Kosovo unveils memorial wall for wartime refugees

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By Louise Miner  with AP
Kosovo unveils memorial wall for wartime refugees
Copyright  AP Photo

A memorial wall dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians expelled from Kosovo during the 1999 war has been unveiled.

Only about 50 people attended the small ceremony at the former Bllaca refugee camp near the North Macedonian border, because of COVID-19 restrictions. 

"This is the wall of our memory, representing the pain of 440,000 people crossing here in 1999 after the humanitarian crisis and the intervention of the progressive forces to stop the extinction of a whole population," Jahja Luka, a representative of a refugee association, explained.

The mosaic represents Sherife Ljuta, now 43, who became a symbol of the hardships during that time.

"I remember that day, with my daughter in my arms," Sherife said, "Thousands of refugees walking tired, without eating or drinking, and me with my daughter in my arms, breastfeeding her, in a non-stop trip."

More than 10,000 people died during the 1998-99 war in Kosovo, then a province of Serbia, and 1,650 of them are still unaccounted for.

Between 1.2 million and 1.4 million Kosovo Albanians were displaced during that time.