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World - Europe

Kosovo refugee children try to cope with their trauma

"When my child is next to me," Hamide says, "I must be strong. When he leaves, I cry"  

CNN's Nic Robertson looks at what is being done to help young Kosovo refugees deal with the trauma of being forced from their homes
Windows Media 28K 80K

Nura descibes how she saw Serb police kill a young woman, then shoot her four more times  

The children let off steam by playing, which their teacher hopes will help them heal  

May 6, 1999
Web posted at: 9:13 p.m. EDT (0113 GMT)

From Correspondent Nic Robertson

KUKES, Albania (CNN) -- Besnik and his mother, Hamide, look just fine. But in the refugee camps of Albania, looks can be deceptive, with dark memories lurking below the surface.

Recently arrived from Kosovo, Hamide explains how her eldest son was forced at gunpoint by Serb police to hand over all their money -- and how the rest of her children watched.

Besnik remembers it well, too.

"When we were trying to see, the police threatened us," he said. "My mother and sister were afraid."

At a school in the camp, Besnik and the other children of the Kosovo diaspora exchange their tales of terror.

Nura describes how she saw Serb police take a young woman away. "They killed her," she said. "Then they killed her four more times."

She meant that they shot her four more times, but her age prevents her understanding.

At the ages of 12 and 13, most of the children here are still too young to grasp what they've been through.

"They feel like they have to speak with someone for that experience, for that bad experience," said Ismet Tahiri, their English teacher.

Between classes, they play to let off steam, which Tahiri hopes will help them heal.

Tahiri is also a refugee, and the group Doctors Without Borders is training him and other teachers to learn how to help their charges get over the trauma.

"With children, they don't really have that much of a life to reflect back on," said Christina Moore of Doctors Without Borders. "Getting a perspective is therefore much more difficult."

The scale of the problem is huge. Aid officials expect that more than 80 percent of those fleeing Kosovo will have some kind of trauma. Of those already in Albania, they expect as many as 60,000 are at risk of severe disturbance.

"When my child is next to me, I must be strong," Hamide said. "When he leaves, I cry."

Their experience has wounded the whole family just when aid officials say Besnik needs his mother the most.

G-8 countries endorse Kosovo plan
May 6, 1999
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May 6, 1999
Kosovo Albanian leader Rugova in Rome for talks
March 5, 1999
Clinton heads to Europe for NATO bombing update
May 4, 1999
NATO pounds Yugoslav targets after flurry of diplomacy
May 4, 1999

Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites:
  • Kosovo

  • Federal Republic of Yugoslavia official site
      • Kesovo and Metohija facts
  • Serbia Ministry of Information
  • Serbia Now! News

  • Kosova Crisis Center
  • Kosovo - from

  • F-117s arrive at Aviano to support possible NATO operations
  • NATO official site
  • BosniaLINK - U.S. Dept. of Defense
  • U.S. Navy images from Operation Allied Force
  • U.K. Ministry of Defence - Kosovo news
  • U.K. Royal Air Force - Kosovo news
  • Jane's Defence - Kosovo Crisis

  • U.S. Agency for International Development (Kosovo aid)
  • Doctors of the World
  • The IOM Migration Web
  • InterAction
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Kosovo Humanitarian Disaster Forces Hundreds of Thousands from their Homes
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • Kosovo Relief
  • ReliefWeb: Home page
  • The Jewish Agency for Israel
  • Mercy International

  • Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
  • Independent Yugoslav radio stations B92
  • Institute for War and Peace Reporting
  • United States Information Agency - Kosovo Crisis

  • UNHCR Home
  • Expanded list of related sites on Kosovo
  • 1997 view of Kosovo from space - Eurimage
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