FAREWELL MARJAN... Marjan, the one-eyed lone
lion is no longer the king of
PICTURES from the grenade attack!
KOSOVO, OPERATION ANGEL
Unik (Southern Kosovo), July 1998. A group of approximately 20 individuals, including mothers with ill/wounded children, a KLA fighter and a bunch of armed ethnic albanians try to cross the border to seek refuge in Albania. The whole group relies (to variable extent) on Sally Becker, a 37-years-old British Woman dubbed the Balkan's Angel after her own organization "Operation Angel", for having succeeded in risky rescue missions during the war in Bosnia. Although disregarded by UN and other official agencies as a troublemaker, she was able to enter Kosovo through the Albanian border together with a group of KLA fighters and three italian journalists. The whole group, leaving from Unik at dusk, is forced to stop and spend the night in Gjocaj, one hour after departure, due to heavy rainstorms. The following day, after a 12 hours march, the group approaches the sensitive area close to the border, patrolled and heavily guarded from Serbian Border Police, affected by a genuine tendency to shooting whatever is moving. No questions asked. Suddenly, while resting in the woods, the group is ambushed. Serbian military, alerted maybe by the unavoidable noise from babies and horses, as well as from Sally's walkie-talkie (which could have been possibly detected by Serbian Border Police scanners) start shooting with assault rifles and machine-guns while the group disperse in the nature. A few seconds later the first mortar shells start pummeling the whole area. Sally, who freezes on the spot, will be arrested for illegally entering Kosovo, together with Mrs. Haseni with her daughters Drita and Doruntina. Mrs. Haseni will be released after one week and sent back to her village. Sally Becker starts a hunger strike which forces Serbian Police to expel her from the country, after a couple of weeks of prison. The rest of the group - incredibly, after the shooting violence - escapes untouched. By the following morning, the slower ones, who had preferred to spend the night on the woods, were safe and sound in their home. As to the italian journalists, while the writer and Mr. Gian Micalessin were able to manage the way back to Unik before late night, the third one, Mr. Fausto Biloslavo, due also to the increasing intensity of mortar shelling, did prefer spending the night in the woods. So doing, he was a close spectator to the search for survivors, run by Serbian Police with dogs and helicopters. Mrs. Sally Becker was seriuosly wounded by unknown assailants in Bajram Curri (North Albania) a few weeks later.
52045 Sally Becker
52044 This gentlemen, an engineer, aborted his trip and came back to Unik with his wife and his two sons
52052 Resting in the woods. The machine-gun in the foreground, manned by a KLA fighter dubbed as "Rambo" was one of few weapons the group could rely on.
52059 A couple of newborns were with the group
52063 Mrs. Haseni, who fell prisoner after the ambush, here with small Doruntina (3 years)
52067 Grandparent greets the leaving groups in Unik
52074 The gentleman in the foreground, a swiss kosovar named Dino, survived the ambush to be killed by a landmine during late 1999, while fighting with a group of KLA volunteers.
52153 Colleagues Fausto Biloslavo and Gian Micalessin with Mrs. Sally Becker
52181 The group had a few horses to carry wounded children up to the mountain
52047 Mrs. Sally Becker
52176 Some of the children while being gathered prior to departure. First from the right, a child who had suffered burns during the shelling of Kamenitsa, a few days before
52048 Mr. Haseni (left) with her children and Mrs. Sally Becker. On the foreground Rambo, the only KLA fighter sent out to escort the group
52169 This is Mrs. Hiseni other children, a few moments after the ambush. He will believe to have lost his mother and two sisters, since after one week later, when they were released and sent back to their village
Farewell, good ol' Marjan... The lone king of Kabul zoo succumbs to his age at 48, after surviving years and years of deprivations and symbolizing to kabulis the spirit of resiliency itself Well.....that's sad news, indeed. To my eyes, Marjan symbolized hope. However, in thinking about that dear old lion's death I choose to believe that when he heard the swoosh of kites flying over Kabul, heard the roars from the football stadium, experienced the renewed sounds of music in the air and heard the click-click of chess pieces being moved around chessboards....well, the old guy knew that there was plenty of hope around and it was okay for him to let go and fly off, amid kite strings, to wherever it is the spirits of animals go.
Peace to you Marjan and peace to Afghanistan.
[Diana Smith, via the Internet]