7 January 2008 – The Rroms only sleep in their mahàla, to work they come here to the North – said Latif Masurica, a resident of the Çesmin Lug camp. What can we do with 40-50 euros per month? We want to go back to our homes, but not only for the sake of returning ; we need jobs to feed our children and to live in dignity. We don’t trust men any more, only God…

This time, with a French photo reporter, we went to north Mitrovica. First, a taxi from Prishtina to southern Mitrovica, and then we called our friend who booked another taxi for us in the northern part of Mitrovica. The river Ibar cuts the city in two. We cross the bridge on foot. Beyond the bridge, another taxi is waiting for us. We tell the driver where to go: the Cesmin Lug camp. It starts raining and the wind is blowing. Here,we can see another face of Kosov@. Here, only Serbian is spoken. We arrive to the camp of Cesmin Lug. Here Rroms are living in horrific conditions ; the suffering shows up in the tears of the children; these barefoot children running in the mud who look at us straight in the eye. We are looking for Latif Masurica, the leader of this camp about 200 meters long which looks like a transit camp. On the right, small huts. On the left, a fence of barbed wire separates the camp from the track. A train rumbles, only two metres from the camp. We wonder how it is not breaking down the Rroms shacks covered with cardboard. Latif, a 44-year Rrom from Prishtina, comes to us. We greet one another and start talking with him:

Latif: Here is where we live. This is not a life, as you can see . We are always exposed to the cold, to the wind, to the rain… Many children are sick. Doctors come and visit them, but there are no medicines. So, what can we do?

NK: How long have you been here, Latif?

Latifi: For three years. Before, we lived in Vojvodina and Serbia. We were told that here children could go to school, so we came to Zveçan. Since then, nothing has changed, and we are still here, three years later.

NK: Do you receive any social grants ?

Latifi: Yes, 40-50 euros per month. What can you do with so litlle money? I have two children who go to school. This is enough to eat for 3-4 days, but then, what can you do …?

NK: Do you work anywhere ?

Latif: We collect cardboard and metals in the trash bins, and sell it.

NK: And when you were in Vojvodina and in central Serbia, how did you manage ?

Latifi: It was very hard. We were treated like animals, not like human beings.

NK: What about Zveçan?

Latifi: Even worse! The children began to get sick, with very high lead levels rates. Medecins du Monde has found it out. We lived next to a factory, the smoke poisoned children. Then, we were brought here.

NK: Why are you not returning to the mahàla, in the southern part to live there?

Latif: Thank you for asking me this question. Among us, nobody has been asked to do this, only those from the camp of Osterode went, because we have not been invited by anyone. None of the municipality or of UNMIK came to ask us whether someone wanted to go to the Rromani mahàla in the south. Only those who knew the municipality and the others went there. But those who have left , they are very poor over there. They only sleep in the mahàla; to work, they come here, in the north. Some are begging, some collect the scrap, others do small jobs, and in the evening they return to sleep in the mahàla. In 2003 it was dangerous to go to the mahàla, but not now. I see many people who go and come. Many Rroms have sold the aid they had from donors and have nothing to eat. A new house, this is good, but you can not eat it, we need to work!

NK: Who helps you here?

Latifi: Last time – it was a week ago – everyone was given a hygien package, this is all! There are a lot of poor people here, people who are sick… Especially among children, some are seriously ill.

NK: Do the children go to school? Latifi: Yes, but they do not have good results. They lack books, a suitable place in which to do their homework, support from someone in the family with their homework. There was a school here in the camp before, called ’Herdelèzi “, but it was closed. Now, there’s another in Osterode.

NK: Would you move now to the mahàla and live there?

Latifi; Sure! But not just for the house. We should be able to feed and bring up our children, and live in dignity, like everyone else.

Ersan, the 16-year old son of Latif, is listening to our conversation. Ersan goes to high school.

KN: How do you see the outcome of this situation?

Ersani: I am sure of one thing: we can not stay like this forever. We are not animals; we are humans like all other human beings. We have done no harm to anyone, neither I nor my family. We left our home when we saw that the other Rroms left. How could we stay there all alone? And now, misfortune has overtaken us.

NK: You are going to high school. Are they any other students like you, who go to school?

Ersani: I am the only one in high school. There are also other children who go to school, but without good results. We need to work at home, but our parents did not go to school so they can not help us. This is why we do not have good results. Me, for example, I have not all the books I need. I borrow some to my friends, but I can not do this all the time, because they have to work too. When we come back from school we have not a quiet and decent place to do our homework. We are all in the same room, adults and children, in the cold, often hungry, sick… this is not what we might call a life, in our century.

We have no more trust in men, we just keep hoping in God. We want to return to our homes, where we lived before. We want to go to school, to find a job. We can not keep on living in this way!

Ersan leaves us, the eyes full of tears. Sad, his father offers to us a cigarette: “you can see by yourself how we feel here…”

We stay a little more time with Latif and with the Rroms of Cesmin Llug camp, and then back towards south. It remains to Kosov@ institutions and to Europe to help these people. Because they are also a part of Kosov @ and Europe.

Author: Kujtim Pacaku

Source: Courrier des Balkans