What grabbed me by far and what, what haunts me to this day, was having been at Vërmica crossing, Morina on the Albanian side, but meters from, from the border, and seeing these masses of people come across. […] I had gone out first thing in the morning and the place was empty, there was one Albanian officer leaning on the border rail, sort of looking into Kosovo and it was no traffic in either direction of course, and I was there with a driver and an interpreter and I said, ‘So, where is everyone?’ […] We went back to Kukës after he told us, ‘Look, they don’t, the Serbs don’t let anyone out until after 10:00 in the morning, come back around 11:00 or so, you’ll see the scenes.’ And sure enough it was right out of the BBC, Sky or, or CNN. A line of cars back towards Prizren, sneaking to, up to the border and […] the cars were packed with people, the maximum number that could squeeze in, plus belongings and these people were completely traumatized, it was obvious at first sight. There was an older woman from the Swiss Red Cross in uniform, who reached into each car and stroked the arms of each person in the car and assured them in Albanian that they were safe, that they were no longer in Serbia, Yugoslavia, they were in Albania, they were safe.
[…] They were also traumatized, they had seen piles of bodies, dead people, outside, on the side of the road, where the Serb police had taken people, soldiers, paramilitary had taken people out of cars, off buses, young men and simply shot them. […] These people then came across and some somehow started, somehow expected that their relatives who had already left would be there waiting there for them. They were disoriented, I remember them, just, some women just putting their bags down the middle of the field and looking around and really not knowing where to go, what was next, there was no reception center, anything up there. Others came across on tractors, one told me that he had thought he could sit it out with the family in Gjakova but that morning, 3:00 in the morning, Serb forces showed up in the house next door, took the neighbor out into the garden, shot him and he said, 'That’s it, I couldn’t take it any longer,' packed bags, packed their bags, got in the car and left within minutes.
Jolyon Naegele was born in 1955 in New York City. He holds a Master’s in International Relations from SAIS, Johns Hopkins University. He was Eastern Europe correspondent for Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, before joining the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) as political adviser. When he retired in 2017, after 14 years of service, he was UNMIK Director of Political Affairs. He currently lives in Prague.