The people of Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of
Macedonia have demostrated that the rich have no exclusive
claim on solidarity. While half of the refugees, fleeing the
conflict in Kosovo, live with relatives, friends or acquaintances,
thousands more are living with people who opened their homes
to those who had nowhere else to go.
“I am a simple man, I am not a racist and I am not
a nationalist. I have been an immigrant in various countries.
I know what it is to sleep in train stations for weeks on
end, what it is to be hungry and how much it means to find
a friend. This is why I think I should help our Kosovar brothers
and sisters,” says Ismet Suleimanoski.
Ismet lives in the Macedonian town of Kicevo. He is married
with three children. Like most of the people in this small
country, he has no steady job. He has been working for several
weeks now as an interpreter for the Red Cross and is helping
in the relief operation undertaken to assist the refugees
pouring into this country. In spite of the fact that he has
no steady income, he has two families from Pristina and Prizren,
Kosovo, a total of 10 people, living in his house.
“As well as giving them a roof over their heads and
sharing our food with them, we are also trying to help them
get their papers in order. One of the families has relations
in Germany and plans to go there,” he explains.
In view of the situation, the Red Cross Societies of Albania
and Macedonia, supported by the Federation and the ICRC, have
made the distribution of food and hygiene parcels to families
that take in refugees a priority in their aid activities.
“We must be mindful of the precarious situation of
practically all the families that have taken in ethnic Albanians
from Kosovo and make every effort to lighten the burden on
them and to prevent an upsurge of social tension in these
countries,” warns Pandora Ketri, secretary general of
the Albanian Red Cross.
The average size of an Albanian or Macedonian house is 45
to 55 square metres, now often occupied by as many as 15 people.
In many cases, these people do not know each other and do
not know how long they will have to live in those conditions,
but complaints about their predicament are rarely heard.