Getting The Story or Bust

Report and photo by Darren McCollester, for the Pulitzer Center


Everyone wants to tell you their story. No one wants to tell you their story. Come here later, I will talk with you. Come there later, I can't talk with you. My boss says I can, my boss says I cannot. The camp leaders say I can, the camp leaders say I cannot. The people rotting in the refugee camps of north Mitrovica are bargaining chips. So much so, to call them refugees is wrong, they are not refugees, they are IDP's; internally displaced people. To call them otherwise is incorrect, the argument over how to describe them more intense than what to do with them. They hate outsiders, you are not one of us, they need outsiders, please help us. We did nothing in the war; they did everything in the war. This is how it is in the camps of Chesmin Lug and Osterrode, on the edge of Mitrovica, in southern Serbia, or northern Kosovo, depends on who's saying it, no one knows for sure.

Even this still not figured out in the local government, the foreign world, what to call this place, who owns it, who runs it. This they are still fighting over. It will be determined over time, over the next election cycle, the next independence vote. Meanwhile, children play in the funny dust that floats in from the nearby smelting plant, from the dirt black mound that rises a thousand feet into the sky, called Moby Dick by some, slagheap by others. Meanwhile, teeth turn to lead, minds turn to mush. The people of these camps die from funny diseases. Herpes. Can one die from herpes? Here they can. But maybe not from herpes, maybe from old age, depends on who you ask.