The following was forwarded to us from the Humanitarian Law Center in
Belgrade. It recounts the story of one brave Serb woman who drove to
Pristina, retrieved three Albanians (two were members of the HLC staff in
Pristina) and returned with them safely to Belgrade.


Natasa Kandic
Monday and Tuesday in Kosovo
29 and 30 March 1999
I reached Pristina before nightfall. I could not get to the HLC
office. The building is opposite the Police Department and prison and
the front entrance was locked. Someone inside said, *We don*t know you
and we won*t open the door.* By his accent, I knew the man was Serb and
he must have known by mine that I was Serb too. I knew that the
residents were Serb and Albanian and I saw their determination to allow
no strangers into the building as the good side of Pristina. I went
round the back and saw guards at the entrance of the neighboring
building. Several men were standing behind neatly stacked sandbags. I
spoke with them and learned that they were Serb and Albanian residents
of the building and that they were guarding their homes. They had
agreed that Serbs would defend Albanians from the police, the Albanians
would defend Serbs from the KLA and all would defend themselves from
paramilitaries and other bands. When air raid warnings are sounded,
everyone goes down to the shelter except those standing guard.
>From there I went to Nora*s. I had just arrived when a weeping neighbor
rushed into the apartment: *They have taken our car.* Three men in
police uniform had come, she said, forced open the car door and drove it
away. *Better the car than your son,* said Nora*s father. I dialed over
20 phone numbers. Most phones were not working. It was quiet until 4
a.m. Then there were explosions, followed by silence.
When day broke, I went to see some friends. The Keljmendis phone was
cut off. Bajram Keljmendi*s shingle was still on the door of his law
office. Neighbors told me they hadn*t seen his wife Nekibe since the
burial of Bajram and their sons. I asked them to give her my regards.
Then, together with Nora, a relation of Fehmi Agani and a driver from
Belgrade, I made my way to Dragodan, Fehmi Agani*s neighborhood. When
we reached it, we were stopped by police. They asked to see our papers
and when they saw that Nora and Arsim were Albanian, the one in charge
ordered them out of the car. I got out too, saying we all worked for
the same organization and were looking for a friend. The officer
replied that Albanians no longer worked in Serbia and should be on their
way to Macedonia. I asked since when police had the authority to fire
people and he yelled at me to get back in the car and shut up. I sat on
the seat, leaving the door open and my legs outside the car. He slammed
the door against my legs, saying Serbia was being ruined by such Serbs.
The one in charge called someone over his Motorola. This lasted about
10 minutes and then he waved us on. We made our way back to the center,
hardly believing that we had got off so lightly. We drove through side
streets to the Suncani Breg district. On the way, we saw wrecked and
looted stores and kiosks. We found Vjollca but she was determined to
stay with her family in Pristina. We were driven away by her Serb
neighbor. *What kind of gathering is this? No loitering! Albanians,
inside your homes!* he said.
In all-Albanian districts, we encountered groups of people discussing
what to do: should they make their way to the border or stay until the
police ordered them out of their homes? Some told me no more than 1,000
people were left in Pec, those who managed to get out of the column the
police and military escorted to the Montenegrin border. None of them
knew if it was true that Fehmi Agani had been killed, not even his
relations. They had heard the report on CNN. Nor was there any
reliable news of Baton Jakdziju, the editor of Koha Ditore. People kept
to their homes. Only the bravest went to see relations who live near
by. Only a few phones were working.
The streets of downtown Pristina were almost deserted. People were in
their apartments or the stairways of their buildings. In one of these
buildings, we spoke to residents and found Mentor. He was just about to
leave for the border. Everyone we spoke to was in a panic. With one
exception, an Albanian, who calmly repeated he would not leave his home
until he was thrown out. An elderly Serb woman came in and stopped for
a moment to chat with her neighbors. She too appeared to be fearless.
We started out for Macedonia, in two cars, at about noon. It*s 75
kilometers to the Djeneral Jankovic crossing. Several cars coming from
side streets joined us. When we were on the road to the border, there
were hundreds of cars behind us. The plan was to get to the border,
wait until Ariana and Mentor had crossed and then Nora and I would make
for Belgrade. Three kilometers from the border, the column stopped.
Rumors flew around that the border was closed, that police were taking
cars, that they were separating out the men... The sight of police with
masked faces in the column frightened us and we decided to return to
Pristina. No one prevented us. People asked us what was going on and
we tried to persuade them to go back home. But only a few cars followed
us. As we drove back, we saw that there were more than 2,000 cars in
the column. We also saw groups making their way on foot, all gripped by
a terrible fear.
We got back to Pristina, dropped off Ariana and the others and I, Nora,
her brother, and Mentor headed for Belgrade. I was afraid of what would
happen at police checkpoints. The first was just outside Pristina on
the road to Gnjilane. Our driver asked a policeman if the road to
Gnjilane was open. *Depends on the name,* was the reply. The officer
checked the driver*s papers and let us through. The driver*s papers
were examined at the other checkpoints too and we were allowed to
continue. Soldiers at a military checkpoint 10 kilometers outside
Pristina asked to see all our papers. There were no problems. We
reached Belgrade at about 10 p.m.
* * * * *
Yugoslavia Human Rights Flash is an HLC bulletin containing the latest
information on human rights in Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro. Only
reports received by the HLC offices in Belgrade and Pristina arepublished