Monday, June 14, 1999

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Hawaii Red Cross Disaster Services Director Glenn Lockwood
has returned home after helping Kosovo refugees.

Isle man
tells of Kosovo
refugees’ pain

The Hawaii Red Cross
official is back with stories
of rapes and killings

By Helen Altonn


Imagine being forced suddenly to flee Manoa Valley or any other island community -- unable to take anything, people setting fire to your homes, men slaughtered and women raped.

"This is what it would be like," said Glenn Lockwood, director of disaster services, American Red Cross of Hawaii, trying to bring home the horrors experienced by Kosovo refugees.

He returned Friday night from Fort Dix, N.J., where he had been since May 15 managing Red Cross services for Kosovo refugees coming to the United States in America's Project Open Arms.

"I left feeling we did so much good, that these people are truly appreciative of the efforts that we had undertaken to help make them safe," he said.

"The part so critically impressive to all of us was this was not of their doing. This was not something they maybe could have pulled themselves up by the bootstraps and made a go of it. They had nothing to do with being thrown out of their country."

At the peak, about two weeks ago, Lockwood said there were about 4,200 refugees at Fort Dix. They had to be matched with refugee relief programs scattered across the country, he said.

Refugees who had families in the U.S. arrived at the John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and went directly to those families, Lockwood said.

The U.S. agreed to take a total of about 20,000 Kosovo refugees and has pretty much completed that, he noted.

Those at Fort Dix were in "reasonably good condition" although there were some serious medical concerns, Lockwood said.

Four births, one death

Four babies were born and there was one death -- an older woman with a cardiac condition, he said. Many refugees had foot and leg problems from walking to safety many miles without shoes and there was a lot of fatigue and dehydration, he said.

"They were very quiet people about their past," Lockwood said. As Amnesty International and the War Crimes Tribunal conducted interviews, "some of the atrocities, hurt and pain they went through started to manifest themselves." By then, they had made friends with Red Cross volunteers, he said. "The trust level with us and others there helped to carry them through a grieving time."

The Kosovo people have an option to stay in the U.S. but most want to return home, Lockwood said. "They expressed real confidence in the NATO program."

He said the refugees understand the tyranny of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his forces and feel the NATO bombing was the only way to defeat them. "They didn't need an explanation of that issue."

Forced to evacuate

The people were thrust from their homes and evacuated as extended families of 12 to 17 people, Lockwood said, including moms and dads, grandparents, brothers and sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews.

"There probably isn't a home left. There certainly isn't any economy left. If they were farmers or had their own little garden, it was not attended to. There are no crops. There's nothing there to go home to but the belief that financial support will be given through various countries and the U.S. to help rebuild.

"But that's not going to happen overnight," Lockwood added, "so these people probably won't return home for a year or more."

The big concern, he said, is that peacekeeping troops will find thousands of starving people who fled to the mountains and will come out when they see the Nato forces arrive. "The question will be how to best care for them, to feed them."

He said Red Cross workers heard many stories about the killings and the rape of Kosovo people. "They are very accurate accounts...

"Culturally it is a very embarrassing thing to talk about, especially where the women are concerned. They don't talk about rape. It is a shame to families. They hide themselves when that becomes known. It is a very traumatic, very emotional, time for them."

Counseling difficulties

Counseling is difficult to do through translators, Lockwood said, "so the mental health support really comes in the type of work the Red Cross is able to provide...being there constantly to provide a safe environment."

More than 1,000 of the refugees were children -- "a wonderful experience" for those in the relief operation, Lockwood said. He had 130 Red Cross volunteers from across the country and "all wanted to stay," he said. "The toughest thing I had to do as director was convince my people to go home."

The relief operation involved about 400 people from various agencies, Lockwood said. "There was tremendous outpouring of love and support for these people... "It was pointed out that we are a country of immigrants...and these people didn't come to some place where that was a foreign term or not understood. We helped them feel comfortable. We helped them feel safe."

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin