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Yugoslavia/Kosovo: Emotional farewell

19-10-2001 News Release 01/41

Residents of the special institute for the mentally and physically disabled in Shtime/Stimlje (Kosovo), its personnel and staff from the Norwegian Red Cross and the ICRC all gathered on 5 October, early in the morning, to bid a last farewell to Jelena, Olga and Dure. After more than five years at the institute, the two sisters were leaving for Novi Sad in northern Yugoslavia and Dure was on his way to Banja Luka (Bosnia-Herzegovina).

In silence, Jelena, Olga and Dure anxiously listened to the director's reassuring words. Dr Marcos Pisaca, a Norwegian Red Cross psychiatrist who has been working at the institute for two years and is highly appreciated by all his patients, was to accompany them on their long journey back home. " These are emotional occasions " , he said, echoing the feelings of everyone present. " It means moving closer to one's family but at the same time leaving a familiar environment. However, I don't think Jelena, Olga and Dure will have too many problems coping with daily life, having now been successfully rehabilitated. "

Thanks to its family message service, the ICRC has managed to keep the institute's residents in touch with their relatives throughout the former Yugoslavia. In all, more than 200 messages have been exchanged this year and 13 families have been reunited.

The institute, which today only accepts patients from Kosovo, currently has around 240residents. In August 1999, at a time when the institute was facing a serious crisis, the Norwegian Red Cross, in cooperation with the ICRC, launched a major programme to improve general living conditions there and ensure better care and treatment for patients. The programme, which will be completed by the end of the year, involves refurbishing buildings, setting up a rehabilitation unit, training staff and introducing various occupational therapy activities for patients.