HeadLine: Refugee Adeline picks up John’s mobile and hears the news she’s been dreading.. her cousin has been executed.
Daily Record, 12/04/1999, p4&5
by Shaun Milne in Brazda
THIS is the moment a refugee was told her cousin had been executed in Kosovo by Serb soldiers.
Hers is the face of this war, contorted with grief.
Friends in the Brazda camp in Macedonia told me her name is Adeline.
She is 22 but despite her youth has experienced more evil than any of us probably ever will.
It seemed a harmless enough request when she asked to borrow the mobile phone of Scots aid worker John Campbell, to check on her family.
After making the call and learning the truth, she sobbed uncontrollably but still politely thanked John for the loan of the phone, as if trying to hold on to some semblance of civilised normality.
He was left wishing he had never given her the mobile.
Masked men had forced Adeline and her family to flee their burning homes in Pristina.
At the border with Macedonia, they were split up by police. Adeline was herded into a bus and shipped to the tented village she now calls home.
John, a safety adviser for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, would normally have refused Adeline’s request to borrow his mobile so other
occupants of the camp would not follow suit and besiege him.
But he agreed this time because of the sheer despair in her eyes.
Adeline had learned her missing relatives were taken to Germany three or four days before and she had a number to contact them.
They broke the news that her closest cousin – a few years younger than Adeline – was dead, shot in cold blood because he was an ethnic Albanian.
John tried to console her, placing his arm around her shoulders, but nothing he said or did could offer comfort.
A former major in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, he knows first-hand about conflict.
With the UNHCR, he has experienced the horrors of Bosnia, Croatia and Rwanda.
Yet even this hardened aid worker could not fail to be affected by Adeline’s anguish and tears.
He said: “I think this was the most poignant thing to happen to me in all my time here in the Balkans.
“She came up to me and asked for the phone.
“Here, you normally have to say no or, before you know it, you will have a big crowd round you asking for the same thing because there are no phones except the ones people like me carry about with them. I don’t know why but I gave it to her anyway.
“I told her to walk about with it when she was calling so it didn’t look so obvious.
“But she phoned her family to be told that her relative had been killed the day before and she was obviously extremely upset.
“You have to do something to help people when they ask.
“But perhaps if I hadn’t then she wouldn’t have found out.
“But there’s not much else you can do.”
John is respected throughout the camp by refugees, other aid workers and even the Macedonian soldiers who are difficult to deal with all too often.
He has also won the backing of Labour MP Nigel Griffiths who has just returned to Scotland from the camps here in Skopje.
Mr Griffiths, who helped the Daily Record co-ordinate a Scottish Charities aid airlift to Macedonia, said: “I am inviting John to the House of Commons so he
can brief MPs about the situation that he is faced with.
“I and the Record have seen for ourselves a lot of what goes on.
“But because of his experience with the UNHCR and his past military background, I believe he is a very suitable person to give my colleagues a real understanding of what is happening in and around Kosovo.”
John said he would jump at the chance to put his experiences before the decision-makers.
He wants to make aid workers’ lives easier on the ground by letting the politicians know how they can best help.
He said: “I’d like to tell them that these people want to go home.
“And if I do get the chance, I will tell them about the refugees, the children, and the trauma they have gone through and the massive counselling they will need.
“They are messed up and will be forever unless we can get psychologists in here. There are so many things people back home are unaware of and need to be told to have the situation resolved.
“We cannot walk away from this now.”