Stories and reports

MCIC in Radusha, Again

Skopje, October 14th 2001

It has been six months since I visited Radusa for the last time, visiting my friend and colleague from the Kosovo activities, Tahir Nuhi. The armed conflict in Macedonia has seriously stricken Radusa, too. Nearly all of its citizens (approximately 2,000), mainly ethnic Albanians, fled in June, when there were fierce clashes. So, the people who had sheltered refugees from wars in ex-Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Kosovo) two times have become victims. Tahir, and all of his family, was one of them. He decided to seek refuge at his Kosovo relatives.

After peace had been reached and the framework agreement signed, and especially when the "Essential Harvest" - operation for weapon collecting (there was a NATO checkpoint in Radusa, and weapons were collected in three occasions) came to an end, people started returning in large numbers. All of them are again in the village. Radusa was a limited-access area during the conflict, and it is still so, with minimal movement to and from the village, and but a few visits from the humanitarian organizations.

MCIC had some important activities for Radusa water supplying and sanitation during 1999 and 2000, and it was the organization in charge for running the refugee camp, from April to July 1999. That is when I met Tahir, on whose land, the camp was built, and he was considerably assisting its establishment (raising tents, arranging etc.). Later on, MCIC employed him for its Kosovo activities. MCIC had been present in the same village before, and that is why it decided to take part in restoration of the damaged facilities in Radusa. A two-men team from MCIC, in which I, (Alexander Krzalovski, emergency operations programme coordinator), and Alexander Stevanovski, logistics, took part, headed for Radusa on 13.10.2001.

We arrived in Radusa around 12 o'clock, accompanied by a truck with humanitarian assistance, supplied by El Hilal. At the police checkpoint we were told that it had been relatively peaceful for a long period, and that there was a significant movement towards Skopje in the last couple of days, mainly because the people of Radusa needed common supplies and medical examinations. I also find out that we are not the first ethnics Macedonians headed for Radusa after the conflict. Last week, an Electro-Skopje team was in the area, repairing the electrical system, thus providing electricity for Radusa.

Tahir is waiting for us at the village entrance and we greet heartily, after three months. We go to the tee-bar at the beginning of the village together, where other villagers, among which Zelkif Saiti, humanitarian assistance coordinator, join us. He is a humanitarian activist for a number of years, and a district committee board member of the Red Cross, and he had remained in the village during the conflict with only four other villagers. We were in touch until end of August, when The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) tried, for the first time since the conflict started, to visit the region. Zelkiv remembers those days, and describes the first time when Luiz Abot, a ICRC delegate, came there, and adds that from than on, apart from ICRC, today's assistance from El Hilal is only the second distribution in more than one month, and is far from satisfactory to satisfy needs, especially for hygiene products.

While Zelkif is organizing the humanitarian assistance distribution, Tahir tells a few stories about his decent work in the village while the villagers were not present. A few houses, including Takir's were saved from major destruction, when Zelkif used tarp to cover the damaged roofs. He was "roaming" the village for the whole time, so that potential loot is prevented. Tahir makes a joke, that many more appliances (including water heaters) started to "disappear" from the houses, when most of the people returned in the village. One of the most thankful families is the one whose cow died when it was giving birth, and Zelkif was feeding the offspring with a bottle every day.

After the short conversations with the people from the tee-bar, we go to Tahir's home. We can see the tarp on the roof, used to cover a hole made by a grenade. On the ground floor, we can not see any damage, but Tahir says that it was not like that when they came back. All the windows were broken, there were holes in the front and in the backyard from shrapnel, and we can still see bullet holes on the tractor. But, in the month that he was here, he managed to fix most of the things; people can live on the ground floor, the floor, for now, (until help for reparation comes) is protected sufficiently from further destruction, and he managed to fix the tractor, with which he fetched wood for the winter.

Inside, the mother, the wife with a one-month old baby (born in exile, in Pristina), the sister and the four-year old daughter Eomira greet us. In spite of the condition in which they live in, they treat us in the traditional way. Mother Edvie tells about life in exile, where there were 22 people in two rooms, and even worse, two dogs slept in the house; about her worries for her husband (who did not want to leave Radusa with them, but joined them later on, after the ferocious fights near the village) and the rest of the family (daughters in Kopanica, Semsevo and Tetovo): for her wish to come back home as soon as possible, even if she has to sleep on the concrete in the yard. She still cannot believe that everything that happened was supposed to have happened, especially because of the fact that she was born in Bosnia, and has a vast experience with multi-ethnical societies.

Time flies when you talk about memories, so we stayed one and a half hour more than the planned half an hour. We took a walk around the village, to see the damages caused by the conflict, and especially the school buildings. We meet Ekrem, the person in charge for village reconstruction. He supplies us with prepared lists from the village, itself, and I can see even larger numbers of damaged houses than the ones I saw upon my arrival: 199 category-one houses, 57 category-two houses, and 33 badly damaged houses. However, 90% of people who live in category-one houses (i.e. mainly with broken windows), have repaired them on their own (there was a glazier in the village), but keep the receipts from the glazier and hope for a reimbursement. I am left with the impression that I had after visiting Otjla and Matejce, in the Lipkovo area, that in spite the stories of heavy clashes and stupendous damages and demolition, the situation in the area is much better, really, an is definitely a lot different from Kosovo (where you could scarcely see a roof on a house in any village).

At the end of my stay, we visited the fishpond near the village, which after the closure of the Radusa mine in 1998 is probably the sole economic facility, which is still functioning. But, we can say that it suffered the greatest damages in the conflict. Early this year, there were approximately 30 tons of fish, while there are only 2000 fish put in the last undamaged cage.

Tahir says goodbye at the end of the village, hoping that the house reparations will begin, as soon as next week, and that he will again take part in them, as a member of MCIC.

Aleksandar Krzalovski,
MCIC emergency operations programme coordinator

Tahir's house has a damaged roof
The windows are broken
Tahir hasn't repaired everything yet
Signs of fighting visible
33 houses are damaged very much
The Mosque in Radusha
The school is damaged in some places
The fish pond is still functioning
In Tahir's home
Nuhi's family
Tahir greets us on our way out of the village
(hold cursor over photos for detailed description)

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