By Vjosa Macula
The first thing I noticed when we arrived at the town of Istog was the huge trees uprooted by the storm and lying like fallen dominoes. It was like a scene in the movies. While I was here to see the after-effects of the severe weather, poverty was the first thing I noticed. People were living in a miserable old barracks which had been battered by the strong winds. I could also see some newer houses were the roofs had been half torn off and people on the top trying to cover the gaps.
I realized the truth in the saying that disasters can hit anyone; rich or poor. Disasters have no borders.
One of houses I visited with local Red Cross staff looked quite nice from outside, but when we entered we were able to see that only one room was habitable. A 45-year-old woman was living there with her four children and her mother-in-law. They live on social assistance, and the oldest son is disabled.
Her late husband’s brother – who lives abroad – helped them to build the house but was not able to finish it all. We asked her about how they spent the night of the storm. “We’ve never lived through anything like that before,” she said. “We all woke up at the same time from the terrible noise coming from everywhere, and then suddenly we started hearing the roof cracking. We also thought it was an earthquake at the same time. We felt like the earth was shaking as well.”
The next family we visited had a similar story to tell. Sinavere is a single mother with four children, living on a meager social assistance. From the Roma community, her house was not in good shape even before the storm and now it looked very sad. It was freezing cold in there. Two of her children go to school while the other two are still babies, still clinging to her.
She said: “I am so happy we went that night to my parents. It’s stronger than house but even there we were scared. When I came home next day I was shocked when I saw what happened to my house. If we had been there that night some of us would have been injured for sure.
“You see the roof? I climbed there and put some tiles back. I don’t know if I put them right but I couldn’t wait for rain or snow with no roof. The Red Cross was the only organization that visited me immediately and discussed with me the damage the wind caused as well as my immediate needs and I would like to thank them.”
Another family, again with four children, lives in a old barracks. Their roof was also blown away but they found some pieces on the field and tried to fix it. “While I was afraid that the wind will take the whole building, my children started crying for their school books and notebooks that the wind took away,” said the mother.
The storm is just another blow for so many similar families in Kosovo which – so many years after the conflict – still suffer from the deep socio-economic crisis.