Living with the legacy of war

Friday, 11 February, 2000

The Shala family came home to Kosovo in August last year, after fleeing to the UK as refugees. In this third update, BBC News Online finds the family are struggling to rebuild a normal life.
Almost six months after the Shala family came back to Kosovo, life is still a struggle against the legacy of the war.
Nasser Shala, and his wife Sofije, are still fighting to get their family life back to normal against a faltering infrastructure.
Money, electricity, and everyday household appliances are in short supply.
The Kosovo Albanian pair were separated in March last year, amid the growing tensions that came to a head in the Nato Bombing campaign.
Nasser had been away from the family home in Trude, a village seven kilometres from Pristina, when Serb police forced all inhabitants out.
Sofije and her children, Leutrim, Albesa, Aglon, and Dlerta, eventually found sanctuary as refugees in Britain, while Nasser sought safety in the mountains near Trude.
The family was reunited in the weeks that followed the end of the fighting.
Their reunion was an emotionally charged occasion and, despite the murder and destruction that blighted their homeland, the Shalas were optimistic about rebuilding their lives together.
Since then they have had to endure a harsh Kosovan winter, with little in the way of home comforts to fall back on.
They have enough water but the electricity supply is erratic.
"There was talk of some sort of order, like three hours a day, but most of the time we have no electricity," says Nasser.
"In the beginning it was better with regards to the electricity but recently it has gone from bad to worse.

Reliance on radio
"Even when there is electricity, the power is very low and there is not enough to run the TV at the same time as having the light on."
The erratic telephone service means the Shalas must rely on radio, newspapers and humanitarian support agencies for important information.
Money is also a problem, since Nasser, who works in a car parts factory in Pristina, has not been paid for six months. His father, who is retired, has not received his pension for 14 months.
Yet Sofije is thankful that the nearby school was not damaged in the fighting and so her children are receiving a steady education.
Other communities were not so lucky. In the nearby village of Besia, one of the two schools was totally destroyed during the war.
Sofije was always thankful for the warm reception she and her children received during their troubled stay in England. But, in August, the excitement of coming home meant she did not plan as well as she would have liked.

Time for regrets
With everyday goods in short supply, she regrets not buying more clothes for her children before they left and not saving any money.
Many of their possessions were stolen while the house was abandoned, and they are continually reminded of this.
"We knew about some things; we had heard. But still, when we got back, everyday you realise more and more things are missing," says Sofije.
Compared to other Kosovo Albanian settlements which were targeted by Serbs, Trude got off relatively lightly. But one man - in his late 30s and not married - is still missing. No one knows his fate.
And while some mines have been cleared, residents must stick to only safe roads and pathways.
"At the back of the village there are some places with mines. The army was there and they cleared some but there are still signs and no-go areas sealed off. They found two anti-tank mines just by the road.
"We were lucky because although it is an Albanian village, on the outskirts there were many Serbs and so I think they didn't put many mines because of it."

Original article