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Winter 2000
Doctor Without Borders
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To an outsider’s eye, Kosovo appears to be on the mend. But a UCLA family-practice resident learns firsthand that the scars of war are never far from the surface.

by Sarah Carpenter

AS EMINE AND I and the rest of our small medical team bounced along the winding, pockmarked roads of central Kosovo, the conversation in the back of the Toyota Landcruiser took a personal turn.

We had been working together for nearly three weeks, making the rounds to about 20 clinics in remote villages tucked amid the province's green hills. Emine, a Kosovo Albanian nurse, took patients' vital signs, gave them shots, kept track of paperwork. I focused largely on prenatal care, listening to fetal heartbeats, measuring pregnant bellies, distributing vitamins.

Midway through the bumpy ride, Emine asked if I had any photos of my family. I pulled out some snapshots of my niece and nephew to show her, then I asked about hers.

"I used to live near here - me, my husband, our two daughters and two sons," she said. "The Kosovo Liberation Army and Serb forces fought intensely in this region. My husband, a doctor, helped wounded KLA men."

One day, Serbs came to her house and burned it down, she said. Her father was shot to death. She and her children fled to the capital, but her husband stayed behind. A short time later, Serbian soldiers attacked a home where he was treating KLA fighters. "They killed him and nearly a dozen other men," she said.

In all the time we had been working together, Emine had never mentioned any of this to me. But when we arrived in her former village, I saw it was all too true. She pointed out her house, or what was left of it: a chimney.


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