Kosovo village buries its many dead
July 6, 1999
By Correspondent Nic Robertston
BELA CRKVA, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- One of seven villages listed on an international war crimes indictment against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Bela Crkva is the first to bury its dead since refugees returned.
The whole village, or what is left of it, turned out for the ceremony on Monday.
The grieving held up a row of portraits of the dead, as others walked by in a solemn procession.
Sixty-five people lost their lives, including seven children, one of them 4 years old; and three women, one of them 60. The remainder were men.
All had tried to hide when they were shot by Serbian police forces, according to war crimes investigators who just completed their study of the dead.
Mourners, including many from neighboring villages, filed past the shattered mosque and up a hill to a cemetery overlooking the village.
The dead were laid to rest with Albanian flags as a vivid contrast to the black plastic bags covering the bodies.
Men sweated and toiled, the midday sun making their task more difficult. But many hands helped. And the cemetery became a field of flowers as bouquets were placed on the graves.
Amid the collective sea of sorrow, the survivors struggled to comfort one another. Arieta grieved with Lulieta at the loss of Murharem, her brother and Lulieta's husband.
Like many, Arieta mourned for more than one victim. At the graveside of Shemci, her father, she broke down in tears.
"No, I don't want to go," she protested, her mother looking on. Then she sat by her grandfather's grave, quietly running her hand over the dirt.
All three of her late relatives had been killed in one Serb assault.
In a synchronized salute, six uniformed Kosovo Liberation Army soldiers fire their guns together into the air. After a final goodbye, the graveyard becomes tranquil.
But for some there is no peace. Many in surrounding villages say they have yet to find their dead relatives.
Russian troops cleared to travel to Kosovo
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