Credits Rock 'n Roll
by Keith Nordstrom
BY CRAIG BORGES / SUN CHRONICLE STAFF
CAMP BONDSTELL, Kosovo -
Uran Berisha says he owes it all to English-language movies
"The Beatles, Cliff
Richard, The Shadows, he had it all," the 26-year-old
ethnic Albanian says of his father and his father's vast
record collection. "He had such a great collection
of gramophone discs and lots of American movies."
It was through these that Berisha learned the language skills
that landed him a job to help him provide for his war-traumatized
Berisha is an Albanian-language
translator for U.S. troops stationed here at Bondsteel.
He's held the position, which pays him about $900 a month,
for the past seven months. Before that, he was struggling
to keep food on the table for his mother, father, and three
Berisha once had aspirations
of becoming a medical doctor. He worked at a hospital in
Prestina, the provincial capital, and attended medical school.
All that ended, however, when Serb troops rolled into town
in 1998 and began their systematic rounding up, torture
and killing of ethnic Albanians. His family was driven from
their home in Kacanik near the border with Macedonia. They
escaped to Macedonia, but it wasn't easy.
"My family walked for
24 hours through the mountains after they were kicked out
of their homes by the Serbs," he says after translating
for a reporter. "Every 50 meters or so, there would
be a Serb cop who would pull a man out of the line and beat
him to death or shoot him. They didn't care if they did
it in front of the man's wife, mother, father they'd chop
some up with knives right there in front of everyone."
Berisha and his family fled
to Macedonia. He, however, quickly returned and became a
soldier in the KLA - Kosovo Liberation Army.
"The KLA wasn't really
a big army like everyone says. It was made up of ordinary
people like me," he says. "I never saw a gun in
my life before the Serbs pushed in and I joined the KLA."
Berisha's medical experience
landed him a job as a medic, treating wounded soldiers in
the field for three and a half months.
His military career ended,
however, when NATO successfully bombed the Serbs back across
the border into Serbia.
"I wasn't a soldier. I discharged myself," he
says. "I told them, that was it. I wasn't going to
He returned to hospital
work and was earning $110 a month when he learned about
the possibility of translating for Americans at Camp Bondsteel.
He says he was a little undecided at first until a relative
told him he was crazy not to try the job. The fact that
his father died 10 months ago also played a role in his
getting a job that would pay enough to support his family.
"I like it very much
now," he says. "It's a big difference. I am to
help my mother, brothers and sister."