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Kosovo Family Makes It Over Border

May 19, 1999

SENEKOS, Macedonia (AP) _ When Serb police torched Fadil Dervishi’s home and business in central Kosovo a month ago, their message seemed clear: Leave now.

But it took the Dervishi family four weeks and four attempts before they finally made it over the border into Macedonia.

Standing in the dusty gravel in front of Tent 411 in Macedonia’s newest camp, Dervishi smiled and teased his wife for ``causing trouble″ by insisting their family of six stay together throughout their month-long journey.

``We haven’t had anything to eat all day,″ Dervishi said. ``But ... we are out now. We are safe.″

The Dervishis were among 800 ethnic Albanians who arrived at this border post by train Tuesday.

A day earlier, Serb police turned back the refugee train at the border without explanation _ despite having allowed trains through over the weekend.

U.N. High Commission for Refugees officials suspect the police are seeking yet another way to cause fear and confusion among the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo, a province in Yugoslavia’s main republic of Serbia.

Equally puzzling, the number of refugees crossing into Albania, the main route out, has fallen to a trickle. International observers reported Tuesday that in the past six days less than 100 refugees had crossed the Morini border post where earlier thousands had been arriving each day. They said they suspected the Serbs were blocking refugees.

Dervishi, his wife, their four sons aged four to 12, and his brother and sister-in-law left Glogovac in Kosovo’s central Drenica region one month ago, after the family’s three homes were torched.

Serb police also razed Dervishi’s restaurant _ a favorite hangout for the international observers who were deployed in Kosovo for eight months before NATO airstrikes began March 24 to try to force Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to accept a peace deal.

``We walked on foot though the mountains and along the roads to Pristina,″ said Dervishi, 43. ``Along the way, we saw mostly Serb military, but every time, we would hide behind trees in the woods, lie down in the grass or duck into houses.″

Two weeks later they reached Pristina, the provincial capital, and moved in with friends.

At night, said Dervishi, drunken Serb police and soldiers took to the streets, firing into the air, while ethnic Albanians hid inside their homes.

Three times, the family went to Pristina station hoping to board a train for Macedonia. Each time, Yugoslav border police turned them back.

The worst was last weekend, when the Serbs ordered them off the train and on to a bus for Albania.

``They told us, ’You can go to Albania. That’s where you belong,‴ said Dervishi.

The Serbs packed about 70 people onto the bus, charging them extra. But the driver, also a Kosovo Albanian, was reluctant to drive through areas where the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army was fighting the Serbs. The passengers gathered $375 and paid the driver to return them to Pristina, he said.

They made it to Lipjlan, nine miles south of Pristina, when night fell. A friend of a fellow passenger put them up in the back of a wagon hitched to a tractor and covered with a heavy tarpaulin, and the next day they were back in Pristina.

On Monday, the Dervishis tried again to leave the country. Again, they were turned back without explanation.

On Tuesday, they arrived safely.

``You know, I love Kosovo,″ Dervishi said. ``But right now, you can’t live there.″

He paused, then looked at the emblem stamped on his tent ``A Gift from the United States of America″ and smiled again.

``USA,″ he said, motioning to his family. ``We all want to go to America.″

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