Alert: Personnel from the Lithuanian contingent patrolling
in the Serb village Donjna Bitinja in MNB East.
Ten years after
the fall of the Berlin Wall, several young countries from the
former Eastern Block are contributing troops to the NATO-led peacekeeping
mission in Kosovo. The four smallest KFOR contingents are all
from the former Eastern Block.
For the KFOR-personnel
from Azerbaijan, Lithuania, The Slovak Republic and the Republic
of Georgia, the 9th of November 1989 is a day they will remember
for the rest of their lives. The citizens of Berlin, Germany,
tore down the Berlin Wall, a hated symbol that not only divided
the city, but literally the entire world. The fall of the wall
was one of the most remarkable events in the last half of this
century. It marked the end of the Cold War and the arms race between
the two super powers, the USA in the west and the Soviet Union
in the east.
before 1989, belonged to opposite sides of the Berlin Wall, are
now working side by side and using their military skills and resources
to provide safe and secure conditions for the people of Kosovo.
The year 1989 also marked the ascent of Slobodan Milosevic as
President of Serbia. In a speech held at Kosovo Polje two years
earlier, Milosevic told the Serb audience: "No one has the right
to beat you." These words started what ended with NATOs air campaign
last spring, which was followed by the entry of the Kosovo Force.
small and young nation that broke away from the Soviet Union,
is one of the contributing nations to the Kosovo Force. The soldiers
from the Lithuanian Army are dedicated to the Polish 18th Air
Assault Battalion, located in MNB East. Their main tasks are guarding,
escorting convoys, manning checkpoints and patrolling, as in the
village of Donjna Bitinja, populated by Serbs. We also contributed
with one platoon to the UNPROFOR mission in Croatia in 1994, as
a part of the Danish Battalion, says Cpt Marius Kazlanskas, Liaison
Officer to the Polish Battalion. "The difference in this mission
is that now we have Polish leadership, but our own AOR, and accordingly
more responsibility," he adds.
Proud: The Azerbajani soldiers are very proud and disciplined.
"I am happy to
be here, because I am working in a Peace Force. I see success
and results in this area", says 23-year-old 1st Lieutenant Fuad
Memmedov, leader of the Azerbaijani platoon.
On 28 September
this year the platoon entered Kosovo and became an essential part
of the 4th Turkish Company stationed in the Centre of the Dragas
village, 20 kilometres South of Prizren.
soldiers are fully integrated in our company, we speak the same
language and work together hand in hand. We run three checkpoints
and the patrol teams in the vehicles are mixed," says 1st Lt Fatih
zkurt, Deputy Commander of the 4th Turkish Company.
their Turkish comrades the Azerbaijan soldiers patrol the area
of Dragas, in addition to the boundary to Albania, where their
task is to prevent people from crossing illegally into Kosovo.
Both the Turkish
and Azerbaijan personnel cater for themselves in a former restaurant
in the middle of the village, in which they also are accommodated.
Work and play: SSgt Peter Dinga, Sgt Pavel Gajdos, Sgt Alexander
Vilcinsky and Sgt Jaroslav Cernega from the Slovak contingent
enjoy a game of Lora during their free time.
At Camp Casa
Blanca in Suva Reka outside Prizren is another small contingent,
from the Slovak Republic.
"We have a very
good unit with professional soldiers from the Slovak Rapid Deployment
Battalion. The Slovak Republic wants to become a member of NATO
step by step, and this mission is one of those steps. We have
experience from former UN missions and now we are getting experience
from a NATO mission," says the Slovak Contingent Commander, Lt
Col Ondrej Novisad.
primary mission is engineer support for the Austrian Contingents
HQ Coy of Task Force Dulje. Their tasks are mainly mine clearing,
construction works and road repair.
"We are a small
country in KFOR, but our tasks here are very important." Lt Col
Novosad says their work is very important, Because there are a
lot of mine accidents here in Kosovo, and most of the victims
The Slovak soldiers
are in good spirits, but admit that they are homesick, and that
they long for their wives and girlfriends back in Slovakia. "We
all volunteered to come here. We do it because of the money and
to experience other parts of the world and to get to know people
from other nations," says Sgt Peter Dinga.
Good spirits: The Georgian contingent in KFOR are based
at Mahmusa in MNB South.
former Soviet Republic which became independent in 1989, has had
its own army since 1991. It contributes to the mission in Kosovo
with experienced personnel from the Special Forces. But here the
Georgian soldiers are an integral part of the Turkish contingent
at Mahmusa in MNB South. The Georgian soldiers are armed with
Turkish weapons and wear Turkish uniforms. Only the flag of the
Republic of Georgia and the military insignia on their uniforms
are different. The Georgian soldiers task is run checkpoints
alongside their Turkish colleagues and carry out patrolling.
"In the beginning
it was hard, because we talk different languages and have different
traditions and religions. We are a small contribution to KFOR,
but I believe that what we do is important for Kosovo," says the
Georgian platoon leader, 1st Lt George Kupareshvili.