Stories and reports
WE MUST START FROM SCRATCH!
"So, you kept your promise!",
says Aco Smokovski, Director of the "25th May" National Institute
for Children with Special Needs, which has recently been turned into a
home for internally displaced persons. 87 ethnic Macedonians, primarily
from the Tetovo region, are now living here. MCIC's promise was to provide
humanitarian aid for these people.
"We opened the doors of our Institute to these unfortunate people
at the beginning of this month", says Smokovski. The Institute normally
takes care of 60 children aged seven to eighteen, but during the summer
period only 26 children were living there, as the remainder were on holiday,
either with their own families or on a camp organised by "25th May".
"We are expecting a further nine people to arrive during the day",
says Smokovski, stopping only for a moment to answer the phone that rings
incessantly. "No problem", he answers to the voice on the end
of the line. "We'll take her in". He puts down the receiver
and explains that they have been asked to take in the mother of the police
officer who had been murdered the previous day. "We try to meet everybody's
needs", he says. " These are the times we live in".
MCIC and the International Committee of the Red Cross have been providing
aid to the displaced people since they first arrived at "25th May".
The Italian organisation CRIC has just announced that it will deliver
food aid once a week. "You know", says Smokovski, "they've
told me they'll bring bread and burek for the IDPs once a week. How do
I tell the children who are residents of the Institute that it's not for
them, but for the other children? I hope that we shall reach an understanding".
We went on to talk with some of the people being accommodated in this
institution. We took care, as people do not always wish to speak of their
troubles. Several women were tidying the rooms where they were staying.
They invited us in. They were ready to discuss their situation but were
bitter about everything that was going on in the country. Milka Serafimovska,
from the village of Tearce, her husband and three children have been here
since August 1st. "We ran away in fear. At first, we were in the
village of Janchishte, for almost two weeks. The woman who took us in
is a relative. They were really kind to us, but we could not have stayed
longer. They can hardly make ends meet without us on their backs, and
there is no help. That is why we decided to leave."
Milka ran away without anything. They didn't even have time to take the
vital things. They barely managed to take her son's wheelchair. "My
13 year-old son is physically handicapped, and he cannot move without
it", she says. Her daughter Jasmina is 14. "She will now start
secondary school, only I have no idea where she is going to go",
and her eyes fill with tears.
Milka went back to the village to see the house on
one of the convoys organised by the Macedonian Government. "Broken
windows, destroyed furniture, television set, VCR, everything that we
ever worked for in life. We borrowed money, paid it back in instalments
to have something for the children, so that they could be happy. And now
everything has gone in just a single day. My brother-in-law told me he
saw them loot the house. He saw them go into our house three times until
they had stolen everything".
"We trusted our Albanian neighbours and we really thought that everything
would be alright", says Mira. "They told us not to move, they
would be there for us and nothing would happen". Mira worked in the
medical centre in Tetovo, and her husband worked in Jegunovce. "We
had settled, we could not complain. Now we thought we could enjoy life
a bit, travel, and not run around making money."
Armed people from the so-called NLA found them in their garden and told
them that they had five minutes to leave. "What possessions can you
take in five minutes?", asks Mira. For mutual support, they gathered
with the other villagers in front of the café, and agreed to flee
together. They made their way through fields, in the pitch dark, all the
way to the Tetovo-Skopje road. From there they came to the Parliament
Building in Skopje, and then they were taken to accommodation in "25th
"It's good here, we cannot complain, but our life is where our homes
are. Now we must start from scratch, as if we had never worked before.
Will the State even look at us, will they ask us how are we coping, will
we ever go back to our normal life again?" Mira's questions never
We say goodbye and leave the newly-refurbished building where these people
are accommodated. What will happen to them in two weeks' time when the
new school year starts, when the all the accommodation will be required
for the children who are the usual residents here? Where will these people
go next as they try to put the pieces of their lives together again?
By Gonce Jakovleska, MCIC
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