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Thursday, May 6, 1999 Published at 01:48 GMT 02:48 UK

World: Europe

Tragedy of the elderly

Hanusha Marina: Lived in Kosovo for more than 100 years

By Fergal Keane

Among the hundreds of thousands of Kosovo refugees are many old people who wonder if they will ever see their homes again.

Kosovo: Special Report
None more so than Hanusha Marina. For more than 100 years she has lived in Kosovo. She has seen two world wars and the rise and fall of Communism.

For her and her family, now in Kukes in northern Albania, the most important question is: will she ever return home?

She says: "I lived through the Nazis but I've never known anything as bad as this."

We also met a 76-year-old, paralysed from the waist down, who spent four days reaching Albania.

She travelled in a ramshackle vehicle with her family. Serbs raided her house, she said, but her daughter managed to hide her jewellery. It was a small victory in the face of terror.

Fergal Keane: "Spending her last days in a refugee camp"
She said her four sons had gone missing and that she had spent three days alone and without food before her family began the trek to Kukes.

But among the pensioners living in Kukes she is one of the luckier ones. She has her family.

Those with nobody to take care of them, end up in hospital in the town of Kukes. It is overcrowded and there is little dignity for the old.

Doctors have begun transferring the elderly to a refugee camp, where they will at least get good medical care. They will also close to an air strip, from where many will soon be flown south.

It would be a comforting thought to believe that the journey into exile for these old people was over, that they would have time and space to rest.

But with aid agencies warning that the area could be targeted by Serb artillery, it seems they face yet another traumatic journey.

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