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<>: NYT: Ajrulah Ramadani goes home

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Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999 14:38:09 +0000
Subject: Ajrulah Ramadani goes home

	[orig not to nettime]

What follows is written with a real purity and economy of means by 
Ian Fisher. Too bad it's not fiction; in fact, it's in today's New 
York Times. But it's still a nice short story, especially given the 
outcome. (Or at least, some of the outcome.)

Michael Benson

By IAN FISHER  [orig in NY Times]

VELIKA KRUSA, Yugoslavia -- Ajrulah Ramadani woke up early Tuesday in 
Albania, packed a small plastic bag of clothes and came back to 
Kosovo. He is a relatively prosperous man who lived here on a farm 
with his three brothers and their families -- 43 people in all -- and 
he wanted to see if anything was left. 

The first person he met was Hamit Hoti, 85. Hoti's hands held a cane, 
his feet rested on the fallen gutter of his house. The house had no 
roof. The dried-up body of a dog, a bullet hole in his side, lay a 
few feet away. 

"Are you safe?" Ramadani, 39, asked the old man. "Do you recognize 
me? I am Shaban's son." 

Hoti looked confused. 

"I don't recognize the young people anymore," he said. "I am blind. I 
am an old man. Are you safe?" 

"Yes, thank you," Ramadani said. He offered a cigarette. The two men 

"I was hiding like a dog," Hoti said. "I was running. For two days I 
was hiding anywhere I could in the fields and other houses -- without 
food, without water. 

"I don't know where my family is," he told Ramadani. "Have you seen 
any of my family?" 

"I just came from Albania," Ramadani said. "Lots of your family is 

Hoti wavered somewhere between tears and a smile. 

"It's enough for me to know they are safe," he said. "Thank you very 

Ramadani said: "We won. We won. We won." 

Then he met Xhelal Duraku, 35, who had been hiding in a nearby 
village until Tuesday. They walked up a grassy hill, thick with 
wildflowers, then down a small slope. They smelled rotting flesh. 

Duraku climbed down the slope, which abutted the top of another 
roofless house, and pulled two charred watches from a cinder block. 
The watches belonged to the two men in the mounds of dirt at his 
feet. A shoulder bone poked from a mound. 

Duraku said two of his relatives -- Isa Duraku, a teacher, and Nuhi 
Duraku, the director of a cooperative farm -- were buried there by 
other villagers, who told him where the watches were hidden. 

He said his relatives were killed by Serbs in a massacre in this 
village -- where as many as 150 people died, human rights officials 
say -- and their bodies partly burned. In the house below lay an ash 
pit of bones, which a German soldier who walked by later said seemed 
to belong to a goat. Down the hill, near the main road, is a 
graveyard with recently plowed dirt, some 10 by 20 yards in size. 

"I don't know how it all happened," Duraku said. Like Ramadani and 
his family, he fled while the killings were going on. 

Ramadani went down the gravel road toward his house. A rotting body 
of a cow lay crumpled next to a destroyed car. A frightened 
Rottweiler poked his head out of a school, the windows smashed, the 
filing cabinets ransacked, and then went back inside. 

Ramadani walked up a slope and peered around a wall to see his

"My bulldozer is here," he said. "I had three trucks." He looked 
again. "Ah, the trucks are gone. Also the tractors aren't here. Only 
this bulldozer -- no -- one tractor is here.        

"I bought this piece of land from a Serb 10 years ago. I paid 800,000 
German marks. Now they have come back and look what they did." 

He spat. The two houses where he and his brothers and their families 
lived were barely standing. Both roofs were gone, the windows were
smashed out and carbon licked the paint around the frames. The ground 
was spattered with red roof tiles. 

A skinny dog jumped from the basement. Ramadani looked happy. 

"Meca, come here!" he said, and the dog came and he scratched her 
head. "Meca!" 

He lit another cigarette. He started to go up his front porch, 
spilling over with burned shoes, but thought better of it. It might 
be booby trapped. Tears filled his eyes. His brothers' laundry was 
still on the line. A sock hung on a tree. 

He wiped his face and said his next step was to let his family, 
living in someone else's apartment in Albania, know that nothing is 

"What can I do?" he asked. "I will tell them the truth. I will tell 
them everything I saw." 

              Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company 


Michael Benson  <>