They get food once a month from Mother Teresa Society. Mainly flour, oil, beans and rice. They received their latest supply today. They have no complaints about food. That is not their biggest problem.

Hygiene: Hygiene is one of their biggest problems. Everyone gets milk. They would gladly exchange half of their milk for soap. They have not had any soap or washing detergent for over six months. Several aid agencies have visited them, asking what they need. The Ashkalij always say soap, but they never get any.

Security: This is their biggest problem. They can no longer go into the center of town. Their children have not been to school in over a year. Vuchitrn used to be 40% Albanian and 60% Serb, Gorani (Serb Muslim), Turkish, Roma and Ashkalij. All the Gorani have been driven out, along with all the Roma and 70% of the Turks. Only 23 Ashkalij families have remained and they are under constant attack. Bombs are thrown into their courtyards on a regular basis and often their windows are shot out. Two Ashkalij families tried to move back a month ago. Their first night in town they suffered a bomb attack. They left the next day. Last year several families tried to move back too, but when one of them was kidnaped they left too.

Medical Aid: They prefer to go to the KFOR clinic. Although it is further away than the Albanian hospital, KFOR does not charge them for medicine. Since none of the Ashkalij are allowed by the Albanians to go back to work, they prefer to get their medicine where they don't have to pay since they don't have much if any money.

Clothes & Shoes: They don't have much in the way of clothes and shoes but they don't consider this a big problem. Hygiene and security are their two biggest problems. They are traumatized by a lack of security and hygiene.

Education: Their children have not been to school in over a year. They stopped going to school during the NATO bombing and haven't been back since then. UNMIK has tried to get them to open an Ashkalij school but they are afraid to let their children go anywhere outside of their own homes.

Shopping: They only go to the one shop in their local neighborhood. None of them have been in the center of the city (five blocks away) since the end of November. If they venture outside of their neighborhood no one will talk to them, fearing the Albanians will attack them too for talking to Gypsies.

Jobs: No one can go back to work. In October several men were invited back to work. They went but were never seen again.

Transportation: There is no KFOR transportation for them. They are afraid to go on the city buses because of threats by Albanians. If they have to visit a relative, they have to take a taxi with a driver who knows them.

Communications: They have only three telephones among their 23 houses. But they do not consider communications a problem except with UN police. The police seldom believe them when they report an Albanian attack, or theft. The UN police are pro-Albanian and for this reason communication with the police is difficult.

Other Problems: They are not free. They are not free to go to work, to go to school, to go shopping, to travel on the highways. They feel they are prisoners in their own city and can not take it much longer. All would like to sell their homes and leave for another country. Most are planning to do so.


Date: 31 May 2000

Location: Vuchitrn (Vushtrri).


PP: Bajram, yesterday I drove past your butcher shop in Vuchitrn and saw it was boarded up. Why?

BQ: We had to close it because of bomb attacks. On 13 November, some Albanians threw a bomb into my shop. It didn't go off and KFOR removed it. But on 16 November, the Albanians threw in another bomb. It went off injuring two of my clients and myself. Then on 24 November, these same Albanians threw a bomb at me in the street. That one injured both of my feet. The UN police said they didn't have enough police to investigate or protect us. That's when we closed the shop.

PP: Have you had any problems with the Albanians since then?

BQ: All the time. On March 16th, some Albanians stole eleven of my cows. It was easy to follow their tracks and discover who stole them. But the UN police wouldn't do anything about it. As always, they didn't believe the word of a Gypsy against the word of an Albanian. But it was easy to see that the cows were in my barn and have been driven to another place. After the Albanians saw that the police would not help me, they came back two weeks later and stole five more cows.

PP: Have you had any problems since then with the Albanians, with UN police?

BQ: Yes. On April 4th, some Albanians shot out two windows in my house. Luckily no one was injured. But when I called the UN police they refused to come. They told me Gypsies exaggerate and refused to come. I was fortunate to have some KFOR soldiers living nearby. They heard the shots and reported the incident, but only KFOR investigated. After that incident, I board up my home and moved in with my uncle. There are now 41 of us living with my uncle. It is safer this way. Some of us are always up at night, standing guard.

PP: You said a few minutes ago that all the Gorani had left Vuchitrn. Did the Albanians burn their homes?

BQ: No. The Gorani mainly lived in apartments and had small shops. The Albanians have moved into their apartments and taken over by force their shops.

PP: Where have the Gorani gone? I would like to interview some of them.

BQ: I think most of them have returned to Dragash (Gora).

PP: What about the Turks? Can you introduce me to a Turk I can interview?

BQ: No. The Turks live in the center of town. It is too dangerous for us to go there. Besides, the Turks no longer talk to us. They are afraid that the Albanians might see them talking to a Gypsy, then the Albanians would attack them too.

PP: If I go into the center of town do you think I could find a Turk on my own?

BQ: No. They look just like the Albanians. You can't tell them apart. You have to know them. Sometimes you can tell they are not Albanian when they speak. But they are being very careful to talk only Albanian these days. Not long ago a Turk used a Serbian word in his conversation. Some Albanians heard this and beat him to death.

