No job spells end of study

August 20, 1999

University students returning to Kosovo are facing an uphill struggle to continue their studies. Many are taking jobs with the United Nations, Nato and aid agencies as translators over the summer to raise the necessary funds.

But many who had jobs with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe have been replaced by Serbs, now seen as the victims of the conflict.

Tal Gashi, 21, and his brother Bujar, 24, both returned to their home in Prizren, Kosovo, after spending two months as refugees in Albania.

Both are third-year students at Pristina University - Tal has been studying electro-engineering, computing and telecommunications and Bujar law.

Early in July, Tal found a job as a translator doing engineering surveys of destroyed villages around Prizren for the agency World Vision. He had the chance to continue his studies at Vienna University but Serbs destroyed his passport and although there is funding and a place for him, he cannot travel without it.

Tal is the only member of his family in work. Bujar did not get his old job back as a security guard for the OSCE and their parents, both teachers, have not been paid for a year.

Bujar worked for the OSCE from December 1998 to March 1999, but when the agency left in March, Serb police came looking for him. He hid next door with some Gypsy neighbours.

"Police got all the OSCE

documents of those who worked for them and came round looking for us - they thought we were spies. They beat up two of my friends while questioning them so, after three weeks in hiding during the Nato bombing, I left with

my family for Albania in mid-April."

Bujar contacted OSCE in Tirana but there was no work for him. He is angry that the OSCE has not even contacted him to inquire if he is alive. He went to the agency to ask for his old job back but he has had only one interview - a second was cancelled.

"I am worried about having enough money to pay my rent when I return to my studies in Pristina. Many homes have been destroyed and many others occupied by aid staff, so it will be difficult to even find a place let alone pay for it. Before, I worked in a bar but those jobs are like gold dust. I will have to rely on my parents but it is not certain when and if they will be paid ."

Bujar is confident of finding a job when he qualifies and both brothers plan to return to Prizren to work and be near their family.

In Pristina, Toni Rrecaj, another law student at the university, is working as a translator for the UNHCR.

He said 60 per cent of new OSCE staff are Serbs and many Albanians are very resentful, especially when most Serbs refuse to even talk to the Albanians they work with.

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