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Albania: Three women eager for Red Cross messages

08-03-2001 News Release 01/09

It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop in the main room of an old farmhouse in northern Albania as Andye Kortoci, a village elder, began to read out Red Cross messages. The pages trembled in his rough hands, but no one noticed. The three women surrounding him hung on his every word.

Each woman had received a message: one from her brother, one from her husband and one from her son, all of whom had borne weapons during the conflict in Kosovo and had been detained in Serbia for nearly two years.

The three detainees come from the same village, Myhejan, where their absence weighs heavily on their families. Their work – cultivating fields, tending cattle and other farm chores – has been taken over, as far as possible, by the rest of the community. Even the children must pitch in.

The nearest town, Bajram Curri, is some 50 km away on the main road. It is another half an hour's walk – in good weather – from the road to the village.

Selim Musa, an Albanian Red Cross worker, makes the trek to Myhejan about once every three months, to bring Red Cross messages that arrive from Serbia, via Tirana. So few visitors come to Myhejan that the villagers recognize his silhouette from afar. Selim Musa is the only link left between the detainees and their families in Albania.