Date: Sun, 16 May 1999 18:44:51 -0500 (CDT)
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: BALKANS: Tirana Peace Worker Diary
Article: 64247
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** headlines: 162.0 **/
** Topic: BALKANS: Tirana Peace Worker Diary **
** Written 11:37 PM May 14, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 6:33 AM May 14, 1999 by in reg.exyugoslavia */
/* ————— “Tirana Diary 13 May 1999” ————— */

Tirana Peace Worker Diary

By wam, Tirana, 13 May 1999


When I am re-reading the diaries from the last week (today we are nearly one week here) I notice that what I have been writing is just the top of an iceberg. So many stories, so much information I have forgotten to write. It is like living very intensive, and every day is like a book on its own. Wondering by the way who is reading all this.

Today we started meeting with the first “local” staff person we signed on, a young girl from the local university, who will hopefully be our translator in the coming time. She came together with three of her friends, so I had the possibility to ask them a bit about how they see the situation in their country. I was f.e. very interested if the language which the Kosov@ Albanian are speaking is the same or different from the Albanian what is spoken here in the country. The last days I started to notice that the people from Kosov@ spoke somehow different than the people I notice on the streets here in Tirana. And although I hardly understand a word, the difference I noticed only in the tone of their speaking, I was right in my feeling. They told me that they had discussions with people from Kosova about what the right way is to speak Albanian. The Kosovar Albanians are speaking a far more pure Albanian as the Albanians in Albania. The awareness of the Albanian history and tradition is much more alive among the people from Kosova as among the people here in Tirana at least. In other words the Kosovar Albanian claims to be much more Albanian than the Albanians from Albania. A logical thing for people who have been living so long without possible conatct to their homeland (mother land), their Albanian indentity is much stronger.

We had a serious talk about how the last 3 years went for them, and how the situation was in the other parts of Albania, most are coming from small cities out in the country side. The last 3 years Tirana was grown from a 350.000 person big city to a city with almost one million (almost a third of the country lives in and around Tirana, don’t ask me where, since it is a relative small city). It doesn’t have huge new subburbs and a center which after being here a week is totally known to me. I start to learn the city the way Albanians do, it makes no sense to know the street where somebody lives, nobody knows the names of the streets, you must know where about in the town it is, near the postoffice, near hotel Tirana, near the student houses, near the old park, near the national bank, etc. I knew that in Albania people don’t really write letters to each—other, I haven’t found any postbox in our house yet, they phone each—other, I am supprised if the post really functions.

An other field of my interest was the “pyramid schemes” which happens between say 1993 up to the civil war of 1997. They tried to explain me, but it stays somehow unreal to me that that could have happened although international monitors (from f.e. the world bank) and international agencies (like UNDP) were here all the time. Anyway it led to deep scares in the country, lots of people lost everything they had and somewhere in the line billions of dollars just disappered. The result is that the country is full with unfinished building projects who belongs to nobody. The country by far hasn’t recovered from that financial collapse. When I explained that the first week in Albania has learned me that doing activities for only Kosovar Albanian refugees was not the right thing to do and that you should do community activities in the small cities and villages, including Albanians, refugees and displaced people, they got more and more intersted and willing to help us, even when we pay a lower wages to them as f.e. journalist are doing (CNN and other news agencies, pay up to $250 per day for translation work, we about 10 times less).

Coming back from this meeting we got a phonecall in the office/house from an American who arrived yesterday since he wanted to help somewhere (not the one from Texas by the way) and has been running from agency to agency, from international NGO to International NGO, nobody wanted to take him in, the big ones didn’t even want to talk with him. On the NGO information center in the pyramid however somebody told him to contact us, which means the connections are already working, although I told there yesterday shortly that we want to coordinated this voluntary work, but that it would cost some days before we really had our act together (we just arrived). I explained a bit what we are doing and what the situation was and so and hooked him up with a Czeck person we found on the street yesterday, he lost his convoy in Slovenia. Now they are sitting behind me discussing with Mark (one of those Germans) what the best thing is to do and how they deliver the things in that convoy, when it arrives here. So that part already start to function.

For the rest the day was filled with meeting up with different local NGO's to discuss some more about the way we can co-operate. Late in the afternoon I went with Adela to a meeting from UNICEF about children friendly spaces. They found out that it is hard in this situation with all this small refugee camps which nobody really co-ordinates and in most of them there is no security. Lot's of stories of bandites and contra bandes came in to the camps and robbed there. Partly the security in the camps are in the hands of these groups. And that more and more reports are coming in from girls in the age group from 18-22 are disappairing (kidnapped most likely to the sex market in the rest of Europe).

The head of operation of Unicef used to work for UNHCR in Zagreb, and as SunceKret we had a lot to do with him. He immediatly recognized me and said that he was happy that we arrived, on Teusday we will have a talk about co-operation. When I asked him what he had done in between, he said that the Bosnian war for him is ages ago, there were at least 3 other wars for him in between. That reminded me somewhere in the morning I met the representative from UNESCO, who was so charmed from our idea to work with volunteers and with mobil units, that he immediatly afterwards went to UNHCR to tell the responsible person there that he thinks that that is the way to do it here. All in all the contacts are falling together and in the coming two weeks we probably get good cooperations with the big agencies on the road.

That made me decide not to leave for germany next week, but to stay here some more weeks in order to get the thing going. It is handy when you bumb into persons you know from before. Our activities in Croatia surely didn’t went by unnoticed. But it also helps a lot when they remember your face. And that seems to be the case.

By the way coming to the UNICEF building really cost us a lot of energy, the taxi we took didn’t know the street and it costed him at least 15 minutes and asking all his fellow taxi drivers, before he finally dropped us of in the wrong street at the wrong address. Luckily enough some car from the WFP (World Food Programme) past by and was willing to bring us finally to the right place.

Late in the evening the “pathfinders” from Skopje phoned, to do a small report about what is going on there. There situation is much different, the ethnical tensions there are raising and refugees in the big centers there are not allowed to leave their centers. They also asked me about rumours they heard that a big american online company wants to sponsor online activities for refugees, on this side we didn’t hear anything so far, so I am really interested if somebody else heard about it. If so please let us know.

It is late in Tirana now (1 o’clock), the dogs and cats outside make their normal noise, the town went to bed, so this was radio Tirana for today, over and out.

Peacefull greetings from Tirana,