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Radio Station Reuniting Refugees

May 5, 1999

TUZI, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Tears roll down the face of the 7-year-old girl as she reads the long list of missing people into the microphone.

``Drita, Rexhep, Fadilj, Azemina, Florita ...″ Jehona Huljaj says in a quavering voice on Radio Mir.

Thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees listen anxiously every day to her words and those of other volunteers on broadcasts that offer a glimmer of hope that they can be reunited with loved ones.

Radio Mir is the only station in Montenegro, the small pro-Western republic in Yugoslavia, that broadcasts primarily in Albanian. Four times a day, its most popular program holds its audience rapt _ half-hour-long lists of refugees looking for family members and relatives.

Young Jehona is one of many success stories at the station, based in Tuzi, 10 miles east of the capital. Podgorica. Like scores of other Kosovo Albanians, she learned of the whereabouts of a loved one _ her father _ through the program.

His name was read on the air last week and a refugee who knew of him called the station. He said Jehona’s father was recently transferred from a hospital in the Kosovo city of Pec to a Catholic church in the same city.

``I do not know how sick he is, but at least I know he is alive,″ says Jehona, who seems much older than 7.

She left her hometown of Pec at the end of March and still has no strength to talk about that day. If asked, Jehona just bursts into tears.

Radio Mir has been broadcasting lists of the missing ever since it was set up last September with money from the U.S.-based Soros Foundation. When NATO started its airstrikes, Soros representatives were forced to leave Montenegro.

Radio Mir journalist Izedina Adzovic, 25, says the most difficult part of his job is dealing with the desperate people searching for their families, particularly parents looking for their children.

Often, journalists end up crying along with the parents, he said.

Adzovic and others fear the situation in Montenegro, the smaller of the two Yugoslav republics, will only worsen. A power struggle is under way between the government and the Yugoslav Army-backed opposition, which is loyal to hard-line Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

If the opposition prevails and the army takes over, ethnic Albanians might be expelled _ just as they were from Kosovo.

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