by Keith Nordstrom
BY CRAIG BORGES / SUN CHRONICLE STAFF
are things you see in Kosovo that you just know will stick
with you for life. And this isn't necessarily a good thing.
reality of war, and all the devastation that it brings,
is everywhere - on every road, in every yard, in every buildingand
on every person's face.
produces many victims; the dead and wounded are just the
roads, rivers, trees, fields, businesses, vehicles, churches,
mosques, schools, hospitals, animals and even the things
you can't touch, like education, religion, culture and lifestyle
- all suffer in some way or another.
is hard for those who live Kosovo, ethnic Albanian and Serbs
alike. There are almost no jobs. Groups of working-age men
and women spend their days smoking and talking near piles
of rubble and ruin caused by the 1999 Serb bombardments,
NATO airstrikes, rebel bombings, or often, a combination
of all three.
and dirty children dressed in torn t-shirts and ragged pants,
play along dusty, pothole-filled roads or stinking, stagnant
with protruding rib cages and dirty, uncombed coats chew
grass near filthy, trash-filled streams.
timid and trembling dogs, some too skinny and weak to walk
straight, search for tidbits of food near burning trash
piles. Their eyes avert you when you approach. Their tails
are forever between their legs. They trust no one.
Entire blocks of homes sit in ruin.
with the tale-tale tag warning all that either the Kosovo
Liberation Army (KLA) or the Yugoslav Army (Serbs) army
had stopped by, can be found spraypainted on buildings,
burned-out cars and trucks, and even trees.
are fields marked with white rags indicating where landmines
had been laid.
(Kosovo Protection Force) military units ranging from Americans
to Greeks man checkpoints every few miles, their soldiers
dressed for battle and demanding papers and identification
while shinning powerful flashlight beams in faces and gripping
M16s in their hands.
wire, sandbags and large concrete dragon teeth close in
entire blocks and every church, protecting the now few Serbs
left living here, as well as their houses of worship, from
revenge for horrors their government carried out almost
two years ago.
is a curfew every night leaving only the heavily armed KFOR
soldiers - some on foot, others inside machine-gun-topped
armored vehicles - as the only people on the streets. There
are military humvees and trucks everywhere, roaring quickly
through towns en route to a checkpoint or outpost.
the few working locals who do have curfew passes, there
is the inconvenience and indignity of being ordered out
of their cars, watching as soldiers rifle through their
belongings, their trunks, and under their car seats, and
then told to hold their arms out straight while they are
searched for weapons.
are burned-out, bombed-out homes, cars, stores and barns
on almost every street, reminders of what man is capable
of doing when he disagrees with the lifestyle and culture
you make your way through the towns, a dull, aching pain
settles in the pit of your stomach.
It is a hallow feeling, one of great sadness, emptiness.
become acutely aware of this and realize there's a good
chance it may be with you forever.