Albanian Refugee
ink on paper
10" x 7"
$188 (framed or unframed)

(Purchasing Information)


In 1999, over 1 million ethnic Albanians fled or were forcibly removed from Kosovo by Serbian security forces. Neighboring states sheltered most, like this woman in the Stenkovec refugee camp in Macedonia, but arrival in refugee camps was just another step in a treacherous and painful journey.

Once a self-governing federal unit of Yugoslavia populated largely by ethnic Albanians, Kosovo was stripped of its autonomy in 1989, under the regime of Slobodan Milosovic. As the ruling Serbian government seized control of the state and began the systematic oppression of the Albanians, schools were closed, massive lay-offs occurred in state-run facilities, and blatant violations of basic human rights ensued. In 1998, full-scale violence erupted as the Milosevic government reacted to the guerilla movement known as the Kosovo Liberation Army with the deployment of security forces to the countryside. What resulted was the mass exodus of nearly one million Albanians, as the destruction of villages stripped those who survived of their homes, and sometimes their families, and the brutality of the raids left them in fear for their lives.

Refugees arriving at camps often did so physically exhausted and in poor health after trekking for days with few provisions and under harsh conditions. Others fared even worse, victims of rape and/or violence at the hands of security forces, or having desperately crossed minefields to reach their freedom. Each day, lists of family names were posted at the camps, in an attempt to locate missing relatives, or reunite lost children with their parents. By the spring of 1999, Macedonia’s refugee camps were overflowing, housing tens of thousands of people in cramped, unsanitary quarters, and facing the prospect of turning people away. Hundreds of thousands of refugees eventually returned to Kosovo following Milosevic’s surrender to NATO, though left to rebuild their homes, their government, and their lives, their return can be deemed less of a homecoming, and more of a new beginning.

All images on this site are copyright © 2008 by Tom Block Arts. Please contact the artist for use of these images.