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Reporters on the Job

July 5, 2001



Parallel realities: While reporting today's story about refugees fleeing to Kosovo (page 7), Arie Farnam came away with this perspective on ethnic tensions: Kosovo is a very different place, depending on who you walk with.

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"For an American traveling in Kosovo with an Albanian interpreter, it's like being a celebrity," says Arie. Kosovar Albanians are positively gleeful about the current state of affairs and love America so much that they name their shops after Bill Clinton and the Statue of Liberty. There are dark whispers of the past before the war, when Kosovar Albanians felt oppressed by a brutal Serbian regime, but today her Albanian interpreter says: "There is total freedom in Kosovo. There is no fear."

But Arie found Kosovo was a very different place when she walked the same streets in Ferizaj, Kosovo, with a Roma (gypsy) interpreter named Hisen. With his darker face, Hisen stuck out like a sore thumb and became a target for verbal abuse by Kosovar Albanians. "I had to stay with him every moment, because he was terrified and believed that it was only the presence of foreign journalists that kept the Kosovar Albanians from finishing the job they started when they burned his house and forced his family to flee to Macedonia two years ago," she says.

At that time, the Macedonian border was like the gateway to paradise. Now, it is the opposite: "On the other side, guards at Macedonian checkpoints await to interrogate and harass us with our Albanian interpreter. Any point in the Balkans has several parallel realities, just depending on who you walk beside."

By David Clark Scott World Editor

FOLLOW-UP ON MONITOR STORIES: HELPING THE HOMELESS: The Masisizane Women's Club gives thanks to all the readers who sent donations to support their homebuilding efforts ("S. African women raise their own tin roofs," in the April 27 Monitor). A wrong address was given to us, but reporter Rena Singer picked up the donations and hand delivered them to the club's president. "There were more than 20 checks - enough money to build several new homes," says Rena. The correct address is:

PO Box 9955 Midrand 1685 South Africa

Let us hear from you.

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor