Refugee Mothers Share Stories at 'Hall of Births'
Posted April 19, 1999
TIRANA, ALBANIA — The humanitarian effort is massive in the countries neighboring Kosovo. Providing food and water for refugees is a large enough task; medical care is another story.
Tirana's only maternity hospital is called the "Hall of Births," and the people there tell tremendous stories.
One Kosovo refugee fled the Serbs for days. Her husband is dead, and her two sons are hopelessly lost. But, she made it to the hospital just in time to start a new life.
"She was disguised, because if they saw pregnant women, they would have killed the children in the mother's womb. So, she was disguised with a loose skirt so that they could not understand that she was pregnant," said one hospital worker.
The new mother said that the pain of walking so far was worse than the pain of childbirth.
What will she teach her newborn son about the conflict?
"Everything. What shall I tell him first when he is old enough to understand?" said the mother.
Next door to her are expectant refugee mothers. One woman's husband, a fighter for the Kosovo Liberation Army, brought her to the hospital and then went back to the fight. She wants to go back, too.
"I want my child to grow up in Kosovo when Kosovo becomes better," said the refugee.
Most Americans cannot imagine staying in a hospital like the one in Tirana. Electrical wires and plumbing fixtures stick out of the walls, and the bed sheets are heavily stained.
But, like most of Albania, they do the best they can with what they have.
"My profession is the most excellent in the branch of medicine, because we are so near life. We are so near the future. This makes us proud," said the hospital's head doctor.
The head doctor was chain smoking all day and was extinguishing his cigarettes on the hospital floor while stray cats ran through the hallways of the hospital.