Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bus People

In the first six weeks of 2015, some 50,000 Albanians have reportedly left the "independent state of Kosovo", setting off in buses across Serbia towards Hungary and the EU. Their number may be even higher: some "Kosovian" media mention up to 120,000 migrants. And now there is word they are also crossing over into Albania proper. 

While the Western media reflexively blame the Serbs, nobody actually knows what is happening. Perhaps this account, from an ethnic Serb traveling from her enclave in Kosovo to Belgrade on a bus filled with Albanian migrants, may help shed some light on the phenomenon.

This Looks Like 1999
By Yanya Gachesha (Јања Гаћеша)
Novi Standard, February 9, 2015. (original)

When I set out for Belgrade with a group of friends, early in the morning, and saw a group of Albanians at the bus depot in Gračanica, I realized the trip would take at least three hours more - but that this was also the opportunity to get to know these migrants better.
More Albanians boarded the bus at Ajvalija, Priština, Podujevo, all the way to Merdare. Most of them were young men, and young couples with children. When a few Serbs came on board at Miloševo we cheered up - until then, it seemed we were the only ones not traveling to Subotica.

They are leaving en masse, literally disappearing overnight. None of the Serbs know what's gotten into them all of a sudden. What I saw on the bus only confirmed the doubts that I and many other Kosovo-Metohija Serbs share: they are up to no good again. Apart from one woman headed to Subotica with her husband and children, who came on board in tears, everyone else looked entirely carefree. Neither her, nor her family looked like they were suffering, impoverished, or starving. Nor did anyone else. Few had more luggage than a single backpack, even those with children in tow. They were completely relaxed, laughing and talking on their phones, couples necking and kissing, as if they were all going to a seaside holiday and were about to burst into song.

As if on a mision

The procedure at Merdare took hours. On the "Kosovian" side, we were greeted by a smiling Albanian cop, as if it were perfectly normal for so many of his compatriots to be leaving every day. On the Serbian side, the cop sighed when he saw a bus full of Albanians. The driver asked what took him so long. "I can't fly," the cop replied. Poor man! He had to write and print out a permit allowing every Albanian to move freely through the rest of Serbia, and there were hundreds waiting in buses - and more crossing into central Serbia on foot.

I am puzzled again, not for the first time in my life, by the minds of people who feel the need to attract attention in some way every few years. They can't seem to calm down, organize and just live their lives. While the media drone about the "bad economic situation" that supposedly drove them to move, I wonder whose hand was on the button this time, inciting them to do something that would make the world notice them again.

I ask my friend: "What kind of parents take their children God knows where in winter like this?"
"Casablanca", she replies with a sigh, adding that "we Serbs from Kosovo will surely get the blame for this misadventure as well."

As soon as we crossed Merdare, they started calling ahead, telling someone when they would be arriving in Subotica. Several people handed 200-euro bills to other passengers; these must have been guides, as we later saw them shepherding their obedient flocks [as they changed buses] at the Belgrade station.

Once in Subotica, they will wait for days under the open sky, many with children - I have to point that out again - before crossing into Hungary on foot, over fields, mud bogs and rivers. They had no idea what would happen then, but their faces did not show the slightest sign of worry. As if they all had the mission to reach Subotica and Hungary; if they get caught and sent back, they could say they tried. How else to explain their carefree attitude?

"Goodbye Forever"

On our way back from Belgrade, aboard our bus were were 15 Albanians on their way back from Subotica. If only you could see their joy! One young woman, getting off in Podujevo with her sisters and parents, told the driver (in English), "Goodbye forever!" She was overjoyed to return. So was her family. That just doesn't fit into the narrative of people fleeing the poverty and misery of Kosovo.

We saw the Albanians acting this way in 1999, when vast numbers of them pretended they were being expelled by the Serbian army and police. Following the orders of their Western sponsors, they would leave their homes, so the Western media could paint a picture of a humanitarian disaster. Current events resemble that scenario so closely, they may have been written in the same hand.

I am convinced the exodus has nothing to do with poverty, unemployment, bad economic situation or other excuses. They are spending a lot of money to reach Subotica, Hungary, Montenegro, Germany, even America. Yet no one asks how those thousands of euros got into their pockets. No matter how difficult the economic situation in Kosovo-Metohija may be, none of them are hungry enough to take their children and go freeze in the forests in mid-winter. Stories of Albanians selling their property should be taken with a grain of salt.

I find it hard to believe that all of a sudden everyone realized there was no future in Kosovo, and that leaving was the only way. Something else is at work here. What is it this time - I don't know. I only know that whenever they get riled up, everyone tells the same story without a shred of sincerity, when the authorities are mostly silent or taciturn and the West shrugs it off - it is the Serbs that pay the price.

This is why I fear this exodus, and wish to God I'm wrong about it.

(Translated by Gray Falcon)

- Merdare is the "border crossing" checkpoint between the occupied province styling itself an independent state, and the rest of Serbia.
- Subotica (Суботица) is a city in northern Serbia, on the Hungarian border.


kapetan Mile said...

my only worry is that they get "stuck" in serbia only to wreck havoc and chaos about 50 years from now.

Mabuballah said...

Why are they encouraged (or even allowed) to flee into Serbia?
Aren't the Serbs their oppressors, so the world keeps telling us to this day?
Where are the stonings, the hijackings, the beheadings here?

CubuCoko said...

I would need to look into it further, but nobody ever explained it. Though I do think they were only using Serbia as a way station towards Hungary and onward to the EU.

Last I heard, Germany sent police to the Hungarian border, and the flow of "bus people" stopped just as abruptly as it had started.