May 20, 1999
The Youngest Victims
A Los Angeles eyewitness encounters Kosovo's smallest, most heartbreaking refugees
Not far from Tirana, Albania, a refugee camp is nestled at an abandoned amusement park. As I entered the camp with two water bottles hung on each shoulder, 30 children surrounded me, pulling off the water bottles. Within seconds, a water bottle was passed from child to child. One bottle was taken to the women. The group of children dispersed seconds after the water was gone. I stood there, perplexed, then looked down to see a 5-year-old Muslim refugee child standing alone before me. His head was shaven because of an infestation of lice, and his skin appeared infected and raw. He stood, scratching his scalp. His eyes revealed deep confusion and hurt.
I offered him a chocolate, and he grabbed it with both hands, burying his face in the melting chocolate and cupping the silver paper with his palms in an effort not to waste a morsel. Suddenly, I was once again surrounded by a large group of children, who were pushing and pulling in search of anything they could grab to feed their hunger, both physical and emotional.