Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Tuesday, December 22, 1998 Published at 15:19 GMT

November: Sally Becker

Review of the Year
Sally Becker was hailed as the Angel of Mostar for her heroic rescue of 170 people in Bosnia 1993. But opinion turned this year: the press labelled her a "meddlesome publicist", the UN denounced her and Jack Straw refused visa applications for her latest attempt to secure the evacuation of Albanian refugees to Britain.

In November she resigned as leader of the charity Operation Angel.

[ image:  ]

I resigned basically because of the attitude of the media. Obviously bad publicity and the misrepresentation by the British press about me is going to be believed in some quarters, and it would affect our organisation. So I felt the best thing was if I left the charity and they could continue, rather than seeing it destroyed.

The last year has been incredible. I have never faced so many obstacles, I have never felt so acutely aware of danger as I have here in Albania (Bajram Curri), but there have been some amazing moments.

I was shot probably to stop me making propaganda, as it were, against the Serbs. The fact that these children would have received world-wide attention to what has happened to them, the beatings they have gone through, the torture, I don't think the shooting is anything to do with Britain. If anything I think it would have been to do with the Serbs.

An old man from Kosovo travelled for two hours walking across in the snow, just after I had been wounded, to bring me some yoghurt, to tell me that he would have taken the bullet in his heart if he could stop me from suffering.

Asked to help

I came out with a convoy to Kosovo towards the end of June, and not being able to get visas we decided to come through Albania up to the border region where thousands of refugees were coming across. We delivered family boxes for about 500 people.

Then when the convoy had gone home I'd saved some paediatric medicines and I went across the border because nobody was reaching certain besieged areas ; no aid organisations were getting there. It was my way of trying to help.

I found a lot of sick and wounded children and people living under the rubble of their houses.

I was asked if I could help and I said "yes" so I decided to take them out the only way possible which was up the mountain.

When I reached the top almost to the border we were suddenly surrounded by Serb forces. Everyone managed to escape back into the forest, but I stayed behind to help a mother who had a baby in her arms and a small girl.

We stayed there for an hour under mortar attack with machine gun fire until eventually I walked out of the forest with my hands in the air and gave us up and was arrested.

In July, I was sentenced to 30 days in prison by the Serbs.

Hunger strike

I don't believe refusing to eat had any impact. It was just at the time I could hear the planes and I didn't know whether anybody else knew that the offensive Milosevic said he had stopped was still continuing.

It was the only thing I could think of to draw attention to it, but I don't think it had any effect and it doesn't matter if it didn't. It was just that I had to do something.

Well I don't know if I can make a difference now, I used to think that it was better to do a little of something than nothing at all.

'Nobody's angel'

I'll probably come back to Albania straight after Christmas and continue with people that need help. I'll just continue working in whatever way I can and I will fight for Kosovo until people are free.

I don't think I want to be remembered at all this year. It hasn't been a good year at all. I made vows to a lot of people that I believed I could help. In the past I made nearly 200 promises in Bosnia and was able to keep every single one and saved a lot of lives. This time some lives have been saved, but there are some children who still need help and are still reliant of me.

I think probably what sums up my year the most is the title given to me by one of the newspapers this year, 'nobody's angel' because that is how I feel.
[ image:  ]

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage |

In this section

January: Scott Ritter

February: Touched by an angel

March: Jane Couch

April: Gitta Sereny

May (1): People of Northern Ireland

May (2): Mo Mowlam

June: The England-Argentina referee

July: Gill Samuels, Viagra creator

August: David Shayler

September: Neville Lawrence

October: Ann Widdecombe

November: Sally Becker

December: Deborah Hickey