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Thursday, May 13, 1999 Published at 19:53 GMT 20:53 UK


World: Europe

Tractors: Unsung heroes of Kosovars

Without their tractor this family could not have left Kosovo

By Duncan Kennedy in Kukes, Albania

Forget trains and boats and planes - Kosovo is a tragedy driven on by tractors.

One man we spoke to said he and his family had just been forced out of their home by Serbs, and the only thing they had left was their tractor.


[ image:  ]
Refugee agencies want people to leave the border area because of the dangers of Serb shelling, even if it means temporarily leaving their tractors behind.

But for him that was not an option.

"I cannot lose this tractor, it is the only thing I have left now," he said.

For thousands like him in Northern Albania's refugee camps, tractors are treasures. They are washing lines, they are toys, and they are beds.

The authorities say they will provide fuel and mechanics for the journey.

But still, many are suspicious.


[ image: Tractors can double as washing lines and more]
Tractors can double as washing lines and more
It is not just that these tractors are the refugees' only possession, it is not just that they want to stay close to the border, close to home. It is the sheer practicality of it: Many of the vehicles are simply not up to leaving the refugee camps.

In Kukes, the United Nations refugees help organisation, UNHCR, has managed to persuade only 10% of the refugees to go.

But tractors are not the only sticking point. The UNHCR faces other problems, from the fact that as the camps get better, fewer people want to move, to the pressure on the refugees to stay to join the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Many thousands have said they will move. But convincing people that danger could follow them across the border into Albania is turning out to be a difficult job.



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