PP: How many Gorani and how many Turks lived in Vuchitrn before the war?

BQ: There were about 15 Gorani families and about 100 Turkish families. Today there are no Gorani and only about 30 Turkish families still here. As I said before, the Albanians have now moved into all those homes, apartments.

PP: What about the Romani homes? You said all the Roma had left.

BQ: The Albanians burned down all the Romani homes after KFOR arrived. They are still destroying Ashkalij homes that are empty. In February my Albanian neighbors looted an Ashkalij home behind me. Then they dismantled the three-story home, floor by floor, selling the construction materials. KFOR watched them to it. I asked KFOR why they weren't stopping them. KFOR told me they were there to protect people, not buildings.

PP: When I came in today, I saw you were still slaughtering cows.

BQ: We still kill a few cows every day to sell meat to a few restaurants. That is our only income. But now I have to kill them in my uncle's garage.

PP: What kind of a relationship does the Ashkalij community have today with UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo)?

BQ: Not so good. We are afraid to report attacks against us. UNMIK always comes with an Albanian interpreter. Whoever reports an attack or a theft is always attacked again that same night. It is better to suffer only one attack instead of two. The second attack in retaliation for report the first is always the worst. The Albanians then come and kick down your front door and beat you. Just because we tried to tell UNMIK what was going on.

PP: Do you have the same problems with KFOR?

BQ: We were very happy when KFOR came to protect us against the Serbs. But now KFOR won't protect us against the Albanians. It is much worse, 70% worse, the attacks the Albanians are making against us. During the war, all the Ashkalij in Vuchitrn helped the Albanians, helped the KLA. We truly believed that life would be better under the Albanians.

PP: How does KFOR treat you when they speak to you?

BQ: Both UNMIK and KFOR are always calling us "Gypsies" or "Gajar, the Arab word for Gypsy. Our KFOR units here are from the United Arab Emirates. Most of them are very good soldiers and treat us well, but they are always calling us "Gajar." We tell them we are not Gypsies, we are Ashkalij Mussulmen. That is how we want to be known. But UNMIK and KFOR continue to call us Gypsies.

PP: If you are Muslim and the Albanians are Muslim, why don't they treat you better since you both practice the same religion?

BQ: Religion means very little to the Albanians. They have already destroyed our part of the Muslim cemetery. They have destroyed all our Muslim graves. Do you call that honoring your own religion?


PP: I heard from many people that you supported the KLA before and during the war. Is that true?

AQ: Yes. My brothers and I always supported them. We thought we would live better under the Albanians than the Serbs. We gave the KLA sausage, meat, money, cigarettes, in great quantity. Whenever they asked for these things, we happily gave them what they needed. Not just in Vuchitrn but also in Mitrovice. My brothers and I had five butcher shops in Vuchitrn and five in Mitrovice. We were among the biggest suppliers of the KLA during the war.

PP: Then why are the Albanians attacking you now, especially your family?

AQ: The men we gave the supplies to are not attacking us. It is another band of Albanians, another unit of the KLA. I asked my Albanian friends to help me but they said they can't. There is a general policy to drive Gypsies from Kosovo. My Albanian friends are afraid to go against that policy.

PP: When did these problems with the KLA begin?

AQ: After KFOR arrived here in our city the middle of June, the KLA began threatening Roma and Ashkalij, telling them they had to leave or they would be killed. I went to the KLA and asked if I had to leave. I told them I would leave if I had to but I did not want to be threatened, I did not want my family threatened. The KLA said I could stay if I behaved myself.

PP: So when did your problems begin?

AQ: When we started to help other Ashkalij who had been burned out. After we gave them food and money, the KLA beat up one of my brothers. They came to his house one night and hit him over the head with a lead pipe. The hospital in Mitrovice refused to stitch up his wound. He had to go to the KFOR hospital by Pristina.

PP: Have you thought about leaving Kosovo?

AQ: If I had known what was going to happen to us I would have sold everything and moved to Germany where I have relatives. But now it is impossible. Most of our property is destroyed. The Albanians have stolen most of our cattle. But if it doesn't get better soon we will have to do something to survive.

PP: Is food a problem for you now?

AQ: No, food is not a problem. Our biggest problem today is security. We can have no freedom without security. But freedom is too expensive for us. You have to be a very rich man to have freedom in this country. We are not free in Kosovo.

PP: Was your father a butcher?

AQ: All my ancestors were butchers. They came from Turkey hundreds of years ago. In Kosovo we have always lived in Vuchitrn. It has always been our ancestral city. All of my ancestors are buried here.

PP: I see that you and your family and your children's families are now living with one of your brothers.

AQ: Yes, we have all moved into his house because it is surrounded by a tall concrete wall. This compound is our only security today. Before we had nine houses and ten butcher shops between us. Now we all live in one compound, one house. There are 41 of us living together here. The young men take turns standing guard at night.

PP: Are all of your butcher shops closed now?

