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Thursday, April 1, 1999 Published at 18:51 GMT 19:51 UK


'Now I am scared to open my mouth'

Kruna with her husband and nephew

By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas

As the war in Kosovo continues, pictures of burned out buildings and desperate refugees fill our screens.

They are scenes of human tragedy that fill many with frustration and despair.

Kruna Budimliya is familiar with these as she too watches from her west London living room.

Kosovo: Special Report
But as a Serb with family still in Belgrade, she is troubled further by feelings of sorrow and betrayal.

"I feel very, very sorry for all these poor refugees," she says. "It is a tragedy what is happening in my country. But I am also very disappointed with the Nato allies for starting their bombing campaign," she said.

Senseless suffering

Nato should, she believes, have continued negotiating with Slobodan Milosevic over Kosovo for as long as it took.

Much physical and psychological suffering would have been avoided for both Kosovans and Serbs, she said.

[ image: Belgrade where most of Kruna's family live]
Belgrade where most of Kruna's family live
She too would have been spared many sleepless nights: "I worry about my family all the time, especially my sister who is sick with diabetes," said Kruna.

"There is a danger that she will run out of insulin. Already there is a shortage of bread and I have sent her chocolate and sardines."

Kruna speaks to her sister Ljuba Sindjelic almost every day on the telephone. From her she hears how her nephews and cousins in and around Belgrade live in fear of the Nato bombs.

But adding to their fear is a sense of confusion at having been drawn into a war they say most Serbians did not want.

"When I was in my country, Serbs lived side-by-side with Croatians and Albanians without it being an issue," says Kruna.

"But we love our country and must stop any aggression. The aggressors were the Kosovan terrorists who ended up pulling innocent Serbs and Kosovans into their battle"

Nowhere to go

Kruna arrived in Britain as a student in 1962. But she felt at home in the UK and decided to stay.

A few years later she met and married her Croatian husband Stojan who moved to the UK after World War II.

Both had good careers before they retired. Stojan worked in the construction industry and Kruna enjoyed being an accountant.

And with a close network of friends, both felt very settled with no thoughts of going back. Now, however, Kruna says she no longer knows how to feel.

"When I came to Britain I felt safe and free. Now I am scared to open my mouth because I am a Serb," she said.

'Bombs must stop falling'

"Everyone thinks we are the bad people in all of this. But though many Serbs did not think Milosevic was a good president, they also felt that he had no choice but to stop the Albanian terrorists."

Now she thinks that both President Milosevic and Nato have gone too far.

For even a fraction of stability to be restored to the region, the bombs must stop falling, she says. Then, she believes, President Milosevic will sit down and talk.

"It is very, very difficult and I do not really know what is going to happen in Kosovo or what Milosevic will do," says Kruna.

"But Kosovo is very important to the history of everyone in Yugoslavia and without a past, you have nothing."

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