© 2002 Friends of Bosnia  

April, 1999
On March 24, 1999, NATO launched the largest mission of the 50-year-old alliance — a sustained bombing campaign to compel Serb forces to end abuses and leave Kosovo and to allow international forces to enter the province.

But the abuses committed by the Serbs had already begun and half of the Kosovar Albanian population, nearly a million civilians and rebel fighters, were forced to flee to neighboring Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia.

Over and over again, Serb paramilitaries with black ski masks entered Albanian communities, knocked on doors and displayed automatic weapons, telling the residents they had to leave within five or ten minutes. Many who resisted were shot. Upon leaving, the Serbs demanded money. People who refused or didn’t have any money were killed. They were forced to leave by train, car, cart, or foot to the border. Many exiles spent weeks walking around Kosovo seeking exit, only to be turned back at the border either by the Serbs or Macedonians. When they did finally leave, all of their identity documents were confiscated.

All along the route, there was constant terror. One woman, now in Skopje, spoke of an elderly neighbor who didn’t want to leave her home and was shot by Serb paramilitaries. She retold her tale of spending four days in exodus with children who wouldn’t eat or drink and about Serb paramilitaries threatening to kill other Serbs who offered them water. Hundreds of thousands of refugees with similar tales arrived in Macedonia. There were now two crises for the international community to contend with. One was war with Yugoslavia; the other was a million refugees.



  Above: Newly arrived Kosovar refugees in a NATO-built camp in Macedonia.
Left: Five-week-old-baby in NATO refugee camp near Tetova.
Below: Bringing sick refugees to the medical tent in Blace.