AQ: We still have one open part-time in Mitrovice. Every time we close a shop the Albanians break the lock and take it over. We are trying to keep one shop in case things get better and we can return to work.

PP: How are the children surviving this experience?

AQ: I fear we have lost at least one or two generations because they can not go to school anymore. They haven't gone to school since NATO started the bombing (March 24th, 1999).

PP: Were you against the bombing?

AQ: Someone had to stop the Serbs. They were doing terrible things. After the bombing started, they took 150,000 DM from me and my brothers. They burned down two of our shops in Mitrovice and looted everything out of one of my brother's home. The Serbs said we were collaborating with the Albanians. We had Albanian names. We were Muslim. The Serbs punished us for that.

PP: So the Serbs attacked the Roma and the Ashkalij too?

AQ: The Serbs destroyed 40% of the Romani homes during the war. After the war, the Albanians destroyed the remaining 60%.

PP: Why did you support the Albanians?

AQ: I thought life would be better under the Albanians. We spoke the same language, had the same religion. I never dreamed they would want Kosovo only for themselves.


Date: 1 June 2000

Location: Vrelle.

nformant(s): Isuf Avdullahi, member of the displaced 6 Magura Ashkalij families (60 people) now living in Vrelle. They have been here from June 1999.Eighteen Ashkalij adults attended our meeting.

Food: They are receiving food once a month from UNHCR but it is not enough. They do not have a ration card but do have a receipt from Children's Aid Direct listing the last food delivery.
25 May for 122 people (the Magura displaced people and the 10 Ashkalij houses in Vrelle): 1005 kilos of flour, 98 liters of oil, 200 kilos beans, 50 kilos sugar, 20 kilos salt.

Hygiene: They have never received any soap or detergent, but they do receive toothpaste.

Security: Until two months ago it was terrible. Seven months ago his brother drove to the neighboring village of Medvec (3 kms). The Albanians blocked the road with a tractor, took his brother out of the car, beat him and stole the car. The Ashkalij reported the theft to KFOR and told KFOR who had the car (they still see it almost everyday) but KFOR refused to get involved. But the last two months has seen an improvement. But they are still not secure especially on the road passing in front of their home. Albanians still stop to threaten them, to make the sign of cutting off their head and asking them why they are still in Kosovo. There is no life here for us. KFOR is only helping Albanians. They would prefer to go to a third country where they would have real freedom. In November, I swore I would never leave Kosovo and give up my land. I felt that after one year the Albanian attitude would change. But now I see no hope for us. The war has been over for a year for the Albanians, but it is still going on for us. In September 1999 they were visited by a young Ashkalij on his way to Germany. Before he could leave he was kidnaped by Albanians and never seen again. His name was Islam Kadriu.

Medical Aid: Medicine du Monde France pays regular visits to them and looks after them very well.

Clothes & Shoes: They have received clothes and shoes from Canadian KFOR. The Canadian KFOR were very interested in their welfare but since they have left, KFOR takes very little interest in them (now Finland KFOR).

Education: The young kids (from 6 years to 12 years) have been going to an Albanian school in Vrelle for two months, but that is now ended for summer vacation. The first three weeks KFOR was guarding the children but now they can go to school without being harrassed.The older children do not go to school. They are afraid.

Shopping: They have no money to go shopping.

Jobs: He has five strong sons. He is strong. But they are not allowed to work by the local Albanians. They have no money. They are not allowed to even do any private jobs for local people. They asked KFOR for jobs but they are only for Albanians.

Transportation: There is no KFOR transportation arranged for them to visit relatives or go anywhere else. They are blocked here, prisoners here.

Communications: No telephone in any of the houses. But an Ashkalij neighbor in Vrelle has a phone and sometimes they can call relatives in Germany. But that telephone is now cut off since the bill couldnt be paid.

Other Problems: Too many problems produced by local Albanian neighbors. When they are walking on the street from one house to another, Albanians block the street with their cars, and beat the Ashlakij and threaten them if they don't leave Kosovo. "There is no place for you in Kosovo, you must leave immediately." He has two hectares of land in Magura but he is not allowed to go there and take care of his land. There is heavy violence against them, even the children, if they try to go to Magura where they used to live. There home is burned down, all the Gypsy homes in Magura are burned down. In Magura he has two machines to cut and bale the wheat. All parts have been stolen. He thinks the Albanians have taken them as spare parts. The Benadictine Monk has offered to help repair his tractor.

Five Ashkalij homes in Vrelle were destroyed by NATO airplanes. No people were killed.

A Benadictine Monk from Austria has offered to help rebuild some of the destroyed Ashkalij homes in Magura. A meeting was held on 16 May to determine if the Albanian neighbors in Magura would allow Ashkalij homes to be rebuilt and families returned to Magura. UNHCR, the monk, several Albanian leaders and the Ashkalij leaders attended. No decision has been made as of 1 June 2000. The albanians at first rejected the idea of ashkalij returning to magura.
During this meeting the Albanians told the Ashkalij they were no longer welcome in Kosovo and asked them why they were still here.