Refugees

2001
oil on canvas
36" x 24"
(SOLD)
Refugees

KOSOVO: In 1999, over one million ethnic Albanians either fled Kosovo or were forcibly removed by Serbian troops. Though neighboring states sheltered most, arrival in camps was just one more step in a treacherous 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. The Serbian government staged a systematic oppression of Albanians including school closures, massive lay-offs, and blatant violations of human rights. In 1998, full-scale violence erupted when government security forces were deployed to fight the growing guerrilla movement in the countryside. Nearly one million Albanians left Kosovo that year in a mass exodus. Refugees often arrived at camps physically exhausted and in poor health after several days of trekking. Others fared even worse, victims of rape or violence from security forces, or having desperately crossed minefields to reach their freedom. By the spring of 1999, Macedonia's refugee camps were overflowing, housing tens of thousands of people in cramped, unsanitary quarters. Hundreds of thousands eventually returned to Kosovo following Milosevic's surrender to NATO. However, left to rebuild their homes, their government, and their lives, their return can be deemed less of a homecoming and more of an arduous new beginning.