charcoal, acrylic on paper
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,
Macedoniaâ€™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 Milosevicâ€™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.