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The Road of Sorrow

NATO
NATO

On 24 March 1999 NATO began what was to be 78-days of bombing of the then Yugoslavia, ie., Serbia and Montenegro. Eyewitness testimony of what then happened in Kosovo comes from several sources. One is Nataša Kandić, the head of the Belgrade-based human rights group, the Humanitarian Law Center, who was able to move around fairly freely because she was a Serb and a woman. On 23 April Kandić met a large group of people, "who were walking towards Vučitrn. These people were returning to their homes having spent two weeks in the woods hiding, and were anxious whether the police would allow them to go back and whether their houses were still standing" Later, she says, they were expelled and as she passed the town on 5 May she saw it was empty, "and many of the houses were on fire."

The same day, I passed through Mitrovica. There were neither police nor military in the town center. There wasn't a soul to be seen. Large sections of the town had been destroyed. One could see that houses had been plundered first, and then set on fire. There were some people in the suburbs. Serb parts of town were intact. Afterwards, when I talked to Albanians from Mitrovica who had come to Montenegro, I found out that approximately 30,000 Albanians were expelled from Mitrovica on 15 April, and that they had been ordered to leave for Montenegro. They travelled on foot, it took them three days to reach Dubovo, a village 80 kilometers away from Mitrovica where the Yugoslav army stopped them. The army kept them there for three days, when three officers announced there had been an "order for refugees to return home." They were put on buses and shipped back to burnt down Mitrovica. Hunger and fear made many of them leave Mitrovica again and go back to Montenegro.

Another eyewitness to this period was Father Sava, a monk from the Serbian Orthodox monastery of Visoki Dečani. At this point he was accompanying Bishop Artemije, still a highly influential figure amongst Kosovo Serbs. At the end of March they witnessed the ethnic cleaning of Peć, called Peja in Albanian:

I saw a lot of paramilitaries in different uniforms, with baseball hats and Nike caps, camouflaged faces and masks. I saw Albanian civilians with children and plastic bags. Near the centre of town there were trucks full of women and children. We drove quickly, it was obvious what was happening. The road up to Rožaje [in Montenegro] was blocked. There were hundreds, thousands of people, with cars and on foot. They told us they had been given 10 minutes to go. I was crying, it was the road of sorrow. I was so shocked. There was mist at the top of the pass. I saw a woman in slippers. The bishop was shocked and petrified. I said, "I can see the Serbs leaving Kosovo very soon."

[pp: 242-243]

Kosovo: War and Revenge. 2002, Second Edition. [Yale University Press]

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