TALKING IT OVER
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
Like many people around the world, I have been haunted in recent days
by the images of ethnic Albanians driven from their homes by Slobodan
Milosevic. Taking place half a world away, their stories can sometimes feel
remote. Tragically, though, they are all too real.
Last week, I wrote about a doctor who has treated refugees in Pristina,
the capital of Kosovo, for the last year. Imagine the combination of relief and
horror among members of my staff when they saw that doctor, Vjosa Dobruna,
being interviewed on television. This dignified and passionate woman, who
shared tea with me at the White House last spring, is now herself a refugee.
After a friend of hers, a famous human rights activist, was taken from
his house, Dr. Dobruna went into hiding for seven days. "I slept in different
houses," she explained. When she tried to go back to her apartment, she
encountered police, who beat her driver and forced her to leave Pristina.
Dr. Dobruna laments the deplorable conditions the refugees face. "It's
a catastrophe," she says as she tells the story of a 17-day-old baby who died
in her arms.
We've heard similar stories from other victims of Milosevic's ethnic
cleansing. In the 14 months since he undertook his campaign, more than 800,000
-- one out of three ethnic Albanians in Kosovo -- have been displaced from
their homes. The conditions facing these people are horrific.
Many have walked miles from their towns and villages, forced at gunpoint
to leave without belongings or identity papers. They have endured subfreezing
temperatures, rain and snow. Thousands are trapped in a "no man's land" around
the Macedonian border, without food, water or sanitary facilities.
One doctor, who had worked for an international aid agency, reported
that he and his children had been without food for four days and he didn't know
how long they could hold out.
Another refugee said, "My child has been sleeping in the rain for four
nights. Last night, I had to force him to wake up because his body was too
cold, and he had to move to get warm. The blankets got wet, and there was
nowhere to dry them, and our clothes were soaked as well."
Those who have escaped may be the lucky ones. Reports out of Pristina
describe Serb soldiers and police herding Albanians into the center of the city
and lobbing shells at them. And men have been separated from their families and
are being held in factories, stadiums and other locations within the country.
One refugee said, "They had snipers who shot at us. They killed one of
our neighbors, an old man, 70 years old, and a girl, 16, and a little boy who
was only 5."
A housewife recalled with horror: "They were killing the children. They
were killing the men. They were burning our houses and stealing everything in
them -- TVs, furniture, everything. They took money and jewelry from the women.
They came with guns into houses where we were hiding and ordered us to get out,
and they were holding knives to our children's throats."
As is always the case in these situations, the American people have
responded to the plight of the Kosovar refugees. As they've seen the
all-too-vivid pictures and heard the devastating stories, they have reacted
with customary generosity. Here at the White House, we've had countless calls
offering contributions of money, supplies and services. Many have even said
they would take refugees into their homes and adopt children orphaned by the
Before this latest Serbian offensive began, the United States had
committed $100 million in humanitarian assistance and sent in enough food to
supply half a million people for three months. Now, the President has committed
another $50 million to the operation and announced the creation of a special
coordinating committee for the relief effort as well as plans to accept up to
20,000 refugees on a temporary basis.
When individuals in this country or around the world ask what they can
do to help, there is one single answer: The most important thing is to reach
deep into their pockets and contribute whatever they can to the relief
organizations that are working to provide food, shelter, clothing and medical
care to the refugees.
I hope that people all over the world will look for ways to help
victims of this vicious aggression. If you would like to make a contribution,
there is a toll-free number you can call for information: 1-800-USAID RELIEF,
or 1-800-872-4373. Or if you have access to the Internet, you can go to USAID's
web site at www.info.usaid.gov.
It's time for us all to find ways to stand up against this terrible
reminder of the violence and hatred that have marked too much of this century.
To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past
columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at
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